Bruins Prospects Update 10/26/15

With the final weekend in October now in the books, the Providence B’s are getting a boost from Seth Griffith, who tallied a trio of assists in his first AHL game of the year Friday before adding a goal on Sunday in a loss to Lehigh Valley. A lower body injury (suffered on a questionable hit from Devils forward Tuomo Ruuttu) derailed his hopes of making the big club out of camp, but if he continues producing on the farm, he could be brought back up. However, with the Boston offense clicking right now, that’s a long shot unless someone else gets knocked out of the lineup.

Frank Vatrano scored another goal to keep pace at more than a goal per game, but Austin Czarnik remained out since taking a big hit in the open ice more than a week ago- he’s missed the last three Providence games.

In the major junior ranks, second-round defenseman Jeremy Lauzon continues to produce. Even more impressive than the points, has been his ability to log 30 minutes of ice time a night while playing a mobile, smart defense. He looks like an all-around player at this point who was terrific value where the Bruins got him as the third of three Calgary picks acquired for Dougie Hamilton on draft weekend. It was also a good week for the WHL forwards Jake DeBrusk and Jesse Gabrielle.

AHL

Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 7  Goals- 8  Assists- 2 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 4 +/-  -1

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 7  Goals- 2  Assists- 9 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 0  +/- 2

Four assists over the week put him on top of the Providence Bruins scoring list, as Koko continues to make his case for NHL time in the best possible way: with production.

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 2 Goals- 1 Assists- 3 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 0

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 7 Goals- 4 Assists- 0 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -3

Former Swift Current captain tallied a pair of goals in Providence’s Friday night victory.

 Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 6  MIN- 362 GA- 20 GAA- 3.31  Spct- .882 W- 2 L- 2 OTL- 2

With the exception of one game, McIntyre has started every other contest for Providence with mixed results.

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 12 Goals- 6 Assists- 3 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -6

No points for Senyshyn, who has cooled off after a hot start with six goals in his first 7 OHL games.

QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 12 Goals- 3 Assists- 17 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 22 +/- +13

With five assists in three games last week, the Val-d’Or native just keeps on rolling. His point totals are something a forward would be proud of. He’s a rugged, capable defender as well- which makes his early scoring all the more compelling. This blog said back in July that Lauzon might be the best of the three defenders taken in 2015, with the first two (Jakub Zboril, Brandon Carlo) grabbing more of the attention and spotlight. Both of them have already signed ELCs with the B’s, but the team would be wise to lock up Lauzon as well.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

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

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 11 Goals- 5 Assists- 11 Points- 16 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -3

The goals have not been as plentiful in the early going for DeBrusk, but he’s setting them up from the left wing side to good effect. He’s the kind of player who doesn’t wow you with his skill when he’s out there, but then he’ll make an impressive pass or shot and you’re reminded that he was the 14th overall pick in last June’s draft.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

OHL

Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 10 Goals- 6 Assists- 3 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -5

Senyshyn only had an assist in a couple of games this week after tallying six goals in his first eight contests. Part of that has to do with the offensive struggles of teammate Blake Speers.

WHL

Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 7 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 9 +/- -4

After scoring goals in each of his first two WHL games after being returned from Boston, DeBrusk did not find the back of the net in three contests this week. He did put up a couple of assists, and while his point totals aren’t anything to write home about, the focal point of Swift Current’s offense will pick up the scoring pace.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 11 Goals- 9 Assists- 2 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 23 +/- 4

Gabrielle went on a tear since the last update, firing home five goals and throwing in a fight for good measure. He’s getting on the radar as someone who has a higher-level talent base than where he was drafted in the mid-fourth round and will have to guard against undisciplined play.

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 11 Goals- 1 Assists- 7 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 32 +/- -3

NCAA

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

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

The impressive freshman notched his first multi-point game of his collegiate career with a goal and helper over the weekend.

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 5 Goals- 3 Assists- 2 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 8 +/- 5

The 2013 fourth-rounder is off to another solid start with the Eagles in his junior season. He doesn’t possess ideal size, but he’s instinctive and adept in all three zones.

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 4 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -1

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 6 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

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

Boston Bruins prospect update 10/19/2015

Jeremy Lauzon has continued his excellent start to the 2015-16 season, scoring 15 points in just 9 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies…and he’s a defenseman! Frank Vatrano proved he’s human when he didn’t score in his last game, but he’s still clicking along at a great pace- we’ll see if he can keep it up after losing center Austin Czarnik to injury.
AHL
Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 5  Goals- 7  Assists- 1 Points- 8  Penalty Min- 0 +/-  -1

Vatrano continued his early season assault, scoring in two more games last week before the Bridgeport Sound Tigers held him off the score sheet in a 3-1 loss for Providence on the road Saturday. It was a tough night for the line, which was a minus unit, and wasn’t able to generate much in the way of sustained offensive pressure. Vatrano did net a nifty goal against the Hartford Wolf Pack Friday night by going to the net and zipping a one-timer that deflected over to him off an initial point shot past goaltender Magnus Hellberg for his seventh goal of the young season. What was far more impressive in that game, however, was how fast Vatrano got back on a 2-on-1 shorthanded break after defenseman Ben Youds got caught on a bad pinch. The scoring is what Vatrano is known for, but when he shows such hustle and dedication on the back check, you know he’s not just impressing the coaches but the management types who decide who comes up to Boston and who stays on the farm when injuries create opportunities. File that one away.

Austin Czarnik, C/RW Providence Bruins

GP- 4 Goals- 1 Assists- 4 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 6  +/- 4

Injured Friday night, the loss of the explosive little center necessitated a re-wickering of the top line, with Koko moving back to the middle and Zack Phillips moving over to the right wing. The injury is not expected to keep him out all that long, but the P-Bruins missed his pure speed and high-end creativity for much of the Hartford contest and against Bridgeport.

