TSP founder on TSN 1260 (EDM) to talk Memorial Cup and 2016 Draft

TSN 1260 radio (Edmonton) host and friend Allan Mitchell aka “Lowetide” had yours truly on today to talk about the Memorial Cup.

We covered 2016 draft eligibles from the London Knights powerhouse Matt Tkachuk, Jesse Puljujarvi and Olli Juolevi, then segued over to B’s prospects Jake DeBrusk and Jeremy Lauzon, before going back to the draft. Covered the bases on: USA NTDP d-men Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, plus a little on Trent Frederic, Will Lockwood and then closed out on UConn freshman Tage Thompson. Also was asked about Oilers prospect and Bay Stater (North Easton, Mass.) D John Marino (who just won a Clark Cup with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm and is Harvard-bound), and answered. Boom.

Here’s the audio…I come on at about the 8:15 mark. Thanks as always to Al and his producer Lieutenant Eric for having me on.

PODCAST: Lauzon & DeBrusk Memorial Cup update and 2016 NHL Draft observations

It’s a nice Sunday afternoon…USA fell to Russia for the bronze medal (but Frankie Vatrano netted both USA goals in a 7-2 loss, so there’s that) and Canada captured goal with a rousing win over Finland, denying the Finns the international hockey sweep of World Jr., Under-18 and Men’s World championship in 2016. But, as Meatloaf used to say- “Two outta three ain’t bad!”

I did an audio podcast on the Memorial Cup, which has two Bruins prospects competing for Jr. hockey’s ultimate prize.

In it, I discuss Jeremy Lauzon’s triumphant return to action with the Quebec League champ Rouyn-Noranda Huskies after taking a skate to the neck during the QMJHL playoffs. I also talk about Jake DeBrusk and go on a bit of a rant defending him to the critics. I’m probably doing a little Bill “Thou Doth Protest Too Much” Shakespeare here, but some things just need to be said. With Boston’s goal-scoring woes, it’s surprising the level of criticism he gets from the team’s own fans, many of whom haven’t seen him much outside the occasional highlight. Well, with the Memorial Cup games on NHL Network, you can get an idea. Right, wrong or indifferent- just calling it like I see it.

I touched on how dominant the London Knights have been, even making a Hrkac Circus reference. One thing I didn’t mention in the context of Tyler Parsons’ play this year (he’s a 2016 NHL draft eligible btw) is that even if you get the puck and transition it the other way, without icing it, you have to face him. Fighting Sioux opponents had to go up against none other than Eddie Belfour in net during that magical championship season.

If you manage to make it through my self-indulgence with DeBrusk, I do a Jakob Chychrun-Dante Fabbro analysis of their performance as a D pairing at the World Under-18 tourney last month. Windsor Spitfires star D Mikhail Sergachev also gets a mention, and I share one example of his sublime skill set and hockey IQ for your listening pleasure. I also talk about 2017 draft eligible Eeli Tolvanen (and yes- he played for Sioux City of the USHL this year).

With the bulk of my draft work done for Red Line Report and New England Hockey Journal, I can now devote more time to the blog. Thanks for hanging in there…

Here’s the 30-minute audio file:

B’s CHL prospects final regular season stats

The Canadian Hockey League (major junior) 2015-16 regular season officially ended yesterday and playoffs are up next for all but one of the six B’s futures from the 2015 NHL draft in major junior.

Defenseman Brandon Carlo and his Tri-City Americans failed to qualify for the WHL postseason, so the 37th overall selection will likely be headed to Providence of the AHL this week. Theoretically, the B’s could bring him to Boston, but given the surplus of defensemen with the big club at present, it’s hard to see the team waiving a player they’ve kept up with the team all year to make room for a junior player. The B’s will more likely exercise the amateur tryout option for Carlo to finish out the final regular season games of the year in Providence, but he won’t be eligible for the AHL playoffs.

Here’s a quick rundown of Carlo and the rest of the Boston prospects in major junior and how they did during the regular schedule as they prepare for the second season. They are ranked in order of their scoring production, and I’ve also provided the points differentials from the previous year on the basic categories, so you can see what specific categories showed improvement. I plan to do more of an advanced statistical breakdown at the end of the playoffs.

But for now, here’s where the major junior players rack and stack after another CHL season is in the books:

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars (WHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

GP  72   Goals  40   Assists  35   Points   75  Penalty Minutes  101      +/-   4

Previous season differentials:

GP +6  Goals+17   Assists +14   Points +31  Penalty Minutes -11  +/-  +12

Season in review: The 2015 fourth-round pick played for his third WHL club since the beginning of 2014-15 led all Bruins prospects at the amateur level with 75 points. At one point in the season, Gabrielle was leading the WHL in goals scored, but he cooled down the stretch, finishing tied with teammate Chase Witala for tops on the Cougars and 12th in the league (Dryden Hunt finished with 58 to lead the WHL). He finished with just two goals in his last 9 games (four points) and went without a strike in the final six games of the regular season. His best month was a 9-goal, 18-point December in 13 games, and he stayed hot in the months of January and February, tallying 15 goals and 31 points in 26 games.

Outlook: Gabrielle was a revelation this season, rebounding his stock after a disappointing fall in the draft. In a world where people just love player comparisons, the name you hear most often associated with him is Brad Marchand, but the more I watch film on Gabrielle, the less I see another version of Marchand. Yes, Marchand is the player he aspires to be like, but Gabrielle is bigger, stronger and has a nasty element to his game whereby he fights his own battles and comes out on top more often than not. He’s not big enough to go up against the true heavyweights, but he’s going to surprise some people in the NHL when he gets his dander up. Hockey Fights gives you some insight on that here:

Gabrielle reminds me more of a wing version of Mike Richards (in his prime) than anything- good speed but not blazing wheels, not all that tall but stout and able to do his most damage in high traffic areas where he can get that wicked shot off quickly.

As a 1997-born player Gabrielle cannot play in the AHL next season with Providence. If he does not make the Boston roster out of training camp in October, he must go back to junior (though he could play pro hockey in Europe- there is nothing preventing that in the transfer agreement between the CHL and NHL). Given the other players in Boston’s system who are further along in their pro/developmental timelines, it would be a tall order for Gabrielle to establish himself in the NHL next season, but it’s not an impossibility despite the low odds of it happening. We’ll see how he looks in September. Beyiond that, Gabrielle is a leading candidate to make Canada’s 2017 World Jr. Championship squad along with Zach Senyshyn and Jeremy Lauzon.

Here’s a closer look at him from early November courtesy of Shaw TV (Northern BC):

Zach Senyshyn, RW Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

GP  66   Goals  45   Assists  20   Points   65  Penalty Minutes  20      +/-   5

Previous season differentials:

GP 0  Goals+19   Assists +1   Points +20  Penalty Minutes +3  +/-  -25

Season in review: Senyshyn passed the eye test in impressive fashion in his second full year in the OHL after scoring 26 goals as a rookie in a limited role. After spending much of the year on the Greyhounds’ top line, he moved to the second unit late in the year and it didn’t hamper his production despite playing with less-talented/experienced linemates. Senyshyn is one of the best skaters in the OHL, and that’s saying something as he would often explode past defenders in the open ice on the way to the net. His 45 goals finished seventh (he equaled Aaron Berisha and Dylan Sadowy but played more games than they did) in the OHL behind league leader Christian Dvorak (52). The assist totals compared to what he posted a year ago, but is a reflection of several factors: his role as a finisher who was asked to score goals rather than set them up, and an average supporting cast for starters. His goal and assist totals put him 31st in league scoring behind OHL leader (and Sharks prospect) Kevin Labanc (127 points). He played a far more prominent role in the Soo this year, playing in the top-six and seeing extensive time on special teams.

Outlook: 45 goals in any league is an impressive showing, and Senyshyn has effectively silenced many of the doubts surrounding his 15th overall selection last June. The outstanding seasons from Kyle Connor (who will probably win the Hobey Baker this year- the second consecutive season a freshman has won NCAA hockey’s top award) and Mathew Barzal haven’t ended the debate by any stretch, as critics have now turned their attention to Jake DeBrusk. This is the kind of pointless, unproductive silliness that we saw directed at Senyshyn last summer, so at this stage, we can only look at the significant improvement across the board by the 15th overall selection and chart his continued progress. Senyshyn is not a finished product- he still needs to address consistency and continue to refine his awareness and effort in all zones as he continues to develop. Like Gabrielle, he is a ’97, so he cannot play in Providence next year in a full-time capacity.

Sportsnet ran this brief draft feature on him almost a year ago:

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos-Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

GP  61   Goals  21   Assists  44   Points   65  Penalty Minutes  47      +/-   10

Previous season differentials:

GP -11  Goals -21   Assists +5   Points -16  Penalty Minutes +7        +/-  +19

Season in review: Purely on the face of it, DeBrusk had a tough 2015-16 campaign. He scored just half as many goals as his 42 from a season ago, dealt with a debilitating lower body injury that cost him several weeks of the season, and was traded to Red Deer just before the new year. In looking at the film, there’s an obvious explanation for the dip in production- once he was traded away from Swift Current, he was relegated to a secondary scoring role behind the older Adam Helewka, who was acquired at the same time and made the most of his opportunities under Brent Sutter, scoring 26 goals in 34 games when compared to DeBrusk’s 12 (in 37). DeBrusk raised his assist totals to a career best this season, but there is no denying that the dip in overall production creates questions that a strong playoff showing and eventual Memorial Cup opportunity (Red Deer is the host city this year) can alleviate. DeBrusk isn’t flashy or dynamic, which makes him an easy target of critics whereas if he zipped around the ice in noticeable fashion, he might get more benefit of the doubt. Although he lacks high-end skating and a “wow” factor, DeBrusk has fine hands and exceptional offensive hockey sense and creativity. He improved his two-way game this season and playing for Sutter will benefit him going forward.

