No time for a podcast this time around, but the 3 Amigos have gotten together to provide a snapshot of some of the players we like/think could be draft options for the Boston Bruins.
The B’s pick grid is not ideal- no 2nd or 4th-round picks, which, with the team picking near the end of every round save for the seventh, means that they probably need to hit in multiple rounds after the 1st (selection 30). Of course- this goes without saying. The Boston scouts have done a nice job in recent years going back to 2014 of finding some good values in the middle/latter rounds.
Here are the Boston Bruins’ selections:
1st round, 30th overall (Bruins)
3rd round, 92nd overall (Bruins)
5th round, 154th overall (Bruins)
6th round, 186th overall (Bruins)
7th round, 192nd overall (NY Rangers- conditional pick as part of Adam McQuaid trade)
That’s it…5 picks. Assuming the Bruins don’t make any deals to acquire additional draft assets, this could be one of those drafts where we look back and wonder what could have been. The 2nd-rounder belongs to the Devils for Marcus Johansson, 2 4th-rounders (Boston’s pick to Chicago as part of the Tommy Wingels conditions- B’s gave up the pick if they advanced to the 2nd round of playoffs in 2018; Boston acquired the NY Rangers’ 4th for McQuaid, but flipped it to the Minnesota Wild as part of the Charlie Coyle deal) are no longer in play. Boston’s 7th-rounder is owned by Carolina )but previously moved to the Rangers as part of the Rick Nash deal at the 2018 deadline- deferred payments are coming due in this draft) but the B’s pick earlier because they own the NYR selection in the final round.
It’s tough to look at it now given how close the Bruins came to winning it all, but that’s the way the game works. Now, the team will have to hope that they have the picks to land the players in this draft they value. Who are some of those candidates, you ask? Reed, Dom and Kirk have their own take on who might be on Boston’s wish list in rounds 1, 3 & 5-7.
(OHL & Ontario)
|30||Connor McMichael||London Knights||C/LW||6’||185|
|30||Jamieson Rees||Sarnia Sting||C||5’10”||180|
|92||Matvey Guskov||London Knights||C||6’2”||180|
|92||Cole Schwindt||Mississauga Steelheads||RW||6’3”||175|
|154||Zachary Uens||Wellington Dukes (OJHL)||D||6’1”||178|
|185||Keenan Washkurak||Mississauga Steelheads||C||5’10”||185|
|185||Eric Uba||Flint Firebirds||RW||6’||190|
|192||Tyler Angle||Windsor Spitfires||C||5’10||165|
McMichael’s best asset is his hockey IQ. Smart player who uses the gift offensively and defensively. He seemingly always finds the soft spot on the ice making himself an option for his teammates. He plays with a shoot first mentality so finding those spots is key. He’s a puck possession beast and at times looks like no one is going to strip him off the puck. Defensively, he anticipates so well that he makes that jaw dropping steal. His positioning when defending is superb.
McMichael’s skating is a work in progress. He showed marked improvement from a year ago. He has speed in both his first steps and at top speed and possesses a separation gear. I find him awkward at times and I believe he needs to add more of an east-west dimension to his skating.
Hard to believe I’m saying this of a player coached by Dale Hunter, but there are times I’ve watched McMichael hoping to see more of a compete level. Too often he’s waiting for the play to come to him as opposed to attacking the puck and trying to win it back. He needs to use the forecheck and the cycle game more, or at the very least, show the willingness to do so.
Rees possesses a near elite compete level. Forget game-to-game, Rees doesn’t even take a shift off and you’d be hard pressed to find a player that works as hard as he does. Rees has blazing speed in both his first steps and top-end. And he has the skill set to go along with it. He handles the puck extremely well and can make plays while at top speed. He’s a puck hound who is always attacking the rubber.
Rees is an excellent shooter with an uncanny ability to change the angle of his shot and make it difficult for goaltenders to get a read on. His shot is as they say, NHL ready. Despite that, Rees is a playmaker first, always looking to set up a teammate. He’s superb at looking off defenders and making no-look passes.
