What’s Next For the Bruins (Pt. 7): Young Guns (Forwards)

We hope you’re enjoying the offseason series on the Boston Bruins. There’s more in the works, but this post will quickly break down several of the forward prospects who could be ready for a bigger impact/contribution with the B’s in 2017-18. Now granted- we still need to see who comes and goes when the roster shaping period begins in earnest on and after 1 July, but for now- here are just a few players we think are going to push the coaching staff to either get them into the lineup sooner rather than later, or will make the decision to send them down a tough one.

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Bruins prospect update 11/28/16: Senyshyn back on track

It was a tough start offensively for the third of Boston’s 2015 first-round draft picks, a season after putting up 45 goals for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, but a productive November has right wing Zach Senyshyn back up near the top of the B’s prospects scoring list.

The Nepean, Ont. Native has the size, speed and hands to do a lot of scoring damage, especially off the rush. The 19-year-old has NHL-caliber burst and open-ice speed, often blowing by flat-footed defenders to drive straight to the net and find the twine with a lightning release and close-in finishing ability. He’s got nine goals in 20 games- a respectable if not career-best scoring pace, but the season is still young, and Senyshyn has helped his Greyhounds to a share of 1st place with the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL’s West Division.

Senyshyn had a tough summer, missing the July prospects development camp due to a bout with mononucleosis, and then went through an emergency appendectomy a couple of weeks before the start of rookie camp in Boston, missing the prospects tournament in Buffalo. Although he was able to attend the B’s veteran camp, he was still on the mend and went back down to junior in pretty short order.

Although the fast foodies out there demanded instant success and gratification with his offensive statistics regardless of the health-related setbacks, reality had a different plan in mind and it took Senyshyn some time to get himself into gear. He’s playing a more consistent and dangerous game these days, exploiting defenses with his speed and offensive hockey sense. Obviously, you don’t want to completely dismiss some of the early concerns associated with the lack of scoring, but the reality of the situation is that Senyshyn is too talented to be held in check for long. Whether that translates into the kind of production that certain self-important segments of the punditry and fan castes deem worthy of a player of his draft position remains to be seen (and to be frank- is completely beside the point).

Senyshyn is still addressing his all-around game and demonstrating more of a willingness to go and get pucks himself and provide defensive zone support. He’s a pretty proven commodity on offense, but in order to thrive in Boston, the 15th overall pick will have to assert himself more and that’s been a benefit of going back to the OHL for one more season. The offense is starting to click for him, but the real measure of Senyshyn’s development and progress are the little things that don’t manifest themselves on the offensive side of the ledger.

So far, so good. (And, Senyshyn avoided an automatic two-game suspension last week after getting a match penalty for slew-footing…The Greyhounds successfully got the ban overturned on appeal.)

***

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and center Colby Cave have impressed down in Providence in recent weeks.

Although the offense has been fleeting and the Baby Bruins are a rollercoaster adventure this season under first-year head coach Kevin Dean, things are starting to come together more consistently on both sides of the puck.

Grzelcyk is second in scoring by defensemen (Alex Grant’s 5 goals and 12 points in 16 games paces Providence) and is demonstrating confidence with and without the puck, especially over the past two weeks. The former Boston University captain and third-round pick by the Bruins in 2012 is using his speed, head and hands to boost the transition game and is improving his positional play while not getting too far out of the box on his own physical limitations.

As Claude Julien has stated many times before, with undersized defenders playing ‘smart’ hockey is key- there are just certain situations and matchups coaches will avoid when they can, but guys like Grzelcyk come equipped to overcome the size and strength deficit.

In the early going, his stick positioning and gap control has been capable for a first-year pro. He’s filling lanes and showing a willingness to sacrifice his body to get in front of shots. When the Charlestown native gets the puck on his stick, he’s moving with his head up and can rapidly process and move the play to the right spot on the ice.

Cave, who is in his second full AHL season, is just a solid two-way center who brings versatility and opportunistic play to the mix. The undrafted free agent out of the WHL captained the Swift Current Broncos and was an effective player who could round out a bottom line in the NHL eventually. Despite the pretty average size, Cave could be a serviceable third-liner at some point, but he’s more of a projection as a fourth-liner and penalty killer who is a disruptive presence on the fore check and stands out for his effort, energy and opportunistic offense. We’re not big fans of making player comparisons, but there are some similarities to Dominic Moore, especially if he can raise his faceoffs to the next level.

These are two players to keep an eye on going forward; their effort levels and production of late could be rewarded with NHL time if Boston’s depth is tested yet again.

Amateur Prospects as of 11/28/16

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

* Suspended 5 games for hit to head of opponent

** Injured

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr. U20- Finland 19 9 17 26 2
Peter Cehlarik, Providence AHL 16 8 6 14 6
Anton Blidh, Providence AHL 19 5 4 9 22
Matt Grzelcyk, Providence AHL 19 1 8 9 4
Danton Heinen, Providence AHL 9 5 3 8 0
Colby Cave, Providence AHL 19 3 5 8 11
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF Sweden- Elite 18 3 4 7 6
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 19 3 4 7 6
Colton Hargrove, Providence AHL 16 3 3 6 18
Austin Czarnik, Providence# AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Sean Kuraly, Providence AHL 10 0 2 2 9
Rob O’Gara, Providence AHL 14 0 2 2 2
Chris Casto, Providence AHL 16 0 1 1 18
Linus Arnesson, Providence AHL 16 0 1 1 4
Oskar Steen, Farjestad Sweden- Elite 19 1 1 0 2
Brian Ferlin, Providence AHL 1 0 0 0 0
Justin Hickman, Providence AHL 4 0 0 0 5
Zane McIntyre, Atlanta ECHL 1 0 1 0.93 .973
Dan Vladar, Providence AHL 6 3 0 (3) 2.84 .914
Malcolm Subban, Providence AHL 10 1 6 (4) 3.15 .895

# Czarnik recalled to Boston

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

2016-17 Boston Bruins preview series: the Centers

Patrice Bergeron is Boston's "Mr Everything" (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Patrice Bergeron is Boston’s “Mr Everything” (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The NHL season is around the corner, and for the second consecutive season, the Scouting Post blog is back to provide the season preview and deeper look at the Boston Bruins from a position-by-position perspective. The team will soon break training camp on the 2016-17 NHL season at a brand-spanking new practice facility- the Warrior Ice Arena- in Brighton, and although the World Cup of Hockey is up first, there is no shortage of subplots and storylines swirling around this Bruins club.

Given the optimism surrounding the team at forward, we’ll start with the centers. Now, some might take issue with beginning the series from what is Boston’s greatest area of strength, but I started with the goaltenders last year, so there is a method to the madness.

Unlike last year, I am including an audio component to each post, so that allows me to write less and talk a little more, which will save me from carpal tunnel, but will also go a little easier on your eyes. So, without any more foreplay- here we go.

