3 Amigos Podcast: What’s Next for the Bruins (Pt 15)- the Finale

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The 3 Amigos are back with a 90-minute podcast in which we put the finishing touch in the “What’s Next” for the Bruins series at this blog. It’s now June and that means expansion draft and NHL Entry Draft, with July giving way to the major roster-shaping period.

Listen to the pod for an idea of the shape we think the team is in and what challenges and key events Don Sweeney is focusing on. We also talk Anders Bjork, who the Vegas Golden Knights might pluck from the roster, NHL draft options, and myriad other things.

You can listen here:

Bjork signs 3-year ELC

Anders Bjork is in the fold- the Boston Bruins announced the signing of one of their prized prospects today to a three-year entry-level contract.

There isn’t a great deal more to say that hasn’t been covered on this blog space about the now former Notre Dame Fighting Irish star. He has exceeded expectations to date and while the B’s wanted to sign him earlier and get him into the big lineup at the end of the regular season and possibly playoffs, ND’s extended run to the Frozen Four put the kibosh on that.

The offseason and a trip to the World Championships where he played sparingly with Team USA gave the B’s another opportunity to get his name on a contract, and so now it will be interesting to see where in the lineup he ends up. It won’t be just handed to him, but we have to think there were certain discussions that convinced him to forego his senior season and a chance to test unrestricted free agency (where the Blackhawks were already rumored to be circling like vultures) to stick with Boston.

Of course- Bjork has said publicly that the B’s said and did all the right things (you can check out his interview with CBS Boston.com’s Matt Kalman here), so ultimately- fans should give both sides credit here for getting a deal done and one of the organization’s top prospects into the pro ranks where he could have a chance to make an immediate impact. Just don’t ask us to project where he’s going to be in the Boston lineup- it’s late May. Let’s see what happens next, first.

Now, it’s onto the offseason, the expansion draft, entry draft and what should be a decision point for Don Sweeney to perhaps make a trade or three to free up some breathing room in the organization while upgrading his NHL roster in the process. He has the organizational assets to do something, and with Bjork on board, flexibility to pare things down a bit and streamline.

This whole re-tooling on the fly thing seems to be working out well enough…

 

What’s next for the Bruins (Pt. 9): Rounding out the forwards

Ryan Donato

(Ryan Donato, Boston’s 2nd-round selection in 2014 NHL Entry Draft )

We’re going to close out the forwards portion of our “What’s Next” for the Boston Bruins series with this entry on the prospects we didn’t cover in the two previous posts on the subject. These are players who are either unsigned (NCAA) or out of Europe. Some are closer to making a possible impact (Anders Bjork) than others (Ryan Donato), but this more proof that the B’s have a lot of options within their organization, and that doesn’t include the next talent boost, with the 2017 NHL Entry Draft about five weeks away.

So, in the spirit of the previous post- here’s a list of the players we think are going to not only challenge for NHL jobs sooner than later, but will also make an impact:

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McAvoy, JFK in the Bruins’ fold…Bjork is on deck

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UPDATE: 14 April 2017

Editor’s note- The Anders Bjork watch continues more than a week after the Fighting Irish were eliminated by the eventual NCAA champion Denver University Pioneers. What can we say? Our optimistic outlook was based on a reliable source, but also illustrates the fluid situation and challenges involved in signing young players to NHL contracts. We’re not completely closing the door on Bjork reaching an agreement to turn pro and forego his senior season in South Bend, but each day that passes without an agreement looks less favorable to an ELC. We’ll see, but once again- we learn an important lesson about information and perhaps value in sitting on things to let them percolate before we contribute to hopes being built up. The information we received was accurate, but things changed, beginning with  the Irish overachieving and going far deeper in the NCAA tourney than expected, not to mention the bad luck of the NHL’s regular season ending so soon after Notre Dame was eliminated. We have no further updates, so we’ll have to see how it all plays out. We’re leaving the original post as is- we stand by our source and will chalk this one up to an evolving situation that perhaps changed due to other factors that intervened in what was believed to be a solid course of action for player to turn pro.

The one-and-done 80’s alt-pop band Timbuk3 sang about the future being so bright- they had to wear shades. Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney might be having similar sentiments after he got ink to paper for two of his club’s top prospects this past week in a pair of Boston University studs- defenseman Charlie McAvoy and center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson or “JFK” as he is more popularly known.

