Where Does Victor Berglund Fit In The Bruins System?

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(Source: Adam Goransson/Freelance Photographers)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

While we await the NHL’s decision to bring its players back, some Bruins-related news broke two nights ago on Twitter.

Don Sweeney has not let up on the gas pedal when it comes to signing and developing his system during the pandemic, and this signing is no different.  Victor Berglund is not a name Bruins fans would know unless they’ve purposefully sought him out or attended rookie and development camps.

Victor is a 20-year old Swedish defenseman who the Bruins drafted in the 7th round in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.  Historically, seventh-round draft picks have shown they’re more than just a flier for teams.  The former Red Wing captain and Stanley Cup winner, Henrik Zetterberg, was drafted 210th overall, as well as Joe Pavelski, Patric Hornqvist, and Henrik Lundqvist.  The Bruins hope that the same draft will be a crucial cog of their future after selecting Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Swayman, and Jack Studnicka all in 2017.  Can Victor elevate that same draft class, and will we see him in the spoked-B any time soon?

The right-shot defenseman stands at 6’0, 180 pounds, and is set to turn 21 in August.  The Bruins drafted Victor out of the SWE-1 League, which is Sweden’s second-tier hockey league.  He has played on the same team in the SWE-1 league since 2016-17 through the pandemic suspended season.  Each year, he has improved and surpassed his previous years’ stats.

Including this year before the pandemic, Victor had played a career total of 151 games, while tallying 43 points.  The 43-point total is low, but he’s a defenseman who is still figuring out his game.  Almost half of his points have come this year while sporting a plus-18 rating, and he sits third in the SWE-1 league among defenseman in goals.  Victor played in four games for the Providence Bruins last year, where he scored his first AHL goal and assist.

There has always been an old saying around the league, “teams do not know what they have in a young defenseman until he plays at least 250 games.”  The Bruins know this saying well, as they finally understand what they have in their young blue-liner, Brandon Carlo.  Brandon showed flashes of what he can be and what he had to work on as he worked towards the 250-game plateau, and Victor is no different.

Berglund has been deemed a true offensive-defenseman with an impressive shot and awareness (as seen above in his first AHL goal).  He has the Hockey IQ it takes to be an NHL defenseman, coupled with his skating ability.  A defenseman’s duty isn’t necessarily to score, even if they’re deemed offensive-minded.  Even during Erik Karlsson’s first Norris Trophy season, he clocked 59 assists and 19 goals.

Victor can follow suit and succeed by breaking the puck out of the defensive zone effectively and create plays for his teammates.  Even if Berglund isn’t listed on the score sheet as the primary or secondary assists, its the ability to create plays and keep the flow for his teammates to score.  Vision is a crucial component of a defenseman’s game, and Victor is already equipped with great awareness.

When Berglund was drafted in 2017, the Bruins scouts touted Berglund for his quick and powerful acceleration and strong stride.  He projects to be a third-pairing defenseman on the Bruins roster, which is just as important as the first-pairing.

The two defensemen Victor looks up to are two of the league’s top defensemen.  Both are considered one of the best offensive-minded players and have the hardware to back it up.  Erik Karlsson has won the Norris Trophy (Best Defensemen) twice.  Karlsson has 603 points in 736 career games, while John Klingberg has 291 points in 425 games.  Victor has chosen two incredibly talented players to mirror, and it could help him improve his game immensely.  He may not come close to the careers these players have achieved, but he can learn a lot from these well-respected blue-liners.

The Bruins are currently going through a transitional period with their defensive core.  Before injuries, Kevan Miller and John Moore were the Bruins fifth and sixth defensemen.  Miller, unfortunately, may have played his last game as a Bruin and possibly as an NHL player.  There have been rumblings the Bruins are looking for a trade partner for John Moore.  Moore could even be available for the next expansion draft.

If history repeats itself, Berglund could find himself fighting for an open roster spot when he’s deemed NHL-ready.  This may take a few years, and the Bruins have shown they’re willing to give their players a shot to show his worth.  He has a list of items to work on in the meantime, one of which is his size.  In the real world, 6 feet is an above-average height for a male.  In the hockey world, 6 feet is a shade under the NHL average of 6’1.  His 180-pound frame is also quite small.  To put it into comparison, Charlie McAvoy is 6’0, 208 pounds, which is 28 pounds heavier the Victor.  It’s likely that the Bruins have given Victor a specific workout regimen to add size, which he will need to continue to do over the next few years.

For the upcoming 2020-21 season, Victor will be playing in Sweden’s top hockey league, Lulea, which is known as the second or third best hockey league in the world.  He will face stiff competition and will need to add size to his game.  His season in Lulea could be a make or break development year to show the Bruins if he is ready for the next step in his professional career.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

The Bruin Who Needs To Have A Stellar Playoff Performance

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(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Last week, the NHL announced its Return to Play action.  The plan allows teams to return to NHL activity based on individual states’ reopening laws and a proposal to begin the NHL playoffs in July.  The Bruins finished the year with the highest point total in the NHL, which awards them the President’s Trophy.  They have also secured a place in the top-4 seed round-robin playoff to determine the seed they’ll occupy for the upcoming playoff.  They can place no lower than fourth and will have a bye for the preliminary round.

Full disclosure, it is quite unfortunate they have to play in a round-robin to determine seed when they finished the year as the best regular-season squad.  Alas, the Bruins, and every other team will play by the rules, and we’ll hopefully see the Bruins occupy the top seed.

The year they won in 2011, the Bruins were the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.  During that year, every player on the team had a significant moment and played their best hockey.  The top two lines will always be relied on and are obvious choices to bring their A-game every night.  We’ve seen teams’ third-lines become even more impactful throughout the years and are heavily relied on.  Charlie Coyle has filled that void nicely since his trade from Minnesota.  There are a few other players who need to be an X-factor to bring the Bruins their seventh Stanley Cup.  Enter: Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly is in the midst of his fourth professional hockey career.  He has always dawned the black and gold, even though he was not initially drafted by the Bruins.  Kuraly was part of the Martin Jones deal with San Jose.  The Bruins originally received Martin Jones from the Los Angeles Kings, along with Colin Miller and a 2015 first-round draft selection (Jakub Zboril) for Milan Lucic.  Tuukka Rask was still at the helm when the Bruins acquired Jones, so they flipped Jones to the Sharks for a 2016 first-round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly.

