What’s Next for the Bruins (Pt. 13): The Young D

Editor’s Note- No, not Dominic Tiano this time. I’ll do a quick-hitter between packing up the moving truck (that’s dedication for you) and driving away to provide a snapshot of the younger defensemen coming up through the ranks in the Boston system. Because Charlie McAvoy proved himself ready for primetime against Ottawa in six games, he’s not a part of this post- you all saw him and what he’s capable of.- KL

Rob O'GaraBruins

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The B’s young defense is shaping up, but even with the immediate splash provided by McAvoy in the 2017 NHL playoffs, there is no surefire way to predict that the team will continue to enjoy the fruits of their system to the degree we saw with their 2016 top pick. However, there are several (left-shot heavy) young blue liners who are signed (we’re not including the college kids like Ryan Lindgren, Wiley Sherman and Cameron Clarke in this particular post but will address them later) and if not playing in Boston regularly next season, will probably make cameos at some point.

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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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Jakub Zboril: the Good Cop-Bad Cop theory

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When the Boston Bruins drafted Czech defenseman Jakub Zboril 13th overall in 2015 out of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, few raised any eyebrows.

After all- the pick made sense at the time for myriad reasons: talent-wise, he was right around where he could and should go. He had posted a 13-goal, 33-point season in just 44 games in his first North American stint. He had the size, skating, puck skills, shot and even some physical nasty to his game to validate being chosen there. Defense was also becoming a major issue for Boston- then-GM Peter Chiarelli had traded veteran two-way machine & fan favorite Johnny Boychuk on the eve of the 2014-15 campaign for futures (well, as we type this Brandon Carlo is certainly thriving in the present) and he subsequently went off, posting a career-best 9 goals and 35 points, while Boston’s defense contributed to the late-season swoon that cost the B’s a playoff appearance for the first time since 2007. In short- Zboril was a typical crowd-pleaser in that not only did he address an obvious organizational need, but no one could screech loudly on Twitter and Internet message boards about his being a “reach” for the team where he was picked.

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Bruins Prospect Update: 01/08/2017- Golden USA- B’s World Jr. recap

If there were any skeptics left wondering if Charlie McAvoy had the stuff to be a top-flight 2-way defenseman in the NHL one day, that train has pretty much left the station after his player of the game and tourney all-star selection in helping lead Team USA to its third gold medal at the World Jr. (Under-20) Championship since 2010.

The 14th overall selection in 2016 scored USA’s first goal of the game, cutting into Canada’s 2-0 lead (the second goal having been scored by fellow future Bruin Jeremy Lauzon). McAvoy was the trailer on the play, taking a pass from BU teammate and Minnesota Wild prospect Jordan Greenway before lasering the shot over Canada goalie Carter Hart’s glove hand.

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

McAvoy1

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

 

3 Amigos Podcast Ep. 7: Special Guest Zane McIntyre + 2017 World Jr & B’s prospects impact

 

Howdy, all- the 3 Amigos ride again with our seventh (or is it eighth?- We don’t know- we have so much fun with these that we’ve lost count) episode of our podcast. Dom, Reed and myself are especially pleased with this latest effort and hope you are as well…

Today’s offering- the final one of 2016- features 4th Amigo and Bruins goaltending prospect of note Zane McIntyre. For those of you who might be living under a rock, McIntyre is the top AHL goalie, currently sporting a 9-0-0 record with 1.35 GAA and .953 save percentage in leading the P-Bruins to an excellent start under first year head coach Kevin Dean.

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Bruins prospect update 12/27/2016: 2017 WJC- McAvoy leads the way

The 2017 World Junior (Under-20) Championship started on Dec. 26 in Toronto and Montreal for Groups A & B in the round robin portion of the annual NHL prospect extravaganza that will run into the first week of January.