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 5  Goals- 2  Assists- 5 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 0  +/- 2

The skilled Russian is playing like he wants a recall to Boston, and it has showed in the early going. He made some hay playing on the right side with Czarnik and Vatrano but is now back at center in the interim. The always excellent Mark Divver has a good piece over at the Providence Journal worth reading with quotes from John Ferguson Jr. and Bruce Cassidy about Koko’s potential future at wing in the NHL.

Linus Arnesson, D Providence Bruins

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

Boston’s top pick in 2013 (60th overall in the second round after the B’s gave up their first-rounder for Jaromir Jagr) is playing the type of hockey he’s known for- steady, unspectacular defense. He’s a smooth skater who is particularly good in puck retrieval, but I continue to look at his offensive zone play and don’t see anything that leads me to believe he’ll be anything other than a solid defense-first middle pairing defender at the NHL level. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either- but if anyone is expecting him to put up points and push the pace of a game when he eventually arrives in Boston (and he will- it’s just a matter of time) will be left wanting more.
Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 2 Assists- 0 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -3

Former Swift Current Broncos captain has looked like the gritty, two-way pivot he was as an undrafted diamond-in-the-rough out of the WHL. He’s quick and opportunistic; goes into the greasy areas of the ice, competes hard on pucks and has even found the back of the net a couple of times in the early going to balance out some scoring that was being done primarily by the top unit. He’s going to have a tough time cracking the Boston lineup at center, but for now- he’s precisely where he needs to be and making an impact, which is good news.

 Zack Phillips, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Former 1st-round selection of the Minnesota Wild in 2011 (28th overall) just doesn’t have the look of a legitimate NHL prospect right now. He’s an average skater and while he sees the ice well and handles the puck effectively enough, the decisions aren’t there yet. You don’t want to give up on a guy who is just 23, but you can understand why the Wild gave up Phillips in the deal last spring for Boston’s unsuccessful early pick in Jared Knight. Phillips has talent, but he’s having a tough time putting it together.
Noel Acciari, C Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -2

The hometown hockey hero registered his first point while skating on the Providence third line flanked by wingers Anton Blidh and Anthony Camara– an industrial-grade sandpaper line. The line has not produced much in the way of offense this season, but they are engaged and on one shift against Hartford, I think I saw them throw more hits than the parent club did in the entire game against Tampa Bay early last week.
Anthony Camara, LW Providence Bruins

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

 

Anton Blidh, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 0 Points- 0 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -3

 
Chris Casto, D Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -3
Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 4  MIN- 242 GA- 15 GAA- 3.72  Spct- .873

With Malcolm Suban’s still out, McIntyre had a tough couple of games this past week, giving up 9 goals to go 0-1-1 and raise/lower his GAA and save percentage totals considerably. This is the type of valley that a young goaltender will go through, but Cassidy put Matt Ginn into the Saturday game against Bridgeport, and the former Holy Cross standout played well in the loss.
OHL
Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 10 Goals- 6 Assists- 3 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -5

Senyshyn only had an assist in a couple of games this week after tallying six goals in his first eight contests. Part of that has to do with the offensive struggles of teammate (and Devils prospect) Blake Speers. The one thing about Senyshyn when you watch him is this: he’s noticeable…keeps his feet moving and generates scoring chances with his speed and ability to use his size to get to the front of the net. He had a nice helper on Speers’ first goal of the year, making a bullet pass off the rush.
QMJHL

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 9 Goals- 3 Assists- 12 Points- 15 Penalty Min- 16 +/- +9

Ho-hum…another week, another productive stint for the defenseman, whose stats line is one you would think belongs to Jakub Zboril. Lauzon is a smart defender who is playing with a ton of confidence right now and logging premo minutes- up over 30 per game in all situations.
Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 5 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -1

Zboril finally got on board with a helper last week, but he also had to sit out with a one-game suspension for being overly exuberant in the application of his defensive responsibilities. Translation: he cross-checked an opponent to the point of ejection and the supplemental discipline meted out by the QMJHL. It once again reinforces the fact that Zboril is an atypical European player- he brings a nastiness and physicality to the ice with him (though not always in consistent fashion) and just needs to make sure that he channels that in the right way so as not to put his team behind the 8-ball unnecessarily.

WHL
Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 7 Points- 11 Penalty Min- 9 +/- -4

Productive week for DeBrusk, who posted a couple of goals and finished out with a pair of assists in his team’s game against Lethbridge on Saturday night. Having watched a bit of DeBrusk going back to Team Canada’s WJC evaluation camp, one thing has become standard to me: he’s not one of those players who grabs your attention. He skates up and down the wing, slips through defenses and goes stretches where you don’t notice him until a goal gets scored and he was in on it. That’s going to lead to criticisms from those who don’t see the nuances in his game, but as long as DeBrusk keeps producing, you can’t make too much of an issue.
Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 7 Goals- 4 Assists- 0 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 16 +/- 0

Did not see Gabrielle in action last week- he did not add to his scoring totals. Have by-appointment viewings to check him out.
Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 8 Goals- 1 Assists- 6 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 23 +/- -3

 

USHL
Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls Stampede

GP- 7 Goals- 2 Assists- 1 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 1
Daniel Vladar, G Chicago Steel

GP- 4 Min- 218 GA- 9 GAA- 2.48 Spct- .910 W-L-T: 1-2-0

 

NCAA

 Danton Heinen, LW University of Denver (NCHC)