Since then, Kuraly has always called Boston home.  He was drafted 133rd overall in the 2011 NHL draft.  He played all four years at Miami University (Ohio), where he amassed 93 points in 154 games.  In his final year at Miami, Kuraly added another accolade to his resume that fits the Bruin mold.

He played three quarters’ of a year with the Providence Bruins in 2016, where he scored 26 points in 54 games and a plus 10 rating.  He joined the Bruins for eight games when the Providence Bruins’ playoffs ended, and never looked back.  He notched his first NHL career assist in and his first NHL career playoff goal in the subsequent playoffs.  Along with his first NHL career goal, he also completed his first multi-goal game.

Kuraly has played almost every position the Bruins have needed him.  He is their Swiss Army knife and has been extremely flexible and adaptable.  Recently, he’s spent most of his time between the third and fourth lines.  The Bruins have been trying out many of their draft prospects throughout the past couple years, and Kuraly has been a byproduct of that.  He’s been able to move throughout the lineup as the Bruins give players like Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman opportunities.  Kuraly has spent most of his 2019-2020 5v5 time with Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom, which means he’s been used primarily on the fourth line.  

Before the season’s suspension in March, Kuraly had been playing alongside Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk on the Bruins’ third-line.  The move seemed to help Kuraly immensely because he scored his fourth goal of the year on the first night he was united with Coyle and DeBrusk in Tampa.  Kuraly’s game caught Head Coach Bruce Cassidy’s eye because in the final game before the suspension, Kuraly logged 17:47 minutes on ice.

His four goals in 69 games are something he will undoubtedly have to fix come playoff time.  Thankfully, if history repeats itself, Kuraly has been known to show up on the NHL’s biggest stage, regardless of his season’s contribution.  He scored 10 points in 20 playoff games last year.  One of his most memorable playoff goals came in another game seven with the Toronto Maple Leafs leaving Bruins fans with even more examples as to why Kuraly is a vital playoff player.

Fourth-line players generally tend to hover around 10-12 minutes on ice per game.  Kuraly should play at least 12 minutes a game during the playoffs, regardless of his line placement.  He is not featured on either powerplay (unless there’s an injury), but he is featured on the penalty kill.  His 112 minutes of penalty kill time this year leads the Bruins’ forward group, according to Natural Stat Trick, making him a crucial piece of their special teams.  The Bruins rank third in the league in penalty kill percentage at 84.3.  The San Jose Sharks hold the top spot at 85.7%.

Kuraly’s adaptability gives him a unique edge on most players.  He can play with any Bruins forward on any given night, and he has.  Kuraly is a left-shot center, which is his natural position.  However, when he played on Coyle’s line, he was placed at left-wing.  He has the incredible ability to play his game and his style on any side of the lineup.  This gives Cassidy the flexibility to plug-and-play Kuraly depending on the lineup he wants to use on any given night.  If Kuraly can replicate or even improve on his 2019 playoffs, the Bruins may end up on the right side of a game seven Cup final.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 181 that we recorded below on 5-31-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

What Will Boston’s Goaltending Look Like When The NHL Returns?

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Image Credit/Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The NHL announced the Return To Play plan yesterday, which included a plethora of new scenarios the NHL has never seen before.  Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner, announced 24 teams would return, along with some exciting playoff and draft lottery scenarios.  Among these changes, the NHL has authorized the eligible playoff teams to carry 28 skaters and as many goalies as they’d prefer.

Allowing teams to carry an infinite amount of goalies seems to be reminiscent of the goalie situation in Carolina on February 22, 2020.  The Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes had begun their hockey game like any other night.  However, the Hurricanes’ two rostered goaltenders were injured during the game and unable to return to the game.  David Ayers was the Carolina Hurricanes’ emergency goalie, who just so happens to be the Zamboni driver for the Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate team.  Ayers allowed two goals on 10 shots and helped Carolina to a 6-3 win.

The NHL and its fans suddenly realized carrying an extra goaltender may be a necessary change in next years’ board meetings.  Since the NHL cannot change the rules mid-season, they have allowed teams to carry as many goaltenders as they’d like heading into the upcoming playoffs.

The NHL has yet to announce the official statistics to end the 2019-2020 regular season.  David Pastrnak and Alexander Ovechkin are in line to share the Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the player(s) who lead the league in goals.  Just as important, Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are in line to share the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals against.  Rask and Halak are locked in for the first two goalie roster spots.  How many goalies do the Bruins carry, and who sits behind The Bruins’ tandem?

The American Hockey League canceled its season on May 11, 2020, which means the talent in the Bruins’ system is waiting for an opportunity to play competitive hockey again.  The Bruins have four goaltenders in Providence, all of whom have a contract with Boston: Dan Vladar, Maxime Legace, Kyle Keyser, and Jeremy Swayman.

Jeremy Swayman had an impeccable year in the Hockey East, earning him a final spot for the Hobey Baker Award as Division I’s best collegiate hockey player. Scott Perunovich ended up taking home that award, but Swayman did win the Mike Richter Award, an award given annually to Division I’s best goaltender.  He has chosen to forgo his senior year at the University of Maine and join the Providence Bruins for the upcoming season.  It is unlikely the Bruins select him to man the bench for the upcoming playoffs, considering he doesn’t have any professional experience yet.  However, his future is bright, and Bruins fans will hear his name quite soon.

Kyle Keyser split his 2019-2020 seasons between the Providence Bruins and the East Coast Hockey League Atlanta Gladiators.  The Gladiators are an affiliate of the Boston and Providence Bruins.  The 21-year-old Florida native appeared in six games for the Providence Bruins, sporting an unfortunate 1-4-1 record and a 3.21 goals-against average and only one game in Atlanta.  Before coming to the AHL and ECHL, Keyser was a stud in the Ontario Hockey League.  He improved his goals-against and save percentage in each of his three years.  He’s been highly touted by scouts and those who follow the OHL closely.

Similar to Swayman, it is unlikely the Bruins bring Keyser up for the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup playoffs given his lack of professional experience.  This leaves the last two goalies in their system, both of whom played for the Providence Bruins in 2019-2020.

