Bruins prospects update 1/30/17: Re-ordering the amateur prospect rankings

We’re one month into the recent publication of the New England Hockey Journal’s annual Boston Bruins prospects ranking- we always do it in January, so we have about half a season to gauge how the kids look before ranking them.

Well, what can we say? There’s already some buyer’s remorse and after conversations with several people we trust and value as professional talent evaluators, we thought we’d take another stab at the B’s top-10 with a fresher perspective. Consider it an alternate take- a sort of Bizarro World version of the published list, with the impact of other ideas and rationales applied to some of the players who rose and fell.

Ultimately, the exercise reminds us all that opinions are varied. No matter how well you might rank order players, you’re never going to achieve 100 percent consensus, and that should not be the goal. You call it like you see it and you either stick to your guns and stand by your convictions or you don’t. At the same time, it is important in a fluid situation such a hockey season, to maintain room to allow your views to evolve.

Continue reading

Bruins prospects update 1/16/17: Senyshyn maintains blistering pace with 5th hat trick

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

Zachary Senyshyn Photo credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Zach Senyshyn couldn’t catch a break. Now, nobody seems to be able to cause him to break stride, as he tallied all three Soo Greyhounds goals in a major 3-2 OT home win against the OHL powerhouse London Knights for his fifth three-goal game (one of those was a 4-goal “Texas hat trick” because everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, you know) of the season.

 

Back in July, Senyshyn wasn’t able to participate in Bruins development camp because he was recovering from a bout with mononucleosis. Then, before the start of rookie camp in September, the team announced that he had undergone an emergency appendectomy and was going to miss the second annual futures mini-tourney in Buffalo.

To top it off, the 15th overall pick in 2015 struggled to score out of the gate, not surprising for someone recovering from an appendectomy, who had also had his offseason conditioning work interrupted by mono. After a mundane October and November, Senyshyn got himself firmly on terra firma in December and hasn’t looked back since, now sitting with 27 goals in 34 games with the Greyhounds. For perspective, in his draft year, he had 26 in 66 contests as a fourth-liner. And that, folks, is what we in these here parts call…progress.

What’s more, this latest three-goal game featured the 19-year-old scoring all of them in different ways- he’s not a one-trick pony. He can blow the puck past a goalie with a wicked shot from the outside, or he can drive the net and put away the garbage. He’s got a nifty backhand that he can use to good effect and Senyshyn has demonstrated repeatedly that he handles the puck well in tight when he doesn’t have a lot of space to operate in. If you aren’t encouraged by the numbers and the breakdown, then you might want to consider renting a room from Mr. Grinch.

(Editor’s note- you can watch highlights of the latest hatty here courtesy of Soo Greyhounds): http://soogreyhounds.com/video/watch-jan-1517-ldn-2-ssm-3-ot

But, but…he didn’t make Team Canada at the World Jrs! Sputter those with agendas to see the young man fail. We don’t know about you, but while watching that tremendous gold medal match between the USA and Canada, we couldn’t help but think that the Canadians sure could have used a 6-3, 200-pound winger who can flat-out fly down the wing and score goals…especially in that 20-minute up-and-down overtime period. We’ll never know, but one has to believe that Hockey Canada can only rue the decision to leave him home. Regardless, anyone who tries to argue that because Canada made a bad choice means the Bruins did too (by drafting Senyshyn ahead of several players who couldn’t get it done at the WJC), only looks more and more foolish as time goes on.

He sits just one marker away from netting 100 goals in his OHL career. In fact, since the B’s drafted him to great fanfare (tongue firmly planted in cheek there), Senyshyn has 72 goals in 100 games with the Greyhounds. If that sounds like pretty good numbers to you, that’s because they are. Tyler Seguin had 69 goals in 124 career OHL games before Boston made him the second overall pick in 2010. Now, we’re not saying that Senyshyn is going to be the star scorer in the NHL that Seguin is, but if you do believe that there is a correlation between two players coming out of the same developmental junior league, then there is reason to believe that Senyshyn will find a way to put the puck in the net at the NHL level.

This is not to say that he’s ready for primetime and will be an immediate impact player at the highest level. It’s too early to be projecting whether Senyshyn will be able to break camp with the Big Bruins next fall. What we do know is that he’ll have to finish his season in the OHL before he does anything else. With the Soo Greyhounds sitting near the top of the league standings, they’re expected to go far in their quest for the 2017 Memorial Cup, which is bad news for B’s fans hoping to see him in Providence at the end of the AHL regular season. Barring an upset, the soonest we can expect to see him either in Boston or on the top farm club is next fall, but for now- enjoy the fireworks.

***

2016 fifth-rounder Cameron Clarke scored his 1st NCAA goal for the Ferris State Bulldogs in 2017. The NAHL’s top defenseman a year ago with the Lone Star Brahmas (in Fort Worth, TX), Clarke is a late-bloomer (he’ll turn 21 and was taken in his final window of draft eligibility) from Michigan who has good height, vision and hands to move pucks effectively. He’s a project pick and will take a while to get there (if he ever does), but thus far, is doing all right in his first taste of NCAA hockey.

 

Statistics as of 1/16/17

Amateur (junior/NCAA) prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 34 27 11 38 23
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 37 21 16 37 54
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 23 15 20 35 8
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 20 9 12 21 16
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 24 6 13 19 16
Ryan Donato, Harvard

 

ECAC- NCAA 16 9 8 17 10
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 18 5 12 17 24
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 12 5 10 15 12

 

Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin

 

Big10- NCAA 18 3 12 15 6
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 19 3 11 14 18
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda

 

QMJHL 15 2 10 12 8
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls

 

USHL 28 6 5 11 28
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St.

 

WCHA- NCAA 24 1 5 6 24
Wiley Sherman, Harvard

 

ECAC-NCAA 16 0 4 4 10
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota

 

Big10- NCAA 17 1 2 3 51

 

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr.* U20- Finland 19 9 17 26 2
Peter Cehlarik, Providence

 

AHL 33 14 10 24 12
Danton Heinen, Providence

 

AHL 27 8 12 20 4
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 39 10 10 20 11

 

Colby Cave, Providence

 

AHL 39 8 12 20 24
Matt Grzelcyk, Providence

 

AHL 33 2 14 16 12
Sean Kuraly, Providence

 

AHL 30 6 8 14 17
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF

 

Sweden- Elite 30 5 7 12 16
Colton Hargrove, Providence

 

AHL 32 4 8 12 33
Anton Blidh, Providence#

 

AHL 21 6 4 10 22
Rob O’Gara, Providence*

 

AHL 26 2 3 5 4
Austin Czarnik, Providence#

 

AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Justin Hickman, Providence

 

AHL 16 2 1 3 15
Chris Casto, Providence

 

AHL 31 0 3 3 28
Noel Acciari, Providence AHL 7 0 2 2 5
Oskar Steen, Farjestad

 

Sweden- Elite 31 1 1 2 4
Linus Arnesson, Providence*

 

AHL 18 0 1 1 4
Brian Ferlin, Providence*

 

AHL 2 0 0 0 0
Zane McIntyre, Providence#

Atlanta

 

AHL

ECHL

12

2

10

0

0

1(1)

1.41

1.99

.951

.931

Dan Vladar, Providence

Atlanta

 

AHL

ECHL

6

5

3

2

0 (3)

2 (1)

2.84

3.58

.914

.889

Malcolm Subban, Providence

 

AHL 17 4 9 (4) 2.96 .905

# Czarnik, Blidh, McIntyre recalled to Boston

*Injured

Tyler Randell, Tommy Cross, Alex Grant > age 25- not liste

Bruins Prospect Update: 01/08/2017- Golden USA- B’s World Jr. recap

If there were any skeptics left wondering if Charlie McAvoy had the stuff to be a top-flight 2-way defenseman in the NHL one day, that train has pretty much left the station after his player of the game and tourney all-star selection in helping lead Team USA to its third gold medal at the World Jr. (Under-20) Championship since 2010.