The Bruins are strong at the center position up and down the roster. They don’t have any flashy, dynamic types, but in Patrice Bergeron, have the best two-way pivot in the game, despite what Selke Trophy voters last year would have you believe. David Krejci is the ole reliable playmaking center, but with offseason hip surgery casting his season in doubt, there are some concerns about his durability, especially as he is entering the new year on the wrong side of 30. The B’s big-money free agency ticket item from the summer, David Backes, will be previewed both as a center and a right wing- but we’ve yet to determine where the B’s will slot him, and that promises to be one of the more intriguing storylines as the team breaks camp. Ryan Spooner currently holds down the third center spot, and the fourth line pivot is wide open. Noel Acciari finished the final 19 games of the schedule after recovering from a shattered jaw in his rookie pro season, while fellow Providence College product Tim Schaller was brought in to provide competition in the offseason. The B’s also recently announced the signing of Dominic Moore to a one-year deal, and former 2006 eighth overall pick Peter Mueller, who is trying to make an NHL comeback after concussions and injuries derailed a promising start.

The B’s also have some interesting potential in the system. Whether you’re talking the tiny but ultra-skilled and feisty Austin Czarnik or the slick, cerebral 200-foot pivot in Boston University sophomore Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, the B’s have a couple of options that might not be as far off on the horizon as one might think. Neither is likely to have a great impact this year (though Czarnik is in the AHL and is a dark horse to make some noise and see some NHL action after his excellent rookie pro season), but both Czarnik and JFK are mature players who are likely to work their way into the mix sooner rather than later. The latter player has already drawn comparisons by people in the Bruins organization (as well as some outside the club) to Bergeron, which is a high bar to set for the Swede.

In addition to Czarnik, Colby Cave is an effective two-way center who had a scoring role as captain of the Swift Current Broncos (where he lined up with B’s 2015 1st-rounder Jake DeBrusk) and showed some flashes of ability as a rookie in 2015-16. Sean Kuraly was a center in college, but is expected to shift to wing in the pros, now that he’s expected to start out in the AHL at Providence.

The B’s stirred up some dust when they drafted U.S National (U18) Team center Trent Frederic with the 29th overall pick. Interestingly enough, management (to include the departed former chief scout Keith Gretzky to Edmonton to be Peter Chiarelli’s newest assistant GM) likened the St. Louis native and University of Wisconsin-bound power forward to none other than his childhood idol Backes, who gave up the captaincy of the Blues to sign with Boston a week after the 2016 draft. In Frederic, the B’s get a big slab of beef at the center position for down the road, and if you believe his various coaches who rave about his intelligence and work ethic, there’s more than meets the eye here- he could be a late-bloomer, though don’t expect all that much in terms of production. The B’s also added huge Finn Joona Koppanen (6-5), but he’s more of a defensive clampdown specialist, so even if he makes the NHL, it’s not going to be as a scorer.

A project who will be worth the wait in terms of ceiling and offensive potential is Harvard sophomore and 2014 2nd-rounder Ryan DonatoWatch for the South Shore (Scituate) product to make some noise- this kid is the real deal, and we think he’s going to break out in Cambridge now that Jimmy Vesey has moved on to Broadway. TSP has been a huge fan of Donato’s ever since watching him first dominate the New England prep circuit in 2012-13 and then raise the bar in his draft season. He’s as intelligent and skilled as they come, and knocks on his skating aren’t fair given that he’s bigger than his dad (he gets his size from his mother’s side of the family and a former NFL linebacker uncle), but the hockey sense and hands are elite. Wisconsin junior Cameron Hughes and rising freshman Jack Becker (6th and 7th picks in 2015) are also in the mix as potential payoffs, but will require time and patience, and even then- neither might not ever make it as viable pros.

Outlook: The Bruins have ability and depth up the middle. Bergeron and Krejci (when fully healthy) give the B’s as good a 1-2 punch as any team in the league, but how Backes will fit into that dynamic as the potential third-line center (or whether he moves up and plays a top-two line RW role) remains to be seen. We also have to see how Krejci fares at camp; now that he’s been ruled out of the WCOH for Team Czech Republic, he has some extra time to heal, but if he’s not ready to go, then it’s a no-brainer: Backes moves up to the second line behind Bergeron. Spooner is the source of quiet debate- he appears to be the odd-man out here, as he’s not an ideal fourth-line center if Backes is 3C, and he is one of Boston’s few real trade chips given his youth, skill level and cap-friendly deal (though he’s up for a new pact in 2017). Dominic Moore is a 36-year-old veteran who could mean that Acciari goes back to Providence for more seasoning, and of course- the B’s added Mueller to a PTO, though that is no sure bet that he will even sign or play center for them. Schaller is a wild card for the fourth line as well, but if he’s going to make the Boston roster, he’ll probably need to do it on the wing somewhere.

All in all- center will be the absolute least of Boston’s worries this season, as the team has talent, experience and a roster to weather injuries and unexpected setbacks.

Now, listen to the pod for more (and working on getting these exported to SoundCloud for those who want to do download and listen later- bear with me- it’s coming):

 

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson aka "JFK"

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson aka “JFK”

 

 

 

The undrafted free agents: the next ones?

Wrapping up the undrafted free agents series with a Boston Bruins focus, going with four players who were in the AHL last year with the Providence Bruins. We could see one or two of them get some NHL games in with Boston this season depending on how things go.

Before we get to the four prospects, though- a little housekeeping first:

As reported in the Boston Globe, Gretzky to the Oilers as assistant GM is done, with Don Sweeney wishing his former chief scout well, lamenting the timing of the hire as an issue. Not one to stand in the way of letting their employee advance in a key managerial position even with a rival club (rival for obvious reasons I don’t need to go into), the B’s did the right thing by letting Gretzky go. This is one of those “if you love someone set them free” kind of things; the team could have played hardball, but that usually comes back to bite you. At this stage, the B’s don’t get anything for releasing Gretzky except maybe some goodwill and the hopes that they can build bridges with their former GM now in Edmonton rather than burn them. I saw someone (I don’t remember where it was) mention the other day that a Dougie Hamilton to the Oilers for Taylor Hall might have been something worth doing if relations between the teams hadn’t been so strained. I don’t know if that was even realistic to consider a year ago, and the world will never know, but cordial relations across the league are better than adversarial ones.

Now, former director of amateur scouting Scott Bradley, who held the post with Boston for more than 10 years before Wayne Smith was named to the position in 2008, will wear two hats as assistant GM and chief scout until Sweeney can find a replacement. Bradley is a good man who has spent nearly three decades in the Bruins organization. His watershed draft as scouting director was 2006 when the team landed Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand with three of their first four picks. Bradley was the guy most responsible for Lucic and a decade later, it was a hell of a find. He’s a man of integrity and a cancer survivor whose decency and dedication to the profession has earned him a great deal of respect around the league.

The Bruins are in good hands until a longer-term solution is found.

Now, onto the main topic at hand…

 

This is the last in a series of articles on undrafted free agents who have made an impact with the B’s: Torey Krug, Frank Vatrano, Noel Acciari, Tim Schaller and Kevan Miller. It’s pretty rare to have four UDFAs on one roster, and the skeptics would probably tell you that it might begin to answer why the B’s have DNQ’d for the NHL playoffs in each of the past two years.

Having said that, Krug has become an integral member of the Boston defense, while Vatrano shows a great deal of promise as someone who could net 25-30 goals or more down the road with a natural scoring knack that can’t be taught. Miller is a trusted if at times miscast defensive defenseman, while Schaller and Acciari are Providence College products who look like above average bottom-six players at the NHL level if they can keep progressing. If nothing else, they’re key cogs at the AHL level.

