Anders Bjork is still undecided on his future plans. (Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today Sports)
Anders Bjork is a wanted man and it’s not hard to see why.
Bjork was a breakout sensation in his junior season with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, with 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games. That production made Bjork an All-American, and led to his nomination as one of the 10 finalists for the 2017 Hobey Baker Award, and helped guide Notre Dame to a Frozen Four appearance. He will also skate for Team USA at the 2017 World Championships beginning next week.
And the Bruins, the team that drafted Bjork with the 146th overall pick at the 2014 NHL Draft, remain in contact with the 20-year-old.
“We’ve had discussions and we will continue to have discussions,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said at his year-end press conference at TD Garden on Thursday morning.
But the ball remains in Bjork’s court.
“[Bjork] hasn’t made a firm decision whether or not he’s leaving school, so it would be his decision,” Sweeney, who has already signed three of his highly-touted NCAA prospects (Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Ryan Fitzgerald) in the last month-plus, noted. “The opportunity is there for him to join us and we’d like him to. But that’s his own decision to make.”
The belief is that while Bjork would like to go pro, there is an undeniably strong connection to Notre Dame and that he truly believes that the Irish can win a National Championship next season, which is something that they have never done in the school’s history (the closest they came was back in 2008 when they lost to Boston College in the finals). That would obviously mean a lot to Bjork, whose father, Kirt, also played for the Irish and was an All-American for the school back in 1983, and whose mother, Patricia, is an alum of the school as well. There’s also worthwhile speculation that mentions the fact that Bjork could be an Olympian for the United States next year if the NHL stands firm and does not permit their players to go to next year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, which has a great amount of appeal in its own right given what an honor that is for anybody selected.
But there is a natural sense of worry that can come with letting a talent like Bjork go unsigned into his senior season, as the collective bargaining loophole puts the player in the driver’s seat for his own NHL future. Worked by players like Jimmy Vesey, who used his success with Harvard to opt out of signing with Nashville (the team that drafted him) and instead go for an all out entry-level bidding war where he could simply pick his own landing spot (the Rangers), that possibility is very much there.
The Bruins believe that they have worked to build a strong relationship with the player since drafting him, however, and that this is truly a matter of Bjork weighing the importance of finishing school for one last chance at their first championship versus jumping right into the NHL, where he would likely slot in as an immediate fix somewhere on the B’s hot-and-cold middle lines.
Bjork has 40 goals and 109 points in 115 games for Notre Dame.