Now, with the University of Notre Dame preparing to take on Denver University on Thursday night in one of two NCAA Frozen Four semifinal games, junior winger Anders Bjork is expected to be the third and final domino to fall in terms of new blood coming to the Bruins. Reliable sources (some of the same ones who told TSP several weeks ago that JFK was leaning towards coming out/turning pro) have told us that Bjork essentially has a deal with Boston in place pending his NCAA team’s status. Obviously, if the Irish beat the Pioneers- he’ll keep playing. The college championship/big enchilada is on Saturday night, the same day Boston would play their final regular season game, so whether Bjork is seen this season or makes his NHL debut in the 2017 playoffs (B’s still have work to do on that front) or next season remains to be seen. But, for those fans who watched the Jimmy Vesey saga last spring, it would appear that the B’s don’t have to worry about that, as arguably one of the best NCAA players in the country in Bjork- will leave school a year early to turn pro with the team that drafted him in the fifth round three years ago.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the signings and what each player might do for the Black and Gold:

Charlie McAvoy, RD

As reported a week ago Sunday by your TSP founder, McAvoy was the first of the dominoes to fall- he signed an amateur tryout (ATO) to turn pro with the Providence Bruins, and has already made a positive impression in two AHL games, registering an assist in each contest.

Amidst speculation that there might have been a wink-and-handshake NHL option included in the offer to get McAvoy to come out after two years at BU, the feeling on this blog all along was that the 19-year-old and 14th overall pick in last June’s NHL draft is ready for the show right now. There is always a segment of folks who believe that minor league seasoning is the smart play, and there is probably higher than average concern about losing a year off of the entry-level contracts of any one of the three NCAA prospects featured in this post. While you can’t dismiss that business-centric aspect of the signings, there’s probably more concern than warranted. Sure, a player like McAvoy incurs some risk by being one year closer to restricted free agency as a result of playing one or two games at the end of a season, but if the B’s were to make the postseason and McAvoy were to play or at least be around the team to practice with the veterans and work out with the NHL club while being subjected to the higher-intensity atmosphere of the postseason, that would in itself carry enough of a benefit to at least make a worthy case to “burn” the year off the ELC. For some, it won’t matter, but at the end of the day- fans sitting behind computers aren’t going to impact the decision process- Bruins management will ultimately weigh the cost/benefits and make that decision.

In McAvoy, the B’s are getting a skilled right-shot defender who can play with pace and move the puck better than just about anyone on the team right now not named Torey Krug. He’s an aggressive offense-minded player who still has a good bit to learn defensively, but the B’s have enough vanilla shutdown guys that can protect him when he goes into riverboat gambler mode and is deep in the offensive zone trying to force the play. He’s a fun kid who has a magnetic personality and will likely add to the dressing room dynamic with his good nature and ability to keep things loose. His U.S. National Team coach, Don Granato, told us at the draft last June that other players tend to gravitate to C-Mac- they want to be a part of his circle and he’s a guy who knows when to dial it in and get down to business. He has the potential to come into the Boston room and thrive under some of the veteran players on defense and up front.

Simply put- while he’s a still a bit of a wild young colt, you don’t want to clamp the reins on him- McAvoy’s pure skill and big play ability (check out his overtime goal vs. North Dakota or highlights from the gold medal WJC game vs. Canada) have a better chance at helping the Bruins now than hurting them. Sure- keeping him in Providence is the safe play, but I don’t know if playing it safe makes the most sense with a potential high-ender like this guy. We’ve seen a lot of talk about him being “ruined” or his confidence “damaged” by getting a shot at the NHL, but enough with the coddling- if you know even a little about McAvoy, he’s the type of guy who will benefit from the experience, even if there are some rocky moments for him.

We think he’s ready and that he’ll make his Boston debut soon.

JFK

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson aka “JFK”

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, RC

When the B’s announced that he signed and would join the big club for the 2016-17 on Sunday evening, it ended the “will he/won’t he” drama that had been circulating around Boston since BU’s season ended a week ago Saturday at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth.

JFK could just as easily have gone back to BU for his junior year, where there’s a good chance he would have been the captain and could have taken his production to another level. We’re sure Coach Quinn and the BU Terriers wish that were the case- he’s a serious student and we hear that his family wanted him to get a little closer to his degree with another year in school.

Ultimately, however, the Bruins felt that the slick Swede’s time was now and made a final, aggressive push to sign him on Friday, meeting with him and obviously convincing the 45th overall selection in 2015 to make the pro plunge. We had reported several weeks ago that he was leaning towards turning pro, but like many youngsters, that sentiment had gone back and forth, with it looking more and more in recent days that he would stay in school- give credit to the Bruins for getting their guy, and fans will get a good lesson in the idea that if you feel strongly enough about a player, then close the deal. Anything could happen if JFK had gone back to school for another year, so the signing makes a lot of sense.

