New Seattle Kraken winger Bjorkstrand talks surprise trade

Aug 3, 2022, 11:59 AM | Updated: 1:30 pm
Seattle Kraken Oliver Bjorkstrand...
Oliver Bjorkstrand during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes on November 07, 2019. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

New Kraken winger Oliver Bjorkstrand met with the Seattle media this week after returning from a South African adventure. It was the 27-year-old’s honeymoon and while he and his new wife wanted to experience a trip of a lifetime, there was some business that forced its way in.

Seattle Kraken acquire RW Oliver Bjorkstrand from Columbus for 2 picks

“I think it was like 11 at night there but I was in the middle of nowhere and I saw a few missed calls,” Bjorkstrand said. “Figured I’d have to call back and hear what it was. I kind of figured out what the phone call was about.”

The missed calls were from Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalinen, who eventually informed Bjorkstrand that he had been traded to the Seattle Kraken for 2023 third- and fourth-round picks. In a perfect world, the Blue Jackets would not have moved Bjorkstrand, but thanks to their free agency signing of Johnny Gaudreau, they suddenly were over the NHL salary cap.

“I figured somebody had to go, so I knew it was a possibility,” Bjorkstrand said. “I don’t think I really thought deeply about it that I was the one to go. I guess I didn’t look closely enough about the situation of maybe young guys coming up and future signings in the future and so on and where they’re at. So I wouldn’t say I expected that phone call. Yeah, it was a little bit of a shocker getting that call.”

It’s not the best news to receive while you’re trying to get away from it all on your honeymoon.

After sitting with the news for a bit, however, a new emotion started to emerge for Bjorkstrand.

“When I had some time to think about it, I started getting really excited,” he said. “Obviously Seattle’s been in the league now for one year. So, I would assume there’s a lot of buzz about the team around the city and excitement about a new team. For myself to be thinking about being a part of that and hopefully, getting together a winning culture there, it’s really exciting for me to think about. I’m ready for this journey and really excited to get there.”

The move to the Kraken and Seattle is a homecoming of sorts for Bjorkstrand, who is originally from Herning, Denmark. Prior to turning pro, Bjorkstrand spent three seasons playing junior hockey for the Portland Winterhawks.

He was a prolific scorer in Portland and says he loved his time in the Rose City.

“I’m used to rain, so it won’t be too much of a difference or shocker for me,” he said with a chuckle.

In season two, the Kraken still have that new car smell, which is attractive to Bjorkstrand. He brings a big offensive upgrade to the team already in place, coming off a season where he had a career-high 28 goals and 57 points.

He’ll also bring the experience of his seven years in the league along with a dose of leadership. Bjorkstrand was named an alternate captain last year for the Blue Jackets and with young players like Matty Beniers and Shane Wright, having a guy like that will be vital for the Kraken.

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Bjorkstrand leans on his own experience as a young player in the league when it comes to playing with the up-and-comers the Kraken have.

“If you see them struggling or having questions or so on it’s just giving them your two cents of how to handle things,” Bjorkstrand said. “Obviously it’s different going from juniors to NHL level, it’s more intense. There’s probably more games and all that stuff. So, there’ll be learning curves. Again, I was fortunate to be able to look up the guys from Columbus and see how they handle things and give advice here and there. So, I’ll try to do the same thing but obviously, I gotta find my place in Seattle.”

It’s too early to see if Bjorkstrand will eventually wear a letter on his jersey as part of the Seattle leadership group, but listening to him talk, it’s not hard to imagine.

While Kraken general manager Ron Francis brought him in to give last year’s anemic offense some punch, he may end up bringing more, and that’s leadership. It means something in hockey to wear a letter on your jersey, and that is something that isn’t lost on Bjorkstrand.

“There’s just a certain level of pressure, I guess, wearing a letter like that, at least for myself,” he said. “Getting into the league, you look up to the leadership group and the guys that have been in the league for at least a few years. What they’ve achieved so far. For myself, just put a little bit of extra pressure on me trying to lead the way and be a pro. So, it was a learning curve. (In Columbus) that was a new thing for me. It might take a few years before you really learn what it takes to wear a letter.”

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