Joona Koppanen: Then & Now

The Bruins prospects series is nearing its end- since late March, we’ve done updates on the players in Boston’s system in several different formats. Here’s the latest with a 2016 fifth-round draft choice from Finland.- KL

Joona Koppanen then:

March 15, 2017

Koppanen is not ahead of the developmental curve- he didn’t put up the big numbers (23 goals, 54 points in 38 games) by playing for the Ilves Tampere (Tuukka Rask’s old club) senior team- he was playing against a lower level of competition. 18-year-olds with high-end NHL potential tend to make those top pro teams at a younger age. So, while not raining on Koppanen’s parade- he deserves for credit for more than doubling his production in the same league from a season ago, it’s an apples and oranges comparison if you’re looking to make the ubiquitous upside argument- he’s a fifth-round pick who won a gold medal in last April’s U18 world tourney as a clampdown/defensive center (no points in 7 games), but with his 6-5 size and hockey sense, could one day work his way into the NHL mix. Just don’t expect him to do it as a top-6 option…at least, that’s not how he projects today, and that’s even with the impressive point totals in the U-20 circuit. Follow the Finns on Twitter and check out the Koppanen piece- it’s a solid review of a player who is lost in the sauce a bit among the many prospects in the Boston organization at present.

May 16, 2017

Joona Koppanen, C, Ilves Tampere (Finland)- The Bruins signed the first of two fifth-round picks from the 2016 draft after the season ended. There had been talk that the gi-normous 6-foot-5 Finnish forward would come to the U.S. to play NCAA hockey, but in the end- he opted to play pro hockey for Ilves and the B’s made the commitment (it won’t count against the 50-contract limit unless he’s playing in the AHL).

He’s coming off a productive season with the Ilves junior (Under-20) squad and while he doesn’t have the high-end talent to project as much of a scorer at the AHL and NHL levels, you can’t teach his size and reach, and he’s pretty fluid for such a big man. There’s a shot for him to one day compete for a spot on Boston’s fourth line and perhaps work his way up from there.

He’s more of a defensive, clampdown kind of guy who isn’t a hitting machine, but uses his size effectively in the faceoff dot and in the corners/along the walls. The production this season was encouraging, but it did not come against top-level competition- we’ll know more about Koppanen’s offensive potential after a year in the SM-Liiga, which is a talent level much closer to the AHL than what he was going up against this year.

Joona Koppanen now:

Koppanen signed with the B’s in 2017 and played one year in Finland’s top pro league before committing to come over at age 20. After a tough rookie season in North America in 2018-19 (2 goals in 45 AHL games with Providence, 1 assist in 7 ECHL with Atlanta), Koppanen rebounded with a solid second year- 9 goals, 18 points in 43 AHL games.

Always more of a defensive center project player who has great size, and is a good skater for having such a big frame, Koppanen was a fifth-round pick not known for much in the way of skill/offensive potential at the higher levels. A smart, instinctive player, he bounced back this past season after struggling to make the adjustment from Finland the year before. He’s strong on faceoffs and uses his long reach effectively in his own end.

Outlook:

Not on the tip of most peoples’ tongues when it comes to discussing prospects in the Bruins organization, Koppanen is a stylistic fit given his size, strength, skating and smarts. There isn’t much to get excited about in terms of skills and production, but he showed more of a propensity this past season to getting pucks on net and playing a more assertive game in all three zones.

A reliable two-way center who uses his big frame and savvy to win faceoffs and provide solid depth and contributions at the AHL level, he looks like more of a journeyman/role player type at the NHL level if he gets there. He’s won an IIHF championship at the under-18 level in 2016, and plays a heavy game even if there isn’t much flash to it.

All in all, he’s a long shot to ever make much of an impact in a Boston uniform, but we could see some spot duty from him going forward.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Amigos + BN Podcast coming soon

The 3 Amigos will ride again- it’s been nearly 2 months since our last podcast, so we figured we would get together and talk some hockey.

This time, we will be joined by Bruins Network’s Anthony Kwetkowski, so you will all get 4 for the price 1!

As we did before, we are interested in answering your questions, so if you have any for us, please submit those questions in the comments section of this post, or feel free to contact us via Twitter.

We plan to record in the next couple of days, so if you have a question you want us to answer, we’ll need those by Wednesday morning.