Daniel Vladar was selected 75th overall in the 2015 NHL draft out of the United States Hockey League.  The 22-year-old Czech native has since spent his time between the Providence Bruins and the Atlanta Gladiators, which is a similar path to Keyser.  Vladar took a giant leap forward this past season with the Providence Bruins.  He led the entire American Hockey Leauge in goals-against and save percentage: 1.79 and .936, respectively.  He played in seven fewer games than Legace and sported a 14-7-1 record before the canceled season announcement.  When Tuukka injured himself this season, Vladar was the first goalie to be pulled up on an emergency basis.  He didn’t play an NHL game yet, but the call up shows the Bruins are comfortable with his ability to perform.  He would almost certainly be given the third goalie spot for the upcoming playoffs.  A little added bonus to Vladar is his impending contract negotiations this off-season.  He is entering this off-season as a restricted free agent.  If he received any playoff time (god forbid both Rask and Halak go down), he would be playing to show the Bruins he is capable of handling a more significant load.

Maxime Legace signed a 1-year, $700K deal last off-season with Boston.  He spent the previous six years between the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights, only appearing in 17 NHL games for the Knights.  Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins, seemed to sign Legace as a filler while Keyser and Swayman play another year in their respective leagues.  Legace appeared in 33 games for the Bruins affiliate, ending the year with a 22-7-3 record as well as 2.37 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.  Legace has NHL experience and is a likely option for the Bruins to carry in the event they want to carry four goalies on their roster.

The Bruins have a tough road to the Stanley Cup this year, given the new playoff structure.  Rask will be leaned on to replicate a similar performance to last year’s playoff.  If Halak is needed, he can hopefully replicate his regular-season performance as well.  If in the unfortunate event neither can play, the Bruins will have possibly two formidable backups ready to step in and further their professional careers.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 180 that we recorded below on 5-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Where Does Boston’s New Winger Fit Long-Term?

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(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Trades that are executed throughout an NHL season carry some inherent risk.  These risks range from injuries to improper fit into the lineup and locker room.  Though, no one could have predicted a postponement in gameplay and watching their newly-acquired players’ contracts expire.

Thankfully, the Bruins traded for two players who have more than a year on their contracts: Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase.  The latter was acquired to compete for a role on David Krejci’s right-side.  Bruins fans sound like a broken record when they plead for a long-term solution for the second-line right-winger position.  General Manager, Don Sweeney, hopes the former Anaheim Duck fits that mold.

The Bruins acquired Ondrej Kase on February 21, 2020, for David Backes, Axel Andersson, and their 2020 first-round pick.   The Ducks have been staring down a rebuild for over a year.  Rebuilding teams generally hold onto one or two high-end talent players and unload the rest of their promising young stars.  The Bruins saw the opportunity to not only acquire a forward with some untapped potential but also rid themselves of a horrid contract signed back in 2014.  The large-cap hit forced the Bruins to sweeten to the pot for Anaheim, which is why their first-round draft choice was included.

It is a tough pill to swallow for an organization that missed out on a promising 2018 draft class because of a lack of a first-round selection.  Don Sweeney hopes Kase can make Bruins fans forget the same reality during the 2018 off-season.

Ondrej Kase is a former 2014 seventh-round draft selection.  He was drafted out of the Chance Liga, which is the Czech Republic’s second-highest level of professional hockey behind the Extraliga.  He was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the final round of the 2014 draft.  It is not unheard of for a player to hail from the seventh-round and become an important NHL piece.  Henrik Lundqvist, Joe Pavelski, Patric Hornqvist, and Ondrej Palat were seventh-round draft picks who have had incredibly successful careers.  The 24-year old winger is in great company if he can replicate their paths.

Kase began his Duck career as a 21-year old rookie 2016, where he netted 15 points in 53 games.  He spent most of his time with Antoine Vermette and newly acquired Bruin, Nick Ritchie, on their third line.  A year later, Kase and his linemates experienced a more successful season, as he ended with 38 points in 66 games.  He’s been plagued by the injury bug during the first six years in the league.  He began the 2018-19 season on pace to crush his career point total, amassing 20 points in 30 games.  Unfortunately, Kase suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that would leave the Ducks waiting another year for Kase’s untapped potential.

Before the trade to Boston, Ondrej scored seven goals and 16 assists in 49 games with the Ducks.  He sustained an upper-body injury near the trade deadline, but Sweeney took the chance anyway.  Kase has only played six games for the Bruins, which is a small and difficult sample size to predict his role going forward.  Though, his skills haven’t faltered.  Kase has incredible vision along with great pucks skills and tremendous adaptability.  He has been described as a “toy-car that never seems to run out of energy.”  This is something the Bruins have needed in past playoffs, especially as the playoffs have transitioned to a faster, more creative gameplay.

Kase can keep up with the speed of the NHL and his elusiveness can wear teams down in the offensive zone.  The St. Louis Blues beat the Bruins in game seven of the Cup final last year because they were able to wear the Bruins down and capitalize on their few chances.  Kase fits that mold and his linemates will prosper.

Sweeney projects his newly acquired winger to play either with Krejci or Charlie Coyle.  Interestingly enough, Coyle could succeed Krejci as the Bruins’ second-line center, which allows Kase and Coyle to build chemistry in the meantime.  Before the season’s suspension, the Bruins had both Anaheim Duck forwards anchoring Krejci’s line.  If the season were to continue, Kase would be given a considerable chance to thrive on Krejci’s right side.  The season will look particularly different than a normal season, so Kase and his teammates will have to participate in a mini-camp before the playoffs.  This will allow Head Coach Bruce Cassidy the time to see how comfortable Kase is with Krejci.  Bruce has been known to tinker with the lines when something isn’t working, unlike his predecessor Claude Julien.

Long-term, Kase is a front-runner the second-line right-wing position.  He is a young, lethal forward who is still learning and growing into the player he is projected to be.  He has the great fortune to learn in a room full of seasoned veterans and talented leaders.  Whether the second-line features Coyle or Krejci, Kase projects to fit the glaring hole behind David Pastrnak.  Though, it would not be a disappointment if Kase sticks on the third-line for a longer period of time because the NHL has shown that teams need four well-rounded and effective lines to win Lord’s Stanley Cup.  Either way, Sweeney made the right decision in trading for a player who is a young, talented forward with the effective ability to be a force every time he is on the ice.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 179 that we recorded below on 5-17-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

One Year Left on Boston’s David Krejci’s Contract

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(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Regardless of how the current NHL season plays out, David Krejci’s contract lives on.  He will be playing the last year of his 6-year, $43.5M contract next season and has recently commented on his future plans:

The 34-year-old centerman (Happy Birthday, David!) has been a staple on Boston’s top two lines since he entered the league in 2007.  He is a Stanley Cup champion and has averaged 53 points during his 13-year career (excluding the 6 games he played in 2006).  The question now becomes, does David retire a Bruin or will he be wearing a new jersey come 2021?