The 14th overall selection in 2016 scored USA’s first goal of the game, cutting into Canada’s 2-0 lead (the second goal having been scored by fellow future Bruin Jeremy Lauzon). McAvoy was the trailer on the play, taking a pass from BU teammate and Minnesota Wild prospect Jordan Greenway before lasering the shot over Canada goalie Carter Hart’s glove hand.

Continue reading

Podcasting New England Hockey Journal’s Bruins annual prospects review: Amateur list

McAvoy1

TSP did this last year, so bringing it back for the 2017 version of the New England Hockey Journal’s Boston Bruins organizational prospect rankings.

You can read the full article at http://www.hockeyjournal.com; a top-20 is broken into a pair of pro and amateur lists. This podcast covers the non-pro futures, plus the HM 11th player who didn’t get an in-print capsule, but is a very good prospect for the B’s down the road.

Want to know who we’re talking about to the tune of about a 45-minute breakdown? Just click on the audio file to listen…

Frederic1

Trent Frederic was Boston’s 2nd choice, 29th overall, in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft

 

Bruins Prospect Update 12/05/16: Goal eruption

B’s prospects had quite the weekend in the goal scoring department as the calendar entered our final month of 2016.

Friday night was for hat tricks as Zach Senyshyn (4 goals), Jesse Gabrielle (3 goals) and Joona Koppanen (3 goals) all brought the head covers raining down.

Harvard’s Ryan Donato also had multiple goals, while another Ryan- Minnesota freshman defenseman Ryan Lindgren, tallied his first career NCAA goal, finishing off a 2-on-1 with Rem Pitlick in a loss to Ohio State Saturday night.

Additionally, Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen had a two-goal games for Notre Dame and the Providence Bruins (respectively) Friday night, and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson added a goal in BU’s win over Providence College that same evening.

Senyshyn’s Texas hat trick (if “everything” is bigger in the Lone Star State and 4 > 3, ergo- a four-goal game is Texas-sized) came against the Barrie Colts one year to the day that he performed the same feat- December 2, 2015 against the Sudbury Wolves. In this one, Senyshyn accounted for all of the Soo Greyhounds’ goals, tallying in overtime on a nice spin-around to protect the puck, shake the defender and drive right to the net for his 13th marker of the season in 22 games. He’s ba-a-a-a-ck!

***

Going on a bit of a rant, here- so bear with us.

It can be grating that whenever we post a positive update on either one of Anders Bjork or Jesse Gabrielle on Twitter, people seem to constantly respond with concerns about their signing status. Here’s the TSP take: we fail to see what the big que pasa is right now. Yes, we’re going to use that analogy again- FAST FOOD mentality- to describe fans who can’t ever seem to be happy with what is going on and want to overly dissect and analyze everything down to the gnat’s ass, including wanting every contract move and decision resolved in the immediate. Look, we get it- if we weren’t stressing over what the Bruins might or might not do with their sizable stable of futures on Twitter or elsewhere, whatever would we do with ourselves? At some point, you just have to enjoy what is happening and let the pieces fall when the time comes.

Bjork is well on his way to his best season in college? No, we’re afraid he’s going to “pull a Vesey” even though he’s still some 20 months away from August 15, 2018- the absolute earliest date that he could walk away from the Bruins and become a free agent. Gabrielle on another 40+ goal pace for the second consecutive season in the WHL? Dammit, Bruins- why haven’t you signed him already??? Never mind the fact that the B’s drafted six major junior players in 2015 and have successfully signed the first five…Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon. Gabrielle is next, and they have until June 1 to make him a “bona fide” offer to retain his rights. It’s going to get done, folks- he grew up cheering for the Bruins and they’re the team that put their faith in him when everyone else passed until the mid fourth round. If it doesn’t happen and the B’s lose one or the other somehow, then we’ll be totally wrong and you can remind us of this post all you want. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Look- there’s no guarantee that the Bruins will sign both of Bjork and Gabrielle, but there are no indications that it won’t happen either. They’ve got 27 goals between them with room for a lot more, so for now, our advice is to enjoy the fireworks and don’t sweat the small stuff. Rookie salary caps and the like have put an end to the days when Hall of Fame-caliber junior players like Kyle Wanvig could just refuse a team’s offer and fax machine jams could result in them going back into the draft. Yes, the CBA allows for players like Jimmy Vesey and Matt Benning to name a few to become free agents and sign elsewhere, but those experiences are making teams like Boston wise to playing the longer game so that they don’t lose the assets. Again- there is no reason to assume that Bjork is in the same place Vesey was in terms of how he approaches his pro hockey future, so until he actually turns down an offer from the B’s, we should just let it play out for now. There is such a thing as paralysis by analysis, after all.

Or, to coin a popular phrase from the 1980’s, “Frankie says…relax.”

 

Amateur Prospects as of 12/05/16

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 23 16 11 27 32
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 16 11 15 26 8
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 22 13 8 21 15
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 17 6 10 16 10
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 16 5 11 16 22
Ryan Donato, Harvard

 

ECAC- NCAA 11 7 7 14 8
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 14 3 10 13 14
Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin

 

Big10- NCAA 14 2 10 12 6
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 14 1 11 12 14
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda

 

QMJHL 12 2 9 11 6
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin* Big10- NCAA 8 4 6 10 8
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls**

 

USHL 17 2 3 5 28
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St.