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

Tough weekend against Michigan State- no points for Heinen, who is off to a slower start this season after posting a goal and assist in DU’s first game of the year vs. Air Force but has not found the score sheet since.
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C Boston University (HEA)

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

Smooth, intelligent freshman looks like a keeper after BU decisively defeated the moribund Wisconsin Badgers in a two-game series. Spoke to one NHL scout in attendance who said that JFK is like a “Patrice Bergeron-lite- doesn’t wow you with his skating but is always around the puck and makes the right decisions with it.”
Ryan Fitzgerald, C Boston College (HEA)

GP- 3 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 6 +/- 3
Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 2 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 2
Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 3 Goals- 0 Assists- 0 Points- 0 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4
Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big 10)

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

Looks like another tough year for Wisconsin, and Hughes, who looked like a solid value in the sixth round. Goals are not going to come easily for this team, so Hughes’ production this season (or lack thereof) will require context.
Europe
Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (SHL)

GP- 6 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 2

 

Maxim Chudinov, D St. Petersburg (KHL)

GP- 20 Goals- 5 Assists- 2 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 65 +/- -6

To quote former NHL goalie Darren Pang- Holy jumpin’- if the database is right, Chudinov racked up 31 penalty minutes since the last update. He might be small, but his reputation as a one who lives on the edge (a nice way of saying someone is a dirty player) endures.

 

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (SHL)

GP- 8 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -1

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scouting dispatches: Twitter mailbag # 3

I’m back with a third edition of the Twitter hockey mailbag, where I solicit questions and followers hit me up on a variety of topics. This week’s mailbag has a little bit of everything, with some questions about the Bruins (mostly about prospects), some draft queries related to Auston Matthews and the process itself. Thanks as always to those who took the time to submit and if I didn’t get to a question you asked- apologies but keep trying.

 

Here’s the mailbag:

Since you focus on prospects, what is the organization doing wrong in prospect development and who is responsible?- Olsonic @BruinsScience

I won’t lie- wrestled with this question because of the way it is worded. Instead of trying to simply approach the question by answering what I think is “wrong” with the process, I’ll also attempt to point out some things I feel the team is doing right.

First of all, the Bruins are a long way from the old days when they would typically draft a player and then spend little to no time interacting with them as the majority of them returned to their junior clubs or played in the NCAA before they were ready to compete for a Boston job. There are some tough stories involving players like 1989 first-round draft pick Shayne Stevenson that would be hard to wrap your head around given the investment the B’s and all the other teams now (smartly) make in player development to help set the conditions for an eventual NHL payoff. Stevenson was a cautionary tale, but he was far from the only promising player to never reach his big league potential, and the Bruins are hardly the only NHL team to move on from a talented young player because something was just not there to justify the expense.

In getting to your question- prospect development is not a black and white issue. It depends on a lot of different factors, only some of which are- overall talent/ability, draft position, character/work ethic, maturity, and a big one I don’t think enough people put weight into- the drafting team’s roster opportunities. In a perfect world, every first-round pick would just show up to camp, plug right into his allotted position and go off to enjoy success, but the world we live in is far from perfect.

Without writing a book here, I get the consternation over departures of young core players like Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, but simply pointing to the team and trying to allocate responsibility to any one individual is an exercise in futility. Could the teams have done things differently to keep both players in the fold? Perhaps. Could the players have done more to instill confidence in their commitment to the team and/or expressed more of a desire to be in Boston over the long haul? Possibly. When you’re dealing with people and personalities, developing prospects becomes more art than science, so the best thing the Bruins can do is try and capture lessons learned from disappointments and successes alike.

The Bruins spend considerable time and resources working with their prospects and trying to bring them along at a pace that will set them up for success when it eventually is time for them to be pros and make a run at an NHL career. Player coach Jay Pandolfo joined the team in a full-time capacity last season to mentor the youngsters and his own experiences having come up through the ranks at Burlington High and Boston University before winning several Stanley Cups. A respected defensive forward who spent most of his nearly 900-game NHL career with the New Jersey Devils means he has a broad base of experience and wisdom to impart. He was a second-round pick as an offensive player at the lower levels but had to reinvent himself as a defensive forward to keep younger, more skilled players at bay for years as he skated in the big show. I think he’ll continue to relate well to Boston’s prospects and provide a good example for them going forward.

In the end, no matter how good a team’s developmental program is or how much money they pump into it, not everyone is going to play in the NHL with the team that drafted them, and unfortunately, some high picks will fall off along the way. If we only ask what’s wrong with something while not making an effort to find out what’s right in any given situation, it’s a good bet that we’re missing out on a significant part of the equation.

 

How good is Austin Matthews [sic]? Better than Eichel?- RJ @mrshark444

I’d say an acronym that fits for Auston Matthews is PDG- Pretty (Darned) Good. He’s got the size, skating and offensive skills to be a threat on each and every shift. He’s still developing his 200-foot game, but there’s a reason he’s the early favorite to be the NHL draft’s top selection next June. He looked the part of a top NHL prospect at the USA WJC camp last month, and I can’t wait to see how he acquits himself in Switzerland’s top pro league this year.

As far as him being “better” than Eichel, that’s not something I’m interested in tackling right now. Those two will have a chance to settle that debate in the NHL eventually, and I’ll leave it to them to let their play do the talking when the time comes.

 

(Joe) Morrow, (Zach) Trotman, and (Colin) Miller- what areas do they need to work on to make the NHL roster, respectively?- Chuck Finley @cnjs5kpj

I would not be surprised to see all three on the Boston roster at some point this season, but the chance of the trio being in the lineup at the same time is less likely to happen in my view.

