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:

Off the top of the head: Roman Bychkov

The march through the Bruins prospects stable continues with Boston’s 5th-rounder last June, a flyer pick out of Russia who has the skills to translate to the modern NHL…if he ever comes over.- KL

Roman Bychkov, D Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

Boston’s 3rd choice (5th round), 154th overall in 2019 NHL Entry Draft

Strengths: Left-shot D is an excellent skater who moves with fluid agility and has some real jump in his first couple of steps. Closes on pucks quickly in retrievals and effortlessly manages his gaps as he backs up against speed. Able to escape an aggressive forecheck with a nifty wiggle/shift and crisp edging to maintain balance and momentum. Superb puckhandler and passer- makes outlets and breakouts look easy. Intelligent and poised with the puck. Activates smartly and brings a confident, playmaking mindset in the offensive zone to step and pinch to boost the possession game. Plays with some jam and F-U…borderline dirty at times, but you have to like the competitiveness- he’s not going to be intimidated.

Weaknesses: Average size- (as is case with most his age) lacking in functional strength. Needs to improve his defensive reads and show more assertiveness when defending the rush. Stick is just OK- will get caught in passivity at times, allowing puck carriers to get around him and generate shots on net.

Overall analysis: When you’re picking second-to-last in every round and didn’t have 2nd and 4th selections, a player like Bychkov is an interesting swing of the draft bat. Playing in Russia’s top junior league, he’s a productive 2-way defenseman and power play weapon who is a breakout machine and uses his superb mobility and skills to get pucks north and in transition. If he were a little bigger and more effective in his own end, you would’ve heard a lot more about him in pre-draft circles, but he was solid at the 2018 World Jr. A Challenge and while not a star player on a loaded Russian team that lost the gold medal game to Team USA in Bonnyville, we like Boston’s thinking here.

Projection: Bychkov is a project player who has an intriguing ceiling if he can mature and better develop his defensive play, because he’s aces in terms of having the wheels and with the puck on his stick is a difference-maker at this level. He’s going to need time to play pro hockey in Russia and then likely break in slowly with Providence in a couple of years. When you’re talking about a pick that happened closer to the 6th round than the 5th, this is a player you can get behind to track going forward.

While we’re not seeing top-3 D potential at the NHL level right now, the tools are there for him to evolve into something closer if he addresses the shortcomings in his raw, but projectable game. Think of him as a similar kind of player to a poor man’s Vince Dunn– offensively capable, but the defense is a work in progress and not going to play a lot of minutes early on. Let’s face it- if teams felt he had that kind of potential (Dunn was a second-round pick), he would not have been on the board at 154, but he’s not one of those safe/high-floor players either- we get the sense that Bychkov will play his way into the mix with Boston, or we won’t ever even see him get close. But that payoff could be worth the wait.

***

Not much video out there on Bychkov that I am allowed to post, but here’s a YouTube clip from his 16-YO season- he’s No. 8 and on PP watch his lateral mobility and quick release to get the puck to the net from the point for the tip-goal. Smooth. (At about 2:25 of the video)

Again- on first Russian goal vs Finland (second assist), you can see how poised he is in the offensive zone- aggressively pinches down and works the puck to the net; after a rebound, the play is finished off. Easy to talk about, harder to execute.

Reed Duthie: Off the top of the head- Oskar Steen

Reed Duthie is back with another deep-dive on a European Bruins prospect- this time, Oskar Steen, who just completed his first North American pro season. The Off the top of the head and Then & Now prospect series are exclusive to The Scouting Post and we hope you are enjoying the analysis of B’s futures. -KL

oskar-steen-2020-32

In the 6th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft the Boston Bruins used the 165th overall selection on an exciting talent from Karlstad, Sweden who had seen a breakout year jumping from Farjestad BK U20 in the SuperElit to Farjestad BK senior side in the SHL.

Immediately upon his selection Oskar Steen became one of the most intriguing prospects in the Bruins system.

