For a self-described pain in the butt, the thought of becoming a future NHL pest is naturally appealing to Kasper Bjorkvist. “No question, that’s what I want to be,” he said. “If the opponent hates playing against me, I’ve done my job.”
For three years, Bjorkvist got the job done at Providence College, where he captained the Friars to the Frozen Four last season. Along the way, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound power forward proved to be a handful, often setting up atop the crease or grinding below the dots. “He never backs down to get to the dirty areas,” said Friars coach Nate Leaman.
Thanks to his work ethic and a knack for making life miserable for the opposition, Bjorkqvist is the quintessential player you love to have on your team but despise facing. “He gets under guys’ skins because he’s so involved,” said Penguins assistant GM Jason Karmanos. “There aren’t many times you watch Kasper play and you don’t notice him.”
Bjorkvist is defensively responsible and thrived on the PK in college, but the Penguins feel he has untapped offensive potential. The right winger had 17 goals and 30 points in 42 games with Providence last season. “Sometimes he has to take a couple of shots, but he just keeps going right back in there,” Leaman said. “There’s a level of toughness to him that not many players have.”
Bjorkvist, 22, comes by that toughness honestly. If not for the social-media posts of his off-season workouts, the tales of his training regimens would likely be dismissed as legend. Among the highlights: a 300-plus-pound power clean and 530-plus-pound deadlifts and hip thrusts. “The way I play,” he said, “I have to be that. I’m not going through players’ triangles. I play a lot in front of the net. So, to be effective, I need to have that leg up.”
While Bjorkvist will ultimately be evaluated for his play on the ice, Leaman saw firsthand how the work in the gym translates. “You could really ride him,” Leaman said. “He didn’t tire. He had the strength to bring it and be consistent on back-to-back nights. He’s as strong as an ox.” – Ben Raby