Here’s the issue I have: his size. The way he plays the game, always hustling, never shying away from physicality- he’s an excellent open ice hitter, whether dishing it out or receiving it, makes me wonder how long his body can last playing that style. He’s already suffered some injuries in the OHL because of it. I’ve heard the comparisons to Travis Konecny, both in style and injuries, and it’s hard to argue with.
Another London Knight but unlike McMichael, it was hard to get a read on Guskov most nights. Because of the depth on the London roster, Guskov was used primarily as a defensive forward. But there were flashes throughout the season that made you realize he possesses some intriguing offensive ability.
The signs are there that Guskov has above average skill set. He has good vision and can make plays. He is willing to battle along the walls and fight for possession or positioning. He has the ability to get in on the forecheck and play the cycle game. What I didn’t see enough of is a willingness to drive to the net with or without the puck.
Guskov’s skating is a plus. He has fluid movement and has excellent edges and once he plants himself is difficult to move. He projects as a playmaker first who can play an excellent defensive game. The problem is, his situation in London didn’t give us the opportunity to see just how good he can be offensively.
Schwindt is a big body with an “awkward looking” stride, but it makes him difficult to knock off the puck. Physicality is an area Schwindt does not shy away from. Whether it’s initiating contact, or taking a hit to make a play, you can count on him being involved. In the O-zone, he gets in on the forecheck and will take advantage physically against opposition defenders. In the D-zone, he’ll battle for pucks along the walls – something he rarely loses at. One can only imagine how much more effective he will be once he adds some needed muscle.
Schwindt is also a very good playmaker and passer and his abilities came to the forefront as the season progressed. However, I think his hockey sense is average at best. He can be seen trying to force a play that isn’t there rather then make the obvious play.
There is still room for Schwindt to develop offensively. And we can see a similar path taken by Guelph Storms’ Nate Schnarr. However, he has the skillset to be a defensive forward who can kill penalties and provide a touch of offense at the next level.
Much like a year ago when I was high on Dustyn McFaul in the sixth round, I’m going back to the Ontario Junior Hockey League with Zachary Uens.
Like McFaul, Uens is an NCAA commit and will be attending Merrimack College. And like McFaul, Uens is a project that is probably 6 years away from the NHL. And with the prospect pool the Bruins have and McAvoy and Carlo already in the NHL, the Bruins can afford to wait.
Uens isn’t a flashy player that brings fans out of their seats. Instead, he goes quietly about his business and rarely gets caught making a bad decision. Uens is a very smooth skater with some deceptive quickness in his feet. Defensively, he understands the importance of keeping gaps tight and is swiftness moving east-west as well as north-south allows him to do so. He angles people off extremely well and has decent size and doesn’t shy away from physicality.
Uens is quick to retrieve pucks and isn’t shy about skating out of the zone and transitioning to offence. His ability to make long, accurate stretch passes is off the charts and one of the better parts of his game. When in transition Uens is more then willing to jump into the play. But he plays it safe and won’t take many risks.
Washkurak is an excellent skater with some explosiveness in his stride. Combined with his compete level, he hounds the opposition for the puck making him an excellent forechecker. Despite his 5’10 frame, he’s more then willing, and capable, of banging against much bigger players. And he won’t shy away when those players are coming at him. And yes, he’s been known to drop the mitts against bigger players as well.
Washkurak won’t dangle through players with finesse but rather uses good hockey smarts to make plays quickly. He’d rather drive through players and take the disc right to the net with surprisingly good results. But he can lure defenders in and then make a very good pass finding teammates. His pick possession skills are okay, but it’s not like he is prone to turnovers. Again, it’s quick thinking and quick movement of the puck that makes him most effective.
It’s difficult to predict what kind of career Washkurak will have at the next level. He has the tools to carve himself out a pro career. Sure, it would be nice to have produced more offense. But you’ve got to like the rest of the tools in the tool box.
