Dominic Tiano: What’s Next for the Bruins (Part 4)

So, here I am with another post with my 3 Amigos colleagues Kirk Luedeke (the founder of TSP) and Reed Duthie. If you missed the previous posts, look back not too far and you will find them. I hope (I’m sure) you will find them informative.

Decisions, decisions, decisions: That’s what is facing Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney, President Cam Neely and the brain trust of your Boston Bruins. The most critical decision dropped this week when the interim tag was removed from coach Bruce Cassidy. It was crucial for this to be done as early as possible because, despite being two months away from the expansion draft and the entry draft, some key decisions are going to have to be made by mid-June as to which players receive qualifying offers and contracts, and who moves on, potential buyouts and buried contracts.

This is what we’ll focus on today.

Continue reading

Bruins sign six: still looking for that D upgrade…

While waiting for Bruins GM Don Sweeney’s conference call to recap the David Backes signing and day 1 of NHL free agency, here are some more names to ponder. Some are old, some are new…some are…what’s that old saying about something blue again?

From the team’s release:

BOSTON, MA – Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced today, July 1, that the team has signed the following six players: defenseman Tommy Cross (one-year, two-way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level), goaltender Anton Khudobin (two-year contract through the 2017-18 season worth an average annual value of $1.2 million), defenseman John-Michael Liles (one-year contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $2 million), forward Riley Nash (two-year contract through the 2017-18 season worth an average annual value of $900,000), forward Tyler Randell (one-year, two-way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level) and forward Tim Schaller (one-year, two way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level)…

…Defenseman Tommy Cross signed a one-year, two-way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level.

Cross, 26, completed his fourth season in the Bruins organization in 2015-16, skating in 64 games with Providence and recording three goals and 20 assists for a career-high 23 points with 97 penalty minutes. Cross also saw his first NHL action in 2015-16, appearing in three games with Boston and registering his first career NHL point, an assist in the Bruins’ 5-3 win at Arizona on October 17, 2015. In his AHL career, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound defenseman has played in 217 games with Providence, amassing 11 goals and 52 assists for 63 points with 261 penalty minutes.

The Simsbury, Connecticut native was originally selected by the Bruins in the second round (35th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Goaltender Anton Khudobin signed a two-year contract through the 2017-18 season worth an average annual value of $1.2 million.

Khudobin, 30, completed his seventh NHL season in 2015-16, appearing in nine games with the Anaheim Ducks and posting a 3-3-0 record with a 2.69 goals against average and .909 save percentage. The 5-foot-11, 203-pound netminder also played in 31 games with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL in 2015-16, recording a 19-8-3 record with a 2.46 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.

Khudobin was previously acquired by the Bruins in a trade with Minnesota in exchange for defenseman Jeff Penner and forward Mikko Lehtonen on February 28, 2011. Khudobin appeared in 15 games with Boston over the course of two seasons from 2011-13, posting a 10-4-1 record with a 2.13 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. He also played in 60 games with Providence, compiling a 30-23-4 record with a 2.48 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. In his seven-year NHL career with Anaheim, Carolina, Boston and Minnesota, Khudobin has appeared in 100 games, amassing a 44-39-0-8 record with five shutouts, a 2.42 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.

Representing Russia on the international stage, Khudobin has earned a gold medal at the 2014 World Championships as well as a silver medal at the 2015 World Championships.

The UST-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan native was originally selected by Minnesota in the seventh round (206th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles signed a one-year contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $2 million.

Liles, 36, skated in 17 games and notched six assists for the Bruins in 2015-16 after being acquired in a trade with Carolina in exchange for Anthony Camara, a 2016 third-round pick and a 2017 fifth-round pick on February 29, 2016. Prior to joining the Bruins, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound defenseman played in all 64 games for Carolina, recording six goals and nine assists for 15 points with 16 penalty minutes. In his 12-year NHL career with Boston, Carolina, Toronto and Colorado, Liles has skated in 800 games, amassing 87 goals and 278 assists for 365 points with 282 penalty minutes. In 40 career playoff games, he has notched four goals and seven assists for 11 points.

The Indianapolis, Indiana native was originally selected by Colorado in the fifth round (159th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

Forward Riley Nash signed a two-year contract through the 2017-18 season worth an average annual value of $900,000.

Nash, 27, completed his fifth NHL season with Carolina in 2015-16, appearing in 64 games and producing nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward skated in 68 games with Carolina in 2014-15, notching eight goals and establishing career highs with 17 assists and 25 points. Nash set a career high in goals in 2013-14, when he potted 10 goals and added 14 assists while skating in a career-high 73 games. In his five-year NHL career, Nash has played in 242 games, amassing 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points with 69 penalty minutes.

The Consort, Alberta, Canada native was originally selected by Edmonton in the first round (21st overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Forward Tyler Randell signed a one-year, two-way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level.

Randell, 25, completed his first NHL season in 2015-16, skating in 27 games with Boston and producing six goals with 47 penalty minutes. He had goals in each of his first two NHL games played, becoming the first Bruin to do so since Dmitri Kvartalnov opened his NHL career with a five-game goal streak from Oct. 8-17, 1992. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound forward has also played in 172 games with Providence in the AHL from 2011-16, recording 17 goals and 16 assists for 33 points with 314 penalty minutes.

The Scarborough, Ontario, Canada native was originally selected by Boston in the sixth round (176th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Forward Tim Schaller signed a one-year, two way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level.

Schaller, 25, completed his second NHL season with Buffalo in 2015-16, producing one goal and two assists in 17 games. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound forward also played in 37 games with the Rochester Americans of the AHL in 2015-16, notching 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points with 48 penalty minutes.

In 2014-15, Schaller split time between Buffalo and Rochester. He played 65 games with Rochester, recording 15 goals and 28 assists with 116 penalty minutes, while also appearing in 18 games with Buffalo, scoring one goal and adding one assist. In his first professional season with Rochester in 2013-14, Schaller netted 11 goals and added seven assists in 72 games.

Prior to joining the Sabres organization, Schaller spent four years at Providence College from 2009-13, playing in 131 games and amassing 29 goals and 39 assists for 68 points with 161 penalty minutes.

The Merrimack, New Hampshire native was originally signed by Buffalo as a free agent on April 2, 2013.

Bruins Prospects Update 12/01/15

We’re in the final month of 2015 and it’s time for another prospects update from the Boston Bruins system.

Providence continues to have problems finding the back of the net consistently without the presence of Alex Khokhlachev (injured) and Frank Vatrano (in Boston). The goaltenders have been better but still rank among the last in AHL for key statistical categories.

Ryan Fitzgerald is having a superb season for BC, breaking out offensively as a junior and scoring on the power play and while shorthanded. Crosstown rival Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson continues to impress in his freshman season, scoring at nearly a point-per-game clip and demonstrating a mature, refined game beyond his 19 years.

