The Pittsburgh Penguins made a little bit of news on Saturday morning, minutes before Day 2 of the 2021 NHL Draft began. According to the Penguins Twitter account, the Penguins re-signed prospect Kasper Bkorkqvist to a one-year, two-way contract.
The contract will be worth $750,000 at the NHL level.
Bjorkqvist, 24, played in the Finish Elite League for most of last season. In 44 games, he scored 26 points, including 15 goals. He also played five games for the WBS Penguins in the AHL but notched just one assist.
He played just six AHL games in 2019-20 before a leg injury ended his season.
“Kasper is an honest, responsible two-way player who is very coachable and understands the game well,” Penguins assistant GM Patrik Allvin said via Twitter. “We felt that it was important for Kasper to play in Finland last year after his injuries, and he found a lot of success there, which was good for his development. He has all of the intangibles to develop into an NHL player.”
Bjorkqvist was the Pittsburgh Penguins second-round pick (61st overall) in 2016. He spent three seasons at Providence College. Some scouts erred when they compared him to Patric Hornqvist. Expectations for Bjorkqvist shot sky-high, perhaps well beyond what was realistic.
PHN has chronicled Bjorkqvist’s development and spoke several times with his college coach, the incomparable Nate Leahman.
The one-year deal should tell you where he fits into the Penguins thin prospect system. At 24-years-old, it’s now or never. Bjorkqvist hasn’t had the chance to impress in North America. Just 11 games with the WBS Penguins isn’t even a taste.
However, if the Penguins were bullish on his potential, they could have extended him for longer.
Comparing Bjorkqvist to Hornqvist was as much about the blonde hair and name similarity as it was about Bjorkqvist’s game. He’s a slower grinder who improved every year in college but hasn’t yet spread his wings beyond college.
It’s a good show-me deal for the Penguins. Perhaps Bjorkqvist has more to give and earns a longer stay in the Penguins organization. If he doesn’t, the Penguins have not invested more than necessary.