By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter @BlackAndGold277
Per Dom.Hockey.com website writer Dom Tiano and other “credible” sources, the Boston Bruins have until June 1st, 2023, to sign prospect forward Matias Mantykivi to a National Hockey League contract. The 5′-11″ 161-pound left-shooting center remains unsigned by the Bruins, a team who selected the Finnish native in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft held at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Mantykivi has climbed the rankings of European hockey over the past few years, and his career highs this past season with the Ilves club in the Finnish Liiga league posting 12-21-33 numbers in 60 games. His com Ilves career has him appearing in 111 games and contributing offensively with 24-40-64 numbers. If the Bruins project him to be a bottom-six forward and have roster availability with the NHL Bruins top minor-pro affiliate, the Providence Bruins, many are asking why the holdup.
Per the PuckPedia.com website, the Boston Bruins currently have 15 NHL roster players under contract for the upcoming year. Looking at the entire organization as a whole, the team has 28 NHL contracts committed for the 2023-24 campaign. Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and Assistant and salary cap master Evan Gold have their plates full, constructing another competitive roster this offseason. With the team already in the hole $4.5 million due to bonus overages, the B’s will be doing a heavy dose of cap massaging during the downtime to provide a competitive roster that’s complaint before October 2023.
The Bruins organization, along with the other 31 NHL franchises, can carry a maximum of 50 contracts, so with the diligence this off-season from Bruins management, expect that number to get higher as free agency approaches. So with that being said, what’s Matias Mantykivi’s value to the organization, and is he worth keeping around? Dom Tiano, myself, and several other hockey prospects publishing outlets believe he deserves a chance. Mantykivi himself would like the opportunity to play professionally in North America.
I honestly don’t see how the Bruins can let a player like this walk to either sign professionally in Europe or tend offers from another NHL club willing to give his skills a low-risk, high-reward chance. Mantykivi is a defensive-minded forward with incredible forechecking and penalty-killing capabilities. While many look at hockey prospects and judge a player’s size as a measuring stick for NHL success, Matias plays a heavier game with a high offensive IQ. Many folks that have written about him have all mentioned he’s a skilled, intelligent, offensive forward.
The question is whether he can translate his European-style game to the North American pro levels to showcase his skill set and be closer to those watching for the Bruins organization. European players take half to upwards of a season to a full year to grasp the smaller sheets of ice here in the States and Canada. With the number of prospects ahead of Mantykivi up the middle in the B’s organization, Matias could also move to a left-wing position getting some versatility into his pro game.
The Bruins have been notorious for developing forwards that can play upwards of two or possibly all three forward positions. For example, Bruins prospect Georgii Merkulov is a natural center, but most of his minor-pro development has been on the wing. Same thing with fellow AHL Providence forward and first-round draft pick John Beecher.
While I understand the narrative that bottom-six forwards are a dime a dozen, you won’t unlock a player’s true potential if a chance to advance to higher levels isn’t given. Sometimes gems are found in later rounds of the annual NHL Entry Drafts, so who knows where Mantykivi is in the eyes of the B’s organization and where he might fit in a league that’s the world’s best.
11 months ago, and again per Dom Tiano in the hyperlinked tweet below, had me feel like Director of Player Development Jamie Langenbrunner was at a “meh” stage of Mantykivi’s development and unsure where he lands in the team’s scope moving forward. Langenbrunner said, “He plays second-line in Liiga, gets plenty of opportunity. I don’t know if we’ll be able to provide him much more than that at Providence right now, so” Langenbrunner also said of Mantykivi. “it’s a hard league to play in, it’s a grinding league, and he’s a good player in that league and we’ll monitor him well this season.” Jamie also added, “We’ll make a decision on him at some point this year on if he’s someone we sign or not.
In the McKeensHockey.com 2023 NHL Prospect Report, scout Chapin Landvogts released his Top Five Drafted European Prospects and Honorable Mentions. Bruins prospect Mantykivi was an honorable mention, and Landvogts had this to say about Matias and his continued development overseas in Europe. “Mantykivi already raised eyebrows with a 31-point breakout season last winter, but he upped the ante with 12-21-33 in 60 regular season games, followed by an outstanding 3-9-12 in 12 postseason contests.” Chapin added, “In total, he had a +15 this season as well and is yet to be signed, but we have a hard time thinking the Bruins won’t want this young man in Providence this fall.
Looking at the Boston Bruins depth in the minor-pro system, seven players have unknown futures with the B’s organization. All seven players have seen time at the center position, but I find it hard to believe the Bruins retain them all, driving that NHL contract maximum number closer to the 50 a team can hold onto. Centers Samuel Asselin, Shane Bowers, and Marc McLaughlin are all restricted free agents with arbitration rights. Versatile forwards who’ve played the center position and wing, such as Matt Filipe, Joona Koppanen, Vini Lettieri, and Chris Wagner, are all unrestricted free agents as of July 1st. Filipe and Koppenen are Group Six UFAs, meaning they did not accrue the required games by the age of 25 per CapFriendly.com.
I believe that centers Vinni Lettieri and Jonna Koppanen could be re-signed for veteran leadership and continued NHL looks. Mantykivi could also find his way in this Bruins pro developing depth before the June 1st player rights deadline approaches only six days away.