Boston Bruins prospect update 10/12/15

This week’s headliner for the Boston Bruins prospects update is Providence B’s winger Frank Vatrano, who tallied five goals in the first two AHL games of the season, in which his club went 1-0-1. With the AHL and NCAA seasons now underway, the B’s futures are all playing games that count around the globe. This week, we’ll kick off in the AHL:

AHL

Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

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

The undrafted free agent from East Longmeadow, Mass. looks like a real find after a Texas Hat Trick (four goals as opposed to three) on Sunday at home against the Portland Pirates. Vatrano spent two seasons with the NTDP after lighting up the Bay State minor hockey circuit and was always a talented scorer, but he struggled with his weight and conditioning, which led to his not being drafted. Originally a Boston College recruit, academic issues forced him out of that school before he ever played a single game and transfer rules meant he missed nearly the entire following season before playing 2014-15 with the Minutemen and leading the team in scoring right out of the chute. Vatrano signed with his hometown Bruins, scored his first pro goal last spring with the P-Bruins and now has 6 markers in his first 7 AHL games going back to last year. He can score from just about anywhere…two of his goals yesterday happened because he was driving to the net with some pretty good speed, while the other two were snipes from the circle, where he likes to set up and unleash his vicious shot. The 21-year-old will be called up to Boston if he can continue finding the back of the net at the AHL level, and Brad Marchand’s concussion might accelerate that transaction, especially if the Boston offense continues to struggle.

Austin Czarnik, C/RW Providence Bruins

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

Like Vatrano, the diminutive but highly skilled former collegian signed with the B’s last spring after passing through the NHL draft process. More of a set-up man than a finisher, the Michigan native has combined with Vatrano and Alex Khokhlachev to form a lethal top line that has combined for 11 points in the first two games. Czarnik is a blazer who puts defenders on their heels when he comes right at them at full sprint, while effortlessly handling the puck and he’s able to thread the needle with his passes. The two NCAA products impressed at their first pro training camp and it’s not unrealistic to think that both could see some NHL time in Boston this season if injuries take a toll or the B’s offense can’t get out of first gear. Czarnik is probably not ready for primetime, but other than his 5-8 frame, he plays a mature, refined game.

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

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

Koko is off to a good start, and it’s nice to have skilled linemates with the ability to finish. Stacking all the eggs in one basket offensively has paid dividends for Bruce Cassidy, as the 22-year-old Russian is the team’s most experienced and talented forward. If he wants another crack at the NHL sooner rather than later, this is the kind of start that will aid him in making his case. Either that, or it provides the Bruins with a boost in value to make a trade. Bottom line- with a dangerously aggressive shooter like Vatrano to go with a speedy waterbug in Czarnik, Koko supporters can’t point to his surrounding cast if he fails to produce in this setting.

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 2  MIN- 121 GA- 6 GAA- 2.97  Spct- .915

Because of Malcolm Suban’s lower body injury, the rookie played both of his team’s games in the AHL’s first weekend slate, coming away with his 1st pro win on Sunday after losing to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in OT on opening night. He was very good in his first start, but the free-flowing game yesterday opened things up a bit for him. Luckily, Vatrano bailed him out (Czarnik and defenseman Ben Youds had the other goals) and he can look forward to building on his season going forward. McIntyre is an outstanding prospect, but he’s also proving that some of the internet calls for him to play in the NHL right away were about as unrealistic as you can get. Goaltenders don’t need to be rushed, and given what the B’s have looked like in the first two NHL games, throwing a young player to the wolves, even in a backup capacity, would have been a disaster.

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 8 Goals- 6 Assists- 2 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -3

Senyshyn continues to score consistently for his club, adding a couple of more tallies this week for his team leading six (he’s also tied with 2016 draft prospect Timmy Gettinger for the points lead with 8). He has impressed with that speed of his, using his acceleration and powerful stride to catch defenders flat-footed and motor around them while driving the net. He has such a heavy shot that he gets off in the blink of an eye, and you would think that teams would figure out to defend him, as there isn’t a great deal of complexity to Senyshyn’s game- he just goes up and down the wing and takes a straight path to the net. It’s probably a lot more easier said than done.

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 7 Goals- 2 Assists- 9 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 12 +/- +9

The 52nd overall pick continues his point-per-game pace, picking up 1g and 2 helpers in three games this week after the previous update. He’s just five points away from equaling his rookie season point totals (done in 55 games) and with his smooth skating and instinctive play at both ends, is shaping up to be a fine choice where the Bruins got him.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

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

Zboril is still looking for his first point of the season, but there is no reason for panic, as the offense will come. When you watch him (on film in my case), his skating is the first thing that jumps out at you. His acceleration is smooth and gets him out of his own end quickly. With a strong defensive core in place on the Sea Dogs, he isn’t logging the kind of minutes Lauzon is, and watch for him to break through soon- likely with a multi-point game that will get his production back on track.

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 5 Goals- 2 Assists- 2 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 9 +/- 1

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

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 5 Goals- 1 Assists- 5 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 19 +/- -2

Good offensive week for the fan favorite, who scored his first goal of the season and is tied for second on his team in points behind center Parker Bowles. Not sure how long he can sustain the production, but Carlo is expected to shoulder a heavy load this season with a multitude of opportunities to compete against top competition in a key role.

USHL

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls Stampede

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

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago Steel

GP- 1 Min- 160 GA- 7 GAA- 2.63 Spct- .901 W-L-T: 1-1-0

After allowing six goals in his first USHL start, Vladar settled in, allowing a single goal in relief and then posting a shutout for his first North American win this week.

NCAA

Save for Danton Heinen (1g, 1a in season opening 5-4 OT loss to Air Force) no other B’s prospects whose college seasons began this past weekend found their way on the score sheet: Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Ryan Fitzgerald, Matt Benning and Cameron Hughes all saw action. Anders Bjork did not suit up for Notre Dame. Ryan Donato, Rob O’Gara and Wiley Sherman have yet to get started. Matt Grzelcyk is still injured an expected to miss the first few weeks of the Hockey East season while he recovers from knee surgery.

Europe

Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (SHL)

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

It was a hot week for Cehlarik who posted 2 goals and 3 points in two games for Lulea. He’s a skilled scoring type winger who is expected to sign with Boston at the conclusion of his season in Sweden and either finish the year in the AHL or he might even see some big league time- there’s a lot of hockey to be played between now and then. However, watch for him to be a full-time North American player in 2016-17.

