Boston Bruins: Cam Neely Hopes For Changes In Officiating Next Season

 

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President of the Boston Bruins Cam Neely speaks onstage during the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation hosts “A Magical Evening” at Cipriani Wall Street on November 17, 2016 in New York City.
(Nov. 16, 2016 – Source: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                   Twitter:  @godwentwhoops

 

Bruins President Cam Neely certainly wasn’t happy with the team’s early exit in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. Neely felt that several calls severely hurt the team in their quest to get the Cup, and would like to see things change next season.

Neely certainly has cause to be angry.  While the B’s were eliminated by a faster team, the team lost momentum at key times due to bad calls, missed calls, or penalties that seemed to appear out of the aether.

“It does need to get addressed because the game has gotten faster,” said Neely at the end of the year media press conference. “There were a lot of great, exciting matchups in the playoffs, and a lot of the talk – not just in our series – was about the officiating.”

While the Bruins certainly weren’t the only team slighted by the refs, they seemed to take a healthy share of the abuse from the zebras. Even now, the hockey media around the US and Canada are asking for certain refs to be penalized for their actions or missteps.

“It is something the league has to look at,” said Neely on his thoughts regarding the poor state of officiating during this season’s playoffs. “They have to go back and look at all the games, and I know they do that after every game, but I think they really need to take a hard look at what’s happening with the refereeing because the game’s gotten that much faster. Are the referees keeping up with the pace of the game? It’s fast out there.”

“Replay is [a way to keep up with the speed]. I’ll give you an example: It would take two seconds for somebody to call downstairs and say it was [Victor Hedman] that got hit with his own stick, and it’s a non-call [on David Pastrnak]. Something like that would be easy. The puck off the glass [for delay of game] in the Toronto series would be an easy call. If you get too deep into the weeds you’re going to find yourself with delays as the calls are being debated, but I think there are some really easy ones where you could call down and say ‘that wasn’t a penalty.’ There’s a lot of technology that can help you, but you really don’t want to get bogged down in the weeds slowing the game down [with replays] too much.”

The 2017-18 Boston Bruins certainly exceeded expectations this year. After an abysmal start, a healthy majority of the Boston media had wrote the team off. The infamous ‘too young’ comments helped spur to the Black and Gold to finish second in the Atlantic. Perhaps Neely is disappointed because he believed the team would be even better than they ended up.

Hopefully, the league will take a look at how the refs have done this season, and try to implement a few changes for the 2018-19 season. Not just for the Black and Gold, but for the rest of the teams in the league as well.

 

 

A Look At The Boston Bruins Salary Cap

 

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David Backes #42 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 4, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts.
(May 3, 2018 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                 Twitter: @godwentwhoops

The Boston Bruins exceeded most fans expectations last season. The youth movement helped lead the team into a second-round run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While their early exit was disappointing, the B’s front office now have to turn the page and look to the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Moving forward, the Bruins have a few things going for them regarding the salary cap. The Las Vegas Golden Knights slightly magical (and sort of improbable) Stanley Cup Final appearance will certainly help propel the league’s overall financial performance. This will certainly add a few dollars to the salary cap next season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman claimed the salary cap would go up. He mentioned that it would at least $78 million. That figure could go up even more, perhaps as high as $82 million. If the salary cap goes that high, it would certainly help the B’s out now and down the road.

The Bruins currently have $65.3 million reserved for their current roster of players. That figure includes 10 forwards, six blueliners, and Tuukka Rask. With the projected minimal cap increase, the B’s will have $12.7 million to lock up the remainder of the squad. At the moment, it would be three forwards, one defenceman, and a backup goaltender for Rask.

The B’s are very likely going to keep Anton Khudobin on the roster. He was the better goaltender early in the season and was a dependable player for the Black and Gold last year. The B’s will likely sign him in the high-six, low-seven figures (Best guess would put the figure at a cool million).

This leaves $11.7 million.

The Bruins will still have a lot of space available for their restricted free agents. Forward Sean Kuraly and middles Matt Grzelcyk will be retained for relatively low costs.  A realistic guess would have the B’s picked up both players for roughly three million. Those three purchases would lock up the team at the defencemen and goaltender positions and still give the B’s 8.7 million to sign the forwards.

The Bruins have a few less-than-ideal contracts on the books right now. The B’s are paying six million a year for David Backes. At 33, he’s one of the more expensive middle-six forwards in the NHL. There have been a lot of complaints on David Krejci’s seven-plus million as well.

The complaints about Tuukka Rask could fill a dozen articles. No matter what Rask does, there will always be arguments about him not being a Stanley Cup goaltender.

Unless something radically changes during the offseason, the Bruins organization are going to keep all three players. (Personally, I’d like to keep all three as well. My inner backseat GM would try to move Backes solely on the six million for a middle-six player.)

So, who are going to be the three players that the B’s should sign for next season? Riley Nash’s strong regular season performance should put him at the top of the list. The Bruins should be able to secure him for a high-two, low-three million dollar deal.

That gives the team roughly between $5.6 and $6 million left to play with.  The Bruins front office now have a more difficult choice to make among the remaining players. Do they retain veterans like Rick Nash, or do they fully embrace the youth movement?

Bruce Cassidy seems to be leaning towards doubling down on the youth movement. At the end of the year press conference, the Bruins bench boss expressed his excitement over the large pool of young talent that could earn themselves a position come October.

“So we have players that had positive years in Providence,” said Cassidy.  “Austin Czarnik had a really good year. He could come in and take somebody’s job. He’s a pending group six. Again, I can go through the whole list of players I’m sure you’re referencing, whether it’s Jakub Zboril, whether it’s [Zach] Senyshyn, whether it’s [Trent] Frederic coming out of school, we’re cognizant of every one of them and sort of where their potential trajectory is. Our exit meetings with [Jakob] Forsbacka-Karlsson, as an example, who had a tough injury and missed a stretch down there, they’ve all made good progress, but when the rubber hits the road in training camp, you’ve got to take someone’s job.

