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Edit: Drafted 89th Overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Oliver Bjorkstrand is a Danish import who was selected 26th Overall by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2012 CHL Import draft. He enjoyed an excellent season in Portlant as Bjorkstrand was a key contributor on the second line for the Winterhawks. After a good season he was even better in the WHL playoffs and in the Memorial Cup, helping Portland to win the WHL title, and get all the way to the Memorial Cup Final. Unfortunately for Bjorkstrand, he ultimately came up just one game short.
Yet another player with great bloodlines, Oliver Bjorkstrand’s father Todd Bjorkstrand is an American who played NCAA hockey for the University of Maine. He would spend a number of years toiling in the minors of the IHL, and ACHL, before going over to Denmark to play pro hockey. Oliver’s older brother Patrick, plays pro hockey in the Swedish Allvenskan.
Born Apr 10 1995 — Herning, Denmark
Height 5.11 — Weight 164 — Shoots Right
Bjorkstrand is a natural sniper who has very heavy wrist and snap shots, along with an excellent one-timer. His shooting arsenal features an excellent release which he uses to fool goaltenders when he is coming down the wing on a rush, or after setting up in the offensive zone. He has a real knack for getting open either by trailing slightly behind on rush, or by finding the soft spot in the defence to unleash his vast shooting arsenal. A tad undersized, has outstanding stickhandling and is tough to knock off the puck. He is very shifty and is able to avoid checks and buy time for his teammates to get open. He is an underrated playmaker with very good vision and passing skills. Bjorkstrand attempts to go to the key areas, and shows no lack of intensity in battling for pucks along the boards, but he must get stronger before he is able to really be successful in this aspect of his game.
Bjorkstrand is a quick skater, but is not overly fast in terms of straight line speed. His acceleration is good though, and his ability to change gears allows him to beat defenders off the rush. Bjorkstrand has great agility, and edgework. This makes him very shifty, and able to avoid hits from defenders both on the rush, and when he cyles the puck. His agility and quickness allow him to elude defenders and buy time to make plays for teammates. His lateral movement is very good and Bjorkstrand is able to weave his way in and out of traffic. Bjorkstand has good balance and is harder to knock off the puck than you would expect, but he still has a lot of bulking up to do to reach the pro level.
Bjorkstrand is a solid defender capable of playing a good two way game. He doesn’t quit on the back check and his quickness and hockey sense allow him to anticipate plays and cause turnovers. When he does so, he is able to quickly transition that turnover into instant offence. Responsible in his assignments and cutting off passing and shooting lanes, the Winterhawks have been known to use Bjorkstrand on the penalty kill at times.
Bjorkstrand is reminiscent of Mike Cammalleri of the Calgary Flames, just from the opposite wing. This is a stylistic comparison only though. In terms of potential Bjorkstrand should be able to add top 6 offensive ability at the NHL level if he reaches his peak. He is a little undersized now and gaining strength and muscle will be key to his development.
Check back tomorrow for our number 50 prospect.
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photo credit: Gzbhow, flickr CC