Bruins prospect update 3/15/17: JFK on a roll- what’s next? Lindgren done, Koppanen top Finland Jr. player & Fitzy update too

JFK

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson aka “JFK”

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson aka “JFK” earned his second consecutive Hockey East player of the week honor after his BU Terriers defeated reigning HEA champs- the Northeastern Huskies- over the weekend. He shared the honor with BC’s Austin Cangelosi, scoring the opening goal in the clinching 3-2 win Sunday, while assisting on the other two, culminating in a Chad Krys-winning strike with about 25 seconds left in regulation.

Breaking news alert- We’re hearing via a reliable NHL source that JFK turning pro after the NCAA season wraps is close- (EDIT- we’re going to take a step back and soften the language since the source is not JFK- we were wrong to write the post with such definitive language and for that we apologize to JFK and- K.L.)  The BU sophomore is leaning towards signing with Boston at the conclusion of his final sophomore year contest. While he’s not a dynamic player who will grab you, JFK’s game is all about the details- he does everything well and coaches love having him because of the high trust factor. That’s not to say that he grabs you with blistering speed or pace on every shift, but for those who are students of the game, JFK needs no explaining- he just gets it. And, you win with players like him in your lineup at any level. We’re not sure if he’ll play in Boston right away or sign an ATO to finish the year in Providence, but we do feel strongly that JFK’s Boston debut is not that far off, regardless of how things play out in the immediate timeline.

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Revisiting Austin Czarnik

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With the unfortunate setback of Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner’s concussion this week, another door of opportunity has opened for Austin Czarnik.

The undrafted free agent and former Miami University Redhawks captain had spent most of the season with the big club after a standout rookie pro campaign a year ago with the Providence Bruins. The Michigan native made the big club out of camp before taking a cheap hit late in the preseason that caused him to miss a little time up front.

“I know what he’s going through,” Czarnik said of Spooner’s situation after the Boston morning skate prior to their Wednesday night game against the flailing Detroit Red Wings. “He said it’s a mild one, but still- it’s a concussion, so you just gotta be careful with it. I felt good when I came back, but I felt like I was 100 percent, but maybe my cognitive (ability) wasn’t all there. Just moving back and forth, but it felt great. But when I got on the ice, it was a little bit different, so I think I may have rushed it just a little but it just takes time.”

Czarnik has always been a high-end skill player with the hockey sense and creativity to be an offensive force, but his lack of size resulted in a lot of disappointments throughout his progression up the developmental ladder.

“For me, it was hard growing up because I was cut from every triple-A team pretty much because I was too small,” said Czarnik. “It was a hard process for me, but I always had at least one person who believed in me throughout my whole career pretty much. They believe in me right now, and I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to show what I have again in Boston.”

Czarnik hinted at maybe being a little too conservative in his approach, which may be a reflection of his reticence to try higher-risk plays as a rookie. Or, it could have been a veiled reference to his only NHL coach to date (at least until Bruce Cassidy takes his place behind the Boston bench tonight), Claude Julien, and his reputation for a lower-risk, team defense system.

“I’ve been simple so much this year- I think I can start trying to make plays,” he said. “Realize what plays I have on the ice to make and not just try to get the puck in, things like that. So, that’s what I’m going to try and focus on and just try to create space out there for my linemates.”

As a productive player at the USHL and NCAA levels, it seems more than a little surprising in hindsight that not one of the 30 NHL clubs took a late-round flyer on Czarnik. However, what happened in the past is of little consequence, as these days, with the Second Chance Saloon open for business in terms of the annual NCAA free agent derby that occurs each spring as college hockey seasons come to an end, he was able to parlay his talent and production into an opportunity with the Bruins, much like another Michigander in Boston teammate Torey Krug, was able to do.

“Obviously, it’s every kid’s dream to get drafted, so I was a little hurt when I didn’t,” he said. “The second year, I didn’t even get picked up either out of college, so I was kind of hurt by that time, but I realized I just had to prove them wrong again, so that was the main thing and I’m happy it happened because I had options to pick from and things like that. So- any kid that doesn’t get drafted, it’s probably the best thing that can happen to you because you’ll have teams that want you if you work hard. That’s the biggest thing- you can just pick from your hand, so it was a cool feeling.”