 

Cameron Hughes: Then & Now

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

Hughes then:

March 25, 2016

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

May 5, 2016

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

June 11, 2016

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

May 16, 2017

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

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

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

Cameron Hughes now:

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

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

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

Outlook: 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Off the top of the head: Trent Frederic

The Bruins prospect series continues with an updated look at Trent Frederic. For a more detailed take, be sure to listen to the podcast with Anthony Kwetkowski of Bruins Network. The players in this series are not done in any kind of pecking order- we’re just selecting ones who we feel are going to appeal to the interests of the readership and fanbase.

Trent Frederic, C

6-2/205

Boston’s second selection, 29th overall in 2016 NHL Entry Draft

Current team: Providence Bruins (AHL), Boston Bruins (NHL)

Previous team: University of Wisconsin Badgers (B1G)

Strengths: Big-bodied, left-shot center is an outstanding athlete and has the major league tools to be an impact NHL forward. Very good skater with a fluid, powerful stride and the ability to pull away in open ice or put defenders on their heels when he gains speed through the neutral zone. Strong on his skates- will drive through contact and does his best work between the dots and just outside the paint. Good vision and solid instincts to be a capable 200-foot player. Strong in the faceoff circle. Very good hand/eye coordination- dangerous in front of the net for high-tips and deflections. Physically intimidating player- loves contact and relentless in the way he lines up opponents and finishes hits. Has developed into a good fighter who most would rather not tangle with; he uses his natural strength, balance and a long reach to devastate opponents with combination punches over and under, while wearing them down with the ability to absorb shots and keep throwing. Solid character- respected and liked on his teams, and willing to put in the work.

Weaknesses: Offensive creativity/IQ is not on par with other top centers in his peer group- not a pure passer or playmaker. Puck skills and shot may prevent him from being a true top-2 center at the NHL level, but they aren’t “weaknesses” in the traditional sense- he’s just not overly skilled and needs to commit to shooting the puck more often, as his eight goals this season (59 games) attest, a drop from 14 in his rookie pro year in 18-19. In 17 career NHL games, he’s gone scoreless.

Overall analysis: Frederic was not a popular pick in 2016, present company included, but he’s done a fine job of developing himself into a legitimate NHL prospect, even if his eventual offensive ceiling will be somewhat limited. He’s a top athlete who was an accomplished quarterback and baseball player until he focused exclusively on hockey when joining the U.S. National Team in 2014. Prior to that, he was on a powerhouse 16U St. Louis AAA Blues team, which included D1 NCAA standouts Luke Martin (U Mich.), Zach Solow (Northeastern), Josh Dunne (Clarkson), Ty Farmer (UMass), Joe Woll (Boston College) and Tommy Nappier (Ohio St). Keith Tkachuk coached several teams Frederic played on and Brady Tkachuk saw some time on that top Blues squad as an underager.

He was a highly sought-after NCAA recruit, and turned heads in his true freshman season in Madison, putting up more than a point per game and showing zero issue with the transition from junior to one of the top conferences in college hockey. While his sophomore year was a bit of a step back statistically, he turned pro at age 20, signing with the B’s before the 2018-19 season after finishing out the previous spring in Providence on an ATO. The production at the AHL level has been slower to develop, but with his big frame and rugged, hard-nosed play with a real mean streak, Frederic is proving to be a player who is right in Boston’s wheelhouse in terms of being a heavy, hard to play against center who is versatile enough to play on the wings or up the middle. He won’t be a point-per-game player, but his childhood hockey idol was David Backes, and he can certainly bring similar attributes. He’s a better skater than Backes, not as skilled, but should be a solid 2-way NHLer soon. Perhaps a more appropriate comparison to Frederic’s potential is current Bruin Charlie Coyle– will be hard-pressed to develop into a 30-goal scorer at the NHL level, but will be able to do a lot of things effectively.

Frederic has been unfairly maligned because of where he was expected to be taken versus where he went and seeing other players like Alex DeBrincat develop into top-6 NHL scoring forwards. At his best, he goes hard to the net with his stick on the ice and can redirect shots home or finish off plays in tight while giving out and taking hits. When it comes to pure north-south power forwards who play in straight lines and go to the net, there aren’t many in his class in the AHL right now at a career .51 points per game in 127 contests. And let’s be completely frank- if he had the skills in his draft year to be a clear top-6 at the NHL level, he would not have been taken at the end of the first round- he would’ve been gone in the first five picks.

