Seattle Kraken, Oliver Bjorkstrand

Kraken’s Danish Sharpshooter Bjorkstrand Makes His Mark

A 2013 3rd-round NHL Draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Oliver Bjorkstrand developed and played with that organization from 2015 to 2022. It was the only NHL franchise the Herning, Denmark native was familiar with until he joined the Seattle Kraken via trade in July of 2022 for a 3rd and 4th round draft pick.

“It’s always different and it’s always a challenge coming to a new organization with different expectations, having to start over chemistry-wise,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said last week. “That’ s something every player handles a little bit differently, the process is always a little bit different. For ‘Ollie’, once he got comfortable with us, in terms of his importance as a player to our group, down the stretch, through the 2nd half, through the playoffs last year, was very apparent.”

That adjustment period was evident as the 28-year-old right wing reached the 20-goal plateau for the Kraken last season. The first ten goals took almost five months, the second ten were racked up in just six weeks. He added four more, with four assists, in the postseason.

“He continues to be a guy we rely on offensively, he’s a big piece of our power play, but more importantly, quietly, the competitiveness that he brings is really important,” Hakstol said. “You see him raise his level at key times of hockey games and he’s been one of the guys on our roster that’s been able to do that.”

Kraken Clicking

Bjorkstrand has eight points over the course of the Kraken’s current nine-game unbeaten-in-regulation streak.

“Finding ways to win close games,” Bjorkstrand said of the club’s current 7-0-and-2 run. “Even before that, we had close games and just weren’t being able to finish them off. We’re getting back to a little more of what our identity is and it’s showing. We’re figuring it out.”

A confidence and concept made clear with the Kraken’s 3-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Monday’s NHL Winter Classic. It was the first time Ollie had a chance to play in an NHL outdoor game.

“Really cool,” he said Monday. “Growing up you watch these games. Hockey obviously started outdoors, so it’s cool to be a part of that. It’s special to be a part of.”

And growing up in temperate Denmark meant very rare opportunities to play outside. When the body of water in his hometown froze over, it was a rare enough event to bring out television reporters.

“Two or three winters we were able to skate outside on a man-made lake,” he said. “When it happened you’d have the media out there. It was a big deal. It didn’t last.”

Denmark isn’t exactly one of Europe’s hockey meccas. Only 17 Danes have made it to the NHL, from former center Frans Nielsen at the top of that country’s scoring list with 473 points, down to a young man named Joachim Blichfeld, a forward who played eight games and tallied one goal between 2019 and 2021 for the San Jose Sharks. He’s back in Europe playing in Sweden.

Nielsen presently works with the Kraken as a player development consultant.

Bjorkstrand ranks 5th in all-time Danish NHL scoring (308).

“I kind of separate the Danish history,” Bjorkstrand said. “I just want to be the best I can be, but I think any player wants to be better than other players. As a country, I’d like to be one of the better ones, but I don’t look too into it, I’m not going to be obsessed with it.”

His stiffest competition on the all-time scoring list will likely come from current Winnipeg Jets forward Nik Ehlers. If their on-ice longevity holds up, both he and Ehlers should end up passing Nielsen and the rest.

“I think we take pride in it, coming from a small country that’s not really a hockey country,” Bjorkstrand said.

Whether it’s that inner pride or his comfortable Kraken chemistry, Bjorkstrand is making an importance difference for Seattle. He’s under contract for two-and-a-half more seasons at $5.4-million per.

Some hockey fans in the Pacific Northwest might recall Bjorkstrand playing for the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League. Between 2012 and 2015 he piled up 144 goals and 300 points in just 193 games. By the way, Blichfeld played three seasons in Portland not long after Bjorkstrand.

Recent Kraken:

— Kraken, Daccord Shut-Out Vegas 3-0 In Winter Classic

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.
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