Anders Bjork’s impressive performance highlighted the Boston’ Bruins training camp in 2019.
The 23-year-old forward, coming off his second straight season-ending surgery, displayed top-notch speed and playmaking abilities that made him a coveted prospect upon his arrival to Boston.
Bruce Cassidy slotted the former Notre Dame standout alongside Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen on Boston’s third line for most of the training camp. The trio developed great chemistry with one another throughout the preseason.
Yet, despite Bjork’s ferocious bid for a roster spot, the Bruins’ brass opted to send the third-year winger down in Providence to start the season. They’re hoping Bjork displays that same consistency during the preseason as he’ll start the year in a top-six role down at the AHL level.
Bruins Daily caught up with Bjork upon his travels to Providence. Here’s what he had to say about coming back from another injury, his personal preseason evaluations, and what areas he wants to improve on to earn a potential callup.
How are you feeling after the preseason coming off of the shoulder injury?
“I feel good. I feel stronger, mentally good and excited about the year. Just grateful to be back playing and competing with the guys. Feel good.”
How would you assess your performance over the course of training camp?
“I think overall I was pleased, coming off of an injury you don’t know exactly what to expect. There’s a lot of things while playing that you can’t really train for. But I put a lot of work in this summer, a lot of rehab to make sure my shoulder feels good. I’m pleased with where I’m at, still some improvements I can make just having not played for so long. It was a good camp, felt good and grew a lot as a player.”
Many people — including myself — thought you played well enough for a roster spot. Did you think that and is starting off in Providence a bit disappointing?
“Every players goal is to make the NHL. I respect our management and coaching staff a lot with this organization. They have all of our best interests in mind and I respect the decision. I think I played well and they want to see more from my game and I agree with that. I think this is a great opportunity to work on those things and maybe get a little more playing time here.
“Obviously all of the guys here want to be playing up but it’s a competitive organization, you really have earn your spot. There’s a lot of good players and that’ll only make us better so I think we should all be grateful for that. The competition here is tough and it challenges us but as athletes that’s what we want. I’m excited for this challenge.”
Bruce Cassidy said that during your end of camp meeting you gave him a little push back in terms of thinking you played well enough to make the team. What was that interaction like and what was the organization’s message to you?
“It was a good conversation. I want to keep that mostly between ourselves. He gave me his assessment of my game in a very honest sense which I really appreciate. He thinks the game very well and he sees a lot of things. I was glad to get his opinion and observations and I think we saw some of the same things. We agreed on some of the things I needed to work on.
“Overall I was pleased with the conversation and felt – as most players do in this organization – that they do things right here for our future and I think it was positive. The honesty part is something I really appreciate because you can tell what they think and expect from a player in this organization.”
Cassidy is very honest with his players and the media. Do players like that style of approach?
“I really think so. Players get to see the game through his knowledge and honesty. If I was a coach that’s probably how I would want to do it too is just put it out there. Sometimes as a young guy it can be tough to hear what you are doing wrong because you are trying to maintain that confidence. The best way to learn is to know and have that knowledge. He approaches it the right way I feel and you always know what you are going to get from him. He is going to tell you what it is and you know what he expects from you and what you have to work on.”
Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak said they are always open to talk to young players for advice. Have you reached out to any of them?
“All of those veteran guys did a great job of that when I was around the rink and they knew I was getting sent down. It’s nice because I have built relationships with them being round the organization the past two years. Pasta [Pastrnak] I’ve known him since my first development camp. He’s always rooting for me and giving me advice. It’s good to look at a guy like him as an example for me because he did it [in the AHL] when he was young so that gives a guy like me more hope. He’s always had incredible skills but has grown that and become such a dangerous player. His example is something all of us can look at and see the things he works on even after all of his success. He’s a guy around my age that I can look to for an example.
Obviously Bergy [Bergeron] is one of the best leaders in the sport and maybe any sport. Everyone sort of knows that but he proves that time and time again. He texted me when I got sent down and offered me if I ever needed advice don’t hesitate to reach out. For him too, he totally means that. He totally would talk to me if I wanted to run – even something stupid – by him. That just shows how passionate he is about the organization and it affects guys like me to have that same work ethic and mentality. And for me to follow that example of me helping guys that are younger than me that are going through things that I went through, whether it be laying or injury or whatnot. I hope to take some of the things I’ve seen from Bergy and use it down here.
What’s it like playing alongside Bergeron and being around him in the locker room?
“Obviously I knew all about Bergy before I played with him or anything but you really have no idea until you spend time around him and it doesn’t take much time to see why he is so well respected and so good at what he does. He’s one of the most impactful players I’ve ever seen play the game. He changes the game so much and its from so many different aspects too. It’s an incredible example to watch and personally I feel incredibly fortunate to learn from that, see that and be around that.”
You are staring the year off in Providence, what is your mindset starting the year off there and what areas are you trying to improve in your game?
“Mainly I want to work on developing that scoring part of my game. I had more of a scoring touch in college and I want to get back to that confidence in my shooting, I have some good skills that will help me get in opportunities where I can create a scoring chance. I think working on my confidence and skills to finish those is something I am really focusing on and I think building up my consistency is something I’ve talked about and the coaching staff have said that too. That’s important coming off of injury and to prove that I can play night in and night out and earn the trust of my coaches and management here.”
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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