Rask rolls as B’s whitewash moribund Penguins

Spooner3

Ryan Spooner is coming into his own as a solid middle-tier contributor in Boston with room for growth into more.  (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Boston Bruins got to .500 at home with a 3-0 victory over the sinking Pittsburgh Penguins at the TD Garden Wednesday in the first of a home-and-home series with the Steel City’s team.

The match featured several interesting subplots: new Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was behind the bench against the B’s for the first time since former Portland Winterhawks bench boss Mike Johnston was fired last week. Starting netminder Marc-Andre Fleury is out of the lineup for a week or more with an upper body (concussion) injury, and the team is also without Kris Letang for a couple of weeks as well, prompting them to trade with Chicago for Trevor Daley, who was in the lineup last night. And of course, with Phil Kessel making his first return to Boston of the season after his offseason change of address, ‘the Thrill’ is always a topic of conversation, especially given that he’s not given his new team much bang for the buck as anticipated.

In short, even with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, this is simply not a very good Penguins team right now, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that they were blanked and never really mounted much of a serious challenge with Tuukka Rask dialed in and continuing his best stretch of the season.

The B’s got goals from Max Talbot (his first as a Bruin dating back to last season when he was acquired from Colorado at the deadline), Jimmy Hayes (his fifth of the season) and a late empty-netter from Ryan Spooner to seal it (his pass to Hayes gave him another multi-point effort).

Sullivan is an interesting hire for Pittsburgh. A Marshfield guy and BU star, he played one year for the Bruins in the late Pat Burns’ first (and Jack Adams Trophy-winning) season before finishing his playing career with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2002. Sullivan jumped straight to an AHL head coaching gig, landing the Providence Bruins job in 2002-03, and when the B’s fired Robbie Ftorek during the same season, Sullivan moved up to be an assistant under Mike O’Connell who then made him Boston’s head coach for the 2003-04 campaign.

Sullivan is most known for giving a relatively unknown 18-year-old kid a shot at the NHL right out of his first training camp. That kid’s name? Patrice Bergeron. Sullivan first year behind his home team’s bench was a Cinderella story, as the B’s compiled a 42-19-15 record, and was primed to do damage in the postseason after trading for a pair of skilled veterans in Sergei Gonchar and Michael Nylander to bolster a core group that included Joe Thornton, Glen Murray, Sergei Samsonov and rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft. Alas, the B’s crashed and burned in the first round, losing in seven games to the hated Montreal Canadiens (including a 2-0 home loss to close it out after the B’s blew a 3-1 series lead). The Habs just so happened to be coached that year by some guy named Claude Julien. Go figure.

A disastrous post-lockout 2005-06 season saw Sullivan scapegoated for a putrid (and that’s being charitable) lineup and 29-37-16 record. He was out and although spent time as an NHL assistant with the Lightning, Rangers and Canucks between 2007 and 2014, he did not darken the doorstep to an NHL bench until Pens GM Jim Rutherford (himself on the hotseat for the hot mess of a Pittsburgh lineup) brought him in to try and reverse the team’s skid. Sully’s a good guy- at one time believed to be one of the NHL’s young up-and-comers as a coach, much like Peter Laviolette was when Boston and O’Connell made a fatal mistake of choosing Ftorek over Laviolette and letting him take the NY Islanders head job in 2001. It hasn’t worked out for Sully the way it did with Lavy, but it’s nice to see him get another shot as a big league coach.

***

Ryan Spooner has been playing pretty well of late. He’s got as many points right now as Kessel does at the 30-game mark. That probably speaks more to the lousy year Kessel is having given expectations than it does Spooner’s success, but he’s on the same pace he had a year ago when he posted 8 goals and 18 points in 29 games. That’s a little skewed because those 29 goals included an early five-game stretch where he didn’t put up points and hardly played. Even so- Spooner has been criticized for his 5-on-5 play this year, but while there’s some validity to that, it glosses over the fact that he’s continuing to find ways to produce offense and make plays, which is what the Bruins have him on the roster for. Sometimes, there is a “death by overanalysis” where observers make the mistake of trying to force players to be like Bergeron, Jonathan Toews or insert any top two-way recognizable star here. Spooner isn’t Bergeron or Toews for that matter, but what he brings is valuable to the team. He’s a good kid- often misunderstood as someone who doesn’t try. Not true, but let’s face it- he’s not going to be a defensive stalwart or top minute-munching forward who is out in all key situations because there are better options. However, he has proven he belongs in the NHL, and for a team like Boston, a roster that doesn’t have an abundance of breakaway speed at the center position, he’s doing just fine on the third line, thank you.

Kessel continues to be an enigma. Five 30+ goal seasons (one of those in Boston) with the Maple Leafs seemed to be fait accompli that he would tear it up with the likes of Crosby and Malkin. Hasn’t happened. May not happen. But the Bruins did the right thing in trading Kessel, even if after the fact they don’t have a lot to show for it. That’s a legitimate gripe.

Tuukka Rask is on a roll, and it could not have come at a better time. For the Bruins to have a shot at the playoffs, he’s got to be in Vezina-caliber form, and since late November, he’s been right there. What’s impressive to me is the economy of motion in Rask’s game right now. He’s tracking pucks and not overexerting himself, but keeping his movements crisp and composed. What’s more- he’s back to having fun out there. Whatever seemed to be bothering him earlier in the season seems to have dissipated for now. I chalk it up to what Zac Rinaldo alluded to in the first episode of the Road to the Winter Classic last night when he said that players are just now “showing their true colors” and comfortable with each other. That chemistry that Rinaldo was talking about isn’t something that just happens, and when you take several significant players away from the mix and add new faces, especially younger ones who won’t be as confident or gregarious as veterans like Mark Recchi or Nathan Horton were when they arrived to the room, it takes longer. I’d like to think that Rask has gotten to know his new teammates and realizes that these guys are willing to work and scrap and play hard in front of him. I’d like to think that even though he knows deep down that this defense isn’t good enough to put the Bruins in real contention for the big prize, they’re a plucky bunch that won’t mail it in and will do their level best.

