What kind of impact Seattle Kraken can expect from Oliver Bjorkstrand

Jul 27, 2022, 10:59 AM | Updated: 4:10 pm

Seattle Kraken Olive Bjrokstrand...

Oliver Bjorkstrand celebrates his goal against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on January 19, 2020. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Friday evening story dump is traditionally reserved for bad or embarrassing news. Yet this past Friday the Seattle Kraken had good news, announcing in the late afternoon that they had acquired winger Oliver Bjorkstrand from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade.

Seattle Kraken acquire RW Oliver Bjorkstrand from Columbus for two picks

Kraken general manager Ron Francis said on several occasions that he envisioned using some of the extra draft picks he acquired at the NHL trade deadline as assets to improve the roster now. That’s exactly what he did here, sending a third-rounder (acquired from the Calgary Flames) and fourth-rounder (acquired from the Winnipeg Jets) in next year’s draft to the Blue Jackets in return for a veteran who will add much-needed goal scoring to the Seattle lineup.

Francis pulled this off thanks to finally being able to weaponize the NHL salary cap. Columbus landed the biggest of all free agent targets in Johnny Gaudreau for $9.75 million a year, then also had to spend another $6.75 million to re-sign Patrik Laine. That was going to put them over the cap, so Bjorkstrand and his four-year, $5.4 million per season contract became available for a cheaper price than his production would warrant. Seattle had the assets and the cap space, which made the Kraken the perfect trade partner.

With most of the value free agents off the market for the Kraken, landing Bjorkstrand was a big move. He scored a career-high 28 goals last season, tied a career-best with 29 assists and set a new career mark with 57 points.

All of Bjorkstrand’s scoring numbers would have led the Kraken last season.

Who is Oliver Bjorkstrand?

He may not be a household name across the NHL yet, but hockey fans in the Northwest are familiar with the 27-year-old Bjorkstrand, who played from 2012-15 for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks. Bjorkstrand terrorized the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips while in the WHL, and he scored 31 goals as a rookie and helped Portland win the league’s championship in 2013. His final season in Portland was spectacular, as he scored 63 times in 59 games including 50 in his first 50 games.

While the Blue Jackets have yet to experience much postseason success, Bjorkstrand has experience hoisting championship trophies. First with Portland, then in his rookie year as a pro when he helped the American Hockey League’s Lake Eire Monsters win the Calder Cup in 2016, with Bjorkstrand scoring the Cup-clinching goal in overtime.

Bjorkstrand has improved in each of his seven NHL seasons, culminating in his career-bests last season. He’s notched 20-plus goals in four of his last five campaigns and will give the Kraken an excellent shot. He’ll let that shot loose from all over the ice and is not afraid to attack the net.

Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol will get good minutes from the right-handed winger, and he was on the ice for just under 18 minutes per game with Columbus in 2021-22. He averaged 2.7 shots per game last year and shot a respectable 13%, which was in line with his career 12%. His goal production wasn’t thanks to an unusually high shooting percentage.

Bjorkstrand’s underlying possession numbers are decent, and while not the most suffocating defensive player, his offensive upside makes up for any defensive flaws. He’ll join a forward group that plays well without the puck, which should assuage any concern.

How will Bjorkstrand impact the Seattle Kraken?

First and foremost, Bjorkstrand is bringing more skill and scoring touch to a Kraken lineup that desperately needs it. Seattle was 28th in the NHL in goals forced per 60 minutes (2.25). With the free agency addition of Andre Burakovsky and healthy returns of Jaden Schwartz and Brandon Tanev, the Kraken will score more and be harder to play against.

Bjorkstrand will help the ailing Seattle power play, which was among the bottom feeders in the league. He tallied nine goals and 10 assists with the man advantage for the Blue Jackets, which again would have led the Kraken in both power-play goals and points. Jared McCann was tops last year for Seattle with eight power-play goals and nine assists.

Hakstol can write Bjorkstrand’s name into the top six forwards with a pen, and you’ll most likely see him on the team’s top line. Bjorkstrand and Burakovsky will have a trickle-down effect to Seattle’s attack. It’s still to be seen what the actual line combos will be, so that will be something to watch during September’s training camp and preseason. But the scoring added at the top will allow other forwards to play down the lineup in more appropriate roles with favorable matchups.

Undoubtedly, Francis has improved his roster for year two of the Kraken experience. Will that be enough for the team to make the playoffs? It’s too early to answer that question, and there has been movement in what should be an improved Pacific Division.

What seems obvious is that Seattle is closer than last year, which will make for a more competitive product on the ice.

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