(Photo Credit: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)

By: Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis and Linktree

The Bruins sent their rookies, prospects, and roster hopefuls to Buffalo this weekend for the eighth consecutive Prospect Challenge. Boston’s skaters suited up for three games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, and New Jersey Devil, going 1-2 in the three games. Here’s what I saw:


Trevor Kuntar: The former Boston College Eagle has impressed ever since returning from off-season elbow surgery and continued to raise his stock during the Prospect Challenge. Kuntar was a factor in all three zones, hunting pucks on the forecheck, speeding in transition, and back-checking consistently and fervently. He scored the Bruins’s lone goal in the 4-1 loss to Montreal on Saturday, potting a sweet backhander after protecting the puck behind the net and spinning out front. Across all three games, he was Boston’s most consistent player and stood out for all the right reasons whenever he was on the ice.

Matthew Poitras: If fans were excited about Poitras before, they should be now. Poitras shined in Friday’s game, showing off his vision, hockey IQ, and creativity, which led to Brett Harrison’s first goal.

He was most visible in the offensive zone, shaking off defenders with nifty edge work and using his hockey IQ and vision to create chances for his teammates. The Guelph Storm center was responsible in his defensive zone and even showed some snarl, getting clocked in open and then taking a number and returning the favor later in the shift. He will be taking part in training camp this week and is someone to watch going forward.

Luke Toporowski: Toporowski is a little ball of hate, and I love his grit and tenacity. He’s constantly looking to make plays when the pucks are on his stick, fearlessly driving to the net and battling in the dirty areas for lost pucks. He showed off his signature shot, blasting a one-timer off a Georgia Merkulov feed.

His second goal was the first of the tournament for Boston, spinning around and firing a puck towards the net front that banked in off a defender. He added an assist on Curtis Hall’s goal in Monday’s game, further exhibiting his drive and high motor. He had a solid rookie year in Providence last season and should see more opportunities this season.

Brett Harrison: Harrison spent the entirety of the tournament on the wing, something Don Sweeney talked about before the tournament. Despite playing ‘out-of-position’ (he has played on the wing before), Harrison proved that his scoring touch could translate outside of junior hockey. He’s excellent at finding soft spots in the offensive zone, opening up for a tap-in goal off a Poitras feed, and burying a rebound off a Ryan Mast net drive. Harrison also showed off his signature shot, firing a one-timer from the bottom of the circle into the opposite top corner of the net on the power play.

Apart from his contributions on the scoresheet, perhaps the most encouraging part of Harrison’s tournament was his board play and attention to the smaller details of the game. He handled pucks well along the boards and broke the puck out with ease, used his size to box out forecheckers, and maintained solid and consistent positioning across the ice. Harrison will be a rookie in Providence this year and has the chance to play a significant role next season.


Mason Lohrei: I want to start by saying don’t panic. Lohrei was not a disaster or one of the worst players on the ice. He was more a victim of his high expectations going into the tournament. The former Ohio State Buckeye constantly tried to do too much with the puck, forgoing simple plays for more complicated and lower-percentage ones. He had a turnover, which led to a scoring chance in the game against Montreal, and struggled with overall consistently.

I think this is just a case of him adjusting to the speed of the pro game and that he’ll still be an excellent defenseman, but it’s something to watch.

Ryan Mast: The big-bodied defenseman of the OHLs Sarnia Sting had an up-and-down tournament, just like Lohrei. He committed several egregious turnovers and missed a hit that shook him up and resulted in a goal. In plenty of instances, he played great defensively, using his size to body forwards behind the goal line and his strength to dominate below the dots. He had solid positioning throughout but was far too inconsistent with the puck on his stick.

Georgii Merkulov: Again, this isn’t something to panic about. I just thought Merkulov was quiet over his three games in Buffalo. He didn’t necessarily make many mistakes or get dominated by the opposition, but he also didn’t shine the way I thought he would on the offensive side of the puck. One silver lining is that, defensively, he has taken serious strides this year. He was physically below the dots and supported his defensemen on every forecheck.

Everything in Between

John Farinacci: Great penalty killer and vision. He had a slow start but got better as the tournament went along.

Frederic Brunet: The Bruins need to sign him so he can play in Providence. His offensive game is ready, and although he has to improve in his own zone, his defense has also improved.

Jackson Edward: The heavy-hitting London Knights defenseman played with Brunet most of the weekend and the pair faired well together. They started a bit rough with some ebbs in communication but by the end of game one, they were in sync. His footwork and mobility have taken significant strides since last season and he’s becoming a more well-rounded defenseman.

Fabian Lysell: He is one of the fastest skaters I’ve ever seen at his age. His explosiveness is off the charts. The only drawback is his tendency to do it all himself on some shifts.

Joey Abate: He won’t give you much on the scoresheet, but he’s so fun to watch. Abate has no problem wreaking havoc on the forecheck, throwing big hits, and playing until a few seconds after the whistle. He’s a joy to watch.

Michael Callahan: He was probably the best defenseman from front to back for the Bruins. Consistent, detail-oriented, and fundamentally sound. He could be someone to watch in Providence.

John Beecher: This tournament saw more of the same from John Beecher. Fast, physical, flashes of greatness but no presence on the scoresheet. He has potential but he needs to be better at putting his physical tools to work.

Training camp begins Thursday for the black and gold, and some of these prospects will be fighting for a roster spot. Follow me on Twitter and keep up with Black N’ Gold Productions for everything you need to know from camp and the preseason.