It might not be enough, but Rask is the big-ticket contract and player who is probably the biggest cog in a machine that can and should at least make the playoffs. As he goes, so go Boston’s postseason hopes. That might not be welcome news for some fans out there, but nobody plays in the NHL to lose, and as we saw in 2008, that bunch was the start of something special that culminated with a Stanley Cup three years later. With Rask getting his swagger back, his team will work their tails off in front of him and pay the price to set him up for success. That’s how this stuff works- everyone rowing hard in the same direction. The NHL is still about who has more talent and can put it together the most consistently, but Rask being in top form is a very good start. On the flip side, his excellence disguises flaws elsewhere on the roster, but GM Don Sweeney’s job is to assess and manage that. He’s going to have some tough decisions with asset management that he would not have faced if the B’s just imploded as they did at the beginning of the season. To Rask’s credit, he’s picked it up and is playing like an All-Star.

That’s all the Bruins can ask for right now.

***

Hey, hey, hey- how about that Jimmy Hayes? It’s just one game and one goal, but Hayes went hard to the net with his stick on the ice and was able to deflect an on-target Spooner pass in behind Jeff Zatkoff. That’s exactly what he needs to do, and it was nice to see him make that play as the scrutiny he’s faced of late ratcheted up.

Give credit to Max Talbot, too. That was a beauty of a short side snipe to get his first goal as a Bruin. I’ve always admired him from afar as I covered him with the Penguins and Flyers in the past and enjoyed his easy manner and clear leadership qualities. He would have been a fan favorite in Boston five years ago, so he came to the team too late, but he’s an underrated presence in the room.

Alex Khokhlachev played last night after being recalled and while it wasn’t a poor performance, it’s more of the same from him. Sure- he wasn’t playing with top liners, but he doesn’t have Landon Ferraro or Frank Vatrano’s speed to grab your eye, so given that he was drafted to provide much more in the way of offense, it’s hard to see where he fits in Boston right now. The team would have to sit someone else who has earned their spot on the top lines just to get Koko in there. That’s not how it looks, so giving a shake of the ol’ Magic 8-Ball, it looks like we’ll have to ask again later.

That’s about it- we’ll see how the Pens perform in front of their home crowd tomorrow night, but for now- the B’s are in a good spot and you can see the confidence growing with the younger guys with each shift.

 

 

Bruins Prospects Update 12/15/15

In the AHL, Koko has been crisp since coming back from a hand injury that took him out of action for several weeks. He’s put some distance between him and Seth Griffith atop Providence’s scoring race, going at a point-per-game clip.

Defenseman Chris Casto is quietly having a career year. The former Minnesota high school and Minnesota-Duluth standout was at one time thought of to be a potential top-three round NHL draft pick but it never happened for him.  He had a largely uneventful first two seasons in the Bruins organization since signing as a free agent in spring 2013, but he might make the B’s re-think signing him to an extension at the rate he’s going. The team has a glut of similar type of players at the position- big, mobile, but ultimately limited and lower pairing guys- but Casto is opening some eyes in the early going.

Providence has been getting much better goaltending of late from both of Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre, which is good news for the Bruins and the offense, which doesn’t have to put up major production to have a chance at winning these days.

Multiple Boston prospects are at their respective countries’ World Jr. Championship evaluation camps: Jeremy Lauzon (Canada), Anders Bjork, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato (USA), Daniel Vladar, Jakub Zboril (Czech Republic) and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (Sweden) are all in the mix to earn spots at the annual prestigious under-20 hockey showcase. Watch for Zach Senyshyn and Jesse Gabrielle to be there for Team Canada a year from now.

AHL

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 17 Goals- 6 Assists- 14 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -2

With a goal and 4 points in his last three AHL games, Koko is keeping pace for his most productive year of three professional seasons with Providence.

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 19 Goals- 8 Assists- 10 Points- 18 Penalty Min- 14 +/- -1

Three goals and five points in three games for Griffith gave Providence a nice boost in getting the team back on a winning track.

Austin Czarnik, C Providence Bruins

GP- 19  Goals- 5 Assists- 10 Points- 15 Penalty Min- 10 +/- 5

Heating up as a rookie pro who is figuring out that he’s at his best when pushing the offensive tempo of a game and playing his patented buzzsaw style.

Chris Casto, D Providence Bruins

GP- 22 Goals- 1 Assists- 10 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 16 +/- -5

Scored his first goal of the season; his next assist equals his entire output from 2014-15 (in 62 AHL games).

Tommy Cross, D Providence Bruins

GP- 18 Goals- 1 Assists- 9 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 29 +/- -5

Injured- did not play.

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 26 Goals- 7 Assists- 3 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -5

Colton Hargrove, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 18 Goals- 4 Assists- 3 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 23 +/- -2

He scored a big power play goal over the weekend in a win over Hartford.

Noel Acciari, C Providence Bruins

GP- 21 Goals- 3 Assists-3 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 7 +/- -1

Surgery not required, but still out after taking a shot that broke his jaw in several places. Will wear a full face shield upon his return, perhaps as early as this week.

Anton Blidh, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 24 Goals- 6 Assists- 0 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -2

Zack Phillips, C Providence Bruins

GP- 23 Goals- 2 Assists- 4 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -14

Has played better of late; posted a pair of assists last week.

Linus Arnesson, D Providence Bruins

GP- 18 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -1

Arnesson returned to action last week.

Malcolm Subban, G Providence Bruins

GP- 11 MIN- 788 GA- 35 GAA- 2.66 Spct- .899 W- 5 L-5 OTL 3 SO- 1

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 12 MIN- 718 GA- 34 GAA- 2.84 Spct- .889 W- 5 L- 4 OTL- 3

McIntyre still has much to learn as he adjusts to the speed and demands of pro hockey, but he’s been more consistent than Subban in the early going. Given his overall ability and work ethic, the former North Dakota star puck stopper is more than the sum of his parts.