Morrow has the skating, passing and shot you look for in the more offense-minded defensemen, but the irony with him in his 15-game audition last year is that he looked more like a conservative, stay-at-home D playing more not to lose than opening it up and giving his team the chance to benefit from what he does best- pushing the pace and running the power play. Now, it’s certainly possible that Claude Julien and Doug Houda told Morrow to keep it simple, but I think that if he’s going to be a regular this year, he’ll have to show more flash in terms of using his speed to lead the rush and back defenses up. He needs to be more assertive in the offensive end, because the B’s have plenty better defense-minded players than Morrow- they don’t need another one.

Trotman needs to keep raising his execution level while playing situational hockey for the Bruins. He’s big and pretty fluid for his size, but he’s not all that physical nor projects as a consistent point producer, so he’ll have to be most effective at even strength to earn the coaches’ trust. That means he’s going to have to play a smart positional game, use his long reach and strength to keep attackers to the outside and cut down on the mental mistakes that have at times have been noticeable. I like his chances of grabbing a 5/6 role right out of camp the best of the three.

Miller is interesting- he’s a late bloomer; a latter-round pick who has superb skating chops and a big shot who is coming off a far more productive AHL season than the one Morrow, a former 1st-rounder, just had. He’s mature and talented enough to make the big club right away, but the B’s will have to balance how he performs at camp and preseason with the kind of role they want to give him. He’s not known as a particularly instinctive player, so while he has the wheels and howitzer, there’s much more to it than that, so he’ll have to demonstrate enough of a defensive awareness so that they keep him up rather than try to get him more seasoning in the minors.

How’s Peter Cehlarik coming along?– John C @JohnnyRiingo

Cehlarik had a better 2014-15 campaign than he did the year before, when he bounced around to several teams in different leagues and never settled in. I see him playing one more year in Sweden with Lulea and then signing and coming over to North America either at the end of this year or for the start of 2015-16 to play in Providence or possibly Boston.

On the positive side, I like the Slovak’s size, long arms and shot release and accuracy. He’s one of those players who can make an electrifying play with the puck on one shift and then score a mundane, take-out-the-garbage kind of goal a few minutes later. He’s got some dangle and creativity with the puck.

He’s not a plus skater, but he does have a long stride, so he tends to look like he’s gliding around sometimes. He’s not all that heavy on the puck and I know that different Bruins scouts have told me that they want to see a little more “want to” in his game at times.

The Bruins don’t have a lot of similar players to Cehlarik in their system, but I don’t know that he projects to be a high-end, top-six forward in the NHL, even if the tools are there. He’s an intriguing player, but I want to see how he adjusts to the North American game first.

How mad should I really be that the B’s gave away Dougie Hamilton?– Lundeaner @Deaner1000

The Bruins didn’t “give away” Hamilton, though I understand where you are going here.

If your point is to be mad because they didn’t get NHL players who are known commodities at this level and are ready to step in and perform right away, that’s a legitimate gripe. Whether salary cap dictated what direction the B’s went in when Don Sweeney made the decision to move him or something else, that Boston defense took a step backwards and there’s no sugarcoating that.

However- I’d just offer up that once upon a time (in 2002), people griped about the Bruins letting Bill Guerin “walk for nothing,” only a funny thing happened a year later- they used the compensation pick for him on Patrice Bergeron and the rest is history. They used the 45th pick on him in 2003 and this past June, one of the three picks they got from Calgary for Hamilton was No. 45- Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson– who reminds folks of a young Bergeron. Zachary Senyshyn and Jeremy Lauzon are two more players who could one day help turn the trade in Boston’s favor.

With the Hamilton trade there is no question the B’s accepted a lot of risk on the return from Calgary and it might end up on the negative ledger in the long run. I’m certainly not going to try and sell it as a win for Boston in September 2015, so if you want to be mad, I won’t try to stop you. But, if the scouts got it right with those three players, we might not be too concerned that Hamilton is out in Western Canada in about 3-5 years…that’s a big “if” though, and with jobs potentially on the line- the B’s must get something out of these three picks.

 

Any chance Noel Acciari and or The Planet’s kid play on the 4th Line this season? Can’t see Chris Kelly down there all year– Mark Clinton @mark_clinton

Is there a chance? Sure- there’s always a chance, but how much of one is the question, and I’m not sure Acciari will be at the top of the list of players to be called up to Boston in his first pro season, with a bit of a glut of more experienced wingers to choose from.

Does he have the maturity to do it? I think so- he’s someone I have followed since his days as a Kent Lion and Acciari’s game lends itself to fourth line duty. By the same token, unless he’s so much better than everyone else vying for fourth line duty, I’m of the opinion that the chance to play more of a role in the AHL is probably more beneficial to Acciari at this stage of his development.

I guess we’ll find out. I wouldn’t have a problem with Acciari getting that chance, but without seeing how he looks in camp or performs at the AHL level, it’s not a hill I am going to die on either way.

 

How should the Bruins manage their goalie assets? Do B’s have any chance at getting a reasonable return, or is best bet to develop?- Greg Babbitt @babbitt_greg

The two are not mutually exclusive and it’s about doing what management feels is going to make the team better.

That’s why instead of keeping a more proven Martin Jones in the fold right after acquiring him from the Kings, they moved him for other assets while saving the money re-signing him would have counted against the cap. Part of that no doubt was to accommodate Jones’ desire to have a chance to start somewhere, which wasn’t going to happen this year in Boston barring an injury, but part of it was deciding to get a solid, closer-to-being-ready NHL prospect and a potential lottery pick next June for a guy who would have been sitting more than playing.