Daniel Vladar had an outstanding week with the Chicago Steel, allowing just one goal in two wins. When on top of his game, he’s fluid and tough to beat with his size and quickness.


Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 11 Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 6

Hand injury; did not play. Expected to be out an additional 2-3 weeks.

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 13 Goals- 4 Assists- 6 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -4

As an indicator of how much the Providence offense has struggled this year since Koko was injured two-plus weeks ago and Frank Vatrano called up to the Bruins, Griffith is still three points away from tying Koko for team best in scoring.

Tommy Cross, D Providence Bruins

GP- 16 Goals- 1 Assists- 9 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 29 +/- -6

With a goal and three points in his last six games, Cross has been one of the few bright spots on Providence of late. Since returning from his first NHL stint, Cross is playing with renewed confidence and energy as team captain.

Austin Czarnik, C Providence Bruins

GP- 13 Goals- 2 Assists- 6 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 10 +/-  3

Czarnik has struggled to find the score sheet since coming back from a shoulder injury-he has just one assist in his last six games.

Chris Casto, D Providence Bruins

GP- 14 Goals- 0 Assists- 8 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 14 +/- -10

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 20 Goals- 5 Assists- 2 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -8

Like Czarnik, Cave has just one assist in his last six games after scoring a respectable five goals in his first 14 contests.

Noel Acciari, C Providence Bruins

GP- 20 Goals- 3 Assists-3  Points- 6 Penalty Min- 7 +/- -3

The former PC captain has three points in his last six games to pick up some of the scoring slack after tallying just 3 points in his first 14 games.

Anton Blidh, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 18 Goals- 5 Assists- 0 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -5

Colton Hargrove, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 13 Goals- 3 Assists- 1 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -2

Linus Arnesson, D Providence Bruins

GP- 15 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Malcolm Subban, G Providence Bruins

GP- 9 MIN- 542 GA- 19 GAA- 3.10 Spct- ..872 W- 2 L-5 OTL 2 SO- 1

Subban has shown improvement since the last update, raising his save percentage, lowering the GAA and posting his first shutout of the season against Lehigh Valley this past Saturday.

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

GP- 10 MIN- 598 GA- 31 GAA- 3.11 Spct- .876 W- 3 L- 4 OTL- 3



Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 20 Goals- 11 Assists- 5 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -10

With one goal/point in his last five games, the scoring has fallen off. The 15th overall pick last June has tallied several highlight reel goals over the course of the season, using his speed and hands to light the lamp, but while the tools are there, the consistent production has been elusive to date.


Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 23 Goals- 4 Assists- 27 Points- 31 Penalty Min- 40 +/- 23

Rouyn-Noranda’s top scoring D continues to play well at both ends, logging a lot of minutes, playing strong positional defense and continuing to put up points.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 20 Goals- 3 Assists- 6 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 24 +/- 2



Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 16 Goals- 8 Assists- 15 Points- 23 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -2

Jake DeBrusk returned to action last week, scoring in the first two games he played for a total of three points in the two contests.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 24 Goals- 14 Assists- 8 Points- 22 Penalty Min- 38 +/-  2

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

GP- 18 Goals- 2 Assists- 11 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 51 +/- -5

Carlo is back in the Americans’ lineup after missing games to injury. He tallied a goal and five points in seven games since getting back on the ice while maintaining a physical, rugged edge to his play.



Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 12 Goals- 10 Assists- 9 Points- 19 Penalty Min- 29 +/- 19

Fitzgerald is off to the best offensive start in his third/junior season for the Eagles with three goals in his last three games. He’s making an impact on both the PP and PK special teams. His 10 goals lead BC, but is second in overall points to freshman Colin White (Senators), who has 21.

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

GP- 14 Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 10 +/- 4

JFK is tied with Ahti Oksanen for second on the Terriers in scoring and has been impressive in the faceoff circle thus far this season with a better-than-projected impact as a freshman.

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 14 Goals- 3 Assists- 9 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 4 +/- 10

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 12 Goals- 5 Assists- 5 Points- 10 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 3

Ryan Donato, C Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 3 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 10 +/- 5.

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 12 Goals- 1 Assists- 5 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -2

Matt Grzelcyk, D Boston University (HEA)

GP-6 Goals 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 12 +/- 2

Grzelcyk was sidelined briefly by a knee injury- not the same surgically repaired knee from offseason.

Sean Kuraly, C Miami University (NCHC)

GP- 14 Goals- 1 Assists- 4 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 17 +/- -6

Another stretch of play with no offense for the senior center.

Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 15 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 17 +/- -10

Wiley Sherman, D Harvard University (ECAC)

GP- 8 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 4 +/- 4

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University (ECAC)

GP- 9 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 12 +/- 0

A slower-than-expected start offensively…more expected of the senior D and he will pick up play at both ends as the season goes on.



Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (Sweden)

GP- 19 Goals- 5 Assists- 3 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -2

2013 third-rounder scored a couple of goals in SHL play since last update.

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (Sweden)

GP- 21 Goals- 0 Assists- 2 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -1

Maxim Chudinov, D St Petersburg SKA (Russia)

GP- 32 Goals- 6 Assists- 8 Points- 14 Penalty Min- 75 +/- -7

Chudinov’s production has ticked up over last seven games with a couple of goals and helpers. It is still not known whether he and the Bruins will work to sign a contract or if the team will allow him to enter free agency in  summer.


Daniel Vladar, G Chicago (USHL)

GP- 11 MIN- 610 GA- 20 GAA- 1.97 Spct .930 SO- 2; 3-4-2

Vladar went 2-0 last week, allowing one goal and posting his second shutout of the season.

Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls (USHL)

GP- 20 Goals- 2 Assists- 4 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -1



Bruins Prospects Update 11/09/15

With only one game on the Providence schedule, a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver affiliate Utica Comets, there isn’t much in the way of AHL updates this week. Unfortunately for Boston, Alex Khokhlachev suffered an unknown injury to his hand, and per Mark Divver of the Providence Journal is in Boston being seen by a hand specialist to determine the extent of it. The hits just keep on coming. Rugged forward Colton Hargrove got the lone goal of the week down on the farm, his second in eight games this year.

Frank Vatrano is off the list for now while he is up with Boston, but his 10 goals in 10 AHL games served as a nice springboard for his callup to the big club and his first NHL goal against Montreal.

Also injured out in the WHL are 2015 picks Jake DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo, neither of whom played last week.

The NCAA prospects form the bulk of the system nucleus beyond the AHL guys and it was a busy week for them, with Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen and Ryan Fitzgerald all continuing to score for their clubs. Anders Bjork is quietly having a productive sophomore year with the Fighting Irish, with 9 points already in just eight games.