Maxim Chudinov, D St. Petersburg (KHL)

GP- 18 Goals- 5 Assists- 2 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 34 +/- -8

No change to offensive stats from last week for Chudinov in two more games played.

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (SHL)

GP- 6 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 8 +/- 0

The 2014 seventh-round pick registered his first point of the season with an assist in one game played this past week.

Boston Bruins prospect update 10/05/2015

Every Monday, will recap the statistical progress of the Boston Bruins prospects in both the amateur and professional ranks. This post will provide some insights and observations based on online viewings and anecdotal feedback from sources live at those games. We’re skipping the AHL report this time around because exhibition play is ongoing, but will fire up the reports on player progress once the games start counting.

This will probably evolve some as we go, so with the CHL season underway, let’s start with Boston’s kids playing in major junior:

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

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

Senyshyn scored three goals in two games over the weekend, including a pair against Owen Sound on Saturday. He nearly ended the game in overtime on what would have been a hat trick score, as he showed off his explosive acceleration to blow past a defender in the neutral zone and go in alone on goaltender Michael McNiven (undrafted, but… EDIT- Montreal signed him to a 3-year ELC after an impressive rookie camp- as Emily Latella used to say- Never mind), but the Attack player denied him. Senyshyn did, however, tally the decisive goal in the shootout, securing the extra point for the Hounds. He followed up that 1st star performance with a “laser” of a goal (according to friend Dominic Tiano in attendance) against Hamilton on Sunday.

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 4  Goals- 1 Assists- 7 Points- 8  Penalty Min- 10 +/-  +9

The second-round selection this past June is off to a great start offensively, showing off a deftness and poise that no doubt earned him the praise that he entered the draft with. Although not a flashy, high-profile name like other defensemen in the ‘Q’ to include Boston’s top pick Jakub Zboril, Lauzon nevertheless skates well and exhibits fine instincts while on the point when the puck is in the offensive end. He works the puck to the net by keeping things simple and not taking a big windup all the time, and has the vision to find teammates in prime scoring positions as evidenced by his three-assist night on Saturday. Lauzon plays a solid defensive game and is not afraid to take the body.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

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

Boston’s first pick, 13th overall, has yet to make a mark on the score sheet, but has also played only a couple of games. He did have a memorable hit against fellow 2015 draft pick (Tampa Bay) Dennis Yan, putting a shoulder into the skilled American-Russian dual citizen as he crossed the Saint John blue line and flattening him. This is the rugged edge that Zboril has played with since coming over to North America, so even if the offense isn’t happening for him, he plays enough of a physical game to make an impact.

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

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

Two games, a goal in each contest for the 42-goal man from a year ago after he returned from Boston’s training camp. DeBrusk showed some promise in limited exhibition action, and the best way for him to keep his developmental curve headed upwards is to get back into the scoring swing. He’s got to keep adding mass to his skinny frame and rounding out his game, as bigger things will be expected of him a year from now. He probably won’t be ready for primetime, but the team will be looking for more production and greater impact at the next round of developmental and training camp sessions/games.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

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

Gritty, agitating winger is with his third club since the start of last season and keeps drawing comparisons to his own favorite NHL player, Brad Marchand. A second-round talent who slipped to the fourth round over concerns about overall desire has a penchant for driving the net and using a fast release to find the back of the net. He’s off to a good start and can hopefully demonstrate a strong commitment on and off the ice to his new team.

Brandon Carlo, D  Tri-City Americans

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

After a solid training camp, the B’s signed Carlo to a three-year Entry-Level Contract last week before sending him back to junior for the rest of the season. A huge (6-5) but mobile rearguard, he’s going to be an effective shutdown player at the NHL level eventually with the potential to be a little more with his ability to make a good first pass and join the rush.

USHL

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls Stampede

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

Boston’s final pick in the 2015 draft is a University of Wisconsin recruit for 2016. He’s off to a good start and was cited as a raw, but intriguing player with boom potential after the B’s selected him out of Mahtomehdi (Minnesota) High. Edit- I spoke to Becker’s former teammate, 2016 draft eligible and 1st-round prospect Kieffer Bellows, who played with him at the end of last season in Sioux Falls. Bellows says that Becker is a smart, hard-working center who impressed him in the short time they skated together. Bellows knows all about it- his dad, Brian, was a top NHL scorer himself and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as the younger Bellows scored an astounding 42 goals (33 regular season, 9 more in playoffs en route to the Clark Cup championship) in just 60 USHL games. He’s now with the U.S. NTDP.

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago Steel

GP- 1  Min- 60 GA- 6  GAA- 6.00 Spct- .833

Ouch! Czech native was not warmly welcomed to North American Jr. A, getting roughed up by the Tri-City Storm in a 6-3 loss Friday.

NCAA

The college season is not yet underway, but BU freshman Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson tallied a pair of goals in an exhibition game over the weekend. Captain Matt Grzelcyk is not expected to be ready for the start of the regular season but is skating on his own since having May knee surgery and progressing well in his rehab. Denver University sophomore Danton Heinen also had a standout exhibition game, showing signs that his strong offensive debut season was not a fluke.

We’ll have more in this space when the regular season starts up, as a large number of Bruins prospects are skating in the NCAA rinks this season.

Europe

Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (SHL)

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

Boston’s second pick (third round) in 2013 has missed four of his team’s first six games due to unspecified injury. As an aside- his Lulea teammates include former Bruins prospects Anton Hedman (2004 draft) and Jonathan Sigalet (2005).

Maxim Chudinov, D St. Petersburg (KHL)

GP- 16  Goals- 5 Assists- 2 Points- 7  Penalty Min- 32 +/-  -8

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (SHL)

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

Another Heinen post

The Rink Blog over at the New England Hockey Journal website is gone, but here is an article I wrote for it on Danton Heinen last March after I had a chance to talk to him during the NCHC playoffs.

It’s some bonus reading for a guy who should be ranked solidly inside the top-10 of Bruins prospect lists in my view because he does so many things well.

Here’s the story:

***

When the Boston Bruins called forward Danton Heinen’s name late in the fourth round of last June’s NHL Entry Draft, fans and prognosticators were sent scrambling for their guides and cheat sheets, to little avail.