Central Scouting, a majority of times, tends to lean towards bigger players even though independently, NHL Teams are shying away from it. But Angle certainly plays much bigger then his size. He will not shy away from contact nor will he duck from a hit to make a play. He’s kind of a pest out on the ice and is willing to take the licks that come with that.
Again, despite the size, Angle is incredibly strong on the puck. His work ethic and puck pursuit are at an extremely high level. And when the puck is on his stick, he protects it extremely well. He’s incredibly difficult to take the puck away from when he is using his skating, smarts and overall awareness.
Defensively, it’s a repetitive statement when it comes to draft eligible players: It’s a work in progress. His awareness and smarts mean he has good positioning. His relentless puck pursuit means he backchecks hard. He plays bigger then his size so he’s willing to battle in the hard areas. And he has shown he can kill penalties.
If he can continue to work on his defensive game, add some much-needed bulk and keep his work ethic at the level he’s at now, I don’t see why he can’t be an effective third liner at the next level who can eventually kill penalties and put up some points.
(USA & Western Canada)
|30||Bobby Brink||Sioux City (USHL)||RW||5’10”||165|
|30||John Beecher||U.S. NTDP U18 (USHL)||C||6’3″||210|
|30||Brett Leason||Prince Albert (WHL)||RW||6’4″||200|
|92||Ronnie Attard||Tri-City (USHL)||D||6’3”||210|
|92||Harrison Blaisdell||Chilliwack (BCHL)||C/LW||5’11”||180|
|92||John Farinacci||Dexter Southfield (USHS)||C||6′||185|
|185||Josh Nodler||Fargo (USHL)||C||5’11”||195|
|192||Domenick Fensore||U.S. NTDP U18 (USHL)||D||5’7″||155|
It’s not the size of the dog, but the size of the fight in the dog that counts, and despite his lack of physical stature, Brink is one of the smartest, most skilled players available in this year’s draft.
While not a dynamic open-ice skater, Brink is very shifty and elusive east-west- he’s able to slip away from would-be checkers and uses his elite vision and puck skills to make a lot of plays. He can both set the table and finish off plays- he generates a lot of power on a laser beam and can beat a lot of quality goalies on the first shot. He’s competitive and driven- after his USHL season ended, he went right to the World Under-18 Championship tournament to join Team USA and made an impact despite battling illness.
It’s probably a long shot that Brink will be on the board at 30 because he’s a consummate points driver and competitor- it’s hard to envision him slipping down that far. Of course, if he does, his full name is Bobby Orr Brink…perfect! Even if he may not have the size/pure speed you look for, he’s been a winner at every level, helping lead Minnetonka High to the 2018 state championship and pushing Sioux City into the USHL playoffs. He should make an immediate splash with Denver University, and watch for him to become the next little big man a la Alex DeBrincat for whichever NHL team drafts him.
This big-bodied center fits the profile of what the B’s tend to value in players: size, and skating, but not completely sold on the NHL ceiling at this stage of his development. When he’s flying up the ice he’s an impressive sight to behold, and he has the makings of a solid 2-way forward. The only thing keeping him away from being a consensus top-20 draft projection is the question about his skill/offensive sense/scoring upside.
Beecher is a powerful skater who has fluid acceleration, agility and top speed for such a big man. He can go end-to-end and catch defenders flat-footed in open ice. When he uses his size to drive the net, there aren’t many players at this level who can stop him. In short, he’s a rare physical package who can really fire the puck, but what holds him back is the vision/creativity and puck skills- he’s not a natural scorer. He’s a little similar to Trent Frederic in that he’s not lauded for his offensive talent, but is an athlete with size and mobility- you know that even if he isn’t scoring, he won’t be chasing the play. Is that enough for Beecher to be the team’s first selection, though?
Still, there’s enough to like about the University of Michigan-bound power forward that he makes sense as a solid high floor draft option at the end of the first round because he’s likely to reach the NHL and play meaningful games. It’s just that he may not develop into much more than what he is already, and that has been a solid complementary player in a constellation of stars on the most talented U.S. NTDP birth year in program history. And to be completely honest- that might be a pretty good thing for whomever drafts him.