The bigger news in college play this past weekend was Matt Grzelcyk’s return to action after May knee surgery. He scored goals in his first two games for BU this weekend, quite a departure from a year ago, when he went well into 2015 before tallying his first goal.


Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 11 Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 6

The reported hand injury is something to monitor going forward. With Austin Czarnik still out since game 4 of the new season, the Providence forward depth has taken a hit.

Tommy Cross, D Providence Bruins

GP- 8 Goals- 0 Assists- 7 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 25 +/- -3

Chris Casto, D Providence Bruins

GP- 11 Goals- 0 Assists- 6 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 8 +/- -7

Austin Czarnik, C Providence Bruins

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

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 6 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -4

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 11 Goals- 5 Assists- 0 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4

Colton Hargrove, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 8 Goals- 2 Assists- 1 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -2

Hargrove scored the lone goal of the week for Providence, which came in a 5-1 loss to Utica.

Malcolm Subban, G Providence Bruins

GP- 3 MIN- 179 GA- 13 GAA- 4.35 Spct- ..847 W- 1 L-2

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

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


Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 18 Goals- 10 Assists- 4 Points- 14 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -6

Senyshyn’s one goal scored this past week was a memorable one against Saginaw Spirit. Be sure to check out the video on the update I posted here on him Saturday.


Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 17 Goals- 3 Assists- 21 Points- 24 Penalty Min- 34 +/- +19

Quiet week for Lauzon, who was held pointless in two games.

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 13 Goals- 3 Assists- 4 Points- 7 Penalty Min- 20 +/- 1

Zboril had a goal and assist this week, plus some roughing penalties and also got into the plus column.


Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 14 Goals- 6 Assists- 14 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -3

DeBrusk took a hard shot to the groin area and has not played since.

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 16 Goals- 11 Assists- 4 Points- 15 Penalty Min- 25 +/- 2

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

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

Carlo is injured and did not play this past week.


Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

GP- 8 Goals- 5 Assists- 4 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 27 +/- 11

Fitzgerald returned to action and scored a goal after sitting out a game for a match/DQ penalty last week, which carries an automatic one-game suspension. If nothing else- Fitzgerald is scrappy and intense- plays with a real chip on his shoulder.

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 8 Goals- 2 Assists- 7 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 9

The 2014 fifth-rounder is tied for the team lead in scoring as a sophomore after posting 22 points in all of last season.

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

GP- 8 Goals- 4 Assists- 4 Points- 8 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 5

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

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

Ryan Donato, C Harvard University (ECAC)

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

The 2014 second-rounder is off to a great start at Harvard. He posted his first two-goal game (one was an empty-netter) against Brown University in a win over the weekend.

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 10 Goals- 1 Assists- 3 Points- 4 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -2

Matt Grzelcyk, D Boston University (HEA)

GP-2 Goals 2 Assists- 1 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 6 +/- 2

The Terriers got a big boost with the return of their captain, who tallied a goal and assist in his first game of the season Friday night in a win over Northeastern.

Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 9 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -9

Wiley Sherman, D Harvard University (ECAC)

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

The 6-foot-6 defenseman is still looking for his first NCAA goal, but is off to a solid statistical start with two helpers in his first four games after posting three in 37 games as a freshman.

Sean Kuraly, C Miami University (NCHC)

GP- 10 Goals- 0 Assists- 3 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -4

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University (ECAC)

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


Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (Sweden)

GP- 12 Goals- 3 Assists- 3 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (Sweden)

GP- 14 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -2

Maxim Chudninov, D St Petersburg SKA (Russia)

GP- 24 Goals- 5 Assists- 4 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 71 +/- -5


Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls (USHL)

GP- 12 Goals- 2 Assists- 4 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -3

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago (USHL)

GP- 8 MIN- 469 GA- 19 GAA- 2.43 Spct .907 SO- 1; 1-4-2

Bruins prospects update 11/02/15

Zach Senyshyn (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Zach Senyshyn (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Bruins got some good production this week from prospects at all levels.

Zach Senyshyn picked up a hot stick after the scoring well had run dry for him the previous few weeks, while Frankie Vatrano continued his scoring ways to push his AHL-leading total to 10 goals in the young season. At that rate, we will see him make his NHL debut sooner rather than later. Alex Khokhlachev also tallied a couple of markers in Friday’s ‘Pink the Rink’ game to stay atop the team in scoring.

Malcolm Subban returned from lower body injury to post a 1-1 record, winning his first start. Zane McIntyre played well against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Halloween night, but fell in overtime on a goal by Brian Gibbons in a 2-1 contest.

Jakub Zboril got two goals over the weekend, his first scores of the season after a tough start dogged with some criticism of his attitude. This will be something to watch going forward, but the talented Czech appears to be finding his offensive groove. Jeremy Lauzon cooled off a bit (if you call four assists in three games cooling off, that is) from his blistering start, but is still playing a ton of minutes for RN’s high-powered team.

Jake DeBrusk keeps motoring along with a four-point week (1g, 3 a) to push his point total to 20 in 13 games. Jesse Gabrielle was held off the score sheet after being named WHL Player of the Week seven days ago.

In college, Ryan Donato scored his first NCAA in a Harvard win over Dartmouth, as the Crimson went 2-0 to open the ECAC season. Danton Heinen had a brilliant 3-point (2 goals) night against Boston College on Friday, but lost the war, as a late third period goal sent DU down in defeat.


Frank Vatrano, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 10 Goals- 10 Assists- 2 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -1

Alex Khokhlachev, C Providence Bruins

GP- 10  Goals- 4 Assists- 9 Points- 13 Penalty Min- 2 +/- 5

Seth Griffith, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 5 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Colby Cave, C Providence Bruins

GP- 10 Goals- 5 Assists- 0 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -4

Tommy Cross, D Providence Bruins

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

Anton Blidh, RW Providence Bruins

GP- 10 Goals- 3 Assists- 0 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 4 +/- -1

Colton Hargrove, LW Providence Bruins

GP- 7 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 6 +/- -2

Malcolm Subban, G Providence Bruins

GP- 2  MIN- 119 GA- 8 GAA- 4.02 Spct- ..871 W- 1 L-1

Zane McIntyre, G Providence Bruins

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

Providence center Austin Czarnik is still out of the lineup since taking a hard hit in the fourth game of the season.



Zach Senyshyn, RW Saulte Ste Marie Greyhounds

GP- 15 Goals- 9 Assists- 3 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -6

Senyshyn scored three goals in three games last week.



Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

GP- 15 Goals- 3 Assists- 21 Points- 24 Penalty Min- 28 +/- +18

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs

GP- 10 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 16 +/- 0

Zboril got off the scoring schneid- his first of the season came in a loss to Rouyn-Noranda (Lauzon tallied an assist in his club’s win), a low bullet-fast wrist shot from out near the point.



