Reed Duthie: Breakout Bruins- 8 Who Could Make an Impact in Boston in 2021

Guest post by: Reed Duthie

After a tough Game 5 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Boston Bruins from the 2020 NHL Playoffs thoughts immediately turned to what the roster would look like for the 2020-21 season. Many names have already been tossed about from outside the organization as fans look from their perspectives to who could improve the Bruins and push the team over the top to a Stanley Cup Championship.

With the attention on players coming from outside the Bruins organization, it should be equally of interest who could come from within the organization and have their breakout moments to improve this team.

The forward group will likely see the most potential turnover with Joakim Nordstrom unlikely to be back and questions surrounding the likes of where Nick Ritchie, Chris Wagner & Par Lindholm fit into next year’s lineup, if at all, and the RFA status of Jake DeBrusk.

Zachary Senyshyn – In the Tampa Bay series it became clear that the Bruins needed more size and physical presence in the offensive zone but that it can’t come at the sacrifice of speed. Enter Zach Senyshyn, the controversial 15th overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft recorded back to back 40+ goal seasons in the OHL with the Soo Greyhounds but since arriving full time in Providence has made it a mission to become better in his 200-foot game. Although the offensive numbers haven’t jumped off the page in the AHL, Senyshyn combines a 6’3”/193lbs frame with incredible straight line speeds and the knowledge of how to use both. Able to blow by defenders around the outside, Senyshyn brings the willingness to drive straight to goal with the puck and create in the dirty areas. The Bruins could have a breakout, forceful player on their hands as his professional development has come along but could also have a bigger, more physical version of former Merlot-line favourite Dan Paille, either way Senyshyn has earned a long look.

Trent Frederic – A player who just screams Boston Bruin, following in the tradition of the likes of Wayne Cashman, Terry O’Reilly & Stan Jonathan, Frederic loves to mix it up physically but also brings excellent offensive instincts and the knowledge of how to use a 6’2”/203lbs frame to his advantage. The 29th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Frederic has garnered a lot of attention for posting 215 penalty minutes in his last 114 AHL games, becoming one of the more feared players in the American Hockey League. What has gone under the radar is the 57 points (22 goals) the hulking 2nd year pro has posted in the same time frame. Able to control the puck in a phone booth, Frederic’s size, whole ice game and cycle ability would appear to make him a perfect potential match for Charlie Coyle on a 3rd line that could become very hard to handle for bottom pairing defenders.

Jack Studnicka – He may well end up being the steal of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, selected 53rd overall and Jack Studnicka has come a long way in a very short time. The rookie pro suited up in 60 games for the Providence Bruins recording 23 goals & 26 assists for 49 points while turning heads in the process. Playing with a super-computer between his ears it isn’t hard to see why the Windsor native has drawn many comparisons to current Bruins legend and future Hockey Hall of Famer Patrice Bergeron. Studnicka brings a far advanced defensive game for his age and offensive acumen, and showed in his 5-game playoff cameo for the Bruins in 2020 that he clearly belongs in the National Hockey League. Likely to start his career on the right-wing, it won’t be long before Studnicka patrols the middle of the ice as a key player for the Bruins.

On the blueline, the Bruins may not wind up with an obvious opening but do have at least a trio of young players pushing to open one with all three players bringing different styles to the table.

Jakub Zboril – Having spent the last three seasons with the Providence Bruins, the former 13th overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft has had injuries derail a potential run with the NHL team on more than one occasion. Despite the potential for frustration, the physical rearguard has kept working, consistently improving his game over his three seasons in the AHL and by the time the 2019-20 season was put on hiatus Zboril was pushing for another opportunity in Boston. Fleet of foot with the ability to move the puck quickly and confidently from his own zone, the left-hand shot defender plays with a mean streak that would make you think he’d just stepped in the wasp’s nest. At 6’0”/200lbs, Zboril brings strength to the back end and would be more than able to move attackers from the front of the net which is what the Bruins came out of their series against Tampa Bay looking for more of. Zboril will also have a running start at the 2020-21 season beginning his year in the Czech Extraliga.

Urho Vaakanainen – Another defender who has seen opportunities to stick in Boston cast aside due to unfortunate injury, the 17th overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is a tremendous skater who can get up and down the ice effortlessly while combining with a 6’1”/185lbs frame that allows Vaakanainen to win his share of board and net battles and excellent hockey IQ to see and read the game. While in Finland, Vaakanainen showed an appetite to consistently improve and moved from Blues to JYP to SaIPa to get the kind of ice time he felt he would need to be able to take those steps. Vaakanainen has now played 84 in Providence and an additional 5 in Boston and while his offensive output hasn’t taken a step forward the rest of his game has. An opportunity with the big club combined with some luck on the health side could see the left-hand shot Finnish rearguard become a trusted piece at even strength and the Bruins penalty kill and at just 21 years of age could be a Bruin for a long time to come.