Injured- Brian Ferlin (upper body)- 1 game played.

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 30 Goals- 18 Assists- 10 Points- 28 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -9

A three-assist performance in one game over the weekend has boosted him near the points-per-game level.

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 26 Goals- 5 Assists- 28 Points- 34 Penalty Min- 50 +/- 26

Named to Team Canada’s World Jr. Camp as an injury replacement for Jake Walman, Lauzon did not play any QMJHL games last week.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 21 Goals- 3 Assists- 6 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 26 +/- 2

Zboril is with Team Czech Republic in preparation for the 2016 World Jr. Championship in Finland.

WHL

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 31 Goals- 17 Assists- 15 Points- 32 Penalty Min- 49 +/- 5

With a goal and five assists since the last update, Gabrielle continues to be a scoring force for his team while also bringing a gritty, physical game.

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 21 Goals- 9 Assists- 16 Points- 25 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -1

Rounding into form in the weeks since coming back from a serious groin injury that required surgery.

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 22 Goals- 2 Assists- 12 Points- 14 Penalty Min- 57 +/- -5

Carlo played two scoreless games before departing for Boston to attend Team USA WJC camp. He’s a lock to make the 2016 squad after playing well at the WJC last year.

 

NCAA

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 15 Goals- 11 Assists- 10 Points- 21 Penalty Min- 33 +/- 17

No points in just one game (loss to Notre Dame) since the last update.

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University Terriers (HEA)

GP- 18 Goals- 4 Assists- 10 Points- 14 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -2

JFK is now with Team Sweden preparing for the WJC after playing 2 scoreless games since the last update.

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 17 Goals- 5 Assists- 11 Points- 16 Penalty Min- 4 +/- 17

Posted a helper in the Fighting Irish’s win over Boston College last week. Now with Team USA in Boston for WJC camp.

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 16 Goals- 5 Assists- 6 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -3

Ryan Donato, C Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 10 Goals- 4 Assists- 5 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 10 +/- 6

Did not play; now at USA WJC camp.

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 14 Goals- 1 Assists- 8 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -6

Did not play.

Sean Kuraly, C Miami University (NCHC)

GP- 16 Goals- 2 Assists- 4 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 17 +/- -5

Did not play

Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 17 Goals- 2 Assists- 4 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 17 +/- -12

Did not play

Matt Grzelcyk, D Boston University (HEA)

GP-6 Goals 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 12 +/- 2

Grzelcyk is still out with a lower body (knee injury).

Wiley Sherman, D Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 10 Goals- 2 Assists- 2 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 6 +/- 5

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University (ECAC)

GP- 12 Goals- 0 Assists- 4 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 16 +/- -4

Europe

Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (Sweden)

GP- 21 Goals- 6 Assists- 4 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 0

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (Sweden)

GP- 25 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -1

Maxim Chudinov, D St Petersburg SKA (Russia)

GP- 37 Goals- 6 Assists- 8 Points- 14 Penalty Min- 75 +/- -7

USHL

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago (USHL)

GP- 13 MIN- 737 GA- 26 GAA- 2.12 Spct .925 SO- 2; 3-5-3

Vladar has left his team to participate in Team Czech Republic WJC camp.

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls (USHL)

GP- 25 Goals- 4 Assists- 5 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 6 +/- 0

University of Wisconsin recruit scored a goal last week, his first since mid-November.

Bruins Prospects Update 12/01/15

We’re in the final month of 2015 and it’s time for another prospects update from the Boston Bruins system.

Providence continues to have problems finding the back of the net consistently without the presence of Alex Khokhlachev (injured) and Frank Vatrano (in Boston). The goaltenders have been better but still rank among the last in AHL for key statistical categories.

Ryan Fitzgerald is having a superb season for BC, breaking out offensively as a junior and scoring on the power play and while shorthanded. Crosstown rival Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson continues to impress in his freshman season, scoring at nearly a point-per-game clip and demonstrating a mature, refined game beyond his 19 years.

Daniel Vladar had an outstanding week with the Chicago Steel, allowing just one goal in two wins. When on top of his game, he’s fluid and tough to beat with his size and quickness.

AHL

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 11 Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 6

Hand injury; did not play. Expected to be out an additional 2-3 weeks.

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 13 Goals- 4 Assists- 6 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -4

As an indicator of how much the Providence offense has struggled this year since Koko was injured two-plus weeks ago and Frank Vatrano called up to the Bruins, Griffith is still three points away from tying Koko for team best in scoring.

Tommy Cross, D Providence Bruins

GP- 16 Goals- 1 Assists- 9 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 29 +/- -6

With a goal and three points in his last six games, Cross has been one of the few bright spots on Providence of late. Since returning from his first NHL stint, Cross is playing with renewed confidence and energy as team captain.

Austin Czarnik, C Providence Bruins

GP- 13 Goals- 2 Assists- 6 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 10 +/-  3

Czarnik has struggled to find the score sheet since coming back from a shoulder injury-he has just one assist in his last six games.

Chris Casto, D Providence Bruins

GP- 14 Goals- 0 Assists- 8 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 14 +/- -10

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 20 Goals- 5 Assists- 2 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -8

Like Czarnik, Cave has just one assist in his last six games after scoring a respectable five goals in his first 14 contests.

Noel Acciari, C Providence Bruins

GP- 20 Goals- 3 Assists-3  Points- 6 Penalty Min- 7 +/- -3

The former PC captain has three points in his last six games to pick up some of the scoring slack after tallying just 3 points in his first 14 games.

