( Above Photo Credit:   amerks .com / Rochester Americans )

By: Bob Mand                     Follow Me On Twitter @HockeyMand

The Boston Bruins’ prospect squad defeated their analogs from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ organization 3 to 2 in overtime at the HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York, achieving victory in their opening leg of the 2017 Third Annual Prospects Challenge. The ‘They Might Be Bruins’ showed grit, skill, and determination in resolving a 2-0 deficit after a period of play into the final 3-2 edge.

Jesse Gabrielle, the Bruins 2015 fourth rounder, scored minutes into the three-on-three action, beating the Pittsburgh goaltender short-side with a deft wrister on an odd man advantage mere seconds after positively blowing a 2-on-0 breakaway on the same shift.


Also scoring for the Bruins were much-anticipated second-rounder centers Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jack Studnicka. Studnicka scored first for the Bruins in the second period, halving the Proto-Pens advantage with a settled-down slapper in the slot that appeared to wrong-foot the Pens’ goaltender, Alex D’Orio. ‘JFK’ scored his game-tying tally, capitalizing on a forced turnover near the goal-line and firing the puck home.

After a first period where the Bruins were outclassed on and off the scoreboard, the true Black and Gold emerged from the intermission as the dominant squad. Led by alternate captain and 2013 third-rounder Matt Grzelcyk, Boston’s squad rebounded from the ugliness of the first stanza to control the pace and zone play for much of the rest of the game.


Standouts included the goal-scoring trio, the aforementioned Grzelcyk; AHL signee and former Quinnipiac University captain (and Arizona Coyotes draftee), defenseman Connor Clifton; and undrafted invitee goaltender Kyle Keyser.


Other Notes:

  • Keyser made an amazing save early in period one, going left to right against Pittsburgh forward Teddy Blueger, nearly achieving a full split on the lightning-quick push-off. If Keyser had been just a little less on the ball, we’d have been talking a first-period blowout and not a comeback ‘W.’
  • Emil Johansson had a very solid afternoon for the Bruins, displaying good puck control in the corners, the ability and willingness to slow down play when necessary and the capability to make crisp outlet passes. He is one of the older skaters in the event with pro experience in Sweden, so it makes sense he should be noticeable.
  • Zach Senyshyn wasn’t the complete force that I’d want him to be if he plans on contending for a spot in Boston this year. However, on more than one occasion, his wheels created significant problems for the opposition – including a mad dash up the off-wing that ended uneventfully but was nonetheless fun to watch.
  • Jeremy Lauzon had a few awful turnovers in the first half of the game – including a terrible no-look backhand clear directly to the opposition. He settled down and was solid but not spectacular the rest of the tilt.
  • Jakub Zboril had a similarly (if less noticeable) poor game overall, though he did make one magnificent hit on Pens’ forward Jan Drozg in the third.
  • Zboril’s partner (and numerical inverse 76 to Jakub’s 67), Connor Clifton, had a dynamic game and was all over my notepad. Despite one misread that led to a scoring opportunity for the Bruins’ foes and a couple of poor clears, Clifton was the Bruins’ best defenseman not born in Boston. He made several understated D-to-D chips, forced turnovers, made open ice checks, and displayed the ability to read attackers well… If he continues to play like this through training camp, don’t be surprised when some team with 49 contracts or less snaps him up.
  • Studnicka came out flat like many Bruins but emerged as the team’s best forward through the entirety of the afternoon. It’s little wonder that the B’s snagged the Oshawa Generals’ captain in the second round this year when you see his motor and hockey-sense in action. If anything, the Windsor, Ontario native was trying to play too ‘fine’ throughout the game… Gripping the stick too tightly on a few shots and trying to make some difficult plays when higher-percentage ones were available.