Nick Wolff – As Kirk Luedeke has mentioned on the Amigos Podcast many times before, “Winners Win” and Nick Wolff is a bonafide winner. The towering 6’5”/230lbs left-hander has won 2 NCHC Championships and 2 NCAA National Championship while being a key piece of the on & off ice leadership for the UMD Bulldogs, including serving as the captain for the 2019-20 team. As mean and nasty as they come, Wolff won’t provide the fleet footed skating of a Zboril or Vaakanainen but will remind fans of a new age Adam McQuaid. Able to get by on his skating, uses his off the charts size and strength to make life miserable for opposing attackers and is able to clog both shooting and passing lanes with his massive frame. If the Bruins are just simply looking to get meaner and nastier in their own end, they may uncage a Wolff and let him loose on their opposition.

With Tuukka Rask & Jaroslav Halak both under contract there doesn’t appear to be any room for another goaltender to make his name on the 2020-21 Boston Bruins, however any crack in the window may provide the real opportunity for 1 talented keeper of the cage to make his mark in the NHL.

Daniel Vladar – Originally drafted in the 3rd round, 75th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Vladar has taken his time moving through the Bruins system but the 2019-20 season appeared to be the lightbulb moment for the 6’5”/185 netminder. Over the course of 25 games with the Providence Bruins, Vladar would post an incredible 1.73 GAA & .936 SV%. Thrust into a tough spot in the playoff series against the Lightning, the greater hockey world didn’t get a fair look at the potential Czech star and any injury to Rask or Halak that could allow Vladar an opportunity in the 2020-21 season could see Bruins fans potentially have a look into the future of the crease.

Every year there appears to be a surprise at training camp or at some point in the season when a player seems to find themselves and goes from dark-horse to stud. If the Bruins have a dark-horse in camp it very well could be a talented Slovakian.

Robert Lantosi – An older prospect at 24, Lantosi arrived with the Providence Bruins for the 2019-20 season where he really impressed posting 11 goals & 21 assists for 31 points over 50 games in his rookie season in North America and was rewarded by the Boston Bruins with an NHL contract (albeit 2-way) but with the potential he could see time on the RW for the NHL squad. Leaving Slovakia at 17 for the Vasteras program in Sweden before returning 5 years later and subsequently becoming a star for HK Nitra, Lantosi is well travelled and has blended natural talent with a responsibility to a three-zone game and a very mature outlook for a 24-year old. While he may never be an NHL superstar, Lantosi could provide offense in a bottom-6 role where his talents would make him a solid addition to a Bruins team that likes to roll 4 lines.

Bruins sign Matt Filipe to 2-year ELC

On Sunday, the Boston Bruins announced that they signed Northeastern senior forward Matt Filipe of Lynnfield, Mass. to a 2-year, 2-way Entry-Level Contract.

The 67th overall selection of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft did not sign with the team that selected him in the third round and agreed to terms with the B’s, where he is expected to begin his pro career with Providence of the AHL.

The 6-2, 205-pound left wing plays a similar style to current Boston forward Sean Kuraly; he’s got good size, intelligence and speed if not a lot of skill, but plays a heavy style with pace and jam, and can score timely goals.

The former Malden Catholic captain spent one season in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders, where he scored 19 goals and 36 points in his draft year. After four years with Northeastern, where he finished his NCAA career with 75 points in 136 games with the Huskies.

The feeling here is that when Kuraly’s eventual cap hit exceeds his worth on the B’s salary structure, Filipe could fill that role as a lower-cost option to provide a similar impact as a gritty, versatile forward who ups his game when the stakes are higher.

Bruins playoff roster quick hits: Forwards (Pt. 2)

Pastrnak

(Eyes on the prize: David Pastrnak is the present and future of the Boston Bruins franchise. Fans are truly fortunate to watch the electrifying trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak, and the healthy unit has something to prove.)

Back to close out the Boston Bruins 2020 NHL Playoff preview series with the back half of the B’s forwards listed alphabetically. We hope you have enjoyed the posts, and let us know if there is anything else you want to see. Stay tuned for some more thoughts and observations on the B’s roster from the Amigos- coming this weekend and early next week.

Sean Kuraly- Every year since the B’s broke their two-season playoff drought in 2017, the former Miami University captain has made postseason plays to earn him the “Clutch Kuraly” moniker, so 2020 should not be any different. Right now, he’s practicing on the third line at right wing, but he’s probably going to shift back down to the fourth line, where he has proven himself to be effective as a two-way forward with the size, speed and situational sense to make offensive plays at opportune moments. One of the assets acquired for Martin Jones in the summer of 2015, Kuraly is yet another example of the Bruins archetype of a mobile, versatile forward who elevates his game and production when pace of a contest picks up.