The Boston Bruins have five players (four defensemen and one goaltender) currently competing in the tourney: USA’s Charlie McAvoy and Ryan Lindgren; Jeremy Lauzon on Team Canada, Czech Republic D Jakub Zboril and goaltender Daniel Vladar round out the group. Guys who did not make the cut for their respective countries: Zach Senyshyn (Canada) and Oskar Steen (Sweden). Trent Frederic was not invited to the USA evaluation camp portion, but he was coming off of a hand injury that might have influenced USA Hockey’s decision to have him return to school. We don’t know for sure, but watch for Frederic to be solidly in the mix for the 2018 USA WJC squad. Canada did not even invite Jesse Gabrielle to the eval camp, which is probably more of a reflection of his not being part of the Canada Program of Excellence than anything else- you would think that a gritty power forward who can score and affect game flow with his physicality would be of value, but apparently not enough in Canada’s eyes. With both Canada and USA winning their opening games, the rosters look fine for now.

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Bruins prospect report 11/15: Zboril, Gabrielle ascending

Two selections from Boston’s deep and promising draft class of 2015 are making positive waves in their respective junior leagues this season.

Defenseman Jakub Zboril, who was Boston’s top pick at 13th overall (acquired from Los Angeles as part of the Milan Lucic trade), is answering some of the questions about him coming into the season after being focused more on defense last season and posting a mediocre 6-14-20 stats line in 50 games with Saint John a year ago, he already has 5 goals in just 14 contests, and has not slowed much since the return of fellow blue liner Thomas Chabot to the QMJHL after breaking camp with the Ottawa Senators and beginning the season there for a few games.

If you have been a regular to this blog, then you know that TSP has never questioned Zboril’s skill and talent levels. When breaking down the top tier of the 2015 defensemen, the Czech two-way rearguard belonged in the discussion going off of pure ability- he wasn’t that far off from any of Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski, all top-10 selections and all three of whom are in the NHL this year and making an impact on their respective clubs. What caused Zboril to fall into the second tier and below the cut line of the top defenders available in that strong draft crop was his waning compete levels and inconsistent application of his abilities. In short- when Zboril is working hard and on his game, he’s an ideal fit for the modern NHL: he’s fast, hard-hitting and can make a top first pass, not to mention having a blistering point shot when he has the time and space to cock the cannon and unload. Unfortunately, Zboril isn’t always on his game, and that is what has led to some of the doubts about his long-term viability.

For now, he’s certainly getting the job done for Danny Flynn and the Sea Dogs, and that is good to see. Flynn is a good coach- he helped mentor Brad Marchand when he was an assistant under Ted Nolan with the 2006 Moncton Wildcats, so he knows how to get good mileage out of players who might not always be on the same page when it comes to applying themselves. This is not to stir undue concern where it isn’t warranted, but not to put too fine a point on it- Zboril is still very much a work in progress who has yet to prove that he really wants to succeed and be the kind of NHL player his talent implies he should be. We shall see, but as B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley said in the offseason- the team sees their top choice a year ago as “on track”- that wasn’t what you would call a ringing endorsement, but to Zboril’s credit- he’s playing effective defense and contributing offense much more consistently than he was a year ago. That’s encouraging and we’ll see where it leads- pointing out a player’s shortcomings doesn’t make them “haters” so we’ll hope that people who ought to know better don’t try to polarize the discussion as often happens in sports discussions and take the feedback in the spirit intended- he’s making positive progress and is answering some of the questions, but it’s early yet- we’ll re-evaluate at the end of the year and see how it all went.

We’re not ready to eat crow yet, but we’ll give Zboril a stick tap for a strong Bruins training camp and a fine start to the season. It’s all you can ask for at this point, and he looks like a top-15 pick, which is encouraging.

 

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Jesse Gabrielle is stepping it up for the second consecutive season in Prince George of the WHL after scoring 40 goals a year ago.

He’s the kind of forward that Bruins fans instantly took a shine to because he can score and plays a physical, abrasive style that makes him a tough opponent that teams have to account for whenever he’s on the ice.

The Saskatchewan native fell in the draft, and he’s been a man on a mission to show the teams that passed him up that they were wrong in doing so. So far, so good. He’s done impressive offseason work in the weight room to get his body in shape to handle the punishment that he takes on by driving hard to the net, firing himself into corners and along the walls to win battles for loose pucks and bouncing through checks to set up in the high danger areas where he makes the most money.

