The first professional season for Kasper Bjorkqvist will not be what he or many Penguins fans had hoped. The former Providence College captain entered the year with high expectations after back-to-back strong seasons of NCAA play and looked like the exact type of intelligent and hard-working two-way forward that Pittsburgh could use. It was not a major surprise that he did not break camp with the NHL club, but there remained speculation that he would not have to spend much time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before earning his first career recall. Unfortunately, as it turns out he will have to wait until next year at the earliest for that promotion. Just six games into his AHL season, Bjorkqvist suffered a knee injury and was sidelined. WBS beat writer Jason Iacona now reports that Bjorkqvist has undergone surgery on his knee and the expected timeline for recovery is six months. As Iacona states, this essentially ends his season. The earliest conceivable return for Bjorkqvist would be during the Calder Cup playoffs, should the AHL Penguins qualify, and that’s only if the Pittsburgh brass decide it is worth it to get him back on the ice this season. Most likely, the talented Finnish winger will be shut down until next season in hopes that he can resume play at full strength and compete for an NHL role again next year.
- If trade value at the junior level is any indication of NHL Entry Draft stock, Ben King is a 2020 draft prospect on the rise. The 17-year-old forward was dealt by the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos to the Red Deer Rebels this week for a rather hefty return of two players – including recent first-rounder Cohner Seleski – the rights to a third player, and a third-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. Such packages are usually reserved for veteran junior players who can be immediate difference-makers for a contender, but head coach and GM Brent Sutter clearly sees something that he likes in King and opted for the long-term play. A first-round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, King recorded 26 points in 48 games for Swift Current in his first season with the team in 2018-19 and had eight points through his first 16 games this year. King, who usually lines up at center, has a sturdy frame and plays a patient, play-making style. He still has room to grow, both physically and in his skill development, but early expectations have been that is already in consideration for selection in the third or fourth round of the coming draft. And with this vote of confidence from the well-respected Sutter, that may just be the floor of where one might expect King to go in June.
- A new name in Canadian juniors is Adam Samuelsson. The son of Ulf and brother of Philip and Henrik, Samuelsson comes from a strong hockey background and was once considered a future NHL prospect. However, things started going downhill when he surprisingly went undrafted out of the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2018. Then, he struggled at Boston College early last season and ended up on the bench for much of the first half of the season before leaving school to join the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers. It isn’t uncommon for college players experiencing production issues or a poor fit to return to juniors before transferring to another NCAA team, but Samuelsson instead returned to Sioux City this season in a confusing move, especially considering his improved play after leaving BC. It appears now that this was simply a precursor to his true intentions. The hulking defenseman has signed on with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves, who had drafted him back in 2016. The team’s press release indicates that they have been pushing to sign Samuelsson for years and the blue liner finally decided to give up on the collegiate path and head to Ontario. It remains to be seen if Samuelsson can re-assert himself as an NHL prospect, but with two years of junior eligibility, there is plenty of time to show that he is a pro-quality player like his dad and brothers.