B’s prospects deep dive 5: Europe report Cehlarik, Chudinov & Johansson

We’re here again with another post charting the progress of B’s prospects as we get close to the end of the 2015-16 regular season.

In the case of the European leagues, those regular campaigns are already in the books and the playoffs are in full swing. European pro hockey starts a full month sooner than the NHL and AHL do, so with that in mind, the B’s have just a few players overseas at this stage with Linus Arnesson, Anton Blidh, Jakub Zboril, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Daniel Vladar all playing in North America.

Peter Cehlarik, RW/LW

The 90th overall selection in 2013 is from Slovakia but has been playing pro hockey in Sweden for the past four seasons. He just posted a career-best 11 goals and 20 points (in 46 games) for Lulea of Sweden’s top professional circuit and his near .5 points-per-game clip reflects his decent if not high-end potential to make an impact one day in the NHL.

At 6-1 and about 200 pounds, the left-shooting right wing (he has played both sides in Sweden) has the size to handle the more rugged North American style when he comes over. Cehlarik is not a physical player but will go to the net and use his frame to establish position in the high-danger areas in close. He’s an average skater- his initial burst has improved from when he was drafted at the end of the third round, and once he gets a good head of steam going, Cehlarik is powerful in the open ice and can back defenses up. He’s still not overly agile and tends to play the game more in straight lines, which is fine, but he’s not explosive, lacks the speed to separate and isn’t ideal in the short-area game where the ability to make quick starts and stops to change direction is needed.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney once described Cehlarik’s drive as a “slingshot” and the winger does like to score goals off the rush, where he is able to generate power on it as it comes off his stick in full gallop. He also has the quick hands to stick handle and dangle for the highlight reel goal, but that’s not really his bread and butter. He’s got the natural offensive hockey IQ and puck skills to make offense happen on his own, and if paired with an effective playmaker, could be even more dangerous than he’s been in the SHL. Here’s some of his work between the hash marks in a game earlier this season (video posted by kristiantrencin):

While not a rugged, hard-nosed power forward Cehlarik has more toughness than I might have given him credit for. This week, he took a skate blade to the lower neck and received a nasty gash that required at least 15 stitches to close. He went right out and back into the game after the repair work was done and assisted on the game-winning goal. I’m sure that earned some serious respect from the B’s organization, which has some choices to make entering the offseason with a lot of players in the system and some needs at defense that will likely require some of those intriguing prospects to be offloaded at some point.

Current assessment: The 20-year-old does not currently project as a forward who has star/top-six forward potential but looks more like a very good third-liner and complementary wing who can provide secondary scoring. He’s likely going to need AHL time to learn Boston’s system and acclimate to the three-zone demands that he’ll be expected to uphold, which is different from what he’s been asked to do as one of Lulea’s top threats on a larger ice surface. As alluded to earlier, there’s also a chance Cehlarik could be used as trade bait in a package deal to bring in a defenseman if another team out there likes his potential enough, but he’s not enough of a talent to be the centerpiece in any discussion. You have to give to get, so even with Cehlarik’s skill and interesting development curve to date, I could see the B’s offering him up in trade talks as opposed to having to be talked into including him in any deal. That’s just pure speculation, but the skate injury is certainly something we should be glad wasn’t more serious, and my hat’s off to him for getting right back in there and having a direct hand in his team’s win that night.  That just goes to show that grit and toughness is not solely defined by how hard you hit or how good a fighter you are- Cehlarik is not that style of power forward, but he might just be someone who can earn a spot in Boston one day.

Maxim Chudinov, D

The seventh-round pick in 2010 (he was one of two Boston selections on defense in that round with Zach Trotman being the other) turns 26 on the 25th of this month and is a smallish (5-11, 200-pound) player with a bulldog mentality on the ice.

Chudinov earned a level of infamy (and Pierre McGuire’s ire) on a late, after-the-whistle hit he leveled on Claude Giroux during the 2007 Canada-Russia Super Series tournament. But hey- don’t let me deprive you of the moment- you can watch for yourself (video posted by GregC89):

Built like fire hydrant, Chudinov might be short, but is an excellent skater who accelerates quickly in a couple of rapid, powerful strides and uses his straight-line speed and fine agility to effortlessly navigate the ice surface. He’s got some underrated offensive tools- Chudinov uses his superior vision and offensive hockey sense to distribute the puck effectively in the offensive zone when on the man advantage and can move it quickly when coming out of his own end. He also has the mobility and puck handling savvy to carry it out of his end and through the neutral zone on his own, which is a plus in the modern NHL.