Anton Blidh, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 18 Goals- 5 Assists- 0 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -5

Colton Hargrove, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 13 Goals- 3 Assists- 1 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -2

Linus Arnesson, D Providence Bruins

GP- 15 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Malcolm Subban, G Providence Bruins

GP- 9 MIN- 542 GA- 19 GAA- 3.10 Spct- ..872 W- 2 L-5 OTL 2 SO- 1

Subban has shown improvement since the last update, raising his save percentage, lowering the GAA and posting his first shutout of the season against Lehigh Valley this past Saturday.

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 10 MIN- 598 GA- 31 GAA- 3.11 Spct- .876 W- 3 L- 4 OTL- 3

 

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 20 Goals- 11 Assists- 5 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -10

With one goal/point in his last five games, the scoring has fallen off. The 15th overall pick last June has tallied several highlight reel goals over the course of the season, using his speed and hands to light the lamp, but while the tools are there, the consistent production has been elusive to date.

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 23 Goals- 4 Assists- 27 Points- 31 Penalty Min- 40 +/- 23

Rouyn-Noranda’s top scoring D continues to play well at both ends, logging a lot of minutes, playing strong positional defense and continuing to put up points.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 20 Goals- 3 Assists- 6 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 24 +/- 2

 

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 16 Goals- 8 Assists- 15 Points- 23 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -2

Jake DeBrusk returned to action last week, scoring in the first two games he played for a total of three points in the two contests.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 24 Goals- 14 Assists- 8 Points- 22 Penalty Min- 38 +/-  2

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 18 Goals- 2 Assists- 11 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 51 +/- -5

Carlo is back in the Americans’ lineup after missing games to injury. He tallied a goal and five points in seven games since getting back on the ice while maintaining a physical, rugged edge to his play.

 

NCAA

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 12 Goals- 10 Assists- 9 Points- 19 Penalty Min- 29 +/- 19

Fitzgerald is off to the best offensive start in his third/junior season for the Eagles with three goals in his last three games. He’s making an impact on both the PP and PK special teams. His 10 goals lead BC, but is second in overall points to freshman Colin White (Senators), who has 21.

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University Terriers (HEA)

GP- 14 Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 10 +/- 4

JFK is tied with Ahti Oksanen for second on the Terriers in scoring and has been impressive in the faceoff circle thus far this season with a better-than-projected impact as a freshman.

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 14 Goals- 3 Assists- 9 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 4 +/- 10

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 12 Goals- 5 Assists- 5 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 3

Ryan Donato, C Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 3 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 10 +/- 5.

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 12 Goals- 1 Assists- 5 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -2

Matt Grzelcyk, D Boston University (HEA)

GP-6 Goals 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 12 +/- 2

Grzelcyk was sidelined briefly by a knee injury- not the same surgically repaired knee from offseason.

Sean Kuraly, C Miami University (NCHC)

GP- 14 Goals- 1 Assists- 4 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 17 +/- -6

Another stretch of play with no offense for the senior center.

Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 15 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 17 +/- -10

Wiley Sherman, D Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 8 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 4 +/- 4

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University (ECAC)

GP- 9 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 12 +/- 0

A slower-than-expected start offensively…more expected of the senior D and he will pick up play at both ends as the season goes on.

 

Europe

Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (Sweden)

GP- 19 Goals- 5 Assists- 3 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -2

2013 third-rounder scored a couple of goals in SHL play since last update.

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (Sweden)

GP- 21 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -1

Maxim Chudinov, D St Petersburg SKA (Russia)

GP- 32 Goals- 6 Assists- 8 Points- 14 Penalty Min- 75 +/- -7

Chudinov’s production has ticked up over last seven games with a couple of goals and helpers. It is still not known whether he and the Bruins will work to sign a contract or if the team will allow him to enter free agency in  summer.

USHL

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago (USHL)

GP- 11 MIN- 610 GA- 20 GAA- 1.97 Spct .930 SO- 2; 3-4-2

Vladar went 2-0 last week, allowing one goal and posting his second shutout of the season.

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls (USHL)

GP- 20 Goals- 2 Assists- 4 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -1

 

 

Bruins Prospects Update 11/09/15

With only one game on the Providence schedule, a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver affiliate Utica Comets, there isn’t much in the way of AHL updates this week. Unfortunately for Boston, Alex Khokhlachev suffered an unknown injury to his hand, and per Mark Divver of the Providence Journal is in Boston being seen by a hand specialist to determine the extent of it. The hits just keep on coming. Rugged forward Colton Hargrove got the lone goal of the week down on the farm, his second in eight games this year.

Frank Vatrano is off the list for now while he is up with Boston, but his 10 goals in 10 AHL games served as a nice springboard for his callup to the big club and his first NHL goal against Montreal.

Also injured out in the WHL are 2015 picks Jake DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo, neither of whom played last week.

The NCAA prospects form the bulk of the system nucleus beyond the AHL guys and it was a busy week for them, with Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen and Ryan Fitzgerald all continuing to score for their clubs. Anders Bjork is quietly having a productive sophomore year with the Fighting Irish, with 9 points already in just eight games.

The bigger news in college play this past weekend was Matt Grzelcyk’s return to action after May knee surgery. He scored goals in his first two games for BU this weekend, quite a departure from a year ago, when he went well into 2015 before tallying his first goal.

AHL

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 11 Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 6

The reported hand injury is something to monitor going forward. With Austin Czarnik still out since game 4 of the new season, the Providence forward depth has taken a hit.

Tommy Cross, D Providence Bruins

GP- 8 Goals- 0 Assists- 7 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 25 +/- -3

Chris Casto, D Providence Bruins

GP- 11 Goals- 0 Assists- 6 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -7

Austin Czarnik, C Providence Bruins

GP- 4 Goals- 1 Assists- 4 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 6 +/- 4

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 6 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -4

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 11 Goals- 5 Assists- 0 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4

Colton Hargrove, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 8 Goals- 2 Assists- 1 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -2

Hargrove scored the lone goal of the week for Providence, which came in a 5-1 loss to Utica.

