( Above Photo Credit: NHL .com )
By: Jesse Jimenez Follow Me On Twitter @Jessemedscience
How many times over the last 2-3 years have we heard the terms “speed,” “youth,” and “skill” thrown around the NHL? The league is evolving at a rapid rate, and many teams have already started to adopt the new model. Enforcers seem to have been put on the “endangered” list, conceding to the less violent albeit a much more entertaining brand of hockey. The new style of play has no doubt benefited the league from a marketing and promotional perspective, attracting a diverse global audience. Boston, an original six team, and one of the NHL’s most prestigious organizations have already started putting its fingerprints on the new culture.
It’s no secret the Boston Bruins have one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL and fans got a small taste of it this past season. Young 20-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo exceeded expectations, making the team out of training camp and putting up a solid line of 6g-10a-16pts with a plus 9 rating while averaging just north of 20-mins TOI per game. University of Denver sophomore standout Danton Heinen had a cup of non-expresso coffee with the parent club before being sent down to Providence for some seasoning. Despite not registering a point in 8 games with the Bruins Heinen showed flashes of creativity, smarts, and essential tools that allowed him to capture 2015 NCHC Rookie of the year and 2016 NCHC best forward awards. After a dry spell for Providence Heinen really turned it on during the last quarter of the season and into the playoffs, leading the team in scoring with 18 points in 17 games including 9-goals. Youngsters such as Austin Czarnik, Peter Cehlarik, Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, Rob O’Gara, Anton Blidh and Matt Grzelcyk also got brief stints during the 2016-2017 campaign.
Ironically enough, we have not even touched on the top-tier prospects knocking on the door for the Bruins. Recently signed Notre Dame sophomore dynamo Anders Bjork tops the forward list with his dynamic skating, exceptional hockey sense, and world-class creativity. Bjork was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker this past year after posting 21g and 52-points in just 39 games for the Fighting Irish. Bjork may top the list for forwards due to his polished offensive game, but Zachary Senyshyn may have the purest natural ability of the crop. After registering back to back 40g+ seasons for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL Senyshyn is poised to make the best out of development camp after missing out last year due to mononucleosis — He saw limited time at the tail-end of the main camp in September. Then there’s Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, the Sweedish Bergeron as I like to call him. The Boston University product, whose game resembles the 4-time Selke award winner (not too shabby), may be the most rounded forward prospect and Boston’s top prospect at the center position. JFK possesses excellent hockey sense and vision and has a knack for potting big goals. His two-way game is polished and will translate to the NHL, making him an immediate contributor in all situations.
These are three excellent and exciting prospects, but none make you reach for the popcorn more than Charlie McAvoy will. Equipped with a 3-zone game, smooth skating, excellent vision, and a physical edge McAvoy may be the favorite for the Calder trophy this coming season. The former Boston University standout and 2017 WJC Gold Medalist took the NHL by storm as a 19-year old baby-faced rookie during the Stanley Cup playoffs. While the offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, 3 apples in 6 games, it was his matured play in all 3 zones that really captured the attention of fans, team executives, league analysts, and scouts. McAvoy averaged more than 25-min TOI per game — And was the go to quarterback for Boston’s first power-play unit. His ability to jump into the play, provide support for his forwards and transition defense to offense with a crisp first pass pretty much cemented how special and unique he is. McAvoy has generated lots of comparison to Los Angeles Kings stud defensemen Drew Doughty, sure Bruins fans weren’t too disappointed to hear that.
With an influx of young talent knocking on the door this year lets take a look at some lineup possibilities along with realistic expectations for each player.
Boston Bruins 2017-2018 Opening Day lineup:
Jake DeBrusk — 18g 24a
Anders Bjork — 20g 28a
Danton Heinen — 16g 25a
JFK — 13g 30a
Charlie McAvoy — 10g 32a
Of course, there are plenty of moving parts and variables in play. Free agency is around the corner, and the Bruins remain very active in the trade market as they continue their search for a top-4 left shooting defensemen and top-6 forward. That being said, the Toronto Maple Leafs proved that young, inexperienced players can compete in the NHL. With a well-rounded veteran core of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara the Bruins find themselves in an excellent position to integrate their young talent.
Other Prospects that could push for spots:
Agree? Don’t agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Who do you have making the Bruins this year?
Jesse “The Dominican PuckHead”