By: Spencer Fascetta Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey
It’s finally here. The final installment of my ongoing Prospect Pyramid series. A few differences from the early entries into this series – there are two tiers rather than one (one is the final tier of true prospects, the other is what I define as “tweener” players – not really prospects, but still worth a quick mention), and I steered away from NHL comparables in this installment, if simply because very few of these players have a legitimate comparable at this time. If you are new to this series, you can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. I have thoroughly enjoyed this project, and I look forward to the healthy debate that will ensue!
D Victor Berglund, MODO Hockey J20 (SuperElit)
Acquired: 2017 NHL Draft (7th Round, 195th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 37 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 P, 16 PIM
NHL Projection: Fringe Bottom Pairing Offensive Defenseman
NHL ETA: 2020-21
Victor Berglund could ultimately prove all of us wrong in 4-5 years. As Assistant GM Scot Bradley said, PJ Axelsson, the B’s go-to for European Scouting, was extremely high on Berglund throughout the entire draft process. Berglund is a slight 6’0″ and is one of the more agile defensemen in the system. His offensive upside is clear, but he needs to work on his defensive zone coverage and smarts. He has the upside to be a plus transition defenseman on the bottom pairing and absolutely is worth the flier in the 7th Round, but I would not expect to hear from him for at least 3-4 years, if at all.
C Jack Becker, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Acquired: 2015 NHL Draft (7th Round, 195th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 49 GP, 16 G, 12 A, 28 P, 38 PIM
NHL Projection: Fringe NHL Power Forward
NHL ETA: 2024-25
Jack Becker can kind of be summed up by asking “who?” Becker was a late flier in 2015 by the B’s, a young player with a large frame that they are hoping can be an effective NHL player at some point. The unfortunate part is that Becker is now two seasons removed from his draft year, and he still is toiling in the USHL. For that matter, it isn’t as if he is dazzling in the USHL either. If he makes it, he could be a decent energy guy in the bottom 6 – but that’s a BIG if.
D Daniel Bukac, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Acquired: 2017 NHL Draft (7th Round, 204th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 72 GP, 2 G, 15 A, 17 P, 38 PIM
NHL Projection: Bottom-Pairing Two-Way Defenceman
NHL ETA: 2021-22
Bukac, like Berglund, was a late flier taken by the B’s in this year’s draft. He already has a big frame at 6’4″, which he still needs to grow into. He struggled with the transition to North America this year with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, but both the Bruins and the Wheat Kings’ coaching staff were impressed with the progress he made throughout the season. This is likely a long-term project, but one that could provide excellent depth down the road.
D Cam Clarke, Ferris State University (NCAA)
Acquired: 2016 NHL Draft (5th Round, 136th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 35 G, 1 G, 10 A, 11 P, 26 PIM
NHL Projection: Bottom Pair Dynamic Offensive Defenseman
NHL ETA: 2021-22
Cam Clarke is the definition of an intriguing prospect. He was taken as a Draft+2 last year, meaning he’d already been passed over in two full drafts before finally being selected by the Bruins. I have championed the drafting of overage prospects before, but Clarke is not your classic more overage. He put up astounding numbers in his final season in the NAHL, but he also is a converted forward and has only played the position for two years. As such, he needs significant work in his own end before he can be considered an NHL defenseman, and he had a down year of sorts in his freshman season at Ferris State. Nevertheless, he’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on moving forward.
C Ryan Fitzgerald, Boston College (NCAA)
Acquired: 2013 NHL Draft (4th Round, 120th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 34 GP, 12 G, 19 A, 31 P, 56 PIM
NHL Projection: 4th Line Two-Way Center/Depth Forward
NHL ETA: 2018-19
Fitzgerald had a solid career at Boston College and made a good impression with Providence last spring when he signed with the B’s at the conclusion of his senior season. He isn’t going to dazzle anyone, he’s not tremendously good at any particular facet of the game, but he is solid at most of them. He has had a good preseason thus far and seems to be in the mix for the 4th line, but I think he could use a full year in Providence to hone his game to better fit the professional level.
C/LW Cameron Hughes, University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Acquired: 2015 NHL Draft (6th Round, 165th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 36 GP, 7 G, 25 A, 32 P, 16 PIM
NHL Projection: Bottom 6 Offensive Forward
NHL ETA: 2021-22
Cameron Hughes had a nice season at Wisconsin this year, as his offensive profile begins to grow. He has never had a great shot, and is not a stellar passer, but has a knack for getting himself in the right position to put up points. He needs to continue to get stronger on the puck and clean up some of the decision-making, but the tools are there.
D Emil Johansson, Djurgardens IF (SHL)
Acquired: 2014 NHL Draft (7th Round, 206th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 49 GP, 7 G, 10 A, 17 P, 26 PIM
NHL Projection: Bottom-Pairing Two-Way Defenseman
NHL ETA: 2022-23
Johansson is an intelligent two-way defender, but that is almost as much of a curse as it is a blessing. He has a tendency to always settle on the safest play and can panic at times under pressure. He needs to gain more confidence using his natural skating and puck-moving talents to be successful in North America.
C Cedric Pare, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Acquired: 2017 NHL Draft (6th Round, 173rd Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 64 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 P, 26 PIM
NHL Projection: 4th Line Defensive Center/Depth Forward
NHL ETA: 2021-22
Pare was stuck low in the pecking order on a stacked Saint John team this year. He is big, tough, and willing to grind out his offensive chances. The big concern here is the skating. Any player who has a hope of playing in the NHL needs to be a good skater, and Pare’s skating ability ranges from “meh” to “bleh.” He will get a much larger role this year in Saint John and is quite young for his age at this point. He has a ceiling, it just doesn’t appear to be an overly high one right now.