Throwing out the fact that they don’t currently have a proven NHL commodity to back up Tuukka Rask, they have three solid assets and I’m not sure trading one makes a whole lot of sense right now given how little depth they truly have if Rask gets injured. Daniel Vladar is not pro-ready, so beyond Jeremy Smith, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre, there isn’t a large safety net for contingencies. I still think they’ll bring a veteran with some level of NHL experience into the mix before camp- either through invitation or with a low-cost, take-the-minimum-while-you-can money so as not to throw their backup hopes behind a trio of guys who have less than one NHL game between them.

As for the reasonable return versus developing them question, I’ve never understood the segment of fans that immediately jumped up and assumed Subban would be traded when the B’s signed Rask to his big extension in 2013. When the Bruins acquired Rask in 2006, the B’s had Tim Thomas and Hannu Toivonen as their goalies entering the 06-07 season, and even when Thomas continued to perform at a high level as the starter (except for his injury-riddled 2009-10 season), Rask had to bide his time. Why wouldn’t the B’s employ a similar patient approach to Subban and/or McIntyre while their veteran continues to be the No. 1 in Boston?

It all comes down to protecting the club against catastrophe, and that’s what the team will be facing if it loses Rask for an extended period anytime soon. If you don’t think you can get the kind of return that justifies the investment you’ve made in a player, there is nothing wrong with holding onto him and seeing if he can deliver on the promise that prompted the team to draft him in the first place. At that point, he either wins a bigger job with the NHL squad or he increases his trade value, but there’s no set answer that applies universally.

I believe the Bruins have done it the right way, but I also thought Niklas Svedberg would succeed as the backup a year ago based on his AHL track record in Providence.

 

What are the most important attributes you look for in prospects? Personally think hockey sense & work ethic should trump all– Hash Marks @hash_marks

Thanks for the question- I enjoy getting ones like this.

Those are two important attributes for sure, but in the end, I’m of the belief that you can’t apply a cookie cutter-type approach when it comes to evaluating players, so I do my best to evaluate them on their own merits without introducing too much personal and preferential bias into the process up front.

Hockey sense and work ethic will likely result in a smart hockey player who is driven to succeed, but based on his position, would a lack of size and skating be enough for those areas to overcome those deficiencies? I’ve seen some players who possessed elite hockey sense never reach the NHL because they were smaller and couldn’t skate well enough- it happens and some guys have the misfortune to get drafted by NHL teams whose systems aren’t the right fits for their strengths and weaknesses.

I’m a big proponent of the “foxhole test” in terms of asking whether you’d want to go to war with a player to measure that individual’s character and mental toughness. Because of my military background and a few trips to the big sandbox, I often find that I have some pretty high standards in that regard, but there are always a few guys each and every year who answer the foxhole test question with a resounding yes in my mind. At the same time- you have to be able to skate and up and down a 200-foot sheet of ice and put a vulcanized rubber disk into a 4 x 6-foot cage past a highly athletic and (often times) tall guy with octopus-like arms and whose gear would make Sir Lancelot jealous. How hard someone works or ferocious their character may help them do that, but I’m not sure that “trumps” other attributes that might lend themselves to being a better scorer or defenseman. So- while I don’t disagree that hockey sense and work ethic are key components in the evaluation process, I’m not ready to definitively say that those attributes  are enough to take precedence over the other skills/tools in a vacuum.

It’s a balancing act, and every team and the scouts they employ do things differently than everyone else. How much of a difference varies, but it’s a big reason why drafting future NHLers tends to produce such varied results, especially in the later rounds when so many of these players hit their stride later and end up being better pros than a lot of guys taken ahead of them.

Boston Bruins 2015-16 season preview: Defensemen

Zdeno Chara returns for his tenth season as the captain of the Boston Bruins (photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Zdeno Chara returns for his tenth season as the captain of the Boston Bruins (photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

In retrospect: It was a rough ride for the Boston D party in 2014-15, as former GM Peter Chiarelli traded glue guy Johnny Boychuk on the eve of the new season, a move that went on to have significant second- and third-order effects on a roster ravaged by injuries to  Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. Adding to the struggles was the lackluster performance of Dennis Seidenberg, who returned from a major knee injury suffered in 2013-14, but was not the effective, shutdown presence for Boston he had been previously.

The Bruins allowed 30 more goals last season than the year before, and the lack of collective team foot speed often found them susceptible to being beaten off the rush and often collapsing into their own end while struggling to generate a transition to offense the other way. Torey Krug was a bright spot for the club, finishing second on the blue line in scoring with 12 goals and 39 points. The team’s offensive leader, Dougie Hamilton, was traded to Calgary on the day of the 2015 NHL draft in a rapidly developing (and shocking) move that sent the 22-year-old out West and left a sizable hole on the Boston depth chart that the team has yet to fill.

Younger guys like Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow showed promise in flashes, but ultimately, the disappointing non-playoff 96-point finish was reflected in a defense that lost a major on- and off-ice contributor in Boychuk and never really got a healthy Chara going for the duration, as he returned to action after missing nearly two months at well less than 100 percent.

The view from here: Chara remains the face of the franchise on the blue line, though he is past his prime at age 38 and is coming off his lowest production (8 goals, 20 points in 63 games) since the 2001-02 campaign, his first as an Ottawa Senator. He faces the prospect of playing the rest of his NHL career on a wonky knee, which essentially makes him day-to-day for life, and means that the B’s must be prepared to lose him to injury at any time.