Czarnik credited a former college teammate, since departed from the Bruins organization in forward Reilly Smith, with helping him to decide on Boston over the other suitors he had in the spring of 2015. He said that the tradition surrounding the B’s and the chance to play in a city like this one were major factors in his decision, one that seems to have paid off for the time being, as he is living his NHL dream with another opportunity to stick after being returned to Providence late last month.

“I think we’re just going to try and stay on the same page in terms of what they’ve been on,” Czarnik said of his slotting onto the third line in hopes of recapturing some of the magical chemistry he had with left wing Frank Vatrano in Providence last year as rookies. “Obviously, Spooner’s a really good player; I’m going to try and fill some of his shoes, but it’s going to be hard because he always makes plays. We just want to keep the train rolling and go from there.”

After an NHL stint on IR, Czarnik was sent down to Providence where he played five AHL games before being summoned to take Spooner’s place in the lineup. He talked about the importance of getting his conditioning back under control after missing three weeks and knocking the rust off of his timing and overall game with a lot of minutes at even strength, on the power play and killing penalties. He’s glad he had the chance to get some games in rather that have to regain his timing in NHL action.

Czarnik’s familiarity with former Providence head coach Cassidy will certainly help with the transition in his first game with the latter in charge of the Boston roster.

“When he’s playing his game, he’s got good energy; he’s on the puck, he’s creating turnovers with his foot speed, his stick, his hockey IQ and he’s making plays- him and Vatrano certainly have some chemistry,” Cassidy told assembled media during his post-skate presser. “He’s been good in situational hockey for us. He’s PK work’s been pretty solid. The power play…we’re going to move him around…he was up high before and I think he’s ideally better suited to be making plays around the net so he’s going to get to play in all situations and hopefully, he’s ready to respond. He’s had some experience up here; he should know what to expect in that regard, and he’s healthy.”

When asked by your TSP founder about Czarnik’s progression from rookie pro to where he is now, Cassidy opened up with more thoughtful and detailed commentary:

“His understanding of the game is better- he’s playing against men. The American League is certainly big guys, energetic guys, but they’re not men yet and as a smaller guy, he’s had to learn what he can get away with and what he can’t. This time around, we’re going to find out what he’s learned in that area. Like a lot of players, it’s the reps- getting to play with and against top-end, world-class talent, and he’s a smart guy; he’s got good hockey IQ. He thinks the game well, so it has to be one of his best assets. That, and a high motor- we’ve talked about that. If he’s not playing with a high motor, his effectiveness will decrease. And so those are the things we’re looking for in him. We expect an energy guy, using his speed…He’s got to use it and he’s got to use it all the time. I think that’s how he stays in this league.”

Cassidy declined to confirm whether Czarnik will need to make his bones at center or wing to remain in the NHL, saying that he thinks the youngster is better at center but has the versatility to play all three forward positions and has been moved around to find the best matchups.

“The jury is still out,” Cassidy said to close out his comments on Czarnik’s fit up the middle in the NHL going forward, but the by the gist of his comments, the interim head coach will give him every opportunity to try and establish himself there.

Austin Czarnik 13-14 Miami home front

Austin Czarnik’s 2013-14 Miami University Redhawks captain sweater (Kirk Luedeke photo)

 

 

Bruins add veteran Drew Stafford for conditional (late) pick

A largely uneventful NHL trade deadline day (the more meaningful adds happened before the Wednesday afternoon cutoff) ended with the Boston Bruins acquiring former 2004 13th overall draft selection and RW Drew Stafford from the Winnipeg Jets for a reported conditional (B’s making the playoffs? unconfirmed) 6th-round pick.

(Here are some YouTube highlights from a Buffalo fan “Topshot Elite 19):

After a year ago, when GM Don Sweeney added a pair of veterans in John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak for a total of four draft picks, only to see the team crater down the stretch and miss the playoffs for a second consecutive spring, this move is a bit more well-received because it represents a low cost/risk to add a solid veteran forward with size and scoring ability, albeit one who’s been hampered by injuries and a poor season.

Some of the rumored trades involving Gabriel Landeskog and Dmitri Kulikov never materialized for Boston, but in all honesty- anything more than Stafford would have likely required a cost that Sweeney and Co. were not willing to take on. The current Bruins team is 7-1 under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and adding him gives the new bench boss more flexibility at the forward position with a player who starred at the University of North Dakota and was a member of the USA’s first-ever gold medal-winning squad at the World Jr. Championship in 2004.