Malcolm Subban, G Providence Bruins

GP- 3 MIN- 179 GA- 13 GAA- 4.35 Spct- ..847 W- 1 L-2

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 6 MIN- 362 GA- 20 GAA- 3.31 Spct- .882 W- 2 L- 2 OTL- 2

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 18 Goals- 10 Assists- 4 Points- 14 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -6

Senyshyn’s one goal scored this past week was a memorable one against Saginaw Spirit. Be sure to check out the video on the update I posted here on him Saturday.

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 17 Goals- 3 Assists- 21 Points- 24 Penalty Min- 34 +/- +19

Quiet week for Lauzon, who was held pointless in two games.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 13 Goals- 3 Assists- 4 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 20 +/- 1

Zboril had a goal and assist this week, plus some roughing penalties and also got into the plus column.

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 14 Goals- 6 Assists- 14 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -3

DeBrusk took a hard shot to the groin area and has not played since.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 16 Goals- 11 Assists- 4 Points- 15 Penalty Min- 25 +/- 2

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 11 Goals- 1 Assists- 7 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 32 +/- -3

Carlo is injured and did not play this past week.

NCAA

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 8 Goals- 5 Assists- 4 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 27 +/- 11

Fitzgerald returned to action and scored a goal after sitting out a game for a match/DQ penalty last week, which carries an automatic one-game suspension. If nothing else- Fitzgerald is scrappy and intense- plays with a real chip on his shoulder.

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 8 Goals- 2 Assists- 7 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 9

The 2014 fifth-rounder is tied for the team lead in scoring as a sophomore after posting 22 points in all of last season.

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 4 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 5

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University Terriers (HEA)

GP- 8 Goals- 1 Assists- 6 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 6 +/- 1

Ryan Donato, C Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 4 Goals- 3 Assists- 2 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 4

The 2014 second-rounder is off to a great start at Harvard. He posted his first two-goal game (one was an empty-netter) against Brown University in a win over the weekend.

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 10 Goals- 1 Assists- 3 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -2

Matt Grzelcyk, D Boston University (HEA)

GP-2 Goals 2 Assists- 1 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 6 +/- 2

The Terriers got a big boost with the return of their captain, who tallied a goal and assist in his first game of the season Friday night in a win over Northeastern.

Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 9 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -9

Wiley Sherman, D Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 4 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 3

The 6-foot-6 defenseman is still looking for his first NCAA goal, but is off to a solid statistical start with two helpers in his first four games after posting three in 37 games as a freshman.

Sean Kuraly, C Miami University (NCHC)

GP- 10 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -4

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University (ECAC)

GP- 4 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 0

Europe

Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (Sweden)

GP- 12 Goals- 3 Assists- 3 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (Sweden)

GP- 14 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -2

Maxim Chudninov, D St Petersburg SKA (Russia)

GP- 24 Goals- 5 Assists- 4 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 71 +/- -5

USHL

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls (USHL)

GP- 12 Goals- 2 Assists- 4 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -3

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago (USHL)

GP- 8 MIN- 469 GA- 19 GAA- 2.43 Spct .907 SO- 1; 1-4-2

Koko down, Frankie Vatrano up as forward carousel goes round and round

The Boston Bruins announced today that Alex Khokhlachev has been returned to Providence of the AHL, with left wing Frank Vatrano summoned to Montreal for what could be the Bay Stater’s first career NHL appearance against the Canadiens on Saturday night.

Let me ask you- could achieving the dream of reaching the NHL get any better for a kid who grew up in Western Mass. cheering for the Bruins than by getting to take on the hated les Habitants?

Some folks are none too happy about Koko being relegated, but I have to be honest- I get that he’s played a total of 6 NHL games without ideal ice time, but the player I’ve seen do some impressive things at the AHL level is not the passive, tentative, mediocre forward I’ve seen for limited stretches in Boston. There is no doubt he’s skilled, but there seems to be an element of fans out there who so desperately want him to succeed that they’ve created this illusion of strong performances with the Bruins, and I don’t really see it at all. He’s just kind of been there- neither making egregious errors, but not asserting himself in particularly effective fashion, either.

Most on Twitter who engage me about it seem to want to blame Claude Julien once again- as some kind of Hobgoblin to young players- a draconian taskmaster who employs a system that only the Chris Kellys and Gregory Campbells of the world can figure out. I think at some point- you have to raise expectations for a player as talented as Koko is, and its okay to ask- “where’s the beef?” when he comes up and flits around the ice but doesn’t get a whole lot accomplished.

Too harsh on the guy? Perhaps. As was said before- we’ve seen a completely different, more assertive Koko down in the AHL. He’s capable of more.

So, Frankie Vatrano, Bruins nation turns its lonely eyes to you. The wicked shot with an instantaneous release, pinpoint accuracy and heaviness that belies his lack of height (though he is built like a bowling ball with a thick, powerful trunk) is already well documented. What isn’t as well known to B’s fans is the natural instincts/smarts, the willingness to hustle over all 200 feet of the ice even if the innate ability to play a defensive game aren’t there and the overall body of work still needs to improve.

With 10 goals in 10 AHL games, Vatrano is getting his first shot at the big show. We knew it was coming at some point sooner rather than later, but just a month into the regular season? I’d say that’s worth raising a glass.

As for Koko- it’s not over. He needs to go down, keep scoring and working hard. Many of us thought we had seen the end of Ryan Spooner in a Boston uniform as late as mid-February of this year, and he managed to establish himself. It’s not all lollipops and unicorns, but Khokhlachev could do the same thing if he’s willing to keep his eye on the prize and not give into his frustration by going through the motions or demanding a trade. It’s okay to be disappointed if you’re him, but at 22, it’s doubtful Boston has given up on Koko- he just hasn’t given them a reason to keep him in the mix. For now. The real test is to see how he reacts to this latest setback. We’ll soon learn how he spells c-h-a-r-a-c-t-e-r.