Kuraly

(Somehow, watching Sean Kuraly celebrate a big goal in the playoffs has become an annual spring tradition in Boston)

Karson Kuhlman- Another NCAA captain, Kuhlman won a championship as Frozen Four MVP for University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2018 and a year later, was nearly a part of an NHL championship. Like Kuraly, he’s clutch- his speed, pace/energy and intelligence all combine to make him a prime playoff performer, even if the Esko native doesn’t have a top-line skill set. The undrafted free agent is the quintessential Bruin, who interestingly enough, listed Boston as the one city in the USA he wanted to move to in an interview well before he signed with the B’s- it was meant to be. He emerged a year ago to earn a regular spot on the team’s playoff roster, and although it wasn’t all smooth sailing this past year, he provides options for Bruce Cassidy and the coaching staff as a sparkplug who can be an asset. Whether he’ll be able to break through the logjam up front with everyone currently healthy, rested and vying for a role on the established lines remains to be seen, but you know what you’ll get with Kuhlman.

Par Lindholm- Signed for depth and youthful NHL experience after splitting 2018-19 between Toronto and Winnipeg, Lindholm played 40 games for the B’s, posting a modest 3-3-6 stat line. He’s a capable player to round out the bottom of the roster and a solid plug-and-play option for the Boston coaches to use to exploit defensive matchups.

Brad_Marchand

Brad Marchand is the team’s top LW period. End of story. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Brad Marchand- Boston’s first 100-point scorer since Joe Thornton in 2003 had a chance to repeat the feat had he gone slightly more than a point-per-game over the final 11 before the pause, but will gladly exchange that lost opportunity for another shot at the Stanley Cup. We won’t sugarcoat it- he had some questionable plays against the Blues in the 2019 championship series, and that team’s supporters and everyone else rooting against the B’s had a field day with memes featuring a despondent Marchand as the visitors skated around the TD Garden ice with the Stanley Cup. 2020 is a new year and chance for Boston’s top left wing to get some redemption and erase the smug grins on the faces of his many detractors.

Although 32, Marchand can still fly and is the most skilled and creative forward on the Boston roster. With a pair of superstars on that line in Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, Marchand is lethal, and he’s lost none of the abrasiveness that has been his hallmark since the earliest days of minor hockey.

Of all the B’s forwards who can crack opposing defenses and goalies like an egg, Marchand is the one who could be the linchpin going forward. In seven games against the Blues, he scored just two goals and five points, while being held scoreless in three of those contests. He was capable of more, and we think we’ll see it this time around.

Joakim Nordstrom- The veteran defensive forward signed two years ago isn’t likely to get a contract extension, but he’s a solid plumber type who does his job without a lot of fanfare (or production). He’s a bottom-six guy, currently skating on the left side of the Phase III fourth line with Lindholm and Chris Wagner, but that lineup was missing Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase, so we’ll see Anders Bjork and Kuraly dropping down, which could impact Nordstrom’s role and ice time.

David_Pastrnak

David Pastrnak is the player the Boston Bruins have been waiting for. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

David Pastrnak- The B’s had a limited skate with the younger players on the roster Wednesday, but one veteran was with the black aces- a sight for sore eyes- No. 88, in his first practice action since the pause. One of those future Bruins taking notes on the leading scorer’s practice habits was Jack Studnicka.

“He’s (an unbelievable talent,” Studnicka said via remote call after the session. “Obviously his year kind of speaks for itself how he was able to contribute offensively on such a consistent basis.

“To see how he practices- he’s always moving full speed and finding ways to be creative and be better. It was definitely fun to share the ice with him.”

Pastrnak led the team in scoring with 95 points and became the first Bruins player to win the Henri “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the top goal scorer, an honor his 48 goals shared with future Hall of Famer Alexander Ovechkin. As an elite goal scorer, Pastrnak excels at finding space and quiet ice in the offensive zone and unleashes a shot with a hyper-quick release, deadly accuracy and a heaviness that belies his average size and frame.

In short, he’s a natural who has blossomed into one of the NHL’s true young super stars- and with his exuberance and genuine personality on and off the ice, Bruins fans are right to be salivating at the thought of what Pastrnak is going to do in the postseason.

Calgary Flames v Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – FEBRUARY 25: Nick Ritchie #21 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period of the game against the Calgary Flames at TD Garden on February 25, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Nick Ritchie- Like Kase, Ritchie was acquired at the trade deadline from the Anaheim Ducks, and the big power forward has much to prove after being selected 15 spots ahead of Pastrnak and 106 spots ahead of the player the B’s traded for him- Danton Heinen (Anders Bjork went 136 spots after Ritchie, for the record…okay, we’ll stop now).