There wasn’t a whole lot of information available on the previously passed over forward when the B’s nabbed the 2014 NHL lottery’s mystery man 116th overall. However, in the months since, the former captain of the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles has emerged as one of the best players in the NCAA with a productive and mature game that belies his relative inexperience in the NCHC.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Heinen said before the second-seeded Denver University’s sweep of University of Minnesota Duluth in the first round of the NCHC playoffs. “I don’t know that I expected to have this level of personal success coming into my first year (at DU) but being part of a winning team is what I’m most happy about.”

Currently second only to hockey prodigy Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.) in scoring among first year NCAA players, Heinen adjusted immediately to the competition at Denver and never looked back, posting 16 goals and 44 points in 36 games as of March 15, pacing the Pioneers in scoring. Denver head coach (and former University of Maine scoring star and member of 1993 national championship squad) Jim Montgomery is on the record giving much of the credit for Heinen to assistant David Carle, who recognized the potential and acted quickly to bring him into the fold last year.

“It was Coach Carle who did the most to bring me here,” said Heinen. “He came out to see me play (at Surrey) last year and made the team’s interest in me known. They brought me to Denver for a visit and everything clicked right away; I loved it. For me, the decision to commit was a no-brainer, so I came out last summer to do course and conditioning work to get ready for the season and the opportunity to play here right away.”

Heinen’s arrival on the collegiate stage has been so sudden, yet so jarring for certain NHL teams that completely missed the boat on him that the 19-year-old’s season has made for some interesting backroom conversations.

“Our college guys are so impressed with him,” said one NHL scout who told New England Hockey Journal that Heinen has been a topic of conversation recently. “The recurring theme is that he’s played so well for Denver, and we’re trying to figure out how he got so good, so fast given that not many were on him a year ago when he was in junior.”

Some evaluators point to a sudden growth spurt after he turned 18 as one aspect of the 6-foot, 180-pound Langley, B.C. native’s impressive showing at this level. As a July, 1995-born prospect who had been eligible for the 2013 NHL draft, and despite other ’95 players being in a similar situation such as Buffalo fifth-round draft choice and Brown freshman Max Willman (Barnstable, Mass.), Heinen got nary a sniff from the various hockey draft publications.

Even if the public lists weren’t tracking him, Heinen says he interviewed with multiple teams including Boston, during the course of the 2013-14 hockey season. Even though he knew he had some NHL interest, he wasn’t altogether positive he would get a call. He was following the draft on his computer at home, but when the fourth round rolled around, he wasn’t tracking the selections all that closely. Heinen learned of his selection from his family advisor via a phone call.

Although not a blazing skater with game-breaking open ice speed, Heinen displays NHL-caliber quickness and smarts, tenacity around the puck. He is on track to develop into a well-rounded , three-zone player with top-six forward potential in Boston. At the very least, he looks like a future third-line fixture on the wing if he continues his upward trajectory and willingness to compete hard in the greasy areas of the ice.“I see myself as more of a playmaker,” Heinen said. “I can see the ice and set up guys for more scoring opportunities.”

Heinen’s rapid arrival in the NCAA and the potential that more and more around the NHL are acknowledging are why it is all the more baffling that so many seemed to completely miss on his potential a year ago. The Bruins, for their part, played it smart. Western Canada scout (and former B’s defender) Dean Malkoc watched him enough to get a solid perspective on the youngster’s potential, and then as is often the case with Boston, multiple scouts and members of the front office, including current assistant GM Scott Bradley (who makes his off-season home in British Columbia), went out West to see him.

“We had a couple of guys in the west that sat on Danton pretty hard,” Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney said in December. “We were real glad to get him where we did. We’re excited that he made it to school this year after there was talk he might delay it one more season, and clearly- he can handle the college game.”

Unlike other teams who were perhaps on Heinen for a little longer than the B’s were, give GM Peter Chiarelli and his staff credit for taking him where they wanted to instead of playing the we can wait and get him later game that may have burned other suitors (Montreal rumored to be chief among them) and cost them a shot at one of college hockey’s hottest properties.

“He’s an ‘A’ prospect in my view,” said another NHL scout outside of the Boston organization. “Our guys are saying that if Heinen was an undrafted free agent, he’d have 30 offers lined up as soon as he was ready to turn pro because of how promising and complete a player he is. His hockey IQ and vision are outstanding. He just finds ways to make plays whenever he’s out there. He shows an intelligence and refined game that’s rare for someone in their first season of college hockey.”

It stands to reason, then, that at the recently concluded NHL trade deadline, the B’s reportedly had several teams asking them about the prized fourth-round pick. Given what he’s shown, don’t expect the team to give up on this prized asset unless any prospective team is willing to pay a significant return.

All of the high praise aside, Heinen knows that there is still much work to be done. As has been the case for the entire season, he put words to action by scoring goals in both of DU’s playoff wins over UMD, extending his team scoring lead.

The last player Montgomery coached who topped the charts as a rookie was none other than Calgary’s NHL Rookie of the Year candidate Johnny Gaudreau, who did it with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2010-11. While Heinen has a long way to go before he will generate the kind of buzz that followed “Johnny Hockey” during his electric Hobey Baker-winning career at Boston College, he’s far exceeded the modest expectations that preceded his arrival in the Rocky Mountains.

“He’s gained 10 pounds and is a cerebral kid on the ice, a hard-worker off the ice,” Sweeney said. “Not enough good things can be said about how much he’s grown under (Montgomery) and he’ll continue to put up points in that system. He’s still an open canvas in terms of how much bigger and stronger he’s going to get, but we’re pleased at the progress he’s making.”

The Curious Case of Danton Heinen

When the Boston Bruins drafted Surrey Eagles captain Danton Heinen out of the BCHL in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, there was a collective shrug that started in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and radiated outwards as those following and analyzing the draft sought information on the first real mystery player of that lottery.

He wasn’t anywhere to be found on the NHL’s Central Scouting lists. Nor did he appear in any of the independent lists out there to include my own Red Line Report. A 1995-born player, he had been previously passed over in 2013 and he wasn’t on any of those lists, either. As information began to trickle out, an intriguing picture of a late-blooming skill forward emerged, but it was not until he took the NCHC by storm last year that the real interest not only by fans but some of the NHL’s clubs that completely missed out on Heinen reached a crescendo.

I’m going to do the basic forensics to build a case on this rising star and scoring winger who is someone I see already near the top of Boston’s prospects depth chart with a high ceiling at the next level. Don’t sleep too long…the Heinen train is leaving the station and seats are filling up fast!