Until then, Vatrano is living the dream- from undrafted free agent snub to Boston Bruin in just under eight months with the offseason thrown into the middle. That’s not too shabby. And while he could soon find himself back down on the farm as well, he’s earned this shot…with that shot of his.

Pastrnak out vs. Stars, Bruins recall Koko from Providence

Alex Khokhlachev gets first crack at replacing injured forward David Pastrnak when the Boston Bruins host the Dallas Stars tonight at TD Garden. The team announced today that it is recalling the Providence Bruins’ top scorer for a much-anticipated matchup featuring former Bruin Tyler Seguin.

The 22-year-old second-round pick in 2011 has gotten off to a fine offensive start in Providence, so the move comes as no surprise. He began the season on the right wing, but moved back to center when Austin Czarnik was knocked out of the lineup.

If Claude Julien slots him into Pastrnak’s spot on the right side David Krejci line with Loui Eriksson, then this will be a good opportunity to play and produce with some quality linemates.

Here are excerpts from the Bruins press release announcing his recall:

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced today, November 3, that the club has recalled Alex Khokhlachev from Providence (American Hockey League). Khokhlachev will join Boston for Tuesday’s morning skate and be eligible for Tuesday night’s game against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden.

Khokhlachev has appeared in four games for Boston from 2014 to 2015, including his NHL debut on April 13, 2014 against the Devils in New Jersey.

The 22-year-old has skated in 10 games for Providence thus far this season, registering four goals (third on the team) and nine assists (tied for first in the AHL) for 13 points (tied for first in the AHL).

At the AHL level, Khokhlachev has appeared in 147 career games accruing 42-74=116 totals.

Pastrnak was not at his best in Sunday’s win against Tampa Bay after taking a hard shot off the foot in last week’s Bruins victory at home against Arizona.

Scouting Post Bruins Prospect of the Month October: Frank Vatrano

No surprise here, folks. Providence Bruins left winger Frank Vatrano is the inaugural winner of Scouting Post B’s Prospect of the Month designation for October.

In just 31 days, Vatrano managed to post a four-goal game and a couple of two-goal efforts along the way to posting 10 goals and 12 points in his first 10 AHL contests of the 2015-16 season. The East Longmeadow, Mass. product signed with the Bruins as an undrafted free agent after posting 18 goals in 36 games with the UMass Minutemen in his first full season a year ago.

Here’s a UMass-produced YouTube video that shows the personal side of Vatrano and even takes you behind the scenes of the famous Antonio’s Pizza & Grinders- his family’s business where you can see his parents hard at work.

The Western Massachusetts hockey sensation left home at 16 to play for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was a member of the 2012 Under-18 World Champion gold medal-winning squad. Despite putting up some impressive numbers in his draft season, none of the 30 NHL clubs took a chance on him, and after his original commitment to Boston College fell through for academic reasons, Vatrano spent some time in the EJHL with the Boston Jr. Bruins.

He spent the 2013-14 (1 game) and 2014-15 NCAA seasons in Amherst, and jumped at the chance to sign with his favorite team, the Bruins. He skated in five AHL games last spring, scoring his first pro goal during the span.

Over the summer, Vatrano re-dedicated himself to conditioning, shedding 15 pounds and improving his cardiovascular endurance. Now playing at about 200 pounds, he’s quicker, faster and able to take longer shifts for sustained offensive pressure. His wicked shot is as dangerous as it always has been, and AHL goaltenders have had to find that out the hard way, as Vatrano’s natural nose for the net has paid immediate dividends. Here’s some hard evidence of his goal scoring prowess (4 goals against the Portland Pirates in the second game of the season), compliments of the Providence Bruins:

Given Boston’s hot offensive start, there isn’t a reason to think the B’s will bring him up to the big club in the immediate future unless there are some injuries or the scoring well runs dry. He’s got some things to address in terms of his 200-foot game and rounding out his skill set in order to be better prepared to meet the requirements of playing at the highest level. However, with his impressive start and natural ability to finish, fans shouldn’t have to wait much longer before seeing Vatrano make his NHL debut. He’s shown some resilience to keep the goals going after the early loss of center Austin Czarnik to injury just four games into the schedule. The duo had showed some impressive chemistry together going back to the brief stint in Providence to finish out the 14-15 season, but Vatrano has skated well with Alex Khokhlachev, who moved into the pivot position from the right wing while Czarnik has been out.

Honorable mention for Prospect of the Month honors: Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) with 3 goals and 24 points in just 15 games, the 2015 second-round selection has been boss in the early going, playing upwards of 31 minutes a night in all situations for the league’s second-most lethal offense. He’s not a flashy coast-to-coast kind of scoring defender, but keeps the play in front of him and gets many of his assists by working a heavy, accurate shot to the front of the net or finding open teammates in prime scoring positions.

Lauzon could have very easily been the top guy for October, but when it comes to Vatrano’s goal scoring and the fact that he’s doing it at the pro level versus major junior, I had to give the slight nod to Vatrano in a very close race. From the looks of it, Lauzon will continue to rack up the points if he can stay healthy, as he is very clearly the Huskies’ top defenseman and one of the team’s true go-to guys.

 

Bruins prospects update 11/02/15

Zach Senyshyn (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Zach Senyshyn (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Bruins got some good production this week from prospects at all levels.

Zach Senyshyn picked up a hot stick after the scoring well had run dry for him the previous few weeks, while Frankie Vatrano continued his scoring ways to push his AHL-leading total to 10 goals in the young season. At that rate, we will see him make his NHL debut sooner rather than later. Alex Khokhlachev also tallied a couple of markers in Friday’s ‘Pink the Rink’ game to stay atop the team in scoring.

Malcolm Subban returned from lower body injury to post a 1-1 record, winning his first start. Zane McIntyre played well against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Halloween night, but fell in overtime on a goal by Brian Gibbons in a 2-1 contest.