He’s been repeatedly compared to Patrice Bergeron, and like Boston’s star and longest-tenured player, he’s not a dynamic type who is going to pull you out of your seat. However, if you love the game of hockey, you will be drawn to the details in his game- the smart stick and vision; the ability to change gears and match the tempo of play; the ability to play effectively in all zones. He’s not zooming up the ice with his hair on fire, but if you stop and look closely at what he’s doing, he’s disrupting opposition breakouts by being in the right place and getting his stick into passing lanes; in the faceoff dot, he’s winning far more draws than not and in key situations both offensively and defensively; he’s aiding clean zone entries with on-target passes or gaining the blue line himself with shifty, but controlled movements with the puck to evade defenders and force opponents off their spots with his agility. JFK is also known for popping in big goals or making money passes for scores when his team needs it most. Yes, he didn’t put up dominant scoring totals at BU, but then again, neither did Bergeron when he was with the Bathurst Titan of the QMJHL.

Questioning whether JFK is ready to come in and make more positive plays than negative ones in the NHL is a fair one, and there is always an element of risk to putting in younger players in pressure-packed situations, but at the same time- if there is one player who has the mature, refined game and temperament to do it, then this centerman is it. His Omaha (USHL) coach told us at a team dinner last night as the news of JFK’s signing broke that his pulse/emotions are always in the green- he’s as cool as ice and that shouldn’t be mistaken for being laid back or having no pulse, but that he brings a relentless kind of steady state to his performance in that you’re getting the same level of execution and production, regardless of the situation. Earlier in his junior career, some questioned his sense of urgency, but JFK has answered that in definitive fashion with his two years at BU.

Now, the fun begins- we’ll have to wait for him to get his work visa stuff straightened out and see where Coach Bruce Cassidy (note to reader- this is a more formal way of saying, don’t ask us when he’s going to play or where he’ll slot into the Bosotn lineup) has him on the lines at practice, but getting JFK signed and in the fold was a major step- the payoff might not be that far behind.

Again, don’t fixate on the numbers- there’s not always a direct correlation between scoring at the lower level and to the NHL. There’s a good chance JFK isn’t going to be a big point-getter at the NHL level, but it’s not always about the pure production. If he’s value-added with his versatility and ability to play any role in key situations, that in itself is a big reward.

Anders Bjork, RW/LW

When it comes to prospects, few have generated both the buzz and concern than Boston’s fifth-round pick in 2014.

The buzz stems from his third consecutive season of improved offensive output for the Fighting Irish after an impressive freshman debut in 2014-15. Since the 7-15-22 line in 41 games that first NCAA year, Bjork jumped to 12-23-35 in 35 games before taking it to another level this season with 21-31-52 totals in 38 games with one or two more left depending on what happens this week in the Frozen Four.

Pigeonholed in a defensive forward role with the U.S. National Team, Bjork slipped down to the middle of the draft, but one team source in Boston told TSP that several of the scouts high on him during the 2013-14 season felt that he was miscast and could have been more effective as a top-6 winger with Team USA.

Versatility and speed/pace are Bjork’s calling cards: he can play any of the forward positions and while playing more on the right side in his last two campaigns under head coach Jeff Jackson, he started out as a left wing in South Bend and could potentially slot in alongside David Krejci sometime soon given his style and smarts. Bjork played some center in Ann Arbor with the NTDP, so that Swiss Army Knife flavor is something that the B’s (and every team for that matter) look for in their forwards. He’s an explosive skater- getting up to speed in just a few slashing strides, and he is dangerously creative, able to thread the needle with pinpoint passes or take pucks to the net himself. He can dangle or snap off shots in tight spaces. Like JFK- he’s a three-zone player, and with his wheels and head- we’re sold. Bjork is the real deal and the B’s were ahead of the curve on him- it’s about time to be rewarded for that foresight.

Fans (and the team) can breathe a little easier for now, in that it appears that Bjork is ready to begin his pro career. The Fighting Irish’s run to the Frozen Four has put that on hold, in large part- thanks to his heroics especially against the University of Minnesota, when he assisted on the tying goal, then scored the game-winner, figuring in all three of his team’s scores. For good measure, Bjork set up the OT-winner against UMass-Lowell to secure the trip to Chicago, which is where he grew up.

The B’s will have to wait a little longer, and the details and timeline are TBD- but it looks like all signals are green (no pun intended) and that whether the NCAA season ends for Bjork on Thursday or Saturday night, we’ll be seeing him in Boston soon.

 

Bruins prospects update 1/30/17: Re-ordering the amateur prospect rankings

We’re one month into the recent publication of the New England Hockey Journal’s annual Boston Bruins prospects ranking- we always do it in January, so we have about half a season to gauge how the kids look before ranking them.