Jake DeBrusk, LW Swift Current Broncos

GP- 13 Goals- 6 Assists- 14 Points- 20 Penalty Min- 13 +/- -3

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars

GP- 13 Goals- 10 Assists- 2 Points- 12 Penalty Min- 23 +/- 3

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans

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

Carlo is injured and did not play this past week.



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

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

One NHL scout from a Western Conference team at the BU-Merrimack game on Friday texted me to say that JFK was “the best player on the ice”, passing on that the Bruins scouts really might have outdone themselves with the picks the team got from Calgary- Zach Senyshyn, JFK and Jeremy Lauzon.

Ryan Fitzgerald, F Boston College Eagles (HEA)

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

Danton Heinen, LW Denver University Pioneers (NCHC)

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

Heinen scored a pair of impressive goals against BC before his team dropped a Saturday contest to BU.

Ryan Donato, LW/C Harvard University (ECAC)

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

Cameron Hughes, C University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)

GP- 8 Goals- 1 Assists- 2 Points- 3 Penalty Min- 2 +/- -3

Rob O’Gara, D Yale University (ECAC)

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

Anders Bjork, LW University of Notre Dame (HEA)

GP- 6 Goals- 1 Assists- 4 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- 6

Matt Benning, D Northeastern University (HEA)

GP- 7 Goals- 1 Assists- 1 Points- 2 Penalty Min- 11 +/- -7

After going without a goal in the 2014-15 season (24 assists) in 36 games, Benning has already tallied once and should be one of the Huskies’ top players as a junior.

Sean Kuraly, C Miami University (NCHC)

GP- 8 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 10 +/- -5

Brutal offensive start for the Redhawks captain, who was acquired last June for Martin Jones. Far more was expected of the senior and 2011 Sharks pick, but there is time for him to get his season on track, but for someone who was expected to build on his 19 goals from a year ago, that’s going to be a tough proposition.


Peter Cehlarik, LW Lulea (Sweden)

GP- 12 Goals- 3 Assists- 3 Points- 6 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -1

Emil Johansson, D HV71 (Sweden)

GP- 14 Goals- 0 Assists- 1 Points- 1 Penalty Min- 12 +/- -2

Maxim Chudninov, D St Petersburg SKA (Russia)

GP- 24 Goals- 5 Assists- 4 Points- 9 Penalty Min- 71 +/- -5



Jack Becker, C Sioux Falls (USHL)

GP- 10 Goals- 2 Assists- 3 Points- 5 Penalty Min- 0 +/- -2

Daniel Vladar, G Chicago (USHL)

GP- 7 MIN- 404 GA- 16 GAA- 2.38 Spct .908 SO- 1;  1-4-1



Final buzzer: Bruins wilier than the Coyotes; 3 PPGs pace a 5-3 victory

The Boston Bruins got near-perfect special teams play in desert, scoring three power play goals (including two by Patrice Bergeron) on six tries, plus a short-handed marker by Brad Marchand to defeat the Arizona Coyotes by a 5-3 score, raising the record to 2-3 after five games. Tuukka Rask made 23 saves to post his first ‘W’ of the season for Boston.

A sleepy first 40 minutes saw a barrage of goals in the final period (B’s got four, Coyotes two), as the B’s took their second victory of the season after going 0-3 at home.

Arizona got goals 2:24 apart by Tobias Rieder and Kyle Chipchura to even the game at 3 goals apiece with plenty of time on the clock. However, Bergeron broke the deadlock with a power play goal about mid-way through the third, redirecting a Ryan Spooner shot/pass into the net behind Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith for the tally that stood up as the winner.

As was the case in Denver Wednesday night, the B’s came out with energy and enjoyed an advantage in territorial play early. However, unlike the Avalanche, they were unable to solve Smith.

Arizona opened the scoring on a goal by veteran Shane Doan, whose initial shot was stopped by Rask, but defenseman Kevan Miller’s skate made contact with the puck and it slid into the net for Doan’s 900th career point. Coach Claude Julien issued a second unsuccessful coach’s challenge in as many tries, making the case that Arizona forward Joe Vitale had entered the crease and made contact with the Boston netminder. Unfortunately for Julien, even though Vitale entered the crease on his own and did bump Rask, the referee elected not to overrule himself and the call stood, maintaining that the contact was not related to the play that resulted in the puck crossing the goal line.

The B’s tied the game in the second period when fourth-line winger Tyler Randell scored his second goal in as many games, rifling a nifty backhander over Smith and into the net.

The B’s extended their lead while on the power play later in the period when David Krejci took a Torey Krug (2 assists, 22:55 TOI, 5 shots, 5 blocked shots) cross-ice pass and buried it with a rocket one-timer for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

In the third period, the B’s made it 3-1 when Marchand got behind the Arizona defense, took a Tommy Cross bank clear/pass off the glass, and went in alone on Smith, beating him with a quick backhander. That gave Marchand his first goal of the season and Cross his first career NHL point. He was victimized on the Doan goal after an errant pass gave Arizona possession, but he ended up handling the rest of the game in solid fashion. As long as the Bruins keep winning, Julien and company will likely keep rolling Cross out there.

Although the Coyotes struck back and gave Boston fans an element of “here we go again” nerves, Bergeron’s first goal of the night restored the lead and then he struck again after Adam McQuaid drew an interference call late, firing a wrist shot that Smith whiffed on to close out the scoring.

With Boston’s power play at the top of the league and Krejci leading the way in scoring while admittedly very early on, this Bruins team has strung together a pair of hard-working victories, scoring 11 goals after netting just seven in their first three.


Patrice Bergeron- With a pair of power play goals and his usual solid play, Bergeron led by example tonight, firing 8 shots on net and being rewarded by the coaches with more than 22 minutes of ice time.

Brad Marchand- The pesky little waterbug showed why he is so valuable to the club, netting his first goal of the year while the B’s were killing a penalty and generating multiple other scoring chances. He creates opportunities with his speed, but he’s a smart player, too. While on the power play, he took a Zdeno Chara shot off the leg, but had the presence of mind to get his stick on the puck and work it back out to the point so the B’s could reset. That’s going to get a thumbs up from the coaches when they break down film on this one. The team is so glad to have him back after his concussion and he looked to be suffering nothing in the way of after effects tonight.

Tuukka Rask- The save percentage (.870) is nothing to write home about, but the two points are huge for him. The Bruins don’t win this game without their main man in net. His tremendous save on Rieder after Anthony DuClair set him up for a glittering chance late in the second period was a highlight reel stop and reinforces the old adage of- it isn’t how many goals you give up, but when you give them up that matters more. Although Rieder would get Rask later on a rebound of his own shot after the B’s were just standing around while killing a penalty, Boston got enough offense tonight that their goaltender’s saves pulled them through.