As a 17-year old in the 2015-16 season, Steen was outstanding in the U20 circuit, collecting 8 goals & 24 assists for 32 points in 33 games finishing 2nd on his team, behind only August Gunnarsson who was playing his 19-year old season. Steen earned a callup to Farjestad BK in the SHL for a 17-game run where the diminutive but offensively gifted 17-year old would register 6 assists and even appear in five SHL playoff games.

Beginning the 2016-17 season, Steen clearly showed the brass for Farjestad BK and the Bruins that they had something special, recording 11 points in just 8 games at the U20 level before spending the rest of the season in the senior ranks, skating in 47 games for Farjestad BK and another 4 for legendary Swedish side MoDo in Allsvenskan (where he played with future Bruins draft pick Victor Berglund) and appeared in all 7 playoff games for Farjestad BK. Steen would spend he 2017-18 devleoping in the SHL recording 4 goals and 2 assists for 6 points in 45 games for Farjestad BK and appeared in another 5 playoff games for the club but was able to strut his stuff at the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships recording 4 points across 7 games playing a key role as a #2 center in Sweden’s silver medal performance.

It was the 2018-19 season that would see Steen kick his game into another gear, leading Farjestad BK in points by a forward with 37 and finishing 2nd on the team to Joakim Nygard in goals with 17 across 46 games following it up with 7 points in 14 playoff games. That run was enough for the Bruins to transition the centerman to North America for the shortened 19-20 season but Steen would show signs of the type of player he can be, finishing his AHL rookie campaign with Providence scoring 7 goals and 16 assists for 23 point, good for 8th on a fairly loaded Providence roster, while showing his durability playing in 60 games (only Ryan Fitzgerald & Josiah Didier played in more, 61 each).

Assets:

Hockey IQ – An incredibly intelligent player, Steen has the ability to read the play well ahead of the pace and react quickly because of it. His advanced mind for the game has allowed him to successfully transition from the junior level to the senior level in his home country of Sweden and then transition again to the AHL all while still being an effective contributor in multiple facets.

Versatility – From using his tremendous intelligence for the game and from his developmental time with Farjestad BK, Steen has developed a very well-rounded game. A contributor for all 200-feet of the ice, Steen is a danger with and without the puck and can play in both power-play and short-handed situations and excel in any situation on the ice.

Speed – Excellent skater with quick acceleration, though his stride will begin somewhat short Steen quickly accelerates and lengthens his stride relying on his low center of gravity and powerful legs to drive him to full speed (think Sami Kapanen).

Vision/Distribution – Though not afraid to shoot the puck, as evidenced by his 17-goal outburst in his final SHL season, Steen is at his best with the puck on his stick locating his teammates with pinpoint passes to free them into open ice and scoring opportunities. Many of Steen’s scoring opportunities have come from defenders overplaying the pass and allowing him to use an ever-improving shot and release to find the back of the net.

Weaknesses:

Size – Not as big of a hindrance as it once was but standing 5’9’’ & 187 lbs, Steen is certainly not the biggest bear in the forest. Steen is able to use his bowling ball-like frame effectively, though he won’t go out of his way for contact he won’t avoid it either, relying on his strong balance, low center of gravity and smarts to win battles. Against larger defenders Steen can be simply outsized but is crafty enough to be able to beat them one-on-one.

Organizational Depth – If Steen were a natural winger his path to the Boston Bruins would be much clearer, however as a center he finds himself in a logjam behind the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Charlie Coyle & Sean Kuraly at the NHL level with fellow Providence teammates Jack Studnicka & Trent Frederic knocking on the door and 2019 1st Round Pick John Beecher a little further away.

Future:

A steal of a 6th round pick, Don Sweeney and the Bruins staff (*cough* P.J. Axelsson *cough*) must be commended for finding such a talent late in the draft and for having a hand in quickly developing him into a player who could knock at the door of an NHL spot as early as the 2020-21 season. Steen profiles as a player who could contribute in the middle-6, and brings the type of versatility the Bruins like with a serious offensive flair. With the depth at center in the organization, it would likely benefit both Steen and the Bruins to transition to the wing. A natural right-hand shot, Steen has the intelligence and versatility to excel on either wing and would very quickly cut down his time to an opportunity with the Bruins.