“That’s what we try to tell them. Prepare for what’s in front of you and your opportunity will be there. We’re excited about our young players. But, the player himself will dictate it. The opportunity will be there. Nobody is boxed out. We have depth. Hopefully, we’re going to continue to add to that in our organization, because you need it.”

If we are to take anything out of this, it seems that Rick Nash will not be re-signed by Boston. Tommy Wingels and Brion Gionta will also likely be thanked for their service and not re-signed. Tim Schaller seems the only one of the team’s current UFA forwards that will be retained, and his contract will likely be around Anton Khudobin’s price range.

The Bruins will likely comb through the talent pool of Providence and see if any of the young forwards are ready to make the big move to the NHL. Several of them have already shown flashes of brilliance, and that may make the choice easy for the organization come training camp in September.

While there are storm clouds on the horizon for the Bruins, those hard choices are two seasons away. At the moment, the B’s salary cap position looks relatively secure for the 2018-19 season.

Bruins Youth A Detriment In Postseason?

Patrik Laine, Sean Kuraly

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

The youth was served by the Boston Bruins in the 2017-18 season. Three players in their first season finished in the top ten in scoring on the team. Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen each scored 16 goals and finished their rookie seasons scoring 40 plus points. After a successful playoff debut last spring, Charlie McAvoy played in 63 games, scoring 32 points and playing virtually the entire season on the top defensive pairing with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. The youth proved very successful for the team as they finished in second place in the Atlantic Division, just a single point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

11 different skaters made their NHL debuts during the season, and five of those players also made their playoff debuts, excluding McAvoy. By comparison, of the four teams that reached the conference final, eight players combined made their playoff debuts. These eight players made significant contributions to their team so the list may exclude some players who played a game or two. The point is the Bruins relied more heavily on rookie skaters than any other team that made a deep postseason run. The Bruins had players like Sean Kuraly and Matt Grzelcyk playing big roles, and at times they seemed to get overwhelmed with the rigors of postseason play. This article is by no means an indictment on the Bruins youth, but it’s pretty clear that teams like Tampa Bay, Vegas, and Washington had rosters that were more experienced to deal with how to play in the postseason.

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Tampa Bay, in particular, was a team that gave the Bruins issues because they were filled with experienced players like Chris Kunitz, Brayden Coburn, and Ryan Callahan. Players like this may not be flashy, but they’ve been through the postseason battles and understand how to play in those intense battles. It’s not to say the Bruins were without experience because they arguably had some of the most experience going into the playoffs with the likes of Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and David Backes. But with younger players playing such big roles, it became an issue when they weren’t up to it. It’s not to say they won’t ever get there but it’s clear watching these later rounds of the playoffs, they might need to add a few players to give them the experience level of other teams.

Some may assume the Vegas Golden Knights are a team filled with young, inexperienced players because of the expansion draft, but you’d be wrong. Only one player on their playoff roster is considered a rookie, right winger Alex Tuch who has scored six goals in the postseason for the Western Conference Champs(crazy right?).

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Some of their biggest performers such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Erik Haula, and David Perron are seasoned veterans and guys who can be counted on in the postseason. Again this isn’t saying the Bruins youngsters aren’t up to the task, but sometimes it’s more pertinent to have experienced playoff performers on your team because you know exactly what you’re going to get from them. Maybe in the next few years, we’ll see this experience for the younger players pay off, but this postseason it was clear that the teams who went farther were filled with experienced NHL players who understood their role and were up to the task.

This past season for the Boston Bruins was nothing short of extraordinary, and the fact, so many younger players had large roles was an absolute revelation. It was important that so many players got good postseason experience so they can use that for future playoff runs and you can be sure they’ll be many more with the surplus of up and coming talent in this organization. The 2018 postseason may not have brought a cup to Boston like so many wanted, but watching the teams still in it filled with seasoned veterans should be a reminder of what it takes to win a championship.

Bruins Options If Khudobin Doesn’t Re-Sign

Photo Credit:  MSN.com

By: Mark Allred   |   Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney certainly has his work cut out for him with a long list of contract negotiations this offseason. Bruins backup goaltender Anton Khudobin’s two-year $1.2 million contract comes to an end on July 1, 2018, and it remains to be seen whether or not he returns to Boston or test the free agent market. Khudobin, who turned 32 on May 7,2018 has expressed great interest in coming back to the Bruins organization saying in quotes below from 985TheSportsHub.com’s B’s writer Ty Anderson’s May 14, 2018 article that can be seen in full HERE.

Khudobin said “I want to be here. I like here. I’ve been in California, I’ve been in Texas, I’ve been in Carolina, I’ve been in Minnesota. I’ve been in a lot of cities and a lot of states, and Boston is my favorite one,” Khudobin said. “Don [Sweeney] knows that I love it here. I love the city and everybody knows it. How much is it going to be a factor in signing a new contract, I don’t know. I don’t think it will be a factor. I don’t think it matters. It matters what they can offer, and how much I’m willing to take.”

“I would love to stay here. I’m 32 right now, and if I’m going to play until 40, I would love to play another eight years here,” Khudobin continued. “So that’s clear for me, and if we will get a deal, today, or tomorrow, or in free agency, I don’t know.”

But if it will happen in Boston, I will be happy.”

Anton struggled in year-one of his second tour of duty with the Bruins organization going 7-6-1 with a 2.64 goals-against-average and .904 save percentage in 16 games played in 2016-17 but changed his game for the better when then intern Head Coach Bruce Cassidy took over for the fired Claude Julien in the Spring of 2017. Khudobin’s numbers were far better during the 2017-18 National Hockey League campaign where he posted a 16-6-7 with a 2.56 GAA and .913 Save% in 31 games played.

The backup role and the job Anton did last season is going to garner leverage when the aging veteran sits down to talk about an extension as he was a key member in the crease to start the 2017-18 season and value when starter Tuukka Rask needed time off. Last season was the best year for a Bruins backup netminder dating back to the 2013-14 season where former Bruin goaltender Chad Johnson posted a 17-4-3 record with a 2.10 GAA and .924 Save%.