Well, what can we say? There’s already some buyer’s remorse and after conversations with several people we trust and value as professional talent evaluators, we thought we’d take another stab at the B’s top-10 with a fresher perspective. Consider it an alternate take- a sort of Bizarro World version of the published list, with the impact of other ideas and rationales applied to some of the players who rose and fell.

Ultimately, the exercise reminds us all that opinions are varied. No matter how well you might rank order players, you’re never going to achieve 100 percent consensus, and that should not be the goal. You call it like you see it and you either stick to your guns and stand by your convictions or you don’t. At the same time, it is important in a fluid situation such a hockey season, to maintain room to allow your views to evolve.

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Podcasting New England Hockey Journal’s Bruins annual prospects review: Amateur list

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TSP did this last year, so bringing it back for the 2017 version of the New England Hockey Journal’s Boston Bruins organizational prospect rankings.

You can read the full article at http://www.hockeyjournal.com; a top-20 is broken into a pair of pro and amateur lists. This podcast covers the non-pro futures, plus the HM 11th player who didn’t get an in-print capsule, but is a very good prospect for the B’s down the road.

Want to know who we’re talking about to the tune of about a 45-minute breakdown? Just click on the audio file to listen…

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Trent Frederic was Boston’s 2nd choice, 29th overall, in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft

 

Bruins sign Jesse Gabrielle to ELC

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)

 

Bruins Prospect Update 12/05/16: Goal eruption

B’s prospects had quite the weekend in the goal scoring department as the calendar entered our final month of 2016.

Friday night was for hat tricks as Zach Senyshyn (4 goals), Jesse Gabrielle (3 goals) and Joona Koppanen (3 goals) all brought the head covers raining down.

Harvard’s Ryan Donato also had multiple goals, while another Ryan- Minnesota freshman defenseman Ryan Lindgren, tallied his first career NCAA goal, finishing off a 2-on-1 with Rem Pitlick in a loss to Ohio State Saturday night.

Additionally, Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen had a two-goal games for Notre Dame and the Providence Bruins (respectively) Friday night, and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson added a goal in BU’s win over Providence College that same evening.

Senyshyn’s Texas hat trick (if “everything” is bigger in the Lone Star State and 4 > 3, ergo- a four-goal game is Texas-sized) came against the Barrie Colts one year to the day that he performed the same feat- December 2, 2015 against the Sudbury Wolves. In this one, Senyshyn accounted for all of the Soo Greyhounds’ goals, tallying in overtime on a nice spin-around to protect the puck, shake the defender and drive right to the net for his 13th marker of the season in 22 games. He’s ba-a-a-a-ck!

***

Going on a bit of a rant, here- so bear with us.

It can be grating that whenever we post a positive update on either one of Anders Bjork or Jesse Gabrielle on Twitter, people seem to constantly respond with concerns about their signing status. Here’s the TSP take: we fail to see what the big que pasa is right now. Yes, we’re going to use that analogy again- FAST FOOD mentality- to describe fans who can’t ever seem to be happy with what is going on and want to overly dissect and analyze everything down to the gnat’s ass, including wanting every contract move and decision resolved in the immediate. Look, we get it- if we weren’t stressing over what the Bruins might or might not do with their sizable stable of futures on Twitter or elsewhere, whatever would we do with ourselves? At some point, you just have to enjoy what is happening and let the pieces fall when the time comes.

Bjork is well on his way to his best season in college? No, we’re afraid he’s going to “pull a Vesey” even though he’s still some 20 months away from August 15, 2018- the absolute earliest date that he could walk away from the Bruins and become a free agent. Gabrielle on another 40+ goal pace for the second consecutive season in the WHL? Dammit, Bruins- why haven’t you signed him already??? Never mind the fact that the B’s drafted six major junior players in 2015 and have successfully signed the first five…Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon. Gabrielle is next, and they have until June 1 to make him a “bona fide” offer to retain his rights. It’s going to get done, folks- he grew up cheering for the Bruins and they’re the team that put their faith in him when everyone else passed until the mid fourth round. If it doesn’t happen and the B’s lose one or the other somehow, then we’ll be totally wrong and you can remind us of this post all you want. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Look- there’s no guarantee that the Bruins will sign both of Bjork and Gabrielle, but there are no indications that it won’t happen either. They’ve got 27 goals between them with room for a lot more, so for now, our advice is to enjoy the fireworks and don’t sweat the small stuff. Rookie salary caps and the like have put an end to the days when Hall of Fame-caliber junior players like Kyle Wanvig could just refuse a team’s offer and fax machine jams could result in them going back into the draft. Yes, the CBA allows for players like Jimmy Vesey and Matt Benning to name a few to become free agents and sign elsewhere, but those experiences are making teams like Boston wise to playing the longer game so that they don’t lose the assets. Again- there is no reason to assume that Bjork is in the same place Vesey was in terms of how he approaches his pro hockey future, so until he actually turns down an offer from the B’s, we should just let it play out for now. There is such a thing as paralysis by analysis, after all.

