Anders Bjork heads talented Bruins prospect pool at Frozen Four
(Photo credit: Notre Dame Athletics)
CHICAGO – The scuttlebutt around future Black and Gold talent in Beantown springs eternal with the recent signings of BU’s dynamic duo of Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy now playing in Providence. Both are touted as future starters on Causeway Street – maybe next week when the Bruins return to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
A bit farther removed geographically but just as close in the Boston brass plans to build an annual contender for a June parade are on stage these next few days in Chicago, where a talented trio of Bruin draftees vie for college hockey’s ultimate prize.
A win by Harvard and Notre Dame in Thursday’s semifinal games puts all three in the Frozen Four final on Saturday night.
“Hopefully they get to the finals against on Saturday.” Bruins GM, Crimson alum and former player, Don Sweeney said, “We get the best of both worlds seeing how our prospects play in the final game.”
First things first with Thursday’s semifinals with Harvard vs. Duluth in the first game and Denver duels Notre Dame in the nightcap.
Harvard sporting two draftees in sophomore center Ryan Donato, son of head coach and former Bruin Ted Donato, and junior defenseman Wiley Sherman. Notre Dame’s talented forward Anders Bjork rounds out the threesome.
Not likely Donato and Sherman give up that road to the Harvard parchment for the NHL progression this season. Donato, at 6-foot- and 181 pounds was taken at 56th overall of the second round in 2014. He put up 40 points this season and 21 last.
No doubt who Sherman is in the Harvard locker room or on the ice. At 6-7 and 220, the Greenwich Conn. native towers above the crowd. He put up 13 assists this year; taken in the fifth round in 2013.
Sherman hinted at a return for his senior year.
“Seeing senior guys carry the team is certainly helpful in the decision,” Sherman said. “You see the impact they had on the program. Next year we’ll be in a similar opportunity.”
Donato gave the fundamental reason why all players should stay the four years.
“I think the student-athletes really have to enjoy the whole experience, both being a student and an athlete and put a lot of value on the education that they’re receiving,” he said.
Not many much better than at Harvard and Notre Dame.
“It’s been a real important part of our team to have guys that have experience that realize the magnitude of the one-and-done scenario,” Ted Donato said about leaving too soon for the pros. “I think they’ve been able to keep us focused and really understand how important each and every moment is in their senior year.”
Bjork is the likeliest to ink an NHL contract in the months ahead – unless one major factor beyond getting that crucial piece of Notre Dame paper brings him back for his senior year.
“People don’t realize how young he is.” head coach Jeff Jackson said, “[He] actually came in a year early. We had to accelerate his courses. Age wise he’s almost like a sophomore. He’s still growing up like a kid.”
Age aside, the 20-year-old 2014-drafted junior and Hobey Baker finalist plays big on all NCAA stages. His 21-31-52 lead ND in scoring; two key assists in the 3-2 Northeast Regional final win over Massachusetts-Lowell a big reason why the Irish are playing while hosting in Chicago.
“I’ve been able to see him a couple of times including the regional [in Manchester, New Hampshire] and he was outstanding,” Sweeney said. “He played every other shift, set up goals in the game and he’s really had a nice progression as a college player this season. He’s had a tremendous college career to this point and we’re excited about his development.”
“He’s probably been our most consistent and gifted player this year,” Jackson said. “He was close to being that last year. He has the ability to break a game open. The [regional] was pretty much what we saw the first half of the year. He’s a pretty humble kid from a Notre Dame family. I’m just as proud of what he does off the ice with community service. He’s not a big-ego kid. and is more than an offensive kid.”
At 5-11 and 183 pounds, his 109 career points with a standout plus-21 and plus-28 past two seasons are a testament to a well-rounded forward.
Stay tuned as Sweeney continues to wield a prolific pen.