Projection: Frederic can one day be a capable, consistent 3rd-line NHL center, but there’s still enough room in his development that he could play his way into a lower-end 2nd-line pivot in a pinch. Being able to play up and down the lineup is an asset for any team, and Frederic can also play wing if that’s where the Bruins need him. He fits the model of what the organization likes up front, and has enough grit and nasty to develop into a fan favorite once the rest of his game catches up to him. At worst, he’s going to be a very good 4th-liner who can do a little bit of everything, but with his physical ability and draft pedigree- more is expected. At age 22- there is still room to grow here, and he’s just too big, athletic and talented to be pigeonholed as a lower-end player right now.

Trent Frederic’s 1st NHL tilt: decisive vs. Brandon Tanev

 

Frederic demolishes Joseph LaBate (Belleville Senators) earlier this season

Frederic starts slowly vs. Anthony Angello but watch the finish and over/under combos:

 

An older, dated video on Frederic with interview and highlights from Wisconsin which showcases some offense

Bruins prospect interview: Kyle Keyser

Dominic Tiano did the bulk of the work here to do up the background post and track B’s undrafted free agent goaltender Kyle Keyser. We’re both glad to give you the most current update on a player who came from a non-traditional hockey market, but who played his junior hockey with one of the OHL’s most storied franchises- the Oshawa Generals. The Gennies, who most recently won the Memorial Cup in 2015, are responsible for producing some of the top Boston Bruins players in franchise history: Rick Middleton, Terry O’Reilly, Wayne Cashman, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton and…Bobby Orr. Without further ado, enjoy this post and interview about one of the more unheralded prospects in the B’s organization. With Tuukka Rask firmly entrenched as the No. 1, but getting a little long in the tooth, the Bruins must start looking to the future in net, and Keyser deserves greater attention despite not having been drafted.- KL

Goalie #38 Kyle Keyser of the Oshawa Generals

Photo: Brandon Taylor/OHL Images

A future NHL goaltender from Coral Springs Florida?

Hockey was gaining steam in Florida and more and more youngsters were getting into the game at the time Boston Bruins prospect Kyle Keyser was. But very few were willing to strap on the pads with visions of guarding the 4 X 6 cage at the National Hockey League level.

Keyser finds himself at the doorstep, but it has not been the traditional route you see goalkeepers take.

As a 14-year-old, Keyser made the move to Michigan to play Bantam AAA hockey for Belle Tire for the 2013-14 season. The following year, Keyser guarded the net for the Victory Honda Under-16 team. He even got into a game for the Under-18 squad and all he did was shut the door stopping every shot he faced.

Prior to the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, Oshawa Generals General Manager Roger Hunt had his sights set on drafting Keyser and made no secret about it. But the Flint Firebirds selected Keyser with the fourth round, 74th overall, four spots before the Generals would make their selection.

Keyser would appear in 17 games during his rookie season and was named the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award as the top academic high school player.

But prior to the 2016-17 season, Keyser asked for a trade and there was no doubt Hunt would get his netminder. Hunt would give Flint back their own second round pick at the 2017 Priority Selection to acquire Keyser.

Keyser’s NHL draft year was his first with the Generals where he posted a 3.41 goals-against-average and .891 save-percentage. And much like it has been throughout his career, his numbers are always better in the playoffs as he posted a 2.37 goals-against-average and .937 save-percentage- A true money goaltender.

Many independent scouting services had him ranked for the NHL Draft. NHL Central Scouting had him 11th among North American goaltenders. Yours Truly had him as the third ranked goaltender from the OHL behind Michael DiPietro (Round 3, 64th overall – Vancouver Canucks) and Matthew Villalta (Round 3, 72nd overall – Los Angeles Kings).

No one really knows why NHL GM’s didn’t call his name at the draft. However, the NHL CBA allows teams to sign undrafted prospects to an Entry Level Contract prior to the start of the NHL season and on October 3, 2017 Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney did just that, inking Keyser to a 3-year deal. The Bruins saw enough of Keyser to make the decision an easy one that season as they drafted Keyser’s Oshawa teammate Jack Studnicka in the second round, 53rd overall.

The 2018-19 season saw Keyser take his game to yet another level, having his best regular season to date. But as I said earlier, Keyser is a money goaltender and during the Generals playoff run stood on his head leading his team to playoff wins over the rival Peterborough Petes and the heavily favoured Niagara IceDogs. It was going to take a miracle to win the Conference Finals over the Ottawa 67’s and few, if any, gave the Generals any chance of winning the series. Keyser had the best playoff save-percentage in 25 years heading into the series. But Keyser gave his teammates just that – a chance. The best performance I had ever seen from Keyser was in game 4 of that series. Leading 1-0 going into the third period and his team being outshot 24 – 18, Keyser put on a performance to be remembered during the third period as the 67’s pelted the netminder with 19 shots while the Generals mustered just 4.