Now, we look at four players who have yet to reach the NHL, but show enough promise to get there. It won’t be easy for any of them, as with the exception of Czarnik, none display any real higher-end potential. However, as we have learned over the years- sometimes all it takes is an opportunity. This group is likely ticketed for Providence, but stranger things have happened and injury woes or exceptional play could see one or more of these guys get a shot at the big time.

Austin Czarnik, C- Often overshadowed by Vatrano’s scoring eruption last season, Czarnik had an outstanding rookie pro season in the AHL, posting 61 points in 68 games and impressing everyone from the get-go with his speed, smarts and hustle.

The former captain of the Miami University RedHawks was snubbed in the NHL draft because of his lack of size, but he’s always had pro-caliber wheels and brings creativity and moxie to the mix as well. He was recalled to Boston late in the season on an emergency basis but didn’t get into the lineup. While not an ideal fit on the third or fourth lines given the B’s current personnel, if anything changes, the team won’t hesitate to put him in there.

One play in the preseason last year really stood out as typical of what the little Michigan buzzsaw has always been about: on what looked to be a routine dump-in to the offensive end, Czarnik could have made a line change, but he recognized his opponents were making a change and a sloppy one at that. In an instant, he turned on the jets, and blew past a defender who was on the way to the bench but couldn’t adjust his trajectory in time. Czarnik got to the puck first and then made an on-target pass for a Boston goal. Those are the kinds of plays that earn trust and respect from the coaches because of the skill and intelligence behind them. At the NHL level, nanoseconds can mean the difference between making a play and coming up short, so Czarnik seems to understand already what is at stake.

Now, exhibition play isn’t the regular season, but it spoke volumes that one so young and inexperienced at the pro level came in and clicked right away, performing at a near point-per-game pace in the minors. Watch for Czarnik to make his NHL debut this season. He’s probably not going to begin the year in Boston, but he’s a solid bet to get some games in because he’s got scoring chops but is also working on improving his all-around play and is not a defensive liability.

Here’s his first career pro hat trick from December:

Chris Casto, D- The B’s signed Casto out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2013 and at one time, he was shaping up to be a top Minnesota high school draft prospect. With good size and skating, Casto won’t win on many style points, but he can really fire the puck and he put up the best offensive totals of his three-year professional career in 2016.

Casto is a smart and solid positional D. He plays a similar style to that of Tommy Cross, but without the second-round pedigree (and as-of-yet unfulfilled expectations) hanging over him. Casto keeps things simple: he doesn’t show off much in the way of flash, but is steady and moves the puck to the right areas. Like anyone who logs a lot of minutes, there are times when he’ll make a mistake that leads to a goal, but at the AHL level at least, he’s developed into a top-four presence who first-year Providence head coach Kevin Dean will likely lean on heavily in the new campaign.

Here’s a slow-mo video of a Casto goal from last season:

Colby Cave, C- It was a bit of a surprise that the B’s successfully signed Cave after they grabbed Czarnik and Vatrano in the spring of 2015 because Cave was viewed as one of the top undrafted free agents coming out of the WHL a year ago.

The former captain of the Swift Current Broncos saw time in 2014-15 with Boston first-rounder Jake DeBrusk, and had a solid if unspectacular first pro season in Providence last year.

Cave is a fine skater who is effective on the fore check and at forcing turnovers and plays a smart, capable two-way game. What you see is what you get with him- he’s going to take pucks to the net and make an honest 200-foot effort to compensate from a pretty average skill set. He plays the game bigger than his size, playing a rugged but clean style and his leadership no doubt appealed to Boston in their aggressive pursuit of him.

Watch for Cave to put up 20 or more goals in the AHL this year if he can stay healthy, and he could line up behind Czarnik in Providence’s top-two forward lines with the departure of Alexander Khokhlachev to the KHL. Players like Cave aren’t all that sexy or exciting, but they’ll get a shot sometimes ahead of the flashy but one-dimensional types who can only play on half of the ice surface.

Cave’s biggest problem is that he’s got Acciari and Schaller to contend with, and I don’t see him beating either guy out for a spot in Boston, so he’ll probably have to bide his time and try to elevate his play on the farm to make a case.

Cave’s first AHL goal is at about 1:02 of this highlight vid:

Justin Hickman, RW- Another WHL captain- the Bruins outbid several other NHL clubs for the Seattle Thunderbirds overager in January 2015 when he suffered a shoulder injury and had to shut it down for surgery.

He gets a pass for a mediocre rookie pro season because of the physical, rugged style of play Hickman brings and he looked a bit tentative at times as he adjusted to the pro pace after missing about 10 months of playing action by the time he started skating in the AHL.

He’s got good size and toughness- Hickman isn’t a heavyweight who can go toe-to-toe with the biggest, baddest fighters (admittedly- there aren’t many of those left), but he will actively drop the gloves to defend himself and teammates and loves to initiate contact and do the heavy lifting along the walls and in front of the net. Here you go:

Hickman doesn’t have an abundance of skill and best case for him would be to eventually land on an NHL third line somewhere as a middle-of-the-road option; he’s more likely a solid fourth-liner similar to Nate Thompson (who was coincidentally a Seattle product as well).

Stats don’t tell the whole story- Hickman was eased in and didn’t have much in the way of opportunity, but the B’s are quietly high on him and he’ll get a chance to elevate his stock as a sophomore. He’s not ready to make an NHL roster push, but a strong second pro season would go a long way for his confidence and give the team some options.

Austin Czarnik's 2013-14 Miami University Redhawks captain sweater (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Austin Czarnik’s 2013-14 Miami University Redhawks captain sweater (Kirk Luedeke photo)

(Kirk Luedeke photo)

(Kirk Luedeke photo)

Bruins prospects in their draft years 2013-15

Back with part two of the look at Bruins prospects and how they were projected in their draft seasons by Red Line Report.

In case you missed it, I did this exercise with the 2015-16 NHL Bruins roster here...and part 1- the 2010-12 NHL drafts and B’s prospects and free agents in those draft years are covered here.

And…we’re off:

2013

Ryan Fitzgerald, C Drafted: 120 (4th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 52                    Key comment: “Not big but we like the high hockey IQ and bloodlines.”

Observations: RLR rated him high in 2013, and that might have reflected his standing in the first half of the season with the USPHL’s Valley Jr. Warriors, as he had a downward trend heading into the draft. The nephew of Bruins assistant amateur scouting director Scott Fitzgerald is a gritty, feisty if undersized pivot for Boston College, who is coming off his finest NCAA year as a junior. In similar fashion to Seth Griffith, Fitzgerald’s major knocks are a lack of size and dynamic speed for his stature, but he has terrific hockey sense and a nonstop motor. You have to like his bloodlines- dad Tom Fitzgerald played more than 1,000 games and is Ray Shero’s assistant GM with the New Jersey Devils. Ryan grew up around the game and knows what it takes to be a pro. The Fitzgeralds are hockey royalty in New England, so it looks like the 2013 fourth-rounder will go back to BC for his senior year and then sign in spring 2017 when his eligibility is exhausted.

 

Linus Arnesson, D Drafted: 59  (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 75                       Key comment: “As B.B. King would say- ‘the thrill is gone.'”