David Krejci- One of the great things about David is how serious he is. People who haven’t been around him don’t appreciate his off-the-charts competitive drive and how tough he is on himself when he doesn’t perform. He was immensely disappointed not only in the fact that the Bruins missed the playoffs last year, but that he had a pretty poor season by his standards even though he was less than 100 percent most of the time. He heard and read the criticisms of his contract extension, so he’s doing the only thing he knows how- playing his best to silence the doubters by producing like a $7M a year player. His scoring clip is probably not sustainable for him given his overall body of work, but if there was one player on this team who needed a quick start, it was him. It’s just Krejci being Krejci really, but he’s playing with a ton of confidence, so don’t be surprised if he sets career bests in all categories this year.

Tyler Randell- He once scored four goals in a single playoff game while in the OHL, so Randell has always had the hands…he showed them off again tonight lasering a backhand shot past Smith before the Coyotes goalie could react. And we haven’t even had a chance to see Randell do what he’s on the team for yet…his toughness. Boston may have found a fixture for the bottom line. It’s early yet, but if you think Boston fans like him now, wait until he drops the gloves a few times.

Special Teams- 3/6 with the man advantage, 1 shorthanded goal. The Rieder goal that came on the same power play just 13 seconds later was the only blemish on the night. Spooner and Krug are particularly impressive on the power play with the way they move the puck around. The hands, the vision, the ability to take advantage of the added time and space- this is precisely what every good team with the extra man tries to do. It’s nice to see a couple of young players- former housemates in Providence- demonstrating the kind of chemistry and skill they’ve shown together.


It was a well-played game across the board for Boston. They still have problems with coverage in front of their net, especially when teams overload and the B’s have trouble sorting out who is responsible for what.

However, on this night- not singling anyone out. Sure- there were some mistakes, and some guys looked slower and hobbled at times, but the team pulled together for another gritty win and with the special teams looking as strong as they have early on, you can see that even if the 2015-16 Bruins might lack the talent to keep up consistently with the NHL’s powers, there is some character in this plucky bunch.

They head back to Boston on a high note with some time to refresh before taking on Philadelphia at home on Wednesday. Time to give the hometown fans something to cheer about, boys.

Final buzzer: B’s are on a Mile High with first win, 6-2 over Avs

Tyler Randell netted his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in Boston's first win of 2015-16 (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Tyler Randell netted his first NHL goal in his first NHL game in Boston’s first win of 2015-16 (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Boston Bruins posted their first win of the season in Denver by a 6-2 score by jumping on the Colorado Avalanche and racing to a 5-0 lead. They chased starter Semyon Varlamov from the net and by dominating the puck possession game by limiting the Avs to just 12 shots in the first 40 minutes.

The 3rd line made the biggest difference keyed by Jimmy Hayes (1g, 4 points) and Ryan Spooner (1g, 2 points), forechecking effectively, forcing turnovers and then capitalizing on said turnovers with goals by Chris Kelly and Spooner in the second frame.

The game marked a couple of first career appearances for defenseman Tommy Cross and winger Tyler Randell. Cross became the second player from Boston’s 2007 draft class (Zach Hamill) and Randell the third from 2009 (Jordan Caron, Lane McDermid) to skate in the big show.

Jonas Gustavsson got his first NHL start for the Bruins, and wasn’t tested all that much. He held Colorado off the scoreboard until late in the second frame when David Pastrnak took a double-minor for high sticking former teammate Carl Soderbergh. Fellow Swede Gabriel Landeskog spun around with the puck just outside the crease, and Zdeno Chara (2 assists) tried to poke it off his stick, but inadvertently pushed it past Gustavsson to make it 5-1 after two periods.

Fourth-line center John Mitchell made it 5-2 on a lazy outside shot that caught Gustavsson cheating. This is a shame because the Monster made some excellent stops while his team was on the power play earlier in the period, so to give up such a soft goal with a little under 9 minutes left took some of the shine off of an otherwise solid performance in net (he made a terrific breakaway stop on Avs top draft pick Mikko Rantanen in the first period to keep Colorado off the board).

Boston’s top two lines had a quiet night with no goals scored (save for David Krejci’s empty net tally at the end), but that’s how its supposed to work- the big horses had generated much of the team’s offense in the three losses- so to have the bottom two lines, plus Kevan Miller grab hold of the scoring load is a good sign. The team’s strength is up front, so for one night at least, things are back on track.


Jimmy Hayes- He was in the “down” section for the Tampa Bay game, but he bounced back with a career-best 4-point night in this one, tallying the second goal of the contest by batting a Chara rebound out of the air and into the net. You could tell by his celly that a huge weight was taken off his shoulders with that one. The added pressure that local boys feel when they put on that spoked B is real, but Hayes wasn’t done. He forced a neutral zone turnover i the second period, getting the puck to Spooner, who fed Kelly with a backhand sauce pass. The veteran then skated in, made a quick deke in traffic and put the puck past Varlamov to make it 4-0. Hayes then forced another turnover deep in the Colorado zone and got it to Spooner on a backhander, who roofed a shot for his first goal of the season to finish Varlamov’s night. Hayes added an assist on Krejci’s empty-netter to seal the win. He skated a more uptempo game, and just maybe- getting away from Boston and the TD Garden was good for him. On this night, Hayes looked like he was having a lot of fun out there, and let’s face it- even though these guys are professionals, that’s how it should be for the most part.

Ryan Spooner- Along with Pastrnak, Spooner is Boston’s most dynamic forward, so if he isn’t scoring, he’s probably not helping a whole lot. Having said that- tonight he was skating hard on the forecheck, creating problems for Colorado as they tried to gain possession in their own end and break the puck out. He’s never going to be a stalwart two-way center, but the Bruins don’t need him to be that. He has to give a good effort away from the puck, but as long as he’s making things happen on offense, the team can live with the occasional lapses that will happen. His assist on the Kelly goal looked effortless- it wasn’t- and his first goal of the season was a pure snipe to the top shelf that was off his stick in a blur.

Tyler Randell- He became the first Bruin to score in his debut since Blake Wheeler back in October, 2008- which was interestingly enough- some eight months before Boston drafted Randell in Montreal. That’s how long it has been, and if you had said smart money would be on Randell finding the back of the net in his NHL debut, you should go out and get your lottery ticket. The rugged, physical forward didn’t have to do much in that regard, but his goal was vintage Randell: he tipped Adam McQuaid’s point blast home, demonstrating his slick hands. The skating is what has kept him from the NHL prior to now, but you can see that he has value on the bottom line, especially when things get tough. He won’t thrive in an uptempo game, but he’s proving that in the right role, there’s a place for him on this club.

