Our annual, 2020 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
2020 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Radim Zohorna
#24: Judd Caulfield
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Jan Drozg
#21: Sam Miletic
#20: Lukas Svejkovsky
#19: Jonathan Gruden
#18: Niclas Almari
#17: Clayton Phillips
#16: Jordy Bellerive
#15: Anthony Angello
#14: Kasper Bjorkqvist LW/RW
2019 Ranking: #9
Age: 23 (DOB: July 10, 1997)
Acquired Via: 2016 draft (second round)
Height/Weight: 6’1, 198 pounds
The first AHL goal from Kasper Bjorkqvist ties this one up at 3-3 pic.twitter.com/KEpI097whF— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) October 17, 2019
Turning pro in 2019-20 turned out to be a major rut in the road for Bjorkqvist, who only played six games for Wilkes-Barre before suffering an ACL injury and being knocked out for the rest of the year due to surgery and rehab. That’s a tough blow for what was setting up to be a very important age-22 season to get flushed down the pipes, through no fault of his own.
Bjorkqvist has seemed to stabilized this year, being loaned back to his native Finland for KooKoo. Bjorkqvist has nine points (4G+5A) in 10 games, leading his team and among the league leaders in points.
Bjorkqvist has also been named to Team Finland for the Karjala Cup, an annual tournament hosted by the Finns every year that features mostly younger players.
At this point, it looks like Bjorkqvist is on the path to having a very strong season in Europe, now in his age-23 season. He will be a restricted free agent next off-season and while it’s tough to judge his progress having gotten a grand total of one goal and six games in the Penguins’ organization he still is on the upswing.
The unsatisfying thing would be that the Pens have gotten so little out of a high pick that will be going on five years from his draft with such little contribution. For 2021-22, Bjorkqvist will be 24 and still looking to really earn a foothold on the team. Would he be capable of winning a job in the NHL at that point? That’s a late time for most to make an NHL debut, but not totally uncommon. Teddy Blueger made his NHL start at age-24 (though he had almost 200 AHL games under his belt). Bjorkqvist has done well when he’s been able to play, just the issue for him has been three seasons of college plus an injury-lost pro debut plus a pandemic has delayed his progression.
It’s an intriguing question and his upside looks to be so close, yet to this point so far from the NHL level. It’s still possible that Bjorkqvist could carve out a niche somewhere for the NHL. It’s going to be a pretty unique career path for him, and one that’s had an extra little twist due to the complexities brought on about the pandemic.