With Boston’s training camp underway both in the US and China, the Bruins have a few questions to answer, both short and long-term. Who will fill out the top-six forward positions? What will the defensive pairings be? And who will be in net for Boston’s domestic preseason schedule?
While we still won’t know for certain the answers to any of these until the Bruins’ preseason slate kicks in, Boston’s first on-ice training session of camp did shed some light on who would be in the competition for a spot on the top two lines.
The Bruins really ramped up the competition on day two with a series of skating drills and small-sided scrimmages, and a pleasant standout from all of it was none other than second-year forward Anders Bjork.
The 22-year-old began his rookie season playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the top line before being sidelined after just 30 games with a shoulder injury. However, Friday morning’s practice was a good indication that he has fully recovered and feels comfortable and confident on the ice, as his skating was impressive and the former Notre Dame standout even had a bar-down goal that received a “wow” from a few members of the press box.
“I think I am [comfortable] now,” Bjork said about his road to recovery. “First when I started skating it was a little weird working through some of that stuff and shooting was a little awkward at the start but that all comes back pretty quick. As I said, I did so much rehab here that it was a pretty smooth transition.”
This offseason, the 6-foot, 185-pound winger from Mequon, Wisconsin has focused on improving several parts of his game that he felt were lacking a season ago, including getting stronger on the puck, being more disciplined in the defensive zone and firing more shots on goal.
“I took in a lot last year, especially when I was injured, and I’m trying to implement that into my game now. My focus here is [to] soak a lot in and try to fix some of the habits I didn’t like as much in my game last year,” Bjork said.
“I worked on my shot this summer so I think I feel more confident in it. Hopefully, I can use that confidence and shoot more when I am in the slot and good areas. It is really important for me to take my game to the next level.”
With lineup decisions still looming, Bjork stated that he would love to rejoin his former linemates this season on the top line.
This would, however, require breaking up one of the NHL’s best trios and sending David Pastrnak back to the second line; a task that is very hard to do.
“Of course. If I am lucky enough to play with Bergy or Marchy that would be incredible. I’m not expecting anything like that, obviously,” Bjork said about possibly rejoining the Bruins’ dynamic duo. “I think I’m just trying to do the best I can and be more versatile with being able to play different roles.”
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff expect a more fluid lineup this season, as the organization plans on trying out numerous combinations in order to change their lack of offensive production last season from the other three lines. Bjork, along with Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen, will certainly be in the mix and will have to show that they are able to produce at the highest level this preseason.
“It seemed like he worked hard in the offseason, got stronger and looks like to me that he is more fit. That’s a big part of it, being able to play through some of the injuries that come up during the course of the season,” Boston Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco said about Bjork. “He’s in a position where he’s competing for ice time. He’s a guy that makes plays and creates offense so he’s going to have to do that.”