He’s a nasty, dirty player who is known for his stick work and for taking liberties when the referee’s attention is elsewhere (and sometimes he’ll engage in cheap stuff when the ref is looking at him, as evidenced by his high penalty numbers every season).  While there is a time and place for the chippy play, Chudinov often lacks the personal discipline to pass up on an opportunity to destroy an opponent or take advantage of one in a vulnerable position. It all comes down to how you view the game, with a player like Chudinov: if you appreciated what someone like Zac Rinaldo brought to the Bruins, you will have no problem getting behind the Russian defender (who has a world of ability better than Rinaldo does). If you did not appreciate Rinaldo’s antics, then it won’t take much for Chudinov’s act to wear thin. Assuming he ever signs and comes over in the first place, that is.

Current assessment: My friend and colleague Dominic Tiano has done honest work in talking to Chudinov’s people to determine whether he will sign and join the Bruins organization before his rights expire at the end of the season. He’s been told that Chudinov wants to come over, but at this stage, it is up to Boston to decide whether to invest the contract and effort to get him integrated. I have heard through other sources that Chudinov wants a situation similar to that of Carl Soderberg– where he can come over and go right into the NHL lineup and not down to Providence right away. Whatever the truth behind that, the B’s don’t exactly have a lot of openings on the blue line with their big club, and depending on how they view Chudinov, this could be a case where they opt just to let him go.

I won’t lie- while I recognize Chudinov’s impressive speed and puck-moving/offensive skills, I don’t care for him or his attitude. Dom and I just disagree here, and if he ends up being worked into the mix, then so be it. But, I don’t think he’s done much to earn a straight chance into the Boston lineup and given that the B’s have Torey Krug and another similarly built and skilled defender in Matt Grzelcyk waiting in the wings, I don’t think the B’s need bother with Chudinov. Grzelcyk plays the game the right way and isn’t going to put his teammates at a disadvantage with undisciplined play. I like physical, intense hockey like the next person, but there is a line and Chudinov has built a reputation for crossing it in his body of work. I don’t see him as a true difference-maker at his position, so I have no problem with the Bruins moving on from him if that’s their choice.

Emil Johansson, D

The Swedish seventh-round pick in 2014 is another average-sized defender with good wheels and puck-moving skills, but doesn’t have a high offensive ceiling.

At about 6-foot in height and a stocky build, Johansson’s greatest strength is his skating and mobility. He gets off the mark quickly and has a fluid stride with the ability to pivot smoothly and control his balance and edging with grace and ease. He’s effective when moving backwards and crossing over, able to stay with fast and agile puck carriers.

The HV71 rearguard is coming along in his second full season at the pro level and after going without a goal for much of the regular campaign, netted a pair of goals in recent weeks to get off the schneid. He’s more of a defensive presence who can advance the puck and works well in retrieval when he has to retreat deep into his zone to corral pucks along the walls and beat the forward in order to gain possession and transition the play back the other way.

Johansson isn’t the most instinctive or creative of players- he’s at his most effective when he’s moving up the ice and keeping the puck in front of him. He doesn’t seem to have the vision to instantly read/react and recognize the unfolding play before and as it happens- that instantaneous ability to process and then decisively act on offense and defense is what separates solid players with NHL-caliber tools with the exceptional players who are difference-makers at the highest level as opposed to average or journeyman types.

Current assessment: Johansson was a seventh-round selection for a reason. He’s not a bad player, and seems to have the raw materials that could one day see him earn a job in the NHL if he wants one. But, he’s also a player who was never able to crack his country’s World Jr. squad, and he’s not taken broad leaps forward in his development. He’s more of a safe/steady type of player in the Arnesson mold, only his countryman and 2013 B’s pick is bigger and more talented. Taking Johansson where they did made sense to the Bruins as a project player worth letting percolate and seeing if he could grow into something more than the sum of some solid but unspectacular parts, but he’s not a prospect who is making much of a bold statement as one who has legitimate long-term potential to contribute as anything more than perhaps a bottom-pairing role player.

TSP will be back next to look at some of the players in Providence: Seth Griffith, Alexander Khokhlachev, Zane McIntyre and Brian Ferlin.

 

 

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