With the positive things Khudobin has said above and GM Sweeney’s intent to bring him back, what’s the organization going to do if he wants to test the free agent market with hopes of landing a starting position somewhere else in the NHL? Below are a few ideas that I’ve been thinking about lately and could be great fits here in Boston with cap friendly deals.

Promote From Within And Give Zane McIntyre Another Chance?

Photo Credit:  NHL.com

If this Bruins team wants to save valuable cap space and use those funds to address other areas of concern, then 2010 sixth-round draft pick of the B’s Zane McIntyre could be moved up to the NHL for the last year of his two-year deal where he’ll make $650K. My concern with a move like this is McIntyre’s numbers when he’s had the opportunity to show what he’s got at the highest level in the world. In eight career games with the NHL Bruins, he has a 0-4-1 record with a 3.97 GAA and .858 Save%.

In the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins the 6′-2″ 200-pound 25-year-old netminder has had his struggles to begin his professional career but has posted solid numbers in his last two seasons with the top minor-pro affiliate of the Boston Bruins. After going 14-8-7 in 31 games during the 2015-16season, Zane put a stranglehold on his development and work ethic to post a record of 47-21-3 with a 2.27 GAA and .922% in 78 games played after his rookie season.

If the plan is to stay within the organization and save money as mentioned above, then this would be a sufficient move and if he wants to stay longer with Boston, he’s going to have to take every opportunity during this offseason to work hard and prove to the Bruins Brass that he’s still a value in the depth of this organization. If Khudobin is re-signed to an extension, I have to believe that next season could be McIntyre’s last with the Black and Gold and might have a better career elsewhere in the NHL with current goaltending prospects rising up the depth charts.

Possible Additions Via Free Agency

Carter Hutton

Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

Hutton had his second best season when it comes to wins last year with the St. Louis Blues organization where he posted a record of 17-7-3 with a 2.09 GAA and .931 Save% serving as the backup to Blues starter Jake Allen. The 32-year-old Hutton is an unrestricted free agent as of July 1st, and with his performance last season I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blues lock him up for another year or two, but if he goes to free agency, the Bruins should consider him if Khudobin doesn’t return.

The 6’1″ 202-pound netminder is a six-year pro in the NHL and last years cap hit for the Thunder Bay, Ontario native was only $1.25 million and will be looking for an increase in pay for the upcoming season that I believe the Bruins could afford with the cap going up next season. Hutton does have some familiarity with the Boston area as he spent his four-year collegiate hockey career playing for Division 1 UMass-Lowell which is not far from the state capitol.

Also, important to point out is what the Blues are going to do with their cap situation when thinking about re-signing players. Current Blues goaltending prospect Jordan Binnington spent all of last season with the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins where he had his second-best season at the minor-pro level on loan from the Blues organization. The Blues did not have an AHL affiliate last year, so the team’s prospects were scattered all over the AHL to get playing time. The 24-year-old Binnington signed a one-year extension in July 2017 and will be a restricted free agent on July 1st. If Hutton is not resigned, Binnington would be a good choice for the backup duties at a low cap-friendly value. Binnington played in 28 games for the Providence team and posted a 17-9-0 record with a 2.05 GAA and .926 Save%.

Michael Hutchinson

Photo Credit:  NHL.com

Hutchinson is a former prospect of the Boston Bruins who was drafted in the third-round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The 6′-3″ 202-pound netminder spent some time with the AHL Providence Bruins appearing in 87 games with a record of 39-37-5 and 2.59 GAA and .915 Save% in three seasons of work with the Bruins affiliate.
Hutchinson only appeared in three games for the Winnipeg Jets organization going 2-1-0 but was demoted to the Jets Affiliate in the AHL the Manitoba Moose and used his anger for the transaction downward as a way to get better and prove to Jets management that he belongs back in the NHL.

With the Moose, he posted a 17-5-1 record with a 2.08 GAA and .935 save percentage after losing his job in the NHL to Connor Hellebuyck which now seemed like the right move for the Jets Brass as they’re currently in the Western Conference Finals playing the new surprising franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights with Hellebuyck in goal. Hutchinson is set to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, and with the depth in goal for the Jets, I don’t believe he will re-sign with the team just to possibly play in the AHL next season.

I believe a move out of Winnipeg would be a solid motivator for the 28-year-old Hutchinson and if the Bruins can’t get a deal done with the current backup in Khudobin, I’d certainly take a chance with “Hutch” and his cap-friendly $1.3 million that the Jets paid during the 2017-18 season.

Bruins’ McAvoy & DeBrusk Showing Strength In Development

Charlie McAvoy

(Photo credit: AP Photo)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725!

A mere few seasons ago things were not looking too hot for the boys in black and gold. After a start to the season in which the Bruins continued to look like the perennial playoff contenders they had been since the 2007-2008 season, they stumbled down the stretch and missed the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. This would mark Peter Chiarelli’s last season as the general manager of the Bruins, and his shoes would be filled by former player and assistant general manager Don Sweeney on May 20th, 2015.

Some of Sweeney’s initial moves were somewhat questionable, specifically at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, New York. Originally just having a single 1st round pick, Sweeney went out and acquired both the Calgary Flames’ and Los Angeles King’s draft picks for Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic, respectively. This gave Bruins management picks 13-15, and the goal at the time was to move up into the top 5 and likely select defensemen Noah Hanifin. However that didn’t pan out, and the Bruins selected defensemen Jakub Zboril at 13th overall, winger Jake DeBrusk at 14th overall and winger Zach Senyshyn at 15th overall.

Both Zboril and Senyshyn are still developing, but Jake DeBrusk had an impressive debut season in 2017-2018, tallying 16 goals, 27 assists for 43 points in 70 games. Most impressively was the 6 goals and 2 assists he scored in 12 playoff games this spring.

