By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12
Last month, Black ‘N Gold colleague Mike Cratty approached our team with the idea of coming up with our own lists ranking the Bruins 10 best prospects; you can find Mike’s article here.
One of the stipulations for the list is that the players had to be either unsigned or on entry-level contracts (ELC’s), so guys like Cooper Zech will not be included. Also, players such as Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman will not be ranked as Bjork has played over 50 games and Kuhlman seems like he has firmly established himself by now.
The Bruins’ prospect pool remains in good shape and is stronger after a solid draft class this summer. So, without further ado, here are my top-10 Bruins prospects:
10. Zach Senyshyn
The much-maligned 16th-overall pick in the 2016 draft, Senyshyn has not been able to make a meaningful impact in the NHL yet, but he was very impressive in his NHL debut last spring. He has not dazzled anyone on the scoresheet in the AHL after he lit up the OHL, but he has still been solid nonetheless. The 6-foot-1 winger has an incredible ability to shoot the puck and his blazing speed easily makes him one of the fastest skaters in the Bruins’ system. The 22-year-old will push for a roster spot come training camp.
9. Trent Frederic
Frederic’s low ranking on this list is not necessarily a knock on him despite how it appears on the surface. The bruising center did well in his first full season with the Providence Bruins and wowed Bruins fans in his NHL debut where he beat the wheels off of Brandon Tanev. However, the rest of his stint with the varsity club was just ho-hum as he failed to produce much of anything on offense. The Wisconsin product definitely still has top-nine NHL potential and maybe even top-six, but Jack Studnicka’s continued progression as well as the addition of John Beecher have lowered his stock for me.
8. Jeremy Lauzon
Lauzon was certainly impressive in his brief stint with the big club last season and showed us a sneak peak of what could be down the road. A sound defensive player, Lauzon’s playmaking instincts in the offensive zone is another part of his game that stands out, especially when taking into account all the assists he racked up playing juniors (95 total). The 22-year-old certainly has the makings of a future top-four defenseman in my opinion, but the plethora of defensemen in the Bruins’ system will likely keep him out of a full-time NHL gig this season.
7. Kyle Keyser
Since signing with the Bruins as an undrafted free agent, Keyser has been extremely impressive with his progression, shooting up the prospect pool rankings. After an impressive career with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL (highlighted by a .915 save percentage last season), Keyser will likely make the jump to the pro ranks this season with either Providence or Atlanta (ECHL). The 20-year-old has a knack for coming up with big saves.
6. Oskar Steen
Steen had a career season in the SHL last year as he transitioned from wing to center full-time. A sixth round draft pick in the 2016 Entry Draft, Steen ranked tenth in total scoring in the SHL with 37 points in 47 games. The speedy forward is a crafty player with a blistering shot that looks NHL-caliber already and was easily the most impressive skater at the Bruins’ latest Development Camp earlier this summer. It looks as if Steen will transition to the North American ice this season and play with Providence, which will serve him well in his adjustment to a slightly different style of play, considering his smaller frame.
5. Axel Andersson
Andersson has all the tools to be a successful defenseman in today’s NHL between his skating and puck-moving abilities. A shifty player on the backend, Andersson still has some developing to do, considering his small-ish frame (6-feet, 179 pounds). If he plays for Moncton of the QMJHL this season, a full year of experiencing the North American game will do him a world of good.
4. Jakub Lauko
Lauko has the tools of the trade to become a top-six winger down the road. After a strong showing in training camp and pre-season last fall, the winger went on to have a strong year in the QMJHL. Lauko’s shot, speed, and ability to control the puck while at full speed are the shining elements of his game. He’ll look to build on his success with another strong showing at camp this fall.
3. John Beecher
The Bruins’ first round pick this year, Beecher boasts gobs of potential. The thing that stands out the most for Beecher is his speed; he can skate like the wind. Not to mention the fact that he has size and knows how to use it, playing a powerful, heavy style of play. The Elmira, New York native is committed to play at the University of Michigan this season where he’ll get to work on his offensive creativity and scoring touch, which he did not flash off on a consistent basis.
2. Jack Studnicka
After lighting up the OHL over the last few seasons, Studnicka will make the jump to the pro game full-time this season. The center will likely begin with AHL Providence in my opinion, but you never know, especially given the Bruins’ situation at right wing, which the former second round pick can also play.
Studnicka boasts top-notch, high-end skill in all three zones and looks as if he has the potential to be a future top-six center in the NHL. The crafty Windsor, Ontario native has had his sights set on a spot on an NHL roster spot each time he’s been to training camp, and his goal will be no different this year.
1. Urho Vaakanainen
The 18th-overall pick in 2017, Vaakanainen is far and away the Bruins’ best defense prospect, and good enough to take the top spot on my list. The left-shot defender is not going to “wow” anyone with gaudy offensive numbers; however, his strong skating ability and the way he is able to move the puck up ice with ease is what intrigues me the most about Vaakanainen.
The 20-year-old Finn will push hard for a spot on the opening night roster after an impressive year in Providence (although it was somewhat derailed after he sustained a concussion in his second NHL game after being called up). The only thing standing between Vaakanainen and a spot on the NHL roster is the logjam the Bruins currently have on defense; top-four potential is there for sure, maybe even top-two.