He is a player to keep an eye on, a versatile and skilled  forward with jam who could be another late-round, homegrown talent that could contribute in multiple faces of the game moving forward as the Bruins look to develop their next core of talent.

Oskar Steen with a nice shorty in his final Swedish season before signing with the B’s

 

Off the top of the head: Jakub Zboril

Jakub Zboril, D

6’/201

Boston’s 1st choice, 13th overall in 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Current Team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

Previous Team: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Strengths: Outstanding, NHL-caliber skater with speed, balance, agility; can get off the mark quickly, has a powerful glide and exhibits nifty foot work to change direction efficiently. Good puckhandler who can make the first pass and uses his feet and stick to break pucks out of his own end consistently. Hard shot- a missile that he can drive from the point through traffic on net. Enjoys the physical aspect of his position: engages with opposing puck carriers and will put his body through their hands to disrupt the rush. A willing hitter who opened eyes in his draft season for his embrace of physicality, and as he gains experience, is getting smarter and more effective in his ability to end plays along the walls.

Weaknesses: Vision/hockey instincts are pretty average; doesn’t always make the right reads/decisions and not an overly creative puck distributor. Play away from puck is a continued work in progress; still developing 360-degree awareness and d-zone coverages to prevent opponents from finding soft seams and exploiting time/space.

Overall analysis: Boston’s top pick five years ago has been slow to develop and might not ever get there (at least with the organization that drafted him), which makes him one of the more polarizing prospects in the system. Like others who have come before him and those who will surely follow, he is a victim more of expectations than out of a failure to perform. While his development has not been as rapid as other 2015 peers who were chosen after he was, Zboril has taken positive steps, even if he’s been unable to do more than play sparingly in just two NHL games with the B’s.

As part of a very strong draft class, Zboril was solidly in the second tier of defensemen available after Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski, all of whom were drafted in the first eight selections and have gone on to become established NHL players. Zboril’s junior teammate, Thomas Chabot, was drafted five spots later at 18th overall, and has emerged as a top tier player, which has added to the disappointment of a slow development process in Providence.

Luckily for the Bruins, Brandon Carlo is the defender from the 2015 draft who has been able to become a staple supporting cast member, and while Zboril doesn’t have Carlo’s size, he’s more of a 2-way threat and hybrid style player that it is hard to account for why things have not come together for him. The irony in the criticism Zboril gets on Internet message boards and Twitter is that at the time he was drafted, he was the one player of Boston’s three first-round selections at 13-15 who was the accepted commodity at his draft slot, while Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn were the players who raised the most controversy given where they were projected.

Five years later, it is obvious that Boston should have gotten more production out of those three selections, with only DeBrusk currently a full-time roster player, while others selected after 15 have gone on to become stars. Having said that, Zboril just turned 23 in February- he has time to establish himself as an NHL player with the B’s, even if time is running out. He just played out the third year of his entry-level contract, and should receive a qualifying offer. He’s been consistent in Providence- posting 19 points in each of his three AHL seasons. The offensive production that looked to translate from junior play probably isn’t going to be there, but he’s shown improvement as a defender since turning pro, and he can leverage that into a decent NHL role in the right situation.

Projection: The days of projecting the left-shot Zboril as a top-3 NHL D are long over, but barring some kind of miracle, he has the tools to be a solid 5/6/7 and role player at the top level. Granted, that’s not going to make many celebrate him given who Boston could’ve had at 13, but he still has it in him to establish himself in the NHL as a solid complementary/depth player who could enhance any defense with his mobility and skills.

His playing style and game reminds us of another heralded junior defenseman who put up points and was expected to be a 2-way NHL star. After being a top-10 pick in his first draft, Nick Boynton had to reinvent himself as more of a defense-first, supporting D, going on to play more than 600 NHL games and raising the Stanley Cup at the end of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks. We’re not saying Zboril is the next Boynton, but there are some similarities here, and at age 23, he’s far from washed up- Boynton was 22 when he finally cracked Boston’s lineup to stay. For a more modern example, Matt Grzelcyk was 23 when he became an NHL regular, but he did it after playing just one full season of pro in the AHL before making the jump to Boston to stay.