DeBrusk showed a jump and energy in the playoffs that the Bruins desperately needed. He brought a 110% level of effort on every shift and managed to score 2 goals in game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the second of which was the game-winning goal. DeBrusk was one of the most consistent players during the Bruins short playoff run. He gutted out tough shifts when he had to and came through massively in clutch moments. It could be said that without DeBrusk’s performance, the Bruins would not have beat Maple Leafs in game 7 to advance to the conference semifinals.

DeBrusk hasn’t been the only shining star to come out of the draft since Sweeney took over general manager duties. The Bruins’ 1st round pick in 2016, defenseman Charlie McAvoy, also selected at 14th overall made the jump to the NHL during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. McAvoy seamlessly fits into the Bruins’ D corps in their 6-game series loss to the Ottawa Senators. Starting on the top pair on Zdeno Chara’s right side, McAvoy had a solid rookie season, potting 7 goals and 25 assists for 32 points in only 63 games played.

Here’s McAvoy’s 1st NHL goal in his NHL regular season debut against the Nashville Predators:

McAvoy also showed to be a clutch player when it came down to it in big moments during the season, winning 2 shootouts, one against the New Jersey Devils in the 11th round, and one against the Winnipeg Jets, giving the Bruins valuable extra points. Not only impressing in the shootout, but the young defenseman also scored the game-winning goal to cap off a 2-goal comeback against the Carolina Hurricanes down the stretch to keep a strong points streak going for the Bruins.

McAvoy and DeBrusk fit so well into the Bruins’ lineup this past season, and their strong rookie seasons helped propel a team that wasn’t expected to even make the playoffs to a 50-win, 112-point season. Much of that is a credit to the players themselves, but head coach Bruce Cassidy gave them confidence by playing them in high-pressure situations. Zdeno Chara and David Krejci must be given some credit too as they were the perfect mentors for two young guys just getting the initial taste of NHL action.

These two are special players, as are many other young guns in the Bruins’ system. It is only a matter of time before they occupy the status of the NHL’s elite players and hopefully a space on one of the Stanley Cup’s rings too.

Rehashing The Bruins’ Approach To The 2018 NHL Draft

Draft Logo

Photo Credit: NHL.com

By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey

Earlier this season, I did a deep dive on what I felt the Bruins could do at the 2018 NHL Draft. Obviously, several things have changed since then. For one thing, the Bruins no longer have a 1st Round Draft pick, as it was surrendered in the Rick Nash trade. Additionally, my opinions on players have changed and evolved as the season has gone forward. So, let’s take another look at what the B’s could do with their later picks, in order to maximize the value of the pick. A few things before I begin.

  1. I fully subscribe to a “Best Player Available” strategy at the draft table. Holes can be filled by using depth at a position through trade in the future, so maximizing value is the most important thing possible.
  2. I will not be giving players for every draft pick the Bruins have. That’s absurd, and if anyone is able to accurately predict a selection in the 200th pick range, they are in the wrong profession.
  3. I have used rankings from the NHL’s Central Scouting Service, TheDraftAnalyst, Future Considerations, and The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler. The rankings from TheDraftAnalyst are first-year-eligibles only.

The Bruins have the following selections in the 2018 NHL Draft:

2nd Round: 57th Overall

3rd Round: 77th Overall (via Florida in the Frank Vatrano deal)

4th Round: 119th Overall

5th Round: 150th Overall

7th Round: 212th Overall

So, who do I think they should target given that they won’t have a 1st Round pick? The idea is to find guys that have slipped through the cracks for a variety of reasons, who will then be available later in the draft.

G Jakub Skarek, HC Dukla Jihlava (Czech Extraliga)

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Photo Credit: Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images

Rankings:

Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): 60th

TheDraftAnalyst (January): 29th

TheDraftAnalyst (September): 19th

Central Scouting (Final): 2nd (Euro Goalies)

Central Scouting (Midterm): 1st (Euro Goalies)

Future Considerations: 95th

The Bruins had a plan in place with their goaltending and promptly watched it disintegrate when Malcolm Subban was claimed on waivers by the Vegas Golden Knights. Daniel Vladar looks good, not great, and Jeremy Swayman had a good freshman campaign at the University of Maine, but neither one projects as a truly elite goaltender. Skarek is the one goaltending prospect in this year’s class who has the ability to become one. He has been impressive in the professional ranks in his native Czech Republic since the age of 16, an impressive feat for any player, let alone a goaltender.

He has decent size, impressive athleticism, and his positioning is progressing nicely. He had a horrendous World Junior Championship, but that should not scare any team away from taking him. This is a player who should be available in the range of the B’s 2nd Rounder, and if he is available, they could replace the upside Subban brought to the table with Skarek. The underrated upside of this pick is that he could remain in the Czech Republic for a few more years before even attempting to come over to North America.

With the limited number of spots available for goaltenders within the organization (realistically, only 6 lineup spots, and 3 starters), the ability to have Skarek play in a decent professional league while getting the bulk of the starts cannot be undersold.

F Liam Kirk, Sheffield Steelers (EIHL)

Liam Kirk

Photo Credit: The Hockey News

Rankings:

Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): 95th

TheDraftAnalyst (January): 167th

TheDraftAnalyst (September): Not Ranked

Central Scouting (Final): 65th (Euro Skaters)

Central Scouting (Midterm): Not Ranked (Euro Skaters)

Future Considerations: Not Ranked

Kirk wins the “Who in the heck is that guy” award. The British native has never played outside his home country but has been playing in the EIHL (English Ice Hockey League) for two years already. In the Brits’ U20 games this year, as they attempted to be promoted from the Division 2A level, he had 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points in 5 games. As a 17-year-old. He is easily the most talented player the British system has ever developed solely on their home turf – and the hockey world has taken notice. More than half a dozen teams have already expressed interest in drafting him, and he plans to (and will likely be drafted into) playing in the Canadian Hockey League next season. He needs to fill out his frame significantly, but he is one of the most dynamic players in the draft and has Nikolaj Ehlers-esque afterburners.