Here’s a quick look at what Stafford brings to the table for the B’s in the final make-or-break stretch of the season, one that has ended in the final weekend in each of the last two campaigns.

Upside: Four goals in 40 games with the Jets is a stark contrast to the 21 in 78 he scored a year ago (Stafford’s best season was in 2011 when he tallied 31 goals in just 62 games- a 40-goal pace). He’s likely to replace Jimmy Hayes on Boston’s third line and assuming Ryan Spooner stays at the center position, the two are a good fit, with Frank Vatrano over on the left side. Stafford is more of a north-south, crash-the-net kind of player, while Vatrano drifts through layers in defenses to find space to unleash his lethal shot. Spooner is your classic slasher who jitterbugs in and out of traffic to set up plays…if he and Vatrano can get pucks to the net, then Stafford has a better than average chance of banging some of them in. Stafford is a good fit for the way that the Bruins like to play. With more than 700 games of NHL experience and 31 years old, he’s been around enough but is not so long in the tooth that he can’t give the B’s offense a modest jolt.

Downside: The unrestricted free agent to be is having his poorest season to date, so to expect anything but a minimal upgrade to what Hayes gave the B’s this year is probably setting the bar too high. The knock on Stafford has always been a lack of consistency- he can go through long periods where he simply doesn’t accomplish much. That’s near criminal, when you look at the highlights of some of his better scoring plays, where he drives with power into traffic and through would-be checkers to crash the net and score with a quick and sneaky release.

Verdict: For a conditional sixth-round pick, this is a low-risk move that expresses faith in the current roster and lets them try and make the postseason with what they have. Fans sometimes forget that no team wants to have a bad year and tank, and 2017 is certainly not the season to do that- no disrespect intended to top prospects like Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, etc.- it’s just that we’ve been spoiled in recent years with top-2 selections like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine– this year, the bottom feeders aren’t likely to get players with that kind of elite franchise cornerstone cachet.  The benefit of making the playoffs, even if the Bruins aren’t considered by just about everyone to be legitimate championship contenders, is that the younger players get a taste of the intensity of playoff hockey and that helps to develop them. The B’s are not a team that needs to blow everything up, so Stafford is a solid if unspectacular add.

For years, Boston fans saw him score some big goals against the Black and Gold. Now, they’ll get a chance to see if he can help propel the spoked B into the NHL postseason. In a division where every other team added pieces to improve, it might be moot, but Stafford gives his new team a fighting chance at least. And that’s really all most people want.

 

 

On the Road series (Part 3): Player Evaluation- the Body of Work

Welcome back for another installment of the “On the Road” series, where we break down hockey scouting in more detail for those who might not be aware of the things that go into the process of player evaluations at the amateur and professional level. If you haven’t already, you can read parts 1 and 2 of the series or jump right into this one.

After touching on the kinds of things that go into basic player evaluation, and we do mean basic- the second part of the blog series was 4,000 words and by no means even came close to hitting everything- it is important to next discuss an aspect of scouting that some would argue is just about as important as a player’s ability to perform- the body of work.

What do we mean by this? Well, body of work is a catch-all for the individual’s character, work ethic, personality, injury history and other behind the scenes factors that teams can research and investigate to develop a more comprehensive read on the individual they are considering drafting. Some fans sit in a bubble and honestly think that drafting and developing players at any level is only about talent and skill. While they’re certainly entitled to their views, real life begs to differ.

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3 Amigos Supplemental Podcast (Ep. 9): Ask the Amigos

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As promised, Dom, Reed and I are back with a 45-minute Q & A from questions we got from listeners and readers on Twitter.

We’re giving you our best shot, because we wanna be your dogs. It’s true- just like Iggy Pop does for our podcast music.

This will be the last Amigos podcast for a while- we enjoy bringing these to you, but we all have full-time gigs and don’t have the ability or resources to produce regular offerings. Appreciate the support as always.

Enjoy.

 

 

3 Amigos Podcast Ep. 8: Everything Claude Julien & Bruins trade rumors

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The 3 Amigos ride again!