Or, to coin a popular phrase from the 1980’s, “Frankie says…relax.”

 

Amateur Prospects as of 12/05/16

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 23 16 11 27 32
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 16 11 15 26 8
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 22 13 8 21 15
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 17 6 10 16 10
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 16 5 11 16 22
Ryan Donato, Harvard

 

ECAC- NCAA 11 7 7 14 8
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 14 3 10 13 14
Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin

 

Big10- NCAA 14 2 10 12 6
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 14 1 11 12 14
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda

 

QMJHL 12 2 9 11 6
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin* Big10- NCAA 8 4 6 10 8
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls**

 

USHL 17 2 3 5 28
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St.

 

WCHA- NCAA 16 0 4 4 16
Wiley Sherman, Harvard

 

ECAC-NCAA 11 0 4 4 8
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota

 

Big10- NCAA 14 1 2 3 47

* Injured

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr. U20- Finland 20 12 17 29 2
Peter Cehlarik, Providence

 

AHL 16 8 5 13 6
Danton Heinen, Providence AHL 12 7 5 12 0

 

Matt Grzelcyk, Providence

 

AHL 22 1 10 11 6
Anton Blidh, Providence#

 

AHL 19 5 4 9 22
Colby Cave, Providence

 

AHL 22 3 6 9 11
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 22 3 6 9 11

 

Colton Hargrove, Providence

 

AHL 19 3 5 8 22
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF

 

Sweden- Elite 18 3 4 7 6
Austin Czarnik, Providence#

 

AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Sean Kuraly, Providence

 

AHL 13 1 2 3 11
Rob O’Gara, Providence

 

AHL 17 0 2 2 2
Chris Casto, Providence

 

AHL 19 0 2 2 20
Oskar Steen, Farjestad

 

Sweden- Elite 19 1 1 2 2
Linus Arnesson, Providence

 

AHL 18 0 1 1 4
Brian Ferlin, Providence

 

AHL 1 0 0 0 0
Justin Hickman, Providence

 

AHL 7 0 0 0 7
Zane McIntyre, Providence

 

AHL 5 3 0 0.93 .965
Dan Vladar, Providence

 

AHL 6 3 0 (3) 2.84 .914
Malcolm Subban, Providence

 

AHL 11 1 6 (5) 3.12 .897

# Czarnik, Blidh recalled to Boston

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

On Anders Bjork and other prospect notes (Senyshyn, Donato, McIntyre and Kuraly called up)

After a two-goal, five-point weekend (two games), University of Notre Dame junior right wing Anders Bjork sits atop the NCAA scoring list one month into the 2016-17 hockey campaign.

The fifth-round pick in 2014 has come on like gangbusters going back to last season after originally being projected as more of a grinding defensive-type forward coming out of the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team. The Wisconsin native always had impressive speed and agility, but his slick hands and a noteworthy offensive hockey IQ have him as the topic of frequent discussions in the scouting community as a classic late-bloomer. Obviously, if anyone had seen this coming from Bjork (whose father, Kirt, and NHL cousin Erik Condra, were also standout members of Fighting Irish teams of old), the former Chicago Mission standout would have been drafted much higher than the 146th overall selection.

Bjork plays with urgency and pace- you notice him on just about every shift because he’s moving his feet- either attacking into the teeth of defenses or pressuring the opposing puck carrier as a relentless forechecker who forces turnovers with his feet and instincts.

Watch the highlight video here, and on the last goal you can see how aggressive he is at using his speed and stickhandling skills to take the puck to the net and the poor netminder doesn’t have a chance here with some grade-A maneuvering to finish off the play.

We saw some of this last year in the WJC when Bjork joined fellow B’s prospect and 2014 draft selection Ryan Donato with two goals apiece to secure the bronze medal. Admittedly, TSP wondered if it was an aberration, but we need no further proof- Bjork is for real. Where once we thought his ceiling was a solid third-liner good for 15-20 goals, there’s the potential for a good deal more if he continues his upward trajectory. An added bonus is Bjork’s versatility- he can play any forward position.

