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.

***

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.

Cameron Hughes: Then & Now

Cameron Hughes, C Providence (AHL)/Boston Bruins (NHL)

Hughes then:

March 25, 2016

He stands only about 6-foot and has an extremely light frame that won’t fill out all that much as he matures, but Hughes is gritty and willing to stick his nose in. He’s not ultra speedy, but moves well laterally and brings shifty elusiveness, especially in traffic. Hughes only tallied five goals, and has been more of a passer/playmaker at every level, but his vision and creativity are impressive attributes.

May 5, 2016

Entering the 2014-15 season, Hughes was thought of as top-three round prospect after starring with Spruce Grove of the AJHL, but he was underdeveloped physically and playing for a poor team in the Wisconsin Badgers. Things improved for Hughes this past year (5 goals, 25 points in 32 games), though Wisconsin was still below .500, costing head coach Mike Eaves his position. The Edmonton native is an above average playmaker who sees the ice beautifully and sets the table well. Watch for him to take the offense up a notch as a junior, but he needs to keep adding weight to his skinny frame, and will likely be asked to shoot the puck more.

June 11, 2016

A highly creative and skilled playmaking pivot, Hughes impressed RLR staffers going back to the 2013-14 season when he was a standout in the AJHL with the Spruce Grove Saints. Unfortunately, Hughes had the double whammy in his draft year of playing on a poor Wisconsin Badgers team, coupled with being physically under-developed in going up against the bigger, stronger, older NCAA competition. Hughes had a better offensive season as a sophomore and showed some flashes of NHL-caliber ability (he could work his way up to second-line center one day, as crazy as that might sound today), but the consistent production wasn’t there for him. Under a new coach and perhaps being a year older and a better surrounding cast, watch Hughes to open up some eyes this coming year.

May 16, 2017

Hughes has always been more of a set-up man than finisher, but with his offensive potential, it makes sense to hold onto him, put him in Providence and see what happens next. Of course- with so many prospects in the pipeline and a 50-contract limit for Sweeney and cap/roster management-centric assistant GM John Ferguson Jr. to work against, it’s also possible that Hughes might not make the final cut.

The key thing here is that Hughes has taken positive steps every season since being drafted, and as long as he continues to produce and play well as one of Wisconsin’s veteran leaders, there’s the chance that even if the B’s have to make a tough decision regarding his future in Boston, they can still leverage him for a future asset(s) they can kick down the road. Or- Hughes will play so well this season that the team keeps him and moves another player(s) out to give the team enough of a buffer to sign him and keep him in the system.

It’s one of those things you file under: “a good problem to have.”

Cameron Hughes now:

The Wisconsin Badgers former captain signed his ELC with the Bruins at the conclusion of his senior season in 2018, and he’s had modest offensive success at the AHL level. His rookie season (28 points in 52 games) was better than this past year when his production fell off (16 in 44), but that was impacted by a concussion he suffered taking a big hit (from former Providence and Bruins D Tommy Cross)  that forced him out of the Providence lineup for a time. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 4, playing in one scoreless game with the Bruins against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A high-end playmaking/passing center, it’s hindsight now, but Wisconsin didn’t do him any favors by bringing him into the B1G 10 as a 17-year-old true freshman. He was physically underdeveloped, and it took him some time to get going- a year in the USHL would have likely served him much better, but it’s water under the bridge. Had Hughes gone to the ‘U’ there’s a good chance he would not have fallen into the sixth round, where the Bruins got a pretty good value pick after he was projected to be a top-3-round pick entering the 2014-15 season.

He still has the wheels, pure skill and brains to create offense. He’s a shade under 6-feet in height, and is still pretty light on the scales at about 170 pounds. His shifty, crafty style of play is noticeable on the ice, as he sees the ice well and is often able to elude checkers to find seams in defenses. Unfortunately, he’s also susceptible to taking big hits and this past season, it caught up to him.

Outlook: 

Hughes has the talent and IQ to be a solid depth forward at the NHL level, but isn’t likely ever going to develop into a top-2 line guy. Our biggest question with him has always been: is he a ‘tweener?

Hughes was not a prolific goal scorer even at the lower levels; not once in four years at Wisconsin did he ever produce double digit tallies (nor did he have a point-per-game season in Madison). Nevertheless, he’s always tallied some strikes that are jaw-dropping in nature, and so he has it in him to score a bit at the highest level, even if it’s not going to be a regular occurrence.

He moves his feet, skates with his head up and has some impressive net-drive moves to get to pucks and put them away. His best attributes are his vision, hands and work ethic. He was captain at Wisconsin and is a respected member of the teams he’s on.

At this stage of his development, he’s got an opportunity to make more of an impact at the AHL level as he continues to gain pro hockey experience. If he can use his positive attributes to play an effective three-zone game, he could make a push to establish himself on the lower lines in Boston at some point.

Realistically, it’s a pretty crowded field, and the impression we’re left with is that he might be more of a journeyman player who will need a change of scenery to set himself up best to be an every day NHLer. For a sixth-round pick, he’s done well, but we’d be surprised if he beats out other centers in Boston’s system (including his Wisconsin and current Providence teammate Trent Frederic) to carve out a niche in the Black and Gold.

 

Here’s a replay of his greatest NCAA goal, scored against Boston College in the fall of 2016. Warning- Filth factor is an 11 on the 10-scale:

Here’s a fun video from Wisconsin days with Frederic…