But with less then 3 minutes remaining in the third, things fell apart in front of Keyser. William Ennis took the dreaded delay of game penalty and just a minute later, Nico Gross took a checking to the head penalty leaving the Gennies two men down. With DiPietro on the bench for an extra attacker and skating 6 on 3, Keyser turned aside chance after chance and tracked the puck like a bat tracks an insect.

With just 34 seconds remaining, Tye Felhaber would tie the game and send it into overtime. Still on the powerplay, Felhaber would win it just 20 seconds into overtime.

With junior hockey in the rearview, Keyser completed his first season of hockey with limited action in Providence of the AHL and Atlanta of the ECHL, looking forward to the 2020-21 as a springboard to his continued development.

Kirk and I had the chance to talk to Keyser in a question and answer session:

The Scouting Post: With all that is going on in the world today, first off, I hope you and your family are staying safe and well, have you begun any offseason training or will that come later on in the summer?

Kyle Keyser: Fortunately, with all the craziness going on in todays society, my family and I have been fortunate to be staying healthy amongst the uncertainty and challenging times that we face in the world today. It has obviously been disappointing to all of us with the season being postponed and not being able to be at the rink every day with the boys. I have started my off-season training with as many resources as I have available with keeping a conscious mind of prioritizing staying smart and healthy with workouts at my home. We have an excellent strength coach in Providence with Timmy Lebossiere, which he has been providing us at home workouts to stay heathy and in shape during these trying times. I’ve been working out 6 days a week trying to maintain good levels of strength and conditioning through his programs but the actual hard training aspect of summer won’t begin until things have resolved or slowed down with COVID-19.

TSP: Your path so far is not what you’d call a typical one, especially for a goaltender. What, as a kid from Coral Springs Florida, got you into the game and what possessed you to become a goaltender? Which goaltender did you admire growing up and do you try and model your game after him?

KK: Growing up in south Florida is not a traditional path for most people but has really allowed me to evolve into the person and goaltender that I am today. I grew up around the rinks as my older brother, Spencer, got into the game at a young age so it was natural for me to be around hockey all the time as I grew up and I fell in love with it around 3 years old and never stopped looking forward. I grew up idolizing Martin Brodeur as my favorite goalie and he was the person I constantly watched as I was growing up. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really started to watch Tuukka (Rask) and Sergei Bobrovsky as people I enjoy watching and molding my game after. This season unfortunately I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to, so I took the down time to really study a lot of their film and watch every one of their games when I was able to. I bought the NHL subscription pass to be able to watch all the Boston and Florida games whenever I could to see how they play different situations and break down their game film.

TSP: I’ve been following the OHL since the early 1970’s and I can honestly say one of the best single game performances from a goaltender I’ve seen was your game 4 performance versus Ottawa in the Conference Finals in 2019. I’m not sure you are aware of this, but heading into that series, you had the best playoff save-percentage in 25 years. Despite losing 2-1 in overtime, it was a performance to remember. What do you remember most about that game?

KK: Game 4 vs Ottawa was one of the most fun times I’ve had playing hockey. The entire playoffs, I was on an extreme adrenaline rush of playing the highest level of hockey and just trying too help our team make it as far as possible. In regards to that specific game, I felt that I was in a zone that only an athlete would be able to understand. I was doing my best to help our team’s season continue and move as far as we could. It was such an intense hockey game and series that I knew I had to play the best hockey of my life to give our team a chance to win that game. We fought extremely hard throughout the entire process and game and unfortunately, we came up a bit short. I wanted to win that series and game so bad that I knew that the only way to do that was being at my best. The hardest part of the game was knowing that if I didn’t perform my very best, that I was never going to be able to play another game in that uniform for my teammates and management, which puts a lot of things in perspective. I just wanted to go out and leave every ounce of energy and heart that I had to make sure I could give us a chance to win the game and crawl back into the series one game at a time.

TSP: In 2019, OHL coaches voted you as the best puck handling goaltender, after finishing second a year earlier. In today’s game, removing the trapezoid could have a huge impact. Do you have an opinion on whether it should remain or stay in the game?

KK: In regards to the trapezoid, I believe its an incredibly important part of the game and I wouldn’t want to remove it because it keeps the goalie in a safe environment where they know they won’t get run over or injured. Playing the puck sometimes puts you in vulnerable positions as a goalie and by removing it, I think you’d find a lot more injuries for goalies trying to help their team, which I’m all for keeping goalies more safe. I love playing the puck and being active to help our team escape sticky situations, but removing the trapezoid would increase unnecessary risk and I think its necessary to keep players and goalies protected without changing the integrity of the game.