Krejci was drafted 63rd overall in 2004 out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).  He played two years in the QMJHL for the Gatineau Olympiques, where he totaled 144 points in 117 games.  Bruins management sent Krejci to their American Hockey League affiliate for the 2006-07 season for a conditioning stint.  Krejci tore through the AHL with 74 points in 69 games, which earned him a callup the following year.

He split his time between the Bruins and the Providence Bruins in the 2007-08 season, totaling 27 points in 56 games with the Bruins.  The split season seemed to work wonders for David because the following season, he set a career-high in points and plus/minus (73 and 37, respectively).  David achieved all of this in every single game that season (82) and contributed to one of the Bruins’ highest point total in history (116).

Krejci continued his point contribution in the playoffs, with eight points in 11 games.  David and the Bruins would, unfortunately, lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.  Though it was this year that Bruins fans and its management realized David’s best games came on the sport’s biggest stage.

Peter Chiarelli, Bruins General Manager from 2006-2015, made some key off-season deals in 2010, which brought Krejci the right-wing he’d been longing for.  Nathan Horton was acquired from the Florida Panthers, along with Gregory Campbell.  Horton had averaged 49 points in his six years with the Panthers.  He became the anchor alongside Krejci and Milan Lucic and even scored one of the most memorable goals in Bruins’ history.

Krejci was on the ice for the goal and was an integral part of creating space for Horton to score and beat the Bruins’ most hated rival.   In the next series against the Philadelphia Flyers, David’s clutch play continued, where he scored the overtime winner in game two and eventually helped sweep the Flyers out of the playoffs.

The Bruins went onto the Eastern Conference finals (ECF) with the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The series was grueling and exciting and featured one of the best games in Bruins’ history.  Game seven of this series featured a game with no penalties and only one goal scored, which Krejci had a hand in as well.  Most will remember Horton as the goal scorer, but Andrew Ference created the play and Krejci kept it alive for Horton to net the game-winner.

The Bruins traveled to Vancouver to face the President Trophy winner, the Canucks, in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.  Krejci’s torrid pace didn’t falter, and he collected the league-leading 23rd point in game six of the finals. The 2011 cup run was Krejci’s best all-around performance and paid off in the end for the Bruins organization.

Since the 2011 cup run, Krejci has totaled 323 points in 613 games and surpassed his career-high playoff point total once in 2013.  He was awarded his $7.25m per year contract in 2015 coming off of a 31-point shortened season due to injury.  Peter Chiarelli negotiated the contract with David and has been known to give outlandish deals to players.  Though Krejci deserved to be paid like a top-six forward, many experts felt Krejci’s trajectory was still trending upwards, and the deal was designed to get ahead of an even higher fair market value.

In today’s game, second-line centers are paid between the $7M and $8M range, excluding the elite stars like Evgeni Malkin.  In hindsight, Chiarelli paid Krejci to about where the market finished.  Since Don Sweeney took over the GM position, he has been a salary-cap genius.  He’s had a few flawed contracts, such as Matt Beleskey and David Backes, but he was able to sign the Bruins’ top line to a combined $19.7M.  Krejci’s number is a bit high considering this, but the deal was signed in a different regime.

An excellent comparison to Krejci is Nicklas Backstrom.  Backstrom is a 32-year old centerman who is playing the final year of his 10-year, $67M deal.  He currently has 927 career-points in 13 years with the Capitals and anchors their second line.  The deal carries a $6.7M per-year cap hit, but a total base salary that increased over the years to $8M this season.

Krejci will be 35 by the time his next deal expires.  If his body allows him to, he will continue his NHL-career.  He will most likely not take a significant pay decrease, especially if he continues his steady, productive play.  The Bruins want to avoid another David Backes situation, though it is unlikely Krejci will fall off the NHL cliff that Backes did due to his minimal bruising gameplay.  The Bruins could offer David a 3-year, $23M deal that pays David more money upfront to entice the centerman.

Another scenario the Bruins could entertain is what the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled off in signing both Mitchell Marner and John Tavares.  Both players have minimal base salaries ($700K to $900K) but are instead paid up to $15M in signing bonuses on July 1 of every year.  The Bruins will not pay David this much late in his career, but a similar structure is not out of the question.

A wrinkle in all of this, though, is the budding stars the Bruins have waiting in the AHL.  Jack Studnicka was enjoying a successful AHL rookie season before the season’s suspension.  He has 49 points in 60 games, which sits 13th in the AHL.  Even more impressive, Jack has a league-leading seven shorthanded goals.  He will most certainly get a fair shot at a center position for the Bruins next year.

Charlie Coyle puts a wrench in the Krejci situation as well.  Coyle was acquired from the Minnesota Wild two seasons ago for Ryan Donato.  Coyle recently signed a 6-year, $31.5M contract, which will keep him in a Bruins uniform until 2026.  The 28-year old has been the most consistent Bruin since joining the squad.  He anchors the Bruins third-line currently, which features a revolving door of prospects.  From a cap standpoint, the Bruins are better off keeping Bergeron as their 1C, Coyle at 2C, and Studnicka at 3C.  Studnicka will need to reassure Bruins management that he can handle Coyle’s workload before making the tough decision to let Krejci walk.

The Bruins could very likely have Bergeron, Krejci, Coyle, and Studnicka as their four centers for a few more years.  Krejci will just have to agree to a much smaller contract, one that will pay him close to $6.5M per year for three or four years.  This would definitely be a hometown discount, and it would keep him with the team that drafted him 17 years ago.  The Bruins probably won’t trade Krejci, unless they’re one hundred percent sure Studnicka can handle the third-line promotion.  A trade would likely not come mid-season either, but rather during the off-season.

Most Bruins prefer to see Krejci avoid the route Tom Brady just took, but the salary cap can be a cruel reality.  David is an extremely well-liked teammate and has been through all the ups and downs Bruins fans have endured these past 14 years.  Don Sweeney has a few contracts to deal with soon but has to be planning for David’s next deal in his amazing NHL-career.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 176 that we recorded below on 4-27-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

If The Bruins Season Ended Today, Who Would Win An NHL Award?

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By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

As we await the NHL’s decision to extend or cancel the 2019-2020 season, there is much to discuss as it relates to the Bruins and their peak performers.  Before the NHL suspended the season, the Bruins had played 70 of a possible 82 games, which is more than enough sample size to hand out NHL awards to the Bruins players.  The NHL hands out its league-wide awards after every season in June.

