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

Guest post by: Reed Duthie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boston Bruins Prospects Pre-Draft Rankings- 2020

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

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

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

Forward

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

Defense

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

Goaltender

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

Off the top of the head: Jake Schmaltz

Jake Schmaltz closes out the current Bruins prospect series- we started recapping and updating all of the drafted and/or signed prospects back when the COVID-19 quarantines began near the end of March and three months later, we’re caught up. We look forward to analyzing the next wave of Boston prospects- whenever the 2020 NHL Entry Draft happens. Watch for a main page post that will rank and list all of the prospects we’ve covered linked to each of these profiles for ease of reference.

Jake Schmaltz, LW/C- L

6-1/175

Current team: Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)

Previous team: Chicago Steel (USHL)

Strengths: Hockey IQ/vision is Schmaltz’s best asset- he’s smart and creative, able to see the play unfolding and get to the point of attack where he can influence things. His natural instincts help him to be a 200-foot player who understands his role and responsibilities in his own end. A  quick, agile skater for his height- able to get off the mark quickly, and while he doesn’t possess dynamic open-ice speed/separation, Schmaltz can get to loose pucks with fine small-area skills and burst. Deft touch with the puck- more of a passer/distributor.  Good character and work ethic.

Weaknesses: Although possessing good height, Schmaltz is lean and will have to address his functional strength going forward. He’s not all that strong on his skates and tends to be more of an upright skater, making him susceptible to being knocked off the puck when trying to drive through contact while in motion.

Overall analysis: The former Wisconsin high school and Team Wisconsin (AAA) standout’s offense blossomed two years ago and he earned a top NCAA commitment to the Fighting Hawks. A season later, he was a strong two-way forward in his rookie USHL campaign in 2018-19, parlaying that into being Boston’s final selection in Vancouver.

Schmaltz, a cousin of NHL brothers Nick (Arizona) and Jordan (NY Islanders- Bridgeport),  isn’t a high-end prospect by any means, but plays a sound three-zone game and has some pro upside with his natural smarts. Like most players his age, he’s got a lot of physical development ahead, and added strength to his lower body will improve his skating in terms of  overall power/leg drive.  He’s a versatile forward who brings the attributes that coaches value to play an honest, consistent shift. Don’t expect a big point producer at the higher levels, but he does compete hard and finds ways to contribute on both sides of the puck.

Projection: Like Jack Becker, Schmaltz is on the long program in Boston’s system. He’s got a top commitment in the NCHC with University of North Dakota, and could very well play the four full years of his NCAA eligibility before he signs/turns pro. That will obviously depend on how he develops there, but there will be no urgency to get him into the system for the time being.

Given his age and USHL experience, Schmaltz should be one of Green Bay’s top players in 20-21 as long as the plan remains in place for him to return for one more year of junior.

Bruins development camp video from 2019

 

WFRV (Green Bay) news feature on Schmaltz:

Jack Becker: Then & Now

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

Jack Becker, RW/C-R

6-4/200  Born: 24 Jun 97

Current team: University of Michigan (NCAA)

Jack Becker then:

July 18, 2015

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

Acquired: 7th round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

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

 

July 25, 2015

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

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

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

May 5, 2016

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

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

Jack Becker now:

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

 

 

 

Off the top of the head: Pavel Shen

Pavel Shen2

Pavel Shen, C  6-1/185

Previous team: Salavat Ufa (KHL)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assets:

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

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

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

Weaknesses:

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

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

Future:

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

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

Joona Koppanen: Then & Now

The Bruins prospects series is nearing its end- since late March, we’ve done updates on the players in Boston’s system in several different formats. Here’s the latest with a 2016 fifth-round draft choice from Finland.- KL

Joona Koppanen then:

March 15, 2017

Koppanen is not ahead of the developmental curve- he didn’t put up the big numbers (23 goals, 54 points in 38 games) by playing for the Ilves Tampere (Tuukka Rask’s old club) senior team- he was playing against a lower level of competition. 18-year-olds with high-end NHL potential tend to make those top pro teams at a younger age. So, while not raining on Koppanen’s parade- he deserves for credit for more than doubling his production in the same league from a season ago, it’s an apples and oranges comparison if you’re looking to make the ubiquitous upside argument- he’s a fifth-round pick who won a gold medal in last April’s U18 world tourney as a clampdown/defensive center (no points in 7 games), but with his 6-5 size and hockey sense, could one day work his way into the NHL mix. Just don’t expect him to do it as a top-6 option…at least, that’s not how he projects today, and that’s even with the impressive point totals in the U-20 circuit. Follow the Finns on Twitter and check out the Koppanen piece- it’s a solid review of a player who is lost in the sauce a bit among the many prospects in the Boston organization at present.