Chris Kelly- The veteran looks pretty good on the third line left wing with Spooner and Hayes. He’s not the fastest guy out there, but he’s smart, industrious and in scoring his first of the season, showed off the slick hands that he previously parlayed into 20+ goals. Anytime you can get offense out of Kelly it’s a bonus, because he’s such a key leader and sterling example for the younger players. He may not be the most skilled LW to put on that line, but he’s getting the job done.

Tommy Cross- It was a solid, unspectacular night. He played sheltered minutes and wasn’t asked to do a whole lot, but for a guy who was drafted nearly nine years ago, he deserves ups for getting here. Cross is an NHL player- no one can take that from him. What happens from here partly up to him and partly not, but for one night- he looked like he belonged, and there are a lot more folks out there than this columnist who are genuinely happy for a genuinely good guy.

Kevan Miller- He opened the scoring on an absolute bomb from the point that rang off the far post and clanked in. For a guy who missed the second half of last season to have shoulder surgery, he looked like a winner on that play.

Adam McQuaid- Forget about the assist on Randell’s goal- did you see that nifty little spin move he put on along the half-wall to shake the defender and maintain possession, then fed it out in front to Loui Eriksson, who was stoned on what would have been a highlight goal? Wow- where did that come from?! He then put the puck to the net on the ensuing play and Randell tipped it in…great shift for No. 54.


Brett Connolly- He’ll show it in flashes, but the consistent shifts where Connolly is working, creating and making an impact on the game are still lacking. The B’s need a lot more from him. If you didn’t see it at all, it would make for an easy call for the coaches, but the talent is there for the former sixth overall pick. He’s still looking for his first goal as a Bruin and he had a great chance in the first period (right before Miller scored) when sent in alone on Varlamov but couldn’t even hit the net.

Joonas Kemppainen- Another soft performance from the Finnish newcomer. He’s not strong enough on pucks to these eyes and seems to be around the play a lot, which is a sign of his good hockey IQ, but he has left me wanting more. Kemppainen looks like a player, but he’s got to get more engaged to make a difference.

The good news- B’s fans won’t have to wonder about any more losses to increase the winless streak, and you have to hand it to the team for cooling off a hot offense at home. However, there is still plenty of work ahead for this group- improvements are showing through in their play, especially in puck support along the walls, so there isn’t a whole lot to take issue with on this one.

Providence captain Cross brought up, Koko still in the mix

There is some good stuff posted yesterday in the Providence Journal by friend and colleague Mark Divver on Tommy Cross and Alex Khokhlachev. The piece has analysis and quotes from Cross on his playing style and development since turning pro so I won’t go into that.

Cross, 26, was recalled by the Boston Bruins yesterday after Joe Morrow went on the IR in the wake of Matt Irwin’s demotion to the AHL. Irwin was not claimed on waivers by any of the other 29 teams (And why would they? His two-game stint in Boston was one of the more distressing performances in recent history), but he’ll be a valuable contributor in Providence, as his NHL experience and skill set will serve him well at the lower level.

On the other hand, Cross to Boston is a positive story for the team. He’s the last remnant of one of the worst draft classes in Bruins history- 2007- when the B’s held the eighth and 38th overall selections after Peter Chiarelli’s first full season as GM. The B’s drafted WHL leading scorer Zach Hamill with their top pick, then traded their 38th and third-round picks to move up three spots to 35 to grab Cross, the Westminster prep captain who brought good size, skating ability and a cannon shot to the mix.

It’s easy to look back at those decisions and shake the head in 2015, as the B’s would almost certainly have drafted Logan Couture at 8 and P.K. Subban at 35 (heck- they could have had him at 38 if they had stood pat), but that’s life and the NHL draft, where projected 17-18-year-old kids is more art than science. The hardcore fans who follow the draft still dredge up the memories of the failures of Boston’s ’07 class (which included such luminaries as Dennis Reul, Alain Goulet, Radim Ostrcil and Jordan Knackstedt) and that’s fair. The team not only missed on its early picks, but it absolutely swung and whiffed everywhere else that year. Blowing an entire draft class has a delayed penalty that the B’s are feeling now, especially when you take into account that they had two picks in the top-35 that year. Poor showings at the draft table in 2008 and 2009 have added to the issues the team faces, but in getting back to 2007 and what the Cross callup means for a second…

First of all, Cross is a solid minor league defenseman who just might play his way into a supporting role at the NHL level if not with Boston then another club, perhaps. His development was stalled at the beginning because he suffered a knee injury playing baseball right before the draft. The B’s took him anyway, which shows how much they liked him, but he continued to have issues with it, having several more surgeries before seemingly putting it all behind him in his last two full seasons at Boston College. By then, it had become apparent that the player Boston projected at 17 in his draft year to be a potential top-3, big minutes, two-way defender with character, was more of a solid stay-at-home bottom pairing journeyman.

A coach’s son, Cross has always demonstrated a level of leadership and a top attitude that makes him easy to root for. He probably has a future in politics when his playing career is done, and you don’t ever want to take away from who Cross is as a person and valuable presence in the room as a guy who sets the right example and is a total pro. At the same time, because of the expectations that went with his draft standing and what the Bruins gave up to draft him, Cross has always been more of a symbol of that failed Bruins draft year than even Hamill was. The B’s moved on from Hamill relatively quickly, dealing him in 2012 to Washington for Chris Bourque, who at least played some games in Boston during the lockout-shortened season, but Hamill never got another sniff of the NHL after that.

In Cross’ case, he stayed in the organization, going to five development camps and getting quickly relegated to the minors each autumn he was vying for a spot in Boston. In his first pro season, he was optioned to the ECHL after not making enough of an impression at Providence’s camp. Although Cross played very well for the South Carolina Stingrays and was soon brought back up to the AHL where he’s stayed since then, it was one more reminder that the Connecticut kid who had looked so promising coming out of prep hockey (before the knee injuries) was not on track to have any impact in Boston let alone what the team had expected him to make.

That’s why the B’s bringing Cross up is a good news story. In the grand scheme of things, he’s not likely to have an inspirational awakening and significant effect on the team’s fortunes like Johnny Boychuk did during the 2009-10 season, but you never know. Like Cross, Boychuk was a second-round pick who took a long time to reach the NHL after showing such promising tools as a teenager, but he never gave up and when his chance came, he seized it.

This is not to say that we’re looking at the dawn of another age of JB55 in Boston, but the team could do worse than at least try Cross and see how he does. He stuck with the organization (and they him) when most other players would have looked at the B’s defense depth chart and wanted out. That gets to the heart of who Tommy Cross is and what he’s about. I don’t know if this move is anything more than bringing him up to be a seventh D to sit in the press box until Morrow is ready to return, or the team finally wants to give Cross a chance to taste the NHL and see what he is made of.