D Wiley Sherman, Harvard University (NCAA)
Acquired: 2013 NHL Draft (5th Round, 150th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 36 GP, 0 G, 13 A, 13 P, 24 PIM
NHL Projection: Depth Defensive Defenseman
NHL ETA: 2019-20
Wiley Sherman was literally drafted because he was a big guy who could skate. I kid you not. Then Assistant GM Jim Benning (yes, THAT Jim Benning) was quoted saying as much after the 2013 draft. To his credit, Sherman has developed into a solid, stay-at-home d-man at Harvard, but he does not move the puck nearly well enough to make a significant impact at the NHL level. That 6’7″ frame is most of what makes him intriguing, so don’t start buying Wiley Sherman jerseys just yet…
G Jeremy Swayman, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Acquired: 2017 NHL Draft (4th Round, 111th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 32 GP, 2.90 GAA, .914 SV%
NHL Projection: League Average Backup Goaltender
NHL ETA: 2026-27
Many Bruins fans liked the fact that the B’s invested in another goaltending prospect after several years of souring public opinion on 2012 1st Round Pick Malcolm Subban. Unfortunately, the Bruins waited too long in this year’s draft to take a goalie and were kind of stuck with Swayman as their best option. He has a big frame with plenty of room to grow even more and posted respectable numbers on a mediocre USHL team. He is quite aggressive, and uses his athleticism well, but can get himself out of position quickly, and has a tendency to try and do too much rather than make the simple save. He will have plenty of time to refine his game at the University of Maine, where he will start this fall. It will likely be a long time before we see anything from him at the pro level.
Each of the following players has yet to complete a full season in the NHL, project mostly as AHL players but are signed to NHL contracts, OR whose NHL rights are held by Boston, but are not currently under NHL contract and are instead playing in a professional league overseas. Szwarz, Cross, Cave, and Hickman all fall under the category of the former, and should not really be more than “competent bums” who help lead the dearth of younger players that comprise most of Providence. With the organizational depth on the backend, and after a season ravaged by injuries, Linus Arnesson chose to return to Sweden for this season. He is a big, strong, defensively sound rearguard, but the lack of offense is glaring, which severely limits his NHL upside. If he can spend time in Sweden working to improve his support game, he could eventually develop into a quality depth guy.
The two most intriguing players here are clearly the two Russians. Alexander Khokhlachev had the unfortunate problem of inaccurate timing when he was drafted in 2011. He has shown at the AHL level that he can score at a consistently high-end level, and at his best is a flashy, quick, dynamic, offensive dynamo. When he became a part of the Bruins’ organization, it became the classic conundrum of attempting to jam a square peg into a round hole. Nobody is going to mistake Khokho as the next coming of Patrice Bergeron, and Claude Julien does not tolerate defensive shortcomings in his younger players (see Ryan Spooner). After repeatedly being passed over for lesser talented players (regarding true, raw, offensive ability), Khokholachev understandably became frustrated to the point where he jumped ship at the end of the 2015-16 season and returned to Russia to play in the KHL. Playing for perennial powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg, he produced at over a point per game rate. I expect him to make an NHL return in the next few years, and the Bruins’ would be wise to keep him in their sights. He has the potential to be a game-breaking offensive talent in the modern NHL.
Many of you likely are saying “Who in the heck is Maxim Chudinov?” Well, that’s not entirely unfounded. Chudinov, a 2010 7th Round Pick, has never given the impression that he is interested in coming to North America. He is intriguing, however, as a player who would make an impact at the NHL level. He’s not the biggest d-man, but he loves the physical side of the game, has quick feet, makes a good first pass, and knows what he’s doing in the offensive zone. He has developed into one of the better young defensemen in the KHL – the question is, how likely is it that he decides to come over to the NHL? I’m not hedging my bets on this one…
D Linus Arnesson, Providence Bruins (AHL)
Acquired: 2013 NHL Draft (2nd Round, 60th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 20 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, 8 PIM
NHL Projection: 7th Defenseman
RW/C Jordan Szwarz, Providence Bruins (AHL)
Acquired: Free Agent Signing
2016-17 Season Stats: 65 GP, 22 G, 32 A, 54 P, 76 PIM
NHL Projection: Depth Forward
C/W Alexander Khokhlachev, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Acquired: 2011 NHL Draft (2nd Round, 40th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 60 GP, 23 G, 45 A, 68 P, 12 PIM
NHL Projection: Dynamic Top 9 Offensive Forward
D Tommy Cross, Providence Bruins (AHL)
Acquired: 2007 NHL Draft (2nd Round, 35th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 74 GP, 12 G, 23 A, 35 P, 69 PIM
NHL Projection: Depth Defenseman
D Maxim Chudinov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Acquired: 2010 NHL Draft (7th Round, 195th Overall)
2016-17 Season Stats: 42 GP, 4 G, 10 A, 14 P, 26 PIM
NHL Projection: Top 4 Two-Way D-man
C/LW Colby Cave, Providence Bruins (AHL)
Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent Signing
2016-17 Season Stats: 76 GP, 13 G, 22 A, 35 P, 52 PIM
NHL Projection: AHL Forward
RW/C Justin Hickman, Providence Bruins (AHL)
Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent Signing
2016-17 Season Stats: 25 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P, 19 PIM
NHL Projection: AHL Forward
All Statistics courtesy of EliteProspects.com
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