 

WCHA- NCAA 16 0 4 4 16
Wiley Sherman, Harvard

 

ECAC-NCAA 11 0 4 4 8
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota

 

Big10- NCAA 14 1 2 3 47

* Injured

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr. U20- Finland 20 12 17 29 2
Peter Cehlarik, Providence

 

AHL 16 8 5 13 6
Danton Heinen, Providence AHL 12 7 5 12 0

 

Matt Grzelcyk, Providence

 

AHL 22 1 10 11 6
Anton Blidh, Providence#

 

AHL 19 5 4 9 22
Colby Cave, Providence

 

AHL 22 3 6 9 11
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 22 3 6 9 11

 

Colton Hargrove, Providence

 

AHL 19 3 5 8 22
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF

 

Sweden- Elite 18 3 4 7 6
Austin Czarnik, Providence#

 

AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Sean Kuraly, Providence

 

AHL 13 1 2 3 11
Rob O’Gara, Providence

 

AHL 17 0 2 2 2
Chris Casto, Providence

 

AHL 19 0 2 2 20
Oskar Steen, Farjestad

 

Sweden- Elite 19 1 1 2 2
Linus Arnesson, Providence

 

AHL 18 0 1 1 4
Brian Ferlin, Providence

 

AHL 1 0 0 0 0
Justin Hickman, Providence

 

AHL 7 0 0 0 7
Zane McIntyre, Providence

 

AHL 5 3 0 0.93 .965
Dan Vladar, Providence

 

AHL 6 3 0 (3) 2.84 .914
Malcolm Subban, Providence

 

AHL 11 1 6 (5) 3.12 .897

# Czarnik, Blidh recalled to Boston

Tyler Randell, Tommy Cross, Alex Grant > age 25- not listed

Bruins prospect update 11/28/16: Senyshyn back on track

It was a tough start offensively for the third of Boston’s 2015 first-round draft picks, a season after putting up 45 goals for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, but a productive November has right wing Zach Senyshyn back up near the top of the B’s prospects scoring list.

The Nepean, Ont. Native has the size, speed and hands to do a lot of scoring damage, especially off the rush. The 19-year-old has NHL-caliber burst and open-ice speed, often blowing by flat-footed defenders to drive straight to the net and find the twine with a lightning release and close-in finishing ability. He’s got nine goals in 20 games- a respectable if not career-best scoring pace, but the season is still young, and Senyshyn has helped his Greyhounds to a share of 1st place with the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL’s West Division.

Senyshyn had a tough summer, missing the July prospects development camp due to a bout with mononucleosis, and then went through an emergency appendectomy a couple of weeks before the start of rookie camp in Boston, missing the prospects tournament in Buffalo. Although he was able to attend the B’s veteran camp, he was still on the mend and went back down to junior in pretty short order.

Although the fast foodies out there demanded instant success and gratification with his offensive statistics regardless of the health-related setbacks, reality had a different plan in mind and it took Senyshyn some time to get himself into gear. He’s playing a more consistent and dangerous game these days, exploiting defenses with his speed and offensive hockey sense. Obviously, you don’t want to completely dismiss some of the early concerns associated with the lack of scoring, but the reality of the situation is that Senyshyn is too talented to be held in check for long. Whether that translates into the kind of production that certain self-important segments of the punditry and fan castes deem worthy of a player of his draft position remains to be seen (and to be frank- is completely beside the point).

Senyshyn is still addressing his all-around game and demonstrating more of a willingness to go and get pucks himself and provide defensive zone support. He’s a pretty proven commodity on offense, but in order to thrive in Boston, the 15th overall pick will have to assert himself more and that’s been a benefit of going back to the OHL for one more season. The offense is starting to click for him, but the real measure of Senyshyn’s development and progress are the little things that don’t manifest themselves on the offensive side of the ledger.

So far, so good. (And, Senyshyn avoided an automatic two-game suspension last week after getting a match penalty for slew-footing…The Greyhounds successfully got the ban overturned on appeal.)

***

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and center Colby Cave have impressed down in Providence in recent weeks.

Although the offense has been fleeting and the Baby Bruins are a rollercoaster adventure this season under first-year head coach Kevin Dean, things are starting to come together more consistently on both sides of the puck.

Grzelcyk is second in scoring by defensemen (Alex Grant’s 5 goals and 12 points in 16 games paces Providence) and is demonstrating confidence with and without the puck, especially over the past two weeks. The former Boston University captain and third-round pick by the Bruins in 2012 is using his speed, head and hands to boost the transition game and is improving his positional play while not getting too far out of the box on his own physical limitations.

As Claude Julien has stated many times before, with undersized defenders playing ‘smart’ hockey is key- there are just certain situations and matchups coaches will avoid when they can, but guys like Grzelcyk come equipped to overcome the size and strength deficit.

In the early going, his stick positioning and gap control has been capable for a first-year pro. He’s filling lanes and showing a willingness to sacrifice his body to get in front of shots. When the Charlestown native gets the puck on his stick, he’s moving with his head up and can rapidly process and move the play to the right spot on the ice.

Cave, who is in his second full AHL season, is just a solid two-way center who brings versatility and opportunistic play to the mix. The undrafted free agent out of the WHL captained the Swift Current Broncos and was an effective player who could round out a bottom line in the NHL eventually. Despite the pretty average size, Cave could be a serviceable third-liner at some point, but he’s more of a projection as a fourth-liner and penalty killer who is a disruptive presence on the fore check and stands out for his effort, energy and opportunistic offense. We’re not big fans of making player comparisons, but there are some similarities to Dominic Moore, especially if he can raise his faceoffs to the next level.

These are two players to keep an eye on going forward; their effort levels and production of late could be rewarded with NHL time if Boston’s depth is tested yet again.

Amateur Prospects as of 11/28/16

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 14 9 14 23 4
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 20 12 10 22 24
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 20 9 8 17 15
Jakub Zboril, Saint John* QMJHL 16 6 10 16 10
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 16 5 11 16 22
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 12 2 10 12 10
Ryan Donato, Harvard ECAC- NCAA 9 5 6 11 8
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin** Big10- NCAA 8 4 6 10 8
Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 12 2 8 10 6
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 12 1 9 10 6
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL 9 2 6 8 2
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls** USHL 15 2 3 5 26
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St. WCHA- NCAA 14 0 4 4 14
Wiley Sherman, Harvard ECAC-NCAA 9 0 3 3 8
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota Big10- NCAA 12 0 1 1 26

* Suspended 5 games for hit to head of opponent

** Injured

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr. U20- Finland 19 9 17 26 2
Peter Cehlarik, Providence AHL 16 8 6 14 6
Anton Blidh, Providence AHL 19 5 4 9 22
Matt Grzelcyk, Providence AHL 19 1 8 9 4
Danton Heinen, Providence AHL 9 5 3 8 0
Colby Cave, Providence AHL 19 3 5 8 11
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF Sweden- Elite 18 3 4 7 6
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 19 3 4 7 6
Colton Hargrove, Providence AHL 16 3 3 6 18
Austin Czarnik, Providence# AHL 2 1 2 3 0
Sean Kuraly, Providence AHL 10 0 2 2 9
Rob O’Gara, Providence AHL 14 0 2 2 2
Chris Casto, Providence AHL 16 0 1 1 18
Linus Arnesson, Providence AHL 16 0 1 1 4
Oskar Steen, Farjestad Sweden- Elite 19 1 1 0 2
Brian Ferlin, Providence AHL 1 0 0 0 0
Justin Hickman, Providence AHL 4 0 0 0 5
Zane McIntyre, Atlanta ECHL 1 0 1 0.93 .973
Dan Vladar, Providence AHL 6 3 0 (3) 2.84 .914
Malcolm Subban, Providence AHL 10 1 6 (4) 3.15 .895

# Czarnik recalled to Boston

Tyler Randell, Tommy Cross, Alex Grant > age 25- not listed

A look at the 10th Boston Bruins development camp Pt 1: the G and D

Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney didn’t invent the idea of bringing young prospects in during July to acclimate them to the team’s systems, culture and begin the bonding process with their peers inside the organization, but he is the father of the development camp tradition in Boston, which began in the summer of 2007.