Ritchie is another heavy, possession forward who, when he’s moving his feet, is tough to contain and is an asset in tightly-contested spaces typical of playoff games. He’s also got some nasty- when he gets fired up, he can hit and fight with the best of them. Like Kase, he’s going to benefit from a training camp to get himself adjusted better to his new team and coaching staff.  The younger Ritchie admittedly put himself in position to receive the questions and criticism with an inconsistent work ethic and intensity level, so we’ll see how it all plays out for him in Boston- with his tools, he could turn things around in a hurry. If he doesn’t, there are plenty of options the B’s have to put into the lineup.

He’s had a slow start to his NHL career relative to his high draft position, and his regular season numbers aren’t anything to write home about. But the reality is this- if Ritchie had delivered on the immense potential he had in junior off the bat, the Ducks never would have made him available for trade to Boston. There is no doubt the organization is taking on some risk here, but in moving a player they had multiple versions of in Heinen, they have added another potential horse with some real reward who is young enough to blossom  with a better pool of talent around him.

Zach Senyshyn- We’re tabling any reference to the 2015 draft here and will just say that while his chances of breaking through to establish a spot on this roster right now and play meaningful playoff action is remote, the former Soo Greyhound is getting closer to staking a legitimate claim. For now, he’ll join the other young black aces in Boston and benefit from the opportunity to be around the veterans and absorb the culture and atmosphere of NHL playoffs. The size and skating gives him a chance to play up or down in the lineup- it’s just a hardcore group ahead of him on the depth chart. Sometimes, we forget that he’s just 23- still time to see him bear some fruit, even if the clock is admittedly ticking.

Jack Studnicka- A year ago, the 2017 second-rounder was a black ace on Boston’s deep run, and he’s back for more as he appears to be on the verge of making the lineup as a full-time NHLer soon. The steal of a late second-round selection led the AHL in shorthanded goals and his own Providence club in scoring. He’s never put up eye-popping offensive numbers, but doesn’t have to because he’s a top three-zone forward in the mold of Bergeron. He’s Boston’s best prospect in our view, and the team will make room for him soon as he has done very well in his young pro career to date. There’s a lot to like with Studnicka, and the Bruins know that what they have is special- no need to rush to failure, but when the time comes, he’ll likely seamlessly slot right in and look like a seasoned veteran from the get-go.

IMG_1906

Jack Studnicka (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Chris Wagner- Another local and the 2019 Seventh Player Award winner for the B’s after signing as an unrestricted free agent the summer before is more of a depth piece on this deep forward group, but he’s a proven grinder and NHL commodity who brings a junkyard dog mentality on every shift. Wagner may not be as talented as other forwards on the roster, but the coaches trust him to go out and grind, create space for himself, and use his nonstop motor and manic, relentless style to generate timely offense. We’ll admit it- we’ve always had a lot of time for Wagner going back to his days with the South Shore Kings, and while the advanced stats might not always break in his favor, he brings that positive x-factor to the Boston lineup and gives the team every ounce of his talent. He’s a worthy successor to the storied “lunch pail gang” legacy that the Bruins hang their (hard) hats on.

 

Happy Independence Day- Random hockey thoughts on July 4 (podcast)

4thofJuly

Hey, all-

Happy Independence Day aka Insurrection from the Crown Day!

It’s been a slow couple of weeks here with hockey news, so thought I’d throw up a podcast with some thoughts on prospects, free agency and the NHL draft lottery plus some other things about hockey.

It clocks in at around 45 minutes, so hope you’ll give it a listen.

Have a great holiday and we’ll be back with more content soon!

-KL

 

B’s sign Berglund to ELC

Berglund

The Boston Bruins have signed Swedish defenseman Victor Berglund to a three-year, two-way entry-level contract at an annual value of $818.3k in the NHL.

The news, which broke Monday evening on social media, means that the 7th round (195th overall) selection from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft is in the fold after spending the last two seasons playing in Sweden’s second pro league (Allsvenskan) with MoDo. He had signed with Lulea for the 20-21 season, which would have been a step up in the SHL, his country’s top pro league, but the signing means he will bring his talents over to North America.

We recently ranked Berglund 6th among Boston defense prospects in our 2020 pre-draft rankings, and 3 Amigo Reed Duthie posted this excellent analysis of what he brings to the table.

Here are a few additional notes and observations on a player who was a virtual unknown when the B’s drafted him late in Chicago three years ago, but has taken positive strides in his development since as a player former Bruin and current team European amateur scout PJ Axelsson had a major hand in.

