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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On the road part 1: some insights on hockey scouting

The Scouting Post is pleased to debut a new series in which we’ll talk about the world of hockey scouting of amateur prospects and share some insights and anecdotes on our experiences and what the life is like. Some of the names are omitted or changed to protect sources, many of whom are often more candid than their teams would like. This series is also designed to help inform and educate fans who might not be as aware of the process. This is about the sharing of ideas and providing background on the challenging life of an amateur scout, who often has to deal with a lot of different inputs and factors while watching physically underdeveloped (in most cases) teenagers and trying to forecast who has the talent and gusto to be impact players in the National Hockey League.

You are welcome to leave comments and ask questions that we can perhaps address in future posts. As always we appreciate the support of this blog and the civil discourse. Even if you might not agree with some of the methods or conclusions, we can have a robust debate without descending into the white noise that often distracts from good points on opposite sides of the spectrum.

These posts are not intended to be a definitive guide or to capture all the elements of scouting the game but to identify areas where “common knowledge” might not be as common. – KL

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Dominic Tiano: How USHL rule changes could affect Canadian junior hockey

ushlEditor’s note- The Scouting Post contributor Dominic Tiano is back with a thoughtful piece on the second and third-order effects of the recent announcement by the USHL to modify its import roster player rules. Dom’s instincts and conclusions are sound- one more example of the forward thinking that has brought the USHL into prominence under Commissioner Bob Fallen’s stewardship.

***

Earlier this week, the United States Hockey League announced several rule changes, but there are a couple that I will look at and the possible effects on every level of junior hockey in Canada.

The first is the USHL Import rule, and this change that takes effect next season:

·         Canadian Imports: Applicable only to the Tier 1 USHL, the USA Hockey Board of Directors granted the USHL permission to roster up to two Canadian-born citizens as non-imports. Presently, each USHL team is allowed up to four (4) import roster positions on their 23-man rosters.  This rule change would allow USHL teams to carry a maximum of six (6) imports as long as the two extra import players are Canadian.

 On the surface, this rule change allows USHL teams to add two extra Canadians to their rosters. I’ve always been in favor of more options or opportunities for players to choose from when deciding which path is best for them. But could this have an impact on junior hockey throughout Canada?

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Boston Bruins Prospects Update 1/24/17: Cehlarik heating up…recall to Boston coming?

One of the more unheralded Bruins prospects this season is Slovak (by way of Sweden) winger Peter Cehlarik. The AHL rookie (note- we don’t say rookie pro because he’s been playing pro hockey at Sweden’s highest level against men since he was 17) is having himself a year- he potted four goals and six points over three games last week to move to the top of Providence’s scoring list.

The 90th overall pick in 2013 has a good NHL body with the hands and hockey sense to score goals. His skating has been a work in progress since the B’s drafted him, but he’s fine in the open ice. Where Cehlarik gets exposed a bit is in his short-area game and burst, where he doesn’t possess above average acceleration and agility- it takes him a bit to get going, and he’s susceptible to getting behind the play when there are quick changes of direction in the common possession style that more and more pro teams are employing in the AHL and NHL.

TSP spoke to Bruins player development director Jamie Langenbrunner recently and he had some intriguing perspectives to share about Cehlarik’s success to date, and perhaps why he has not as yet gotten a chance to make an appearance with the big club in Boston despite his 18 goals and 30 points in 36 AHL contests.

“I think the first thing that stands out is his ability to make a play,” Langenbrunner said. “It started with what he did at rookie camp in Buffalo and that was the first time I’d seen him. He’s NHL-sized; he’s a good-sized kid- he’s pretty strong, pretty well-built. I think you’ll continue to see him make plays because he’s got really good vision and hands.”

Cehlarik’s natural skill set has earned him high marks to date as a player who developed in the larger ice surface in Sweden with Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League. However, even with the production both overseas and here under Kevin Dean at Providence, there are some adjustments the 21-year-old is still working through in his first North American season.