The Bruins have their handful of players who deserve to be in contention with the league’s best awards, which speaks to their current place in the standings.  Some may end up winning the league-wide award, but what if the awards were eligible for only the Bruins?

Hart Trophy: NHL’s MVP

The NHL’s Hart Trophy has awarded the league’s MVP since 1923.  Last year, Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning forward) won the award after completing an unprecedented year.  He played in all 82 games tallying 128 points, which broke Alexander Mogilny’s 127 point total back in 1992-93 for most by a Russian-born player.  Even more impressive, Kucherov’s 128 points primarily comprised of 87 assists.

Before the season’s suspension, the Bruins have a forward who was on a torrid point pace.  Czech right-winger David Pastrnak has tallied 95 points in all 70 games.  He is two goals away from the impressive 50-goal plateau and has scored at least one goal in over 50% of his games played.  Bruins fans could think of at least five of David’s best goals, but one that sticks out the most came against one of the Bruins’ most hated rivals.

His 48 goals are tied for the league’s most with top perennial goal-scorer, Alexander Ovechkin.  Pastrnak, a former first-round pick, has increased his goal total every year since he entered the league in 2014.  He would be the unanimous Hart Trophy winner for the Boston Bruins, and if this season’s playoffs occur, he will be leaned on heavily to provide timely goal-scoring.

Norris Trophy: NHL’s Best Defenseman

The Norris Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s top defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability.  It has been awarded since 1953.  Only three Bruins players have won the award since its inception: Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, and Zdeno Chara.  Bobby Orr holds the record for most Norris Trophy wins with eight, all of which happened consecutively.

For the 2019-20 Bruins, their Norris trophy winner is Charlie McAvoy, which may come as a surprise to some.  The Norris Trophy has received some scrutiny over the years because a few offensive-minded defensemen have hoisted the trophy.  Historically, it has been given to defensive-minded players.  Erik Karlsson won the award twice, the first year netting 78 points and the second year with 66.  Though his second win came with an uncharacteristic minus 2 rating.

In 70 games, McAvoy has a plus 26 rating, which sits second on the Bruins (behind former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara), and he averages two more minutes a game than big Z.  He leads the Bruins in blocks and hits, both with 131.  One of which, Bruins fans cannot forget.

Even more so, McAvoy didn’t score his first goal until the calendar had changed to 2020.  It came at quite an opportune time as the Bruins were looking to extend a four-game win streak and looking to avoid (probably another) shootout loss.

McAvoy had just begun to pick up momentum before the NHL halted the season.  His dynamic play is a key cog in the Bruins’ playoff picture and beyond.  They’ll certainly need a Norris Trophy-type performance from Charlie to hoist the Cup in Boston once again.  

Frank J. Selke: NHL’s Best Defensive Offenseman

These next two awards are layups in the eyes of Bruins fans.  The Frank J. Selke Award is awarded annually to the NHL-forward, who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.  It is a relatively new award, beginning in 1977, and is named after a former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens.  Patrice Bergeron and Bob Gainey hold the record for most Selke wins with four.  For this year’s Bruins team, who leads the league is least goals-against, Bergeron breaks the record and wins his fifth Selke award.

Patrice Bergeron has always carried himself with the utmost humbleness and loyalty.  He came to the Bruins as the 45th overall draft selection in the 2003 draft.  Bergeron best exemplifies what it means to be a Bruin and a top player in the league every year.  He is the next unanimous captain of the Bruins and has earned it year over year.

He is the epitome of a clutch hockey player, delivering goals in the most crucial times in the franchise’s history. Even more impressive, Bergeron is almost always the reason a goal is scored for his team.

The Bruins have given up 167 goals in the 2019 season, which sits first in the league.  The Dallas Stars sit second with 174.  Since the 2011 season, Bergeron is second in the NHL with a +191 rating.  Interestingly enough, the top three players in the league in plus/minus since 2011 are all Bruins: Brad Marchand (+199), Bergeron (+191), and Chara (+172).  Bergeron has totaled 532 points in the nine-year span.  He is the unanimous Bruins player for this award and hopefully, for the NHL, if the season starts back up.

Vezina Trophy: NHL’s Best Goaltender

The Vezina award has awarded the NHL’s best goaltender since 1926.  Jacques Plante holds the record for most Vezina trophy wins at seven.  Tuukka Rask earned his first Vezina in 2013, making him one of three Finnish goalies to win the award.  After the year he was having before the suspended season, he has undoubtedly earned himself his second Vezina award.

Goalies who have played in more than 31 games this season, Tuukka Rask leads the NHL in both save percentage and goals-against average, .929 and 2.12 respectively.  In his 48 games played, he’s recorded five shutouts and sports a 26-8-6 record.  He’s performed incredibly well in almost all 40 games and is in contention for save of the year.

When Rask won the Vezina in 2013-14, he ended the year with a 36-15-8 record, a .930 save percentage, a 2.14 goals-against average, and a career-high seven shutouts.  Rask ranked first in shutouts and save percentage and third in goals-against, which shows a goalie does not have to lead the league in all categories to win the award.  Rask’s career-best save percentage is .931, which he is not far off from surpassing if the season continues.

Rask was the glue that kept last season’s playoff run extend into game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.  He led last year’s playoffs in goals-against and save percentage.  His elite stature can also be relied on heavily throughout a long future playoff run.  

Seventh Player Award: Bruins Player Exceeds Expectations

Before puck drop of the last home game every year, the Bruins hand out their seventh player award.  It is awarded to the player voted on by Bruins fans who performed beyond expectations since 1968.  The current holder of the award is Chris Wagner.  Wagner has been a career-long fourth-liner.  He was signed to fill the spot of Noel Acciari when Noel left for Florida.  Wagner’s first year as a Bruin was a career year.  He set a few career highs in goals (12), points (19), and plus/minus (+3).  He rightfully won the award after having a year no fan expected.  

This year, the seventh player award should be awarded to Brandon Carlo.  Carlo has been one of the quietest budding stars on the Bruins.  He anchors the second-line defensive pairing with offensive-mind, Torey Krug.  Carlo currently has set a career-high in points with 19 and can hopefully continue to build that total this season.

Carlo is not going to score the flashy goal like his teammates Krug and McAvoy.  He has scored some clutch goals, like in the Stanley Cup final last year, but his bread and butter is his play in the defensive zone.  Carlo can be relied on heavily for shutting down the opposition’s best playmakers.  He is almost always in the right place at the right time, which is not by accident.

