BOSTON (CBS) — Bruce Cassidy isn’t making any promises yet, but it’s clear that the Bruins head coach likes what he’s seeing with winger Anders Bjork.
The rookie out of Notre Dame has had an impressive preseason, which continued with a goal on two shots against the Blackhawks on Monday night at TD Garden. He again skated on the top line as the right wing alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
When asked if he feels Bjork is ready to make the jump to the NHL and immediately earn a role on the top line, Cassidy sounded quite confident in the 21-year-old.
“Yes. He sure does [look ready] to me,” said Cassidy. “Again, competition will stiffen for him and we’ll keep evaluating that. He’s got skill, speed, and he’s got courage. He gets to the dirty areas. He’s hard to play against. And there’s second effort on pucks, it’s not one-and-done with him.
“For a young kid that’s special, I think, to be able to hang in there and battle for those turnovers. That’s usually the part of the game you’ve got to continue to grind on [young players], but he’s got a lot of that.”
The head coach believes that playing on a line with players as consistently competitive as Bergeron and Marchand has rubbed off on Bjork.
“Maybe that’s a bit of Bergy and Marchy’s influence. I like to think they have some of that because that’s their game,” said Cassidy. “Marchy never quits. Bergy never quits. They’re gonna be a hard line to play against if they’re that dogged on the puck every shift.”
There are two particular aspects of the rookie’s game that Cassidy continues to monitor for improvement: his angles and pursuit of the puck when he doesn’t have it, and picking the right spots to be “creative” with the puck when he does have it. Bjork agrees, insisting that he just needs to stay focused on his fundamentals and avoid mistakes.
“I’m definitely trying to play simple,” Bjork told reporters after the game. “My focus is to make simple plays, the right plays, especially playing with some of the best players in the world on my line. If I play simple, hard and fast good things will happen.”
While Cassidy did not hesitate to praise the way Bjork has played with his elite linemates so far, he acknowledged that his role has not quite been sewn up.
“It’s a good fit right now,” said Cassidy. “I do believe he’s ready if he continues to be able to play like this, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves.”
Bjork obviously still has plenty to work on as he gets ready for his first year at the NHL level, but it sure looks like the rookie will end up getting prime ice time playing with the Bruins’ top players.