Of course, his 7 goals and 16 points in 8 games has created immediate discussion of Bjork “pulling a (Jimmy) Vesey” on Twitter and other Internet locales. Not to be glib or dismissive, but…really guys? That kind of talk is premature, predicated on the assumption that because other successful NCAA players have opted to wait out the four-year rights-owning period by the drafting club, that Bjork will do the same thing.

It’s possible that Bjork could do just that, but he’ll have to wait until August 16, 2018 to become an unrestricted free agent and because he’s playing so well, you have to imagine that the Bruins will do all in their power to sign him this spring, when his season is officially done. This is not to say that Bjork will sign or politely rebuff the attempts as Vesey did in the spring of 2015 when he was coming off a 30+ goal season at Harvard. If Bjork does that, then the B’s will have a precedent for what could transpire and all bets are off- they’ll have to protect the asset and do what they can to get something back for him. However, that’s a bridge we can cross later- it’s November 1- we’re still months away from the team even being in a position to tender Bjork an opportunity to turn pro. However, nobody should just assume that because Vesey took the action he did, that Bjork will opt for the same.

Now, in order to get him to commit, the B’s might need to get creative an offer Bjork a spot with the NHL club right away and the chance to burn a year off his three-year ELC the way Torey Krug did when he chose Boston as an unrestricted free agent in 2012. Sometimes, you have to give to get, but this is the new reality of CBA-permitted tactics that players and their advisors can leverage to their advantage. A fifth-round pick getting max rookie money and a chance to be an RFA one year earlier is a pretty enticing deal- it’s easy to project that someone might just wait it out until 2018, but there’s risk involved with suffering a major injury or going through a lackluster campaign that could diminish the bargaining power.

Bottom line- we’ll eventually find out, but let’s get past the whole “Bjork could pull a Vesey” trope and enjoy the 20-year-old’s season for what it is: a breakout performance that signals the latest impressive find for the Bruins, whose scouts (led by college scouting chief Ryan Nadeau) have mined the NCAA ranks for promising talent.

Other B’s prospect notes-

The Bruins announced today that with Patrice Bergeron a game-time decision (when it rains it pours) tonight against the Florida Panthers (and David Pastrnak serving the second of a two-game suspension, plus David Backes still injured) former San Jose Sharks prospect Sean Kuraly has been called up to the big club.

Kuraly, who was acquired on June 30, 2015 as part of the deal that sent Martin Jones to the West Coast for a first-round pick (Trent Frederic), is a big-bodied forward who can play either center or wing. He’s got good feet and hands, but the offensive hockey sense probably has him projecting more as a third/fourth-line guy. He had a strong training camp, however, and played well enough to earn the look. In eight AHL games, he has just one assist.

It’s one more opportunity for a young player to get a look, but perhaps we should be thankful that the Bruins are 4-4 instead of much worse given the adversity they’ve dealt with in the early going. Ruck up- injuries are a part of the game, so you have to deal with it as best you can, but the depth is being tested.

***

2015 first-rounder Zach Senyshyn is off his 45-goal pace from a year ago, but cut the kid some slack- he dealt with mononucleosis over the summer and then an emergency appendectomy right before the start of rookie camp. It’s not an excuse, but anyone bagging on the kid is probably looking for a reason to be negative at this point.

In a perfect world, Senyshyn would be on pace for 55-60 goals, but that isn’t reality- hockey is an imperfect game played by imperfect humans. Just because you expect certain things to happen doesn’t mean a player is a failure if your statistical expectations aren’t met, and unless you’ve been through the double-whammy of mono and appendicitis in the span of weeks, you probably ought not to be talking about how well he should or shouldn’t be playing. Just sayin’. Sometimes, just because you can vomit forth an uninformed opinion on something, doesn’t mean you should.

Senyshyn is still a fine NHL prospect albeit one who isn’t getting the expected points, so critiquing the lower-than-expected numbers is fair game, while writing him off is not. We’re a little over a month into the season…chillax, folks.

***

Ryan Donato began his sophomore season with a bang, netting a pair of goals in a lopsided victory over Arizona State in a weekend series. Wiley Sherman also registered a pair of assists. The ECAC regular season officially begins on Friday. With Donato’s high-end hockey sense and hands, watch for him to put up a lot of points this season, but undrafted 23-year-old senior Luke Esposito bagged 2 goals and 6 points against the Sun Devils to take the early scoring lead for the Crimson.

***

I like what Zane McIntyre is doing for the Bruins. Technique has never been his strong suit- it’s always been about the compete and battle level with him. He deserved a better fate against the NY Rangers last week, he earned a longer stay in Boston because he gave his team a shot in that game. McIntyre struggled at times last season with the pace and skill of pro hockey, but what has benefited him most throughout his hockey career is his personality and a mental toughness that allows him to play the role of both workhorse and backup.