TSP: Beyond the obvious speed/skill/age-experience factor of shooters, what have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your transition from major junior to pro hockey?

KK: I think the biggest difference is how smart the players are in pro hockey. You’re always trying to be one step ahead of your opponent at any level and its just that much harder when the players are that much more skilled. There’s not a big discrepancy in the first and fourth lines in pro hockey, so you have to be aware and alert at all times when they are coming at you regardless of who is on the ice. Another huge challenge is living on your own for the first time and being able to manage being an adult while focusing on hockey all the time. Making sure you’re eating the right foods and cooking good food to allow yourself to be at the highest level is definitely a challenge when you’re doing those things for the first time. Its a huge adjustment in learning how to balance everything in your life and making sure that you’re doing that at an elite level to be able to perform your best with a clear mind.

TSP: As the game continues to evolve with the ever-increasing speed and skill of the skaters and greater structure/systems and innovations teams are employing to improve scoring, what are some of the things you and your goalie coaches are doing to improve fundamentals like skating/footwork, hands, athleticism and even some of the tactical in-game strategies you can use as a goaltender to ensure you are on top of your game?

KK38: I think the biggest improvement and area of focus for me this year with our goalie coaches was working on the positioning aspect of the game. You find out quickly that some of the things you got away with in juniors, won’t work at the next level. I’ve always relied on my athleticism to make a lot of saves but I’ve tried to improve on using my size and positioning as the base for most of my saves in allowing myself to be square to the puck. I know that I can use my athleticism if I need to but I don’t want that to be my default in all situations. I want to have good strong positioning and patience to be able to make easy saves and then use my athletic and explosive abilities to make saves that would require those skills. Using my positioning has been a main emphasis point of focus to allow myself to be ahead of the play and then using my athletic abilities as a last resort to make saves instead of using that as my foundation.

TSP: Who are some of the best shooters you’ve faced in your career to date, and what about them made it so difficult to defend/prevent them from scoring?

KK: Just from my experiences in training camp, some of the hardest shooters to stop would be guys like (David) Pastrnak and (Brad) Marchand. The reason is that they’re so good at not giving away where they’re going to shoot the puck and they’re always keeping you guessing. As a goalie, you’re always looking to gain an advantage in reading shooters and their tendencies but when shooters of their caliber are as unpredictable as they are, it makes it very difficult to read what they’re going to do or where they’re going to shoot. You really have to challenge yourself to be patient on your feet and make sure you’re in the best possible position to give them the least amount of space and net to shoot at because most times, if there are holes in your positioning, they’re going to exploit those areas and make you pay. Those two guys have always been difficult to stop and read from my past three training camps in Boston.

TSP: What has your experience in the Bruins organization been like with regard to the coaching, player development and person-to-person interactions you have received since signing with the team? Who has been the most instrumental in your development as a player and person?

KK: My experience so far in Boston has been nothing short of incredible. From top to bottom, the organization is first class in their staff and how they treat each and every player. Whether you’re a perennial 50 goal scorer or on an entry level deal, they treat every player with the same amount of respect and honesty, which goes a long way. I have been extremely fortunate to know that they will always put me in good positions to succeed and give me all the resources I need to play at the highest level. Coach (Bob) Essensa and Coach (Mike) Dunham, the two goalie coaches in the organization have been instrumental in my success and ability to grow. They have helped me understand different aspects of the position that I wasn’t aware of the importance. They have allowed me to grow tremendously as an individual and as a goalie by always encouraging me to improve and try new things that I didn’t know I needed to.

As an athlete, you’re always working on things to get better and reach the highest levels and those two guys have always been right by my side to provide me with insightful information and new things to help me accomplish that, so I know without their guidance, I would not be in the position I am today. They’re so great at being genuinely great people and always dropping everything if I ever needed anything whether it be from a hockey or personal aspect of life. I’m very grateful for their support and guidance throughout this journey thus far and I’m excited to keep working with them every day and growing as a person and goalie.

We want to thank Kyle Keyser for taking the time to share his insights with us here, and to 3 Amigo Dom for setting it all up and providing the analysis in this post.

 

Dominic Tiano: Lyle, Messner, Voyer- Why AHL Contracts vs NHL?