The crime: When the B’s called out Heinen’s name, I wasn’t there to hear it, as I was serving with the 1st Cavalry Division in Kandahar, Afghanistan. However, I saw the pick online and my reaction was no different from what it would have been if I was on the draft floor in Philly. In one word, it was “Who?”

To take such an unknown at 116th overall- in the final five selections of the fourth round, a player not anywhere on the pre-draft rankings, appeared to be a stretch. I was high on Soo Greyhounds forward Michael Bunting, who went one pick later to Arizona and the Rangers got value in Russian goalie Igor Shestyorkin one selection after that. Some of the guys I was projecting for Boston there a year ago who all went in the 5th round: skilled Massachusetts forwards Max Willman (Sabres) and Tyler Bird (Blue Jackets)…gritty energy guys like C.J. Franklin (Jets) or Shayne Gersich (Caps) or rugged WHL d-man Dysin Mayo (Coyotes) were all players I followed during the season and felt made sense at that spot.

Grabbing a soon-to-be 19-year-old with pretty average size on paper barely more than a point-per-game average in the BCHL led me to my next obvious question: “Why?”

Gathering evidence: The information soon began to trickle out on the Langley, BC native.

One story in the Surrey Leader related that Heinen was in Denver taking summer classes during the draft and was following the proceedings online because he had an idea that someone would call his name:

“He hadn’t refreshed the page in a few minutes so didn’t realize he had been drafted until his adviser called him with the news.

Heinen wasn’t on the final NHL draft rankings list both he and his adviser had fielded some questions from a few teams.

‘I had an idea that I might (get drafted) but it wasn’t guaranteed,’ he said.”

Some unsubstantiated rumors began floating that one of those teams the Bruins might have scooped was their hated rival up north- the Montreal Canadiens.

“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t see some of their guys around in the buildings when we were watching Danton,” one Bruins source said with a chuckle during a conversation I had with him last year about the discovery in 2014. “I’ll leave it to you to decide if that means we beat Montreal to the punch or not.”

Heinen did not attend the 2014 Boston Bruins development camp because the CBA did not permit him to miss pre-enrolled classes for the sake of attending an NHL team-sponsored event, so there was little to no firsthand knowledge of him until the 2014-15 NCAA campaign began that fall.

He wasted little time in establishing himself as an impact player right away, averaging a point per game for the DU Pioneers from start to finish. As the season went on, scouts who were concerned about his slight 6-foot frame (and though he’s listed at 165 pounds, Heinen himself insists he’s now closer to 180) and a wearing down effect put those issues aside. Heinen actually got *better* late in the year as his confidence seemed to blossom and he continued making plays all over the ice for his club to the tune of 45 points in 40 games, helping them reach the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

Preferring charges: Heinen did not take a step back in Wilmington this past July when he suited up for his first B’s prospect camp. His mature game and slick playmaking skills were immediately evident to those in attendance and those of us who caught a bit of it online.

Matt Kalman wrote a good piece on Heinen for NHL.com last month, and although he lists him at the disputed 165 pounds, here’s a key quote from the B’s prospect in that article:

“‘When I was like 16, I was pretty small. I never really got an opportunity at the WHL,’ said Heinen, who turned 20 earlier this month and is 6-foot, 165 pounds. ‘So I kind of … it was the right road for me. I was a little bit of a late bloomer. So it was just the best spot for me.’”

Bruins player development coach Jay Pandolfo was also impressed, saying:

“I don’t know if we were surprised, but when you see that, you open your eyes,” Bruins development coach Jay Pandolfo said. “You think maybe he’s closer than further away for sure. He had a great year last year.

“Now sometimes sophomore year can be a little tougher. Guys kind of know how he plays now, and it’ll be a little harder for him. So it’ll be interesting to see how he does this year. But the way he looks out there right now, I mean he’s headed in the right direction. He’s another guy that’s gotten stronger.”

Pandolfo praised Heinen’s poise with the puck, release and shot, and singled him out among the large group of prospects in the camp for making things look easy. But Pandolfo also said Heinen needs to get stronger and a little bigger.

The Bruins got Heinen because they did their homework where some other NHL teams did not.

They used their team methodology of getting multiple looks from different sets of eyes, and so if you’re out looking for one single scout to take credit for his discovery, you’ll be disappointed. Based on who is out where, you can surmise that Dean Malkoc had a major play in it and you wouldn’t be wrong, but he was the first to tell me when I texted him last year after one of Heinen’s many strong games to congratulate him that he was not the only one responsible. “Team effort” has, is and will be the mantra when it comes to the team finding talent that pans out. Same goes for those players who don’t meet expectations as well.

The indictment: Heinen has played a little center, but has mostly played split out to the left in his time at Denver University. He can play the off-wing if needed and the scouting report on him is encouraging: highly creative with superb vision and offensive instincts; slick, smooth hands and a quick stick to thread the needle or fire off accurate wristers coming down on the rush; not a blazing skater in open ice, but quick in his short-area burst and uses lateral agility to shake defenders in tight spaces; average size and strength; top-six NHL forward potential.

Yes, your honor- it appears that the Boston Bruins are guilty of draft day theft.

How much of a sentence they receive will depend on Heinen’s continued development and how he turns out, but the initial returns are highly encouraging.

 Further crime scene investigation:

You can read my own coverage on Heinen not only on this blog but also in the New England Hockey Journal:

http://digital.hockeyjournal.com/nxtbooks/seamans/nehj_201501/index.php?startid=14

Here’s a post-game interview at DU last season:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs860jmza5w

Heinen is 59 in this YouTube video of B’s development camp drills:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rggIyouJB8

July 201ost-draft piece in Surrey Leader

http://www.surreyleader.com/sports/265244191.html

NHL.com feature on Heinen by Matt Kalman

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=775133

Scouting Post Dispatches- Twitter mailbag #1

I want to thank everyone who submitted questions to me for the first edition of the electronic mailbag of questions. If you want to participate in this effort that we’ll do every two weeks or so, shoot your question to my Twitter account @kluedeke29 or use the comment feature on the blog itself to make your query.

1. Who is leading in the race for backup goalie and how short will their leash be?- Tyler @tylerbingham123

As a former beer league goalie, I’ll give this one a shot.