Jakub Zboril got two goals over the weekend, his first scores of the season after a tough start dogged with some criticism of his attitude. This will be something to watch going forward, but the talented Czech appears to be finding his offensive groove. Jeremy Lauzon cooled off a bit (if you call four assists in three games cooling off, that is) from his blistering start, but is still playing a ton of minutes for RN’s high-powered team.

Jake DeBrusk keeps motoring along with a four-point week (1g, 3 a) to push his point total to 20 in 13 games. Jesse Gabrielle was held off the score sheet after being named WHL Player of the Week seven days ago.

In college, Ryan Donato scored his first NCAA in a Harvard win over Dartmouth, as the Crimson went 2-0 to open the ECAC season. Danton Heinen had a brilliant 3-point (2 goals) night against Boston College on Friday, but lost the war, as a late third period goal sent DU down in defeat.

AHL

Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 10 Goals- 10 Assists- 2 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -1

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 10  Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 5

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 10 Goals- 5 Assists- 0 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4

Tommy Cross, D Providence Bruins

GP- 7 Goals- 0 Assists- 7 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -1

Anton Blidh, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 10 Goals- 3 Assists- 0 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -1

Colton Hargrove, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 7 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -2

Malcolm Subban, G Providence Bruins

GP- 2  MIN- 119 GA- 8 GAA- 4.02 Spct- ..871 W- 1 L-1

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 6 MIN- 362 GA- 20 GAA- 3.31 Spct– .882 W- 2 L- 2 OTL- 2

Providence center Austin Czarnik is still out of the lineup since taking a hard hit in the fourth game of the season.

 

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 15 Goals- 9 Assists- 3 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -6

Senyshyn scored three goals in three games last week.

 

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 15 Goals- 3 Assists- 21 Points- 24 Penalty Min- 28 +/- +18

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 10 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 16 +/- 0

Zboril got off the scoring schneid- his first of the season came in a loss to Rouyn-Noranda (Lauzon tallied an assist in his club’s win), a low bullet-fast wrist shot from out near the point.

 

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 13 Goals- 6 Assists- 14 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -3

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 13 Goals- 10 Assists- 2 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 23 +/- 3

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 11 Goals- 1 Assists- 7 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 32 +/- -3

Carlo is injured and did not play this past week.

 

NCAA

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University Terriers (HEA)

GP- 6 Goals- 1 Assists- 5 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -2

One NHL scout from a Western Conference team at the BU-Merrimack game on Friday texted me to say that JFK was “the best player on the ice”, passing on that the Bruins scouts really might have outdone themselves with the picks the team got from Calgary- Zach Senyshyn, JFK and Jeremy Lauzon.

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 6 Goals- 3 Assists- 3 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 10 +/- 6

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 6 Goals- 3 Assists- 2 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 2

Heinen scored a pair of impressive goals against BC before his team dropped a Saturday contest to BU.

Ryan Donato, LW/C Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 2 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3  Penalty Min- 2 +/- 2

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 8 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -3

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University (ECAC)

GP- 2 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 0

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 6 Goals- 1 Assists- 4 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 6

Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 7 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 11 +/- -7

After going without a goal in the 2014-15 season (24 assists) in 36 games, Benning has already tallied once and should be one of the Huskies’ top players as a junior.

Sean Kuraly, C Miami University (NCHC)

GP- 8 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -5

Brutal offensive start for the Redhawks captain, who was acquired last June for Martin Jones. Far more was expected of the senior and 2011 Sharks pick, but there is time for him to get his season on track, but for someone who was expected to build on his 19 goals from a year ago, that’s going to be a tough proposition.

Europe

Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (Sweden)

GP- 12 Goals- 3 Assists- 3 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (Sweden)

GP- 14 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -2

Maxim Chudninov, D St Petersburg SKA (Russia)

GP- 24 Goals- 5 Assists- 4 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 71 +/- -5

 

USHL

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls (USHL)

GP- 10 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -2

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago (USHL)

GP- 7 MIN- 404 GA- 16 GAA- 2.38 Spct .908 SO- 1;  1-4-1

 

 

Bruins Prospects Update 10/26/15

With the final weekend in October now in the books, the Providence B’s are getting a boost from Seth Griffith, who tallied a trio of assists in his first AHL game of the year Friday before adding a goal on Sunday in a loss to Lehigh Valley. A lower body injury (suffered on a questionable hit from Devils forward Tuomo Ruuttu) derailed his hopes of making the big club out of camp, but if he continues producing on the farm, he could be brought back up. However, with the Boston offense clicking right now, that’s a long shot unless someone else gets knocked out of the lineup.

Frank Vatrano scored another goal to keep pace at more than a goal per game, but Austin Czarnik remained out since taking a big hit in the open ice more than a week ago- he’s missed the last three Providence games.

In the major junior ranks, second-round defenseman Jeremy Lauzon continues to produce. Even more impressive than the points, has been his ability to log 30 minutes of ice time a night while playing a mobile, smart defense. He looks like an all-around player at this point who was terrific value where the Bruins got him as the third of three Calgary picks acquired for Dougie Hamilton on draft weekend. It was also a good week for the WHL forwards Jake DeBrusk and Jesse Gabrielle.

AHL

Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 7  Goals- 8  Assists- 2 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 4 +/-  -1

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 7  Goals- 2  Assists- 9 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 0  +/- 2

Four assists over the week put him on top of the Providence Bruins scoring list, as Koko continues to make his case for NHL time in the best possible way: with production.

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 2 Goals- 1 Assists- 3 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 0

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 7 Goals- 4 Assists- 0 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -3

Former Swift Current captain tallied a pair of goals in Providence’s Friday night victory.

 Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 6  MIN- 362 GA- 20 GAA- 3.31  Spct- .882 W- 2 L- 2 OTL- 2

With the exception of one game, McIntyre has started every other contest for Providence with mixed results.

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 12 Goals- 6 Assists- 3 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -6

No points for Senyshyn, who has cooled off after a hot start with six goals in his first 7 OHL games.