Dom is back with a follow-up to his post yesterday announcing the signing of two 20-year-olds to AHL contracts, and to clarify what these signings mean. Major point 1- these players are NOT on NHL deals, so none of the trio are eligible to play games for the Boston Bruins this season without a NHL contract in place. However- as he explains below, there are specific benefits to having these players in the fold under AHL agreements. It’s well worth reading all the way to the end. -KL

When Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced that they had signed Alex-Olivier Voyer and Brady Lyle to two-year American Hockey League contracts and extended Joel Messner to a one-year AHL deal, Bruins fans took to social media asking why AHL deals?

The obvious answer is that the Bruins have traded away draft picks over the past couple of seasons and are trying to keep the prospect pool filled. But the truth of the matter is this is more of a balancing act then anything.

Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, NHL teams are only allowed to have 50 individual player contracts signed at any one time, with the exception of junior eligible players returned to Canadian Major Junior, those contracts can “slide” and not count against the 50-contract limit.

After signing Nick Wolff, Jack Ahcan and Jeremy Swayman last month, the Bruins sat at 31 contracts for next season.

The Bruins have two unrestricted free agent netminders in Jaroslav Halak and Maxime Lagace, and unless they intend on giving Daniel Vladar (RFA) the full-time backup role in Boston, one of them could be back or maybe a different goaltender that has more experience then Vladar. But Vladar needs a contract as well.

That could bring the number of contracts to 33.

Then the Bruins have six unrestricted free agent skaters: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Joakim Nordstrom, Alex Petrovic and Ryan Fitzgerald (who is a group 6 UFA). It’s reasonable to assume from that group the Bruins are likely to make offers to Chara, Krug and Miller to retain their services and even more likely that just two of them will be back. But if they truly want to bring three of them back, they need a contract spot.

That could bring the number to 36 contracts.

The list of restricted free agents is even longer. Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Matt Grzelcyk, Brett Ritchie, Zach Senyshyn, Karson Kuhlman, Brendan Gaunce, Peter Cehlarik, Jakub Zboril, Wiley Sherman and Vladar all become RFA. It’s likely that all of them will receive their qualifying offers if only to retain their rights. We are sure DeBrusk, Bjork and Grzelcyk will be back. The rest are likely to get two-way contracts.

That could bring us to 46 contracts.

Then the Bruins will have to make a decision on Cameron Clarke who they must sign before August 15 or he becomes an unrestricted free agent. That could bring the Bruins to 47 contracts. They also have Cooper Zech on an AHL contract and may want to lock him up before another NHL team swoops in and signs him. That could push the total to 48 contracts.

What these three deals do is two-fold. 1) It locks players up and takes them out of the hands of other NHL teams while providing you three players who at least have a shot of playing in the NHL. 2) By signing them to AHL deals, it allows them the maneuverability to make other roster moves while staying under the 50-contract limit.

 

Dominic Tiano: Bruins sign Lyle to 2-year AHL Contract

Dominic Tiano has the hot-off-the-presses goods on this OHL veteran, who played at Shattuck St. Mary’s as a midget player before his five-year major junior career with North Bay and Owen Sound. 

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced today that the Boston Bruins have signed Ontario Hockey League defenceman Brady Lyle to a two-year American Hockey League contract. Lyle, who was eligible for the 2017 National Hockey League Draft, went unselected despite being ranked 48th among North American Skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

Lyle was a first-round pick, 18th overall at the 2015 Ontario Hockey League’s Priority Selection by the North Bay Battalion. While his offence didn’t reach the expected level in North Bay, what he did learn from his two-plus seasons with the Battalion is how to play defence, a prerequisite of playing on a Stan Butler-coached team.

But things changed 9 games into the 2017-2018 season when the Battalion sent Lyle to the Owen Sound Attack in exchange for goaltender Christian Propp.

Lyle found his offensive game almost instantly and went on to score 9 goals and add 23 assists in 54 games with the Attack. He continued to improve year after year with the Attack (11 goals, 30 assists in 68 games during the 2018-2019 season and 22 goals 43 assists in 62 games this season).

Lyle is a defender coaches can send over the boards in any situation. He can quarterback the powerplay, kill penalties, match up against the opposition’s best players, and in the last minute of a one goal game, is the first D over the boards whether you’re protecting a one goal lead, or are trying to tie it up. He has a howitzer of a shot from the point that usually finds the target. It’s a heavy shot and when he puts it on target, is difficult for goaltenders to contain, creating second chance opportunities.

At 6’3” Lyle has good size, but he doesn’t lack mobility. He uses that size effectively, relishes the physical game and always comes to the aid of his teammates.