May 16, 2017

Joona Koppanen, C, Ilves Tampere (Finland)- The Bruins signed the first of two fifth-round picks from the 2016 draft after the season ended. There had been talk that the gi-normous 6-foot-5 Finnish forward would come to the U.S. to play NCAA hockey, but in the end- he opted to play pro hockey for Ilves and the B’s made the commitment (it won’t count against the 50-contract limit unless he’s playing in the AHL).

He’s coming off a productive season with the Ilves junior (Under-20) squad and while he doesn’t have the high-end talent to project as much of a scorer at the AHL and NHL levels, you can’t teach his size and reach, and he’s pretty fluid for such a big man. There’s a shot for him to one day compete for a spot on Boston’s fourth line and perhaps work his way up from there.

He’s more of a defensive, clampdown kind of guy who isn’t a hitting machine, but uses his size effectively in the faceoff dot and in the corners/along the walls. The production this season was encouraging, but it did not come against top-level competition- we’ll know more about Koppanen’s offensive potential after a year in the SM-Liiga, which is a talent level much closer to the AHL than what he was going up against this year.

Joona Koppanen now:

Koppanen signed with the B’s in 2017 and played one year in Finland’s top pro league before committing to come over at age 20. After a tough rookie season in North America in 2018-19 (2 goals in 45 AHL games with Providence, 1 assist in 7 ECHL with Atlanta), Koppanen rebounded with a solid second year- 9 goals, 18 points in 43 AHL games.

Always more of a defensive center project player who has great size, and is a good skater for having such a big frame, Koppanen was a fifth-round pick not known for much in the way of skill/offensive potential at the higher levels. A smart, instinctive player, he bounced back this past season after struggling to make the adjustment from Finland the year before. He’s strong on faceoffs and uses his long reach effectively in his own end.

Outlook:

Not on the tip of most peoples’ tongues when it comes to discussing prospects in the Bruins organization, Koppanen is a stylistic fit given his size, strength, skating and smarts. There isn’t much to get excited about in terms of skills and production, but he showed more of a propensity this past season to getting pucks on net and playing a more assertive game in all three zones.

A reliable two-way center who uses his big frame and savvy to win faceoffs and provide solid depth and contributions at the AHL level, he looks like more of a journeyman/role player type at the NHL level if he gets there. He’s won an IIHF championship at the under-18 level in 2016, and plays a heavy game even if there isn’t much flash to it.

All in all, he’s a long shot to ever make much of an impact in a Boston uniform, but we could see some spot duty from him going forward.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Amigos + 1 Podcast: The Beat Goes on With Bruins Network

ZZTop

We got the 3 Amigos together again, but full credit to Anthony Kwetkowski of Bruins Network who suggested a joint venture, so we’re proud to unveil our first edition of the 3 Amigos + 1 podcast…4 Amigos…whatever you feel comfortable calling it.

As for us, we’re calling it a good solid near 3 hours’ worth of talk about various subjects from what the NHL playoff format might look like, to Jack Studnicka, everyone’s most interesting B’s prospect and then we answered reader-submitted questions on a host of topics from more expansion draft stuff to Tuukka Rask extension to Torey Krug’s chances of re-signing to Ondrej Kase and what the lines might look like, plus more. It runs long, but it sure felt like about 40 minutes to us.

But don’t take our word for it- give it a listen here:

As always- thanks for listening and thanks to those who provided questions!

-KL, RD, DT & AK

Tomahawk

 

3 Amigos + BN Podcast coming soon

The 3 Amigos will ride again- it’s been nearly 2 months since our last podcast, so we figured we would get together and talk some hockey.

This time, we will be joined by Bruins Network’s Anthony Kwetkowski, so you will all get 4 for the price 1!

As we did before, we are interested in answering your questions, so if you have any for us, please submit those questions in the comments section of this post, or feel free to contact us via Twitter.

We plan to record in the next couple of days, so if you have a question you want us to answer, we’ll need those by Wednesday morning.

 

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.

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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.