One could make the case that Oliver BJORKSTRAND has been the best Blue Jackets forward for the last three seasons, since he stepped up in 2019-20 to fill the void left by the departure of star forwards such as Artemi Panarin.
In a season that saw an offensive explosion throughout the roster, BJORKSTRAND led the way. He led the team in goals and points, while also setting personal career highs in those categories. He also tied his career-best in assists, but was merely fifth on the team in that stat (trailing Voracek, Werenski, Nyquist, and Laine). He led the team in power play goals (nine).
BJORKSTRAND’s pace wasn’t quite as high as the previous seasons, which were shortened due to injury or COVID. Nonetheless, it is great to see him put up big numbers over a full season. He put up a solid 23/13/36 in the last full season, 2018-19 (77 games), and improved that to 28/29/57 in 80 games this season.
In addition, he stepped into a leadership void in the locker room, splitting the second “A” with Gus Nyquist. The young, skilled players on the roster could learn a lot from the way BJORKSTRAND carries himself on and off the ice, and from the way he contributes away from the puck, even if he’s going through a scoring drought.
Speaking of scoring, it’s interesting (though certainly coincidental) that in BJORKSTRAND’s 13 multi-point games this season, the Jackets were 12-1. In games where he scored a goal, they were 16-7-2.
Defensively, some see his -35 rating and feel like he took a step back. If you dig deeper, however, you find that he was a victim of some brutal puck luck. Among Jackets forwards with at least 300 5v5 minutes, BJORKSTRAND was fifth worse with 3.39 goals allowed per 60 minutes. By expected goals, he was third best with just 2.6 per 60. While on the ice the team scored 2.24 goals per 60 at 5v5, but were expected to score 2.58. That’s a 39.81 GF% vs. a team-leading 49.78 xGF%. His on-ice shooting percentage was a team-low 7.26%, and the on-ice save percentage was sub-.900.
BJORKSTRAND is a player the coaches trust to help any linemates, which led to him getting shuffled around the lineup a lot. Next season I’d like to see him get a chance to click with some steady partners in a consistent top 6 role. With that, he could easily take another step and pass the 60 point mark.
5v5 CF%: 50.59
5v5 FF%: 49.51
5v5 GF%: 39.81
5v5 xGF%: 49.78
BJORKSTRAND signed an early contract extension during training camp in early 2021. I wonder if he regretted making a long-term commitment as that season fell apart, and the lineup changed dramatically. Fortunately, we’ve seen other core players like Werenski, Merzlikins, and Jenner sign long-term as well last summer, and there has been an infusion of new, young talent. BJORKSTRAND is signed for four more seasons at an annual cap hit of $5.4M, which seems like even more of a steal now than it did a year ago.
The deal will expire in summer 2026, when BJORKSTRAND will be 31 years old.
With all of those multi-point games, there are several high point candidates. There was the three-point effort against Edmonton in April where his goal early in the third tied the game and started a four goal run to win 5-2. His best all-around game was a four point game against Vegas, where he scored once then assisted on a Cole Sillinger hat trick. He scored two goals and two assists in the home opener rout of the Coyotes.
Instead, I’ll go with his one game-winning goal. It’s weird that he only had one game-winner, right? He scored the first goal and the last goal in this 4-3 win over New Jersey in January:
Either the two games he missed while on the COVID list, or a shocking ELEVEN game pointless streak in April. It’s odd that he would go that long without even a secondary assist. But, scorers get streaky sometimes. He snapped the streak with that aforementioned Edmonton game, which started a four game goal streak to end the season (seven points total).
Yes, I’ve always been a superfan so I’ve got some bias here, but I have to say an A. He played exactly like he was expected to, scoring goals and setting up his teammates.
How would you grade BJORKSTRAND’s 2021-22 season?
This poll is closed