Future bright for Penguins forward prospect Kasper Bjorkqvist
Kasper Bjorkqvist was two weeks shy of his 21st birthday when he attended the Penguins prospect development camp late last month. That put him roughly in the middle of his peers in terms of age.
Not that you could tell by looking at Bjorkqvist’s chiseled, 6-foot, 200-plus pound frame. It give him every bit the look of a fully-matured, longtime NHL veteran.
“He’s a specimen,” Penguins director of player development Scott Young gushed to a group of assembled reporters at the camp. “You’ve seen him in his t-shirt - he’s ripped.”
As one of the highest-drafted players (in terms of pick number, No. 61 overall) at the development camp and part of the longest-ago draft class that was represented there (2016), among all players at the camp Bjorkqvist arguably was the prospect combining the highest ceiling with closeness to being NHL-ready.
“We have very high hopes for him,” Young said.
“He’s a very disciplined person. The leadership that his coaches (at Providence College) talk about, that’s a huge party of his game. They say he’s the reason they have an intense week in practice or a rebound from a bad game; he just goes out and sets the tone. He’s going to be a captain on his team this year, and this is going to be a big year for him.”
A native of Finland and projectable prototypical NHL power forward (a frequently-cited NHL comparison for him is Patric Hornqvist), Bjorkqvist is a rising junior at Providence. He had 16 goals in 40 games last season and will return for 2018-19, meaning his NHL future is still at least a couple years away at best.
“I think I obviously still need to develop all (my) skills,” Bjorkqvist said. “Skating (because) hockey right now is a hard-skating game, so being able to play fast (is important).
“But also I think that comes with getting more comfortable with the game (in North America) and starting to make more plays. I think that’s the next big step, sort of getting more comfortable and getting better at that: making plays and skating with the puck, that kind of stuff.”