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By: Aaron Chisling Follow me on Twitter at @achisling
On a Boston Bruins team that is getting league-wide recognition regarding it’s Stanley Cup contender status. Many have marveled at Boston’s ability to manage their core of playoff-proven players in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, David Backes and Zdeno Chara with unproven rookie phenoms like Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly and Charlie McAvoy. Don Sweeney and Bruce Cassidy have cooked up a successful recipe it seems. Most would assume that based on this influx of youth that the Bruins are enjoying that their cupboard of prospects would be bare of upcoming, high-end talent. Boy, are they wrong.
Ryan Donato, son of Ted Donato who spent nine seasons with the Boston Bruins and played for Team USA in the 1992 Olympic Winter Games, was selected by the Bruins in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He was selected in the 2nd round and 56th overall. He projected to be a long-term project, and it seems that the Bruins Brass’ patience will bear fruit. He looked outstanding at the 2017/2018 Bruins Development Camp. His performance at camp was right on par with Anders Bjork, if not better at times. He returned to Harvard where Teddy Donato is the Head Coach. He’s been scoring at a torrid pace, playing 23 games on the season while tallying 21 goals and 10 assists, with 1.35 points per game average. Each year he’s played with the Crimson, he’s had a definite improvement in his production. Take a look at the marked improvement each year below.
Statistics courtesy of Collegehockeynews.com
In addition to skyrocketing up the Bruins prospect rankings, Donato has attracted some international competitive attention this year. With Gary Bettman and the NHL’s Board of Governors electing to forego Olympic participation during the Pyeongchang Games, Team USA was forced to dip into the non-NHL-contracted player pool to assemble its roster. Ryan Donato was named to the team and has played a prominent role thus far. He’s been put on a line with 2017 WJC shootout hero Troy Terry and former NHL player Mark Arcobello. The trio has already developed some impressive chemistry and will be relied upon to do much of Team USA’s damage on the scoreboard. Last night’s close victory over Slovakia was a demonstration of just that. Check out this filthy goal which was Donato’s second of the night and the eventual game-winning goal.
If Team USA is to overcome the adversity and challenge ahead of them and eventually medal, Bruins prospect Ryan Donato will have a significant part in the performance. How crazy would it be to win Olympic Gold and potentially a Stanley Cup in the same season? It’s unlikely, but it’s looking more and more possible every day that the Bruins continue on the path that they’re on right now. If Ryan Donato keeps up the pace he’s at, Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney will have no choice but to make a spot for him. Having too many good players is a significant problem to have, and I know Sweeney would feel the same way. Ryan Donato and Team USA face the Olympic Athletes from Russia at 7:10 AM ET on Saturday. I’ll be watching. You should know too.
For more Bruins live reaction, follow me on Twitter @achisling. I promise you’ll only regret it part of the time.
Above Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/Boston Globe
By: Aaron Chisling Follow Me on Twitter @achisling
Gerard Gallant, the ex-Head Coach of the Florida Panthers and caller of taxis, has been garnering most of the Jack Adams attention this season and for a good reason. Expansion franchises historically have been write-offs in their first year. Their rosters are composed of castaways and pending unrestricted free agents, doomed to the basement of the NHL standings. Going into this season things looked no different for Vegas. Analysts and experts alike were clamoring for the NHL Trade Deadline to see where James Neal and the bevy of NHL caliber defensemen would be auctioned off too. In a stunning turn of events, it’s unlikely the Knights will sell at all as their bench boss has led his team to a staggering 35-13-4 record and the Knights reign over the entire Western Conference in their inaugural season.
Bruce Cassidy’s coaching performance is being overshadowed this year by Gallant’s achievements, but what Cassidy has done is nothing to shake a stick at. By most outside of New England, the Boston Bruins were being penciled in outside of the playoff picture, eclipsed by the stalwart Ottawa Senators who just suffocated them and eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs. They stood no chance against the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs and dazzling Tampa Bay Lightning. The would have to fight uphill and through a Carey Price-led Montreal Canadiens to have a sniff at an Atlantic Division playoff berth, never-mind fight through the maelstrom that is the Metropolitan Division and defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
They have done that, and more. Led by Cassidy’s willingness to let the youth play and in what seems like every role, the Bruins have shattered expectations. Boston sits second in the East, second in the entire league in goal differential, they boast the lowest goals against in the league and has one of the most productive crops of rookies in the entire league. Charlie McAvoy’s emergence as a bonafide top pairing defenseman in his rookie season has been one of the greatest things to watch as a fan. Danton Heinen’s return to the NHL lineup and has proved that he learned and improved with his time in Providence. He’s quietly put up 35 points in 45 games played this season. During Brad Marchand’s suspension, Heinen has taken his role on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, and they have continued their elite puck possession and offensive dominance. Jake DeBrusk has become a mainstay on David Krejci’s wing in the top six, putting 11 goals and 15 assists up so far this year. Cassidy lets the kids go out there, make a mistake, and learn.
Above Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Pair this shot in the arm of youth with a return to elite play by goaltender Tuukka Rask, the Slovakian tower of power Zdeno Chara and the league’s premier two way forward Patrice Bergeron’s most lethal scoring season of his career? Jackpot, baby. Slowly but surely, the Bruins are coming up in discussion around the league as one of the teams that could be standing tall when the final rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs arrive. Bruce Cassidy’s coaching has played a monumental role in this rapid change. If I had a vote for the Jack Adams, I know who I’d give it to.