Fellow 3 Amigo Reed Duthie had this to say:

Played in every big situation, quarterbacked the power-play and was the shutdown PK force as well. At 6’3” 210, Lyle has the size to immediately step into the professional level and make an impact but combines his size with advanced mobility & hockey IQ. A leader who will stand up for his teammates, Lyle brings a nasty attitude to the defensive zone and has no issue throwing the body. Clearly has the potential to work his way to the NHL with time.

It must be noted that this is just an AHL deal, and it is for two years. The Bruins are bringing in defencemen that fill different roles. Some will work out, some won’t. The Bruins recently signed Jack Ahcan and Nick Wolff, so there will be plenty of competition down in Providence.

-DT

Kirk’s call: I like the signing- Lyle was a top two-way defender at Shattuck in 2015 on a 16U team with Logan Hutsko (Boston College- Florida Panthers) and Brannon McManus (University of Minnesota- undrafted) and would have been a top USHL draft pick if he had been on the NCAA track. As a five-year junior who aged out in the OHL, he has the physical tools to potentially develop into an NHL player one day, and you have to like that when the B’s only have draft choices ahead, they’re finding ways to bring in players to their organization who fit different needs and will have diverse roles. There is more than one way to skin a cat, and given Lyle’s production as an overager, he brings an element of intrigue to the discussion, even if he’s on an AHL deal and would not be eligible to play games for the Boston Bruins unless he reached an agreement on an NHL contract.

In addition to Lyle, the B’s bolstered Providence by signing rugged Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) RW Alex-Olivier Voyer to a 2-year AHL deal and extending D Joel Messner to a one-year AHL contract. Voyer, like Lyle, was an overager who put up a career-best offensive season (44 goals, 88 points) as a 20-year-old, playing for the Q’s top team.

Messner, who split the  2018-19 season between Providence and Atlanta of the ECHL and was in Atlanta this past year, signed a professional/AHL contract in 2018 after four seasons at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and a standout junior career with the Selkirk Steelers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

Dated North Bay Battalion video of Lyle when he played for Canada’s Hlinka team in 2016

Youtube video from achilles stavrou of Lyle scoring in shootout with Owen Sound

 

Off the top of the head: Dan Vladar

After a couple of days away, here’s the next in the Boston Bruins prospect series. We’re not doing these in any particular pecking order, but trying to do some players who aren’t as well known. If there is anyone you want to see on here sooner rather than later, let us know in the comments section.

Dan Vladar, G

6-5/190

Boston’s 7th choice, 75th overall in 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Current team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

Previous team: Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL)

Strengths: Physical attributes are as good as it gets: He’s tall, lean and athletic. Moves fluidly with good footwork. His at-post skill set (play near and behind the net, below the circles and cross-crease movements) are very good. Length of legs and upper torso mean that he excels with the butterfly, 1-leg down vertical-horizontal and 2-skate at post techniques to deny scoring chances in close and from behind the net. Uses his hands to cover the top portion of the net well. Good worker who wants to improve and puts in the time to work on the details. Highly respected person and teammate- sunny disposition and well-liked in the room. Between the natural talent and the attitude, there’s still much to like about the 22-year-old who does a lot of things you can’t teach.

Continue reading

Podcast: Anthony Kwetkowski/Bruins Network breaks down B’s prospects

The Scouting Post is pleased to present a 2-hour and change discussion with Anthony Kwetkowski– Bruins Network on his excellent work as a Boston Bruins prospect analyst.

You can follow his work and observations on Twitter at: @BruinsNetwork

In the podcast, we cover a lot of topics, starting out with a look back at the 2010 NHL draft, where Anthony caught the B’s prospects bug with the Tyler Seguin draft. We then  take a macro look at the Boston Bruins’ ability to draft (Jake DeBrusk) and sign impact players as undrafted free agents (Torey Krug, Noel Acciari, Karson Kuhlman), following up with an assessment of the 2019-20 AHL Providence Bruins. We then drill down to key AHL prospects, with AK breaking down detailed notes on Providence players  Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Zach Senyshyn.

We also talk about organizational rankings around the NHL- how they are done and why the Bruins are consistently down near the bottom of rankings from the last two years.

Players also covered/analyzed in the podcast: John Beecher, Nick Wolff, Jack Ahcan, Cooper Zech, Victor Berglund and Quinn Olson.

It was a fun discussion and we’ll have him back again- thanks again to him for coming on and providing such depth of knowledge of these players. Here’s the file:

BruinsNetwork

Bruins prospect of the week: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson

Going to start a new feature here on the blog until the season gets underway by taking a snapshot of the various prospects in the Boston Bruins pipeline by providing analysis and updates on the players and what we think their NHL future might resemble.

