The Boston Bruins announced today (December 11) that the team has signed 2015 fourth-round pick Jesse Gabrielle to a three-year entry-level contract.
This comes as welcome news for some who were already starting to beat the drum on Twitter and other places that the team needed to get off the pot and make it happen. Now, of course, that Gabrielle is in the fold- the focus has no doubt shifted to signing Anders Bjork, the sensational University of Notre Dame junior right wing and 2014 fifth-rounder who has captured the imaginations of B’s fans everywhere by being up near the top of the NCAA scoring list all year. That’s the nature of the beast, we suppose- once you get a player like Gabrielle under contract, the feeling is to move onto the next shiny object…in this case- Bjork.
As far as Bjork goes, he can’t sign an NHL contract and maintain his NCAA eligibility, so the earliest movement we can see on him will be after the Fighting Irish season ends. We’re being told that the Bruins are going to push hard to bring him out of school this spring and they may have to get creative to do it, but we don’t see it being a Jimmy Vesey situation, because Bjork is still more than 1.5 years away from being able to exercise his rights in the CBA as an unrestricted free agent. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t thought about it, or won’t take the same course of action, but the B’s will get a chance to make a hard pitch to him this spring. If he rebuffs them, they may have to recalibrate and eventually prepare for him pursuing free agency, but for now, this won’t be resolved anytime soon, so relax and enjoy the season he’s having. He potted two more goals last night against Boston College including a filthy shorthanded strike. Bjork lacks ideal NHL size, but he’s fast, smart and tenacious- it’s not hard to figure out why he’s generating so much buzz.
Speaking of fast and tenacious- we had an inkling that something was up with Gabrielle this week because he was scheduled to do a 3 Amigos podcast with us on Thursday afternoon, but we got a message from him early that morning that something “really good” had come up and he needed to reschedule until resolved. The initial thought was that he might be getting a shot at Team Canada for the World Jr. tournament, but the other belief that the three of us kicked around was that he was working on a contract. Well done, Jesse and congratulations- he patiently waited for his turn after the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th choices from 2015 signed (the 5th choice- Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson– will be next, as we anticipate him coming out this spring when his BU season ends) ELCs with the B’s, and he can now focus on playing the season without the distraction of a looming June 1 signing deadline.
Gabrielle is tailor-made for what the Bruins want in their forwards: he’s got good (not great) size, but has worked hard in the offseasons to add strength and mass to his frame, and it hasn’t cost him any of his speed. He’s still able to fly up and down the wings and slash into the middle of the ice and unleashing lasers to corners or driving the net and banging home rebounds. Gabrielle relishes physical contact and thrives in the dirtiest areas of the ice. People keep asking about Brad Marchand comparisons…we’ll try it one more time here…
Marchand is the player Gabrielle (a Bruins fan) enjoys watching the most for his goal scoring acumen and moxie/abrasiveness. But, we don’t see a lot of Marchand in Gabrielle- to TSP, he’s more of an Andrew Shaw type without (hopefully) the un-PC, self-defeating bullshit that Shaw has engaged in at times. This is a prime example of why we don’t like making player comparisons to begin with, though. Comparing Gabrielle to Marchand sets the bar high right off the bat, and Shaw is a proven playoff performer who plays with a lot of jam and is an opportunistic scorer also known for meltdowns and selfish penalties. Gabrielle is probably somewhere in the middle between the two, but he’s his own player and one who has potted more goals in the WHL over the past two seasons (59 and counting) with the exception of Tyler Wong (63). At some point, you have to let these players just be themselves without having to picture what they could be in your mind. We’re talking about a guy who scores, hits and fights- you don’t need a name attached to those attributes to get an idea about where Gabrielle might fit in Boston one day.
Gabrielle has done a better job this season of picking his spots and not spending as much time in the penalty box. His overall game is coming along, but the goal scoring continues to move at a nice clip, and the B’s love the edge/skill combo he brings. This is a kid who was deadlifting 450 pounds when he was about 15 years old, so he’s got the natural strength to thrive in just about any role on an NHL club, especially if it means working his way up from a bottom-unit grinder to eventually establish himself as more of a scorer…just like his hockey idol Brad Marchand once did.
Bottom line- Gabrielle has been one of the top prospects for Boston performance-wise since they drafted him in the fourth round some 18 months ago, and it’s nice to see the team get the deal done if nothing else so that we are spared the drama of hand-wringing and the demands of fans to sign him on their convenient timelines while conveniently overlooking the fact that the B’s have managed to do a pretty good job of getting their prospects to sign on the line that is dotted. (There is some Glengarry Glen Ross for you on a Sunday)