We are all seeing how important an effective Tuukka Rask is to this Bruins club, but McIntyre has done pretty well in his limited audition to show that he is capable of being an NHL goaltender, even if his time is not quite now.

Here’s the updated stats charts:

Amateur Prospects as of 11/01/16

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 8 7 9 16 2
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 11 6 8 14 12
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 6 3 5 8 4
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 5 2 5 7 2
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 9 3 4 7 12
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 9 2 5 7 6
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 10 4 2 6 10
Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 6 1 5 6 6
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 5 0 4 4 4
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls USHL 11 2 2 4 8
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda* QMJHL 2 1 2 3 0
Ryan Donato, Harvard ECAC- NCAA 2 2 0 2 0
Wiley Sherman, Harvard ECAC-NCAA 2 0 2 2 2
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St. WCHA- NCAA 8 0 1 1 8
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota Big10- NCAA 6 0 0 0 2

* Jeremy Lauzon out indefinitely (UBI/concussion)

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr. U20- Finland 11 7 9 16 2
Peter Cehlarik, Providence AHL 5 2 2 4 4
Anton Blidh, Providence AHL 8 2 1 3 2
Austin Czarnik, Providence# AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF Sweden- Elite 10 1 2 3 6
Matt Grzelcyk, Providence AHL 8 1 2 3 2
Colton Hargrove, Providence AHL 7 1 0 1 5
Colby Cave, Providence AHL 8 1 0 1 4
Linus Arnesson, Providence AHL 8 0 1 1 2
Sean Kuraly, Providence AHL 8 0 1 1 9
Oskar Steen, MoDo Sweden- Div 2 3 0 0 0 2
Justin Hickman, Providence AHL 3 0 0 0 5
Rob O’Gara, Providence AHL 3 0 0 0 0
Chris Casto, Providence AHL 7 0 0 0 6
Zane McIntyre, Providence# AHL 3 1 0 0.44 .977
Malcolm Subban, Providence AHL 5 0 4 4.50 .857
Dan Vladar, Providence AHL 2 1 0 2.97 .917
Brian Ferlin, Providence* AHL 0 0 0 0 0

# Czarnik, McIntyre recalled to Boston

*Brian Ferlin- injured

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

Boston Bruins prospect roundup #1: Frederic, Hughes lead Sunday hit parade; Bjork & Gabrielle en fuego

The Boston College Eagles and Wisconsin Badgers Sunday tilt (the teams split the weekend series in Madison after Wisco triumphed Friday night) featured three Boston Bruins prospects and all of them made an impact in BC’s 8-5 win in what was a highly entertaining game.

The larger story for the Bruins is that the reports of freshman center Trent Frederic’s unworthiness as a first-round pick may have been greatly exaggerated, as he currently leads the Badgers in scoring with six points in four games, posting a goal and three helpers in the Sunday loss. Full disclosure- your TSP founder was one of the critics of the selection, admittedly not seeing much top-six NHL forward potential at the U18 championship last April (and this despite Frederic getting a hat trick in one of the round robin games vs. Latvia). Red Line Report had Frederic outside the top-100 and didn’t see him as much more than a fringe fourth-liner, but the perception began to change when talking to former coaches and players who knew him better than any of the talent evaluators who buried him in the rankings.

There’s much hockey left in the season, but Frederic certainly appears to be silencing the critics in the early going.

Here’s what to like about him (film study of two games): Long, powerful stride gets him up the ice quickly…smart and patient; handles the puck well and makes good decisions in where he moves it. Creative. Uses his big frame to drive the net and is effective around the net.

Frederic has an aggressive offensive mindset- more than I (and others) gave him credit for. On JD Greenway’s first collegiate goal to tie the game (after BC had taken a 2-0 lead) in the second period, Frederic led a 3-on-1 that materialized quickly in the neutral zone because he jumped on a loose puck and caught the BC defense flat-footed. Granted, it was a 3-on-1 advantage, but Frederic showed an immense amount of patience to let Greenway drive to the far post before putting a perfect pass on his blade for the easy score. This apple came after Frederic had tallied to get the Badgers on the board, and he would add two more assists as the home team got within a goal of the Eagles after going down 6-2 at one point in the second period.

But Frederic wasn’t only Wisconsin Badger who turned heads in a losing effort Sunday…

Cameron Hughes, who was drafted by the B’s in the 2015 draft’s sixth round scored as pretty (and filthy) a goal you will see late in the second period to make it a 6-3 game when he wheeled back after a turnover in the high slot of the BC zone got him the puck alone in front of Eagles netminder (and Leafs 2016 third-rounder) Joe Woll. Hughes pulled the puck behind him and through his legs and then roofed the shot up under the crossbar. Forget it…just see the play for yourself and then imagine trying to do that at top speed as Hughes did.