First up, is 2015 2nd-round selection Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, center; aka- JFK.

Hope you enjoy, will try to post these every Sunday/Monday to help get us through the rest of the offseason.

***

JFK

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson aka “JFK”

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, C

6-1/190 Shoots: Right

Background summary

The native of Linkoping, Sweden played two years of junior hockey in the USHL with a team that’s near and dear to my heart- the Omaha Lancers. JFK was the 45th overall pick, one of three selections acquired from the Calgary Flames for Dougie Hamilton (Zach Senyshyn and Jeremy Lauzon round out the trio).

Since 2000, only three players drafted directly by NHL teams out of Omaha have been selected higher than JFK: Louis Leblanc (18-2009/MTL); Nick Petrecki (28- 2007/SJS) & Patrick Wiercoch (42- 2008/OTT) out of a total of 27 players (BU forward Patrick Harper– NSH/2016 and Minnesota-Duluth freshman Noah Cates- PHI/2017 are listed under their high school teams but both finished their respective draft seasons with Omaha and are rolled into the count). As far as the Omaha Lancers go, JFK has a pretty solid NHL draft pedigree, with 110 career USHL games (26 goals, 86 points).

Here’s a JFK highlight video posted by the USHL right before the 2015 draft, most of you have no doubt seen it, but for those who haven’t…

After two seasons at Boston University (78-24-39-63), JFK turned pro with the B’s making his NHL debut on the last day of the 2017 regular season, a loss to the Washington Capitals. Thus far, it is the young pivot’s only big league action, but he had a solid rookie pro season in Providence of the AHL, playing in 58 games 15-17-32 line and a goal in four playoff contests. He was sidelined by a concussion this season, which forced him out of 20+ games and given a concussion history, this will be something to keep an eye on.

Talent analysis

JFK is a cerebral two-way center. He was knocked in his younger years for lacking pace/urgency in his game, but this is an area he’s showed improvement in since early 2014. He’s strong in the faceoff circle and has excellent vision/hockey sense as a forward who is reliable across all 200 feet of the ice surface. While he’s not a burner in the open ice, he’s quick and agile, often reading and processing plays to get a step on defenders to gain time, space and separation.

Forsbacka Karlsson is not what you would call a classic top-2 line forward, but he projects as a quintessential third-line pivot who has the potential to play up or down the lineup in pinch. He has an excellent stick- able to make on-target passes from either side of the blade and has shown that he can find the back of the net in bunches, even if he is not all that consistent a goal scorer when compared to others in the system.

He’s a natural penalty killer, but doesn’t look to be on track to see much power play time at the highest level (at least not for a while), though he does have the head and hands to be able make good use of the added time and space the man advantage affords.

The biggest area of concern for JFK has to do with his injury history (two significant concussions) and a lean frame which is probably not going to see much more mass packed on as he nears the end of his physical growth cycle.

JFK isn’t a dynamic player- you have to watch him to appreciate the details of his game. But, he’s where he needs to be and is able to speed up and slow down the pace when he’s in the middle of the ice and making the play flow through him. If you expect an electrifying center who will bring you out of your seat on every shift, he’s not it. He is, however, highly effective in the middle of the ice, which is where most games are won and lost.

2018-19 Projection

Entering the third year of his entry-level contract, the expectation is that the Bruins would like to see him make a case for the third-line center position, but don’t expect them to force the issue. He showed signs of being up to the task last year with Providence and was developing nicely until the injury setback.

If he doesn’t win a spot on the third or even fourth line in Boston coming out of camp, he’ll go back down I-95 to Providence, where he should be able to score at around a point-per-game pace and would likely be on a very short list of callups if the need arises.

However, given how hard Boston worked to get him to leave school in spring of 2017, the thinking here is that he’ll be given ample opportunity to earn an NHL job in October. If he doesn’t, then it will be interesting to see what comes next in his development.

JFK factoids

Turns 22 on Halloween.

Both parents are lawyers in Sweden.

JFK and fellow Bruin Ryan Donato teamed up in Ralston, Nebraska for a very brief time, as Donato joined the Lancers after he and Dexter Southfield came up short in the New England prep school championship to Salisbury School Crimson Knights in 2015. Unfortunately for Omaha, JFK took a head shot in their first game together in the Lancers lineup and he ended up missing the final 10 games of the regular season and USHL playoffs.