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New contract shows Jackets believe in Bjorkstrand's 'dynamic' potential

After 40-point season, he and Columbus GM think even better years are ahead.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

As far as first full NHL seasons go, last season was a success for Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The 23-year old forward played all 82 games, had 40 points on 11 goals and 29 assists, and added three points (one goal, two assists) in the Blue Jackets' first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals. Bjorkstrand also finished fifth on the team in scoring, behind only Cam Atkinson (46 points), Pierre-Luc Dubois (48 points), Seth Jones (57 points) and Artemi Panarin (82 points).

Still, there's potential for more, which is something the Blue Jackets are hoping to get after re-signing Bjorkstrand - a restricted free agent (RFA) - to a three-year contract Sunday worth $7.5 million ($2.5 million average annual value). 

"I was happy with 40 points, but I'd like to score more goals," Bjorkstrand told "Growing up, I've always been a bit of a goal-scorer. I'd obviously like to increase those numbers and score some more goals, and that's something I really want to get better at next season."


Bjorkstrand, who's from Denmark, has played 120 NHL games over three seasons. He has 61 career points, on 21 goals and 40 assists, and a plus-14 rating. Those are solid numbers, but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen thinks there's still untapped ability left.

"Oliver is a gifted player with a tremendous shot and scoring instincts, who has improved steadily during his first three seasons as a pro," Kekalainen said in a press release. "He is just scratching the surface of the type of player he can be and we believe he has the potential to be a dynamic offensive player for our club."

According to, Bjorkstrand's contract leaves the Blue Jackets roughly $5.6 million under the NHL Salary Cap of $79.5 million for next season. That's for 24 players on the NHL roster, though, including 15 forwards and seven defensemen - one more player than is allowed to start the regular season.

Bjorkstrand's deal will end after the 2020-21 season and he will have one RFA year left before unrestricted free agency (UFA). He was the Jackets' last unsigned free agent for next season, so the focus can now shift toward training camp in the Fall. Bjorkstrand, meanwhile, will focus on becoming that 'dynamic' player Kekalainen and others evision.

"That's definitely my goal," he said. "I feel like I have potential to do it and I believe in myself. I'm just going to keep working hard and working on the different things that are going to make me better, and I believe if I do that, I'm going to be a player that can help the team out and hopefully score more goals."

Scoring goals, and setting them up, wasn't a problem at lower levels.

Playing for Denmark's Under-17 team, Bjorkstrand had 35 goals, 35 assists and 70 points in 29 games, averaging a whopping 2.41 points per game. Playing for Denmark's U-20 group, he had 19 points in 11 games (1.73 per game).

He also played three seasons of junior hockey with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, ripping through that league with 290 points on 144 goals and 146 assists in 193 regular-season games - including 63 goals, 55 assists and 118 points in 2014-15 (59 games).

In the American Hockey League, Bjorkstrand had 55 points in 88 games over two seasons - including 10 goals, six assists and 16 points in a 2016 playoff run that ended in a Calder Cup championship for the Lake Erie Monsters (now known as the Cleveland Monsters).

"It's just consistency out there, having more games in a row where I pick my game up to a higher level," said Bjorkstrand, who was selected by Columbus in the third round (No. 89) of the 2013 NHL Draft. "I really want to pick that up. I've played some good games up there. I've shown that I can be a good player, so if I can do it in one game, I should be able to do it in more games than just one. That's an area I want to work on."

The Blue Jackets are counting on it.

Bjorkstrand is among a group of skilled young players they're hoping will make a bigger footprint in the next few years - as Columbus continues to its organizational philosophy of leaning on homegrown talent.

A few free-agents have been signed this summer, including two-way center Riley Nash and speedy forward Anthony Duclair, but the biggest onus next season will be shouldered by guys like Bjorkstrand - who's in New York for offseason training.

"We have a lot of guys from last year back and we have a pretty young team," he said. "I feel like we all are going to develop into better hockey players with more experience, so I think the future looks good. I'm happy to be part of Columbus for the next three years and just have some time to develop and focus on hockey. I'm really excited for next season."

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