The Alberta native is in position to break out in his junior season after some growing pains as a freshman and sophomore. Always ultra-talented, Hughes arrived in Madison at an alleged 140-150 pounds as a freshman and he wore down pretty early, according to one source close to the Badgers program. As a result, where he was once thought of as a top-60 prospect for the 2015 NHL draft, he fell all the way down to the mid-sixth round where Boston pounced. It’s looking like a solid value pick for the B’s in hindsight- Hughes is more of a passer/playmaker but that goal will be replayed over and over, and shows a deft finishing touch that the 19-year-old hasn’t gotten much credit for.

Not to be forgotten in the game was BC senior and alternate captain Ryan Fitzgerald, who was visible with his energy and two-way play and tallied a late empty-net goal by outworking his opponents on the back wall and then beating everyone to the front of the vacated cage. That play is what makes the 2013 fourth-rounder such an effective three-zone presence for the Eagles. He scored the goal through sheer will and hustle, and that it came via an empty net should not diminish the impact of the play itself.

Anders Bjork and Jesse Gabrielle have begun the season like gangbusters for their respective teams/leagues. It’s funny, because Bjork (5th round) and Gabrielle (4th round) weren’t drafted in the top-100 picks in 2014 and 2015, and yet they’ve been two of Boston’s most productive prospects over the past full season and about a month into the new campaign. It isn’t just about giving the team and scouts credit- give a lot to the two guys who took the later selection as motivation and have both put in the work off the ice to make sure the on-ice performance translates. If I’m Don Sweeney, I’d better get hot on signing both of these players. Bjork will have to play out his NCAA season first, but Gabrielle has between now and June 1 to come to terms- he’s done enough to earn that NHL entry-level pact in our view.

On the pro side, it’s been a disappointing start for the Providence Bruins, but not altogether unexpected when you consider that they’re without Frank Vatrano (though he likely would’ve made the Bruins out of camp), Alexander Khokhlachev (KHL), Seth Griffith (lost on waivers to Toronto) and a couple of key youngsters in Austin Czarnik and Danton Heinen (both in Boston) plus Brandon Carlo and Rob O’Gara on defense (also in Boston). We expect to see one or more of those latter names back at some point, but give goalie Zane McIntyre a lot of credit- he’s gotten off to a great start after his final 2016 start left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. He’s outplayed Malcolm Subban by a wide margin…some of it is Subban’s fault, but the team has some holes, so there are going to be some bumps in the road this season.

Bruins Amateur (NCAA/major junior/junior) Prospects as of 10/17/2016

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 4 5 5 10 2
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 6 5 4 9 6
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 4 2 4 6 2
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 6 2 3 5 2
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 5 4 0 4 8
Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 4 1 3 4 4
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda* QMJHL 2 1 2 3 0
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 3 1 2 3 2
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 4 1 2 3 2
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls USHL 7 2 1 3 6
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 3 0 2 2 0
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota Big10- NCAA 2 0 0 0 0
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St. WCHA- NCAA 4 0 0 0 2
Ryan Donato, Harvard** ECAC- NCAA 0 0 0 0 0
Wiley Sherman, Harvard** ECAC-NCAA 0 0 0 0 0

* Jeremy Lauzon out indefinitely (UBI/concussion)

** ECAC regular season begins November 4, 2016

 

Pro and European Prospects as of 10/17/16

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr. U20- Finland 11 7 9 16 2
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF Sweden- Elite 7 0 2 2 6
Colton Hargrove, Providence AHL 2 1 0 1 0
Colby Cave, Providence AHL 3 1 0 1 4
Matt Grzelcyk, Providence AHL 3 0 1 1 2
Linus Arnesson, Providence AHL 3 0 1 1 0
Anton Blidh, Providence AHL 3 0 1 1 0
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 3 0 1 1 2
Oskar Steen, Farjestad BK Sweden- Elite 8 1 0 1 4
Sean Kuraly, Providence AHL 3 0 0 0 7
Justin Hickman, Providence AHL 3 0 0 0 15
Chris Casto, Providence AHL 3 0 0 0 2
Zane McIntyre, Providence AHL 2 1 0 0.57 .969
Malcolm Subban, Providence AHL 2 0 2 4.18 .857
Dan Vladar, Providence AHL 0 0 0 0.00 .000
Peter Cehlarik, Providence* AHL 0 0 0 0 0
Brian Ferlin, Providence* AHL 0 0 0 0 0

* Peter Cehlarik and Brian Ferlin- injured