Audio post: KL on Bruins organizational rankings, 3 prospect assessments, Hlinka-Gretzky Cup & more

Zachary Senyshyn of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

(Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

As the summer winds down, figured an audio post to cover more ground than a typical written narrative is the way to go.

In this 60+ minute audio segment, TSP weighs in on some of the Boston Bruins organizational rankings and why it’s a fool’s errand to put much stock in any of them . We also do a three-year on B’s prospects, looking at Ryan Donato, Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Lauko. Plus, we talk about the recently completed Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, the annual first real jump into the NHL draft tracking process. It’s sure looking like the late 2000/2001 birth year is shaping up to be a pretty good draft class!

Enough of the intro- here’s the file.

 

Dominic Tiano: What’s Next (Pt. 8)- Young Gun Senyshyn Charging Ahead

Zachary Senyshyn of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.(Photo credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

If you’ve been following along here at The Scouting Post, then you know we’ve been covering some of the decisions Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney is facing at the NHL level this offseason. There’s no shortage of forward prospects knocking at the door to make the jump to the NHL. Some appear to be ready, and some do not. Today, we’ll look at Zachary Senyshyn.

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What’s Next For the Bruins (Pt. 7): Young Guns (Forwards)

We hope you’re enjoying the offseason series on the Boston Bruins. There’s more in the works, but this post will quickly break down several of the forward prospects who could be ready for a bigger impact/contribution with the B’s in 2017-18. Now granted- we still need to see who comes and goes when the roster shaping period begins in earnest on and after 1 July, but for now- here are just a few players we think are going to push the coaching staff to either get them into the lineup sooner rather than later, or will make the decision to send them down a tough one.

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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.

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Jakub Zboril: the Good Cop-Bad Cop theory

good-cop-bad-cop-lego-movie

When the Boston Bruins drafted Czech defenseman Jakub Zboril 13th overall in 2015 out of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, few raised any eyebrows.

After all- the pick made sense at the time for myriad reasons: talent-wise, he was right around where he could and should go. He had posted a 13-goal, 33-point season in just 44 games in his first North American stint. He had the size, skating, puck skills, shot and even some physical nasty to his game to validate being chosen there. Defense was also becoming a major issue for Boston- then-GM Peter Chiarelli had traded veteran two-way machine & fan favorite Johnny Boychuk on the eve of the 2014-15 campaign for futures (well, as we type this Brandon Carlo is certainly thriving in the present) and he subsequently went off, posting a career-best 9 goals and 35 points, while Boston’s defense contributed to the late-season swoon that cost the B’s a playoff appearance for the first time since 2007. In short- Zboril was a typical crowd-pleaser in that not only did he address an obvious organizational need, but no one could screech loudly on Twitter and Internet message boards about his being a “reach” for the team where he was picked.

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Bruins prospect update 12/27/2016: 2017 WJC- McAvoy leads the way

The 2017 World Junior (Under-20) Championship started on Dec. 26 in Toronto and Montreal for Groups A & B in the round robin portion of the annual NHL prospect extravaganza that will run into the first week of January.

The Boston Bruins have five players (four defensemen and one goaltender) currently competing in the tourney: USA’s Charlie McAvoy and Ryan Lindgren; Jeremy Lauzon on Team Canada, Czech Republic D Jakub Zboril and goaltender Daniel Vladar round out the group. Guys who did not make the cut for their respective countries: Zach Senyshyn (Canada) and Oskar Steen (Sweden). Trent Frederic was not invited to the USA evaluation camp portion, but he was coming off of a hand injury that might have influenced USA Hockey’s decision to have him return to school. We don’t know for sure, but watch for Frederic to be solidly in the mix for the 2018 USA WJC squad. Canada did not even invite Jesse Gabrielle to the eval camp, which is probably more of a reflection of his not being part of the Canada Program of Excellence than anything else- you would think that a gritty power forward who can score and affect game flow with his physicality would be of value, but apparently not enough in Canada’s eyes. With both Canada and USA winning their opening games, the rosters look fine for now.

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Bruins prospects update 12/12/16: Z-Mac on the Attack

It’s no secret- TSP has long been high on goaltender Zane McIntyre going back to his draft year when we had intel from a Minnesota-based scouting source that had a lot time for him when he was winning that state’s top goaltending award with Thief River Falls High.