Right now- Zboril is at a personal and professional crossroads: can he finally make the cut in his fourth season, or will he go back down to the AHL, and essentially see the window close on a possible Bruins career? When you look at his physical gifts and playing style, there isn’t any clear explanation for why Zboril has failed to develop into an every day NHL player by now, but nevertheless, this is where we are.

At the very least, he’s shown improvement in each of his three seasons, so he’s got a chance to make it in year four- he can absolutely skate, pass and shoot- if he can put it all together, the ability is there to be a player in the NHL.

 

SportsNet pre-draft clip of Zboril- “expected to go in the middle of the first round”- yes, that was the projection, and that’s where he went.

 

TSP friend Anthony Kwetkowski/Bruins Network is a believer in Zboril, and talked about him at length in arecent podcast at around the 1:07:45 mark. Here’s a video interview he did with him last season:

 

 

Off the top of the head: Trent Frederic

The Bruins prospect series continues with an updated look at Trent Frederic. For a more detailed take, be sure to listen to the podcast with Anthony Kwetkowski of Bruins Network. The players in this series are not done in any kind of pecking order- we’re just selecting ones who we feel are going to appeal to the interests of the readership and fanbase.

Trent Frederic, C

6-2/205

Boston’s second selection, 29th overall in 2016 NHL Entry Draft

Current team: Providence Bruins (AHL), Boston Bruins (NHL)

Previous team: University of Wisconsin Badgers (B1G)

Strengths: Big-bodied, left-shot center is an outstanding athlete and has the major league tools to be an impact NHL forward. Very good skater with a fluid, powerful stride and the ability to pull away in open ice or put defenders on their heels when he gains speed through the neutral zone. Strong on his skates- will drive through contact and does his best work between the dots and just outside the paint. Good vision and solid instincts to be a capable 200-foot player. Strong in the faceoff circle. Very good hand/eye coordination- dangerous in front of the net for high-tips and deflections. Physically intimidating player- loves contact and relentless in the way he lines up opponents and finishes hits. Has developed into a good fighter who most would rather not tangle with; he uses his natural strength, balance and a long reach to devastate opponents with combination punches over and under, while wearing them down with the ability to absorb shots and keep throwing. Solid character- respected and liked on his teams, and willing to put in the work.

Weaknesses: Offensive creativity/IQ is not on par with other top centers in his peer group- not a pure passer or playmaker. Puck skills and shot may prevent him from being a true top-2 center at the NHL level, but they aren’t “weaknesses” in the traditional sense- he’s just not overly skilled and needs to commit to shooting the puck more often, as his eight goals this season (59 games) attest, a drop from 14 in his rookie pro year in 18-19. In 17 career NHL games, he’s gone scoreless.

Overall analysis: Frederic was not a popular pick in 2016, present company included, but he’s done a fine job of developing himself into a legitimate NHL prospect, even if his eventual offensive ceiling will be somewhat limited. He’s a top athlete who was an accomplished quarterback and baseball player until he focused exclusively on hockey when joining the U.S. National Team in 2014. Prior to that, he was on a powerhouse 16U St. Louis AAA Blues team, which included D1 NCAA standouts Luke Martin (U Mich.), Zach Solow (Northeastern), Josh Dunne (Clarkson), Ty Farmer (UMass), Joe Woll (Boston College) and Tommy Nappier (Ohio St). Keith Tkachuk coached several teams Frederic played on and Brady Tkachuk saw some time on that top Blues squad as an underager.

He was a highly sought-after NCAA recruit, and turned heads in his true freshman season in Madison, putting up more than a point per game and showing zero issue with the transition from junior to one of the top conferences in college hockey. While his sophomore year was a bit of a step back statistically, he turned pro at age 20, signing with the B’s before the 2018-19 season after finishing out the previous spring in Providence on an ATO. The production at the AHL level has been slower to develop, but with his big frame and rugged, hard-nosed play with a real mean streak, Frederic is proving to be a player who is right in Boston’s wheelhouse in terms of being a heavy, hard to play against center who is versatile enough to play on the wings or up the middle. He won’t be a point-per-game player, but his childhood hockey idol was David Backes, and he can certainly bring similar attributes. He’s a better skater than Backes, not as skilled, but should be a solid 2-way NHLer soon. Perhaps a more appropriate comparison to Frederic’s potential is current Bruin Charlie Coyle– will be hard-pressed to develop into a 30-goal scorer at the NHL level, but will be able to do a lot of things effectively.