The current backup situation invites a lot of risk in my view. On paper, Jeremy Smith makes a lot of sense because of his low cap hit and the fact that the Bruins can afford to let him sit for long periods while Tuukka Rask makes a lot of starts. Smith was the most dependable option in net last year in the AHL, but that’s also the issue with him- he has no NHL experience, which essentially puts them right back to square 1 where they were a year ago when they gambled on a similarly inexperienced Niklas Svedberg to be the No. 2.

Some might point to the idea that Svedberg was a serviceable player who was poorly used, but the bottom line is that Claude Julien had very little confidence in him. There are compelling statistical arguments that Svedberg wasn’t utilized properly, but be that as it may- a good backup goaltender enjoys the trust of the coach and team to spell the starter in a lot of different situations. That Julien seemed almost perversely unwilling to use Svedberg when it appeared Rask needed a break the most is beside the point if you believe that going to the well with Rask repeatedly cost the Bruins a playoff spot in 2015. Part of what helped the Bruins earn the President’s Trophy the season before had to do with backup Chad Johnson and Julien’s willingness to give him starts and ease the starter’s burden. Johnson can’t be a starter in this league, but he was an effective backup in his one season with the B’s.

The question becomes- will Smith find himself in a similar predicament to Svedberg? Can the Bruins afford to have a repeat of last spring, when Rask went on a hockey-like death march of consecutive starts without rest because the head coach was not willing to put the backup in? This is the same kind of scenario the Bruins are inviting with Smith and Malcolm Subban or Zane McIntyre as well- all three are capable options on paper, but none are established NHL players- with Subban alone of the trio even having seen a minute of big league action.

On Subban- I just feel he’s better off playing his way into a more prominent role in the AHL with Providence while McIntyre apprentices behind him. Heck- McIntyre might even wrest more starts away from him like Smith did a year ago, but as fine a goalie as Zane looks like coming out of college as the NCAA’s top goalie last season, he’s still in his very first pro year. Expecting him to just go right to the NHL and then have to sit behind Rask most nights is not a realistic option in my view.

So- I think Smith makes the most sense as B’s backup as of July 31, but I still think the team will look to add someone with more of an NHL body of work, either as a bargain bin signing or training camp invite with the option to sign before the season if the coaches feel good about him. Who that is at this point is anyone’s guess- I thought Jason LaBarbera would be someone to fit the bill, but the best of the free agents are gone, so the team might just feel like going with Smith or one of the other kids depending on things go at camp and preseason is the best option. We’ll see, but I’m a believer that younger guys like Subban and McIntyre are best served by playing and not spending the bulk of their time opening and closing the door to the bench for their NHL teammates. We’ll see.

2. If Koko pushes Spooner out of 3C job, what happens with the two of them? Leave Spooner there and try Koko on wing? Jbench @jacobbench

The short answer to this question is that I don’t see Alexander Khokhlachev beating Ryan Spooner out of the 3C job anytime soon.

At this point, Spooner has done a lot to earn Claude Julien’s trust as someone who has grown up a lot over the years he’s been in the organization and finally started putting the offense together when the team needed it the most. Koko needs to prove he can do the basic things the team expects of him, so until that happens, it does no real good to fret over what to do. I will say that Koko is probably better suited to transition to wing and be effective there, and if he’s going to break camp and enter the 2015-16 on the NHL roster, that’s probably his best chance to do it unless Spooner gets hurt or plays so poorly against a lights-out showing from Koko.

That’s not impossible, but  it is a tall order. I think Koko fell victim to the hype machine that often occurs in the internet age- he simply wasn’t ready to compete for NHL time at 18, but that didn’t stop overzealous fans and analysts like myself from being dazzled by his offensive talent and overlooking the glaring defensive deficiencies in his game. He’s come a long way since 2011, but the team tried to trade him in the past and you can’t overlook that. If he is as valuable to the Bruins as he is on Twitter to a select group of folks- he would not have been in play. It’s the old adage that says if they traded you once- they’ll do it again. It would be great for Koko to establish himself as a Bruin, but as far as trade-worthy commodities go, he’s one of the few pieces that could fetch something of value right now.

3. Where do you see Mark Jankowski projecting to in an NHL lineup? Thoughts on John Gilmour as well please Nigel @red_monster

Jankowski still has top-six  NHL forward potential in my mind, and he was really starting to come on when Providence College needed him to. With an earlier-than-projected draft position comes high expectations, so I believe realistically, if he makes it in Calgary it will be more of a third-line center role. When you look at who is ahead of him on the depth chart, third line duty with the Flames would be a win for him and the team.  I do like that there is still room for growth and development with him, even if he’s fallen short of some of the lofty goals envisioned of him three years ago with his pure points and production, which has admittedly not been what everyone was hoping for. He’ll have to continue to get stronger and play heavier if he’s going to make it in Calgary, though.

Gilmour has the makings of a serviceable pro who is going to have to put in the work at the lower levels. He has good all around ability, but because he has less-than-ideal size for the position, he’ll have his work cut out for him. I personally think Gilmour is a journeyman big leaguer/solid AHL player at best, but I love it when players prove prognosticators wrong. He’s a winner, and if he uses that as a springboard to bigger things, more power to him.

What Bruins dman is most likely to slot alongside Chara? Greg Babbitt @babbitt_greg

Barring a change, I could see the team trying big Zach Trotman there to see if it can work. He lacks experience, but showed big league ability in flashes last season and if he keeps things simple, his mobility and long reach would make for a solid defensive partner. He’s a right shot and while not a physical, snarly kind of player, with more experience and the benefit of skating next to one of the game’s all-time greats much like young Kyle McLaren did with Ray Bourque two decades ago, Trotman might be a quiet but effective internal solution to that which has vexed the Bruins since Johnny Boychuk was sent to Long Island…kind of like what happened in 2009 when Johnny Rocket came to town and established himself as an NHL defenseman when some had all but written him off.

If the Bruins want to infuse more offense with Chara, then Colin Miller also makes sense there. He doesn’t have a lick of NHL experience, but he skates extremely well, would add another right-shot, howitzer cannon from the point, and seems to be a player who would thrive next to Boston’s captain, especially on the power play. He’s not as big as Trotman, and his hockey sense is a bit of a question mark right now, but Miller could be the one who takes that top pairing job if not on opening night, but perhaps as the season progresses.

Assuming Miller plays for the Bruins this season (I believe he will) the Barry Pederson for Cam Neely trade will continue for Boston into a third decade as the Glen Wesley-Sergei Samsonov-Milan Lucic branch continues to bear fruit.

