Oliver Bjorkstrand came into 2014-15 with a lot of momentum.
He scored 50 goals in 69 games for the Portland Winterhawks as an 18-year-old last season, so it seemed reasonable to expect another big performance. He had a solid showing at both the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and into Blue Jackets training camp and the exhibition schedule.
But what he’s done in the WHL this season is on another level.
He already has a 52-45-97 line in just 51 games for the Portland Winterhawks. With numbers that impressive, and a slew of highlight-reel goals, Bjorkstrand is one of the most exciting players in all of major junior hockey -- but that’s not the case away from the rink.
"I’m not the most exciting guy," the soft-spoken Bjorkstrand told BlueJackets.com. "I like to spend time outside and maybe go downtown and get some food. If it’s really nice, maybe I’ll just go lay by the lake or a pool or whatever. I’m a really easy-going guy off the ice."
It has been anything but easy for his opponents this season. Last week, the 19-year-old Bjorkstrand became the first player since Eric Fehr (now of the Washington Capitals) to have back-to-back 50 goal seasons in the WHL.
He crossed the 50-goal mark in spectacular fashion, netting four goals in a Mar. 6 home win for Portland over the Seattle Thunderbirds. It marked the 12th consecutive game in which Bjorkstrand had scored a goal, and perhaps most impressive, was his third career four-goal game.
“It was a really cool night," said Bjorkstrand of his four-goal performance. "It was Friday night, our arena was pretty much sold out. Obviously it was pretty cool to score so many goals. It was a really good experience and a really fun night."
And, if you could believe it while looking at his tremendous offensive numbers this season, Bjorkstrand actually says that he had a slow start to the year.
The World Junior tournament -- where he played a featured role on an upstart Danish team -- was a turning point for Bjorkstrand, as he helped lead Denmark to a spot in the quarterfinals and also the country's first-ever WJC victory. Since then, he’s been on fire, with 31 goals and 26 assists in 23 games, good for 2.48 points per game.
The flash, speed and pure skill are a big part of his game, but Bjorkstrand is far from a one-trick pony.
"I’m definitely an offensive player but I want to play good defense and try to create stuff out from that,” he said. "I like backchecking hard, I try to play a 200-foot game and out from that I try to create a lot of offense."