Reed Duthie, Dominic Tiano and your TSP founder have reunited for another podcast. It’s been a time of transition, and we’re not a professional outfit, so we appreciate the patience over the time elapsed from our last offering. We’ll do these when we can, but for now- we’re focusing on the dismissal of Claude Julien, new B’s interim bench boss Bruce Cassidy and trade rumors swirling around the team and one name in particular out West.

Enjoy the podcast, and we’ll follow up tomorrow with the debut of our 45- minute supplementary podcast “Ask the Amigos” where we take questions our listeners and TSP readers submitted on Twitter.

Cheers.

 

Bruins prospects update: Beanpot Trophy goes to Harvard, Donato shines with highlight reel goal

The 65th Beanpot championship is in the books and for the first time since 1993, a team not named Boston College or Boston University has won it, with the Harvard Crimson grabbing the trophy Monday night at the TD Garden.

 

 The game between Harvard and the BU Terriers featured four Bruins prospects, and for the BU guys, it was an obviously disappointing night as the team sought a record 31st Beanpot title.

 

 The championship’s outcome was not so much about Charlie McAvoy or Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson playing poorly (though neither had particularly strong performances) as it was about Harvard rising up and then Ryan Donato putting an exclamation point on the win with a great individual effort. Teammate and 2013 fifth-round project pick Wiley Sherman is enjoying a solid junior season in Cambridge as well.

 

 With 16 goals in 25 games including 5 in his last two, Donato is starting to show the hockey world the sheer offensive acumen that saw him drafted in the second round after David Pastrnak in 2014. As a junior with Dexter, he potted nearly 3 points per game and rode that to a 56th overall selection in Philadelphia. Now, Donato is taking his game to another level as a sophomore after a solid freshman campaign. He began to really put things together at the end of the 2014-15 season when he finished the year (after Dexter lost the 2015 prep championship to Salisbury) out in Nebraska with JFK and the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. Lancer fans still talk about how impressive Donato was in his short time there and rue the fact that he wasn’t able to spend the whole season on that club.

 

 He’s got elite offensive hockey sense with tremendous hands and a will to compete and win.  Last year about this time, TSP interviewed Donato after losing in the 2016 Beanpot tourney and the soon-to-be 21-year-old declared that the Crimson would be back in 2017, and that winning one for the first time since just after his dad left the team to join the U.S. Olympic squad and then the Bruins at the conclusion of the 1992 Albertville Winter Games was something he was determined to achieve.  Donato’s third period goal is worth watching over and over, because it shows that determination that is easy to talk about in an interview, but harder to pull off when the game is on the line.

Here’s the full highlight reel from the game courtesy of NESN, but the Donato goal comes at 5:45 for those only interested in that play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izboCRird3A

 

 There is also no need to rush Donato into the mix. He’s a sophomore and the Bruins can afford to wait another year before signing him, however- there is always a thought about the ticking clock on when he could become an unrestricted free agent. Like Anders Bjork, he will be eligible to sign with any team after August 15, 2018 (though he’s still NCAA-compliant to play through the 2018-19 season if he doesn’t turn pro). However, given his history with the city of Boston and the Bruins, it would be hard to imagine Donato passing up a chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing for the Black and Gold.

 

 For now- the Scituate native is one more impressive prospect to keep an eye on.


Amateur Prospects as of 02/15/17


Name/Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George

WHL

46

26

21

47

67

Zach Senyshyn, SSM

OHL

45

33

13

46

25

Anders Bjork, Notre Dame

HE-NCAA

29

17

23

40

12

Jakub Zboril, Saint John

QMJHL

35

9

22

31

36

Trent Frederic, Wisconsin

Big10- NCAA

20

10

16

26

24

 

Ryan Donato, Harvard

 

ECAC- NCAA

25

16

10

26

12

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU

HE- NCAA

30

11

14

25

26

Ryan Fitzgerald, BC

HE-NCAA

26

7

18

25

36

Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin

 

Big10- NCAA

26

6

19

25

12

Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda

 

QMJHL

24

4

13

17

19

Jack Becker, Sioux Falls

 

USHL

35

10

7

17

30

Charlie McAvoy, BU

HE-NCAA

29

3

13

16

47

Cameron Clarke, Ferris St.