Chara is the consummate pro and veteran, but his injury complicates the often armchair GM discussion of the team simply trading him. Even at his age and declining offensive numbers, Chara is more valuable to the Bruins than he is to other teams that might be in the position to trade for his $7 million salary (he’s signed for two more seasons- at $5M and $4M respectively before becoming an unrestricted free agent again in 2018), simply because with Hamilton out in Boston, the B’s don’t have any other legitimate player to thrust into the top role today. The onus is now on Claude Julien the Boston coaching staff to better manage Chara’s ice time and game situations to get the most of his experience and 6-9 frame with the lengthy reach. His best days are clearly behind him, but it’s not quite so simple to sit back and talk about trading Chara for cap relief and a younger talent- you’d not only need a willing buyer to give up a roster player worthy of the move, but Boston’s captain would have to waive his no-trade to go. It’s not unthinkable to consider it, but the likelihood of it happening is slim- the Bruins need Chara this year more than ever.

The team can only hope Seidenberg can rebound from as brutal a year as he’s had in his career. His struggles underscored the fact that literally days after signing his four year, $4M per extension with the B’s he suffered his knee injury and the very real possibility exists that at age 34, he’ll never get back to the player who was so instrumental in one Stanley Cup championship and a second trip to the finals in three seasons. The German has given a lot to the Bruins, but his contract, only in its second year, looms like an albatross around the team’s collective neck if he is unable to round back into form. The analytics from last season do not paint a pretty picture, however, and things may get worse before they improve.

Krug is preparing for an expanded role given Hamilton’s departure, and the B’s could greatly benefit from him taking his offensive production to the next level to help offset the loss of their former 2011 top choice’s numbers, especially on the power play. At 24, the diminutive Michigander has the heart of a lion and is embracing the challenges that await him with increased minutes at even strength, but like Chara, the team will have to manage the matchups when he’s defending against the NHL’s bigger, powerful forwards and live with the higher-risk style Krug employs when carrying the puck on his own. Krug has enough talent, hockey sense and an off-the-charts work ethic/character to compensate for his undersized frame, and the belief here is that he’s going to make it work.

The team raised eyebrows when it re-upped Adam McQuaid, the club’s resident baggage-smasher at 6-5, 210 pounds. Another quality person and teammate, McQuaid has overcome a lack of foot speed with a tenacious, pay-for-every-inch-of-real-estate approach that has served him well. When it comes to toughness, no one on the current roster can bring it better than the former Sudbury Wolf can, but he’s a pretty one-dimensional shutdown defender. One of the biggest issues with McQuaid is in his struggles to stay healthy and play a complete 82-game schedule over the course of his career. Since breaking into the NHL full-time in 2010-11, he’s never played more than 72 games, and appeared in just 93 contests over the last two seasons. If how honest, dedicated and hard-working a player was all you needed, McQuaid would be worth every cent of the 4-year, $11 million contract he signed this offseason. As it stands, the Bruins can only hope he can reverse past trends and become a durable presence. Even if he does, the debate will rage on as to how wise an investment it is for a rock-solid third-pairing defenseman.

Veteran Kevan Miller played 41 games last year before being lost to season-ending shoulder surgery. He’s a similar player to McQuaid, but at a substantially less cap hit of around $800k. A gritty, character undrafted free agent who worked his way to the NHL after captaining the University of Vermont Catamounts, Miller’s mobility and experience stand him in good stead heading into the new season, but there isn’t much in the way of offense from him.

The B’s signed free agent Matt Irwin to add to the mix from the San Jose Sharks. The 27-year-old played about 17 minutes (you’ll hear the sheltered minutes argument with both he and Krug) with the bulk of his 8 goals and 19 points coming at even strength last season. He doesn’t bring a lot of pure foot speed with him to Boston, but he’s not a substandard skater either. Irwin has NHL experience and has shown promise as a two-way contributor- he’s third on the blueline behind Krug and Chara in scoring from last season.

This leaves a trio of younger defenders with the two-way potential that Boston desperately needs, two of whom spent some time with the big club a year ago in Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow. Trotman is bigger than Morrow, but does not have the former 2011 first-round pick’s speed or puck skills. Both can hammer the puck from the point and move it effectively, but of the two, Morrow is more of the offensive threat and special teams presence, whereas Trotman is a little safer and more polished defensively. Both will battle it out for a sixth position in the regular rotation if you believe that Miller or Irwin could end up being the seventh defender. Trotman was the last pick of the 2010 draft out of Lake Superior State, and Morrow’s been a disappointment as a pro after leaving the Portland Winterhawks. He was traded to Dallas from Pittsburgh and just a few months later, flipped over to the Bruins in the Tyler Seguin trade. Given what we’ve seen from Loui Eriksson, Morrow (and Jimmy Hayes to be fair) is the last best hope the team has in getting a long-term return on that deal.

As for Colin Miller, the AHL’s reigning champ in the hardest shot and faster skater competition at the 2015 All-Star Game doesn’t have NHL experience, but he has the offensive skill set to see time and even win himself a full-time role with Boston this year. This is a huge camp for him, but at 23, it won’t be the end of the world if he’s not on Boston’s opening night roster, but given that he was part of the Milan Lucic deal, if he earns a spot, the B’s will gladly take it.

A Dennis Seidenberg rebound could be an important factor in a Boston return to the playoffs (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

A Dennis Seidenberg rebound could be an important factor in a Boston return to the playoffs (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

On the farm: Boston’s first pick in 2013, Linus Arnesson, will be playing in his first complete AHL season. The late second-rounder has good size and mobility, but he’s more of a no-frills, solid defensive presence than he is a player who will push the pace, join the rush and contribute consistent offense for his team. If he’s in the Boston lineup next year, then something has likely gone terribly wrong in terms of injuries and/or performance. Arnesson is steady and consistent, but he’s not going to wow you in any one facet of his game. Every good team needs players like him to win with, but he’s not going to be a savior.