Outlook: A good kid with a solid attitude, DeBrusk attracted the Bruins with his finishing skills, maturity and willingness to work. He’s had a series of disappointments since being drafted- from a mediocre Team Canada World Jr. evaluation camp in August, to the embarrassment of failing the B’s conditioning run (along with Senyshyn and Zboril) at his first real NHL training camp, the rough start to his WHL season and surgery, to being completely left off the roster of Canada’s final training camp roster in December. All of those things feed into negativity surrounding DeBrusk, but too much is being made of it. He got off to a blistering offensive start with the Rebels in early January but cooled off and had to deal with line shuffling as he adjusted to a new system and different requirements. Whether he can rebound from the setbacks and finish strong is one of the more compelling Bruins-related story lines as Spring arrives. No one should be writing DeBrusk off this early in his timeline, but by the same token, it’s not unfair to question where he’s headed in his development after the fall off in goals and the general disappointment surrounding his post-draft season.

A late 1996-born player like Carlo, DeBrusk is signed and will likely spend the 2016-17 season in the AHL with Providence. Given a better than average chance that Frank Vatrano will earn a promotion to Boston next fall, DeBrusk provides another solid option to slot in on the left side for the Baby B’s and could  open some eyes with his natural scoring instincts, especially if he gets a chance to play with a skilled playmaker like Austin Czarnik.

Here’s the segment from when he was drafted which has the interview with his dad, former NHL enforcer Louie DeBrusk:

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

GP  46   Goals  10   Assists  40   Points   50  Penalty Minutes  80      +/-   40

Previous season differentials:

GP -14  Goals -5   Assists +19   Points +14  Penalty Minutes  -8        +/-  +28

Season in review: A tremendous start to the year was highlighted in late December by Lauzon being sent to Team Canada WJC camp after roster invite Jake Walman suffered an injury and was unable to go. Lauzon did not look out of place and was one of the final cuts to the roster, impressing observers with his poise and two-way game. Unfortunately, he also suffered a lower body injury that became one of the nagging variety, shelving him for much of January and hampering play well into February. All told- he missed 22 games, but still finished as his team’s leading scorer on defense (fifth overall). He typically played around 20 minutes per game and was a key contributor in all situations for the Quebec League-leading Huskies (54-9-3-2).

Outlook: It has been said before but bears repeating here: of the three defensemen the B’s drafted in 2015, Lauzon is the most complete and could go on to have the most pro success going forward. He’s not as offensively skilled as Jakub Zboril (though he nearly tripled Zboril’s production this season), nor does he have the natural size to be as dominant a shutdown force as Carlo seems to project as. However, Lauzon has no real flaws in his game as a player who can skate and move the puck effectively, but also plays with strong awareness and has a gritty ruggedness to him that will earn him points with the Boston coaches. Whether Lauzon has the chops to live up to some encouraging potential as a top-3 NHL defender one day or grades out more as a solid, safe 4-6 remains to be seen, but given his ability and attitude, he should play in some capacity if injuries don’t hold him back.

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans (WHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

GP  52   Goals  5   Assists  22   Points   27  Penalty Minutes  94      +/-   8

Previous season differentials:

GP -9  Goals +1   Assists +1   Points +2  Penalty Minutes  +4        +/-  +23

Season in review: From a personal perspective, it was another standard but solid statistical year of output for the right-shooting Coloradan. He scored one more goal and added one more helper in nine fewer games played from a season ago. He lost contests to minor injuries and a two-week stint with the USA World Jr squad for the second straight year, capturing a bronze medal in Finland. The 6-5 defender is an impressive physical specimen with a massive reach and wingspan, which makes him extremely difficult to beat 1-on-1. He’s not overly physical or aggressive, but uses his big frame to staple opponents to the walls and move traffic from the front of his netminder. Unfortunately for Carlo, collective success with the Americans was fleeting this season, as his squad failed to qualify for the WHL postseason.

Outlook: As mentioned earlier, watch for Carlo to join the Providence Bruins this week and possibly even suit up for games this coming weekend, as he gets a head start on his professional career. He’s currently projected to play full-time in the AHL next season, and has an outside chance at earning an NHL job in the process, but fans should temper their expectations going into training camp next fall. While it wouldn’t be unheard of for him to make the jump to the highest level at age 19 (he turns 20 in late November), his chances are tied to whatever offseason moves the Bruins are likely to make at the defense position. He’s got the kind of size you can’t teach and rock solid temperament, but there’s no need to rush Carlo into the mix. If he earns it, so be it- but starting the season in Providence next October will not be an indictment of his potential, but rather- an opportunity for him to play a key developmental role in the AHL after three full years of major junior hockey.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

GP  50   Goals  6   Assists  14   Points   20  Penalty Minutes  57      +/-   10

Previous season differentials:

GP +6   Goals -7   Assists -6    Points -13   Penalty Minutes  -16        +/-  +8

Season in review: Where to start? After playing well in the B’s rookie tourney and not looking out of place at training camp, he struggled at both ends of the ice upon his return to Saint John. He missed games to nagging injuries, a two-week WJC hiatus with the Czech Republic squad and even a game misconduct-related suspension. The offense did not seem to come as naturally for him in his second Quebec League season as it did in the first and he took a backseat to fellow 2015 first-rounder Thomas Chabot (drafted five spots later by Ottawa). Chabot emerged as the clear-cut top defender on the Sea Dogs, though his offensive production did not jump appreciably from what it had been in his draft year. On the positive side, Zboril continued to play a punishing physical brand of defense, which makes him a natural fit for the more rugged North American style. His on-the-edge (borderline dirty) physical tactics earned him the ire of opponents, but marked him as a difficult player to go up against. Like DeBrusk, the step back in offensive production was disappointing, but Zboril is a work in progress.

Outlook: The coming 2016-17 campaign will be a telling one for Zboril in terms of how he raises his stock going forward. Playing for the Maritime Division’s top regular season club, he gets a chance to reverse his fortunes this spring in the QMJHL playoffs but it would not come as a total surprise if perhaps Zboril received a junior change of address in the offseason. Meanwhile, he’s got enough in the way of hockey skills and vision to elevate his scoring and if he can focus on being a more consistent presence on the Sea Dogs blue line, the team could go far this spring. Their first test comes against Patrice Bergeron’s old club, the Acadie-Bathurst (or just Bathurst) Titan in the opening round of the President’s Cup playoffs.

Like Senyshyn, Lauzon and Gabrielle, Zboril is not eligible for full-time duty in the AHL next year, so it is possible to see him opt for a year of pro hockey in Europe versus playing a third season in the QMJHL. In any case- it is hard to envision any scenario that has him making the Bruins next year out of camp, but stranger things have happened. You don’t want to be overly negative at this stage of the game for someone who is still quite young and plenty of room for growth and improvement, but bigger things were expected of him this season.

Here’s his draft day selection video, so you know the potential is there for Zboril to be the guy the Bruins believed they were getting last June:

 

 

Scouting Post founder on TSN 1260 Edmonton to talk Bruins & 2016 NHL Draft

I was invited to go on host  on Edmonton-based Allan Mitchell aka Lowetide’s mid-day sports radio show on TSN 1260 yesterday.

Mr. Mitchell is a thoughtful guy with a lot of interest in hockey at all levels. Before the Oilers came along, he was a Bruins guy during their glory years of the early 1970s, so he’s been kind enough to have me on his show to talk Boston since 2011, when he got his own show and has developed quite a following. I do appreciate his kind words about the blog (and me) on his show.

Yesterday, I was asked about Boston’s youth movement (David Pastrnak, Noel Acciari), drilled down on Ryan Spooner’s progress, and an update on the Dougie Hamilton trade. I also talked Riley Tufte, Dante Fabbro and a New England prep sleeper for the 2016 NHL draft.

I hope you will give it a listen. I come on at the 6:55 mark of the SoundCloud clip for a 12-minute segment. And you can follow me on Twitter if you want more: @kluedeke29

B’s prospects deep dive 3: Grzelcyk, O’Gara, Lauzon & Arnesson

We’re back with four more B’s prospects- a defense-focused edition that looks at a pair of NCAA players, a major junior D and one unheralded Providence performer who is all but the forgotten man in Boston’s system.

Speaking of unheralded- the next post will take a look at BC junior Ryan Fitzgerald’s progress, plus Ryan Donato, Anders Bjork and Seth Griffith. This blog will continue to be forward thinking…(get it?)

Matt Grzelcyk, D

The Boston University senior has overcome injuries this season to post another fine offensive season from the blue line. He’s already matched his single season-best 10 goals from a year ago, but in 17 fewer games.