As a 15-year-old, he played in 10 games at the U20 level in England and put up 44 points. He played 17 games at the U18 level that same year and scored an absurd 98 points. Because of the unique situation he presents, the plan is for him to come over to North America and skate for a few NHL teams before the draft. It’s not just him either. His teammate, Kieran Brown, is a year younger than Kirk and is already being discussed as a potential draft pick in next year’s NHL draft.

The closest a player born, raised, and trained solely in the United Kingdom has come to the NHL since Tony Hand was taken by the Oilers in 1986 (Hand is widely considered the greatest English-born hockey player of all time, and has drawn praise for his ability from Wayne Gretzky) was the son of Rod Stewart (yes, THAT Rod Stewart), Liam, who spent time with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, became a go-to offensive player for them, eventually wore a letter for them, and played a few seasons in the ECHL before heading back home across the pond. Kirk will almost certainly surpass Stewart and Hand. Get ready, NHL. The British are coming.

C Yegor Sharangovich, Dinamo Minsk (KHL)

Yegor Sharangovich

Photo Credit: Francis Larrede Photography

Rankings:

Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): Not Ranked

TheDraftAnalyst (January): Overager

TheDraftAnalyst (September): Overager

Central Scouting (Final): 51st (Euro Skaters)

Central Scouting (Midterm): 71st (Euro Skaters)

Future Considerations: Not Ranked

Everybody has that one prospect that they can’t get enough of, and Yegor Sharangovich is the guy I’d die on a hill for (metaphorically speaking). He’s been passed over twice already, but every time I watch him play, I’m more and more convinced that he’s going to be a player. He was far and away the best player for Belarus at the World Junior Championships this year and has routinely been a part of the Belarussian team at the World Championships in the spring.

He also got regular playing time this year in the KHL as a teenager, an impressive feat for a league known for stifling its teenagers. For reference, Alexander Ovechkin scored 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points in 37 games in his draft-plus-one year. This past year, Sharangovich had 4 goals, 8 assists for 12 points in 47 games. Not necessarily on Ovechkin’s pace, but Ovechkin was getting significantly more high-end opportunities than Sharangovich. I love his release, and his dynamic ability to generate offense. Naturally, he is a little suspect in his own end, but that comes with experience. I think this is the type of player who is more than worth the risk in the later rounds because the upside is too high to ignore. The only question is if and when he comes across the pond.

RW Jesse Ylonen, Espoo Blues (Metsis)

Jesse Ylonen

Photo Credit: Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva

Rankings:

Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): 36th

TheDraftAnalyst (January): 44th

TheDraftAnalyst (September): 36th

Central Scouting (Final): 28th (Euro Skaters)

Central Scouting (Midterm): 28th (Euro Skaters)

Future Considerations: 58th

The American-born son of former NHLer Juha Ylonen (he was born in Arizona while his father was playing for the then-Phoenix Coyotes) is another European teenager playing in a league of men. Bruins fans will see a little bit of Jake DeBrusk in the way he moves on the ice, but the players are relatively different in their style. While DeBrusk is a straight line player, willing to go to the dirty areas constantly, Ylonen is much more of a perimeter player. He needs to add some muscle mass, and he needs to get more comfortable in his own end, but the vision and skating are already elite, and he seems to process the game relatively well.

He has a good, not great release, and could use it a bit more. He feels like someone who is playing in a lower echelon European professional league who may have a higher upside than he is able to show (a la a Jesper Bratt or Sebastian Aho – the Finnish one). He is a worthwhile investment in the 2nd, and should be a target should he slip all the way to the 3rd.

LW Sampo Ranta, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

Sampo Ranta

Photo Credit: Todd Milewski

Rankings:

Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): Honorable Mention

TheDraftAnalyst (January): 78th

TheDraftAnalyst (September): 170th

Central Scouting (Final): 18th (NA Skaters)

Central Scouting (Midterm): 23rd (NA Skaters)

Future Considerations: 57th

The Wisconsin commit has a wicked shot, and it is difficult not to compare him to fellow Finn and 2017 1st Rounder Eeli Tolvanen. Ranta has a tendency to disappear within a game, and when he’s off, he’s very off. When he’s on, he has one of the best releases in the entire draft, and he already has the frame to work well along the boards or in front of the net offensively. He needs significant work in his own end, and I worry about his ability to think the game at times, but the raw skill set is difficult to deny.

D Jordan Harris, Kimball Union Academy (USHS-Prep)

Jordan Harris

Photo Credit: David Willis/The Eagle Tribune

Rankings:

Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): Not Ranked

TheDraftAnalyst (January): 318th

TheDraftAnalyst (September): 229th

Central Scouting (Final): 44th (NA Skaters)

Central Scouting (Midterm): 46th (NA Skaters)

Future Considerations: 74th

Harris is the epitome of the modern defenseman. He is an excellent skater, he makes a good first pass, and he is as cerebral as they come. The Northeastern commit is clearly a ways away from the NHL level and will play a year of juniors either with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL or in the USPHL’s NCDC conference closer to home next year as a result, but the upside as a 3rd or 4th round pick is hard to deny. He still has plenty of room to grow into his body, and, while I hate throwing intangibles around, he was the captain this year at Kimball Union, a school with a long history of producing high-caliber NCAA and pro players. He oozes with potential.

Lineup Logjam Could Force Some Bruins Players Out Via Trade

Image result for Peter Cehlarik Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Before I begin, I am not trying to say that I want these players to be moved, but sooner or later, they could be due to an influx of roster competition within the Bruins’ system. Three players, in particular, come to mind in this discussion.

Peter Cehlarik

Peter Cehlarik is a player that I would hate to see go, but injuries and the presence of similar wingers have hindered his progress towards an NHL roster spot to this point. The 22-year-old Slovakian winger has seen a good amount of AHL success primarily since coming over to play for the Providence Bruins for the 2016-2017 season. In 84 regular season games as a Providence Bruin, Cehlarik has tallied 31 goals and 30 assists, good for 61 points. Through 17 NHL games, Cehlarik has a goal and three assists.