Observations: A late 1994-born player, Arnesson likely would have been taken in the late first/early second in 2012, but another year of viewing moved him down in the rankings over a lack of offensive potential. With his size and skating, Arnesson at one time looked like a potential top-2 NHL defenseman who might have some power play chops at the highest level, but as scouts got a longer look at him in an extra 2012-13 campaign, it became more evident that the steady Swede was more of a “safe” and unspectacular positional defensive defenseman than one who joins the rush and has the hands and head to be a presence on the score sheet. The good news for the Bruins is that they didn’t draft Arnesson in the late first round, so getting him at the end of the second was decent value for them. He showed promise at the end of 2014-15, when he came over to finish the season in Providence, but this past year- his first full AHL campaign was a bit of a bust as he battled nagging injuries and rollercoaster play. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a future in the Bruins organization, and as a guy who plays a vanilla game, he could earn a recall at some point if the team needs a solid defensive presence. Having said that, he looks like something the B’s already have in abundance: a 4/5/6 player who provides okay depth but best case would be an unheralded second pairing D who puts up at best 15-20 points a season but works well with a more offense-minded partner. The old adage on defense in hockey says that if a player is doing his job well, you don’t notice him. That appears to be the case with Arnesson, but the Bruins were hoping for more than that when they took him with their top choice three years ago (after giving up their first-rounder to Dallas for Jaromir Jagr).

 

Peter Cehlarik, LW Drafted: 89  (3rd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 111                         Key comment: “Tall & lanky with great hands but feet betray him.”

Observations: This late riser ended up generating some draft buzz and is still an intriguing if oft-forgotten man when it comes to prospect discussions. The Slovak, who has spent the past three seasons playing in Sweden, is a top-six NHL forward dark horse kind of prospect, but he’s also one of those guys who is tough to peg because if he doesn’t make it as a scorer, it’s hard to envision him playing a heavy and responsible enough game to succeed on the third or fourth lines in Boston. His initial first steps are a bit clunky, though with a long, efficient stride, he can work well in open space with good straight line speed. Cehlarik improved his skating from when he was first drafted, but it will never be a strength. He has a quick release that allows him to score goals off the rush- an-instride drive that sometimes handcuffs goalies. He’ll also take the puck in close and shows some pretty fine dangle in getting net minders to open up and commit. Don Sweeney once described the puck coming off his stick as a “slingshot”to me, so there’s that.

 

Wiley Sherman, D   Drafted: 150  (5th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 125                 Key comment: “Getting around him is like circumnavigating the globe.”

Observations: Drafted as an identified project, Sherman is similar to O’Gara in that he has a lot of developing to do. The Greenwich, Conn. native is more of a gentle giant at 6-foot-6, but with his wingspan and long reach, along with pretty agile footwork for one so big, he’s tough to beat 1-on-1. He’s not a physical force but is more of a smart positional defender who angles opponents away from his net and sacrifices his body to block shots rather than look for open-ice kill shots and hammering players along the boards. When Sherman has time and space, he’s capable of moving the puck out of his own end, but when the game closes in on him quickly, his processing time lengthens and he can be forced into turning it over. Drafted out of Hotchkiss School, he took an extra year of prep before getting to Harvard, so he’s still pretty raw and will likely take the full two years remaining on his NCAA eligibility before the B’s will assess whether to bring him into the organizational fold.

 

Anton Blidh, LW      Drafted: 180  (6th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: Not ranked

Observations: One RLR European staffer summed up Blidh succinctly in Newark after the pick was made: “Gritty rugged guy, but no skills.” I’ll admit- have not really seen much to this player in the three years since he was drafted, even when he had a nice 2015 World Jr. tourney for Team Sweden. He’s gritty and rugged, but plays a very simple, straight-line game. It’s a nice fit for what the Bruins like, but Blidh is a dime-a-dozen kind of guy and it stands to reason given where they selected him. He’s not someone who is going to suddenly wake up and start lighting it up, but the team could do a lot worse than Blidh on the fourth line or in a pinch. In other words- as long as you take him for what he is, there’s no reason to get excited.

 

2014

Ryan Donato, C                        Drafted: 56  (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 65               Key comment: “Great bloodlines and hockey sense with soft hands.”

Observations: The B’s grabbed the son of one of their hometown favorites and the pick looks solid two years later. Coming out of his freshman year at Harvard under dad, Ted, the younger Donato also earned a Bronze medal at the 2016 WJC with Team USA. He’s always been a heady, creative playmaking center who is bigger than his dad but doesn’t have the blazing wheels. With the Crimson, Donato showed signs of being on track to be a dominant NCAA scorer in the next couple of years. The B’s can afford to be patient with him and they will- there is no reason to rush him to the big show.

 

Danton Heinen, LW/RW           Drafted: 116 (4th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: Not ranked

Observations: Nobody (outside of the NHL clubs on him) hit on Heinen…not one scouting service had him even ranked, and RLR was no exception. Two years later, Heinen scored nearly 100 points, making an immediate impact as a freshman and then following it up as a sophomore, leading the Pioneers in scoring after a slow start. He signed with Boston in April, giving up his last two years of NCAA eligibility to turn pro. Heinen made positive waves in his first AHL contest with Providence, registering a multi-point effort. He came down to earth a bit in the playoffs, but the British Columbia native looks like an intriguing playmaking wing, who uses his superior vision and creativity to control the flow and tempo in the offensive zone. He looks like a keeper. As for the questions surrounding Heinen and whether he can make the Boston roster right away, it probably wouldn’t kill folks to exert a little more patience and let him at least start in Providence to see how he adjusts to the pro challenges. He’s a talented forward with an intriguing ceiling if he continues his development, but let’s see how Heinen looks at his first pro training camp before penciling him into the Boston opening night lineup.

 

Anders Bjork,  RW      Drafted: 146 (5th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 178               Key comment: “Has the skating and the work ethic to make it as a checker.”

Observations: This late-round value pick is coming off a very good sophomore campaign at Notre Dame. He’s quick out of the starting blocks, accelerating quickly and demonstrating a nice short-area burst, which makes him highly effective on the fore check. He’s an energetic player and relentless in puck pursuit, but with the Fighting Irish this season, Bjork showed surprisingly consistent offensive flair, leading the club in scoring. He’ll need to keep putting up the points to project as something more than an ideal third-line forward, so expect him to come down to earth a bit next season, but he certainly looks like a nice value pick in the fifth round for the B’s because of his well-rounded game and smarts.

 

Emil Johansson, D      Drafted: 206 (7th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: Not ranked

Observations: A lack of hockey sense had him off of RLR’s list, but Johansson had a strong finish to the 2015-16 season that might earn him more of a hard look going forward. He’s got a bit of a doughy build and has been knocked for his conditioning in the past. Johansson is a capable skater who moves well laterally, and handles the puck with confidence. When it comes to vision and hockey IQ, we’re not all that sure if he’s got what it takes between the ears to play at the NHL level, but admittedly- he’s made a case to at least be in the conversation. It appears he is leaving his HV71 club for MoDo, so we’ll see what comes next in his development.

 

Colby Cave, C         Drafted: Undrafted (Free Agent- Boston 2015)

Red Line ranking: 85                  Key comment: “Complete centre is versatile- can excel in any role.”

Observations: Ranked in both 2013 and 2014 RLR draft guides, he’s an industrious two-way center that impressed in Swift Current with 2015 first-rounder Jake DeBrusk before getting signed by Boston before the team made his teammate one of three top-15 picks in Sunrise. He skates well and like Bjork shows some real energy and tenacity when pressuring the opposing puck carrier coming out of the zone. He didn’t put up big numbers in Providence, but had his moments and looks like he could challenge for lower line duty in Boston if he keeps progressing.