Grzelcyk had off-season knee surgery in May, which caused him to miss the beginning of the 2015-16 NCAA season with the Terriers. Unfortunately, after just a few contests back and an immediate contribution on the offensive ledger, he injured his other knee and was lost for several more weeks. However, he came back with a flourish early in the new calendar year and promptly scored his first career NCAA hat trick in the process.

Although he stands about 5-foot-10, Grzelcyk has huge heart and a high-end hockey IQ. He’s an outstanding 4-way compass skater with instant burst, rapid acceleration/top straight-line speed and the ability to move laterally and change direction quickly with smooth pivots and transitions. The 22-year-old Townie pushes the pace by using that pure speed and quickness to lead the rush and has improved his shot significantly from where he was when the B’s drafted him in the third round four years ago.

The two-year captain is more of a skater/puck-mover/distributor in the offensive end than he is a pure trigger man and finisher, but he has the vision and creativity to set the table and finish off plays as one who isn’t afraid to go into the high danger areas and expose himself to a big hit to get pucks to the net. After scoring six total goals in his first two years (57 games- lower minutes/60 than he played as a junior and senior) in the NCAA, Grzelcyk has potted a nifty 20 and counting in the last two seasons (65 games) with a little more to go before he closes out his college career.

Like Torey Krug, Grzelcyk will be forced to prove that he can develop into an NHL defenseman but he’s so dynamic in terms of his skating and ability to get back on pucks quickly in retrieval and then advance the play back up the ice. I avoid player comparisons in general, so I don’t want people to get the idea that Grzelcyk = Krug…they’re two pretty different players once you get past the physical similarities. Grzelcyk will probably beat the Boston veteran (sounds weird typing that, but Krug’s three full NHL seasons and 225 career games affords him that distinction) in a foot race, but Krug’s got a bigger shot and (this year aside) is more of a scoring threat when he uncorks his drives from the blue line and out near the circles. He’s snakebit, but Krug didn’t score 26 goals in his first two NHL campaigns by accident. Both D are good at carrying the puck out of their own end and getting it up the ice with the quick first pass to beat the forechecking pressure or rushing it themselves through the neutral zone and negate any attempt to trap them into surrendering possession. Those are key attributes for the modern NHL rearguard.

Unfortunately, because of Grzelcyk’s size, coaches have to use him in favorable matchups and as Claude Julien has often mentioned when discussing Krug over the past several seasons, the smaller defender has to outwit and play a savvy positional game. Mitigating physical 1-on-1 matchups is the key to not getting overpowered when covering down in your own end, so the more Grzelcyk can help the B’s move the puck out of their own end and maintain possession in the offensive zone, the lest actual defending he’ll have to do.

Factor in the natural leadership and character and he’s the right kind of person and player to bring along and one day put into the NHL lineup. But first things first- he’s trying to get his Terriers back to the national championship after falling short in 2015.

Current assessment: The Bruins are no doubt looking forward to getting this player into their pro system when his college season ends in the next month or so. They took him much earlier than he was projected to go in 2012 and he’s steadily progressed in his development in the Hockey East. He has had two major surgeries, however- his 2013-14 campaign ended early due to shoulder surgery and then he had the aforementioned knee procedure about a year ago. That’s something for the B’s to keep an eye on, but it should not stand in the way of them signing Grzelcyk. Given his dream of playing for Boston and his connection to the team with his father’s position on the TD Garden bull gang, it is difficult to envision a scenario where he would attempt to not sign and become a free agent on August 1. He’ll likely need time in the AHL first but could gradually work into a role in Boston within the next season or two.

Rob O’Gara, D

Brandon Carlo has gotten a lot of attention as a top prospect in the Bruins organization for his size, skating and shutdown potential, but O’Gara is a few years older and plays a more refined game with a similar style and physical package.

O’Gara, who like Grzelcyk, is finishing up his NCAA hockey career after four strong years. The Yale Bulldog was named the ECAC’s best defensive defenseman last season after also putting up career offensive numbers as a junior. The production is down this year, but the Long Island native who turns 23 in July is not the kind of player who should be judged by statistics and offensive output. His three goals and 11 points in 27 games this season are well off his six goal & 21-point effort from a year ago (33 games), but more par for the course in terms of how he’s performed at Yale since arriving for the 2012-13 campaign.

Size and skating are the two main pillars for O’Gara: at 6-foot-4 and about 220 pounds, he’s big and strong, yet mobile enough to thrive in the modern professional hockey circuit. Ever since the B’s drafted him out of Milton Academy at the end of the 2011 draft’s fifth round, O’Gara has impressed with his fluid footwork and smooth, powerful skating stride. Even at his first Bruins development camp (he turned 18 the day he reported to Wilmington), he stood out with his poise and ability to move well and defend his own net. He was an extremely raw young player when drafted, but in the nearly five years since, has developed into one of the more poised and dependable shutdown defenders in the entire NCAA.

O’Gara leads his peers with a quiet tenacity manifested in the near-universal respect he garners from teammates, coaches and scouts. He’s not a rah-rah, in-your-face, fiery leader, but sets the right example and inspires others to follow him through consistency and his natural humility. In his first year of prep school with the Milton Mustangs, he often times had to cover for his higher-risk D partner Pat McNally, but did so with the skill and poise of a polished and seasoned player at that level. Since leading the Mustangs to a prep championship in 2011 (Milton lost the 2016 NEPSIHA/Elite 8 title yesterday to the Gunnery), O’Gara was a member of Yale’s first (and only) NCAA title-winning squad in 2013, his freshman season. He has a proven track record of being part of a winning formula, which is one of the things that attracted the Bruins to him in the first place.

Even as a shutdown prospect, O’Gara is an underrated passer and puck mover. He moves confidently up the ice with his head up, looking to hit forwards in stride to force defenses back on their heels. When the play is coming at him, he keeps the puck in front of him and uses his smarts to angle the carrier away from his net and out to more oblique angles to cut down on quality scoring chances. He’s not an overly physical defender but will make contact and use his natural strength to win board battles. He uses his long reach to make effective poke checks in the open ice. Like any young ‘D’ he has to guard sometimes against running around and trying to do too much, but when O’Gara keeps things safe and simple, he’s difficult to beat 1-on-1.

Current assessment: Like Grzelcyk, O’Gara has been carefully cultivated and developed in the Bruins organization, so the expectation here is that he will sign once he plays his last game for Yale. Whether that means he makes the jump to pro hockey right away or finishes out his semester in New Haven as Cornell’s Brian Ferlin did in the spring of 2014 after signing his entry-level contract with the B’s remains to be seen, however. He’s been patient in terms of his development and a long but steadily upwards developmental curve, and the team has exhibited the same kind of patience as well. It’s probably too much to expect him to jump right to Boston straight out of college, but stranger things have happened. If he goes to Providence to finish out the regular season, he’ll likely benefit from the chance to get his feet wet and experience the faster pace and higher skill level of the AHL before he begins his first full pro season in 2016-17. Regardless, O’Gara appears on track for bigger and better things, and consistently is underrated and overlooked when in fact the organization is solidly and firmly in his corner as a solution player going forward.

Jeremy Lauzon, D

The third of three defensemen drafted out of ten selections in 2015 might provide the best payoff of the trio in pro hockey when all is said and done.

Though not a truly exceptional player in any key area or specific hockey skill, Lauzon nevertheless is above average and more than capable at just about everything. He’s got good (Lauzon is about 6-1, 195 pounds) if not great (6-4, 220+ pounds or more is what is considered ideal in the modern NHL for D) size, and skates well though doesn’t provide dynamic speed and quickness. He’s a deft passer and effective goal scorer from the blue line, and has the ruggedness and smarts to neutralize opposition rushes and prevent players from getting to the front of his net.

Lauzon is putting up the best offensive numbers of his major junior career with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in his third season with them. He’s off his goals pace from a year ago (eight vs the 15 he netted in 2015) but with 44 points in 41 contests, Lauzon has already exceeded his 36 points set last season. He’s had to deal with some nagging lower body injuries that have limited his effectiveness in the new year after injuring himself after returning from Team Canada’s World Jr. Championship training camp in December. As one of the final cuts, Lauzon opened a lot of eyes around the CHL this year after being the 52nd overall selection by Boston last June.

Lauzon is a smart player who often does the little things in terms of maintaining his gaps, keeping the proper stick positioning and forcing opponents into committing early. He likes to go for hits in the open ice and will take every opportunity to finish his checks along the boards and remind guys in the other sweaters that he’s there. Though not a feared fighter, he’s willing to drop the gloves to defend teammates and plays a naturally rugged and aggressive defensive style that will translate well in Boston.

Current assessment: Lauzon has work to do in terms of refinements and tweaks to his overall body of work, and unfortunately, as a 1997-born player, won’t be able to jump to the AHL next season. The good news for Lauzon is that after his camp showing in December, he’s just about a sure bet to skate for Team Canada at the 2017 WJC (along with fellow B’s prospects Zach Senyshyn and Jesse Gabrielle I would add) assuming he stays healthy and continues to progress. He’s currently tracking as a potential top-3 NHL defender one day, but will need time to develop in junior. Depending on how Boston’s blue line situation looks in 2017, we’ll have a good read on how much AHL time he might require before he’s ready to stake a serious claim to regular NHL work.