As the team’s top player development guru at the time, Sweeney’s vision has matured in the near-decade since the B’s brought in top picks Zach Hamill (ouch) and Tommy Cross, to mix in with the other prospects, five of whom went on to have fine NHL success and were a part of the 2011 Stanley Cup championship squad- David KrejciMilan Lucic and Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask. Here’s an old archive of that very first prospects camp, written by John Bishop– the recap provides a fascinating glimpse into the future at a time when so much was exciting and  new, including head coach Claude Julien.

10 years later, Cross is still with the organization and Marchand is coming off of his best NHL season to date, lighting the lamp 36 times for the Bruins and lining himself up for a lucrative extension that should see him earn about $6 million on an average annual value if the team can get something done with him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July 1. Krejci moved into the B’s all-time top-20 scorers this past season, and enters the new campaign in striking distance of 500 career points (he sits at 472). Krejci turned 30 in late April and there are concerns that his slight frame could be breaking down after the wear and tear he’s been subjected to since breaking into the NHL on a full-time basis midway through the 2007-08 season. A fourth member of that inaugural development camp- McQuaid- is another member of the championship team and has managed to carve out a solid NHL career with the Bruins after the team acquired him from Columbus (he was a second-round choice in 2005) before the 2007 draft for a fifth-round pick. Rask, who interestingly enough was outplayed by Kevin Regan in the final inaugural camp scrimmage, went on to earn the 2014 Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top netminder and backstopped the B’s to the 2013 Stanley Cup final series after backing up Tim Thomas in 2011. That Rask gave up 7 goals on just 29 shots while Regan stood tall at the other end should serve as a reminder to everyone not to get too fixated on what happens during camp scrimmages.

Boston is middle of the pack when it comes to developing prospects, and in looking back on it, that very first development camp was the high-water mark for the B’s organization with five successful (impactful to Boston) graduates taking part. That number goes up if you include those camp participants who went on to see NHL success elsewhere (Vladimir Sobotka) or big league action at some point in their careers, some more than others (Matt Hunwick, Byron Bitz, Matt Lashoff, Martins Karsums, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Mikko Lehtonen, Hamill, Cross). When you consider that Lashoff and Karsums (and Bitz) were dealt for future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi and the pick that brought Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski to the Bruins, it was a pretty impressive time for the B’s organization and foreshadowed that the team was on its way up, just four years from climbing to the summit of the NHL after being mired in the cellar.

Since 2007, development camp production has been a little more spotty- Joe Colborne, Mike Hutchinson, Jordan Caron, Tyler Randell, Tyler Seguin, Ryan Spooner, Craig Cunningham, Zach Trotman, Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Khokhlachev, Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, Seth Griffith, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano are all past Bruins prospects and camp attendees (2008-15) who saw NHL action in the 2015-16 season. There are more if you include players like Josh Jooris (Calgary) and Matt Read (Philadelphia) to name two, both of whom attended past Bruins camps as undrafted NCAA invites.

It is not lost on myriad fans that two of the most skilled and impactful players from that list- Seguin and Hamilton- are now skating and producing for the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames. Krug, Pastrnak and Spooner are the biggest success stories as home grown players who all saw time in at least one summer development camp. Vatrano and Acciari might not be too far behind in terms of growing into regular contributors to Boston’s fortunes.

Since 2014, when the B’s drafted Pastrnak late in the first round and then saw him earn an NHL role at the tender age of 18, the draft process has looked up for the team and there is reason to look at some of the futures with more optimism than in the past.

Much has happened in the decade since Peter Chiarelli and Sweeney brought their first iteration of prospects to Wilmington, Mass. and not all of it good. However, that’s life- a series of ups and downs. The B’s lost their way during a critical period of unproductive drafts (2007-09) and then moved out some of their top young talent for nowhere near enough in return. The jury is still out on Dougie Hamilton, who turned into three promising picks in Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon (the first two of the trio will not be in attendance due to health and schedule conflicts).

While development camps are helpful to assisting the youngsters in preparing for the challenges that lie ahead as they transition from the amateur to pro ranks, they are not predictors of future NHL success. That remains largely up to the players themselves to beat out those ahead of them on the depth chart, or become footnotes in camp history the way T.J. Trevelyan, Levi Nelson, Chris Collins, Dennis Reul and Brock Bradford (among others) did from 2007.

2016 Boston Bruins development camp attendees at a glance (2015-16 club in parentheses)

The goaltenders:

Stephen Dhillon (Niagara- OHL): The lone invite this year as a player not drafted by Boston or under contract (he attended Detroit’s prospects camp this week, btw), the dual citizen from the Buffalo area is big, toolsy and was at one point projected as a top-90 pick in the 2016 NHL draft. He didn’t get much playing time and is still pretty raw, but might earn an NHL contract offer this summer if he can impress in his various tryouts. If not signed by the start of the new season, he’ll go back into the 2017 NHL draft.

Zane McIntyre (Providence- AHL): This is the former University of North Dakota star’s seventh Bruins development camp since he was drafted in 2010. After winning the 2015 Mike Richter award as the NCAA’s top netminder and finishing third in Hobey Baker voting as the top college player (behind Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey), McIntyre had a challenging transition to pro hockey. He was thrown into the fire early when Subban suffered a training camp injury and at times, McIntyre flashed the promise of a future NHL starter. He’s coachable and driven, so he’s going back to work on fundamentals and watch for him to bounce back in his second AHL campaign. Here’s a report on his Richter Award:

Malcolm Subban (Providence-AHL): Subban did not attend a year ago, but after suffering a fractured larynx during warmups in late January, he missed the rest of the season. This is an opportunity to help him get back into playing shape so that he’s not going into September training camp to face NHL shooters about 9 months after his injury. It’s more about helping him with his confidence and timing than anything else, and will give the Boston coaches additional time to help refine his technique.

