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My first NHL goal: Oliver Bjorkstrand

Standout didn't take long to show his talent with Blue Jackets

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Scoring a goal at the NHL level is the dream of every young hockey player growing up. It's a memory that lasts forever, the culmination of a lifetime of hard work. 

Usually, players are asked about what it feels like at the time they score the goal, then while the memory lives on in the player, the story sort of fades away. Until now. is catching up with members of the CBJ universe to get their memories of their first NHL goals. 

Oliver Bjorkstrand had scored 144 goals in 193 games as a dominant juniors player in the Western Hockey League. 

He had added 17 more in 51 games with the Lake Erie Monsters as a professional rookie. 

So everyone knew Bjorkstrand could score when he first walked into the Columbus Blue Jackets locker room at 20 years old in March 2016. 

And it didn't take him long to show it at the NHL level. 

In just his second NHL game, Bjorkstrand scored twice, tallying the game-winning goal and an insurance marker in a 6-3 victory March 19, 2016, in Nationwide Arena vs. the New Jersey Devils.  

"I definitely remember it," Bjorkstrand recently said. "It was my second NHL game at the end of the year, but I think most guys remember their first goal. It's a special experience. It's a cool feeling, and what you dream of as a kid besides making it."

Video: NJD@CBJ: Bjorkstrand tallies his first two NHL goals 

Things were a bit different at Nationwide Arena at the time. John Tortorella was at the helm of the Blue Jackets by the end of what was a difficult 2015-16 season, with the team getting off to an 0-8 start that essentially ended all chance of a postseason appearance right out of the gate.  

The team was well out of the race by March, but there were plenty of positives. A new culture was becoming established under Tortorella, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was finally healthy after missing much of the season because of injury, and Seth Jones had been added to fortify what had been a struggling blue line. With the team out of a postseason bid, a cadre of young prospects were beginning to get the chance to show what they could do at the NHL level. 

That group included such youngsters as Josh Anderson, Joonas Korpisalo and Bjorkstrand, who after a solid first season with the Monsters got the call to join Columbus for his NHL debut on St. Patrick's Day vs. Detroit. 

Bjorkstrand's father Todd, an old teammate of Tortorella at the University of Maine, flew in from Denmark for the two-game homestand in Nationwide Arena, with Columbus taking the ice in the second game against a Devils team that was also out of the race.  

Things got off to a hot start for the Blue Jackets, with Cam Atkinson and Jones scoring in the first period. When Boone Jenner made it a 3-0 game early in the second period, New Jersey goalie and future Blue Jacket Keith Kinkaid was pulled for Yann Danis, a longtime minor league veteran appearing in just one of two games that year. 

If Devils coach John Hynes was going for a momentum change, it worked, as New Jersey tallied twice on the power play over the next six minutes and then made it a 3-3 game when Kyle Palmieri scored in the first minute of the third. 

It was a new game, but not for long. On the first shift after Palmieri's goal, the Blue Jackets held the puck in the Devils' zone, with Alexander Wennberg -- wearing No. 41 at the time -- eventually gaining control in the left corner. He tried to pass it in front to Cody Goloubef as the defenseman cut back door, but John Moore intercepted the pass in front of Danis. 

Unfortunately for the one-time CBJ draft pick, Moore could not control the puck, and as he reached for it, the onrushing Bjorkstrand beat him to it and quickly snapped a shot past the blocker of Danis to restore the Jackets' lead at 4-3 just 1:23 into the second. 

Bjorkstrand immediately broke into a wide smile while being congratulated by his teammates, then looked up to watch the replay on the Nationwide Arena video board. 

"Wenny was behind the net, he tried to pass it into I think Cody Goloubef, who was crashing the net," Bjorkstrand recalled. "It happened to bounce to me, and I obviously saw the puck and took a shot at the net and was lucky enough to beat the goalie. I remember the goal, I remember the feeling after scoring it. It was super exciting, and yeah, a moment that I'll remember forever." 

Bjorkstrand wasn't done scoring, though. William Karlsson made it a 5-3 game just 12 seconds later, then Bjorkstrand got his second of the night with 13:22 to go. This time, he controlled the puck and skated it left to right across the top of the slot before unleashing a quick shot that surprised Danis and snuck by the goalie. 

Those insurance markers made sure Bjorkstrand's tie-breaking goal early in the period stood up as the winner in just his second NHL game. 

"It was a tie game," he remembered. "We came into the third, I think (the first goal) was early in the third period and we got to the goalie and helped the team win. When you're young, it's exciting. You're just happy to be there and get your chance. I t was real exciting to be there for your first games. We didn't have much to play for that year, so it was a little bit more relaxed in a sense, but it was fun." 

Video: Bjorkstrand following tonight's win over the Devils

Bjorkstrand ended up playing for the Blue Jackets for the rest of the season, posting four goals and four assists in 12 games. When the CBJ season was done, he returned to Cleveland for the postseason and paired with such players as Anderson, Lukas Sedlak and a rookie defenseman fresh out of the University of Michigan named Zach Werenski to push the Monsters to the Calder Cup. Bjorkstrand led the entire league with 10 postseason goals, including the Cup clincher in overtime. 

His goal-scoring touch has built and built at the NHL level, with Bjorkstrand first topping 20 goals a season ago with 23 tallies and adding 21 more this year so far in just 49 games, putting him on pace for 35 goals over an 82-game season. 

He's become the counted upon scorer many thought he could be, not to mention more of a veteran on a team that seemingly just keeps getting younger. This year, the Blue Jackets had seven players score their first NHL goals, with Bjorkstrand having a front-row seat along the way. 

"As a team, when you have young guys coming up or guys who are playing their first game and so on and get that first goal, it's exciting to see," he said. "It's a fun moment for anybody to score their first goal. You remember it now and then, and it's always fun to get that first goal and fun seeing guys get their first goal too." 

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