“For Peter, the one adjustment where you play on the bigger sheet (of ice in Europe), although there’s more room, I find that the game is slower there,” said Langenbrunner. “With that added space, you keep everything to the outside, so adjusting to the North American rink where everything happens a little quicker and you want to those first few steps- you want to get that speed- it is what it is and you either have that or not. But just those first few steps to get those areas a little quicker and a little bit harder on pucks- the short-area burst is such a big part of hockey, and to be able to translate that at the National Hockey League level and getting into those areas is important because if you don’t have the time, then you’re not able to jump into those areas.”

This is not to say that Cehlarik isn’t capable of coming in and helping out the B’s in an area that has been their biggest concern this year- generating consistent scoring- it’s just that as hard as it can be for outside observers to recognize at times, there are things that happen behind the scenes that sometimes drive outcomes as they pertain to personnel decisions. In other words- it isn’t just about the goals, and when there are identified areas of improvement, those can delay the arrival of a player to the NHL who appears to have what is needed on paper.

“I think for him, the biggest adjustment he’s struggled with or has so far is the pace of play,” Langenbrunner said. “He’s going to have to get his level up just a little bit to play at the NHL level. He’s been very good in Providence so far, putting up points, but at times, when you’re talking about playing in back-to-back games and whatnot, it will get to him a little bit. For him, it’s an adjustment coming from over to North America and he’s put up nearly a point per game in the AHL, which is pretty darn good, so he’s been a nice surprise. I know for the coaches and for us beyond the production, it’s going to be that consistency and bringing that pace to another level to be able to create a little more.”

As was the case last year with Frank Vatrano, at some point- a player’s ability to put the puck in the net at a high level will often force a team’s hand. With Boston struggling to mount any kind of consistency on offense and having their backs against the proverbial wall, it is probably time to see what the young Eastern European forward can do. He just might provide a spark that is so needed in Boston right now, and unlike other young pros who come straight out of major junior- he has a leg up in terms of the competition he faced prior to arriving to the AHL. Langenbrunner, himself a graduate of the Peterborough Petes of the OHL in major junior, understands that players like Cehlarik and even Vatrano, who came out of the U.S. NTDP and the collegiate ranks, have a built-in advantage in terms of their experience right out of the gate.

“Sometimes the difference between a college kid and a major junior kid is that a lot of those college kids are playing against 24 or 25-year-old men,” he said. “Whereas the junior kids are 19 or 20-year-olds, which is a big difference in size, strength and consistency that you will see go in and out of 17 or 18-year-old kids’ games, whereas the older you get the more mature you are in your game.”

At this stage of a third consecutive up-and-down season in danger of missing the NHL playoffs, Cehlarik will only likely help. Perhaps instead of trading for a proven scorer, part of the answer could come from within the Bruins organization.

***

Amateur Prospects as of 01/24/17

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 37 28 12 40 23
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 39 22 18 40 58
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 25 15 21 36 8
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 23 10 14 24 16
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 28 6 16 22 26
Ryan Donato, Harvard ECAC- NCAA 19 10 9 19 12
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 20 5 13 18 28
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 14 7 10 17 16
Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 20 4 13 17 8
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls USHL 31 9 6 15 30
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 22 3 11 14 20
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL 18 2 11 13 10
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St. WCHA- NCAA 24 1 5 6 24
Wiley Sherman, Harvard ECAC-NCAA 19 0 5 5 12
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota Big10- NCAA 19 1 3 4 51