McIntyre, the artist formerly known as Zane Gothberg, legally changed his name a few years ago in honor of his late grandmother, Susan “Grandma Susie” McIntyre, who passed away in 2011. The retired University of North Dakota educator was a major influence in his life, and he’s come up aces for the most part since the Bruins chose him in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Susie McIntyre got to see her grandson begin his journey to the NHL in the Bruins organization and was no doubt with him in spirit when he made his big league debut this season.

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2016-17 Boston Bruins preview series 2: the Right Wings

David Pastrnak is the player the Boston Bruins have been waiting for. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

David Pastrnak is the player the Boston Bruins have been waiting for. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

After a bit of a hiatus, we’re back to continue the 2016-17 Boston Bruins season preview by breaking down each position and analyzing where the B’s sit going into the new hockey campaign.

We started out with the centers, and if you haven’t seen it yet and listened to the companion podcast, you can check that out here.

Today, we’re looking at the right wings- another pretty solid position of strength for the B’s. Loui Eriksson is gone, having signed with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1, but the B’s signed David Backes from the St. Louis Blues on the same day. The conventional thought is that Backes will remain in his capacity as a center, but with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci solidly established as the 1-2 punch up the middle, it makes quite a bit of sense that the B’s will take their 5-year, $30 million investment and put him over on the right side with Bergeron and left wing Brad Marchand, who tallied 37 goals last season.

Expected to skate on the right side with Krejci is fellow Czech and David- David Pastrnak. After an electrifying NHL debut in the latter half of the 2014-15 NHL season, the 25th overall pick in 2014 struggled out of the gate last year and then was felled by a foot injury that cost him about 30 games and much of his offensive jump and effectiveness. This is an important season for the David Squared duo, as a healthy and productive Krejci and Pastrnak will be needed to take some of the pressure off of the top line.

Third line is where there could be some opportunities for change. Right now, Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes is the guy to fill that spot on paper. Even with the disappointing season a year ago, Hayes should not be written off yet. Consistency was the biggest thing with the 6-5, 215-pound former second-round pick in 2008. When on his game, Hayes is capable of scoring goals and adding offense both off the rush and in close where he uses his gigantic frame and long arms to pounce on loose pucks. Hayes was an easy scapegoat last year, and he does need to own the fact that when the team needed his offensive production the most, he went largely MIA down the stretch. Having said that, he’s young (turns 27 in November) and talented enough to raise his game and surpass the 20-goal mark, but he’ll have to get back to basics and start with the little things that brought him success in Florida, when he tallied his career-best 19 goals in 2014-15. When you look at Hayes’ possession stats, there’s a case to be made that he’s more effective than he gets credit for, and given his contract structure when compared to others around the NHL, he didn’t exactly embarrass himself. Hayes is never going to be a top-level player, but he has more to offer and if the B’s can get it from him this season, he can be an asset.

If Hayes falters, rookie forward Danton Heinen could fill the void on that third line. A fourth-round pick in 2014, Heinen spent two highly productive NCAA seasons with Denver University before turning pro with Boston last April. The British Columbia native by way of the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles is a slick, cerebral playmaking wing who can skate on each of the forward positions, but saw his most production as the RW on the famed “Pacific Rim Line” last season with Toronto free agent signing Trevor Moore and Sharks second-rounder Dylan Gambrell. Heinen could be best served by playing a lot in the AHL, but of all the prospect forwards in camp this month, he’s the one guy who has the best mix of skill, maturity and a three-zone game- all of which should combine to impress Claude Julien and the other Boston coaches (Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo, Bruce Cassidy).

On the fourth line, the B’s added free agent forward Riley Nash in July, and as a rugged, versatile forward, the 27-year-old right-shooting former first-rounder in 2007 is good for about 20-30 points while playing that grinding, checking style that is valuable on the bottom unit. There’s not much to get excited about here, but the former Cornell Big Red point-per-game guy gives you NHL experience, physicality and the example that will help to build team cohesion.