Linus Arnesson, D

Like O’Gara anyone looking at the 2013 second-round selection’s offensive numbers is likely going to think that the smart and poised Swedish defensive defenseman is headed for Bustville.

That’s not the case, though some of us were admittedly thinking that he might develop into more of a two-way threat when Boston drafted him.

The 60th overall pick that year is a lean 6-foot-1 who moves around the ice efficiently with a long, mechanically-sound stride and is known for his consistent and effective two-zone ability. The product of the Djurgardens club isn’t going to wow you on any particular night, as he tends to play a pretty vanilla style. He keeps his stick in passing lanes, makes quick decisions and essentially keeps it simple without taking needless risks. No one is going to mistake him as the next Erik Karlsson, but he’s a more impactful than his four assists in 43 games might attest.

Because Arnesson is a smart and engaged player, he’s picked up fairly quickly on Providence (and Boston’s) zone-oriented scheme after playing more of a man-to-man defense in Europe. It hasn’t been a perfectly smooth transition to date, but when you go back and watch the film, there aren’t many glaring mistakes or issues jumping out at you either. Think about it- how many times do you hear or read about Arnesson and his play in Providence this season? I would submit to you- not very often. And if ever the old adage that says you don’t notice a good defenseman if he’s doing his job properly holds true with anyone, it’s the case with Arnesson.

Current assessment: Because he’s not exciting, dynamic or carries a first-round draft pedigree, it’s easy to overlook or forget about Arnesson. Whether he can carve out a niche for himself in Boston as a solid, steady middle-pairing D who may get you about 10-15 points per season tops but who can likely be paired with a smaller, but more offensively-inclined (read: risk-taking) partner or just never does enough to stick in the Boston organization is something we’ll all have to find out. When Dennis Seidenberg was helping the Bruins win a Stanley Cup and get to the final series of second championship, a lot of people could see his utility. Arnesson is obviously not the same player that Seidenberg is, but he brings the kind of safe, but limited ceiling that every good club needs.

 

 

Bruins hammer Penguins in decisive home win

Are the Boston Bruins Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

Are they a good team with clear shortcomings on the defensive side that sometimes make them look worse than they are, or a mediocre team that is able to pound opponents so decisively on occasion so as to fool the optimists out there who support them?

The answer just might represent a little of both.

On Wednesday night, the B’s completed a three-game series sweep against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is a similar team in that it has been a perennial contender since the Sidney Crosby era revitalized the team’s fortunes, but this year has been a shadow of its former powerful self since squeaking into the playoffs at Boston’s expense last spring.

Like Boston, the Pens have a powerful 1-2 punch at center (though Evgeni Malkin was unable to return from injury to help his team at the TD Center last night), a leaky defense made up of game, but  often overmatched 4/5/6 types and a goaltender who can minimize the damage but can’t do it all himself in Marc-Andre Fleury.

As was the case in Dallas last Saturday, the B’s didn’t exactly dominate the contest, as the Penguins came at them early, hemming them in their zone. Tuukka Rask withstood a 13-shot opening period, not allowing any pucks by him, and David Pastrnak scored the third penalty shot goal of the season for Boston to make it a 1-0 contest.

Pastrnak (his eighth) and Penguins forward Tom Kuhnackl traded goals in the second period to set the stage for a critical third period with the B’s still smarting after getting zinged at home the other night against Columbus.

Jimmy Hayes, Landon Ferraro and Brad Marchand, who scored his team-leading 31st goal, tallied three goals on three shots in the final 10 minutes to push the score to 5-1 and give the Bruins a much-needed home victory.

Hayes finished off a brilliant rush by Ryan Spooner, who got the puck from Hayes after Adam McQuaid blocked a shot (after losing his helmet- no fear) and took off like a rocket up the ice, crossing with Matt Beleskey at the offensive blue line to gain extra space. He then approached the net from the left side and threaded a pass right to Hayes, who didn’t miss for his 13th marker.

Ferraro then broke away after slipping behind the defense and getting a home run pass from Dennis Seidenberg, beating Fleury with a top-shelf laser for just his fourth goal of the season. Ferraro also had an earlier fight with Scott Wilson and gave better than he got, showing off the kind of energy that has made him a capable bottom-line player since the B’s snatched him off the waiver wire from Detroit.

Marchand’s final tally was vintage No. 63, as he got the puck from Torey Krug, cut to the net and let a jumpy Fleury make the first move before going around the defender and sprawling goaltender to slip the puck in on the far side.

Rask, for his part, was magnificent in a 41-save effort- he gave up just the Kuhnackl goal, scored off the German forward’s skate after a fat rebound. This is the kind of game that the Bruins typically need from their one-time Vezina Trophy-winning netminder. The defense still gives up a good number of quality scoring chances, but when Rask is on top of his crease and in the zone, he’s as good as anyone else in the league. The problem is- when the B’s go up against clubs with better top-to-bottom roster depth, they have a tough time matching up against teams that have the speed and skill to employ an effective forecheck that disrupts Boston’s timing on the breakout and leads to defensive zone turnovers.

Pastrnak’s performance gives the team multiple reasons for optimism. For one thing, it’s been a tough slog for the 19-year-old, who burst onto the scene a little over a year ago when he was called up in January and then proceeded to become Boston’s brightest hope for the future. Beyond his obvious offensive talent, Pastrnak is an easy kid to get behind because he wears his love of hockey openly, with a wide, infectious smile that reminds everyone who watches him of how all of these pro players began their lifetime association with this sport. Pastrnak is also serious and hard-working. He’s not quite on the same level as Patrice Bergeron was at the same age, but he’s not that far off, either. Pastrnak made the NHL at 18 because he not only gave the Bruins something they desperately lacked, but also because the coaches saw his work ethic and desire to improve manifested at practice. Some people have to be taught by others how to work harder to maximize their natural gifts, but Pastrnak needed no such coaching, and was often the last player off the ice (and still is). Claude Julien and his veteran coaching staff saw that, and so even with the setbacks the second-year right wing has dealt with this season, they’re willing to stick with him and maintain the faith that he can become the regular scorer he’s shown the penchant for in flashes.

Where do we go from here?

The Loui Eriksson trade watch continues, and I’ve been intrigued by the polarized sides on Twitter and the Internet- the two camps that are clearly at odds with one another within the B’s fandom. I explained at length last week why the Bruins will trade Eriksson and try to leverage him into the assets that can allow GM Don Sweeney to more properly address the elephant in the room: the defense.

Although there seems to be a group of folks who believe Eriksson can and should be signed, I have yet to see any plausible explanation from that side on how it will work. Assuming his agent JP Barry wants to secure money and term from his client (and why wouldn’t he?), the Bruins would essentially be rolling the dice that the soon-to-be 31-year-old would be able to maintain his current level of contributions for another four years at least to make an extension worthwhile. While that’s not impossible, the odds are certainly not in favor of that. Eriksson has never been a dynamic skater, so if he loses a step over the next couple of years as many players on the wrong side of 30 tend to do, his production could essentially drop off a cliff. The B’s cannot afford to be shortsighted here- that thinking is what got them into salary cap jeopardy in the first place.

Loui is a fine man and teammate. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and in the scope of the here and now, he obviously makes the Bruins a better team than they will be without him. But fans demand that their teams be in the winning mix year after year, and extending Eriksson puts that philosophy in peril. Sure- he’s one of the team’s most versatile and dependable forwards, but one can also make the argument that there are young players in the system that can capably address what Eriksson brings to the club given a little time. They won’t cost upwards of 5.5-6 million dollars a year (at least not right away) and dealing Eriksson gives the Bruins the much-needed coin of the realm: assets in the form of picks and futures that every team covets to off-set the ever escalating salary structures needed to retain the top talent across the league.

Should the B’s prove me wrong and hold onto Eriksson, either extending him or keeping him for the playoffs, we’ll revisit the implications of that when the time comes. Even if he’s not moved at the deadline, they can still flip him to a team that wants his exclusive negotiating rights before the July 1 free-for-all for a middling pick, which is not ideal but better than nothing. If they commit the term and dollars to him, then I think it works in the short run, but could have profound consequences by the years 2018 or 2019. I guess for those who like to live in the now, that may not be such a bad thing.

What we’re figuring out here is that making trades and acquiring the kinds of essential players needed to assemble a winning mix in the modern NHL is easy to talk about, much harder to pull off. It isn’t like Boston is bereft of young defensemen in the organization, but nobody is truly ready to step in and make the kind of difference this team needs right now with a goalie in his prime along with multiple forwards whose window might be closing by the time the B’s home grown blue line talent can make an impact.

Colin Miller has shown he can create offense, but he’s still got much to learn defensively. Rob O’Gara is having a down senior year at Yale but has size and mobility to become a bottom pairing staple after a little seasoning in the AHL. Matt Grzelcyk has the speed and offensive talent to be a two-way threat, but like Krug, will need some time to develop in the minors and will be a wild card in terms of what kind of role he can carve out for himself in Boston. Jakub Zboril, Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon were all drafted last June and are not realistic options to make a difference for at least another full season but likely two or three more years at the earliest.