One thing is certain: he’s earned it.


Providence coach Bruce Cassidy’s cup was overflowing with praise for Koko in the same Divver piece. Check it out:

“He’s going to be one of our assistant captains for a reason. He plays hard. He produces. He’s well-liked by his teammates. He works hard. Koko’s a little frustrated that he hasn’t gotten a better look in Boston and hopefully he takes care of that here. You can only control your own environment so he needs to be our best forward here every night so that when there is a callup situation at his position, he’s the first guy,’’ he said.

“I love the guy. I love his compete. Every year in the playoffs he’s arguably been our best player. That says a lot about a person. He’s going to have to lead for us. A lot of these guys, we don’t know what we’re going to get out of them. He’s a guy that we expect will lead us offensively and hopefully it translates to an (NHL) opportunity. He’s worked hard down here and as a coach of these young guys, you hope they get their chance. Especially for him, the way he’s played for us.’’

Translation: He’s off to a fine start in the AHL with 4 assists in two games. Keep grinding and making a difference and that next shot in Boston will come a lot sooner rather than later. With the big club off to its worst start in 50 years, the coaches are going to be far more willing to try new things and no one can argue with Koko’s talent.  When it comes, he’s got to find a way to get some points on the board, however. All the hustle and energy is great, but when you have a skill player like that, it’s not good enough to just try hard.

Watch for the next appearance of Khokhlachev in Boston soon.

More Bruins to Providence: Koko, Ferlin, Blidh make sense in AHL for now

The Boston Bruins announced their latest round of roster transactions on Thursday here.

To the surprise of very few, three young promising forwards were included in a group of more seasoned minor leaguers.

Alex Khokhlachev, who is entering his third full AHL campaign after finishing the end of the 2012-13 season in Providence after splitting the year between the KHL in his native Russia and the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, was unsuccessful in earning a spot with the team, at least for now, as we are a week away from the start of the 2015-16 regular season.

Koko is a talented center who played with some hustle, but his inability to get on the score sheet resulted in his having to go down. The NHL isn’t a video game in which you take the players that have the highest number rating next to their names and load them up on four lines and away you go. While skill is very important, what also comes into play is how effective a player is in the role the team expects him to play.

Fans can sit on message boards all day long and talk about how they *feel* or *think* a player like Koko on the B’s fourth line makes more sense than veterans such as Max Talbot and Chris Kelly, but that is irrelevant. What matters is what the Bruins coaches and management *know* and that is- Koko is not ready for a full-time contribution in Boston. They make the decisions- right or wrong- and it wasn’t hard to see that Koko’s struggles to generate offense no matter his linemates or ice time in the preseason made it a relatively easy choice for Don Sweeney and Claude Julien to make. Koko’s time in Boston/the NHL will come. Or it won’t. People will disagree with management’s decision on this one. Or they won’t. But it’s pretty apparent that the 22-year-old just didn’t build enough of a case for himself to generate a robust debate.

Don’t be so sure that the B’s will trade him right off the bat, though. They were reminded of an important lesson last year with the handling of Ryan Spooner, and it usually doesn’t make sense to sell low, which is where Koko’s value is right now.

Anton Blidh was on the bubble and close, but again- with no shortage of gritty wingers on the Boston roster, it was a tough sell to expect him to stay up with the club as a spare part at this stage of his development when he could play a lot of quality minutes in the AHL. He’ll be back.

It was much of the same thing for Brian Ferlin– he scored a nice goal in Detroit last weekend, and showed flashes of his ability to chip in on offense, but he’s also young and still learning the game. As was the case last year, he’s on the short list of callups to Boston if players get hurt or underperform.

Still on the team- Tyler Randell. And good on him. The former Belleville Bull and Kitchener Ranger has never made it this far in an NHL camp with Boston and is making a case to stick, or at the very least, make the roster as the extra forward. The hard-nosed winger is legit tough- he won’t bring much offense to the table, but he at least has NHL-caliber hands so as not to be a total liability. The B’s would have to put him on waivers to send him down to Providence and there’s a good chance a team without as many lower-line depth forwards as Boston has right now would pluck him away much like what happened with Nate Thompson back in 2008. We’ll see if he can force the team to keep for now, but this has been a solid showing by Randell, who scored a goal in a win over the Rangers last week and fought gargantuan D Dylan McIlrath so that much smaller Zac Rinaldo wouldn’t have to.

Tommy Cross was waived and will likely pass through and report to Providence. He’s a top person and solid minor league defenseman. He impressed a lot of people with his camp effort- the former 2007 second-rounder is a good skater with a hard point shot and is one of the top character types around. Based on what I saw, if the Boston defense depth chart takes a hit this season, I could see Cross being given an opportunity at some point. He’s earned it.

Torey Krug, David Krejci and Tommy Cross at training camp. Photo by Alison Foley

Torey Krug, David Krejci and Tommy Cross at training camp. Photo by Alison Foley

Rangers down Bruins in spirited contest, 3-2

Brett Connolly scored a pair of goals including one just 40 seconds into Wednesday’s contest, but the Boston Bruins dropped their second exhibition game in as many tries after starting the preseason 4-0.

As pointed out to me on Twitter by several B’s fans, the Rangers were icing a lineup much closer to their NHL roster than Boston was, so there is room for praise for the job the Boston squad did in keeping the lead until the last 3 minutes or so of the second period and then coming back to within one goal late in the final frame. In the end, however, it wasn’t enough.

The B’s lost in regulation, but the teams played a 5-minute 3-on-3 overtime session that failed to generate a score, despite the Rangers getting a power play after Alex Khokhlachev was assessed an obstruction foul.

Fans will need to get used to these kinds of games going forward this season- yes, the team was without many of its top players last night, but even with a full roster, the Bruins will be challenged to score goals on the regular basis. They will have to cash in on the opportunities they do create (and those given them by opponents) and outwork other clubs in order to make the playoffs.

Having said that- here are some notes on some of the players:

Brett Connolly- He accounted for all of the offense last night, and it was the best of the three preseason games we’ve seen from him. His second goal was batted baseball style out of midair and into the net, displaying some excellent hand-eye coordination. On the downside, he’s still turning the puck over and making some mistakes to nitpick, but you could see last night why he was a top draft pick five years ago. Connolly is more than capable of scoring 25 goals this year for Boston, but Claude Julien will stress attention to detail with him to mitigate some of the mistakes he makes with and without the puck.