He’s playing a more controlled style this season- staying within his parameters and not taking undisciplined penalties as much. Gabrielle continues to understand that he’s more effective when he’s on the ice firing pucks into the back of the net, much like his hockey idol Brad Marchand has learned over time with the Bruins.

You have to give Gabrielle credit for not only getting himself into top physical shape but taking the coaching to heart and continuing to be a key offensive player, leading the Cougars in goals and pacing a blistering offensive attack that can beat opponents any which way. Gabrielle is the embodiment of that—he can play a finesse style or he can pound you, take the puck away and finish off the play himself.

He’s still refining his overall game, but at present, Gabrielle is looking like one of the top values in a very good 2015 draft class.

And here’s the updated stats lines for both amateur and pro (AHL and Euro) players:

Amateur Prospects as of 11/15/16

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 15 10 9 19 16
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 9 7 11 18 2
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 14 5 8 13 6
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 13 4 9 13 16
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 8 4 6 10 8
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 9 2 7 9 8
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 9 1 8 9 6
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 14 5 4 9 10
Ryan Donato, Harvard

 

ECAC- NCAA 6 4 4 8 4
Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin

 

Big10- NCAA 8 2 6 8 6
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda

 

QMJHL 7 1 5 6 2
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls

 

USHL 15 2 3 5 26
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St.

 

WCHA- NCAA 12 0 3 3 12
Wiley Sherman, Harvard

 

ECAC-NCAA 6 0 2 2 6
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota

 

Big10- NCAA 8 0 0 0 24

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 10 5 5 10 4
Anton Blidh, Providence

 

AHL 13 4 2 6 6
Danton Heinen, Providence AHL 5 2 3 5 0

 

Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 13 2 2 4 2

 

Matt Grzelcyk, Providence

 

AHL 13 1 3 4 4
Austin Czarnik, Providence#

 

AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF

 

Sweden- Elite 12 1 2 3 6
Colby Cave, Providence

 

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

 

AHL 8 0 2 2 0
Sean Kuraly, Providence#

 

AHL 10 0 2 2 9
Colton Hargrove, Providence

 

AHL 10 1 0 1 7
Linus Arnesson, Providence

 

AHL 11 0 1 1 4
Justin Hickman, Providence

 

AHL 3 0 0 0 5
Oskar Steen, MoDo

 

Sweden- Div 2 4 0 0 0 2
Chris Casto, Providence

 

AHL 10 0 0 0 14
Zane McIntyre, Providence#

 

AHL 3 1 0 0.44 .977
Dan Vladar, Providence

 

AHL 5 2 0 (3) 2.93 .917
Malcolm Subban, Providence

 

AHL 8 1 6 (1) 3.31 .888
Brian Ferlin, Providence*

 

AHL 0 0 0 0 0

# Czarnik, Kuraly, McIntyre recalled to Boston

*Joona Koppanen, 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

2016-17 Boston Bruins preview series: the Defense

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Zdeno Chara returns for his eleventh season as the captain of the Boston Bruins (photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Closing out the post and podcast series on the Boston Bruins outlook for 2016-17.

I won’t be redundant here in hopes that instead of reading the post, you’ll carve out time to listen to the 55-minute podcast breaking down the defensemen. As I say up front in the pod- I’m not saving the best for last, and hope is not a method here- they’ve not gotten appreciably better since the catastrophic finish to the 2o15-16 campaign.

Even the most optimistic of fans would be hard-pressed to express confidence in the collective Boston blue line, but it is a hard-working bunch and if they don’t get the B’s back to the postseason, it won’t be for a lack of trying.

Listen to the podcast here:

Rob O'GaraBruins

 

Check out the rest of the series posts and podcasts here:

 

Centers

Right Wings

Left Wings

Goaltenders

Download the pods on your podcast app/client: https://scoutingpost.com/feed/