Frederic has been unfairly maligned because of where he was expected to be taken versus where he went and seeing other players like Alex DeBrincat develop into top-6 NHL scoring forwards. At his best, he goes hard to the net with his stick on the ice and can redirect shots home or finish off plays in tight while giving out and taking hits. When it comes to pure north-south power forwards who play in straight lines and go to the net, there aren’t many in his class in the AHL right now at a career .51 points per game in 127 contests. And let’s be completely frank- if he had the skills in his draft year to be a clear top-6 at the NHL level, he would not have been taken at the end of the first round- he would’ve been gone in the first five picks.

Projection: Frederic can one day be a capable, consistent 3rd-line NHL center, but there’s still enough room in his development that he could play his way into a lower-end 2nd-line pivot in a pinch. Being able to play up and down the lineup is an asset for any team, and Frederic can also play wing if that’s where the Bruins need him. He fits the model of what the organization likes up front, and has enough grit and nasty to develop into a fan favorite once the rest of his game catches up to him. At worst, he’s going to be a very good 4th-liner who can do a little bit of everything, but with his physical ability and draft pedigree- more is expected. At age 22- there is still room to grow here, and he’s just too big, athletic and talented to be pigeonholed as a lower-end player right now.

Trent Frederic’s 1st NHL tilt: decisive vs. Brandon Tanev

 

Frederic demolishes Joseph LaBate (Belleville Senators) earlier this season

Frederic starts slowly vs. Anthony Angello but watch the finish and over/under combos:

 

An older, dated video on Frederic with interview and highlights from Wisconsin which showcases some offense

Reed Duthie- Off the top of the head: Victor Berglund

Reed Duthie gives us a superb breakdown on Bruins prospect/Swedish defenseman Victor Berglund. Reed has extensive knowledge of the Swedish pro and junior circuit, so there aren’t many better at bringing you the insights he does here. Enjoy this latest contribution from one of the Amigos- KL

In the 2017 NHL Entry Draft the Boston Bruins used their 7th round pick (195th overall) to select defensemen Victor Berglund from the MoDo system in Sweden. A “project” type selection Berglund showed immediate promise while rising through his hometown MoDo system where he was excellent with in the SuperElit (top junior league in Sweden) ranking 2nd on his team in defensive scoring, as a 17-year old in an under-20 league, in his NHL draft season before posting 18 points across 23 games at the SuperElit level the following year earning a callup that season to the Allsvenskan where he’s since played in 151 games while scoring 15 goals & 28 assists for 43 points. The Ornskoldsvik, Sweden native will leave his hometown club for the first time in his career for the 2020-21 season moving to Lulea in the SHL where he will look to take the next steps forward.

Assets:

Skating – A tremendous skater, Berglund has an all-around approach to that part of his game with a strong ability to start from a dead stop, quick and powerful acceleration and a strong stride leading to a top speed that will put Berglund near recent Bruins signee Jack Ahcan. As Berglund’s game grows at the senior level, he is consistently able to take more chances in the rush or striding down from the point because he is able to use his skating ability to recover quickly.

Hockey IQ – The element that makes Berglund a prospect with NHL potential is his ability to mix his strength as a skater with his ability to see and read the game. A very heady player, Berglund has an innate to be in the right place at the right time in all three zones and rarely makes mistakes with or without the puck. When in the defensive zone, watch for Berglund’s body positioning and quick stick as he is able to keep attackers from his own goal.

First Pass – When exiting the zone, Berglund uses his advanced vision to make a hard, accurate pass to begin transition or just take pressure off his own team.

Shot – Perhaps the biggest area of improvement for Berglund since he arrived at the senior level has been the ability to use his shot. Now able to better navigate shooting lanes and utilizing a heavy shot saw Berglund more than double his goal total from 4 in the 2018-19 season to 10 in the 2019-20 season.