4. I’d like to see Hamilton/Saad stick with their teams for longer. But do scouts think the current model is bad for development?- brimcq @mcqbri

It’s not something I’ve discussed with scouts or management types to be honest, but it makes for an intriguing topic.

Ever since the league instituted cost certainty- the salary cap- in 2005, we’ve seen the game’s economic landscape evolve over several trend lines. For a while, it was long-term frontloaded deals that allowed for teams to bury or move them at short money later on. Now, it’s the dissipation of second or bridge contracts for key performers coming out of entry-level contracts or ELCs in favor of significant dollars- those used to be reserved for top tier talents, but I think we’re seeing a paradigm shift with players like Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Saad whose cap-crunched teams are either forced to move them or the player is able to leverage the lack of cap flexibility for a change of address. This drives the talk of the NHL’s middle class getting squeezed, which is becoming more and more prevalent as clubs will have bigger ticket contracts and then have to rely on cheaper ELCs or bargain basement deals with little room for the middle ground/solid veteran types who typically clock in at around $3-4M a the current (and rising) market rate.

Hockey is a business- it always has been. But the days where owners and teams held the cards are long gone, so I think that teams and players/their representatives will continue to evolve with each emerging economic trend. I don’t blame Hamilton for seeking a situation he thought would be better for him, and in Saad’s case, they made a decision that they could not afford him at the going rate- that was a tough business decision that more and more teams will have to make if things continue. But, both situations have jolted teams and fans alike into the realization that you can’t simply assume restricted free agents will remain all that restricted for long depending on a team’s salary structure and how much they have invested in the veterans.

At some point- you wonder if the ever-rising salaries and the kabuki dances teams go through to stay cap compliant will kill the golden goose and force a seismic sea change, but it hasn’t happened yet.

5. With the Bruins prospect pool now overflowing who would be consider the 5 untouchables in the organization.- Mike O’Connor @mike77ca

The Bruins have quantity in their system for sure. The quality of the prospects is very much up for debate, however so it will be interesting to see how the 10 picks from 2015 plus the others from previous years perform and develop in the new season.

I don’t know that when it comes to prospects there is ever truly an “untouchable” because if another team is willing to pay a king’s ransom for an unproven player, I believe a savvy GM will often times make that deal. Of course- that position is becoming tougher to defend for the precise reasons I explained above as economics and the importance of landing impact players on 3-year (max) ELCs becomes ever more critical for teams who want to win the Stanley Cup. It’s hard to imagine the Edmonton Oilers or Buffalo Sabres parting with either one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel for any offer given that reasoning, but I do believe that GMs have to at least listen and think hard about a team that comes in with high-end NHL players to offer, not the proverbial two dimes and a nickel for a shiny quarter kind of trade. In the end, the money and cap play much bigger roles than ever before.

The Bruins don’t have a McDavid or Eichel so to speak, so their situation is different. I’ll take a stab at it and offer these three players up in an effort to answer your question:

1. Danton Heinen, LW Denver U.- I have it from several sources that the one name teams asked about repeatedly at last winter’s deadline was the 2014 fourth-rounder who finished as the NCAA’s third leading freshman scorer. He may not have ideal size or speed, but his hands and hockey sense are top-shelf. As a late bloomer, Heinen has the look and feel of a classic diamond-in-the-rough who is going to one day play very well for the Bruins, so unless a team wants to give up the moon and stars for him, don’t expect him to go anywhere. His upside will also likely drive the team to court him to come out of school earlier because ELC term and CBA loopholes will force them to act.

2. Zane McIntyre, G Providence- The B’s are all-in on this kid, and he showed loyalty to them by not exploiting free agency to get the biggest money or a better opportunity to start elsewhere. Now, folks will say there is no room for sentiment in pro sports and they’re right, but I just feel like that Bruins are sold on the soon-to-be 23-year-old’s potential, character and all-around ability. They want him to be a part of the organization, so unless a team comes in to blow their doors off with an offer, he’s as close to untouchable as you will get. Besides, unproven non-NHL goalies don’t tend to fetch enough of a return from teams to make dealing him at this point worth the effort.

3. Jakub Zboril, D Saint John- He’s the top pick, he’s signed and the Bruins think he is going to be a future top-2 defender for them. Both Don Sweeney and Scott Bradley used the word “elite” to describe his ability, so you can be sure the B’s had him higher on their list than the 13th spot where they took him. They’re not going to turn around and flip him without seeing if all that potential they’re banking on starts to pay off for them. You can almost throw Zach Senyshyn into this same category as well- they have a lot riding on him and want to prove that he was worth the risk they took by grabbing him in the top-15. It’s hard to imagine a team coming in to offer the Bruins a top-6 NHL forward for a raw prospect like Senyshyn, so they’ll sit back and see if their gut instincts about him are proven correct.

That does it for this first edition- thanks to everyone that submitted questions and I hope we can do this again in a couple of weeks. You can follow me on Twitter at @kluedeke29

Boston Bruins prospects update- Jr/NCAA

Boston Bruins prospects update- Amateur

Earlier, we took a look at the AHL/European pro prospects in attendance at Boston Bruins development camp this week, but the bulk of the recent draft picks from 2013, 2014 and 2015 are still playing in the major junior and NCAA ranks.

This post covers the players who were in Wilmington, Mass. this week (those who did not attend due to injury or other commitment are not included) and is intended to scratch the surface of what each brings to the table for the organization. Enjoy!

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 games at Sioux Falls. 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.

 Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA); 6-0, 200

Acquired: 6th round, 2012 NHL Entry Draft

Vancouver GM Jim Benning’s nephew didn’t find the back of the net last season, but was one of the Huskies’ top players for his all-around game and ability to move the puck effectively. For someone with pretty average size for a defender, Benning activates smartly on offense, takes care of his own end without fanfare and has a knack for making contact in the open ice. There isn’t a whole lot here to get excited about, but the NHL needs rugged, dependable blue liners of his ilk. If you are a believer that “less is more” with defensemen, Benning fits that category as someone who makes the right plays and uses his natural hockey sense to make it look easy.

 Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA); 6-0, 180

Acquired: 5th round, 2014 NHL Entry Draft

Smart, speedy two-way forward took some time last season to adjust to the NCAA with the Fighting Irish, but came on strong in the spring. Look for bigger numbers and contributions from this former U.S. NTDP star who may not have the silky hands to put up major points, but uses his speed to back defenses up and has the vision/hockey IQ to make plays offensively. He didn’t make a lot of noise at camp this summer, but for a player of Bjork’s style, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

Brandon Carlo-

Brandon Carlo- “shiny new toy?” (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City; 6-5, 210

Acquired: 2nd round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Enormous rearguard has an even bigger reach; this value selection (acquired with one of the picks in the Johnny Boychuk trade) brings fine mobility and agility for such a big kid. Concerns about his offensive game may have dropped him down to 37, but he skates with his head up and can advance the puck effectively enough even if the production doesn’t develop as hoped. Where Carlo’s real value lies is in his size and quickness as a player who will be very difficult for opponents to get around and make them pay for every inch of real estate with a physical, hard-nosed style. Don’t expect him to win a job with the Bruins this season, as the team will likely want him to keep playing prime minutes in the WHL under all situations. Carlo appears to be the latest example of “shiny new toy” syndrome- that phenomenon where fans glom onto a name and seem to obsess over him making the NHL right away- but if he does happen to join the Bruins out of the gate, it will take a phenomenal training camp and preseason, and not what he did at Ristuccia in July.

 

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current (WHL); 6-1, 180

Acquired: 1st round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

The son of former NHL enforcer Louie DeBrusk finished 6th in the WHL with 42 goals playing alongside fellow Bronco and B’s prospect Colby Cave (35 goals) last season. Much bigger things are expected of this natural finisher, who can find the back of the net from just about anywhere on the ice. DeBrusk is not a power forward, but more of a skill forward who uses his offensive instincts and quickness to make things happen around the net but is far from a finished product in terms of his complete game. He has quite a bit of physical maturing to do, but the natural scoring tools are there for him to evolve into a top prospect.

 

Ryan Donato, C Harvard University (ECAC); 6-1, 190 (Scituate, Mass.)

Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 NHL Entry Draft

The most dominant scorer in prep hockey a season ago took a step back offensively at Dexter School as a senior, but sacrificed numbers in leading his team to the championship game before falling to Salisbury. Ted Donato’s eldest of three sons finished the year with a flourish in Omaha of the USHL, registering more than a point per game and showing off his creativity and dynamic game-breaking ability on numerous occasions. Although his top speed is not like his dad’s, the younger Donato projects to be a more dangerous scorer, and will get a chance to prove it with the Crimson.

 

Ryan Fitzgerald, LW Boston College (HEA); 5-10, 180 (North Reading, Mass.)

Acquired: 4th round, 2013 NHL Entry Draft

The rising junior has two productive scoring years with the Eagles in the books, and will be even more dangerous offensively this season. Although not blessed with a lot of size or blazing speed, the nephew of Bruins assistant scouting director Scott Fitzgerald has elite vision and some of the softest hands of any Boston prospect. Because he slipped down to the end of the fourth round in his draft year, the two-time state champion with Malden Catholic doesn’t get as much attention as other players with higher draft pedigrees, nor is a development camp a great setting to display what Fitzgerald does best, but his smarts and energy will carry him far.

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University (HEA); 6-1, 185

Acquired: 2nd round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

“JFK” wasted little time in telling media at the draft that the NHL player he most tries to emulate is Patrice Bergeron. Like Boston’s three-time Selke Trophy winner and franchise center, this Swedish import plays a polished defensive game in addition to a pretty underrated offensive skill set. He’s got quite a bit of physical developing ahead of him with the Terriers, but film study reveals a player with slick hands and a knack for making plays in key situations. A superb faceoff man, watch for Karlsson to earn David Quinn’s trust early on with key defensive zone draws. He’s been knocked for not playing with as much pace and urgency as his talent level will allow, but seems to be making strides in addressing that shortcoming as he goes forward. A recent discussion with a member of the Bruins organization kept going back to JFK’s natural smarts and intelligence- he certainly showed that at camp and should draw positive attention to himself on Comm. Ave. this year.

JFK

Jakob “JFK” Forsbacka-Karlsson, 45th overall, 2015 NHL Entry Draft (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Regina (WHL); 6-0, 200

Acquired: 4th round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Built like a spark plug and with the fiery, agitating demeanor to match, this draft choice could one day turn out in similar fashion to the one NHL player Gabrielle tries to pattern his play after: Brad Marchand. He may not have Marchand’s high-end speed and stickhandling ability, but can blow the puck past goalies and has a high motor. He’s a little bigger and stronger than Marchand, and able to be more effective along the walls and down in the dirty areas, where he uses his strength to fight through checks and maintain possession. The Saskatchewan native who grew up rooting for the B’s needs to prove he can work as hard off the ice as he does on it, but was a solid value choice at 105th overall.

 

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University (WCHA); 6-0, 180

Acquired: 4th round, 2014 NHL Entry Draft

Perhaps one of the 2014’s draft’s true stealth picks, the former Surrey Eagles (BCHL) captain burst onto the scene for the Pioneers last year to finish 15th in the nation in scoring as a freshman. Bigger things are expected this time, which could be a challenge for the slick, heady playmaking wing who shows an excellent grasp of how to play with and without the puck. Appearing in just his first development camp (he was enrolled in classes at DU a year ago), Heinen showed the fans in attendance what the buzz building from last year was about with a standout performance, making high-end passes and plays look pretty routine.

Cameron Hughes, LW University of Wisconsin (Big Ten); 5-11, 170

Acquired: 6th round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

If there is one player in the current Boston draft class that could pull off a surprise like Heinen did a year ago, it is Hughes, who was an offensive star for the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints in 2013-14 before landing with the Badgers and being relegated to a smaller role in Madison. A speedy, intelligent forward who also plays with energy and grit despite not having an abundance of size, he’s the model type of player the Bruins talk about having. If the unproductive freshman season was a reflection of a lack of opportunity, then watch for Hughes to breakout offensively as a sophomore and earn a lot more positive attention. He’s relatively undersized at present, but has room to grow and add strength in the coming years.

Sean Kuraly, C/LW Miami University (NCHC); 6-2, 200

Acquired: Trade with San Jose- 2015

The RedHawks’ captain this season was acquired along with a first-round pick in the trade that sent goaltender Martin Jones to the Sharks late last month. While not a high-end prospect the Ohio native is big, skates well, and plays a strong two-way, grinding game. He scored 19 goals a year ago, so he might be primed for a bigger offensive jump this season. Realistically, Kuraly projects more as a third-line winger in Boston if he reaches the NHL, but has the makings of a solid forward who will be tough to play against and can move around up front as the coaches need him to.

