April 20, 2024

Ilfa Sprot

The finest in sport

Prospect Report: Norwegian defenseman Bjorgvik-Holm chasing hockey dream

6 min read
Prospect Report: Norwegian defenseman Bjorgvik-Holm chasing hockey dream

Only eight Norwegian-born players have suited up in the NHL, and two of them have worn union blue. 

Espen Knutsen was one of the first breakout players for the Blue Jackets, bursting onto the scene in the team’s inaugural season and scoring 108 points over 188 games with the team. 

He’s second all-time in NHL games played among Norwegian players, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is third. The rugged defenseman skated in 145 games in Columbus and totaled 273 penalty minutes with the Blue Jackets from 2006-09. 

And if Ole Julian Bjorgvik-Holm has his way, he’ll be not just the ninth Norwegian to play in the league, he’ll be the third Blue Jacket. The fifth-round pick of the Blue Jackets in the 2020 draft is a big defenseman with upside, and at just age 19, he’s not just played pro hockey in his home country but also skated in the top junior league in the world and also played in the AHL. 

Video: Bjorgvik-Holm joins Pipeline Pod!

It’s an impressive start for someone who grew up in a country where someone is much more likely to become a star in skiing or speed skating than hockey. 

“We are a Winter Olympics nation, I would say,” Bjorgvik-Holm said on the most recent edition of the Pipeline Podcast. “Hockey is not very big in Norway, but I was very fortunate to grow up close to a rink, and my parents just brought me along. I started skating every Friday and I just fell in love with the game from an early age.” 

Skiing’s loss is hockey’s gain, as Bjorgvik-Holm already has an impressive resume that includes 16 games with the Cleveland Monsters, the top minor league affiliate of the Blue Jackets, a season ago. 

Plus, in 2019-20, as well as this year, Bjorgvik-Holm has skated with Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League, providing a little offense (a 5-27-32 line in 111 games over two seasons) and some snarl with 129 penalty minutes. This year, the Steelheads placed fourth in the OHL’s Eastern Conference and are currently locked with Barrie in a tight opening-round series. 

So how did someone who grew up in Oslo end up with one of the top junior teams in the world? Bjorgvik-Holm moved to the United States in 2018 to play with the Colorado Thunderbirds, a high-level AAA program that has produced NHL players like Seth Jones, Jaccob Slavin and Troy Terry, and his original idea was to gain exposure and play college hockey. 

That changed after an excellent first season with the Thunderbirds garnered interest from top junior programs, and Bjorgvik-Holm — who originally committed to play D-I college hockey at powerhouse Denver — suddenly had to weigh his options when Mississauga made him a pick in the OHL’s import draft. 

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Bjorgvik-Holm said. “It was a good summer day and I got a call from my agent and he told me, ‘You went in the OHL draft and you were drafted by the Mississauga Steelheads.’ They had to know if I was coming or not, so basically it went for a few hours and I had a conversation with my family and agents and all that and we came to the conclusion the Mississauga Steelheads were where I was going to play hockey the next few years. 

“It was kind of a surprise. I had been having talks with my agents before that, but it wasn’t anything serious. … I was just enjoying my summer and getting ready for a new season and in the blink of an eye, I changed paths.” 

It’s working out for Bjorgvik-Holm so far, as he’s gotten experience at the top levels most teenagers can play at. He’s also a decorated member already of the Norwegian national team, serving as captain of the Under-20 team at the recent World Juniors tournament and also playing for the full national team at the 2021 World Championships. 

When it comes to the Blue Jackets, Bjorgvik-Holm’s primary contact with the team is director of player development Rick Nash, and if he needs to know more about the organization, it’s not hard to find someone to talk to. 

“I knew actually that Espen Knutsen and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen had played for the organization,” he said. “They reached out and said it was pretty cool that I was picked by Columbus. It’s nice to have someone that you can talk to about the organization. If I had any questions, I knew I could reach out to them and ask for advice.” 

And while Bjorgvik-Holm is still developing, it’s his plan to follow in those former CBJ players’ footsteps and make an impact with the organization sooner rather than later.  

“I want to crack the team next year,” he said. “That might be a bit ballsy to say, but my expectations are high and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it.” 

Monsters Finishing Strong 

It hasn’t been a fun home stretch for the Monsters — the team lost seven of eight to begin April — but last weekend, a pair of games was memorable for the team. 

First, Cleveland posted a 4-2 win Saturday night against Rochester, then the team came back a day later and earned a 2-0 shutout victory over the Americans to make it three wins in four games. 

In the opener of the home-and-home series against the Amerks, Cleveland battled back from a 2-0 first-period deficit to take the 4-2 victory. Trey Fix-Wolansky got the scoring started with his 14th goal of the year in the first, then Tyler Sikura matched him with goal No. 14 to tie the game in the second. Roman Ahcan got the winner later in the period, and Justin Scott added an empty-net goal to salt things away. Ahcan finished with two points, Robbie Payne had a pair of assists and Cam Johnson made 32 saves. 

The Sunday follow-up at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse was memorable for Linden Marshall, a new Monster and pro rookie who made 38 saves in his first AHL shutout. Marshall, a 23-year-old who has spent most of the year playing college hockey with RPI, was on his game while the team got goals from Thomas Schemitsch and Owen Sillinger, who tallied for the third time since joining the team. 

At 27-34-8-5, Cleveland is out of the running for postseason play and in last place in the North Division. The Monsters have two games left in the season, including the campaign’s final road game tonight at Lehigh Valley. Cleveland will then complete the season with a home game Saturday night against Grand Rapids. 

Prospect Updates 
  • The magic dust or whatever it is that propelled Mikael Pyythiä to one of the hottest two-month stretches in the world may have finally worn off. The fourth-round pick of the Jackets in the 2020 draft finished the regular season with TPS in Finland with 15 goals in 19 games, then scored eight more times in the first two rounds of the playoffs as the team beat HIFK and Ilves to advance to the Liiga championship series. But so far, Pyyhtiä has been kept off the board in the title series for TPS, which finds itself in a 3-1 hole against Tappara despite 19 shots on goal in four games thus far from the winger. Game 5 will be Thursday. 
  • On the other hand, maybe James Malatesta took that magic elixir from the Finnish standout. The 2021 fifth-round pick has been unstoppable of late with Quebec of the QMJHL, posting an April to remember with 11 goals and 14 points in 11 games. That gives Malatesta a 27-24-51 line in 65 games with three games to play in the Remparts’ regular season. 

Copyright © ilfa.org.uk All rights reserved. | Newsphere by AF themes.