 

2015

Jakub Zboril, D         Drafted: 13 (1st round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 26                  Key comment: “Intense, and a physical specimen with a cannon shot.”

Observations: The Bruins missed out on an impressive top tier of defenders in the top-10, instead settling for arguably the next best player in Zboril, at least in terms of talent. Ability-wise, there is no doubt the Czech product could be a top-3 defenseman in the NHL one day, but the consistency and effort levels were at times lacking in his draft season. He took a step back statistically this past year, struggling at the beginning of the season before settling into a more defense-oriented role for Danny Flynn’s Saint John Sea Dogs. Zboril plays with a physical edge and when on his game, he’s as good as anyone, but the wavering intensity and at times nonchalance has led to questions about his commitment. We’ll see if he can mature and figure it out, but there’s a reason he wasn’t a top-10 pick a year ago, and Zboril didn’t help himself a great deal last season. This time around, a bounce-back campaign would be nice, but because he’s a 1997-born player, he either has to make the Boston roster out of camp or go back to the QMJHL. That has led to speculation that he might take his game to Europe in 2016-17.

 

Jake DeBrusk, LW        Drafted: 14 (1st round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 25                  Key comment: “42 goals and NHL bloodlines will attract attention.”

Observations: The son of former NHL enforcer Lou DeBrusk, the Red Deer Rebels forward finished strong with an excellent WHL playoffs and Memorial Cup tournament after a tough year offensively. Dogged by a significant lower-body injury early on, DeBrusk was then traded by Swift Current to the Memorial Cup host city club in late December, where he appeared to be getting his production on track before getting moved around various lines and scoring at a little over a point-per-game clip. It was a step down after scoring 42 goals a year ago, but DeBrusk is still a smart winger with impressive offensive hockey sense, and he showed some opportunistic offense with the spotlight on him in the Memorial Cup last month. As a late 1996-born player, the Bruins have options: he is signed and can spend the next season in Providence, or they can return DeBrusk to the WHL for his overage season. He’s a good kid who has been unfairly maligned because of where he was drafted and the fact that most public scouting lists had him in the 20’s, but he went about 10 spots earlier. Still- 42 goals is 42 goals- watch for DeBrusk to elevate his stock because he’s got the skill, smarts and dedication to be more than the sum of his parts. He’s got to get stronger, which could factor into a decision to send him back to junior, and his skating isn’t subpar, but he could stand to add some quickness in his first few steps. He compensates at this level by reading the play so well and bursting to pucks in open ice, but that will be tougher to do in the pro ranks with the reduced time and space.

 

Zach Senyshyn, RW        Drafted: 15 (1st round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 46                  Key comment: “Love his combination of size, skating and edginess.”

Observations: The first big surprise off the draft board in 2015 sparked an immediate wave of negativity from many who had never even seen him play. At 6-2, he can really skate, rapidly exploding to top speed in just a few long strides, and often times blowing by defenders on the outside and taking pucks straight to the net. He went from 26 to 45 goals from his draft season, but there is still significant room for improvement in Senyshyn’s game, and folks should not see failure if he is returned to junior before the next season. Though an impressive physical specimen, Senyshyn still needs to develop a more complete game and avoid the tendency for younger scoring forwards to hang out and wait for their next offensive chance. The payoff on this player could be big so long as people are patient, because he has the natural NHL tools to be a top-six forward one day, but some guys take longer than others, and the B’s can afford to wait a little. Like Zboril, Senyshyn can’t play full-time in the AHL next season if he doesn’t make the Boston roster out of camp.

 

Brandon Carlo, D                     Drafted: 37 (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 41                   Key comment: “Huge with improving puck/skating skating skills. Big upside.”

Observations: The gigantic Colorado product is already a fan favorite and he has all the makings of a dominant shutdown defender who can at some point help get the Boston blue line group pointed in the right direction. Like DeBrusk, Carlo can play for Providence next season, but it might all be moot, as this huge, mobile defender might just break camp and enter the season on Boston’s roster. Not to put a lot of pressure on the Tri-City Americans rearguard, but he’s talented enough to play right away. The big question is whether the Bruins will opt to let him play a bigger role in the AHL before making a decision. Either way, we’re pretty much looking at a player who looks like as solid a bet as any to play in the NHL. The question we’re left with is what kind of impact Carlo will have: on the positive side- he can really skate for a 6-5 player, with speed and agility, and he can fire off cannon drives from the point. Alas, not real sure of the vision and natural hockey sense, but his game is good enough to reach the NHL, even if he tops out as a solid 3-4 shutdown guy at that level.

 

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C             Drafted: 45 (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 70                   Key comment: “Strong two-way pivot but a bit mechanical.”

Observations: Swedish product is coming off a superb freshman season at Boston University. A lot of observers have drawn comparisons to Patrice Bergeron, which sets the bar pretty darn high for the player known as “JFK” but he sets himself apart with his refined game, smarts and overall poise. Forsbacka-Karlsson showed a natural flair for winning draws and despite not having high-end speed, shows a nice changeup of gears through the neutral zone and often pulled players out of position with a series of deceptive movements and head fakes. With soft hands and a natural knack for threading the needle, the sky is the limit for this kid, who left home in Sweden to adjust to North America in the USHL for two years before joining the Terriers. In hindsight, RLR had him a little low for what he’s shown in the early going.

 

Jeremy Lauzon, D                          Drafted: 52 (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 59                   Key comment: “Vastly underrated blue liner can hit, skate and score.”

Observations: This Red Line favorite went right around where he was projected by our Quebec guys, who saw him surge nicely in the second half. In 2015-16, he took his game up a notch, establishing offensive highs in assists and points, despite fighting through injuries that forced him out of the lineup and hampered his progress in the second half. He managed to return from a horrific skate cut to the neck during the second round of the QMJHL playoffs. His Rouyn-Noranda Huskies won the league championship, and he was able to get back to action in the Memorial Cup tournament, dropping the championship game to the London Knights. Lauzon skates well enough, though he’s still addressing his transitory skating mechanics- the pivots and turns can be a little slushy at times. He has a big shot, deft passing touch and will hit and fight to defend teammates when necessary. He could be the best of the three defensemen drafted by Boston in 2015.

 

 

Daniel Vladar, G                           Drafted: 75 (3rd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 67                   Key comment: “Poor technique, but he’s 6-5 and a human gumby.”

Observations: When it comes to high ceilings for goaltenders, Vladar was among the leaders in the class of 2015.  He played well for the USHL’s Chicago Steel, splitting the starts and posting respectable numbers, but the Czech native is still raw and years away from staking a claim for NHL time in the crease. Interestingly enough, the Bruins signed Vladar to an ELC, making him ineligible to return to the USHL, and it looks like Vladar could play in the ECHL or AHL next season. Don’t rule out a spot in the CHL despite the ban on European net minders if Vladar’s agents can successfully argue a loophole that establishes North American residency for him over the last 12 months. I guess we will see.

 

 

Jesse Gabrielle, LW                        Drafted: 105   (4th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 132                   Key comment: “Naturally abrasive cuss plays like a burr up under the saddle.”

