Why third-year pro Anders Bjork is playing for Bruins rookie team

Matt Kalman
September 05, 2019 - 8:17 pm

At 23 and with 50 NHL games under his belt over his first two professional seasons, Anders Bjork is the veteran of the Bruins’ rookie squad that departed for Buffalo on Thursday to take part in the Prospects Challenge this weekend.

And even as the left-shooting wing is trying to get up to game speed after not playing since last January’s shoulder surgery, he’s embracing the veteran role.

“You know I feel a little older I guess than these younger guys,” Bjork said after practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “You see their faces when they’re walking in, I think I’m a little more familiar with some of the things than they are. But definitely trying to act like an older guy, act more mature and sort of show them the way and make them feel comfortable.”

Bjork’s willingness to help out his younger Bruins teammates might pay off down the road. What’s vital to the Bruins in the present is Bjork finding his legs and his scoring touch to possibly challenge for a top-six role in the NHL. In those first 50 games before his season was ended prematurely by a shoulder injury for the second straight year, Bjork had just 15 points (five goals, 10 assists). Last year he had one goal and two assists in 20 NHL games before he picked up one goal and nine assists in 13 AHL games. This is a guy that had 52 points in 39 games as a junior at Notre Dame.

Bjork’s timeline was later at this time last year and he was scratched from a spot on Boston’s rookie team before it departed for Buffalo. This time around his six months of recovery and rehab ended in July, so he’s been working out and skating a while and getting two or three rookie games should prepare him better to establish his veteran credentials once he gets to main training camp.

“I’m healthier earlier, which is nice,” Bjork said. “So I’m obviously doing the rookie camp, which will be good. So starting games earlier and will probably have the opportunity to play more exhibition games and stuff, which is good. I think you don’t really know where you’re at until you start playing games a little bit, but trying to do all I can to be ready as possible.”

*Bjork’s not the only one joining the Bruins rookie team after an injury-plagued season. Urho Vaakanainen played just 30 games with Providence in the AHL and two games with Boston last season because of injuries but his ailments are in his rearview mirror now.

“Yeah after the concussion when I went to World Juniors, I think I played really well. I felt really good,” said Vaakanainen, who won the gold medal with Finland. “And then I had that second injury, I hurt my shoulder a little bit, I was out for like three or four weeks, after that I didn’t feel too good. I don’t think I played too well. I probably had my worst games in the playoffs, but not I feel 100 percent, I feel ready to go.”

*The Bruins rookies will play Pittsburgh on Friday, Buffalo on Saturday and New Jersey on Monday in the Prospects Challenge. Main camp will officially open Sept. 12.

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