What this means: Boston is putting the depth pieces in place for the upcoming 2020-21 hockey season. Berglund should be given every opportunity to spend his first full year in North America with the Providence Bruins of the AHL. He’s coming from a lower level of play in Sweden, however, so it’s not a given that he’ll be an AHL regular- we could see that he might see some time between Providence and Boston’s ECHL affiliate Atlanta Gladiators.  However, with his pro experience to date and sublime wheels and solid puck-moving ability, our money is on him being with Providence. After all- he played 4 regular season games a year ago with the Baby B’s to close out the 2019 regular season and didn’t look at all out of place there as an 19-year-old.

Don’t be surprised if: Berglund plays NHL games sooner rather than later. We don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but one thing that plays in the 20-year-old’s favor is that he’s a right-shot D, and the B’s don’t have many of those in their system right now, with the majority being left-shot types. For some, playing either the left or right side isn’t an issue, but that is not always the case. If the B’s run into some injury problems with their righties, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Berglund get a recall to see what he can do. His rookie NA year might be a tad early, but we never say never.

Realistically speaking: If he makes the NHL at some point, it may be more as a role player. What’s interesting is that he fit a specific Boston archetype for what they like on the back end: outstanding mobility, puck skills and vision/IQ in spades. He’s not very big- an average-sized 6-foot in height (if that), but if we’ve learned anything from this club in the past three decades, the B’s aren’t afraid to give smallish blue liners an opportunity- just as long as they can skate and think it, and Berglund certainly fits the bill.

With Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk currently entrenched on the Boston roster, they are proof that the team isn’t averse to having more than one smaller defender on the club- it all comes down to whether the player can execute within the system and produce.

We think Berglund has a shot at doing that- someday, someway.

 

Boston Bruins Prospects Pre-Draft Rankings- 2020

Here is the list of signed (NHL contract) or drafted (unsigned) Bruins prospects (all players must be under age 25 to be considered for this list). Their 2019-20 teams are listed below.

We will post new prospect profiles of the 2020 NHL draft selections and a new prospect ranking after the event.

Players signed to AHL contracts are not included in this list.

Forward

  1.  Jack Studnicka, C Providence (AHL)/Boston (NHL)
  2.  John Beecher, C University of Michigan (NCAA)
  3.  Trent Frederic, C Providence (AHL)/Boston (NHL)
  4.   Zach Senyshyn, RW Providence (AHL)/Boston (NHL)
  5.  Karson Kuhlman, C/RW Boston (NHL)/Providence (AHL)
  6.  Jakub Lauko, LW Providence (AHL)
  7.  Curtis Hall, C Yale University (NCAA)
  8.  Quinn Olson, LW University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
  9.  Oskar Steen, C Providence (AHL)
  10.  Cameron Hughes, C Providence (AHL)/Boston (NHL)
  11.  Matias Mantykivi, C SaiPa (Finland)
  12.  Joona Koppanen, C/RW Providence (AHL)
  13.  Pavel Shen, C Providence (AHL)
  14.  Jack Becker, RW University of Michigan (NCAA)
  15.  Jake Schmaltz, LW Green Bay (USHL)

Defense

  1.  Jeremy Lauzon, LD Providence (AHL)/Boston (NHL)
  2.  Urho Vaakanainen, LD Providence (AHL)/Boston (NHL)
  3.  Jakub Zboril, LD Providence (AHL)
  4.  Jack Ahcan, LD St. Cloud State (NCAA)
  5.  Dustyn McFaul, LD Clarkson University (NCAA)
  6.  Victor Berglund, RD MoDo (Sweden Div 2)
  7.  Roman Bychkov, LD Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (MHL)
  8.  Nick Wolff, LD University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)

Goaltender

  1.  Jeremy Swayman, University of Maine (NCAA)
  2.  Dan Vladar, Providence (AHL)
  3.  Kyle Keyser, Atlanta (ECHL)/Providence (AHL)

Don’t forget about…Karson Kuhlman

karson-kuhlman-2019-32

Over the past decade, Boston Bruins have found success in the undrafted free agent department, especially with signing NCAA players. Whether we’re talking about Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Frank Vatrano (whose trade to Florida in 2018 netted the pick the B’s used to select Jakub Lauko), or even Austin Czarnik (now with Calgary), the B’s have identified passed-over college players who have gone on to reach the NHL.

A more recent example is former University of Minnesota-Duluth captain Karson Kuhlman, who led the Bulldogs to their first of two consecutive NCAA championships in 2018 and then signed with the B’s shortly thereafter. The 2018 NCAA tournament MVP didn’t dazzle anyone with his numbers, but was, as it turned out, the perfect fit for Boston.

It didn’t take Kuhlman long to see his first NHL action and by the spring of 2019, he was playing a supporting role in helping the B’s get to within one game of a Stanley Cup championship. In 19 regular and playoff games combined, the rookie netted four goals and eight points, not bad for a defensive forward in college whose best season consisted of just six goals and 22 points in 42 games during the 2016-17 campaign.