Observations: At one time thought of as a potential second-rounder, Gabrielle slid to the fourth round, where his favorite team snapped him up.  One year later, he exploded for 40 goals after being dealt from the Regina Pats to the Prince George Cougars last August. Gabrielle is about 5-11, but is a thick and sturdy 205 pounds- he plays like a little wrecking ball, driving through traffic and getting pucks to the net the old fashioned way. He’s also very tough to play against as he dishes out big hits, is nasty along the walls and will go after anyone who crosses him. Gabrielle is an exciting prospect as someone who had modest expectations this season and blew them up. The key for him will be to keep progressing now that he’ll have opponents keying on him and will likely be playing back in the WHL this season as a 1997-born player. Unfortunately, the AHL is not an option for him until 2017-18

 

Cameron Hughes, C                        Drafted: 165   (6th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 71                  Key comment: “So underrated, underscouted he may not get drafted.”

Observations: Well, the draft snub didn’t happen- the B’s grabbed him in the middle of the sixth round- but if you put a lot of stock in the Red Line rankings, then the team got a heck of a value with the Alberta native there. 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.

 

Jack Becker, C/W                                         Drafted: 195 (7th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 222

Observations: The Mahtomedi HS-drafted player and University of Wisconsin recruit had a pretty average USHL season with the Sioux Falls Stampede, scoring eight goals and 22 points in 58 games. He’s got a big frame and has some intriguing skill, but is a long shot to ever do anything of substance in the NHL. We’ll have to take the long view and see how he looks in the NCAA, but all signs point to a slow transition that will take a few years and we might not even have a realistic view on his development path until 2018 at the earliest.

 

 

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 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

B’s go to 3-0 in preseason; Chara leaves with UB injury while Morrow impresses

The Boston Bruins are undefeated in exhibition play with three wins, coming back from a 3-1 deficit tonight against the NY Rangers to score two third period goals including the tying tally from Ryan Spooner with 54 seconds left and Jeremy Smith out for the extra attacker. After a scoreless overtime including 4-on-3 power plays for each team, the B’s got shootout goals from Spooner, Frank Vatrano and Brad Marchand to pull out a 4-3 victory that doesn’t count in the standings.

The biggest news on the night was the loss of captain Zdeno Chara in the first period. He made contact with Rangers forward Ryan Bourque (youngest son of B’s legend Ray). The play did not look like much, but Chara left the ice after 1:57 in three shifts and did not return. The team announced him out with an “upper body injury” and did not have an update after the game.

It goes without saying that should the B’s lose Chara for any extended period of time after already being without veteran Dennis Seidenberg for the first two months of the regular season, they are in trouble deep. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess. But for now- the positives:

Ryan Spooner- Boston’s 23-year-old pivot scored the equalizer when the Rangers allowed him to walk in from the right half-wall to the top of the circle where he sent a low shot through several guys in front. The puck was on target at Rangers goalie Jeff Malcolm’s five-hole and gave the B’s a shot at OT with less than a minute remaining. Spooner followed that up in the shootout with a nice snipe after making a quick hip fake as he came in at an oblique angle before beating Malcolm far side over the blocker. If you like pure speed and skill, Spooner has plenty of both. He’s figuring out who he is as an NHL center and as long as he’s scoring and working hard, Claude Julien will be happy with him, even if he doesn’t always make the right decisions or plays in his own end.

Joe Morrow- The Pens first-rounder in 2011 had a good game, blasting a shot from the point that Tyler Randell tipped home to give the B’s a 1-0 lead while playing a good aggressive transition game and hustling back, blocking shots and playing hard on defense. He made a particularly good play to sacrifice his body late in regulation to block a shot that could have put the game out of reach just before Spooner tied it. He nearly won it in the final second when he jumped in from the point and fired a rebound on net, but the shot hit Bourque and did not go. He was solid in OT, poised when the B’s were down a man and then later working the point well with fellow D-man Colin Miller. If this was a statement game that Morrow wants to play in the NHL full-time this season, he made it.

Austin Czarnik- I said this on Twitter: he’s a player. I’m liking the Michigan native and former Miami University captain more and more each time I see him, and I had a lot of time for him when he was in the NCAA. He was instrumental on Boston’s second goal- anticipating that a Rangers clearing attempt would not get past the blue line and turning on the jets to zoom into the zone and get to the puck first. He then walked to the middle of the slot and fired a shot that hit the post. Jimmy Hayes had fallen down in front of the net and appeared to interfere with the goalie Malcolm, but the puck squirted out and defenseman Brandon Carlo buried it. In the regular season, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would be able to mount a coach’s challenge on that play, and he probably would win, but not tonight. Back to Czarnik- he might be small, but he’s so fast, smart and creative with the puck. He’s always making something happen. I thought Julien should have put him out for the 4-on-3 Boston had at the end of OT. As it stood, he was finally put out in the last 11 seconds and the B’s mounted a furious assault on the Rangers net with him out there buzzing around…coincidence? I think not. I’m still surprised that the Bruins were able to beat out other suitors for this guy, but you can see why other teams were on Czarnik, at least.

Frank Vatrano- Providence fans watching these games have to be getting excited for the duo of Vatrano and Czarnik…they are making for a magical little pair of skilled offensive players. Vatrano played a solid game, but he scored a jaw-dropping goal in the shootout when he rifled a top shelf shot past Malcolm high to the glove side. On the reverse angle, you could see the puck just explode off Vatrano’s stick in a blur…that’s the vaunted release I’ve been oozing over. But the tiny little spot in the upper corner he then hit…with Malcolm in position to make the glove save…this is a kid who is a pure goal scorer with a move like that. The only thing better would have been if it came against Henrik Lundqvist.

Jeremy Smith- If you looked at the box score, you might think Smitty had a tough night. Not so. Yes, he was beaten for a couple of goals that he wanted back, especially the one he got a piece of but knocked into his own net. However, with the game on the line, he dug in and got the job done. I like his talent and mental toughness…I have little doubt that Smith can be an effective backup, but as a player who’s never seen a second of regular season NHL action, there’s some risk associated with him. However- the more you watch him, the more you realize that he’s a competitor and can probably play at this level. Whether the B’s are willing to accept that risk or go with the safer bet in Jonas Gustavsson…that’s what we’ll find out in the remaining preseason contests.

Colin Miller- He had another strong preseason game, showing off the big-time shot, passing and skating skills he was noted for. I saw someone say on Twitter at some point that the Kings hitching their wagon to Slava Voynov over Miller might have been a huge mistake. I guess we shall soon see, but he has that instinctive, aggressive and attacking mindset when he gets the puck. He was dropping bombs from the point in OT and with Morrow, the two did a nice job of keeping the puck away from the Rangers PKers. If Miller can translate his solid preseason play and production in the NHL going forward, this will have been one of those trades that benefits both teams. Milan Lucic is very likely going to go off in Tinseltown in a contract year and new setting back on the West Coast where he is happiest, so Miller’s success will be a big win for Boston if it comes together for him.

Tyler Randell- One tough motha…he got things going with a deflection of Morrow’s point shot in the first period. Then followed it with a spirited fight with Brett Bellemore that was pretty one-sided with Randell scoring some big blows before the takedown. Randell did not complete the Gordie Howe hat trick, but it was a solid showing from the 2009 sixth-rounder, whose skating has held him back, but has a nice set of hands for scoring the odd goal on occasion and fighting.