Like Backes, we previewed Peter Mueller at center, but in all likelihood, he’ll compete for a roster spot at the RW position as the eighth overall pick in 2006 has spent more of his pro career flanked out wide as opposed to playing in the middle. Temper expectations with him, but if he plays well and earns a contract, his presence allows B’s GM some flexibility to add assets in a potential trade deal for a much-needed defenseman. Mueller has the size and hands to be an effective bottom-six player, but one only knows how he’ll look after spending the last three seasons in Europe. At one point, he looked like an NHL star, so it’s not a bad risk to take as a PTO invite to camp- nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Other right wings in the mix vying for NHL jobs are Seth Griffith, Brian Ferlin and Tyler Randell– all impact performers for the Providence Bruins. Of the three, Randell is the one who is best positioned to come out of camp with a job- he scored six goals in 27 NHL games last season- his first taste of big league action after being drafted in 2009 (and shot an unsustainable 33.3 percent as well). He’s rugged and tough- even though he lacks speed, the B’s can carry him as a 13th forward and plug and play him into the roster as needed. I like that he showed enough to stick around long after other players likely would have been given up on.

Some of the prospects that fans are eagerly looking forward to are 45-goal man Zach Senyshn, drafted 15th overall in 2015. Although he’s struggled with mono and a recent emergency appendectomy that will cost him the rookie tournament portion of camp. He’s big, fast, skilled and ready to take a big next step forward. This year is probably not Zach’s year to make it in Boston, but that’s not a knock on him- not everyone can play in the NHL as a teen, but the patience will likely pay off- he’s a player.

Also talked Swedish forward Oskar Steen, who is listed as a center but plays right wing and projects as a wing at the pro level in North America. Steen is a Bruins-type of player and was a favorite of scout and former Boston cult hero P.J. Axelsson.

Also not covered in the podcast, but Notre Dame right wing Anders Bjork had a very good sophomore season, leading the Fighting Irish in scoring (35 points in as many games). He’s a gritty, fast, high-energy player, but also showed off some impressive offense. Watch for the Bruins to try and sign him this spring to avoid him going back to school for a fourth year and becoming a free agent in 2018. It will be interesting to see what the Wisconsin native does.

Justin Hickman also has promise as a second-year pro as a big power forward who can bang and add some offense after struggling a bit to find his niche. Don’t count the former Seattle Thunderbirds captain out- he was a sought-after undrafted free agent and shows a willingness to scrap and fight for his team.

Now, you’ve read the post- listen to the podcast (I also talk a little 2017 NHL draft and Shane Bowers)! Will be back in this week to break down the left wings next. Thanks for reading/listening.

 

 

Post-Labor Day let’s start feeling it…hockey’s about here entry

With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, we had a great opening weekend of College Football (the Texas-Notre Dame contest was a hell of a game) and the NFL begins the 2016 season in two days.

That means that the NHL is right around the corner, especially true given that the World Cup of Hockey is about to start and the various international teams have assembled.

The Scouting Post will soon kick off the Boston Bruins position by position preview, but later this week, founder Kirk Luedeke will be in Omaha, Nebraska to take in the USHL West Fall Classic, which will feature numerous 2017 NHL draft prospects in action for the first signature amateur tournament in North America for the new season.

To get the juices flowing, we’ve put together some links that might be of interest:

Bruins Reddit AMA (Ask me Anything)- Fielded questions from Thursday-Monday from fans on the Bruins subreddit page and there’s a lot of stuff in here- your burning question might have been asked and answered. Follow the link to find out…

 

In case you missed it, Zach Senyshyn had an emergency appendectomy over the weekend. The Bruins issued a press release saying he’s recovering and expected to miss the rookie tournament in Buffalo, but will report to main camp, though his participation timetable is TBD. It’s another disappointing setback for Senyshyn- a bout with mononucleosis forced him out of B’s development camp in July. However, in some ways, this is probably a blessing in disguise, as in all likelihood- he wasn’t going to make this Bruins team out camp and because he’s a ’97-born player, he would have to go back to the OHL- he’s not eligible for the AHL and Providence until next season. Of course- there are those who were hoping for a 9-game NHL audition, but who is to say he would have even put himself in position for that? He still has a shot at seeing some exhibition action, but you can bet that the Bruins will take it slow and make sure he’s fully healed from his procedure- there’s simply no reason to rush him back. I’m of the opinion that he isn’t ready for primetime and another year in the OHL will do him a world of good in his development.

