(RAPID CITY, SD) – The Rapid City Rush, proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes and AHL’s Springfield Falcons, announced today the signings of two European players for the upcoming 2015-16 season: defenseman Filip Bjork and forward Mikhail Stefanovich.
Bjork comes to the Rush after a successful 2014-15 campaign bluelining with Fassa of the Italian League. In Italy, the 6’0”, 194-pounder recorded 22 points (6 G, 16 Ast) in just 35 games, while also serving as an Assistant Captain for his club. A native of Sollentuna, Sweden, Bjork has played in 179 games as a professional all across Europe, recording 9 goals and 44 assists for 53 points, and claimed a Bronze Medal finish in the Belarusian Extraliga in the 2011-12 season. Prior to playing professionally, Bjork spent 4 seasons at New England College in the NCAA Division III, where he was named to three consecutive ECAC All-Academic Teams from 2007-2010. He is no stranger to the ECHL, as he suited up for the Bakersfield Condors as an amateur for 3 games at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season.
“Ever since I left North America I’ve always wanted to come back and give it a shot. A former teammate of mine recommended Rapid City to me, and I was really excited to look into the opportunity,” said Bjork on coming to the Rush. “I am an all-around defender, so I hope I can contribute both offensively and defensively…it’s always different to play on smaller rinks, but I hope I can adjust quickly and help the team win as many games as possible.”
“Filip is familiar with the grit and compete level that comes with the North American style of play, having played his college hockey at New England College in the NCAA III,” said Rush Head Coach and GM, Joe Ferras. “He has played at the top levels in Europe and showed an offensive upside to his game. He’s coming into Rapid City with a great mindset knowing that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to succeed at the ECHL level.”
Stefanovich joins the Rush after spending a season with Dizel Penza, a minor-league affiliate of the KHL’s Atlant Moscow Region. While in the VHL, the 6’2”, 214-pound forward posted 6 points (3 G, 3 Ast) along with a +5 rating in just 12 games. Over the course of his career, which has spanned five seasons, the Minsk, Belarus native has played all across the professional landscape, making stops in the ECHL (Reading Royals), the AHL (Toronto Marlies), the KHL, and the Belarusian Extraliga, where he finished with a Bronze Medal in the 2011-12 season, and the Belarus Cup the next year in the 2012-13 season, both with HK Gomel. Additionally, he has represented his home country of Belarus in international competition at the World Junior Championship, World Championship, and Olympic Qualifying levels. Before turning pro, Stefanovich played his junior hockey with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL and was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2008 NHL Draft (4th Round-#98).
“It was great to play in North American when I last did, so this is a great chance for me to come back and show up at my best,” Stefanovich remarked on his return across the pond. “I feel I can add more speed and offense, as well as a physical aspect to the team.”
“Mikhail has a very high offensive skillset, having averaged over a point-per-game in his QMJHL career, and recording a career-best 49 goals in 56 games in his second season,” Ferras added on Stefanovich. “We’re expecting big things out of Mikhail with his wealth of experience in international competition, his leadership, and his commitment to winning, having won championships internationally.”
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