The highest-rated of third-year eligible “overage” players in the 2019 NHL draft class, this big winger put up big numbers with the Raiders in the WHL this season, but is it because he was a 19-year-old on the higher-end of junior hockey’s average age spectrum, or is he a late-bloomer who is just now hitting an impressive stride as a future pro?
Skating held him back previously, but he improved the mechanics of his stride and demonstrated strength and power in going north-south throughout the season and getting himself into position to use his overpowering shot to excellent effect. He’s still lacking in quickness and small-area burst, however- Leason isn’t going to win a lot of races to loose pucks, but the Bruins know how to take a player with his attributes and make them pretty effective- Milan Lucic (in his youth and prime) can attest. Leason doesn’t have Lucic’s pure nasty, but he does honest work along the walls and has superb vision/hands for such a big man.
Leason and Beecher are an interesting study in contrasts: both have size, but where Beecher excels in his skating over Leason, the latter has the hands/sense/shot to produce as a scorer at the current level. Put the two players together, and you’d likely have a top-3 pick along with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. If the B’s think Leason’s offense will translate at the next level and he’s on the board, it’s hard to see them passing. Of course, the fact that he’s closer to turning pro than the primary age 2001s are could be a pro or con…we’re not sure how soon the team brain trust wants to make a decision here. For options- as a ’99, Leason has one overage season of junior remaining or he can sign and turn pro right away.
Like Leason, Attard is a ’99 and therefore in his final year of eligibility after winning USHL Player (and defenseman) of the Year honors and shattering single-season league records in scoring from the blue line. He also led Team USA to a gold medal at the World Jr. A Challenge in December.
The Tri-City Storm captain and Western Michigan University recruit exploded in his third USHL season, helping his team to the best regular season record and winning numerous accolades along the way for his two-way play. He’s a big-bodied defender who can skate and has a bomb of a shot. He can make the first pass but developed his overall game as a defense-first guy who never lost sight of what his primary purpose is.
Attard is a warrior- a Boston Bruins-style defender who willed himself into the draft with a season for the ages. Unlike Leason, he’s headed to the NCAA this year, so the B’s could potentially draft Attard and wait a couple of years before signing him to an ELC without a need to get him into the mix right away. After watching him in action against Omaha and the rest of the USHL for the past two seasons, he’s a personal favorite.
Some public lists have Blaisdell in the second round, others have him later on. But the with the way he plays, the BCHL standout would be a fine value at the end of the third round if he’s there.
A very good skater with open ice speed and short-area burst, ideally suited for the modern game. He’s skilled and creative, able to make others around him better and a force of perpetual motion whenever he’s on the ice. His ability as a forechecker is one of his strongest assets: he can force turnovers with a dogged determination and quick stick, taking the play the other way in an instant.
Will he be available at the end of the third round? In all likelihood, no. But, when we look at forwards who define the very things that the Bruins scouts tend to place a premium on, Blaisdell fits that mold to a tee. Because there is a wide variance between the various rankings out there, he’s worth profiling here.
If the B’s miss out on Blaisdell because he’s a junior player and could come off the board sooner while playing at a higher competition level than high school/prep, then John Farinacci might represent a solid late-3rd value in a similar package. Also like Blasidell, there is a lot of variance- Farinacci could go middle-to-late in the second round or he could slip down to the 90’s.
The Dexter School (Brookline) product is fast, skilled and dangerous- he had his way with the prep circuit this year and the last time the B’s drafted a Dexter player, it worked out pretty well for them (Ryan Donato). The Harvard-bound Farinacci even showed that he can get things done in junior, playing a handful of games with the Muskegon Lumberjacks and finding the back of the net. He plays with good pace, energy and some fire despite not having a lot of size.
Farinacci isn’t likely to be a high-end NHL guy when he eventually turns pro, but he’s got enough pieces to be worth taking a chance on in the top-3 rounds because he could develop into being more than the sum of his parts. He’s a multi-threat: cerebral and fast/talented with just enough pepper to be pretty intriguing.
