The Bruins aren’t overplaying their hand when it comes to 21-year-old rookie Anders Bjork, but it wouldn’t be very surprising to see at some point soon the former Notre Dame standout get some development time at the AHL level. Bjork was scratched in the blowout win over the Ottawa Senators last weekend, and will once again be up in the press box for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center.
Instead Ryan Spooner will play the right wing with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, and the speedy, creative forward will look to build on a recent hot streak that has him with two goals, seven points and a plus-5 rating in his last seven games. Meanwhile Bjork had just a single goal and three points with just seven shots on net in 12 games during the month of December, and hasn’t been able to consistently turn his own speed, skill game into a major impact for the Black and Gold.
There have been some glimmers and glimpses of Bjork turning his speed into a factor even in the last few weeks, but it hasn't been consistent enough for a player expected to be a top-6 contributor at the NHL level.
The Bruins didn’t sound like they were ready to pull the trigger with Bjork at the beginning of this week as they sent fellow rookie Peter Cehlarik down to Providence instead on Monday. But it also sounds like it’s been a topic of discussion between Bruce Cassidy and GM Don Sweeney, and it may happen sooner rather than later on a roster that’s already chock full of young wingers.
“We’re not saying what we’re doing with [Bjork], but if a young kid is not playing on a consistent basis then ‘yes, absolutely,’ said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if the young player could head to Providence if the B’s forward stays healthy with their current 12 players seemingly gelling together and Frank Vatrano around as the extra. “We look at the growth of our players here. I think it speaks for itself the growth of Danton and Jake down there last year, and I understand that [Jakob] Forsbacka Karlsson and Zach [Senyshyn] are playing well down there right now too.
“There is not room [on the NHL roster] for everybody, so if that’s what it takes for Anders then we will look at that. We’re going with the same 12 [forwards] against the Islanders, so that’s something we’ll have to have a conversation about: Whether it’s now or down the road, we’ll have to assess what’s best for him and what’s best for our team.”
Clearly it could, and should, be a positive experience for Bjork as it was for Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk last season. Their experiences with big minutes, big roles in all situations and the ups and downs of the AHL season made them better players, and in the case of Heinen especially made a world of difference into getting him ready for another crack at the NHL.
Perhaps the same kind of development track awaits Bjork with the Bruins this season as things have trailed off for him a bit as the physicality and intensity of the NHL has begun ramping up around the holidays.