That means Sweeney needs to add a key piece now or at least in the coming off season. You have to give to get, and Eriksson represents the kind of asset that can increase the GM’s options, not diminish them. Yes, fans may not be thrilled with the kind of return he brings back in a few days (assuming he’s dealt), but you have to play the long game here and realize that a trade made today could set up the even bigger haul tomorrow (or in about three or four months).

If we’ve learned anything about the recent wins over Dallas and Pittsburgh, it is this- the scores didn’t represent how close the games actually were. The B’s benefited from shaky goaltending play from their opponents, but in the playoffs, when every game’s intensity is ratcheted up a few notches and the better teams can make you pay for every mistake, this Boston club isn’t going anywhere far as currently constructed.

That means you have to live with the tough calls and some short-term disappointment in order to benefit from a potential sustained run of excellence. Ask Columbus fans how much fun it has been to cheer for a team that has always tended to fiddle around the margins rather than make bold decisions to build for the long term and you’re not going to like the answer. Teams like Edmonton and Columbus should serve as a reminder that picking at the bottom of the draft every year is no sure path to contention. The Bruins have the pieces to be a contender, but the team has to be smart about how they streamline the effort.

Making decisions based on emotion, loyalty and what someone did in the past versus what they will do is more of a recipe for failure than success. When it becomes time to come to grips with the fact that Bergeron, Krejci, Rask and Marchand can no longer do what Boston fans have enjoyed and come to expect for so long now, the team cannot afford to have multiple albatross contracts around the neck.

Digging out from that kind of hole could take years.

Bruins prospects update 2/15/16

Frank Vatrano continued his goal scoring blitzkrieg in the AHL since being returned to Providence late last month. He’s only a few markers off the AHL lead, but in far fewer games. The kid is a keeper.

Unfortunately for Providence, Malcolm Subban suffered a fractured larynx during warmups in Portland eight days ago. He had successful surgery but faces a minimum eight-week layoff before he’ll even be able to be an option to return to the nets. That prompted a recall of Jeremy Smith from the Iowa Wild and both Smith and Zane McIntyre have done well to keep the P-Bruins rolling.

Jesse Gabrielle leads all Bruins prospects with 35 goals and 67 points for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. Zach Senyshyn is second in goal scoring with 33 tallies for the Soo Greyhounds.

Ryan Donato notched his first career NCAA hat trick over the weekend, while Ryan Fitzgerald continues to produce for BC- he now has 16 goals and 35 points- a new career best in points and just one off to Colin White for the team lead. Notre Dame RW Anders Bjork scored a highlight reel goal over the weekend as well- he continues to add to his breakout sophomore season.

On the defensive side of things, Jakub Zboril’s play is steadily improving and he’s now getting some production to go with his physical, edgy play. Jeremy Lauzon is back in action after dealing with a nagging groin injury that has limited his participation since January. Harvard sophomore Wiley Sherman did not find the back of the net at all during his freshman season, but already has four goals and has tripled his points totals. He’s raw but with his 6-foot-6 size and good mobility, he’s an intriguing project player to watch for the long term.

And now for the update:

AHL

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 40 Goals- 16 Assists- 35 Points- 51 Penalty Min- 22 +/-   5

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 38 Goals- 15 Assists- 26 Points- 41 Penalty Min- 8 +/-  -6

Austin Czarnik, C Providence Bruins

GP- 41 Goals- 13 Assists- 23 Points- 36 Penalty Min- 14 +/-  3

Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 19 Goals- 20 Assists- 10 Points- 30 Penalty Min- 8 +/-   7

Four goals and four assists in his last five AHL games for Vatrano to keep his stick red hot.

Colton Hargrove, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 41 Goals-12 Assists- 9 Points- 21 Penalty Min- 49 +/-   7

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 49 Goals- 10 Assists- 10 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -6

Chris Casto, D Providence Bruins

GP- 45 Goals- 5 Assists- 12 Points- 17 Penalty Min- 35 +/- -5

Tommy Cross, D Providence Bruins

GP- 38 Goals- 2 Assists- 13 Points- 15 Penalty Min- 61 +/- -4

Zack Phillips, C Providence Bruins

GP- 39 Goals- 5 Assists- 9 Points-14 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -14

Noel Acciari, C Providence Bruins

GP- 36 Goals- 6 Assists-7 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 15 +/-  5

Anton Blidh, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 47 Goals- 9 Assists- 3 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 27 +/- -3

Anthony Camara, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 29 Goals- 0 Assists- 5 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 37 +/- -1

Justin Hickman, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 39 Goals- 3 Assists- 2 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 36 +/- -4

Linus Arnesson, D Providence Bruins

GP- 35 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -3

Brian Ferlin, RW Providence Bruins

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

Ferlin is back from a concussion after missing all but one of the previous games on Providence’s schedule- he tallied his first goal of the season last week.

Malcolm Subban, G Providence Bruins

GP- 27 MIN- 1635 GA- 67 GAA- 2.46 Spct- .911 W- 14 L-8 OTL 5 SO- 1

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 20 MIN- 1146 GA- 55 GAA- 2.88 Spct- .892 W- 8 L- 6 OTL- 5

Jeremy Smith, G Providence Bruins

Iowa: GP- 23 MIN- 1326 GA- 65 GAA- 2.94 Spct- .911 W- 5 L- 14 OTL- 3

Providence: GP- 2 MIN- 120 GA- 4 GAA- 2.00 Spct- .925 W- 2 L- 0 OTL- 0

 

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 52 Goals- 33 Assists- 16 Points- 49 Penalty Min- 20 +/- 3

 

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 33 Goals- 5 Assists- 32 Points- 37 Penalty Min- 56 +/- 28

He’s back in action and has played 4 games (2 assists) since the last update as he works through constraints of a nagging groin injury.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 35 Goals- 4 Assists- 12 Points- 16 Penalty Min- 36 +/- 9

With four assists in his last five games, Zboril is getting more done on the score sheet after a brutal statistical start.

 

WHL

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 57 Goals- 35 Assists- 32 Points- 67 Penalty Min- 86 +/- 8

With 11 points in his last six games, Gabrielle has elevated his overall game at the right time.

Jake DeBrusk, LW Red Deer Rebels

SCB: GP- 24 Goals- 9 Assists- 17 Points- 26 Penalty Min- 15 +/- -5

RDR: GP- 21 Goals- 8 Assists- 16 Points- 24 Penalty Min- 13 +/-  13

With eight points (seven assists) in his last six games, DeBrusk is often a forgotten player in major junior this year, but his more balanced offensive game is a good sign for the future, even if his goal numbers are way down from a year ago.

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 35 Goals- 2 Assists- 17 Points- 19 Penalty Min- 69 +/- 0

 

NCAA

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 29 Goals- 16 Assists- 19 Points- 35 Penalty Min- 39 +/-  21

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish (HEA)

GP- 28 Goals- 11 Assists- 18 Points- 29 Penalty Min- 4 +/-  24

Danton Heinen, RW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 28 Goals- 12 Assists- 15 Points- 27 Penalty Min- 4 +/-   8

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

GP- 30 Goals- 7 Assists- 16 Points- 23 Penalty Min- 16 +/-   1

The scoring has cooled a bit for the BU freshman, but he’s still a high riser and strong bet for eventual NHL success as a top two-way center.

Sean Kuraly, C Miami University Redhawks (NCHC)

GP- 28 Goals- 6 Assists- 13 Points- 19 Penalty Min- 31 +/-   4

Matt Grzelcyk, D Boston University (HEA)

GP- 18 Goals- 8 Assists- 8 Points- 16 Penalty Min- 28 +/-  11

Ryan Donato, C Harvard University Crimson (ECAC)

GP- 23 Goals- 10 Assists- 6 Points- 16 Penalty Min- 18 +/-   5

Four goals in five games including a hat trick for Donato since last update.

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten)

GP- 23 Goals- 3 Assists- 13 Points- 16 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -10

Matt Benning, D Northeastern University Huskies (HEA)

GP- 30 Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 25 +/- -6

Wiley Sherman, D Harvard University Crimson (ECAC)

GP- 25 Goals- 4 Assists- 5 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 8 +/-   8

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University Bulldogs (ECAC)

GP- 23 Goals- 1 Assists- 7 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 39  +/-  2

 

 

Europe

Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (Sweden)

GP- 36 Goals- 9 Assists- 8 Points- 17 Penalty Min- 2 +/-   4

Cehlarik established a new personal season high for  goals  in the Swedish Hockey League (formerly the elite league) to date, eclipsing his 6 goals in 46 games last year.

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (Sweden)

GP- 40 Goals- 0 Assists- 5 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 12 +/-  2

Maxim Chudinov, D St Petersburg SKA (Russia)

GP- 54 Goals- 8 Assists- 9 Points- 17 Penalty Min- 87 +/- -9

 

USHL

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago Steel (USHL)

GP- 19 MIN- 1106 GA- 39 GAA- 2.11 Spct .922 SO- 3; 6-7-4

Played one game since last update- a shutout.

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)

GP- 40 Goals- 5 Assists- 8 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -11

Scouting Post podcast: pre-NHL trade deadline

I solicited questions on Twitter and got a lot of solid queries about various topics, much of them related to the Boston Bruins, but some of them not.