Here’s his 2012 draft video from the YouTube :

 

Daniel Vladar (Chicago- USHL): The massive (6-5) Czech butterfly goalie and third-rounder in 2015 had a strong first North American season playing Jr. A hockey while splitting the Steel’s goaltending duties nearly down the middle. He’s so big and athletic that “Darth” Vladar is tough to beat on the first shot, but he’s got work to do with his technique (sensing a trend here?). At times, he appears slow to read the play and seems to be guessing about where the shot is coming from, so this is something B’s goalie coach Bob Essensa will likely work on with him. When on his game, Vladar is like a giant octopus who swallows pucks and impresses with his size and agility. He signed a three-year ELC last spring, so it remains to be seen whether he will play pro hockey in the AHL or ECHL (or Europe) or try to work a loophole that might allow him to skirt the CHL’s ban on import goalies to play in the QMJHL. We’ll see.More draft on Vladar from USHL:

Vladar highlights from 2015 Bruins development camp courtesy of “Power Play with CJ”:

The defensemen:

Brandon Carlo (Tri-City- WHL/Providence- AHL): Colorado native is already a fan favorite after being drafted 37th overall in 2015 as a big (6-5), fluid-skating shutdown defenseman. As a late-born 1996 who has already signed with Boston, Carlo is eligible to play the full year in Providence of the AHL if he doesn’t make the NHL Bruins out of camp. He’s a solid bet to play for Boston at some point this season, just because of his impressive pro hockey attributes and a mature outlook. He’s very difficult to beat 1-on-1 because of his mobility and reach, and while rugged in his style, isn’t an overly nasty or intimidating player. He’s still a little on the light side given how tall he is, but John Whitesides will get him NHL-ready real soon. Whether Carlo can evolve into a legitimate two-way threat at the NHL level or he becomes a solid, minute-eating defensive mainstay is the question we most want to see answered…all in due time. Here’s a nice draft profile on him from the Tri-City Americans:

And an isolation video of Carlo from the 2015 WJC (HockeyPwns):

Cameron Clarke (Lone Star- NAHL): The NAHL’s top defenseman and Ferris State recruit racked up 50 points this season for the Brahmas. He’s got an athletic 6-foot-2 frame with room to pack on some muscle to be able to handle the more rugged play at the higher levels. Although raw, Clarke is a heady, creative defender who skates with fluidity and can make all of the requisite passes in a rapid transition attack. He’s especially effective on the power play, where he uses his deft puck skills and lateral agility to create space and set up the play. He doesn’t have an overpowering shot yet, but is smart about when to use it and will strike when the shooting lanes are there. Clarke is more dangerous as a set-up man, where he quarterbacks the play with the man advantage and also uses his mobility and reach to deny opponents from gaining the edge and attacking with speed.

Matt Grzelcyk (Boston University- NCAA): TSP just published a comprehensive Q & A on the former Terriers captain and native Townie, but to quickly recap- he’s coming off of two significant lower body injuries that hindered him in his senior season. Even with the wonky knees, he still managed to match a career-best in goals with 10 and when healthy, plays an effective transition game with an improving defensive mindset. Don’t count him out in his quest to earn NHL playing time this season, though he’s realistic in what lies ahead and is prepared to do an apprenticeship in the minors first. Here’s a BU-produced video from his freshman season:

Grzelcyk given too much time/space at the 2015 Beanpot in OT:

His draft video from USA Hockey (and you just might recognize the voice on that 1st question):

Emil Johansson (HV71- Sweden): The 2014 seventh-rounder is a mobile, two-way defender who raised eyebrows late in the season and Swedish pro league playoffs when his offense came alive (3 goals, 5 points in 6 playoff contests). He’s got pretty average size with a 6-0, 190-pound frame, but skates well and is showing off some intriguing puck skills and potential. The hockey IQ/vision/creativity is a question mark at this stage, but since being drafted, the all-around game is progressing. He will skate for Djurgårdens IF next season and if he can keep his developmental curve headed up, Johansson might prove to be a late-round get worth signing and putting into the system. If you can speak Swedish, here’s a HV71 video interview from early in 2014-15 (nice footwork in the limited look):

Jeremy Lauzon (Rouyn-Noranda- QMJHL): For TSP’s money, the 52nd overall pick in 2015 with the third of three draft choices Calgary gave up for Hamilton, was one of that draft’s more impressive values. Even with a spate of injuries throughout the season, which included a scary skate blade cut to the neck during the ‘Q’ playoffs, Lauzon put up career numbers as the Huskies’ go-to defender and bell cow in all situations. He’s big enough at 6-2, skilled enough- he was one of the final cuts on Team Canada’s WJC squad after not even being a summer camp and December invite- and he plays a solid 200-foot game as a smart positional player with some bite. Bruins fans will grow to love him, even if he may or may not project as a high-end true No. 1 defender. If he hits on that potential however, it would go a long way towards silencing the unhappiness surrounding the trade with Calgary. He’s probably at least three years away, but if his progress is any indication, Lauzon will be worth the wait.  Have posted this before, but John Moore’s early 2014-15 profile is quite good:

Ryan Lindgren (U.S. NTDP Under-18- USHL): The Team USA captain and two-way rearguard was a great get at 49th overall in Buffalo. He’s similar to Lauzon in that he has no discernible flaws in his game and has a promising offensive upside that may not have been that appreciated by NHL scouts in his draft season. Though not all that tall at a little under 6-1, Lindgren is thick through the torso and has strong lower leg drive, which allows him to generate impressive skating speed and separate opponents from the puck. He’s so smart and instinctive- he pinches at the right times and understands his limitations. Lindgren will help you a lot, but he rarely hurts you.  The University of Minnesota-bound 18-year-old has high-end character and will do a little bit of everything, including playing with an edge that has caught some opponents unawares. Had he been 6-2 or 6-3, Lindgren would have been a first-round pick, but don’t sell him short as a player who could be more than the sum of his parts as a versatile defender who minus the size and reach, has the key attributes NHL clubs covet.  Here are some Lindgren U18 highlights (bigwhite06):

Draft video courtesy of the USHL:

Charlie McAvoy (Boston University- NCAA): Boston’s top pick at 14 is generating a lot of buzz headed into camp and rightfully so. You can read more about him here, but the common thread for the youngest skater in college hockey last season is that he has both the skill and personality to be a fan favorite in the NHL if he hits on his potential. An excellent skater who likes to take the puck and run with it, McAvoy’s defensive game and awareness steadily improved over the course of the season. He still needs to work on his decision-making and not getting too aggressive, but with the B’s making a conscious effort to add speed and skill to their transition game, McAvoy immediately rises to the top of the organization’s prospect depth chart for the position, and is up there with 45-goal scorer Zach Senyshyn in terms of projected NHL impact one day. McAvoy will be the focus of development camp, and rightfully so- he’s earned that, and some NHL scouts have said that he is on the verge of a major breakout at BU in 2016-17. A pro contract with Boston might not be that far behind. Watch his selection on YouTube:

Wiley Sherman (Harvard University- NCAA): At about 6-7, Sherman is the tallest Bruins prospect, and he brings surprising agility and footwork for one so enormous. He’s still filling out that imposing frame and could tip the scales north of 240 pounds when all is said and done. The 2013 fifth-rounder is coming off of a solid sophomore season at Harvard, where he benefited from an expanded role with the Crimson under Ted Donato and showed off some intriguing flashes of two-way play. With his long reach and skating, he’s difficult to beat off the rush, but Sherman needs to make faster decisions in the face of a tenacious forecheck. The former Hotchkiss Bearcat was always going to be a long-term project, but you can see a payoff down the road as a lower-pairing defense-minded player who could form a nice tandem with a more skilled offensive partner. With the size you simply can’t teach, there’s enough raw material with the Connecticut native to wait for.

