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Above the Glass

In Oliver we trust

From the first day he set foot on Portland ice, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand has delivered on his promise. He was drafted 26th overall in the 2012 CHL Import Draft and signed that year on July 26. Oliver promptly bolted out of the starting gate with his first WHL career goal in his first WHL game on September 21, 2012 and his first multi-point game one night later (two goals, one assist). At the time, he looked like he was 12 and played like he was 25.  But all that is child’s play compared to what he has achieved since leading Denmark to the quarter finals of the 2015 World Junior Championship.  The past 60 days of his WHL career have been record-breaking and history-making.  Columbus Blue Jackets fans, read on if you want to know what the young man we just call Ollie has been up to since returning from the World Junior tournament.

He sticks to the game plan. On January 26, 2013, Oliver scored his first WHL career hat trick against the Tri-City Americans. One year later on the same day, he repeated the feat. January 26 also happens to be my birthday, so it goes without saying that I fully expected a triple crown this year. Like I said, Oliver delivers. On Sunday, January 25, 2015, he did it again. How do you top that? By scoring another hat trick and racking up a career-high six-point night less than one week later, but of course. Or you could just do this:

He makes history. The first sign that Oliver would soon go sailing into the Winterhawks’ history books happened at the 2015 World Junior Championship, where he scored the first goal of the tournament and led Team Denmark to an historic appearance in the semi-finals. Oliver was a large reason they graduated to the main tournament. He led Team Denmark to the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF U20 World Championship in Division I Group A with six points in five games, qualifying Denmark for the 2015 World Junior Championship and earned the award for Best Forward at the tournament. So it will come as no surprise that on Saturday, February 28, Oliver scored in the first period against Seattle, reaching an 11-game scoring streak. It tied a record by Tony Currie that had stood since the team’s inaugural season in Portland (1976 – 1977).  He topped it off with two assists and the team’s final goal of the night into an empty net, sealing the deal for a 5-2 win over the Thunderbirds. But why stop there when you can do this?

He goes big or he goes home.  On Friday night, Oliver scored the team’s first goal of the night, 2:53 into the first period, making history as he set a new team record. It was his 49th of the season, in his 50th game. At the 10:51 mark of the second period, he met one of his goals for the season when he scored 50 in 50 on the power play. It was his second consecutive 50-goal season (he scored his 50th goal of the regular season with a hat trick on Mar. 15, 2014 against Seattle). Just under two minutes later, he scored again, completing the hat trick. With about six minutes left in the third period and the greatest of ease, he topped it off with a fourth goal.  Usually, the three stars presentation at the end of Winterhawks games take place as crowds are exiting to beat the traffic and cleaning crews are beginning their work for the night. On Friday, not only did the majority of the crowd stay to watch Oliver take an extra victory lap after receiving the first star of the night, they crowded down at center ice to pay their respects.

He played really good.  At times like these, it’s easy to forget that not all of Oliver’s days in Portland have been this euphoric. In his rookie season, the head coach and GM who drafted him was suspended by the WHL on November 28, leaving the team to play the majority of the regular season and playoffs without even being able to say hello to him on the phone. They went on to post their best regular season in franchise history and make their first return trip to the Memorial Cup in 15 years. It seems like Oliver just got here and was just a teenager that my mom and I ran into at Shari’s diner after a game. But time flies here in the junior leagues and it will soon be time for Oliver to fly away to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In that time, Oliver has played really, really good. In three all-too-short seasons with the Winterhawks, he will walk away with the following mementos:

  • U.S Division titles: Two and counting: The Winterhawks are in the hunt for the 2015 title right now. They are currently in second place, four points behind the Everett Silvertips. They have two games in hand and eight games to play in the regular season.
  • Western Conference titles: Oliver has been a key ingredient in two of the team’s four consecutive Western Conference championships.
  • WHL Championship: One hard-fought, well-earned title in his rookie season.
  • Named to the WHL Western Conference First All-Star Team in 2014.

Player of the ____.  In recognition of his scorching post-WJC play, Oliver earned the WHL Player of the Month honor for January and February. He ws also named WHL and CHL Player of the Week for the week ending February 1. It was the third time that he has earned the WHL Player of the Week honor this season.

In Oliver we trust. All others pay cash. It has been Portland’s pleasure to be Oliver’s adopted home for the past three seasons. As the team plays in its final eight games of the regular season, it’s hard to believe it will likely be Oliver’s last in a Winterhawks jersey. He is a signed, soon-to-be 20-year-old. Of course I’d love to enjoy the pleasure of his feats of derring do for one more season, but the fact is that the Blue Jackets would be fools to send him back here. It’s time for him to fly. Blue Jackets fans, there is just cause to put your faith in the young man we just call Ollie. It seems like he just got here yesterday and he is now part of Winterhawks history. As for his future in Columbus, all I have to say is this: in Oliver we trust and I hope the Columbus Blue Jackets will do the same.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com