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Peter Cehlarik, Providence AHL 36 18 12 30 12
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr.* U20- Finland 19 9 17 26 2
Danton Heinen, Providence AHL 30 8 15 23 4
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 42 11 12 23 13
Colby Cave, Providence AHL 42 10 13 23 26
Matt Grzelcyk, Providence AHL 36 2 16 18 12
Sean Kuraly, Providence AHL 32 8 8 16 17
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF Sweden- Elite 32 5 7 12 16
Colton Hargrove, Providence AHL 34 4 8 12 37
Anton Blidh, Providence AHL 22 6 4 10 22
Chris Casto, Providence AHL 34 1 7 8 28
Rob O’Gara, Providence* AHL 26 2 3 5 4
Noel Acciari, Providence AHL 10 0 4 4 7
Austin Czarnik, Providence# AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Justin Hickman, Providence AHL 17 2 1 3 15
Oskar Steen, Farjestad Sweden- Elite 33 1 1 2 6
Linus Arnesson, Providence* AHL 18 0 1 1 4
Brian Ferlin, Providence* AHL 2 0 0 0 0
Zane McIntyre, Providence#

Atlanta

AHL

ECHL

12

2

10

0

0

1(1)

1.41

1.99

.951

.931

Dan Vladar, Providence

Atlanta

AHL

ECHL

6

5

3

2

0 (3)

2 (1)

2.84

3.58

.914

.889

Malcolm Subban, Providence AHL 19 5 9 (1) 2.96 .909

# Czarnik, McIntyre recalled to Boston

*O’Gara, Arnesson, Ferlin all Injured

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

Turning the attention to the 2017 NHL draft

The Scouting Post has relocated to the heart of USHL territory in the past 30 days and in light of the completion of the recent World Jr. Championship, we figured it’s about time to start shining some light on some of the players who might be of interest not just to Bruins fans, but anyone who has an interest in the annual NHL draft.

(Editor’s note- because of my work as a scout with the Red Line Report and Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL, there are some limitations to what I can put out on this blog. Those who remember my 2010 and 2011 Bruins Draft Watch projects probably remember the level of detail and the wide breadth of coverage. Sorry about that, folks- but the hope is that this can point you in a solid direction to go out and do some research on your own.)

2017 NHL draft summary

In talking to multiple scouts and NHL front office members and insiders, the June draft being held in Chicago, is not particularly strong or deep when compared to recent years. At the top of this year’s class are a couple of forwards- Nolan Patrick (recently returned from injury) and Swiss assassin Nico Hischier, who dazzled at the WJC after being this blog’s favorite forward at last April’s U18 championship in Grand Forks. A pair of Scandinavian defensemen in Sweden’s Timothy Liljegren and Finnish all-around guy Juuso Välimäki could be the class of the blue line in 2017. However, the goaltending position is among the deepest and most promising in years, particularly among American puck stoppers- BU’s Jake Oettinger (by way of Lakeland, Minn.) Keith Petruzzelli (Wilbraham, Mass.) and Cayden Primeau (Voorhees, N.J.) are all big, athletic and have high-end NHL potential.

All in all, even if the projections for this draft class aren’t great- there will be eventual  NHL stars to be had, so teams have a chance to accomplish their due diligence and find those values and bargains- they’re out there.

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Bruins prospects update 1/16/17: Senyshyn maintains blistering pace with 5th hat trick

Zachary Senyshyn of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images.

Zachary Senyshyn Photo credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Zach Senyshyn couldn’t catch a break. Now, nobody seems to be able to cause him to break stride, as he tallied all three Soo Greyhounds goals in a major 3-2 OT home win against the OHL powerhouse London Knights for his fifth three-goal game (one of those was a 4-goal “Texas hat trick” because everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, you know) of the season.

 

Back in July, Senyshyn wasn’t able to participate in Bruins development camp because he was recovering from a bout with mononucleosis. Then, before the start of rookie camp in September, the team announced that he had undergone an emergency appendectomy and was going to miss the second annual futures mini-tourney in Buffalo.

To top it off, the 15th overall pick in 2015 struggled to score out of the gate, not surprising for someone recovering from an appendectomy, who had also had his offseason conditioning work interrupted by mono. After a mundane October and November, Senyshyn got himself firmly on terra firma in December and hasn’t looked back since, now sitting with 27 goals in 34 games with the Greyhounds. For perspective, in his draft year, he had 26 in 66 contests as a fourth-liner. And that, folks, is what we in these here parts call…progress.