Chris Breen is back for a second year in Boston’s system and at 6-7, 224 he certainly provides the size and reach for a defensive-minded defender.  He has some limited NHL experience and doesn’t move his feet all that well, but will be another key contributor in Providence and can help in a pinch.

Gone is David Warsofsky, but fellow New Englander Tommy Cross is back for another tour of duty in Boston’s system with Providence. If only that’s all it took to be an NHL regular… Cross is the very last piece remaining from that disastrous draft year and he’s ticketed for the AHL once again, where he could see an injury recall at some point as a reward for his hard work, but in all reality, the one-time Boston College captain will be fortunate to ever establish himself as a bottom-pairing player at the NHL level.

Chris Casto is underrated, and as a free agent signing out of University of Minnesota-Duluth back in 2013, he looked as if he might have the size and wheels to develop into a solid NHL defender, but it just hasn’t happened for him in the AHL. Nobody ever talks about him, but he’s a fluid skater with a big shot, who has at times struggled with processing the game and pace. He’s got one more year on his ELC to raise his profile in the organization.

A look to the future: The B’s drafted three defensemen in the first two rounds this past June, all of whom bring much needed skating and size to the mix. Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon are the ones the team hopes will be more complete two-way defenders who can help kickstart the attack, whereas Brandon Carlo is a huge (6-5) and mobile rearguard who is a better shutdown guy than offensive producer. All three look like players, but won’t likely help out in the short term (though with all three being products of major junior- they’ll at least be at training camp and one could pull a surprise- it’s happened before).

One player who has a shorter wait to making an impact in Boston as early as next spring is Yale senior Rob O’Gara. The fifth-rounder in 2011 has patiently and steadily progressed in the system, winning championships at both the prep (2011) and NCAA (2013) while developing his two-way game. At 6-4, he has a rangy stride and fluid footwork and pivots. He started out being a top shutdown defender, even earning that honor this season in the ECAC. He also improved his offensive production in his junior year, leading the Bulldogs’ blue line in scoring. He’s a smart, industrious 22-year-old who is expected to sign at the conclusion of Yale’s season and who knows? He might even get a quick look in Boston depending on how the defense is situated by then. If not, watch for him to help Providence down the stretch if he’s not still in school finishing up his course work.

Matt Grzelcyk is another prospect worth watching this year. The BU senior and captain is on the shelf for a while after May knee surgery, but he’s expected to be a major contributor to the Terriers’ fortunes again after posting career bests in all offensive categories a year ago. He’s undersized but brings excellent speed, vision and skill to the mix. Watch for him and O’Gara to push one another as complementary players to one another going forward. At the very least- they’ll be helping Providence in the AHL until they can push for time in Boston.

On the longer track, collegians Matt Benning and Wiley Sherman still have time in the NCAA to hone their respective games (Sherman is still a major project just entering his sophomore year at Harvard) while Swedish defender Emil Johansson will spend another season at least in HV71 before he might come over.

The wild card: Cody Franson, D. We know that Franson and Don Sweeney have both admitted that the two sides have talked contract, with Franson reportedly holding out for value and longer term than Boston is willing to give. With about $4M in available cap space, Sweeney wants to preserve as much flexibility, and as we get closer to September, Franson may have to come off plan A in favor of incentives and a chance to prove himself this season for a bigger payday next July. On the upside- Franson is an experienced NHL veteran who will help offensively and especially on the power play with his booming point shot and ability to distribute the puck. One thoughtful Twitter follower I engaged in a debate today over Franson pointed out that in Nashville after the winter trade, Franson was on the ice for just 9 even strength goals against and that he accounted for 56% of shots attempted from the blue line- good for the lead among all Predators defensemen. On the downside, he’s not a swift skater for a club in major need of getting faster and his hockey IQ at times lends itself to him running around and making bad turnovers in his own end. There is no doubt he’d make the Bruins defense better than it is today, but how much and at what cost is a question Don Sweeney has to answer. One shoe dropped today with Christian Ehrhoff agreeing with the Los Angeles Kings to a team-friendly 1-year pact at $1.5 million. If Franson’s price tag is expected to go down as he gets closer to the start of NHL camps, then other teams are likely to start sniffing around. Something’s gotta give here.

The wild card pt 2: Maxim Chudinov, D SKA St Petersburg. The KHL champ is getting ready for another year in Russia after the Bruins made him the 195th overall pick in 2010 as an undersized but speedy and feisty offensive player. Truth in lending- I don’t think Chudinov adds much more than what the Bruins already have in Krug, though he’s faster on his skates (but in my view lacks Krug’s leadership and heart). If the Bruins want to add him to the mix, that’s a call they’ll have to make and information is out there (h/t Dominic Tiano) via Chudinov’s agent that the 25-year-old is willing to give the NHL a shot. I guess we’ll see, and you can never have too much depth, but it’s hard to imagine that he’d want to sign and play in Providence, so it would have to be a similar situation to Carl Soderberg a few years back.

Adam McQuaid was extended four years in June (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Adam McQuaid was extended four years in June (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The verdict: I have to call it like I see it and this defense as a whole doesn’t scare many (except for perhaps some Bruins fans).

Team speed, which was the biggest need in the offseason, was addressed in the draft, but those kids won’t help this year unless the B’s luck out with another David Pastrnak-type situation. They’ll get faster with Morrow or Miller added to the mix, but the team will still have their hands full trying to generate an attack through the neutral zone or standing up opponents who can push the pace of a game.