Weaknesses:

Strength – The next element that Berglund will have to improve to continue his rise up prospect ranks will be his overall strength. Listed at 6’0’’ 165lbs, Berglund has room to add size to his frame which will help the strength factor. Not an overly physical player, Berglund is able to use his body position to trap attackers, force attackers away from goal and force turnovers but in board battles Berglund can be bested and moved away from the puck.

Strength of Competition – Berglund’s move to Lulea in the SHL will make a big difference beginning in 2020-21 but all of his 151 games at the senior professional level have come with MoDo in the Allsvenskan (a level comparable to, or just below, the AHL) which has been a tremendous step for young players in Sweden to take before jumping to the SHL or North America. A jump from the Allsvenskan to the NHL or even AHL would take more time to create comfort than one from the SHL, which is something the Bruins have had patience for in the past (Carl Soderberg).

Future:

If Victor Berglund is able to translate his skills from the Allsvenskan to the SHL and be the same type of impactful talent on the backend for Lulea as he was for MoDo while improving his strength it will go a long way to proving that he can play at the NHL level. Berglund did appear with the Providence Bruins for 4 games at the end of the 2018-19 AHL season, so with the North American game a known quantity for him it stands to reason he would look for another shot to excel in the Bruins organization. Berglund projects as #4-5 offensive minded defensemen with strong abilities in his own zone who would do best with a more defensive minded partner to be able to pair up with. Berglund has already proven worthy of a roll of the dice in the 7th round although a breakthrough to the NHL could still be 2-3 years off, he has the talent to be another home run selection for P.J. Axelsson and the Bruins staff.

Berglund (#33) makes a nice seam pass through traffic- primary assist to Kim Rosdahl for the redirect to pull his club to within 1 goal at a little over 2 min into the video. Gets burned right after on the goal to make it 4-2 against, but uses his speed on the rush to gain the zone and gets a secondary helper on the goal that makes it 4-4 at the 3-min mark of the video.

Off the top of the head: Curtis Hall

Curtis Hall, C

6-3/196

Boston’s 3rd choice (4th round), 119th overall in 2018 NHL Entry Draft

Current team: Yale Bulldogs (ECAC)

Previous team: Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

Strengths: Right-shot center has excellent height and length. Very good skater who shows off impressive burst and agility for his size; has a powerful, fluid stride that allows him to separate in open ice, but he can also make quick turns and cuts to adjust his angles and instantly change routes. His shot is a strength: Sneaky release that he effectively uses in traffic and space to find the back of the net. Hides his release point well on a powerful snap that is heavy and accurate.  Above average puck skills and is developing into a scoring threat into the NCAA after leading the Bulldogs offensively at just a hair under a point-per-game (17 goals, 27 points in 28 games as a sophomore).  Intelligent pivot who is able to slip in behind defenders but also tracks back on plays headed to his own end. Developing into an all-around player with the blossoming offense.

Weaknesses: Even with the impressive height, lacks the functional strength to go with his frame- he’s lanky and prone to getting knocked off balance by shorter, stockier opponents. Has shown more of a willingness to embrace the physicality of college hockey that wasn’t always there in his junior days, but still has room to add element of grit/sandpaper to make himself a tougher opponent to play against. Need to see more tenacity and want to on the forecheck.

Overall analysis: Former Cleveland-area product and USHL tender agreement player (signed with Youngstown at age 16- guaranteed to play in minimum of 55% of games as a rookie) who spent two seasons with the Phantoms, wasn’t able to statistically provide the offensive pop that his junior team hoped for. Hall was a complementary junior player in his two years as one of the younger skaters, but the USHL is an older league, so he likely would have “popped” as an 18-19-year-old points driver had he stayed a third year with Youngstown after the B’s chose him. After playing sparingly as a freshman, Hall emerged as the most consistent and dangerous scoring threat on the Yale roster in 19-20, also making the USA World Jr. Championship team. He can use his speed to drive wide and beat defenders outside to take pucks to the front of the net. While playing a physical, gritty style of game doesn’t come natural to Hall, he’s not unwilling to play in between the dots where most of the battles are won and lost- he just needs time and patience to mature physically and gain playing experience. When he uses his speed and pace effectively, he’s tough to defend and contain, but it’s always been about a consistent application of those elements in his game than make him the most dangerous. A strong start in his draft season, followed by a tapering off in the second half and middle-of-the-road playoff production when the Phantoms reached the 2018 USHL Clark Cup championship series (losing to the Fargo Force), saw his stock fall, leading to his selection in the fourth round.