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) 6-1, 195

Acquired: 2nd round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

This Red Line Report favorite for his combination of size, skating, shot and smarts didn’t get a lot of advance billing throughout the season, but started to generate buzz before the June NHL draft. In addition to being the QMJHL’s top goal-scorer among draft eligible defenders, Lauzon also displayed a physical, edgy side to his game as well, making him the kind of ideal fit in Boston if he can translate his junior success at the pro level. The 52nd overall selection will likely spend two more years in the ‘Q’ but don’t be surprised if he makes a run for an NHL job shortly thereafter, as he appears to have the blend of skill and moxie that every team looks out for.

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University (ECAC) 6-4, 215

Acquired: 5th round, 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Like Zane McIntyre, the Long Island native is one of Boston’s longest-tenured prospects, having been chosen four drafts and five B’s development camps ago. The tall, relatively lean defenseman still has more room to add mass and will likely hit his peak playing weight at about 225 pounds as he continues to mature. At 22, O’Gara is an advanced player who has superb skating and footwork and has also continued to develop as a fine puck-mover even if he isn’t projected to put up big numbers at the pro level. A smart player and tireless worker, he’s returning to Yale for his senior season and is expected to sign with Boston after his final game. Also like McIntyre, O’Gara would qualify for the free agency loophole, but has had such a good experience with the Bruins, he’ll likely stay true to the club that has believed in him all along.

Zachary Senyshyn, RW Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 6-2, 195

Acquired: 1st round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

The 2015 NHL draft’s first true off-the-board pick has the natural skills to eventually justify the selection, even if the Bruins took an acknowledged risk with other more established players on the board. The good news: the Ottawa-area product is a fine skater who can beat defenders wide with his speed, takes pucks to the net and has the hands to find the back of the net with regularity. On the downside- scouts question his natural creativity and there is significant risk associated with him if he does not take the next anticipated step in the OHL with the departure of several key veterans he was playing behind. Although he isn’t an intimidating presence on the ice, Senyshyn is saying and doing all the right things and demonstrated his raw, but promising talent at development camp.

Daniel

Daniel “Darth” Vladar- 3rd round, 75th overall in 2015 (Kirk Luedeke photo)

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago (USHL) 6-5, 190

Acquired: 3rd round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

This massive netminder from the same Czech program that produced Jaromir Jagr 25 years ago has major long-term potential, but will need to address holes in his game and refine his technique before he sets foot anywhere near NHL ice. An outstanding athlete, “Darth Vladar” has the natural quickness to make beating him on the first shot a chore, but gets into trouble when he doesn’t square up to the shooter or allows pucks to get through him/his equipment when in position to make the save. A good kid with a solid work ethic, coming to the USHL and possibly going the NCAA route will help him adapt to North American hockey, but some observers feel that he lacks a natural feel for the play, and falls prey to allowing goals because he is late reacting to where the puck is coming from. Vladar is a good flyer to take in the mid-third round, especially after the B’s watched what Mike Hutchinson, their third-rounder in 2008, did for the Winnipeg Jets this season.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John (QMJHL) 6-2, 190

Acquired: 1st round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Boston’s top pick last month, 13th overall, has already signed a three-year Entry Level Contract (ELC) with the team, but that won’t affect his timeline to the NHL unless something unforeseen occurs. On the positive side, Zboril has all of the key attributes you look for in the modern big league defender, and his skating and vision in particular makes him someone who will be able to carry the puck and run the power play down the road. Reviews on his work ethic however, are mixed, and he had issues with his knees last season, something he unfortunately has in common with his father, who reportedly saw a promising athletic career cut short because of. Make no mistake- Zboril’s booming point drive and ability to distribute the puck with ease, not to mention a snarly, physical side to the way he defends made him a solid choice for the Bruins, but like the other two first-round selections, he carries some risk that will bear close watching as we go forward.

AHL contract/invites

Here are some notes on a few of the development camp invited players I’m familiar with/who stood out in live and online viewing during the past several seasons and at development camp.

Max Iafrate, D Providence (AHL) 6-3, 215

Al Iafrate’s son got a lot of attention for his family pedigree and like his dad, he can scoot-n-shoot. However, Max is not his father, and after going undrafted while playing in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers, he signed an AHL contract with the P-Bruins. With his size and physicality, the younger Iafrate is an intriguing player to watch if he can make better decisions and keep things simple. Putting him out with someone like Tommy Cross could make for a mighty interesting duo.

 

Frank DiChiara, RW Yale (ECAC) 6-2, 218

The rising Yale junior has been a favorite of mine since the 2012-13 season, when the Ronkonkoma, N.Y. native helped lead the USHL’s Dubque Fighting Saints (he was on the team with Matt Benning) to the Clark Cup. Although he went undrafted, DiChiara is a big-bodied winger who uses his size and soft hands to find the back of the net and generate offense. He’s not an ideal skater, but if he can improve his initial quickness, his straight-line speed and natural strength will appeal to NHL clubs come free agency time because he has a nose for the net. In addition to Benning, DiChiara is a current and former (in minor hockey) teammate of Rob O’Gara and the two are close friends.

 

Brien Diffley, D Boston University (HEA) 6-2, 200 (Burlington, Mass.)

Honestly thought this ’95 defender who posted a solid freshman season with the Terriers would get drafted last month. What you see is what you get with Diffley: he skates and moves laterally well, has an active stick to disrupt passes with, fills lanes and willingly blocks shots- in other words, he does all the little things you need your back end to do. There is not much in the way of upside, but if you’re looking for a safe, steady defenseman, there aren’t many undrafted options out there better than Diffley is.

 

Mike Vecchione, LW Union College (ECAC) 5-10, 185 (Saugus, Mass.)

After winning a state championship at MC with Fitzgerald, this smallish but talented and creative winger spent two years in the USHL before winning an NCAA title with Union College in 2014. Speed is the name of the game with Vecchione, who has explosive initial quickness and has an impressive glide. He’s also a savvy two-way forward who shows hustle and diligence on the back check and with his defensive responsibilities. With 33 goals in his first two college seasons, he is primed for a major breakthrough this year and big bucks as a free agent.