CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Kasper Bjorkqvist took the ice at the end of the Penguins' prospects practice on Thursday for some solo drills with skills coach Ty Hennes.
Bjorkqvist won't be making the trip to Buffalo to take part in the Prospects Challenge on Friday, but he's making progress as he rehabs from his offseason shoulder surgery.
"I feel like when you play a sport like hockey you're always going to be doing some sort of rehab," he said on Thursday. "You get banged up in every game, almost. In that sense I feel like you're never done with rehab once the season starts. But I feel like I feel as good as I could right now. I don't think any player is ever going to be totally out of rehab, so I'm still working on that."
The shoulder surgery definitely didn't hold him back at all when training this summer, though. When I spoke to Bjorkqvist's trainer Yunus Barisik in July, Barisik said that even with Bjorkqvist recovering from surgery, he “has never been this strong this early in the offseason.”
Since Bjorkqvist wasn't cleared to lift weights with his left arm until midsummer, he took the opportunity to focus on lower-body workouts. His Instagram workout videos got increasingly more impressive over the summer, going from hip thrusting 440 pounds in June, to 528 pounds in July, to 572 pounds in August.
Lifting such heavy weights definitely makes for an impressive Instagram game, but does he see any real change on the ice from those gains? He isn't quite sure yet.
"The good thing about when you get stuff with your upper body is that you're able to work on your legs," he told me. "I was able to do that for the start of the summer. Yeah, the tests back home were good, but you'll truly know once you get on the ice. But I feel good right now."
As Bjorkqvist told me, much of his work in the weight room in the offseasons isn't just for the physical gains, but also the mental gains.
"For a hockey player it can be hard to sometimes push yourself in the summer, but you get the old results you have and you just think, 'I'm going to do more this week,'" he said. "I, for sure, believe that whatever you do in the weight room is going to transfer. But it's also not that simple, there's a lot of stuff that goes into it. With the weight stuff, it's just a way for me to push myself more."
Any time you see a hockey player going that hard on the strength training, there can be some concern that adding more size to his already-muscular frame could have a negative effect and end up slowing him down. Bjorkqvist's offseason regimen is well-rounded (Barisik emphasized explosive skating over anything else in our conversation), even if his videos may not give that impression.
"I think it's all about working out the right way, not necessarily with weights," he said. "I trust my trainer back home, and there's different facets of my workouts. But I don't think anyone wants to see Instagram videos of me lifting light weights with speed. I think a lot of the speed stuff is important as well, and that's something we do as well. But I think, do I believe in big weights? Yes. The short answer is yes, I do. But you just have to make sure you're doing it the right way."
Anytime Bill Guerin was asked about Bjorkqvist in the last year or so, he'd make sure to bring up that Bjorkqvist had shattered many of the team's fitness testing records. Bjorkqvist didn't want to focus too much on the results of his on-ice tests, but did say they were a good reflection of the work of his trainers in Finland and at Providence College.
With so much media coverage of Bjorkqvist and his fitness records, his trainer told me that Bjorkqvist would get some friendly chirps from his workout partners for all of the attention. When I asked Bjorkqvist about catching flack from his buddies, he thought at least some of it was deserved.
"It's always what happens," he laughed. "It's all positive chirps, you can take those ones pretty easily. Honestly I think I deserve it as well, there's some questionable Instagram videos for sure."
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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