What’s more, this latest three-goal game featured the 19-year-old scoring all of them in different ways- he’s not a one-trick pony. He can blow the puck past a goalie with a wicked shot from the outside, or he can drive the net and put away the garbage. He’s got a nifty backhand that he can use to good effect and Senyshyn has demonstrated repeatedly that he handles the puck well in tight when he doesn’t have a lot of space to operate in. If you aren’t encouraged by the numbers and the breakdown, then you might want to consider renting a room from Mr. Grinch.

(Editor’s note- you can watch highlights of the latest hatty here courtesy of Soo Greyhounds): http://soogreyhounds.com/video/watch-jan-1517-ldn-2-ssm-3-ot

But, but…he didn’t make Team Canada at the World Jrs! Sputter those with agendas to see the young man fail. We don’t know about you, but while watching that tremendous gold medal match between the USA and Canada, we couldn’t help but think that the Canadians sure could have used a 6-3, 200-pound winger who can flat-out fly down the wing and score goals…especially in that 20-minute up-and-down overtime period. We’ll never know, but one has to believe that Hockey Canada can only rue the decision to leave him home. Regardless, anyone who tries to argue that because Canada made a bad choice means the Bruins did too (by drafting Senyshyn ahead of several players who couldn’t get it done at the WJC), only looks more and more foolish as time goes on.

He sits just one marker away from netting 100 goals in his OHL career. In fact, since the B’s drafted him to great fanfare (tongue firmly planted in cheek there), Senyshyn has 72 goals in 100 games with the Greyhounds. If that sounds like pretty good numbers to you, that’s because they are. Tyler Seguin had 69 goals in 124 career OHL games before Boston made him the second overall pick in 2010. Now, we’re not saying that Senyshyn is going to be the star scorer in the NHL that Seguin is, but if you do believe that there is a correlation between two players coming out of the same developmental junior league, then there is reason to believe that Senyshyn will find a way to put the puck in the net at the NHL level.

This is not to say that he’s ready for primetime and will be an immediate impact player at the highest level. It’s too early to be projecting whether Senyshyn will be able to break camp with the Big Bruins next fall. What we do know is that he’ll have to finish his season in the OHL before he does anything else. With the Soo Greyhounds sitting near the top of the league standings, they’re expected to go far in their quest for the 2017 Memorial Cup, which is bad news for B’s fans hoping to see him in Providence at the end of the AHL regular season. Barring an upset, the soonest we can expect to see him either in Boston or on the top farm club is next fall, but for now- enjoy the fireworks.

***

2016 fifth-rounder Cameron Clarke scored his 1st NCAA goal for the Ferris State Bulldogs in 2017. The NAHL’s top defenseman a year ago with the Lone Star Brahmas (in Fort Worth, TX), Clarke is a late-bloomer (he’ll turn 21 and was taken in his final window of draft eligibility) from Michigan who has good height, vision and hands to move pucks effectively. He’s a project pick and will take a while to get there (if he ever does), but thus far, is doing all right in his first taste of NCAA hockey.

 

Statistics as of 1/16/17

Amateur (junior/NCAA) prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 34 27 11 38 23
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 37 21 16 37 54
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 23 15 20 35 8
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 20 9 12 21 16
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 24 6 13 19 16
Ryan Donato, Harvard

 

ECAC- NCAA 16 9 8 17 10
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 18 5 12 17 24
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 12 5 10 15 12

 

Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin

 

Big10- NCAA 18 3 12 15 6
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 19 3 11 14 18
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda

 

QMJHL 15 2 10 12 8
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls

 

USHL 28 6 5 11 28
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St.