The Esko, MN native has always impressed with his speed, intelligent two-way game and hyper-competitivene style, going back to his USHL days with the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

After making such a surprising impact (at the very least in terms of timeline), Kuhlman made the 2019-20 Bruins roster out of camp, but fractured his tibia Oct. 19 in a game against Toronto. He missed the next two months and returned to the ice in late December, bouncing between the NHL and AHL with Providence until the NHL season was put on pause.

He still meets our criteria of a prospect, even though he’s seen 36 NHL regular season games in his first two pro seasons, so here’s a quick snapshot of Kuhlman and what B’s fans can expect going forward:

Strengths: Superb skater- explosive, agile and quick. He’s got excellent acceleration and is strong on his skates- able to roll off of checks and maintain his balance. Very good small-area burst. Hockey sense is very good- while not overly creative, he sees the ice and makes good decisions with and without the puck. Tremendous intangibles such as character and leadership packaged up in a relentless work ethic. He’s a superior forechecker who disrupts and creates turnovers with his speed and sheer tenacity- constantly hunts pucks. A winner- he won a USHL championship with Dubuque in 2013, took 2018 NCAA tournament MVP honors in leading UMD to a national title, then was part of Boston’s extended run to the SCF a year later. That kind of thing is not an accident. Can play center and wing- able to take key defensive faceoffs when needed and has a quick stick in the dot to win draws.

Weaknesses: Size is average, and he’s not a skill player by any means. A standout player for Cloquet High, he was not a point producer in the USHL or in college, so he’s not going to have the offensive ceiling to be a front line forward in the NHL.

Overall analysis/projection: The leg injury set Kuhlman back, and as his 1 goal and 6 points in 25 games this season can attest, he’s in a low-end depth role right now with Boston. At age 24, he’s old enough and mature- he can play up or down the lineup if needed, but with the B’s healthy when the NHL’s expected resumption happens in July-August, he’ll have a challenge ahead to work himself into the lineup on a regular basis.

Going forward, we can envision Kuhlman carving out more of a role for himself as a checker/grinder/Swiss Army knife player the Boston coaches trust in certain situations. He’s not going to go out and score 30 goals and 60 points, but in the B’s system, could develop into a regular role player because of his versatility, drive and jam.

The B’s haven’t just enjoyed success finding college free agents- they hit on former Swift Current/WHL captain Colby Cave, who suddenly and tragically passed away this spring while a member of the Edmonton organization, but the NCAA pipeline has been a productive one for Boston. Kuhlman should continue to contribute going forward, and the B’s continued the pattern by signing college defenders Jack Ahcan (St. Cloud State) and Nick Wolff (Kuhlman’s UMD teammate) this past March.

His only goal this season vs Vancouver an attempted pass that went in off  Troy Stecher

KBJR local feature by Alec Bochner during Kuhlman’s senior season at UMD

In-depth UMD profile on him from October 2017- check out his answer to the question at 7:20 about the one city he would pick up and move to- Kuhl-stradamus?

 

Jack Becker: Then & Now

The Bruins prospect series rolls on with 2015 7th-rounder Jack Becker, who skated with John Beecher at Michigan this past season.- KL

Jack Becker, RW/C-R

6-4/200  Born: 24 Jun 97

Current team: University of Michigan (NCAA)

Jack Becker then:

July 18, 2015

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls (USHL); 6-3, 190

Acquired: 7th round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Lanky Minnesota high school product is about as raw as it gets at this stage, but could bring some long-term boom potential if he continues to progress. Felled by a bout with mononucleosis this season, he came back strong to finish the season at Mahtomedi High and then played a couple of USHL regular season affiliate games with the Clark Cup-winning Sioux Falls Stampede. He lacks initial burst and agility in his skating, but crashes the net hard and scores goals the old fashioned way. Watch for this son of a former NY Islanders draft pick to make noise at Wisconsin eventually.

 

July 25, 2015

(Here’s a draft day quote on Becker from former colleague Dan Shrader, who is now an area scout with the Winnipeg Jets)

Good friend and Red Line scout Dan Shrader saw Becker multiple times this season and smartly listed him in the RLR final rankings.

“He’s not a facilitator but is a great crash and bang type,” Shrader said. “He’s terrific with the give and go net drives. He’s a bit thorny (in his development) and needs time but could be a player when all is said and done. No one in Minnesota high school hockey crashed the net harder than Becker this year.”

May 5, 2016

Jack Becker, C (2015 draft- 7th round): Minnesota high schooler when drafted went to the USHL this past season with the Sioux Falls Stampede. The Mahtomedi native is a pretty raw product, still growing into his frame and developing his skill set. It will likely take him some time to transition into being an impact performer with the Badgers, but for a seventh-round pick, there is some interesting long-term potential here. Current status: unsigned.