The podcast is a little over an hour long, and in it- I address the chances of the B’s landing a younger, higher-end defenseman at the trade deadline, what will happen with Loui Eriksson going forward, whether the team should bring Frank Vatrano back, a few questions about the 2016 NHL draft, and other topics. I close out by answering who I would keep if the Bruins could have just one prospect at every position, which is a much tougher question to answer than you might think.

So, settle in, grab some popcorn and check it out. Or not. An hour is a lot of anyone’s time to give up, but I appreciate the support this blog has gotten since I launched it back in July.

Bruins beat Sabres & Leafs to show moxie, but the’D’ does not rest

The losses were piling up on the road trip, but the Boston Bruins stopped the bleeding with big wins in Buffalo and at home Saturday night against Toronto to salvage a tough stretch and keep teams behind them in the standings at bay.

Saturday’s 3-2 victory was especially heartening, as the B’s saw a Brad Marchand go-ahead goal with under 13 minutes remaining in the final frame get wiped out on a coach’s challenge that ruled the play offside. After contending with some pretty one-sided officiating all night that play seemed to convince the skeptics that it wasn’t Boston’s night, but the Hockey Gods smiled down on the TD Garden, and a Martin Marincin gaffe allowed for Marchand to pot the winner with under a minute remaining in regulation to break a 2-2 deadlock.

The referees- Dave Jackson and Justin St. Pierre– made me feel at times like Professor Terguson from the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School. The role put comedian Sam Kinison firmly on the map with his “Oh, Ohhhhhh!” battle screech from the mid-80’s until his death in a car accident in 1992. The officials last night brought out the absolute worst that is the two referee system in hockey- two guys who just seemed to make inconsistent, subjective calls at whim while players like Nazem Kadri disgraced the game by flopping to the ice anytime a Bruin touched him without being held accountable. I guess I should not be surprised given Jackson’s reputation, but if this is the kind of effort the fans can expect- then why bother, NHL? Just put the teams out there and let them decide everything themselves- you wouldn’t get much more bang for your buck than what those two did last night. And with that, I cede the floor to Professor Terguson/Sammy K.

The win put Boston back into third place in the Atlantic Division, just one point ahead of Tampa Bay (51-50…hey- that’s an old Van Halen album!), who will play the division leader and Sunshine State rival Florida Panthers this evening. The B’s also stayed ahead of the hated Montreal Canadiens, who hurled 49 shots at Brian Elliott but lost in overtime in a game in which the Blues brought back goaltending legends- Mike Liut, Curtis Joseph, Grant Fuhr and Martin Brodeur for a pre-game recognition ceremony. Interestingly enough, Elliott’s 46 saves were the most at home by a Blues goaltender since…you guessed it…Joseph. And to top it off, Elliott was wearing a special tribute mask to Joseph with the same paint job that the former NHL great wore in St. Louis from 1990-93, before he adopted the ubiquitous CuJo rabid dog visage that decorated his headgear for the remainder of his career. But I digress…

This Bruins team is a game bunch of players who put in a good effort on most nights even if their hard work isn’t always rewarded with a win. For the past several weeks, they’ve been without center David Krejci, but Ryan Spooner rose to the occasion by playing like the  2nd-line pivot that many of us felt he had the potential to be. With Krejci close to returning, that’s good news for the B’s but the issue with this club is not the scoring as much as it is a lack of a viable championship-caliber defense. Unless Don Sweeney and his scouts can figure out a way to bring someone in, then fans can expect that this is about as good as it will get.

Tuukka Rask has shown that he has more than enough talent and experience to carry the team at times, and Jonas Gustavsson has been the serviceable backup that the team hoped Niklas Svedberg would be a year ago. However, without a balanced defense, the Bruins are a middle-of-the-pack team, and even the most optimistic of observers aren’t blocking off their calendars in May and June for an extended playoff run.

The B’s are doing about as well as they can, even playing above their heads for stretches of the season. However, the elephant in the room is the current makeup of Boston’s defense. The team knew this would be a sticking point when Sweeney traded Dougie Hamilton last June, and the 22-year-old has certainly not taken that next step that seemed a given just seven months ago, but make no mistake: the loss of Hamilton opened up a void that the GM was simply unable to fill and we’re seeing that with a 23-16-5 record and 4-5-1 in the last 10. The B’s are losing games that during the Claude Julien era they wouldn’t have in previous years, by losing leads because they depend too much on their goaltending and forwards to cover up for a group of players that works hard, but lacks the talent and ability to match up effectively against some of the NHL’s better offenses.

Zdeno Chara is the easy target for fans, frustrated by the fact that father time is catching up to him at age 39 (in a couple of months) and hoping against hope that Sweeney could make a trade for new blood using him as capital.

Here are just a few reasons why that isn’t going to happen: 1. He has a no-trade contract and a wife expecting twins in 60 days. Even if he wanted to play for a contender, it is highly doubtful Chara would even consider putting Tatiana Chara through the turmoil such a move would put his family through. That reason alone precludes serious consideration of any others, but here they are: 2. His best years are clearly behind him, and if you are a Boston fan, do you really think that another team would give the B’s the kind of value that improves the team today? If your answer to that question is yes, then I would submit your position is pretty unserious and you might want to learn a bit more about how the NHL works. I don’t say that to be arrogant, it’s just a fact. 3. There is simply no other defenseman remotely close to assuming the role Chara has on this club. It’s easy to declare he should be traded while Boston can get something for him, but with the NTC and a diminishing body of work, the return isn’t going to justify the net effect of such a move, which would be to elevate Torey Krug or Dennis Seidenberg to the top spot, a role neither player is suited for or capable of at this stage in their respective careers. Even when not producing the results that fans seem to have taken for granted in the decade Chara patrolled the Boston blue line, he’s still an integral part of the roster and Julien’s system, whether we like it or not.

Besides, assuming Chara asked out and wanted to be dealt (which he doesn’t at present) there is no shortage of teams that would want to add him, but those clubs aren’t going to give up a premium young roster player in return- that defeats the purpose of adding Chara to a contending team’s lineup in the first place. The best the Bruins could hope for is a young prospect along the lines of a Colin Miller, but more realistically, the trade partner team would give up a 1st-round pick for him, and that’s about it. If you want an improved Boston team in the present and immediate future (next year) that scenario doesn’t help. You can probably make a good trade on NHL ’16 involving Chara, but this is real life so just stop with the video game mentality, please.

But getting away from trading Chara for a second- the future Hall of Famer is worth far more to the Bruins than he is most anyone else. It would be one thing if the B’s had a legitimate young colt waiting in the wings and approaching the time to take over as the No. 1 defender on the Boston roster. Right now, Sweeney and Co. don’t have that player. They don’t even have a clear-cut No. 2, leaving Krug to take  on more of that role, but with very little help around him, as the rest of the defense corps in Boston right now is at best a group of 5/6, bottom-pairing guys. That situation places enormous pressure on Chara and results in his minutes being much higher than they should be at this stage of his career.

So, to close out the thoughts on Chara- he’s clearly not the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy answer to just trade him and be done with it. He can still be effective in the right situations because of his size, reach and experience, but his lack of foot speed and declining skill set means that the team that employs him as a top defender cannot rely on him to perform like the dominant No. 1 he was in his prime. That’s sad, but the team and fans, at least in the short term, must come to terms with that fact and look for options that include Chara for now, because with that NTC and a lack of a viable marketplace at present, he isn’t going anywhere.

Krug has earned his way this year as a very good No. 3/4 at the NHL level. He does all the things you want from a puck-moving defenseman, making a brilliant neutral zone pass to spring Patrice Bergeron for the first of his two goals. Krug also put on an impressive display of skill during the second period when he stickhandled through the Toronto defense and deked Jonathan Bernier out of the Leafs net before losing the handle at the last second. However, he saved his best for last when Rask got caught out of his net and lost the puck to Tyler Bozak, who flipped it back to P.A. Parenteau. Krug’s instant recognition of the unfolding play allowed him to go right to the crease and cover for Rask. He dropped into the butterfly and absorbed Parenteau’s shot (that would have broken a 2-2 tie late in regulation and likely crushed Boston’s spirit).

When we talk about how Krug can’t physically outmatch the bigger, stronger forwards but that he needs to play smart defense, there is your exhibit A. He could have chased the puck and tried to make a play on it himself, but he had the hockey IQ and situational awareness to cover the cage with Rask out and made a game-saving stop while doing a pretty passable impression of the former Vezina Trophy winner in the process. Krug is Boston’s best defenseman after Chara- if he was about 4 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, he’d be that ideal heir apparent that Boston so desperately needs. As it stands, Krug’s tremendous character, competitive drive and ability mean that he is worth getting locked up after this season and if it were up to me, I commit the expected $5 million he’ll command on the market to do so- he’s worth it, and the team can’t afford to bank on unknowns like Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara or even Brandon Carlo right now by allowing Krug to follow Hamilton out the door.

Against Toronto, we saw flashes of what Joe Morrow could be, but we also witnessed the likely effect of not playing every night, as he mishandled pucks and turned them over in several instances when a better decision to move the puck out of danger would have been smarter. The more I watch Morrow, the more evident it is to me why Pittsburgh and Dallas both decided to trade him. He’s a complementary player- not someone who is likely to develop into a top-3 NHL option. Morrow’s impressive skills are clearly evident when you watch the way he can carry the puck and will jump into the rush, but he looks like more of a specialist than a heavy lifter, and that’s a shame.