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 12 Goals- 3 Assists- 17 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 22 +/- +13

With five assists in three games last week, the Val-d’Or native just keeps on rolling. His point totals are something a forward would be proud of. He’s a rugged, capable defender as well- which makes his early scoring all the more compelling. This blog said back in July that Lauzon might be the best of the three defenders taken in 2015, with the first two (Jakub Zboril, Brandon Carlo) grabbing more of the attention and spotlight. Both of them have already signed ELCs with the B’s, but the team would be wise to lock up Lauzon as well.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 8 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 8 +/- 0

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 11 Goals- 5 Assists- 11 Points- 16 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -3

The goals have not been as plentiful in the early going for DeBrusk, but he’s setting them up from the left wing side to good effect. He’s the kind of player who doesn’t wow you with his skill when he’s out there, but then he’ll make an impressive pass or shot and you’re reminded that he was the 14th overall pick in last June’s draft.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 10 Goals- 6 Assists- 3 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -5

Senyshyn only had an assist in a couple of games this week after tallying six goals in his first eight contests. Part of that has to do with the offensive struggles of teammate Blake Speers.

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 7 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 9 +/- -4

After scoring goals in each of his first two WHL games after being returned from Boston, DeBrusk did not find the back of the net in three contests this week. He did put up a couple of assists, and while his point totals aren’t anything to write home about, the focal point of Swift Current’s offense will pick up the scoring pace.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 11 Goals- 9 Assists- 2 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 23 +/- 4

Gabrielle went on a tear since the last update, firing home five goals and throwing in a fight for good measure. He’s getting on the radar as someone who has a higher-level talent base than where he was drafted in the mid-fourth round and will have to guard against undisciplined play.

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 11 Goals- 1 Assists- 7 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 32 +/- -3

NCAA

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University Terriers (HEA)

GP- 3 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 1

The impressive freshman notched his first multi-point game of his collegiate career with a goal and helper over the weekend.

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 5 Goals- 3 Assists- 2 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 8 +/- 5

The 2013 fourth-rounder is off to another solid start with the Eagles in his junior season. He doesn’t possess ideal size, but he’s instinctive and adept in all three zones.

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 4 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -1

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 6 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 4 Goals- 0 Assists- 4 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 2

This just in: Frankie Vatrano = legit

Frank Vatrano's UMass Minutemen sweater from 2013-14 (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Frank Vatrano’s UMass Minutemen sweater from 2013-14 (Kirk Luedeke photo)

The torrid start for the one-time UMass Minuteman who signed with Boston as an undrafted free agent last spring is no fluke: Frankie Vatrano can flat-out play hockey.

Although his team fell to the Hartford Wolf Pack in OT (linemate Austin Czarnik took a hooking penalty that HFD forward Adam Tambellini cashed in on), Vatrano had another standout performance.

The AHL’s Player of the Week after five goals (including a four-goal outburst on Sunday vs Portland) in his first two games of the season continued his blistering pace by netting his sixth goal in three contests late in the second period when he drove to the net and put himself in the perfect spot to corral a point shot deflection off a player in front of the net. The puck was on his stick for a split second before he rifled it past Hartford goalie Magnus Hellberg (as an aside- I once had breakfast with young Magnus the morning he was drafted by the Nashville Predators- nice kid).

Back to Vatrano…

We all knew he could shoot the puck. He was the 88th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting for the 2012 NHL draft, but went unchosen in Pittsburgh (and Newark and Philly after that). For those scoring at home, that’s a solid 4th-round draft grade, but teams were likely scared off by how much extra weight the kid was carrying around. Even when lighting it up for the Boston Jr. Bruins and U.S. NTDP (he didn’t score a ton, but his goals were often memorable snipes), you could see he had that stocky build and scouts behind the scenes talked about him being fat.

Well, it took him a while to get to where he is, but an aborted stop at Boston College, followed by 1 game in the 2013-14 season at Mass and then his 18-goal freshman year which promoted his hometown Bruins to come calling, he worked hard in the offseason to lose weight. The end result? He came to camp ready to go and was arguably the B’s top player at the rookie tournament in Buffalo. He followed that up with a strong main camp and exhibition season performance.

Tonight’s performance wasn’t just about the goal, though. In the third period, with Providence on the power play, Ben Youds pinched in from the point and lost the race to the puck lying just inside the right circle. As a result Hartford broke it out on a 2-on-1 that was developing into a disaster until there was a flash of black and gold streaking up the ice- No. 49- Vatrano!  The Wolf Pack managed to get a shot off, but the back check was impressive- not only for the speed Vatrano showed to catch up to the play, but for the sheer effort and hustle he showed.

Vatrano is serious about playing for his Bruins. They’re the team he grew up dreaming of playing for and he’s putting action to his words. In a second period interview, he talked about how the decision to leave school was a “no brainer” for him when Boston showed interest, and I had heard from at least one other NHL source that they were disappointed in not getting a chance to talk to him, as they would have made a push had they known he would come out after just one year in the NCAA.

Amherst’s loss was the B’s gain. I don’t know how close Vatrano is to getting called up. In fact, if I had to be completely honest, I’d say that fans should resist the shiny new toy syndrome and accept that by getting top line minutes and special teams time in Providence, it probably benefits him in  the long run over rushing him to Boston. As the wise Mark Divver remarked on Twitter tonight- “let’s see where he (and Czarnik) are in January.”

But, I don’t think the six goals in three games is an accident. He can’t sustain that level of scoring, but I thought he could get 30 goals in the AHL right off the bat for this very reason- he’s always been able to snipe the puck. However, what I didn’t realize is how much better shape he would be in…and how hard he would work on all 200 feet of the ice. That’s the kind of thing that earns a young player a chance at the big show sooner rather than later. Vatrano, Czarnik and Koko have been a dynamic line and there are bigger things ahead for all three if they keep playing hard and producing.

It’s all anyone can ask.