Countdown to Bruins training camp: Anders Bjork

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Anders Bjork.
 
Anders Bjork entered 2017-18 as one of Boston’s top prospects after signing with the Bruins out of Notre Dame. The promise is still there for the 22-year-old, of course, but there remains plenty left to prove after shoulder surgery midway through the year ended his season. The young winger has the skills, skating speed and cachet to be an impact player, but he’s fallen behind guys like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and even Ryan Donato, who made big impacts last year. Bjork has a chance to take his place with them this season.

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What Happened Last Year: Bjork started strong, winning the right-wing job alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and he posted 4 goals and 12 points in his first 30 games. His two goals and three points against Vancouver midway through October certainly highlighted his talents. Eventually, though, he was replaced by David Pastrnak on the top line -- and the Pastrnak-Marchand-Bergeron combo completely took off -- and then was sent to the sidelines because of a shoulder injury suffered when he took a massive neutral-zone, open-ice hit from Matt Martin in a November game against Toronto. Bjork played 14 games after returning from the injury but clearly wasn’t the same, and finally went under the knife. It was disappointing because it put a delay in Bjork's development process, though it did open spots for DeBrusk, Heinen and Donato to prove themselves.
 
Questions To Be Answered This Season: Obviously, Bjork showed skill and skating wheels in the 30 games prior to his shoulder injury, and certainly looked like a developing top-6 winger. But all it took was that huge hit from Martin to put a big pause on his development. His reaction to the hit, and the small cross-section of the 30 games he played, also raised some concerns about Bjork’s battle level around the net, issues that will need to be addressed if he’s going to be truly effective. Can Bjork can show the requisite toughness and grit to go along with the world-class offensive talents that rocketed him to the top of the prospect list? It’s all natural progression-type stuff for a young player, and that’s where Bjork is at. There’s certainly a top-9 spot available to him this season.   
 
In Their Words: “I definitely think the games I got were helpful. You know, I learned a ton, just tried to soak it all up when I was playing those games, and even just practicing and being around, tried to soak up as much as I could, so I think I’m going to use that as an advantage for going into camp next year and trying to learn from the guys I watched, especially with the young guys -- what worked and what didn’t and try to, you know, avoid the mistakes that didn’t, but learn from like the success of Heinen and DeBrusk, [Charlie] McAvoy and [Matt] Grzelcyk and all those guys, so I think, you know, that’s what I’m trying to do. I definitely learned a lot, and hopefully I can apply that.” 
 
Overall Outlook: The skill, speed and offensive ability are all there in large amounts, and it's certainly conceivable Bjork could wind up as high as top-line right winger alongside Bergeron and Marchand once again. Even if he doesn't go that high, he could be a regular top-9 guy if his training camp performance is up to par. The Bruins are banking on young players like Bjork stepping up on the wing this season after missing out on big-ticket free agents (Ilya Kovalchuk, John Tavares) over this summer. The sky is still the limit for the former Notre Dame star, and the Bruins could use a breakout performance from him. 

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