https://www.sootoday.com/local-sports/exhibition-importance-is-more-than-scores-for-greyhounds-380938

 

A top unit of Brad Marchand-Sidney Crosby-Patrice Bergeron (the Cromag-eron Line?) is generating early buzz for Canada at the World Cup of Hockey. Yep- the Canadians look like a juggernaut.

http://www.tsn.ca/crosby-marchand-bergeron-paired-at-camp-1.561251

 

On McAvoy and Lindgren and what they mean for the future of the Bruins D

I’m back from a trip to Canada and the opportunity to watch The Tragically Hip perform live in London, Ontario. More on that later.

I did get to see the televised action of USA games from the national evaluation camp in Plymouth, and the Americans closed out the event with a sound thumping of Team Canada Saturday.

If you’re a Boston Bruins fan and paying attention to the organization’s prospects and player development efforts, you can’t help but come away optimistic for what could be coming, especially at the defense position. One player had a standout, exciting performance that drew raves. The other USA defender was not as visible, but earned good marks for being solid and opportunistic. Both players, drafted in the first and second rounds in Buffalo, are giving Boston fans something to talk about.

The team’s top choice in June had a standout camp from start to finish: one NHL scout texted the Scouting Post after the first day of on-ice sessions on July 30 to say that Charlie McAvoy was the “best player on the ice,” and the 14th overall selection out of Boston University did nothing but reinforce that view as the week went on.

The Long Island native isn’t cut from the mold of steely-eyed killers as you apply them to hockey players (we’re talking Scott Stevens here in terms of the king of steely-eyed killers on the ice), known more as an even-keeled, fun guy to have in the room. He’s a hockey playing surfer, who might have a little more Jeff Spicoli in him than one might think (Aloha, Mr. Hand!) and we don’t mean that in a bad way. However, he backed up his reputation for being all business on the ice by playing an intense, physical, two-way skill game all week. McAvoy put an exclamation point on that with a slobber-knocker of a hit he put on 2015 1st-rounder and Panthers prospect Lawson Crouse, catching the power forward at the USA blue line with his head down and drilling him with a hard but clean hit.

McAvoy is an excellent skater who accelerates quickly in just a few powerful strides that he’s able to generate thanks to a blocky, strong build. He’s not all that tall, but with his wide body and thickness through the torso and lower trunk, McAvoy demonstrated that he’s an A-grade physical player who uses his lower center of gravity to bolster the physical aspect of his game. All of this is all fine and well, because the offensive dimension McAvoy brings to the table is what made him a top-15 selection in the first place.

We’ve knocked him for being at times too aggressive in the way he pushes the pace and gets himself deep into the offensive zone, but pulling back on the reins of said player is easier to do if someone has the natural skill and ability McAvoy does- you can’t coach what he has, and as he matures and refines his game going forward, watch for him to take significant strides offensively. Don’t judge a book by its cover- he might not have a rock-hard physique, but ask Crouse about him, and you can bet he’ll keep his head on a swivel going forward.

One NHL scout had this to say about McAvoy before the draft, and while it might have sounded effusive in its praise then, you can now understand what the veteran talent evaluator was talking about:

“The top defensemen in this draft are hard to separate and McAvoy might end up being the best. He would’ve torn apart the OHL and produced as much as guys like (Mikhail) Sergachev and (Jakob) Chychrun, in my opinion. He’s an NHL athlete and skater; a thick, strong, and powerful kid who has great speed and skating ability. Competitive and passionate about hockey. Can make the first pass and is good offensively off the rush but he’s just average on the PP and lack of height will limit him defensively in the NHL. Doesn’t have Werenski’s size or PP ability from last year.”

If McAvoy can improve his power play skills and production, the sky could be the limit for him.

He’s slated to go back to Boston University for his sophomore season, and it would be surprising to see the Bruins try and sign him now and pull him out of the NCAA (though not impossible, especially after the way he’s performed at Bruins development and the USA evaluation camps). Realistically- he’ll play for the Terriers in 2016-17, but don’t be surprised to see the B’s come calling in the spring and we might even see McAvoy get some NHL games to finish out the year. He’s probably good enough to handle it, but first things first and we’ll see how the season goes.