The time has come to actively manage Chara’s role and put some constraints on what is asked of him. He’s got a lot of tread on the tire, and it’s time for others to step up and take some of the pressure off. I don’t know how much longer that troublesome knee and his huge frame will hold up. Forget trading him for now- Boston needs him and if things change (especially if he decides he’d like a change of scenery) then that can be revisited. In all reality, unless Chara wants out, it’s hard to imagine the Bruins trading their captain and getting anywhere near close to the value that would make such a move worth it.

Krug is the one player who appears primed for an important role this season. It’s a chance for him to answer questions about his ability to play upwards of 21 minutes or more a night, against top opponents and continue to carry the offensive mail for this team. Mistakes are bound to happen, but how much Julien trusts him going forward will be something to watch. Krug loves playing with McQuaid…will the two stay together or will the team break them up and try something else?

Whether the team adds Franson or goes with 1 or more of the youngsters in Trotman, Morrow and Miller- the Boston defense is not going to be much of a threat offensively, so they’ll have to take care of things in their own end. Without the requisite speed and ability to contain speed to the outside, that’s going to be a challenge.

It’s a game and gritty group- but there are a lot of if’s heading into the new season. That means the goaltending and the forwards are going to have to pick up the slack.

Watch this Guy: Jeremy Lauzon

For obvious reasons, Jakub Zboril and Brandon Carlo are getting the most attention as the No. 1 and 2 defensemen drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2015. However, Jeremy Lauzon of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, chosen by the B’s with the second of two second-round picks acquired from Calgary in the Dougie Hamilton trade, could be the one player who goes on to have the best NHL career of the three.

Lauzon was probably more under the radar than he should have been going into the draft, as he was the goals leader among all Quebec Major Junior Hockey League defensemen with 15 (he had a 12% shooting percentage as a 17-year-old, which should improve over the next two major junior seasons). This reminds a bit of Patrice Bergeron in 2003, who posted a solid season and was ranked 28th among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service, yet generated quizzical looks and in some circles- yawns- when the Bruins snapped him up at 45th overall. The rest, as they say, is history.

As a Red Line Report scout and editor, I admit that I do tend to have blinders on when it comes to certain areas, as aside from a few online viewings, I was not all that familiar with Lauzon for much of the season. However, as we got into March and April, I noticed that Kyle Woodlief and our Quebec/Maritimes area scout started talking about the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder more and more. By the time I read Lauzon’s scouting report in our 2015 NHL Draft Guide published in early June, I was sold on Lauzon as a Boston Bruins type of player. I even posted this on a private message board I contribute to way back on June 21- a little under a week before the draft:

“RLR sleeper who will likely go lower than his #59 ranking in the draft guide. Very good skater with excellent footwork, scored the most goals of any draft eligible defender in the ‘Q’ and plays with a rugged edge- tough to play against and will fight to defend teammates. Fits the bill of being the kind of player the Bruins say they want to add to the mix. Would be a perfect prospect for them if he shot right as opposed to left, but you can’t always get what you want.”

As for that last sentence, it’s a very minor quibble, and who knows? By the time Lauzon is ready to compete for a job in Boston, the cup might runneth over in right-shot defenders and his left-side drive could be a welcome addition.

Here’s what I like about the kid: He’s tough to play against. Too often, fans get dazzled by pure talent and skill, or fixate on production. Not that those things aren’t important- they most certainly are. But the rare player is the one who brings the skill and the passion/propensity to give their all and be a difficult opponent. This is what has made Bergeron (and no- I’m not just comparing them because they both were drafted out of the ‘Q’) so valuable to the franchise in his 12 years with the B’s, and let’s face it- had he been a great skater in 2003, they wouldn’t have had a prayer at drafting him in the middle of the second round because he would have been a household name in that deep class that will produce multiple Hall of Famers.

With a PPG ratio of 0.6 and accounting for 16 percent of his team’s total offense last season, that’s a solid jumping off point for a player who is expected to get better offensively over the next couple of years as he continues to mature and gains a more prominent role on the Huskies. Lauzon was anything but a household name, but even my colleagues at Red Line didn’t think he would go to the B’s as early in the draft as he did:

“When conversation turns to all the great QMJHL d-men this year, this guy never even garners a mention. Why?”

That snippet accompanied Lauzon’s listing as RLR’s 4th-most underrated player entering the draft, so if RLR and the Bruins are right, the value looks pretty solid. He can skate, shoot, pass and score. He can defend. He’s a rugged player not afraid to take the body and fight if need be, though that’s not something he excels at. In short- he’s precisely the kind of player Boston fans value, so remember the name and keep track of him. In about three years, you might be glad you did.

So, why might Lauzon be the best between Zboril (13th overall) and Carlo (37th overall)? Like Zboril, Lauzon brings similar size and a mix of offense and defense. He’s more of a consistent competitor in my view, despite some reports of Boston’s top choice being “ultracompetitive” (I wouldn’t go that far based on what I saw in film study). Carlo is a massive rearguard who excels in a shutdown role, but I don’t know that he has the offensive skill/sense to be much of a consistent points producer. That leaves Lauzon as the best combination of the three- not as talented as Zboril or as big/defensively savvy as Carlo, but solid across the board and a gritty, hard-to-play against -d-man.

Here’s a good video profile done by John Moore of Sports by Moore back in October…you can get a sense of Lauzon’s fluid footwork/mobility, poise with the puck and check out the solid but clean hit he puts on a kid, dropping him near center ice. As Lauzon adds mass and gains strength, he’ll be able to impose himself more physically as he progresses up the ladder.

Right now, Lauzon is seen as more of an afterthought by most because he wasn’t as known a commodity or one of the draft’s sexiest names going in. However, to get a player of Lauzon’s skill set and potential at 52 speaks to the quality and depth of the 2015 class overall.

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.