C. Miller has the best potential of all the youngsters at the pro level currently, but he’s not a player who can play unsheltered minutes and expect to instill confidence especially late in close games. There’s a valid argument to be made that Chiller should be in the lineup over Kevan Miller and Zach Trotman, especially with Adam McQuaid out, but he gives away toughness and size, even if the difference is so trivial that it seems inconceivable that the Boston coaches would not use him more. Trotman is big and mobile…he can make the crisp first pass and it showed last night with a helper on Bergeron’s second goal. He doesn’t have a big NHL upside, but he’s a serviceable player. With more physicality in his game, he might get more recognition than he does.

Dennis Seidenberg is a warrior, and I’ll always respect him for what he did for the Bruins when they traded for him in 2010 and a year later, he was one of the stalwarts that helped bring Lord Stanley back to Boston. However, he’s playing far too many minutes for what he can bring to his team on a consistent basis. He was solid against Buffalo and Toronto, but those are two clubs behind Boston in the standings- when up against the higher-end teams like Washington and St. Louis, DS44 struggles with containment and coughing up the puck under pressure from the ferocious fore check those clubs can employ. If he was contributing on the bottom pair, that would be one thing, but like Chara, too much is asked of him.

Ditto Kevan Miller- as good and hard-nosed a guy that you will find, but who is simply being asked to do too much and play too many minutes. It’s too lazy to just point to him and say he’s unworthy as an NHL defenseman- that’s simply not true. However- the issue is with the role the B’s have him in. Like Hal Gill in the early 2000s when Ray Bourque was gone and Chara was several years away from signing as a free agent, Miller is in over his head. It’s a shame, because as a bottom pairing D- he’d be a fan favorite. He was when he first showed up in the 2013-14 season with a younger, better cast around him and went out and rocked opponents nightly. He didn’t just forget how to play- but you can’t expect a role player to evolve into a top-2 or 3 option if he isn’t suited for it. And so, that’s what we get with No. 86- a nightly adventure wherein we wonder what exactly we will get when he’s out there. That’s no way to set conditions for success, but given the team’s current state of affairs, it’s what we’re left with.

So- to wrap up. This defense is a gritty, gutsy group that does the best it can with the talent it possesses. Adam McQuaid is the embodiment of this defense both as a tough, rugged, character guy who gives you every ounce of what he has, but also as a limited talent who pays the price for his physical style and is asked to do more than he is capable of. It isn’t a lack of want to for the Bruins defense, but in pro sports, heart and will can only take you so far- if the other guys are more talented and have more of them, then your ability to separate from the pack is greatly hampered.

This B’s defense deserves credit for trying, but the NHL is a cold, results-oriented business. If teams won because of effort or grittiness, then the Buffalo Sabres would have won a Stanley Cup by now.

The Bruins have some potential help coming in the form of youngsters like Grzelcyk, Carlo, O’Gara…Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon look like they could infuse the roster one day with the blend of skill and ruggedness needed, but none of those players are ready. So Sweeney’s challenge is to try and find a player who can not only help now, but be the bridge to a better future than just staying in the middle of the pack and therefore not getting as good a chance at drafting and rebuilding that the league’s doormats get.

5 big Boston Bruins storylines from 2015

As we say farewell to 2015, we’ll take a look back at a turbulent year for the Boston Bruins franchise, one that saw the team miss the postseason for the first time in eight years.

With a solid 20-12-4 record and third place in the Atlantic Division heading into Friday’s Winter Classic against Montreal (just one spot and point above the B’s in the standings) Boston has a chance to start 2016 on a brighter note.

Here are five stories and an honorable mention that highlight the year the was for Boston Bruins hockey:

1.  Bruins miss playoffs, fire GM Peter Chiarelli

Just two years prior, the Boston GM’s team nearly captured a second Stanley Cup since 2011 before falling to the Chicago Blackhawks (winners in 2010, 2013 and 2015) in six games. He followed that up a year later with the top team in the 2013-14 regular season before a second-round seven-game flameout to the Montreal Canadiens. However, with his team in a salary cap mess and missing the playoffs to a tie-breaker on the final night of the 2014-15 campaign, team president Cam Neely relieved Chiarelli of his duties.

It’s an indicator of just how fickle and results-driven the professional sports business is, but personalities and power consolidation might have played a bigger role than Neely and ownership want to admit. Regardless, Chiarelli soon resigned his position in the organization and the Edmonton Oilers went all-in on him building another success story in Alberta, naming him president and general manager just a few weeks later. Chiarelli then had the benefit of watching a generational talent in Connor McDavid fall into his lap at the 2015 draft (he inherited Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask at the 2006 draft- technically before he officially assumed GM duties in Boston).

Chiarelli’s Oilers teams won both games against his old organization this year, but it took a shootout and overtime respectively to do it. This sets up a fun East-West grudge rivalry between the two teams for years as he attempts to change the Oilers’ ways from perennial doormats to legitimate hockey power.

2. Boston names Don Sweeney new GM

Neely’s old teammate and close friend was named to step into Chiarelli’s old position on May 20, 2015 after being his assistant for several years and starting out as a player development consultant from day one of the post-Mike O’Connell (and interim GM Jeff Gorton) era. To think that Sweeney got the job solely because of his connection to the team president is wholly unfair to a man who not only played more than 1,000 NHL games on the Boston blue line, but who also spent countless hours in rinks around the world scouting future talent and working to develop B’s prospects into successful pros.

Sweeney has been active and aggressive since taking the helm. His first (and perhaps most astute) move was to keep Claude Julien in the fold. Make no mistake- had Boston dismissed him behind Chiarelli, another team (Edmonton?) would have pounced quickly. Since then, Sweeney made a series of bold moves that so far, most of which, have worked out (see No. 3 below). One longtime (and very respected) NHL director of scouting I ran into Sunday night in Fort Lauderdale told me point blank that Sweeney had “balls” and that you had to give him credit from making what was sure to be (at least initially) two unpopular and risky trades without a whole lot of proven assets coming back in return. “He’s doing what he thinks is right,” the scouting director said outside a local watering hole. “We’ll see if the heat he’s getting is even warranted by the time we’re halfway through next season.”

With a hot take like that, you might be right to look up a list of chief scouts to see if anyone’s last name is Nostradamus.

There’s plenty of hockey left before we get too carried away, but if most were told the B’s would be 8 games over .500 heading into the Winter Classic, they’d have taken it.

3. 2015 draft day trades: Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton go West

“Trader Don” did not waste much time in making several aggressive, even shocking moves to shed salary and re-work the Bruins roster to fit his vision.

Initial reaction to the decision to trade Dougie Hamilton, with news breaking in the early Friday afternoon before the draft’s first round, was not positive. Beyond the shock of finding out that the new GM had just dealt a 22-year-old and the last piece of the Phil Kessel trade return from Toronto was one thing, but that the B’s got three draft picks from Calgary- their first and two (of three) second-rounders all in 2015- was even more stunning. The team had just opened up a sizable hole on its blue line, which had been exposed in the spring when Boston failed to earn a playoff berth, and in return- the team was placing its hopes on future assets, none of whom had a chance to fill the void of Hamilton’s departure.

Before fans could come out of the daze, more rumors swirled, this time less surprising but nevertheless polarizing when it looked like Sweeney was on the verge of trading fan favorite Milan Lucic to Los Angeles.  On its face- it made sense. Sweeney was trying to rework Boston’s dire cap situation- created by his former boss- and with Lucic entering the last year of a contract that already paid him $6 million, the writing was on the wall that the B’s couldn’t afford to extend him, nor did many feel his play warranted it. This time, Sweeney landed more immediate assets from the Kings- backup goaltender Martin Jones and prized defense prospect Colin Miller, coming off a 19-goal season in the AHL which culminated in a championship. These two players were topped with LA’s first pick- one spot before Boston’s own 14th overall position, giving them picks 13-15. The rest is, as they say, history.

However- there are reports that the Bruins acquired the many assets as currency to move up in the draft to the top-five in order to grab Boston College star and Norwood, Mass. native Noah Hanifin. It didn’t work out, but if in fact that was Sweeney’s vision, the decision to trade Hamilton for what he received in return makes perfect sense. In dealing Hamilton but drafting Hanifin (say that three times- real fast), Sweeney could have spun moving his young defender to the Flames as an eventual upgrade with a marketable asset like Hanifin, viewed by most scouts (including this one) as a future franchise cornerstone and legitimate 2-way defenseman. Hamilton has proven he can generate offense, but his defensive zone play has always been and continues to be an adventure with his new team. Hanifin, who is already in the NHL at 18 with Carolina, is breaking in slowly, but you can see that he’s growing and maturing. It won’t be long until he and Justin Faulk are forming as formidable a 1-2 punch at the position as any in the league.

Sweeney didn’t just stop wheeling and dealing at the draft, though.

He then traded Jones, who was unsigned and not going to be happy sitting behind Tuukka Rask after previously backing up Jonathan Quick, to San Jose for their first-rounder in 2016 plus defensive center prospect Sean Kuraly, captain of the Miami University RedHawks (a 2011 fifth-round pick of the Sharks).