Here’s a draft weekend video of McAvoy interviewed by Edmonton colleague Tom Gazzolla:

Boston’s other USA defenseman- Ryan Lindgren– didn’t draw the same kind of attention McAvoy did, but the NTDP U18 captain from a season ago stood out to those who watched him and can see how the little things he excels at add up to make a pretty impressive player in his own right.

Like McAvoy, Lindgren isn’t all that tall, and he doesn’t have the same wide build, either. However, he has a knack for lining up guys for kill shots and knowing when to give and take hits to make plays. A competitive little son of a gun, Lindgren earns the respect of coaches for his intensity and how hard he plays. The kicker is his personal discipline; he’s someone who plays right on the edge as a mobile, physical defender who is better than his own end than on offense, but doesn’t cross the line very often and hurt his team with bad penalties.

We got a good, hard look at Lindgren and he plays such a polished, refined defensive game already at age 18. His gap control is excellent and he instinctively understands when to activate at the right times and when to back off. His stick positioning is sound and he’s got real nice skating range and closing ability- this is a guy who is tough to beat wide because he skates so well in all directions, but who can also use his natural speed to jump up into the play and support the rush.

A lot of players talk about being two-way defensemen- Lindgren actually has the skills and head to pull it off.

Factor in that he’s a natural leader who was universally hailed by his teammates and opponents alike as a team captain they would follow anywhere and/or respect as an opponent, and he looks to be a top-four fixture at some point on the left side in Boston when he gets some time in at the University of Minnesota, possibly followed up by a stint in the minors.

NHL Prospects posted this highlight video of Lindgren from a season ago:

It’s hard to resist the urge to start penciling in players like McAvoy and Lindgren into future Boston lineups, but as of right now, rushing the shiny new toys into action is probably not the way the team is looking at things. Lindgren will likely follow a longer timeline to the NHL than McAvoy will, but there is reason for excitement.

That doesn’t help the Bruins in 2016-17, but it also means that the team need not panic and sell the farm to acquire overpriced veteran defenders with a limited return on investment. This pair, when added to some of the other impressive talents like Brandon Carlo, Jakub Zboril, Rob O’Gara, Matt Grzelcyk and Jeremy Lauzon for starters, underscore the optimism and hope for a brighter blue line future.

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Zach Senyshyn, who missed Bruins development camp after recovering from mono, got some limited time in with Canada, but didn’t get much of an opportunity to shine. His time will come, and after a 45-goal campaign with the Soo Greyhounds a year ago, he’s still very much in the mix for a spot with Team Canada in the 2017 World Jr. tourney, but he was not at 100 percent. Given the mediocre showing of the rest of the team, especially against Team USA in the finale, you can bet that the coaches will want to see more of what Senyshyn can do in December, not less.

Trent Frederic was also at camp with Team USA and he’s got some interesting potential, even if he’s still raw and isn’t going to bring much in the way of flash. He’s got good size and will do honest gruntwork to gain and maintain possession. He doesn’t have much in the way of high-end skills, however- and that will always be the rub when fans debate his selection at 29th overall. Simply put- there were more talented options on the board where he was chosen, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will prove to be better players in the long run.

Jeremy Lauzon was also in camp for Canada, and we had limited exposure to him. He’ll likely get lost in the sauce of the excitement surrounding McAvoy for the time being, but watch for Lauzon to be more comfortable and confident at Boston’s main camp in September and he’s primed for another big year of junior hockey before he’ll turn pro and help Providence out if his QMJHL season ends in time to get some AHL work next spring.

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Last but not least-

Sincere condolences on the passing of ESPN analyst John Saunders, who passed away at age 61, the network announced yesterday.

He was very clearly a hockey guy, and I always enjoyed his takes and humble persona whenever he was on the air. ESPN is not a hockey network, so he was one of the few talents that brought much-needed knowledge of and passion for the game whenever he had a chance to talk about the NHL or hockey at other levels.

Saunders will be missed and he got much in the way of respect and acknowledgements yesterday by so many who knew and loved him.