Zach Trotman- Last pick in 2010 played a strong defensive game and assisted on Connolly’s second tally by denying a Rangers clearing attempt at the blue line and throwing the puck to the net. He may not be the most instinctive of defenders, but Trotman’s 6-4 height and 220-pound frame, along with his mobility allow him to make plays at both ends of the ice. Sometimes, you wonder about people’s expectations- it isn’t like Trotman was a first- or second-round selection and recognized talent to play a prominent role. He was a developmental project player from the get-go and has worked hard to put himself into the NHL picture in Boston- some of these same critics fall all over themselves to praise Koko who has yet to turn any of his flashy plays into production, yet Trotman came through with a statement game last night. It’s the internet and all, but my guess is that on opening night- No. 62 will be in the Boston lineup and No. 76 won’t.

Colin Miller- I think we’ve seen enough- the former Kings prospect is an NHL player, and the Bruins will benefit from his skating, puckhandling and big-time point shot. On one particular sequence in the second period, the puck was thrown to the net as he was cutting to the short side. It hit his skate, but even at speed, Miller was able to corral it with his stick and get a shot off. Henrik Lundqvist made a terrific save, but it was the kind of effortless-looking play that is much harder for most to pull off. Miller belongs on this team, end of story.

Joonas Kemppainen- The Finnish free agent has the look of a solid fourth-line center with his faceoff work and disciplined play in all 200 feet of the rink. He’s not a dynamic skater, but as a big guy, he doesn’t have to be. He uses his stick effectively to disrupt plays on the penalty kill and has been in the right position throughout the preseason. He’s not a player who will bring a lot of offensive production to the table, but his heavy game is well suited for the bottom line and with the right wingers, so long as that unit can chip in and play some quality minutes, the B’s are on the right track.

Jimmy Hayes- He was active and involved in the play all night. He’s not as skilled as younger brother Kevin, but he brings more tenacity and “want to” in my opinion. The team had him wearing the ‘A’ last night, and Hayes continued his solid if unspectacular play in the preseason, tallying a helper on Connolly’s first goal. He’s clearly enjoying being a Bruin, and he’s a valued addition on a team that is going to need every ounce of his talent and 6-6 frame to get some gritty, dirty goals on any given night.

Ryan Spooner- Boston’s third-line center showed off his ability to work the wall last night, at one point during a power play in the second period generating quality scoring chances from both sides of the ice. Koko just missed sending him in alone on a breakaway during the 3-on-3 overtime session, and he might have ended it right there. Spooner is at his best when pushing the pace of the offense and backing defenses up with his speed. Unfortunately, he also made a poor decision late in the second period to make a cross-ice pass after gaining the offensive zone that was deflected away and resulted in a rush the other way that saw J.T. Miller put the Rangers up 2-1 with about 37 seconds remaining on the clock. Those are the kinds of plays that will get any player a stern talking to from the coaches- it was risky and ended up being costly. He did have an assist on Boston’s second goal of the night, however.

Alex Khokhlachev- At some point the energy, hustle and skill plays need to amount to points on the board and it’s just not there. It seems to me that there is an element of fans who want him on the team no matter what, and I can understand that- everyone has an opinion, and he’s undoubtedly more talented than a couple of the veterans who are likely to beat him out for a spot coming out of camp. But one wonders if Max Talbot was showing the same kind of energy, would people go out of their way to praise him as seems to be the case for Koko? For a guy who made it clear that he sees himself as an NHL player, he sure hasn’t been able to find away to produce, and that’s going to be the difference when he is optioned to Providence to start the year. The B’s can and will almost certainly bring him back up at some point (unless Don Sweeney trades him elsewhere- but the kind of value Koko will get at this stage is anyone’s guess), but enough of the grasping at straws- potential is just that- potential…until it is realized through tangible results. It would be one thing if he was scoring a point or three each night he went out there, but he’s not doing that. In the end, it doesn’t matter what any of us on the outside think- Boston management and coaches have the power to decide, and in Koko’s case- it’s pretty simple: where’s the beef? There is no denying the skill, but the team rightfully expects more from him.

Adam McQuaid- The most memorable play of the night from him came on Miller’s late second period goal when he backed up too much in the Boston zone, giving the Ranger forward the time and space to rip a wicked shot into the net, taking the lead. You love McQuaid’s character and toughness, but his mobility and decision-making at times will result in plays like this one. During the course of the season he’s going to make some plays and give some up- if not for the AAV on his contract extension, few would have any issue with his presence. It’s the nature of the beast in this modern cap world.

Jonas Gustavsson- Playing in just his second contest since coming to camp on a PTO, it was a good news/bad news kind of game for the veteran. He was victimized on the first goal, which came on a screen and deflected in off of Trotman’s skate. But he was beaten cleanly on a shot by Miller to break a 1-1 tie, and in the third period, was unable to get across the crease when Rick Nash’s attempted pass was blocked by Matt Irwin. Nash, doing what top goal scorers like him do, grabbed the puck as it bounced back to him and popped it into the yawning open side as Gustavsson was caught by the shortside post. Neither Gustavsson nor Smith have been outstanding in exhibition play, but they have been serviceable. Gustavsson held the fort later in the game and in the OT when the Rangers were on a 4-on-3 man advantage, so flip a coin between the two for Boston’s backup spot. It’s close, and with Smith under contract, he just might get the nod.

Zac Rinaldo- Continues to play his high motor game and drive opponents crazy with his hitting and stickwork. He took a goalie interference penalty and then was reminded of that with a hard, borderline vicious hit from Dylan McIlrath that he bounced back from. With his speed, he creates scoring chances, ringing a shot off the post at one point in the final period, but the production has not and never will be there. Rinaldo is there to bring energy, agitate, draw penalties and get opponents off their game without hurting his own team in the process. There is a segment of Boston fandom that will simply not reconcile that role with his past transgressions nor the price Boston paid to acquire him, but that’s fine- as is the case with McQuaid- he’s here like it or not.

Tyler Randell- Drove to the net and worked the corners effectively. When McIrath tried to go after Rinaldo during a scrum in front of the Rangers net, Randell intercepted the New York defender and the two dropped the gloves. Both players got some shots in, and it looked like a draw, but given what Randell gave way to in terms of height and reach, the bout further enhanced his reputation as a nasty forward who can fight it out with the heavyweights.

Tommy Cross- I have to give the former BC captain and 2x NCAA champion credit. He played hard and smart last night. He’s a longshot given the players the B’s have on the roster, but his character has never, ever been a question mark. Last night, he played with effort, pace and got some good shots on net from the point. He’s an NHL-capable defender in a reduced role, but the question for him is opportunity- can he get it in Boston?

Brian Ferlin- Good player, but what on earth was he thinking in OT when he went to the bench for a chance with the Rangers in possession of the puck at center ice? That resulted in a 3-on-1 but somehow, the B’s survived it and transitioned back the other way, with Koko just missing sending Spooner in on a breakaway. But, Brian- yikes!