In the video above, Carlo acts quickly like a defenseman needs to.  He notices the puck is entering an area where Halak is out of position and a Flyer forward can score a high-danger goal.  That Flyers forward (Kevin Hayes) is a mammoth 6’5 216-pound presence.  Carlo not only boxes out Hayes from gaining space near the crease, but he also allows the puck to be tracked by Halak for the eventual cover.  When a defenseman’s play goes unnoticed, its usually because he is ding his job.  

Hockey is missed by virtually everyone, especially its playoffs.  The NHL playoffs have been widely deemed as the best in all of sports.  It would be quite an unfortunate way to end such a promising season the Bruins were having, given how well its players have been performing.  Hopefully, come the summer, we’re not only back to our healthy lives, but that includes watching playoff hockey at the TD Garden.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 174 that we recorded below on 4-12-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Grading the Bruins’ Deadline Deals

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(Jen Fuller/Getty Images North America)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

This year’s NHL Trade Deadline was one for the record books.  32 trades were executed before the February 24, 2020, 3pm deadline, which broke 2010’s record of 31.  The Bruins accounted for two of the 32 trades, both of which were with the same team.

General Manager Don Sweeney executed two separate trades with the Anaheim Ducks.  The first sent the Bruins’ 2020 first-round draft pick, David Backes, and prospect Axel Andersson for right-winger Ondrej Kase.  The second was a rare one-for-one deal, sending Danton Heinen to Anaheim for Nick Ritchie.  Both trades were executed with a specific need in mind, as well as looking toward future cap space.

It’s no secret that the Bruins have been desperately searching for a right-winger to cement next to David Krejci.  He hasn’t had a formidable, long-standing right-winger since Nathan Horton.  The Bruins have a plethora of wingers in their organization, but none have been able to hold the second-line reigns for long stretches.  They had been scouring the trade market and free agency pools for years, but their cap space kept holding them back from over-extending themselves.

David Backes signed on July 1, 2016, to a 5-year, $30M deal.  His cap hit accounted for $6M each year, which grew increasingly difficult to stomach as a Bruins fan.  The 35-year old centerman grew slower each year and couldn’t keep up with the current NHL pace.  He was a fantastic presence in the room, but that didn’t outweigh his cap hit.  On January 17, 2020, the Bruins made a surprising move.

The move relieved $2M of Backes’ deal from their cap space, and both sides came to an understanding that he would not play in the American Hockey League to stay healthy.  This is known as asset management, which most assumed meant the Bruins were shopping him to other teams.  Executives around the league knew the Bruins would need to sweeten the pot in any trade to rid themselves of the Backes’ deal.

The NHL witnessed the Toronto Maple Leafs pull off a similar trade, sending Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes in June 2019 for a conditional first-round pick and a conditional sixth-round pick.  This set the trade market for risky NHL contracts that a team would want to shed.

The trade also creates cap space next off-season to sign Torey Krug.  Krug is on the last of his 4-year, $21M deal and has been a remarkable offensive weapon for the Bruins.  He is their power-play quarterback and has posted over 50 points in three of the last four years.  Torey is currently on pace to post a career-high 63 points this year.  He will cost at least $6M per on his next deal, and the Bruins finally have some money to give.

Ondrej Kase is a 24-year old right-shot winger who is under contract through 2021.  He carries a $2.6M cap hit and will be a restricted free-agent after 2021.  The Czech Republic native is familiar with David Pastrnak in their Olympic hockey days and will play alongside another fellow Czech in David Krejci.  The move felt like Sweeney wanted to accomplish two things: get Krejci a winger who can contribute now and get younger.

Kase has underachieved in his three and a half years in Anaheim.  He’s reached the 20-goal plateau once and has been a versatile weapon.  He can play in all facets of the game, from power-play to penalty kill.  He stands at 6’0 183 pounds and is exceptionally shifty.

The one knock on his resume is his injury history.   He was traded from Anaheim on the Injured Reserve List, and the Bruins are going to be cautious with his return.  The Bruins sit atop the NHL, five points ahead of the surging Tampa Bay Lightning, so they have the luxury of time to manage their assets.  Bruins fans would like to see Kase before the end of the season, which will likely happen.  

Don Sweeney can be given an A-minus for this trade.  He was able to accomplish two areas of need: create long-term cap space for impending free-agents and add a non-rental to his top-six forward group.  Kase’s performance and potential on the Bruins remain to be seen, so of course, the grade can change.

The second trade occurred on Deadline Day, which was a one-for-one sending Boston’s Danton Heinen to Anaheim for Nick Ritchie.  Ritchie is the younger brother of recent free-agent signing Brett Ritchie.  Nick was selected tenth overall in the 2014 draft out of the Ontario Hockey League.  He’s played five years on the Anaheim Ducks totaling 109 points in 287 games.  He is a large bottom-six forward at 6’2, 234 pounds, which brings toughness to the Bruins.

Many fans have voiced that the Bruins lack toughness, whether it be not standing up for one another or getting pushed around on the ice without a true enforcer.  Ritchie seems to fit that mold.  He doesn’t fight much, only two fighting majors in five years, but he does throw his body around and sticks up for his teammates.

Ritchie has 763 career hits and 79 already this year, which is on pace for 158 this year.  His brother Brett plays a similar game, but what separates Nick from Brett is the point total.  Nick has 19 points this year, which will rank eleventh on the Bruins (tied with Anders Bjork).  He also led the Ducks in plus/minus at plus three and carries a $1.5M cap hit for this and next season.  He will also be a restricted free-agent in 2021.

Though, Ritchie comes in with the most penalty minutes on the team.  He has amassed 78 penalty minutes this year, and none have been fighting majors.  The Bruins penalty kill is one of the best in the league, but he will have to eliminate the amount of time spent in the box when they face teams like the Washington Capitals.

Danton Heinen was sent to Anaheim in this deal, and it has been a bit of a mystery for most Bruins fans and NHL experts.  Heinen entered his rookie year, putting up 47 points, and his future was bright.  He hit a bit of a sophomore slump and seemed to focus more on his defense than his offense.  He was under-appreciated in Boston for the little things he did.

Heinen recently signed a 2-year, $5.6M deal this past off-season and will be a restricted free-agent again in 2021.  Sending Heinen saves the Bruins $1.3M in cap space, which will be helpful when Krug, Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman, Matt Grzelcyk, and Jake DeBrusk need new deals this upcoming off-season.

