International Ice Hockey Federation

Bjorkstrand breaks through

Bjorkstrand breaks through

Young sniper an offensive threat

Published 11.05.2015 17:24 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
Bjorkstrand breaks through
OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 8: Denmark's Oliver Bjorkstrand #27 and Patrick Bjorkstrand #11 follow the play during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The arrival of Oliver Bjorkstrand had an immediate impact on Denmark.

Despite losing 1-0 to the United States on Friday at CEZ Arena, Denmark played the Americans close and Bjorkstrand opened a lot of eyes with his play.

Skating on a line with his brother Patrick and Jesper Jensen, Bjorkstrand logged over 17 minutes of ice time and led the team with five shots on goal. The youngster could barely contain his enthusiasm after the game.

“I felt really good making my debut,” Bjorkstrand said after the game. “It is a real honour playing for the Danish national team. I’m pumped to play in this tournament. I feel like it is a new season. I don’t know why. But I’m real excited to play right now and I’m having fun.

His performance was a revelation for head coach Jan Karlsson.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Karlsson said. “I saw him in a couple of games at the U20 World Championship Division I in Poland last year. Coming in I didn’t really know what to expect but he was really good.”

Bjorkstrand has already had a positive effect on the Danish U20 team and much the same will be hoped for the future of the senior team.

At the 2014 U20’s in Poland, Bjorkstrand’s four goals and six points helped. Denmark earned promotion to the top pool of international junior hockey play. He would not disappoint at the 2015 World Junior tournament in Toronto and Montreal. His four goals and five points were enough to help Denmark earn a berth in the quarter-finals.

Bjorkstrand is a welcome addition to the line-up and has been met with much enthusiasm among the Danish team. It also gives Karlsson a high-end offensive option to use as he sees necessary.

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Bjorkstrand wasn’t needed in Denmark’s 4-1 win over Norway but expect him to be turned loose against Slovenia.

“When I get the chances to score I will take advantage of it. Hopefully I can help with the offensive part of the team. That is what I want to do since I’m an offensive player. Hopefully that is the stuff I can help with.”

Bjorkstrand and his brother Patrick are future anchors of the Danish squad. With long-time members of the national team like Morten Green, Kim Staal and Daniel Jensen around, they will have leaders and role models who helped shape the course of Danish hockey since 2002.

The eventual succession of the national team to its young lions will mark a new day for the modest hockey nation.

The Bjorkstrands have a fascinating pedigree. Their dad Todd was born in Minnesota and played minor professional hockey in North America before moving to Denmark where he starred for Herning. The elder Bjorkstrand is now coaching in Austria.

Bjorkstrand took some ribbing before the game against the USA as to his dad’s rooting interests.

“Hopefully he’s rooting for Denmark since he has two sons playing for the team,” Bjorkstrand said with a smile. “At least I hope so.”

2014/15 has been an impressive year for Bjorkstrand. He starred for the Portland Winterhawks in the major junior league WHL, scoring 63 goals in the regular season and another 13 in the playoffs. Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013, Bjorkstrand is eager to prove himself and become one of the next Danes in the NHL.

“My goal is to make the team in Columbus next year,” Bjorkstrand said of his near term goals. “I’m going to work hard over the summer. That is my ultimate goal next year to make the team.”


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