Brandon Carlo- When the B’s made some cuts today, the 18-year-old Tri-City Americans defender was not one of them, a nice vote of confidence. He had a solid outing, scoring a goal by stepping up from the blue line in the third period to pull his team to within one.  He’s got a long reach and does a good job of keeping opponents to the outside. He’s still pretty raw and will get a lot better, but this has been a nice camp experience for him so far.

Brad Marchand- It was nice to see him back together with Patrice Bergeron again. Marchand used his speed and shiftiness all night, but came through at the end when he put an off-speed shot through Malcolm’s leg in the shootout to secure the win. He was wearing an ‘A’ tonight.

Zac Rinaldo- Another game, another standout performance in terms of energy and getting under the opposition skin. He was running around drilling Rangers in the third period, and drew the attention of New York tough guy Tanner Glass. Rinaldo declined Glass’ offer to dance, but then nailed Tommy Hughes with a clean but big-time hit that sent the Ranger flying. Glass went right after Rinaldo and got assessed the roughing minor. Rinaldo is a punk…but he’s Boston’s punk. You shouldn’t play the game like you have eggs in your pockets, but at the same time, Rinaldo has to watch the line and not skate over it. Some people will always have problems with the way he plays, but in two preseason matches, he’s been effective at doing his thing. Time will tell if he can prevent the meltdowns that have contributed to his negative perception around the league, and he came mighty close to penalized for contact with a linesman, who was escorting him to the Boston bench.

The B’s sent Zach Senyshyn back to Sault Ste Marie of the OHL today, along with defenseman Jeremy Lauzon, who returned to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL but was not in their opening night roster against the Quebec Remparts. Goalie Daniel Vladar (Chicago-USHL) and Prince George (WHL) forward Jesse Gabrielle were also returned to their junior clubs.

Colby Cave and Colton Hargrove were sent to Providence, along with AHL contract guys Andrew Cherniwchan, Eric Neiley, Frankie Simonelli, Max Everson, Max Iafrate and Matt Ginn.

Boston Bruins 2015-16 season preview : Wingers

This is the last installment of the position-by-position look at the Boston Bruins as we enter the new NHL season- training camps are less than a month away. Thanks for reading and passing the links to the other pieces on the goalies, defensemen and centers. There is more to come on the blog as the season goes on, but here’s a breakdown of the team’s situation on the left and right wings.

Brad Marchand raised his arms 24 times last season, a team best (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Brad Marchand raised his arms 24 times last season, a team best (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

In retrospect: Scoring was down across the board, as Milan Lucic and Reilly Smith combined for just 31 goals between them after posting 44 the season before. Both players have new zip codes for the new year, as the Bruins and GM Don Sweeney have attempted to generate some flexibility with the salary cap in sending them to Los Angeles and Florida respectively.

Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson are the only Boston wingers who surpassed the 20-goal mark last season, as Marchand led the club with 24. Eriksson, who has been much-maligned after being the central return piece in the Tyler Seguin trade on July 4, 2013, bounced back with a solid 22-goal year after dealing with two concussions and just 10 goals in his first full Boston campaign.

Rookie David Pastrnak was a bright spot, electrifying the fan base in his second NHL call-up in January when he posted back-to-back 2-goal games and earned a job with the big club the rest of the way, finishing with 10 goals and 27 points, while leading the team in scoring over the final quarter season stretch. Fellow Providence kiddo Seth Griffith showed some flashes of offense when called up earlier in the year, but a lack of speed and experience saw him returned to the farm for more seasoning.

Former top-10 selection Brett Connolly was brought in at the deadline and suffered a freak finger injury in his very first Bruins practice, causing him to miss all but the final five games. One can only wonder if his presence might have helped the team eke out a win somewhere along the line before he got back into the lineup at admittedly less than 100 percent.

The Simon Gagne veteran redemption experiment did not work, and Daniel Paille 6 goals in 71 games was his worst output since coming to the B’s early in the 2009-10 season. Gagne retired and Paille is still looking for a new team after not being re-signed.

The view from here: Marchand is the team’s most consistent finisher, having tallied at least 20 goals in each of his five full NHL seasons with the exception of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 year, but even then he scored 18 in just 45 games. The small but fleet-of-foot agitator can be his own worst enemy, and he will go long stretches without scoring, only to get hot and carry the team for extended periods. Streaky play aside, Marchand has the bona fides as an important contributor who will continue to get the ice time and could hit 30 goals this year.

Pastrnak is the player the Bruins have been waiting for. The 25th overall pick in 2014 dazzled in development camp immediately after the draft in Philly, the first indication that Boston had a steal. You can never really account for why players like him drop, but the B’s were major beneficiaries, as they had him projected in the mid-teens but after being unable to move up to get him (sensing a trend here? Trading up is much more easier said than done- takes two to tango) they stood pat and got him at their regular spot anyway. He’s not only highly skilled, but extremely hard working and energetic. Cynical Boston fans will grumble about waiting for the inevitable trade that is coming to unload the young star as was the case with Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, but Pastrnak is not going anywhere. In him, Boston has their next Patrice Bergeron in terms of a player who not only has the talent to be a front line guy, but who embodies the team-first, competitive values the organization treasures.

Boston signed free agent Matt Beleskey away from Anaheim in the off-season, getting him at five years and an AAV of $3.8M- not a cheap contract, but less than what prognosticators thought he might receive on the open market heading into July. At 27, he’s in his prime and coming off of a career-best 22 goals for the Ducks in 65 games, but does not have an established body of work as a scorer at the NHL level and has dealt with injuries consistently in his pro career. He’s done and said all the right things since signing with Boston and the Bruins are banking on him getting another 20+ markers while bringing an energy and physicality despite not being an overly big, classic power forward.

Another new addition who does fit the mold of the modern big wing with scoring potential is Dorchester’s Jimmy Hayes, who comes home to play for the team he dreamed of skating for as a kid. Although not your snarly, intimidating presence, the former Boston College star tallied 19 goals the old fashioned way- in front of the net where he parks his 6-5 body and uses his quick hands and offensive instincts to finish off scoring chances. The 25-year-old signed a three-year extension with the B’s after being acquired for Reilly Smith with an AAV of $2.3 million, a bargain if he maintains his production or better yet, ups his numbers into the 20’s. He has talent enough to do it, though he doesn’t have the skill and upside of his younger brother and Rangers forward Kevin.

Eriksson once scored 30 goals in a season, but that’s not who he is. The Bruins got a glimpse more in line with the real forward this past season, and if he brings more of the same, the team will take it. His lack of open-ice speed is the biggest drawback to the veteran Swede, who is a quiet professional and uses his smarts to slip through seams and generate stealthy scoring chances that won’t bring you out of your seat, but count just as much as a highlight reel goal if it goes in. His 18:24 average time on ice led all Boston forwards and speaks to his ability to compete on both special teams and at even strength. Because he’s always going to be compared to Seguin, Eriksson is an easy target for frustrated fans, but he did his job last season and will be counted on again. Given his impending status as a UFA, however, if the team looks out of it as the trade deadline looms, he’s a prime candidate to be moved.