Projection: Hall is an interesting prospect who is another in a growing stable of bigger forwards who can skate and bring enough skill/talent to the table that could see positive growth into serviceable NHL contributions down the road. He’s got the potential to be a Swiss Army knife kind of center who can play an effective 200-foot game, but who also has enough snap and flash in his game to contribute offensively. When you’re talking about a fourth-round draft selection, that’s a solid return on investment- 3rd or 4th liner who can play up and down the roster. Remember- he was at one time thought of as one of the better players in his 2000-birthyear USA peer group, and he proved that trend by cracking the WJC roster last December. The best may be yet to come for Hall, especially if he continues to raise the production and can develop more grit/tenacity in his approach to every shift.

ECAC video of a 2-goal game for Hall vs Union

 

Fox Sports Ohio video on Hall prior to WJC in Dec. 2019

Off the top of the head: Quinn Olson

Back with the B’s prospect series on this April Saturday- hope everyone is staying safe/healthy.

Quinn Olson, LW

5-11/175

Boston’s 2nd choice, 92nd overall (3rd round) in 2019 NHL Entry Draft

Current team: University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (NCHC)

Previous team: Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)

Strengths: Nifty-quick skater whose vision and top-end hockey IQ allow him to exploit time and space all over the ice. Excellent wheels and hands allow him to make plays offensively and be effective and disruptive on the forecheck. Terrific vision; sees the ice and can feather, rifle or sauce pucks to linemates for grade A scoring chances. Goes hard to the net and battles for loose pucks in the corners and along the walls- feisty. Plays with a lot of pace and energy- shows very good balance/edging with the ability to change direction instantly to shake away from defenders and maintain puck possession.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal height and strength- a work in progress who will need time to physically mature and grow his game experiences in a top NCAA program after making the jump to college from tier 2 hockey in Alberta. Has room to improve the mechanics of his shot/release going forward- more of a puck distributor/playmaker on the wing than a finisher.

Overall analysis: We thought the selection of Olson late in the 3rd round was a sneaky-good pick last June, and after watching him in one of college hockey’s best conferences, we’re even higher on him a year later. His numbers for a true freshman- 7-8-15 in 31 games- nearly .5 per game- are solid if not spectacular, but bode well for him going forward, as he will earn more ice and have an expanded role going forward. He’s a buzzsaw forward- comparable to Karson Kuhlman– in the style of hockey he plays. Because he is a product of the AJHL, Olson is far from a household name, but that league continues to become a better option for players on the NCAA path; his USHL rights were owned by Sioux City and there is absolutely no doubt that he could have spent his draft season playing in the USA’s top junior league, but Okotoks is a respected program and prepared him well for the next step.

Projection: High floor prospect…ceiling as yet TBD- he could emerge as more of an offensive threat in the NCHC. We see Olson as a solid middle-of-the-roster winger who has the ability to play up and down in the lineup and could develop into a lower-end, but serviceable 2nd-line NHL forward in time. We compared him to Kuhlman earlier, but Olson also has some Jake DeBrusk in his game, although he lacks the shot/goal-scoring skills is No. 74- he’s more of a passer who makes his linemates better. It will take some time to see Olson in a Bruins sweater- we expect him to play another two years at Duluth minimum, and then will likely need another 2 full years in the AHL (not ruling out some games in Boston on a recall basis), but the payoff for the wait should be worth it- he’s a nice fit for the Bruins and the style of hockey they play.

Quinn Olson (#11- white) opens the scoring in this AJHL highlight package from the playoffs against Brooks a year ago at about the 0:22 second mark; at 4:33 he feeds 2020 1st-round draft prospect Dylan Holloway on the PP for a goal.