Sweeney added Zac Rinaldo from Philly for a 2017 third-rounder, then made another move by sending Reilly Smith and Marc Savard’s contract to South Florida for Jimmy Hayes.

Those transactions didn’t match the surprise or impact that dealing Hamilton and Lucic did, but so far, they haven’t blown up in Sweeney’s face, either.

Signing veteran farmhand D Matt Irwin was a poor move, but picking up Landon Ferraro off of waivers from Detroit was another solid add for Sweeney and his pro scouts. When you add pieces like Frank Vatrano and Austin Czarnik, signed as undrafted college free agents under the Chiarelli regime, there is hope for the future.

The question that dogs Sweeney now is- how can he find a way to add that heir apparent and future No. 1 to replace Zdeno Chara? When at first you don’t succeed as was the case with Hanifin, then try, try again. It’s much easier said than done, however, and might take a bit of luck.

4. Claude Julien enters ninth season behind B’s bench, in range of coaching record

Boston’s longest-tenured coach since Art Ross stands to break the hockey icon’s franchise record, which has stood since the end of World War II. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun has an excellent article on Julien and the idea (I agree with it) that he’s a legitimate Jack Adams Award candidate because of what he’s doing with Boston’s roster amidst all the off-season turmoil and expectations. Go here and read it.  It’s a detailed piece replete with sources and I think it effectively captures the essence of Julien’s legacy in Boston and why an active movement to oust him without a clear solution in place borders on the absurd. Here’s an excerpt from LeBrun’s article:

The Bruins’ season ended in April, Don Sweeney was named general manager on May 20, and Julien had to wait until June 5 for an announcement that he would return as coach.

Bruins star Patrice Bergeron remembers chatting with Sweeney last summer, but the head coach wasn’t a topic of conversation.

“I think he knew what I thought of Claude anyway, that I love playing for him and I’ve learned so much from him,” Bergeron said Tuesday night. “So he didn’t need to ask me the question. I think he just needed time to figure out things is all.”

Julien is the best Bruins coach in my lifetime, and although doesn’t have the longevity of Ross because the NHL played far fewer games when he coached as opposed to now, will deserve his spot on top of the franchise’s coaching list. Not convinced? More from Bergeron:

“He always finds a way to get the best out of each player, it’s really his strong suit to recognize if the team lacks confidence, or has too much confidence, up and down, he has a good pulse for the feeling out of the dressing room,” said Bergeron. “And he’s really fair. It’s easy to play for a coach like that. You want to give him all you’ve got.”

Julien gets criticism for his personnel decisions, and no amount of success is going to bring everyone completely on board because of that. In the minds of some- even if he wins with certain veterans, the fact that he’s not icing a more skilled group will keep the critics supplied with fresh gripes. Having said that, he’s 17 career wins from passing Ross and has managed to keep his players loyal and playing hard for him. With a club that had major questions surrounding it entering the season, you’d need a pretty enticing option in place to supplant Julien for such a move to make sense.

5. Bruins host 2016 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium vs. Canadiens

In 2010, the B’s needed overtime to beat the Philadelphia Flyers at frozen Fenway Park in a memorable first foray in the NHL’s annual New Year’s Day outdoor game tradition. This time, they host their hated rival from the north- the Montreal Canadiens- and go south to Foxboro and the home of the New England Patriots to do it.

There’s plenty of information out there on the game, which has become quite the spectacle since the NHL introduced it more than a decade ago, so I won’t rehash it all here. Three of my friends and colleagues- ESPN’s Joe McDonald, DJ Bean of WEEI and Joe Haggerty of CSNNE are a trio to follow for fine coverage. Be sure to hook on with Brian “Rear Admiral” McGonagle of Barstool Sports, too- he’s a good egg with a large following who blends hockey and pop culture like no one else I know. Finally, the writers at the Boston dailies are all fine people who will give you the ins and outs, starting with the alumni and women’s pro hockey games tomorrow.

 HM: 10 picks re-stock the organizational cupboard

The team entered draft weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with two picks in the first two rounds, and by the time Sweeney & Co. walked into the BB&T Center for Friday’s primetime event, those selections had swelled to six in exchange for Lucic and Hamilton.

Boston was high on Czech defender Jakub Zboril, so when their reported attempts to move up for top-rated D Hanifin proved unsuccessful, he was in that second tier of defenders and made sense at 13th overall. On the plus side, Zboril has size and is highly talented with skating, passing and shooting skills galore. He’s also got some real nasty to his game and he plays with a physical edge. He is inconsistent with his effort and intensity, however- that is something the Bruins will watch closely.

Jake DeBrusk was the team’s second pick at 14th overall and began to raise eyebrows when the B’s did not opt for either of smallish but uber-skilled and fast playmaking center Mathew Barzal or USHL leading scorer Kyle Connor. DeBrusk, who scored 42 goals for the Swift Current Broncos a year ago and was just traded to the Red Deer Rebels as they gear up for the 2016 Memorial Cup, has a natural nose for the net and can score goals by the bushel. The left wing is not a dynamic game-breaker like Barzal, but the B’s wanted a finisher and they got one. The son of former NHL enforcer Louie DeBrusk is a completely different player than his dad was, but is a keeper.

The sharp criticism Boston drew in taking Soo Greyhounds right wing Zach Senyshyn has been much more muted this season, as he has scored 22 goals in his first 33 games of the OHL season. With his impressive NHL tools- a 6-2 frame, fast wheels, superb puck skills and finishing ability, there is much to like about this fledgling power forward. He’s still raw and addressing consistency in his game (more on that in a future blog post), but after getting ridiculed in trading Hamilton for the pick that became Senyshyn, you’re not hearing that as much in pundit circles these days, especially with how shaky Hamilton’s start in Calgary was. This is a trade that in time analysts will say both teams won, but the Flames are getting the more immediate returns.

Big shutdown defender Brandon Carlo came next at 37, acquired with Philadelphia’s pick (obtained from the Islanders in the much-criticized Johnny Boychuk deal on the eve of the 2014-15 campaign). At 6-5, he’s massive, but his long arms give him an even bigger reach than other guys his size. He’s a fluid, mobile skater for one so big, and we’ve seen it in the WJC, as he pretty much shuts down players who try to get to the net on his side of the ice either by using his long stick and strength to block a straight net drive or his quickness to deny opponents room on the outside. He’s as good a shutdown player as you will find in the prospect ranks, but his offensive potential at the NHL level is a question mark at this stage. He scored his first goal of the tourney today against Switzerland in USA’s 10-1 drubbing, so there’s much to like about this player.

Swedish center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, acquired with the second of three Flames picks for Hamilton at 45 overall (the same draft spot that the B’s got Bergeron at in 2003, btw) is surging up the prospect rankings with a superb freshman season at Boston University. ‘JFK’ is smooth, poised and intelligent- he doesn’t push the pace a lot, but is creative and slick- he uses his vision and deft stick to set up quality scoring chances and can find the back of the net, too. He’s very good at the faceoff dot and has surprised many with his poise and maturity for one so young. He’s playing well for Sweden at the WJC.

The B’s also grabbed Quebec defender Jeremy Lauzon with the last of Calgary’s picks at 52nd overall in the second round. The big, rugged and skilled two-way guy was one of Canada’s last WJC cuts and has impressed with a career offensive season while logging upwards of about 30 minutes for Rouyn-Noranda.He doesn’t quite have the flash and polish of higher-regarded blue line prospects, nor does he possess the early draft pedigree of  others, but he’s a perfect blend between the offensive skill of Zboril and defensive prowess Carlo.

With six picks in the books, the B’s could have called it a successful two days, but they landed two more particularly intriguing players with some boom potential down the road.

Huge Czech goalie Daniel Vladar went off the board to them in the mid-third round. At 6-5, he has outstanding size and quickness, and looks like someone who could one day evolve into a legitimate NHL goalie. On the downside, he’s raw and seems to guess at where shots are coming from rather than effectively tracking the puck or reading the unfolding play. There’s no pressure on him to succeed right away, so like Zane McIntyre, the B’s can afford to put him on the long track and take their time.

WHL agitator Jesse Gabrielle looks like fantastic value in the fourth round. A Bruins fan growing up in his native Saskatchewan, he played some Minnesota high school hockey before major junior and likens his playing style to idol Brad Marchand. He’s not quite as blazing fast, but is plenty quick enough. Gabrielle is bigger, stronger and perhaps meaner than Marchand is. He’s well on pace to shattering his previous career bests with his third Dub team- Prince George- after Regina traded him over the summer. He needs to stay focused and make sure the hockey comes first, but this is certainly a player with legitimate NHL potential if he keeps maturing and growing.

Boston rounded out the draft (after trading their 5th-round selection to Minnesota for the Wild’s 5th in 2016) with Wisconsin center Cameron Hughes- a smallish but offensively talented pivot who toils on a struggling club. They took raw but developing Minnesota forward Jack Becker with their final pick in the seventh round.

While none of the ten picks immediately jump out on paper as having elite high-end potential, the initial returns look promising with more than a few who have a chance to one day make the Boston roster and contribute. There’s much work left, but in a deep draft, the B’s appear to have added some quality depth with a few players like Senyshyn, Lauzon, JFK and Gabrielle in particular- who might one day far exceed their draft positions and perform better than players drafted ahead of them.

Only time will tell.