 

WCHA- NCAA

30

1

8

9

24

Wiley Sherman, Harvard

 

ECAC-NCAA

25

0

8

8

16

Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota

 

Big10- NCAA

24

1

4

5

55



 

Pro and European Prospects


Name/Team

League

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

Peter Cehlarik, Providence

 

AHL

40

18

15

33

12

Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr.*

U20- Finland

19

9

17

26

2

Danton Heinen, Providence

 

AHL

38

9

17

26

10

Colby Cave, Providence

 

AHL

50

10

16

26

28

Jake DeBrusk, Providence

AHL

48

11

14

25

13

 

Matt Grzelcyk, Providence

 

AHL

44

2

18

20

12

Sean Kuraly, Providence

 

AHL

37

9

8

17

19

Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF

 

Sweden- Elite

38

6

7

12

22

Colton Hargrove, Providence

 

AHL

41

5

9

14

39

Anton Blidh, Providence

 

AHL

30

7

5

12

22

Chris Casto, Providence

 

AHL

41

1

9

10

28

Noel Acciari, Providence

AHL

18

4

4

8

11

Rob O’Gara, Providence

 

AHL

33

2

6

8

12

Austin Czarnik, Providence#

 

AHL

2

1

2

3

0

Justin Hickman, Providence

 

AHL

21

2

1

3

17

Oskar Steen, Farjestad

 

Sweden- Elite

37

1

1

2

6

Linus Arnesson, Providence*

 

AHL

18

0

1

1

4

Brian Ferlin, Providence*

 

AHL

2

0

0

0

0

Zane McIntyre, Providence

                         Atlanta

 

AHL

ECHL

14

2

11

0

0 (1)

1(1)

1.63

1.99

.944

.931

Dan Vladar, Providence

                    Atlanta

 

AHL

ECHL

6

5

3

2

0 (3)

2 (1)

2.84

3.58

.914

.889

Malcolm Subban, Providence

 

AHL

23

7

10 (1)

2.44

.919


# Czarnik recalled to Boston


*Arnesson, Ferlin injured


 Tyler Randell, Tommy Cross, Alex Grant > age 25- not listed

 

Deconstructing the Claude Julien firing

About 24 hours ago, the Boston Bruins and GM Don Sweeney officially swung the Sword of Damocles that had been hanging over the organization and coach Claude Julien’s head for weeks (some would even say years), dismissing the franchise’s all-time wins leader and Stanley Cup champion behind the bench, setting off a firestorm of criticism online and in the media for the timing and way it was handled.

This post will attempt to analyze the move and the subsequent naming of assistant coach Bruce Cassidy as the B’s interim bench boss. It is by no means the first and last word on the matter, nor will it hit every bucket that the firing impacts. Whether you were someone who felt it was time to go and are angered that the team elected to do it on the morning of the New England Patriots’ victory parade, are someone who felt he was not the problem and are even more irate at the timing, or are someone who feels like the move had to be made and have no issue with it (and everyone in between), this piece will try to raise multiple perspectives and shed light on some of the other factors that led to where we are on Wednesday, February 8, 2017- nearly a decade after Julien was brought in on the heels of the failed Dave Lewis experiment.

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Dominic Tiano: The best goal scorer in NHL history is…

Is Alex Ovechkin the most prolific goal scorer in NHL history?

Breaking: Julien out, Cassidy in

The Boston Bruins announced this morning that the franchise’s all-time wins leader and 2011 Stanley Cup-winning head coach Claude Julien has been relieved of his duties after nearly a decade in the position and more than 400 victories. B’s assistant and former Providence Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy will serve as interim head coach in Boston. Cassidy, who previously held the head coaching job with the Washington Capitals, inherits a team that most recently lost critical points to the division rival Toronto Maple Leafs in a crushing 6-5 defeat and is fighting for its playoff lives.

With the New England Patriots victory happening today, GM Don Sweeney will hold a press conference to officially announce the move and discuss the way ahead. The timing of Julien’s dismissal is curious, to say the least, but given his pedigree- he is sure to land on his feet and won’t be unemployed for long.

More analysis on Julien’s legacy and expanded context on Cassidy and the organization to follow on the blog later tonight or in next 24 hours.

EDITOR’s note- The conference is over, with GM and new coach meeting the press, plus revelation that Joe Sacco will cover down on D and Jay Pandolfo will move to the bench during games. A lot to unpack and not sure the first/hottest take is going to cut it.