 

WCHA- NCAA 24 1 5 6 24
Wiley Sherman, Harvard

 

ECAC-NCAA 16 0 4 4 10
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota

 

Big10- NCAA 17 1 2 3 51

 

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr.* U20- Finland 19 9 17 26 2
Peter Cehlarik, Providence

 

AHL 33 14 10 24 12
Danton Heinen, Providence

 

AHL 27 8 12 20 4
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 39 10 10 20 11

 

Colby Cave, Providence

 

AHL 39 8 12 20 24
Matt Grzelcyk, Providence

 

AHL 33 2 14 16 12
Sean Kuraly, Providence

 

AHL 30 6 8 14 17
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF

 

Sweden- Elite 30 5 7 12 16
Colton Hargrove, Providence

 

AHL 32 4 8 12 33
Anton Blidh, Providence#

 

AHL 21 6 4 10 22
Rob O’Gara, Providence*

 

AHL 26 2 3 5 4
Austin Czarnik, Providence#

 

AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Justin Hickman, Providence

 

AHL 16 2 1 3 15
Chris Casto, Providence

 

AHL 31 0 3 3 28
Noel Acciari, Providence AHL 7 0 2 2 5
Oskar Steen, Farjestad

 

Sweden- Elite 31 1 1 2 4
Linus Arnesson, Providence*

 

AHL 18 0 1 1 4
Brian Ferlin, Providence*

 

AHL 2 0 0 0 0
Zane McIntyre, Providence#

Atlanta

 

AHL

ECHL

12

2

10

0

0

1(1)

1.41

1.99

.951

.931

Dan Vladar, Providence

Atlanta

 

AHL

ECHL

6

5

3

2

0 (3)

2 (1)

2.84

3.58

.914

.889

Malcolm Subban, Providence

 

AHL 17 4 9 (4) 2.96 .905

# Czarnik, Blidh, McIntyre recalled to Boston

*Injured

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

Krug train is rolling

Boston Bruins v New York Rangers - Game Four

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 23: Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins looks on against the New York Rangers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 23, 2013 in New York City. The Rangers won 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

We admit it.

This hockey blog is unabashed in its support of Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. That’s not going to change. Ever.

Maybe it’s because while working for Red Line Report in 2011-12, we recommended the Michigan State captain as the best undrafted NCAA free agent value in the country. Not one of the best values, mind you…THE best. Almost five years later, we’ll take that bow.

Maybe it’s because we got to know Krug off the ice, before he ever really made it as an NHL regular for the Boston Bruins and realized in those moments that he not only had exceptional talent, but exceptional character as well. If a player wants it badly enough, they’ll likely get there. To this day, watching Friday Night Lights reruns on Netflix with Krug, Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner in their Providence, R.I. rookie pro bachelor pad on a December night in 2012 and hearing Krug repeat the “Clear eyes, full hearts…can’t lose” mantra with the conviction of someone absolutely confident of his NHL future stands out as one of the more surreal moments in a life spent covering past, present and future pro hockey players for the past 17 years.

Maybe it’s because ever since he broke into the big league big time during the 2013 playoffs, there has always seemed to be this segment of Bruins fandom who just can’t get past his lack of size and what we can only guess is a sexy draft pedigree that would make them feel good and clean about rooting for him, the way he deserves to be respected.

Whatever the reason, Krug has overcome an understandably slow start to become one of the NHL’s top two-way performers as the 2016-17 campaign wends its way past the halfway mark. We have always been all-aboard the Krug hype train so to speak, and if you can’t at least grudgingly recognize that he’s delivering value for his 4-year, $5.25M extension signed last summer, then you’re not welcome on the train anyway.

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Jakub Zboril: the Good Cop-Bad Cop theory

good-cop-bad-cop-lego-movie

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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In transit

The blog will be in hiatus for a bit- relocating to a new state and will be catching various games while we get settled. There won’t be a whole lot in the way of unique content for a bit, but we’ll be back!

For quick hits and insights, check out the following Twitter feeds (that is- if you aren’t following us already): @kluedeke29- Kirk Luedeke; @dominictiano- Dom Tiano; @rcduthie- Reed Duthie