Aaron Chisling – Contributor
Follow me on Twitter @achisling
PHOTO BY MADDIE MEYER / GETTY IMAGES
By: Aaron Chisling Follow me on Twitter @achisling
With the news on Friday that Tampa Bay Lightning stud blueliner Victor Hedman would be out three to six weeks due to a lower-body injury, fans have already begun the investigative search for a replacement defenseman from the Atlantic Division. Hedman was one of four Lightning players selected to the All-Star Game from the Atlantic Division, slated to be hosted in downtown Tampa at Amalie Arena.
There are a few candidates that jump to mind when thinking about defensemen in the Atlantic Division. On a normal year, Erik Karlsson would be a shoo-in. His Senators have struggled mightily, and that struggle has been mirrored by his performance on-ice this season.
Do the organizers of the All-Star Game give the nod to fellow Lightning blueliner and rookie Mikhail Sergachev? The Russian rookie has tallied eight goals and eighteen assists while eating up an average of 15:41 time on ice per game.
Do they go with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly? Reilly has tallied thirty-one points on the year with 22:04 average time on ice. He’s been a great story so far with the Leafs sitting comfortably in third in the Atlantic with a sizable gap between them and the bottom-dwelling Atlantic teams.
PHOTO BY JANA CHYTILOVA / FREESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY
The NHL loves its marketable players. The NHL loves its original six franchises. The NHL loves rookies with a great story to tell and personalities. Why not Charlie McAvoy? The Long Island and Boston University Terrier alumni has proven he is more than capable of handling the rigors of the NHL and has flourished. McAvoy has been a workhorse for the Bruins, playing in special teams situations and in critical moments on a nightly basis. He’s tallied twenty-three points through his first forty-one games and boasts a +15 plus-minus ratio.
Most notably, however, is his average time on ice. Charlie McAvoy sits at thirty-ninth in the entire NHL in average time on ice per game, surpassing the two other names I proposed earlier, and he also leads all rookies in the NHL in this category by four minutes and two seconds. That isn’t a minuscule difference. McAvoy is playing top pairing minutes as a 19/20-year-old and is an All-Star even if the NHL elects to not bestow that honor upon him.
But how cool would it be if they did add McAvoy to the All-Star Game?
Photo by Stan Szeto – USA TODAY Sports
By: Aaron Chisling Follow Me On Twitter @achisling
Brad Marchand has earned his reputation throughout hockey as an agitator. Someone who will get under your skin and will force you to make a mistake. There’s no moment that sticks out more than back when Brad Marchand and Matt Cooke were jawing at each other, only for Brad to break away from Cooke, leaving him behind, for an odd-man rush where Brad buried the puck with a well-placed wrist shot.
He’s well on his way to earning a new reputation as well. Brad Marchand earned his first trip to the NHL All-Star game in the 2016-2017 season, and he was actively discussed in the Hart Trophy conversation up until a late-season suspension jettisoned him from that debate. Brad Marchand is no longer just a despised agitator, he’s a third of the best line that Team Canada can put together in international competition.
Most notably, Marchand just tallied his 200th career assist last week on Tuesday against the New York Islanders in Brooklyn. Bergeron finished the play after Marchand’s rebound caromed over the net and behind the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak. Bergeron gloved the puck out of the air and banked it off of Halak’s skate and in. It wasn’t a beautiful pass, but it was still a helper, and that tally put Marchand over the 200 assist threshold.
Brad Marchand will likely put up a few more milestones before his career in Boston comes to a conclusion. But one thing is for sure – the Nose Face Killah is going to be looking to achieve quite a few more major milestones before his time in the Black and Gold comes to a close. Bruins fans can’t wait to watch.
( Above Photo Credit: Rena Laverty / Photographer )
By: Aaron Chisling Follow Me On Twitter @achisling
Ryan Lindgren was selected by the Bruins in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft 49th overall in the second round. He has been flying under the radar. Defensemen are a great strength in the Bruins pipeline with flashy names such as Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, and everyone’s favorite stallion Charlie McAvoy who officially graduated this year. With these promising blueline futures attracting the majority of the attention, Lindgren can be easy to overlook. He shouldn’t be.
Ryan Lindgren is a 19-year-old logging big minutes with the University of Minnesota and was named to the team’s leadership team as an alternate captain with the Golden Gophers. He’s a defensive defenseman that has strong, confident strides and great lateral movement. He protects the net well, intercepting cross-crease passes and clearing out traffic from around the crease. He’s a bull on the boards, winning more than his fair share of puck battles.
USA Hockey hasn’t overlooked what Ryan, brother of the Montreal Canadiens upcoming goaltender Charlie Lindgren, can bring to the table. Ryan is a member of the 2017/2018 Team USA World Juniors team and one of the returning players in the American’s quest to repeat as Gold Medal winners and champions of this illustrious tournament. Lindgren is tasked with the difficult defensive assignments and flourishes, allowing his counterparts to face lesser competition and use their offensive creativity against lines they match up well against.
From Future Considerations:
“Lindgren, the U18 team captain, is an interesting prospect because he plays with such self-assurance, presence and physical edge. He skates with a wide base and is tough to knock off the puck. He has a very strong stride and gets up to speed quickly. He also moves well lat- erally and excels at slowing attackers down. Lindgren plays with an intimidating intensity. He throws his weight around like a wrecking ball and shows no hesitation when attacking loose pucks.”
Lindgren doesn’t project to be an offensive dynamo on the blue line, but he could very well develop into a strong two-way defender at the NHL level. Lindgren could be a very reliable second pairing defenseman for the Bruins in the future or could be flipped as part of a package in a trade for an asset that could help the Bruins now as the black and gold are quickly finding themselves in an enviable position in the standings. No matter which avenue Don Sweeney and the Bruins elect to pursue in regards to Ryan Lindgren, he’s got the defensive talent to make at the NHL level, whether it is in Boston or not. Keep an eye on this kid, he won’t go under the radar forever.