Jakub Zboril (Saint John- QMJHL): Boston’s top choice in 2015 has a nice opportunity to demonstrate that some of the concerns about him after taking a step backwards offensively are unwarranted. On the plus side- the 19-year-old Czech is big, skates well and plays with a physical edge that is not typical of many European teens that come over to North America. He showed more two-way promise in his draft season, but did settle into a more defensive role this year before coming out of the shell to impress with some key playoff production. The big knock TSP has on Zboril is not unique to 2015-16, however- too often, the effort and compete aren’t where they need to be. This is not a matter of trying to downplay his potential, and before pointing out his youth, the road to the NHL is paved with similar impressive talents who for whatever reason, simply did not have the requisite personal discipline and dedication to live up to where their talent got them drafted. With his skating, passing, shot and physicality, Zboril still has top-two NHL defense potential. He’s at a key personal crossroads this season: he’ll have to start showing everyone that he’s capable of more consistent execution and effort in all three zones and is willing to put in the work to round out the parts of his game that aren’t NHL-quality yet. If he can do that, there’s reason to believe that Zboril will succeed, but he was the 13th overall selection for a reason- he needs to start putting it together. As a 1997-born prospect, he cannot play in the AHL for Providence this season if he doesn’t make the NHL roster out of camp. Another John Moore profile from Zboril’s draft season:

Highlights package from the HockeyVidz:


Rob O’Gara is not in attendance- he has “graduated” and will focus on making the Boston Bruins roster in the fall after finishing a four-year NCAA career at Yale. TSP has a more in-depth profile on the Long Island native coming this week, so if you’re disappointed that he won’t be there, we’ve got you covered.

But before that- coming soon- TSP will break down all of the forwards at Bruins development camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TSP founder on Days of Y’Orr podcast- B’s prospects, 2016 draft

Greg Ezell and Bree Mellen hosted the Days of Y’Orr “Optional Skate” show- that award-winning Boston Bruins blog’s  flagship podcast.

We were on for about an hour and focused on myriad topics- a recap of Boston’s 1st 4 picks last June: Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn and Brandon Carlo. Against my better judgment, we also went down the road of Alex Khokhlachev…I just call it like I see it with Koko, and try to be as fair in my assessment as possible. We also talked goalies- Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban and Daniel Vladar.

When we transitioned to the 2016 draft- talked Dante Fabbro and Charlie McAvoy, plus Kieffer Bellows and a few others like Markus Niemelainen. Erie Otters 50-goal man and mighty mite Alex DeBrincat also gets some love because he’s just a pure shooter with killer instinct despite being only 5-7, and I close out with some capology talk and why the Winnipeg Jets are going to be making some real noise in the next few years.

Besides, any time I can make a Warrant “Cherry Pie” reference, it’s a good day on radio- give us that No. 1 single, Bruins!

Thanks again to the DOY gang for having me on!

Bruins prospects in their draft years 2013-15

Back with part two of the look at Bruins prospects and how they were projected in their draft seasons by Red Line Report.

In case you missed it, I did this exercise with the 2015-16 NHL Bruins roster here...and part 1- the 2010-12 NHL drafts and B’s prospects and free agents in those draft years are covered here.

And…we’re off:

2013

Ryan Fitzgerald, C Drafted: 120 (4th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 52                    Key comment: “Not big but we like the high hockey IQ and bloodlines.”

Observations: RLR rated him high in 2013, and that might have reflected his standing in the first half of the season with the USPHL’s Valley Jr. Warriors, as he had a downward trend heading into the draft. The nephew of Bruins assistant amateur scouting director Scott Fitzgerald is a gritty, feisty if undersized pivot for Boston College, who is coming off his finest NCAA year as a junior. In similar fashion to Seth Griffith, Fitzgerald’s major knocks are a lack of size and dynamic speed for his stature, but he has terrific hockey sense and a nonstop motor. You have to like his bloodlines- dad Tom Fitzgerald played more than 1,000 games and is Ray Shero’s assistant GM with the New Jersey Devils. Ryan grew up around the game and knows what it takes to be a pro. The Fitzgeralds are hockey royalty in New England, so it looks like the 2013 fourth-rounder will go back to BC for his senior year and then sign in spring 2017 when his eligibility is exhausted.

 

Linus Arnesson, D Drafted: 59  (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 75                       Key comment: “As B.B. King would say- ‘the thrill is gone.'”

Observations: A late 1994-born player, Arnesson likely would have been taken in the late first/early second in 2012, but another year of viewing moved him down in the rankings over a lack of offensive potential. With his size and skating, Arnesson at one time looked like a potential top-2 NHL defenseman who might have some power play chops at the highest level, but as scouts got a longer look at him in an extra 2012-13 campaign, it became more evident that the steady Swede was more of a “safe” and unspectacular positional defensive defenseman than one who joins the rush and has the hands and head to be a presence on the score sheet. The good news for the Bruins is that they didn’t draft Arnesson in the late first round, so getting him at the end of the second was decent value for them. He showed promise at the end of 2014-15, when he came over to finish the season in Providence, but this past year- his first full AHL campaign was a bit of a bust as he battled nagging injuries and rollercoaster play. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a future in the Bruins organization, and as a guy who plays a vanilla game, he could earn a recall at some point if the team needs a solid defensive presence. Having said that, he looks like something the B’s already have in abundance: a 4/5/6 player who provides okay depth but best case would be an unheralded second pairing D who puts up at best 15-20 points a season but works well with a more offense-minded partner. The old adage on defense in hockey says that if a player is doing his job well, you don’t notice him. That appears to be the case with Arnesson, but the Bruins were hoping for more than that when they took him with their top choice three years ago (after giving up their first-rounder to Dallas for Jaromir Jagr).

 

Peter Cehlarik, LW Drafted: 89  (3rd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 111                         Key comment: “Tall & lanky with great hands but feet betray him.”

Observations: This late riser ended up generating some draft buzz and is still an intriguing if oft-forgotten man when it comes to prospect discussions. The Slovak, who has spent the past three seasons playing in Sweden, is a top-six NHL forward dark horse kind of prospect, but he’s also one of those guys who is tough to peg because if he doesn’t make it as a scorer, it’s hard to envision him playing a heavy and responsible enough game to succeed on the third or fourth lines in Boston. His initial first steps are a bit clunky, though with a long, efficient stride, he can work well in open space with good straight line speed. Cehlarik improved his skating from when he was first drafted, but it will never be a strength. He has a quick release that allows him to score goals off the rush- an-instride drive that sometimes handcuffs goalies. He’ll also take the puck in close and shows some pretty fine dangle in getting net minders to open up and commit. Don Sweeney once described the puck coming off his stick as a “slingshot”to me, so there’s that.

 

Wiley Sherman, D   Drafted: 150  (5th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 125                 Key comment: “Getting around him is like circumnavigating the globe.”

Observations: Drafted as an identified project, Sherman is similar to O’Gara in that he has a lot of developing to do. The Greenwich, Conn. native is more of a gentle giant at 6-foot-6, but with his wingspan and long reach, along with pretty agile footwork for one so big, he’s tough to beat 1-on-1. He’s not a physical force but is more of a smart positional defender who angles opponents away from his net and sacrifices his body to block shots rather than look for open-ice kill shots and hammering players along the boards. When Sherman has time and space, he’s capable of moving the puck out of his own end, but when the game closes in on him quickly, his processing time lengthens and he can be forced into turning it over. Drafted out of Hotchkiss School, he took an extra year of prep before getting to Harvard, so he’s still pretty raw and will likely take the full two years remaining on his NCAA eligibility before the B’s will assess whether to bring him into the organizational fold.