His two-way ability and hockey IQ are what stick out the most in his game and could be of great value elsewhere unless a spot does open up in Boston at some point. In the NHL, he showed good chemistry with David Krejci on the second line and could serve well as a second or third line winger on another NHL team in need of help on the wing. A few NHL teams come to mind that could be in the market for Cehlarik’s services for a solid top-9 winger – The Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and Dallas Stars. Especially the Edmonton Oilers, who need help on the wing and have a general manager in Peter Chiarelli that is familiar with Peter Cehlarik.

(Video Credit: Dafoomie via YouTube)

Austin Czarnik

Austin Czarnik is in a similar predicament as Peter Cehlarik – he has proven himself capable of playing at the NHL level but has just found other players getting in his way. One thing that Czarnik has against him that Cehlarik doesn’t is waiver eligibility. If Czarnik plays one more NHL game, he will have to go through waivers to back down to the AHL if need be, as he will have played 60 NHL games, thus making him eligible for waivers. In the 59 NHL games he has played, he has five goals, 12 assists, and 17 points.

After four years at the University of Miami (Ohio), Czarnik, now 25-years-old, has produced at a high level in the AHL. After his senior year, Czarnik played three games in Providence in which he had two assists. The following season is when he put Bruins fans on notice with 61 points in 68 games in his first full AHL season. In the 86 regular season games since his first full season, Czarnik has scored 31 goals and added 61 assists, good for 92 points and an average of just over a point-per-game. Most recently, he was named a second-team AHL All-Star.

Austin Czarnik is set to become a group-6 UFA this summer. He is categorized as a group-6 UFA due to the fact that he is 25-years-old and has yet to have played 80 NHL games yet. The Bruins could trade his rights at the draft if they feel he could be best suited elsewhere with a team that will give him an NHL job to get something in return for him. Otherwise, if they don’t sign or trade him, they would simply let him walk for nothing in free agency.

NHL teams would certainly be interested due to his experience at the NHL level and the amount of success he has achieved in the AHL. He is a speedy, skilled player who can play center and wing, general managers will like that. Like, Peter Cehlarik, Czarnik could fit well with another NHL team as a top-9 forward.

(Video Credit: Dafoomie via YouTube)

Adam McQuaid

I don’t think Adam McQuaid will be moved unless the right move comes around, but there certainly is a case for trading the long-time Bruins defender. Part of this case comes due to the fact that the Bruins have a few young defensemen that are progressing well elsewhere. Three players that come to mind are Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril in Providence and Urho Vaakanainen with SaiPa over in Finnish Elite League. Whether they are ready for NHL duty this fall or not, some, if not all of them should be ready within the next couple of years.

With a fully healthy Bruins defensive core consisting of Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, and Kevan Miller heading into next year, it is possible that Adam McQuaid becomes the seventh defender and is scratched from the lineup more often than he is used to.

Trading a guy like Adam McQuaid not could free up cap space to add a defender via trade or free agency going into next season. Noah Hanifin (trade) and Calvin de Haan (free agency) are two guys that come to mind.

There is also the option to trade Adam McQuaid closer to the trade deadline. This could allow the Bruins brass more time to make a decision on whether to make space on the NHL roster for a young defender. McQuaid is set to become a UFA following the 2018-2019 season, he could be an appealing rental piece come deadline time. Possibly for a team in need of some depth on defense, playoff experience, to help offset the loss of an injured defender, or a combination of the three. Adam McQuaid has 68 games of playoff experience, two Stanley Cup Final appearances, and Stanley Cup ring under his belt.

Here’s Adam McQuaid finishing a nice pass from Peter Cehlarik for Cehlarik’s first NHL point.

(Video Credit: Dafoomie via YouTube)

Whether these players will be moved has obviously yet to be seen, but there are legitimate cases for all of them as trade candidates.

 

Bruins Prospect Jesse Gabrielle To Play In The 100th Memorial Cup

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PHOTO CREDITS: (dobberprospects.com

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

Considered the hardest trophy to win, the Memorial Cup began back in March of 1919, when it was known then as the OHA Memorial Cup. The name “Memorial” was given to the trophy to remember the fallen Canadian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in World War One. When the Canadian Junior Hockey system divided into “A” and “B” categories in 1971, it was given to the highest class of junior hockey players.

In 1972, the tournament adopted a round-robin style, as we typically see in international tournaments. The champions of the Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Quebec Major Hockey League (QMJHL) play against the host team with the two best during the round-robin battling in the finals to determine the ‘Memorial Cup Champion’.

The 100th Annual MasterCard Memorial Cup begins this Friday, May 18th in Regina, Saskatchewan. Sixty teams had the entire season to get to this moment, but only these four teams will get the opportunity to play in the Memorial Cup.

WHL Champions – Swift Current Broncos

The Swift Current Broncos were considered a team that could possibly have a chance to win the WHL Championship at the beginning of the season, but were often held back from the Moose Jaw Warriors, the Saskatchewan team that most people expected to make it into the final. However, thanks to the massive trade deadline acquisition of Stuart Skinner, the Broncos finished second in the WHL standings, becoming a quick favorite to win it all.

The Edmonton Oilers prospect led the league with six shutouts during the playoffs, captain Glenn Gawdin led the team in points during both the season and the playoffs. Not to mention having the WHL Coach of the Year Manny Viveiros behind the bench, controlling the team’s on ice performance. The Broncos set a Western Hockey League record for most playoff game played in one season (26) after back-to-back game seven series in the first two rounds, following with two consecutive game six wins to take home the WHL Championship.

This will be the third time the organazation will play in the Memorial Cup tournament, winning it back in 1989 in Saskatoon. The only other appearance for the Broncos was back in 1993.

OHL Champions – Hamilton Bulldogs

It’s fairly safe to say that this is uncharted territory for the new Hamilton Bulldogs. After being re-located back to Hamilton, Ontario following a 35-year run in Belleville as the Belleville Bulls, the Bulldogs became an Ontario Hockey League franchise in the 2015-16 season.