Off the top of the head: Dan Vladar

After a couple of days away, here’s the next in the Boston Bruins prospect series. We’re not doing these in any particular pecking order, but trying to do some players who aren’t as well known. If there is anyone you want to see on here sooner rather than later, let us know in the comments section.

Dan Vladar, G

6-5/190

Boston’s 7th choice, 75th overall in 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Current team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

Previous team: Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL)

Strengths: Physical attributes are as good as it gets: He’s tall, lean and athletic. Moves fluidly with good footwork. His at-post skill set (play near and behind the net, below the circles and cross-crease movements) are very good. Length of legs and upper torso mean that he excels with the butterfly, 1-leg down vertical-horizontal and 2-skate at post techniques to deny scoring chances in close and from behind the net. Uses his hands to cover the top portion of the net well. Good worker who wants to improve and puts in the time to work on the details. Highly respected person and teammate- sunny disposition and well-liked in the room. Between the natural talent and the attitude, there’s still much to like about the 22-year-old who does a lot of things you can’t teach.

Continue reading

Off the top of the head: Jakub Lauko

The prospect series continues with a quick look at Czech forward Jakub Lauko and what he brings to the table.

Jakub Lauko, C/LW

2nd selection, 77th overall in 2018 NHL Entry Draft

Current team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

Previous team: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)

Strengths: Top skater; explosive/elite burst, balance, and the ability to beat defenders wide with straight line speed, or rapid edging/direction change- can turn on a dime. Wins a lot of foot races to loose pucks and has the shifty, slippery elusiveness to get around players 1-on-1. One of the best pure skaters in hockey at any level. Good size: 6-foot-1 frame that is still filling out- just had his 19th birthday last week. Pin-point, flash release on his shot; nose for the net- when he shoots the puck in close, good things happen. Good worker who competes and is willing to embrace a 200-foot responsibility- not one-dimensional.

Weaknesses: Lacks high-end puck skills, vision and offensive hockey IQ, which could cap his offensive ceiling at the NHL level. Lean and light- suffered a concussion in early December after taking a big hit in an AHL game that required a gurney to take him off the ice. Returned to action for the World Jr. Championship tournament late in the month, but suffered a lower body/MCL injury that cost him the rest of the competition, plus all of January and February before returning for four AHL games in March prior to the season-ending COVID-19 situation for the league.

Overall analysis: Getting Lauko in the third round two years ago was very good value for the B’s. He came over to North America to play major junior in the QMJHL, winning the 2019 Memorial Cup championship and subsequently turning pro. His skating and ability to play with pace allowed him to play in the AHL, but his offensive production was indicative of his youth and a middle-of-the-pack skill set. Even though Lauko is a dynamic, game-breaking talent with his wheels, he doesn’t appear to have the hands or creativity to be a top tier scorer at the NHL level. What he can be is an effective 2-way forward who can provide secondary offense and will be a capable three-zone player and penalty killer. He’s got a genuine personality and is well-liked, so he’s easy to root for. Where his draft day fall to the third round raised some eyebrows at the time, it is now apparent that his average hands/skills contributed. Having said that, he’s a solid middle tier prospect who will upgrade his team’s speed/energy and be a good complementary piece- not a driver.

Projection: Capable middle-six forward and PKer at the NHL level; might play more wing than center in the show- time will tell. With only 22 AHL games under his belt, he’s going to need more time in Providence. If the injury bug hits in 20-21, Lauko could see time in Boston as a recall player, but the best thing for him until then will likely be to continue his development track on the farm where he can get quality minutes and play in a variety of situations. At age 19, he’s still quite young, and it’s possible he could raise his offensive profile going forward. However,  his NHL ceiling looks to be about 20 goals/40-45 points at this stage, and that would make for a successful third-round draft choice.

NHL video extended highlights of Sep 23 preseason Bruins-Flyers game. Lauko is 94 and takes opening faceoff, later scores at about 2:10 with a nice self-pass off the wall and a sharp-angle shot.

Here’s Lauko’s 1st AHL goal vs the Rochester Amerks- goes to the net: right place, right time