Connolly is an intriguing x-factor as a right wing who just couldn’t find his niche in Tampa Bay after GM Steve Yzerman made him his first ever draft pick, sixth overall, in 2010. At the time, Connolly had been dealing with a major hip injury and was seen as an injury risk that early in the draft despite being a gifted scorer coming out of Prince George of the WHL. Ironically enough, Connolly’s hip has held up since then, but the expected offense has not materialized to the degree indicative of his high pre-draft standing and subsequent projections. He scored 12 goals in 50 games for Tampa Bay in a bottom-six line role, so the potential is there, and the B’s feel that giving up a pair of 2nd round picks- in 2015 and 2016- is worth the risk.

Veterans Chris Kelly and Max Talbot are back to vie for playing time on the lower lines and Claude Julien will value their experience and leadership. Both are in the final years of their contracts and may not be back in Boston for the 2016-17 season, so the team will see what they can get from them this year and take it from there.

If he is unable to win a job at center, the Bruins would be well-served to see if they can get Alexander Khokhlachev out on the wing and try him in a top-9 role. Spots are getting more and more crowded, but the team does not have many more forwards with the pure talent and scoring potential Koko does. A lot of fans fell in love with him without realizing how much work the rest of his game needed, so the appetite to have him in the lineup has been pretty constant since 2011. Now, though, is really time to see what they have in him. The B’s struggled to score last year and that’s what this kid does best. Unlike Spooner, he doesn’t have the speed to be an ideal center, so why not see if he can make the adjustment to wing? It’s worth a shot.

Youngsters Brian Ferlin and Seth Griffith will also hope to get more playing time in Boston during the new campaign. Griffith shined at times, including scoring several memorable goals, and has always been a dangerous offensive player going back to his OHL days with London, even if he does not have ideal size or game-breaking wheels. Ferlin is a big-bodied forward who did not look out of place in a seven-game NHL audition (1 assist), but may have to start the year in Providence if there are no injuries to open up spots up front to begin the year.

In what really amounts to Sweeney’s most curious and criticized move, he dealt a 2017 third-round pick for Zac Rinaldo, one of the most polarizing players for the way he plays on the edge and has received suspensions for illegal hits and putting opponents at risk for injury. Rinaldo is undersized, but plays a kamikaze style that opens him up to injury and also leaves the penalty box door ajar as well given his 102 penalty minutes a year ago. On the positive side, he’ll hit anything and plays with an energy most players can’t hope to match, but a perceived lack of respect for his fellow NHLers, not to mention just 1 goal in 58 games has a lot of Boston fans not seeing the sense in trading a top-90 pick for a player like Rinaldo. We’ll have to see whether he can reign in his emotions and be more than he’s been in his NHL career to date with the Flyers or if this will go down as a step backwards for Sweeney in his early tenure.

David Pastrnak is the player the Boston Bruins have been waiting for. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

David Pastrnak is the player the Boston Bruins have been waiting for. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

On the farm: The B’s signed 2013 late-rounder Anton Blidh, and he’ll turn some heads in Providence with his gritty, in-your-face style. Although I try to avoid comparisons, he plays a style reminiscent of old Boston farm hand (and part-time Bruin until his trade to St. Louis) Vladimir Sobotka. What Blidh lacks in skill, he makes up for in “want to” so watch for him to become a fan favorite with the skill set to come up and provide help in a pinch.

Big winger Colton Hargrove will provide some toughness with Tyler Randell after turning pro out of Western Michigan. The Texan showed offensive improvement every year with the Broncos, and he was a nasty fighter in the USHL with Fargo before the NCAA. He’ll likely embrace a policeman’s role similar to Randell, but don’t expect much in the way of production as he adjusts to the pace and demands of the pro game and schedule.

Anthony Camara has been a disappointment in two pro seasons after being a third-round pick in 2011. As much a victim of internet hype without context, he’s a gritty player who likes to hit, but who does not have the requisite hockey sense to be a front line player and needs more talented linemates to produce. This is probably his last chance to get it going in the Boston system.

Brandon DeFazio and Frank Vatrano provide the ability to score goals on the wings for Providence as neither figure to be favorites to earn spots in Boston out of camp. Vatrano, who hails from East Longmeadow, Mass., has a wicked shot and made a lot of strides in improving his conditioning. He’s someone to keep an eye out as a player who played just one full season at UMass before deciding to make a run with the hometown team.

Free agent Colby Cave could see time at center in Providence, but a move to the wing might suit the gritty, smart and underrated scorer nicely. He can push the pace with his skating and he brings a tenacious style that coaches love. Watch for him to earn Bruce Cassidy’s trust early and often, even if he doesn’t project as a high-end player in the NHL.

The future: Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn were the team’s top two draft selections, but left wing Danton Heinen is the player to watch in the nearer term. The 2014 fourth-rounder out of the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL made an immediate impact at Denver University, finishing with the third-best freshman point totals in the nation. He’s a smart, creative playmaking wing, who showed a consistent ability to make plays around the net even without elite skating ability. He’s shifty and quick, but his mature game and a knack for setting up plays and making it look easy could see him turn pro as soon as this spring if he takes another step forward in his development with the Pioneers.

DeBrusk scored 42 goals with Swift Current and will likely need time to physically mature back in the Dub, but he brings a sniper’s mindset and an eagerness to be a Bruin that makes it none too surprising that the club jumped on him early in the draft at 14th. Like DeBrusk, Senyshyn has a natural ability to find the back of the net- he’s under pressure to justify his high draft standing but has the demeanor to see it through. Time will tell if the Bruins have it right with this duo, but there is no rush to figure it out this season.

Jesse Gabrielle, the club’s fourth-round selection in 2015, grew up in Western Canada cheering for the Bruins and Marchand. Now with Prince George of the WHL, he’s got some Marchand in him. He’ll have to prove that he can maintain his production and consistency while remaining dedicated to working towards an eventual job in Boston.

Rising Notre Dame sophomore Anders Bjork looked good in this month’s Team USA WJC national evaluation camp in Lake Placid. Watch for the 2014 fifth-round pick to make that squad as a versatile, effective two-way forward who brings speed and penalty killing chops to any team he’s on.

Slovak winger Peter Cehlarik will give one more year in the Swedish Hockey League a try before he’s expected to come over and compete for an NHL roster spot. The tall, lanky third rounder two years ago has a good release and offensive ability, but is not all that heavy a player nor does he play with much attention to detail for a 200-foot game. He’s skilled, but leaves you wanting more at times when it comes to his energy and hustle.

The verdict: It’s a middle tier collection of wingers, with not a single player coming off a year of 25 or more goals.

There is some promise with this group, and the Bruins will need it as major steps back by key contributors means that there isn’t much depth to pick it up behind them.

The Beleskey and Hayes additions were solid roster moves, but losing Lucic is going to hurt more than Bruins fans realize until they start watching the games. It’s kind of like that old Cinderella song- “Don’t Know What Ya Got Til It’s Gone”- and fans will have to decide on their own if the contract/UFA debate was worth losing him. Given the return, it probably was, but it’s going to take some getting used to when he’s skating around in a Kings sweater this season, likely playing some of his best hockey in years. It’s only human nature, after all.

Pastrnak is the key- the Bruins need to put him in situations where he can thrive while preserving his health. Don’t expect All-Star caliber numbers, but 20+ goals and north of 50 points as a sophomore would be a win and show that he is well on his way.

Still, there are more lingering questions about this group than answers- the only way to settle the debate is by playing the games.

It’s almost time.