In the first season as the Hamilton Bulldogs, they missed the playoffs with a 25-35-8 record. With a quick turnaround the next season, the Bulldogs managed to squeak their way into a playoff berth, finishing the 2016-17 season with a 33-27-8 record, good for fourth in the East. Even with the improvement, the Bulldogs would lose in the first round to the Kingston Frontenacs in six games. The defeat would not slow them down heading into this past regular season.

During the 2017-18 season, the Hamilton Bulldogs finished with the second-best record in the OHL, with a 43-18-7 record. This would lead the team to a solid postseason run. Hamilton would knock off the Ottawa 67s, Niagara Ice Dogs, and the Kingston Frontenacs (rematch of the year prior) all in five games. The dominant playoff success would eventually give OHL fans what they wanted to see from the beginning – Hamilton vs the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the best team during the regular season. With near ease, the Bulldogs would eliminate the Greyhounds in only six games, winning Game Six by a score of 5-4 on home ice.

This will be the first ever appearance in the Memorial Cup for the Hamilton Bulldogs.

QMJHL Champions – Acadie-Bathurst Titan

After a disappointing second-round exit in the 2016-17 QMJHL playoffs to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan would come back with a vengenace in the 2017-18 regular season. Coming off a 39-23-6 record (6th in the league) for the ’16/’17 campaign, the Titan would win 43 of the 68 QMJHL games this past season, finishing second in the year-end league standings. They only trailed one team – the team who beat them in the previous playoffs, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armanda.

This little rivalry would grow even more as both the Titan and Armanda would meet once again in the QMJHL finals. Before this, however, the Titan would defeat the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in six games, sweep the Sherbrooke Pheonix, and complete another sweep in the semi-finals against the Victoriaville Tigres.

Following a Game One loss, the Titan would come out victorious in Games Two, Three, Five, and Six to eliminate Blainville-Boisbriand and win the QMJHL Championship. Throughout the season and the playoffs, defence has clearly been the top strength for the Titan. Their backend is filled with older CHL players who have more experience.

Host Team – Regina Pats

The Pats are only in the Memorial Cup because they are the CHL team that is hosting the tournament. Back in 2017, it was announced that Regina, Saskatchewan would host the event, beating out Hamilton, Ontario and Oshawa, Ontario. The Pats are the league’s oldest franchise, with play dating back to 1917. Regina has appeared in a record 16 Memorial Cup tournaments and also have appeared in the most Memorial Cup finals (13). The franchise has won the trophy on four occasions – 1925, 1928, 1930, and 1974.

This year, the Pats finished the league with the seventh-best record (40-25-7), good for a playoff berth in the WHL postseason. However, the run to a WHL championship would end abruptly, losing in seven games to the eventual WHL Champion, the Swift Current Broncos. The loss stung a bit more than usual for the Pats. They took Game Six on home ice by a whopping score of 7-3, only to lose in Swift Current, 4-3 in the final Game Seven.

While the Regina Pats seem like just another CHL team in the 100th Memorial Cup, they actually have some connections to the current Boston Bruins – prospect Jesse Gabrielle.

Jesse-Gabrielle.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (Keith Hershmiller)

Jesse Gabrielle was the Boston Bruins’ 105th overall draft selection (4th Round) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’0″ 205-pound, Moosomin, Saskatchewan native impressed Boston scouts enough with a 25-point season in 33 games the year before his draft with Brandon Wheat Kings, and another 19 points in 33 games with the Regina Pats also in the 2014-15 season.

It wasn’t until after he was drafted that he impressed in the WHL. With the Prince George Cougars in the 2015-16 season, Gabrielle scored 40 goals and added 35 assists for a 75-point year in only 72 games played. Then again in the 2016-17 campaign, he would finish with 35-29-64 totals in 61 games along with a +17 rating.

The solid two seasons with the Cougars would pay off, as Gabrielle began his 2017-2018 season with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. However, due to poor attitude in the locker room, he would be healthy scratches in many games, causing him to only play in 21 games last season with the Boston affiliate team. In that span, he would struggle – only one goal and four points.

In January of 2018, the Boston Bruins announced that they would send down Gabrielle to the Western Hockey League. Just days before, Gabrielle was traded from the Prince George Cougars to the Regina Pats, who wanted Jesse for their Memorial Cup run.

Gabrielle would play in 27 regular season games with the team, producing 13-6-19 totals in that span. The move added scoring depth to the Pats, something they wanted heading into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Regina and Gabrielle, he would sustain an injury in the final weekend. Jesse would be a scratch for the Pats in Game One of the playoffs against the Broncos.

Gabrielle would get to play two games in the first round, his first coming in Game Three. Gabrielle was held off of the scoresheet, in a 4-1 loss. Gabrielle would not be slotted into the Pats’ linup for the next three games, but would indeed make his second appearance in the 2018 WHL Playoffs in Game Seven, where he again failed to tally a point and only landed a single shot on the net.

Clearly, Regina was eliminated in the first round in that Game Seven, which is the main cause of Swift Current winning the WHL Championship and earning their spot in the 100th Memorial Cup. Jesse Gabrielle has had since April 2nd to recover from the injury that was hindering his playing time in the WHL Playoffs.

Still, there are rumours around Twitter that Gabrielle may still be on the Pats’ injury list, but according to numerous podcasts across the hockey community, Gabrielle is expected to play in the tournament and is also expected to play a big role in a possible successful result for the Regina Pats.

It is very possible this Tweet is not true, but it is a good idea to consider the possiblity of Gabrielle not playing.

A strong Memorial Cup (if he does play) could bring him back on the Providence Bruins roster for the 2018-2019 regular season. This is a big opportunity for Jesse to get back into the position he was once in just a short time ago.

The action begins this Friday as the Regina Pats take on the Hamilton Bulldogs at 8:00pm Regina (Central) time. On Saturday, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan will play the Swift Current Broncos at 2:00pm Central time. The six round-robin games will come to an end on Wednesday, May 23rd with a tie-breaker game (if required) on Thursday, May 24th. As of May 17th, the Final for the 2018 Memoral Cup will be on Sunday, May 27th at 5:00pm Central time.