This particular trade will need to be re-evaluated in the playoffs and beyond.  Ritchie will likely replace Heinen on the third line next to Charlie Coyle and Bjork.  He has a knack for standing in front of the net and battling for loose pucks.  The move seems to be more forward-looking than for immediate help, but his size could be beneficial when the Bruins face-off against bigger teams like the Lightning and Capitals.  For now, this trade receives a C.

Averaging the two grades together, the Bruins received a solid B for their deadline trades.  They addressed a few areas of need in acquiring a top-six forward and a bulky bottom-six winger.  Sweeney has a tendency to acquire players the Bruins aren’t linked to, and it works out.  Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle come to mind in this regard.  Though, Sweeney has signed and traded for a few bruisers who haven’t worked out: David Backes, Brett Ritchie, and Zac Rinaldo.  Hopefully, Ritchie can break his enforcer track record, and Kase can perform up to his potential, which would raise Sweeney’s 2020 deadline day grade.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 167 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Rask’s Unbeaten Home Streak Has Landed Him In Vezina Contention

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(NHL with AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The Bruins’ latest winning streak came to an end Sunday afternoon in Detroit, though one streak remains intact for the Bruins’ starting netminder, Tuukka Rask.  Following the 4-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes Saturday afternoon, Rask extended his home regulation winning streak to 18 games.  Rask has not logged a regulation loss at the TD Garden since April 6, 2019, against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The streak also breaks Gilles Gilbert’s 17-game winning streak to open a season, set back in 1973.

Rask is in the midst of an impressive year and is in contention for the NHL’s best goaltending trophy: the Vezina.  Considering goalies who have played more than 25 games this year, Tuukka leads the league with a 2.14 goals-against average and ranks second with a .929 save percentage behind Columbus’s Elvis Merzlikins.  He sports a 20-5-6 record with 67 goals against, which ranks sixth among NHL goalies.

The Bruins sit atop the NHL standings with 80 points, three points ahead of the surging Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.  It’s no coincidence that Rask is among the top three goalies in contention for the Vezina, and his team is the best in the NHL.  He’s even made a case for the save of the season.

When it comes to the Vezina race, Rask has some stiff competition.  To open the year, Rask ranked behind Pekka Rinne, Frederik Andersen, and 2019 winner, Andrei Vasilevsky.  All three have been atop the goaltending ranks for the past few years.  Rask currently has the second-best chance to win the trophy behind Winnipeg Jets’ netminder, Connor Hellebuyck.

Hellebuyck is having a remarkable year in goal for Winnipeg.  He is leading the NHL with 1,306 saves and has been able to maintain a .920 save percentage.  To put this in perspective, his team has allowed 1,420 shots through the 46 games he’s played this year.  Rask has seen 942 shots and has saved 875.  Hellebuyck’s goals-against average sits at a high 2.67, which gives Rask has an opening to reclaim the trophy.

Rask etched his name in the Vezina trophy’s history books once before.  In the 2013-14 season, he ended the year with a 36-15-6 record and a league-leading .930 save percentage.  Tuukka also recorded a 2.04 goals-against average and seven shutouts.  He has consistently been a rock for the Bruins, including his performance in the playoffs.  This past playoff run, Rask was always the best player on the ice for the black and gold.  He led all goaltenders in the playoffs (who played past the opening round) with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.

The Bruins have historically been a strong home team.  They rank first in the NHL with a 19-2-9 home record, and it’s no secret that Rask has been the main contributor to that success.  The Bruins are a few trade deadline pieces away from hoisting their seventh Stanley Cup.  They have the makeup, leadership, and experience to make another deep playoff run.  If Rask can continue his torrid pace at home, the Stanley Cup may be in a different set of hands at the TD Garden in June.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 165 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

The Latest Bruins Trade Buzz

( Photo Credit: NBC Sports Boston )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The NHL trade deadline is 20 days away, and the Bruins are the center of attention.  Pierre LeBrun, a senior NHL columnist for The Athletic, posted an article giving his perspective of plausible trades throughout the NHL.  He predicts Chris Kreider to the St. Louis Blues, Tyler Toffoli to the Calgary Flames, and Ducks’ Ondrej Kase to the Boston Bruins.  

The hypothetical deal would send Kase to Boston in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick and prospect Oskar Steen.  Steen is a former sixth-round draft choice in 2016 out of Karlstad, Sweden.  Oskar is currently playing on Boston’s American Hockey affiliate team, the Providence Bruins.  Steen’s scouting report has centered around his feisty play combined with a lethal shot.  He was able to show off that shot during a Bruins pre-season game in September 2019.

Bruins Coordinator of Player Development, Jamie Langenbrunner, has given his take on Steen’s abilities. “He should be a very effective player for us in Providence to start, and we’ll see how quickly he can translate that to be on the radar for [Bruce Cassidy] and the guys [in Boston].” He has 16 points in 47 games as he transitions from the bigger Swedish ice surface to the NHL-sized rinks.  European hockey leagues play on Olympic sized rinks (200×100), where the AHL and NHL play on 200×85 sized rinks.  Once Steen adapts to the smaller arena, he could be an effective piece for an NHL franchise.

Another Athletic NHL writer, Scott Wheeler, ranks NHL teams’ prospects pools each year and where each player ranks within each system.  He ranks Steen fourth-best in the Bruins’ prospect pool behind Jack Studnicka, John Beecher, and Urho Vaakananien.  “Steen has underperformed. We rarely see players his age have the kind of impact he had for Farjestad last year. He was consistently their most dangerous forward shift-to-shift.”  He goes on to say Steen is on his way to be a complementary piece on an NHL roster.

If you’ve watched more than three Bruins games this year, it’s clear the Bruins have a plethora of complementary players.  The Bruins are still searching for their top-six forward.  It would be a welcoming surprise if Steen could surpass the complementary piece trajectory and become a top-six winger.  Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney has been doing his due diligence throughout the year.  There have been reports that the Bruins have a “back-pocket deal in place for Los Angeles Kings winger Tyler Toffoli.  LeBrun has Toffoli heading to Calgary, so if LeBrun’s predictions hold true, the Bruins would need to look elsewhere.