Often lost in the discussion of the Class of 2019 is this industrious, hard-working 2-way center who just does things the right way. The future Michigan State Spartan is hardly a household name, but he’s one of those players who typically doesn’t generate much draft buzz but goes on to be a solid pro.
Nodler is not the prettiest skater, but he works very hard and never stops moving his feet. His ability to see the ice and read the play allow him to compensate a bit for the lack of pure jump in his stride, and he plays an effective two-way style. He’s got a nifty, sneaky release that can fool goalies and he’s an effective, capable passer. A terrific competitor and leader, he’s not going to win a lot of contests on style points, but when you’re protecting a lead or need a late goal, he’s a player coaches can trust.
As a fifth- or sixth-round draft option, Nodler represents solid value as another high floor guy who can do a little bit of everything. You win with responsible, hard-working and intelligent players like this, so he’d be a welcome addition later on.
One of the smallest defenders in the draft, Fensore is also one of the most dynamic.
An explosive skater with excellent puck skills and a lightning bolt of a shot- Fensore flies around the ice with reckless abandon and always wants to grab the puck and go. Defense isn’t exactly his forte, but it’s easier to tone down the aggressiveness than try to instill an attacking mindset in a more conservative/passive player. Formerly committed to Quinnipiac, Fensore is off to Boston University in the fall.
Avoid the easy/lazy comparisons to Matt Grzelcyk– they are different players. Both are small and fast and NTDP/BU guys, but Fensore is a risk/reward player who could fit with what the B’s like to do on the back end but is someone who will require much patience with…both at the draft and on his development path.
(Sweden & OHL)
|30||Nils Hoglander||Rogle (Sweden Jr.)||LW||5’9″||185|
|30||Albin Grewe||Djurgardens (Sweden Jr.)||C/RW||6′||187|
|92||Ethan Keppen||Flint (OHL)||LW||6’2”||212|
|92||Karl Henriksson||Frolunda (Sweden Jr.)||C||5’9”||174|
|154||Mason Primeau||North Bay (OHL)||C||6’5”||203|
|185||Filip Cederqvist||Vaxjo (Sweden )||LW/RW||6’1”||187|
|192||Tag Bertuzzi||Hamilton (OHL)||C||6’1″||198|
The Rogle forward has made significant strides over the past two seasons, spending two thirds of his 2017-18 season in Allsvenskan with AIK, scoring 7 points in 34 games before heading to Rogle of the SHL for the 2018-19 season and bettering his numbers at Sweden’s top level with a7-7-14 line in 50 games. The most elusive player in this class, can make defenders miss in a phone booth and displays excellent top speed with good acceleration. Hoglander, despite a 5’9’’ frame does some of his best work in heavy traffic, darting in and out to find teammates and using tremendous hockey sense to hold defenders at bay. Hoglander also plays an advanced defensive game for his age, which has been a big part in his ability to chalk up 84 pro games over the last two seasons. Very smart with his stick in defensive situation, Hoglander can turn defense to offence quickly. Would be a very good fit for the way the Bruins want to play moving forward.
The Swedish Brad Marchand, Grewe is a human lightning bolt, easily the fastest skater in this year’s class who has the same pest qualities as the beloved (and sometimes reviled) Bruin. In his own zone, Grewe uses a combination of smarts, stick position and physicality to separate opposition from the puck and turn pucks over. In neutral ice, Grewe is able to effortless accelerate in possession or away from the puck to drive zone entry or create numbers and once in the offensive zone is able to find dead zones in coverage to let go of a hard & accurate shot. Grewe will be at his most impressive driving in possession off the rush, getting behind defenders and creating offensive chances. The downside of Grewe has been described as his antics, and he will need some guidance, much like Marchand, to be able to keep his emotions and actions in check, but skill for skill would find himself right at home with the Bruins.