 

 

Should The Bruins Acquire Boston Native Noah Hanifin?

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(Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck/NHL via Getty Images)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725!

The Boston Bruins have shown through injuries, poor starts in their playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and their aging leader Zdeno Chara who has to retire eventually that there is a need for a mobile, two-way left defenseman with upside. Ideally, this defenseman would line up on Brandon Carlo’s left side, rounding out the top 4.

That’s where Noah Hanifin comes in.

Drafted 5th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Hanifin grew up just outside of Boston in Norwood, Massachusetts and attended Boston College before being drafted. Hanifin played just one season for the Eagles as a 17-year-old, the second youngest player in Eagles history. He immediately made the jump from college hockey to the NHL, signing a 3-year entry-level contract with the Hurricanes and making his NHL debut on October 8th, 2015 against the Nashville Predators. It only took the then 18-year-old just over 4 weeks to score his first NHL goal against current Bruins backup goalie Anton Khudobin then of the Anaheim Ducks on November 16th, 2015.

While he may have potted his first goal from the point, a significant portion of Hanifin’s goals has come from much closer to the net. Combing through some highlights on YouTube it’s clear that he’s not shy about jumping into the rush and getting to the dirty areas where most goals are scored. There are numerous examples of this, despite his limited experience in the league.

Hanifin has seen consistent ice time in high-pressure situations in his short NHL career, has taken those opportunities by the scruff of their neck and taken advantage of them. He’s scored 4 game-winning goals, multiple of which were in overtime. These goals further show his willingness to take a risk and attack the net off the rush as well as with possession in the zone to tickle the twine at the back of the net.

A young defenseman with a knack for showing up clutch in important moments can be invaluable to a team with a mix of young guns and veteran leaders vying for a Stanley Cup. The 21-year-old, 6’3″, 206-pound Hanifin could be exactly that for the Boston Bruins for years to come.

What do his statistics look like over the past few years?

Quite impressive for someone playing on a team that has missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons. His rookie season totals: 4 goals and 18 assists for 22 points (4-18-22) with a -14 plus/minus rating. He’s shown steady growth since then, posting 4-25-29 totals alongside a -19 rating in his sophomore season. His 3rd season and this past 2017-2018 season was his most successful offensively; he posted 10 goals, combined with 22 assists for a total of 32 points. Once again his plus/minus was not attractive at -20, but that can be overlooked as plus/minus typically isn’t very indicative of a player’s ability especially when said player plays for a team that finished 6th in its division (36 W, 35 L, 11 OTL, 83 points). Transplant Hanifin onto the Bruins, a top-tier team in the NHL who’s coaching staff know how to use a defenseman of his caliber, and he’d flourish.

How would he fit in with the Boston Bruins?

First and foremost, Hanifin would have no qualms about lacing up the skates for the black and gold considering he’s a Massachusetts native and grew up in the Greater Boston Area. His size, skill, and strong skating ability fits in line with Don Sweeney and Bruce Cassidy’s current philosophy of building a fast, physical hockey team. Hanifin would most likely hop into the top 4 as Brandon Carlo’s defensive partner.

Secondly, the Bruins current management is very fond of the young defenseman as the goal of stockpiling 1st round picks in the 2015 draft was to move up and draft him in the top 5.

Here’s a look at what the team could look like at the start of the 2018-2019 season if the Bruins were to acquire Noah Hanifin (disclaimer: salaries and forward lines are hypothetical as the focus is solely on the defensive pairings here):

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 5.36.08 PM

(Via CapFriendly)

Hanifin perfectly fills the Bruins’ need for a top 4 left-shot defenseman who can play in all situations. He can play on the power play and produce, can eat up some minutes on the penalty kill and Bruce Cassidy would feel confident sending him over the bench in the final 5 minutes of a tie game. Hanifin would give Cassidy the ability to limit Torey Krug’s ice time when it comes to important defensive zone faceoffs. Krug isn’t necessarily bad in his own zone, but nobody would call him particularly great either as he’s a power play and offensive specialist.

On another note, with another strong top 4 defenseman on the left side, Cassidy could shave down Zdeno Chara’s ice time a little bit here and there to keep the big man refreshed and energized throughout the entire season and playoffs. Chara would still be playing the most important minutes, but the Bruins would be forced to rely on him much less.

The Bruins have a good problem on the back end, they’ve got too many good defensemen that do the same thing. Krug and Matt Grzelyck are both good, fast skaters who specialize in offense. Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller are both big, strong, physical, stay-at-home defenders who are known for shot blocking. Grzelcyk could easily be involved in a trade for Hanifin and would help clear a space for him as well.

As is shown in the lines above, if Hanifin were to be acquired, Grzelcyk and McQuaid would likely be the odd men out. The ice time would be split fairly evenly between the 2nd and 3rd pairs, with Krug getting more power play time and Hanifin taking on penalty killing duties. Krug would remain in his top PP unit spot, with Hanifin likely landing on the secondary unit, as well as the 2nd PK unit.

Hypotheticals are all well and good, but how realistic is it that the Bruins could make this move?

Actually quite realistic. Hanifin’s name has popped up in Hurricane trade rumors before during the season. Bob McKenzie, one of, if not the most trusted name when it comes to the NHL rumor mill, said that nearly everyone in Carolina is available.

The Carolina Hurricanes are the perfect trading partner for the Bruins. The Canes have a logjam on defense as well with Faulk, Slavin, Fleury and of course Hanifin. Acquiring a guy like Hanifin is no easy feat in today’s NHL. Young, mobile, talented defensemen with size and speed are a hot commodity and always have been, more so now than ever before. Don Sweeney has to be willing to part ways with a good crop of assets to make this trade happen.

Some possible deals that Sweeney could make:

Option A: Grzelcyk, Heinen, a 2019 1st round pick, and a forward prospect if need be.

Option B: Jakub Zboril, Anders Bjork, a 2019 1st round pick, a future 3rd round pick.

If you’d like to weigh in, check out this Twitter poll below and let me know what you think.