 

Anton Blidh, LW      Drafted: 180  (6th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: Not ranked

Observations: One RLR European staffer summed up Blidh succinctly in Newark after the pick was made: “Gritty rugged guy, but no skills.” I’ll admit- have not really seen much to this player in the three years since he was drafted, even when he had a nice 2015 World Jr. tourney for Team Sweden. He’s gritty and rugged, but plays a very simple, straight-line game. It’s a nice fit for what the Bruins like, but Blidh is a dime-a-dozen kind of guy and it stands to reason given where they selected him. He’s not someone who is going to suddenly wake up and start lighting it up, but the team could do a lot worse than Blidh on the fourth line or in a pinch. In other words- as long as you take him for what he is, there’s no reason to get excited.

 

2014

Ryan Donato, C                        Drafted: 56  (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 65               Key comment: “Great bloodlines and hockey sense with soft hands.”

Observations: The B’s grabbed the son of one of their hometown favorites and the pick looks solid two years later. Coming out of his freshman year at Harvard under dad, Ted, the younger Donato also earned a Bronze medal at the 2016 WJC with Team USA. He’s always been a heady, creative playmaking center who is bigger than his dad but doesn’t have the blazing wheels. With the Crimson, Donato showed signs of being on track to be a dominant NCAA scorer in the next couple of years. The B’s can afford to be patient with him and they will- there is no reason to rush him to the big show.

 

Danton Heinen, LW/RW           Drafted: 116 (4th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: Not ranked

Observations: Nobody (outside of the NHL clubs on him) hit on Heinen…not one scouting service had him even ranked, and RLR was no exception. Two years later, Heinen scored nearly 100 points, making an immediate impact as a freshman and then following it up as a sophomore, leading the Pioneers in scoring after a slow start. He signed with Boston in April, giving up his last two years of NCAA eligibility to turn pro. Heinen made positive waves in his first AHL contest with Providence, registering a multi-point effort. He came down to earth a bit in the playoffs, but the British Columbia native looks like an intriguing playmaking wing, who uses his superior vision and creativity to control the flow and tempo in the offensive zone. He looks like a keeper. As for the questions surrounding Heinen and whether he can make the Boston roster right away, it probably wouldn’t kill folks to exert a little more patience and let him at least start in Providence to see how he adjusts to the pro challenges. He’s a talented forward with an intriguing ceiling if he continues his development, but let’s see how Heinen looks at his first pro training camp before penciling him into the Boston opening night lineup.

 

Anders Bjork,  RW      Drafted: 146 (5th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 178               Key comment: “Has the skating and the work ethic to make it as a checker.”

Observations: This late-round value pick is coming off a very good sophomore campaign at Notre Dame. He’s quick out of the starting blocks, accelerating quickly and demonstrating a nice short-area burst, which makes him highly effective on the fore check. He’s an energetic player and relentless in puck pursuit, but with the Fighting Irish this season, Bjork showed surprisingly consistent offensive flair, leading the club in scoring. He’ll need to keep putting up the points to project as something more than an ideal third-line forward, so expect him to come down to earth a bit next season, but he certainly looks like a nice value pick in the fifth round for the B’s because of his well-rounded game and smarts.

 

Emil Johansson, D      Drafted: 206 (7th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: Not ranked

Observations: A lack of hockey sense had him off of RLR’s list, but Johansson had a strong finish to the 2015-16 season that might earn him more of a hard look going forward. He’s got a bit of a doughy build and has been knocked for his conditioning in the past. Johansson is a capable skater who moves well laterally, and handles the puck with confidence. When it comes to vision and hockey IQ, we’re not all that sure if he’s got what it takes between the ears to play at the NHL level, but admittedly- he’s made a case to at least be in the conversation. It appears he is leaving his HV71 club for MoDo, so we’ll see what comes next in his development.

 

Colby Cave, C         Drafted: Undrafted (Free Agent- Boston 2015)

Red Line ranking: 85                  Key comment: “Complete centre is versatile- can excel in any role.”

Observations: Ranked in both 2013 and 2014 RLR draft guides, he’s an industrious two-way center that impressed in Swift Current with 2015 first-rounder Jake DeBrusk before getting signed by Boston before the team made his teammate one of three top-15 picks in Sunrise. He skates well and like Bjork shows some real energy and tenacity when pressuring the opposing puck carrier coming out of the zone. He didn’t put up big numbers in Providence, but had his moments and looks like he could challenge for lower line duty in Boston if he keeps progressing.

 

2015

Jakub Zboril, D         Drafted: 13 (1st round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 26                  Key comment: “Intense, and a physical specimen with a cannon shot.”

Observations: The Bruins missed out on an impressive top tier of defenders in the top-10, instead settling for arguably the next best player in Zboril, at least in terms of talent. Ability-wise, there is no doubt the Czech product could be a top-3 defenseman in the NHL one day, but the consistency and effort levels were at times lacking in his draft season. He took a step back statistically this past year, struggling at the beginning of the season before settling into a more defense-oriented role for Danny Flynn’s Saint John Sea Dogs. Zboril plays with a physical edge and when on his game, he’s as good as anyone, but the wavering intensity and at times nonchalance has led to questions about his commitment. We’ll see if he can mature and figure it out, but there’s a reason he wasn’t a top-10 pick a year ago, and Zboril didn’t help himself a great deal last season. This time around, a bounce-back campaign would be nice, but because he’s a 1997-born player, he either has to make the Boston roster out of camp or go back to the QMJHL. That has led to speculation that he might take his game to Europe in 2016-17.

 

Jake DeBrusk, LW        Drafted: 14 (1st round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 25                  Key comment: “42 goals and NHL bloodlines will attract attention.”

Observations: The son of former NHL enforcer Lou DeBrusk, the Red Deer Rebels forward finished strong with an excellent WHL playoffs and Memorial Cup tournament after a tough year offensively. Dogged by a significant lower-body injury early on, DeBrusk was then traded by Swift Current to the Memorial Cup host city club in late December, where he appeared to be getting his production on track before getting moved around various lines and scoring at a little over a point-per-game clip. It was a step down after scoring 42 goals a year ago, but DeBrusk is still a smart winger with impressive offensive hockey sense, and he showed some opportunistic offense with the spotlight on him in the Memorial Cup last month. As a late 1996-born player, the Bruins have options: he is signed and can spend the next season in Providence, or they can return DeBrusk to the WHL for his overage season. He’s a good kid who has been unfairly maligned because of where he was drafted and the fact that most public scouting lists had him in the 20’s, but he went about 10 spots earlier. Still- 42 goals is 42 goals- watch for DeBrusk to elevate his stock because he’s got the skill, smarts and dedication to be more than the sum of his parts. He’s got to get stronger, which could factor into a decision to send him back to junior, and his skating isn’t subpar, but he could stand to add some quickness in his first few steps. He compensates at this level by reading the play so well and bursting to pucks in open ice, but that will be tougher to do in the pro ranks with the reduced time and space.