An interesting potential name for the Bruins from the Flint Firebirds, Keppen scored 30 goals and added 29 assists for a Firebirds team which has endured a few rough seasons. A power forward frame at 6’2”-212, Keppen doesn’t sacrifice speed for his size as his acceleration and stride are at a professional level, even if not outstanding like a Grewe. Due to struggles in Flint, Keppen has seen time in all situations which will help him at the next level, able to PK and succeed in his own zone using his size as a major asset, he can equal that leaning on opposition while in possession in the offensive zone. A solid release and heavy shot show that 30 goals in birth in 2019-20, it will speak volumes for what kind of player & leader he can be at the next level.
From the hockey factory that is Frolunda, Karl Henriksson has the potential to be the next in a long line of NHLers to from the program. A dyamic playmaker, Henriksson was outstanding as a 17 year old at the J20 level in Sweden scoring a 13-36-45 line to lead his team. Henriksson’s performance was so impressive that he was able to break into the Frolunda senior team for the first time this season, seeing action in a pair of games without recording a point. Similar in style to David Krejci, Henriksson is able to both speed up and slow down the play with the puck on his stick, while cutting back through the play to create time and space as well as opening passing lanes for teammates. Able to finish around the net himself, Henriksson possesses an underrated shot which he could stand to use more often but prefers to distribute and create opportunities. Very smart in defensive zone coverage, seems to be in the right place at the right time for intervention, and understands how to play the entire length of the ice. Likely a target to stay in Sweden for another year or two but a third round investment now could pay major dividends later.
Son of former Bruin Wayne Primeau, nephew of former NHLer Keith Primeau, Mason clearly has the bloodlines to go along with the ability to play at the next level. At 6’5”-203, Primeau uses his size and reach to control the puck in the offensive zone as well as disrupt plays in the defensive zone. A smart player, with good speed and puck skills for someone of that size, Primeau could stand to be a bit more physically aggressive. Primeau found himself part of an early season trade to North Bay where his game began to expand as North Bay was looking to add some offensively inclined talent. Time and patience will be needed but the raw tools combined with the size make Primeau hard to turn down.
When an 18 year old can break into a team like Vaxjo after dominating the J20 level it begs a look, even a year after his original draft season, to determine if he can be a fit down the road. Cederqvist looks like a late bloomer who found his stride in 2018-19, beginning at the J20 level he would post a 14-18-32 point line over 26 games while playing in all situations. Vaxjo clearly took notice and Cederqvist would finish the season at the senior level with a 4-4-8 line in 33 games and adding another assist in 6 playoff games. Cederqvist still projects as a bit of a project but with professional level size, strong skating ability and hockey sense to play a 200-foot game in all roles, he is someone worth investing the time into.
Son of former NHLer Todd Bertuzzi, Tag has lot of his father in his game. An aggressive forward who can play any of the three forward positions arrived in Hamilton in December and was unfortunately injured in his first game. However, Bertuzzi possesses the ability to become a game changing power forward. An excellent skater with strong acceleration, Bertuzzi plays a heavy game both on and off the puck which makes it miserable to even have to practice battle situations against the Bulldog forward. Looking forward Bertuzzi will be a part of a deep Bulldogs offence in the 2019-20 season, and will be likely to see power-play time as a top-6 forward. Teams will likely have 1 shot to take Bertuzzi near the back end of the draft due to injury before he has chance to breakout in 19-20 and likely rockets up draft charts. Buy low for a big return!
And that’s a wrap!
Sure- there are other players out there we didn’t cover (Samuel Poulin comes immediately to mind), and there’s no shortage of draft information out there to be digested before Friday and Saturday, but we’re calling balls and strikes here. We may hit on a few, go oh-fer or miss the mark- the lower the draft position, the tougher to project, but in the end, the 3 Amigos see value and fit in these players. Whether things will play out for the Bruins at Rogers Place remains to be seen, but as always, we thank you for supporting the blog with your time.
We’ll have draft recaps in store and then will shift focus to the next big phase of the offseason next week: Free agency signing period on July 1. Don’t expect the Bruins to be major players, but you never know.
Thanks for reading-
RDK (Reed, Dom & Kirk)