(current note- Becker was no longer committed to Wisconsin by the fall of 2016 and committed to Michigan Tech, before decommitting there and following head coach Mel Pearson to the University of Michigan for the 2017-18 season. See video below the post for more.)

Jack Becker now:

After concluding his junior season in Ann Arbor with the University of Michigan Wolverines, his long-term status with the Bruins is still up in the air. Drafted five years ago, the Bruins still hold his rights as long as he stays in school, and then have until August of 2021 to sign him or he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He skated mostly on the wing with fellow B’s prospect and 2019 first-rounder John Beecher.

With 22 goals and 42 points in three NCAA campaigns, Becker has not been a point producer since playing single-A high school hockey in Minnesota. And even then, Becker wasn’t a driver/creator- he used his size to get to the net, and had the hands/shot to find the twine to the tune of 55 goals.

He’s got a pro-sized frame and is a powerful straight-line skater. Initial steps and small area quickness should see continued improvement. In the offensive zone he uses his size and strength to maintain puck possession and make plays around the net. He’s got a quick release on a hard shot; we’d not be surprised to see him hit the 30-point mark as a senior, and double his goal totals. There has always been an intriguing buzz around his soft hands and ability to finish at the lower levels.

Realistically, Becker is tracking more as journeyman/depth player as a pro. He’s a capable two-way forward who might lack a flashy offensive package, but stands out with his ability to go to the net and protect the puck. Barring a major breakout senior campaign, the B’s may take a wait-and-see approach to see how he looks after he exhausts his NCAA eligibility.

With his natural size, strength and heavy-style game, there’s enough to wonder if he can be a viable pro, even if he tops out at the AHL level. This last collegiate season will be his final exam to see if that raw promise the B’s saw half a decade ago will get a chance to pan out for the organization.

***

Wolverines YouTube video- Jack Becker on how he ended up at Michigan after commitments to Wisconsin and Tech

 

 

 

 

Off the top of the head: Pavel Shen

Pavel Shen2

Pavel Shen, C  6-1/185

Previous team: Salavat Ufa (KHL)

Current team: Providence Bruins (AHL)  Signed through: 2022

Strengths: Left-shot center with good size is a fluid skater with rapid acceleration and good open-ice speed. He has the agility and balance to make quick cut-backs and is strong on his skates, able to drive through contact and win footraces to loose pucks. Handles the puck well and is a deft passer; able to maintain possession on the cycle or in traffic- protects the puck with a combination of quick hands and an above average frame. Quick release and gets his shot off quickly, often hiding his release point- catches goaltenders unaware…just needs to show more of a willingness to use it versus looking for the extra pass.

Weaknesses: If he was more instinctive and demonstrated better vision and creativity, Shen would be a more highly-regarded prospect. His production reflects limited upside in this regards- skates like he has blinders on and doesn’t always pick up on where the lanes are, costing himself time and space. Doesn’t seem to see the shooting lanes quickly enough, learning that the windows close much faster in the AHL. Needs to show more “want to,” especially in the greasy areas, where a lot of puck battles are won and lost, and isn’t often where he has to be in terms of puck support.

Overall analysis: Shen looks the part of an NHL center: he’s got the size, speed and hands to make plays, but had trouble earning the ice time and role as a rookie to be an impact player. Part of it is the aforementioned limitations he appears to have in terms of his natural hockey sense/on-ice vision, and part of it is certainly his age/lack of experience at the pro level, not to mention he was adjusting to the North American game and smaller ice surface.

Be that as it may, 20-21 will be an important year to see if Shen can take a big step in his development and put himself on a path to be an NHL player. He’s an intriguing seventh-round pick who was nowhere near the sum of some impressive parts when the Bruins drafted him with the 212th overall selection, and has shown that he has some big-time offensive ability in flashes. Having said that. he also demonstrated that he was not ready for prime time, bouncing between center and wing this past season and not seeing an abundance of ice time as a spare part in a limited role under head coach Jay Leach.

Projection: The B’s recently parted ways with winger Peter Cehlarik, who despite putting up decent numbers at the AHL level, could never really get his details and habits in order to hold down a spot with the NHL team. Shen is a similar kind of long shot prospect who has the tools to be a player at the highest level, but has a lot of work to do in terms of rounding out his game to be more of a complete 200-foot player. Of course, Cehlarik had significantly more pro experience when he came over to North America versus Shen, but some of the same hurdles that the Slovak (who recently signed in Switzerland with Lugano) faced await Shen in an organization that has a lot of journeyman-type forwards jockeying for position on the farm but not a lot of high-end talent to break the logjam.

You can’t really argue with a seventh-round pick struggling to establish himself at age 20 in his first year overseas away from home. This is why we’ll reserve judgment on Shen for now and see how much of a step forward he takes as a sophomore. There’s quite a bit to like, but realistically, it’s hard to project where he would fit on the NHL roster based on the limited sample size thus far.