The Anaheim Ducks have had an extremely trying season.  They fired their coach and bought out the second-best winger in Ducks history (Corey Perry) this past off-season.  NHL analysts predicted their youth would carry them into a playoff spot.  Unfortunately, the Ducks sit 27th in the league standings, second-to-last in the Western Conference.  Their team has been depleted with injuries and a lack of consistency.

They have a few bright spots, due to strategic drafting.  Rickard Rakell is in-line to be their number one forward and John Gibson has been a highly-regarded goalie throughout the league.  Kase was once seen as a key cog in the Ducks’ future plans, but with how their past few seasons have ended, their General Manager could be looking to shake things up.  The Bruins would prefer Rakell but would have to offer a better package.  Anaheim is more likely to part ways with Kase.

Ondrej Kase was the Ducks’ 205th overall draft choice in 2014.  He spent his early hockey career in the Czech Republic and two invitations to the World Junior U-20 Championships.  Both years, he played alongside Bruins leading goal-scorer David Pastrnak.  The 24-year old winger is a versatile player who is featured in all of the games’ situations.  He currently plays on right-wing on Anaheim’s second-line.  He is featured on their second powerplay unit and has logged 30 minutes penalty kill time-on-ice.  He’s even registered one short-handed goal for the Ducks.

Kase showcased his incredible speed during this play and slick hands.  He is a shifty 5’11 forward who could fit nicely in the Bruins system.  In his first year with the Ducks, Kase recorded 15 points in 53 games.  The following year, he ended with 38 points in 66 games, but the injury bug started to latch on.  He would miss a few games due to a concussion and illness.

In his third year with Anaheim, he was on pace for a 55 point-season when he tore his labrum in his shoulder and would miss the next six months.  Fast forward to the current season, he has stayed relatively healthy playing in 46 games amassing 21 points.  His 21 points would rank eighth on the Bruins, tying him with Danton Heinen.  If he continues on his current pace, he will end the season with 37 points.

The point total is low, but he is playing on a horrendous team, and a change of scenery has paid dividends for players.  Charlie Coyle had endured a few consecutively rough seasons in Minnesota before being traded to Boston.  He was an immediate impact in the Bruins deep playoff run and is on pace for the third-highest point total of his career (41).  Kase could benefit from the same situation.  Kase would also be under the Bruins cap control through next season.  He is half-way through his 3-year, $7.8M deal and will be a restricted free-agent in 2021.

Don Sweeney has been wary of sending high draft picks to teams for rentals.  Chris Kreider is atop the NHL’s most expensive trade asset at the deadline.  It is almost a foregone conclusion the New York Rangers will net a first-round draft selection and a prospect for the impending unrestricted free-agent.  Most teams will likely be scared off by the high ask.  Tyler Toffoli is a name to watch if you’re a Bruins faithful, but the Calgary flames have also expressed interest.  If the Bruins want to avoid a bidding war, Kase could be their best option.

If LeBrun’s asking price is a third-round pick and Steen, Sweeney could be enticed enough to take the chance.  Anaheim may counter with a second-round pick instead and in that case, which is still a fair deal to be made.  Kase is not a rental, and he could potentially stop the Bruins’ top-six winger merry-go-round.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 164 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support.  Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!  

A Bruin Goalie On The Horizon

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( Photo Credit: The Portland Press Herald )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Starting in the mid-90’s and continuing through the early 2000s, the Bruins struggled to draft their next brick wall.  They drafted Andrew Raycroft but traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs after an impeccable rookie year.  Toronto sent Tuukka Rask to Boston and the Bruins paired him with Tim Thomas to eventually bring home their sixth Stanley Cup.

Tim Thomas eventually retired, handing the keys to Rask, who recently surpassed Tiny Thompson as the club’s most winningest goaltender.  Rask’s 33rd birthday will be celebrated in March and he has two years left on a 7-year deal.  The Bruins will more than likely re-sign Rask to make him a Bruin for life, but they’ll need to develop his successor now.  Thankfully, they already have a few goalies in the pipeline: Kyle Keyser, Daniel Vladar, and Jeremy Swayman.

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Jeremy Swayman was the Bruins’ 111th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.  The Bruins drafted him from the United States Hockey League, where he was already committed to the University of Maine next fall.  Swayman ended his freshman year with a 15-12-3 record and a .960 save percentage.  He was awarded several awards throughout the season and recorded a season-high 50-save game against Quinnipiac.  He continued these heroic high-save performances in his sophomore year, recording 91 saves in a series with the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.

In his first two years with UMaine, it’s clear his team could rely on him for their defensive lapses.  Currently, his third year is no different.  His team ranks ninth in the Hockey East, only in front of Merrimack College and the winless University of Vermont Catamounts.

Swayman ranks first in saves throughout the entire National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) Division One hockey program with 822 saves in 25 games played.  He has 89 more saves than the second-highest goalie.  He averages 33 saves per game and still posts a .934 save percentage, which ranks sixth in Division One hockey. In fact, in all his years of playing junior or higher-level hockey, Swayman’s goals-against average has never been below .910.  He recently won the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week following a 73-save two-game split versus the fifth-ranked Boston College Eagles.

One word that best describes Swayman is consistent, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.  He has been nominated for the NCAA’s best player of the year: the Hobey Baker Award.  It has been awarded to only two goaltenders in its 38 years of existence: Robb Stauber and Ryan Miller.

Swayman has attended the Bruins Development Camp three times since he was drafted.  He has been sent back to the University of Maine all three times but was able to show off what opposing college hockey teams see each night.

It is not uncommon to send young goaltenders back to college for an extended period of time.  Their development is much more fluid than a skater and has even been a mystery to some teams in the past.  “There have been 95 goaltenders to make their NHL debut since the start of the 2008-09 season. Thirty-five (nearly 37 percent) of them were never drafted.”  Teams have invested more time, energy, and manpower in developing goaltenders.  Every NHL team has a goalie coach at almost every level, some of which are former players.  Bob Essensa, Dwayne Roloson, Bill Ranford, Mike Dunham, and Johan Hedberg are employed by the Bruins, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, and San Jose Sharks respectively as goalie coaches.

Development camps give coaches and Bruins management time to evaluate their prospects.  General Manager Don Sweeney has the final call on each player’s movement, and he’s sent Jeremy back to college each time thus far.  Don may send Jeremy to finish his college career with UMaine next year, which can only help his development.  He has stiff competition with the likes of Keyser and Vladar in the AHL. Still, if he continues his consistent play and reliability, it will be hard for Bruins management to overlook when he enters the Bruins development camp for the last time.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 163 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!