 

Zach Senyshyn, RW        Drafted: 15 (1st round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 46                  Key comment: “Love his combination of size, skating and edginess.”

Observations: The first big surprise off the draft board in 2015 sparked an immediate wave of negativity from many who had never even seen him play. At 6-2, he can really skate, rapidly exploding to top speed in just a few long strides, and often times blowing by defenders on the outside and taking pucks straight to the net. He went from 26 to 45 goals from his draft season, but there is still significant room for improvement in Senyshyn’s game, and folks should not see failure if he is returned to junior before the next season. Though an impressive physical specimen, Senyshyn still needs to develop a more complete game and avoid the tendency for younger scoring forwards to hang out and wait for their next offensive chance. The payoff on this player could be big so long as people are patient, because he has the natural NHL tools to be a top-six forward one day, but some guys take longer than others, and the B’s can afford to wait a little. Like Zboril, Senyshyn can’t play full-time in the AHL next season if he doesn’t make the Boston roster out of camp.

 

Brandon Carlo, D                     Drafted: 37 (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 41                   Key comment: “Huge with improving puck/skating skating skills. Big upside.”

Observations: The gigantic Colorado product is already a fan favorite and he has all the makings of a dominant shutdown defender who can at some point help get the Boston blue line group pointed in the right direction. Like DeBrusk, Carlo can play for Providence next season, but it might all be moot, as this huge, mobile defender might just break camp and enter the season on Boston’s roster. Not to put a lot of pressure on the Tri-City Americans rearguard, but he’s talented enough to play right away. The big question is whether the Bruins will opt to let him play a bigger role in the AHL before making a decision. Either way, we’re pretty much looking at a player who looks like as solid a bet as any to play in the NHL. The question we’re left with is what kind of impact Carlo will have: on the positive side- he can really skate for a 6-5 player, with speed and agility, and he can fire off cannon drives from the point. Alas, not real sure of the vision and natural hockey sense, but his game is good enough to reach the NHL, even if he tops out as a solid 3-4 shutdown guy at that level.

 

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C             Drafted: 45 (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 70                   Key comment: “Strong two-way pivot but a bit mechanical.”

Observations: Swedish product is coming off a superb freshman season at Boston University. A lot of observers have drawn comparisons to Patrice Bergeron, which sets the bar pretty darn high for the player known as “JFK” but he sets himself apart with his refined game, smarts and overall poise. Forsbacka-Karlsson showed a natural flair for winning draws and despite not having high-end speed, shows a nice changeup of gears through the neutral zone and often pulled players out of position with a series of deceptive movements and head fakes. With soft hands and a natural knack for threading the needle, the sky is the limit for this kid, who left home in Sweden to adjust to North America in the USHL for two years before joining the Terriers. In hindsight, RLR had him a little low for what he’s shown in the early going.

 

Jeremy Lauzon, D                          Drafted: 52 (2nd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 59                   Key comment: “Vastly underrated blue liner can hit, skate and score.”

Observations: This Red Line favorite went right around where he was projected by our Quebec guys, who saw him surge nicely in the second half. In 2015-16, he took his game up a notch, establishing offensive highs in assists and points, despite fighting through injuries that forced him out of the lineup and hampered his progress in the second half. He managed to return from a horrific skate cut to the neck during the second round of the QMJHL playoffs. His Rouyn-Noranda Huskies won the league championship, and he was able to get back to action in the Memorial Cup tournament, dropping the championship game to the London Knights. Lauzon skates well enough, though he’s still addressing his transitory skating mechanics- the pivots and turns can be a little slushy at times. He has a big shot, deft passing touch and will hit and fight to defend teammates when necessary. He could be the best of the three defensemen drafted by Boston in 2015.

 

 

Daniel Vladar, G                           Drafted: 75 (3rd round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 67                   Key comment: “Poor technique, but he’s 6-5 and a human gumby.”

Observations: When it comes to high ceilings for goaltenders, Vladar was among the leaders in the class of 2015.  He played well for the USHL’s Chicago Steel, splitting the starts and posting respectable numbers, but the Czech native is still raw and years away from staking a claim for NHL time in the crease. Interestingly enough, the Bruins signed Vladar to an ELC, making him ineligible to return to the USHL, and it looks like Vladar could play in the ECHL or AHL next season. Don’t rule out a spot in the CHL despite the ban on European net minders if Vladar’s agents can successfully argue a loophole that establishes North American residency for him over the last 12 months. I guess we will see.

 

 

Jesse Gabrielle, LW                        Drafted: 105   (4th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 132                   Key comment: “Naturally abrasive cuss plays like a burr up under the saddle.”

Observations: At one time thought of as a potential second-rounder, Gabrielle slid to the fourth round, where his favorite team snapped him up.  One year later, he exploded for 40 goals after being dealt from the Regina Pats to the Prince George Cougars last August. Gabrielle is about 5-11, but is a thick and sturdy 205 pounds- he plays like a little wrecking ball, driving through traffic and getting pucks to the net the old fashioned way. He’s also very tough to play against as he dishes out big hits, is nasty along the walls and will go after anyone who crosses him. Gabrielle is an exciting prospect as someone who had modest expectations this season and blew them up. The key for him will be to keep progressing now that he’ll have opponents keying on him and will likely be playing back in the WHL this season as a 1997-born player. Unfortunately, the AHL is not an option for him until 2017-18

 

Cameron Hughes, C                        Drafted: 165   (6th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 71                  Key comment: “So underrated, underscouted he may not get drafted.”

Observations: Well, the draft snub didn’t happen- the B’s grabbed him in the middle of the sixth round- but if you put a lot of stock in the Red Line rankings, then the team got a heck of a value with the Alberta native there. 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.

 

Jack Becker, C/W                                         Drafted: 195 (7th round- Boston)

Red Line ranking: 222

Observations: The Mahtomedi HS-drafted player and University of Wisconsin recruit had a pretty average USHL season with the Sioux Falls Stampede, scoring eight goals and 22 points in 58 games. He’s got a big frame and has some intriguing skill, but is a long shot to ever do anything of substance in the NHL. We’ll have to take the long view and see how he looks in the NCAA, but all signs point to a slow transition that will take a few years and we might not even have a realistic view on his development path until 2018 at the earliest.

 

 

B’s CHL prospects final regular season stats

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

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

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

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

Jesse Gabrielle, LW Prince George Cougars (WHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

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

Previous season differentials:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015-16 regular season stats:

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

Previous season differentials:

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

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

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

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

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

2015-16 regular season stats:

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

Previous season differentials:

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

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

Previous season differentials:

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

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

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

Brandon Carlo, D Tri-City Americans (WHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

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

Previous season differentials:

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

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

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

Jakub Zboril, D Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

2015-16 regular season stats:

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

Previous season differentials:

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

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

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

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

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