We wouldn’t bet the farm on him materializing into an NHL regular, but he does bring an impressive enough skill set for one drafted so late to remain patient and see what comes next.

 

Reed Duthie: Off the top of the head- Matias Mantykivi

3 Amigo Reed Duthie is back to continue his steady march through Europe to bring you the goods on B’s Finnish forward prospect Matias Mantykivi. Enjoy!- KL

In the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins would continue a recent trend of swinging for the fences in the late round in Scandinavia. With the teams’ 6th round pick (185th overall) the Bruins would turn to the SaiPa program in Finalnd to select talented center Matias Mantykivi.

Very likely catching the Bruins eye originally in the 2017-18 season when he rose from the U18 to U20 as a 16-year old, it could have been happenstance for Mantykivi as Bruins 2017 1st round pick Urho Vaakanainen was playing for the SaiPa senior squad at the time. In his 2018-19 draft season Mantykivi’s meteoric rise continued. Starting with the SaiPa U18 side, he would post 13 points across 9 games and quickly return to the U20 team where, as a 17-year old, he would post 12 goals & 24 assists for 36 points across 34 games finishing 3rd on the team in points and second in PPG. Mantykivi’s performances at the U20 level would see him join the SaiPa senior team for 6 games in the SM-Liiga recording a goal but finding his most success at the professional level with Kettera of the Mestis (Finland’s second division) posting 4 assists through 11 regular season games and adding a goal and 5 assists for 6 points across 13 playoff games.

The quick rise through the Finnish ranks led to the Bruins utilizing a draft pick on Mantykivi, and they would already see the rewards of drafting him in the 2019-20 season. After posting 2 points in 2 games at the U20 level to open the season, Mantykivi would quickly join the SaiPa senior side as the SM-Liiga season got going, as an 18-year old his ice time at Finland’s top level would be limited but he would still record 3 goals & 3 assists for 6 points across 42 games in addition to once again joining Kettera in Mestis for 8 games where he would again excel recording 7 assists.

Still a few seasons from a potential NHL run, Mantykivi’s development has been more of a straight line upwards as opposed to a curve. Expected to play a more significant role in the SM-Liiga following a contract extension with SaiPa as well as an expectation to be a part of Finland’s 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship team, this could be the season where Matias Mantykivi takes his game to another level and builds his way towards his eventual jump to North America and joining the Bruins franchise.

Assets:

Vision/Distribution – Much like current Providence Bruins forward Oskar Steen, Mantykivi’s biggest offensive strength, and perhaps biggest strength overall, would be his vision and ability to distribute the puck. Able to fit hard passes into small windows and pick out teammates even through crowded ice, Mantykivi has drawn a lot of attention for that ability.

Attitude – Playing on the hybrid ice in Finland (blend between international and NHL sizes) Mantykivi has no issues maximizing a 5’11’’ 170lbs frame to drive the net, scoring an abundance of his U20 goals from right in front of the net. A no fear style that the Bruins like, even in their skill players is clearly on display with the talented Finn.

Agility – Although not the fastest player on the ice, Mantykivi’s greatest skating strength is his agility, strength on his edges and ability to quickly cut and dart in and out of traffic, even in possession of the puck. Very similar to Bruins current star David Krejci in that regard.

Weaknesses:

Size – As mentioned with Steen, not nearly as a big of a hindrance as it once was, Mantykivi has a 5’11’’ frame but currently sits around the 170lbs mark. He will need to take a page from Steen’s playbook and add more strength to his toolbox to continue to play his preferred style at the next level.

Shot – Again much like Steen while he worked his way to the SHL, Mantykivi has stepped forward as a tremendous playmaker but will need to round out his game by being able to score while teams over play his passing options. He has a good shot and solid release but doesn’t seem to use it as much as he could, preferring to add his goals by getting to the net and cleaning up loose pucks. If he can gain confidence in his shot over the next season or two, it will take Mantykivi to the next level.

Future:

Another potential late round steal, Mantykivi has a ton of room to grow and quickly climb the Bruins prospect charts. A player who would have likely gone under the radar with most other organizations, the Bruins took a player with a ton of raw talent who just needed continued refinement. His rise from the junior to professional ranks in Finland have proven he can translate his biggest assets to the pro level in Europe. The next steps will be to have a breakout in the SM-Liiga before making the jump to Providence in the AHL. Likely a middle-6 NHL forward ceiling, Mantykivi fits the Bruins system perfectly as a team that tries to run 3 offensively balanced lines that can threaten and even as a “third line” player, Mantykivi could find both his offense and 200-foot games very handily deployed by a coach like Bruce Cassidy.

Not much video out there on him, but we found a YouTube clip from early in his draft season: