By: Joe Travia | Follow me on Twitter @NHLJoeTravia
While it may not have been under the bright lights of an NHL arena, the Boston Bruins returned to the ice this past weekend at the three-game “Prospect Challenge,” hosted by the Buffalo Sabres. While the roster featured some of the organization’s brightest prospects, Fabian Lysell and John Beecher among them, there were a few less-heralded players that stood out in the two games fans were able to watch. Though they face long odds to make an impact at the NHL level this season, the following three players showed glimpses of promise that will have me keeping a closer eye on them as prospects going forward.
I will be the first to admit that when the Providence Bruins signed Luke Toporowski to a two-year AHL-only contract in June, I hardly batted an eyelash. The 21-year-old Bettendorf, Iowa native, had an interesting junior career, playing five seasons in the WHL and one in the USHL during the pandemic. While he produced at a good clip, he seems to have fallen through the cracks and was never selected in the NHL Draft.
Toporowski really stood out in Buffalo. He has a really heavy shot and had very few reservations about getting into the heavy traffic scoring areas of the ice. Though Toporowski was initially signed to an AHL-only deal, his play over the weekend clearly stood out to the Bruins front office. General Manager Don Sweeney singled Toporowski out as a player who earned himself an invitation to NHL camp, as they want to see him compete with more established players. He will be an interesting player to watch in Providence this year.
Another player who stood out to me, both literally and figuratively, was the Bruins sixth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Ryan Mast. Mast, listed at 6’6″ and 210 pounds, is an imposing presence on the ice. For a player of his size, Mast can skate very well. He is very smooth when defending and retrieving pucks, a necessity for NHL defensemen in the modern game.
In Buffalo, Mast showcased all of those traits. His long-reach and smooth skating led to some really nice defensive moments, and he demonstrated the ability to break plays up and immediately transition to offense with a good first pass. Though he did not score, Mast was not shy about jumping up into the offense when given the chance. Mast is definitely going to be a longer-term project, but he had a really good showing overall.
If you were looking for players outside the top prospects like Lysell and Beecher with the best chance at an NHL audition this upcoming season, look no further than Franklin, Massachusetts, native Mike Callahan. Callahan, who turns 23 on September 23rd, is an interesting prospect. Originally a fifth-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes, Callahan was traded to Boston last year for a 2024 seventh-round pick after four seasons in the NCAA with Providence College, three of which he served as captain.
The 6’2′, 195-pound Callahan was one of the few Bruins defensemen in Buffalo with professional experience, and it showed. Callahan plays a steady, two-way game and is more than capable as a puck mover. In the Bruins first game against Ottawa, Callahan made an excellent play to retrieve the puck at his own blue line, get his eyes up quickly, and fire a perfect pass up the seam to Fabian Lysell, who went down and buried it to tie the game at three. While his lack of dynamic talent likely limits his overall ceiling as an NHL defenseman, Callahan’s pro-style game and physical maturity make him a top candidate for a recall to Boston this season should the injury bug strike.