Sports Spot 10/15/18: Episode 3: Bruins Are Rolling As Of Late

Sports Spot (BNG).jpg

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

After some technical difficulties the first two weeks, here’s episode 3 of Sports Spot. Apologies for the hissing feedback on the audio throughout the show. The Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins are playing well and the Celtics are getting started tomorrow night with a lot to look forward to. Listen, share, and enjoy. Below you can find the show, as well as the timeframe of the Bruins segment.

Bruins segment:

37:02-48:13

Bruins-Red Wings Saturday Game Time Changed, Nordstrom Sees Practice Time On Second Line

Image result for bruins red wings 600x600(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Earlier today, the NHL announced that this coming Saturday, Oct. 13 game between the Boston Bruins (2-1-0) and the Detroit Red Wings (0-1-2) will be rescheduled. The NESN crew will have Saturday’s game.

Originally set to start at 7:00 PM ET, the game will be rescheduled to 3:00 PM ET to prevent conflict with Game 1 of the MLB’s American League Championship Series (ALCS) between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros, which gets underway at 8:09 PM ET. Now both games can take place independent of one another. It’s good to see the league getting on this schedule change so quickly, as the American League Division Series (ALDS) just ended late last night.

Standing in the middle of a three-game home stretch for the Bruins are the Edmonton Oilers (0-1-0), tomorrow night at 7 PM. Monday presented a 6-3 victory, in part thanks to a hat-trick from Patrice Bergeron in the home opener for the 2018-19 Bruins season against the Ottawa Senators. Fellow BnG colleague Max Mainville had the recap in that big first home victory, among other BnG content from Monday’s game.

Despite some different looking rosters in the preseason for both teams, it hasn’t been long since the Bruins, and Red Wings last squared off. September 22 and September 26 both saw some overtime action between the Bruins and Red Wings, with the Bruins losing in both contests. With the preseason in the past, the Bruins will look to start off a season series with their divisional foes from Detroit on the right foot on Saturday. Last season, the Bruins won all four of their games against the Red Wings en route to the earning the second seed in the Atlantic Division.

The Red Wings have a divisional clash standing in their way, as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night at Little Caesars Arena.

Nordstrom gets a look with Krejci and DeBrusk

After being scratched for Monday’s home opener, Joakim Nordstrom saw some time on the second line right-wing, along with Ryan Donato at practice today.

As one of the newer guys in the fold, establishing some familiarity with different players throughout the forward core is a good thing. Potential unexpected absences in the lineup and/or injuries can force lineup shuffling into action. Whether Nordstrom on the second line lasts long or not, using practice time to see if there could be a fit is a smart move. Head coach Bruce Cassidy seems fairly certain that Nordstrom will return to action tomorrow night.

On what this means for Ryan Donato, Cassidy is approaching his situation with an open mindset like last year. Despite a productive start to his Bruins career last season and into this one, there are always different things to learn as a 22-year-old professional hockey player like Donato. Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and Matt Grzelcyk are a few guys who can attest to this.

After scratching Jake DeBrusk in November of last season, Cassidy had a lot to say. “The message to him was watch a game from up top. There are certain areas of your game that need to be better, and there are certain areas of your game that we like and need to be there every night. We talked about his energy and his legs. If he’s skating then everything else seems to fall into place for Jake, so that’s what we’re looking for.” While Donato brings plenty to the table and is already a valuable part of the team at a young age, watching the game from up top allows players to analyze things from a different point-of-view. Things have gone pretty good from Jake DeBrusk since then, a game off early in the regular season could very well do the same for Donato.

There is still some time before tomorrow night’s game for Cassidy to decide on whether he wants to go through with this move or not. Regardless of the outcomes of each game, Saturday’s going to be quite the day in Boston with mid-afternoon hockey, followed by playoff baseball at night. Before then, the Bruins are tasked with limiting Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston at Buffalo: 10/4/18

Image result for bruins sabres(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Buffalo Sabres

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Donato

Heinen – Kuraly – Bjork

Nordstrom – Acciari – Backes

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Moore – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Miller

Goalies

Halak

Rask

Buffalo’s Lineup

Forwards

Skinner – Eichel – Reinhart

Sheary – Berglund – Thompson

Sobotka – Mittelstadt – Okposo

Girgensons – Rodrigues – Pominville

Defense

Scandella – Ristolainen

McCabe – Dahlin

Beaulieu – Nelson

Goalies

Hutton

Ullmark

First Period

The season opener was dismal. No matter how you look at it, it’s hard to take positives out of a 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. A back-to-back away from home presents the potential for a quick turnaround from a very tough loss. Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin, and company came into this one looking to set a new standard after a busy offseason.

From the start, it was apparent that things seemed to be clicking a little more in terms of puck possession and defensive zone breakouts. Some good back-and-forth action between both teams leads to the first goal of the season for the Bruins. Said back-and-forth action was highlighted by an impressive defensive effort from David Pastrnak. Brad Marchand then strolled into the offensive zone, stopped, and found the biggest guy on the ice, Zdeno Chara. The stern patience from Chara was very real as the mind games worked and he beat Carter Hutton top-shelf with 13:27 to go in the first. Charlie McAvoy had the secondary assist on the goal.

Vladimir Sobotka found a way to help his former team from long ago when he went to the box for slashing with 6:02 to go in the period. Towards the end of the power play came Ryan Donato’s first goal of the season, from Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. 4:26 to go, and a 2-0 lead that has the Bruins feeling way better than they were on their way to Buffalo. Donato-to-Bergeron, Bergeron-to-Marchand, and Marchand back to Donato – a smooth zone entry capped off with a smooth finish.

Brad Marchand mentioned to NESN’s Alex Kraemer during intermission that doing the little things better helped in comparison their season opener. Things certainly looked more natural and efficient in the first. Rolling out a new-look lineup on top of moving further away from the feeling out process helped contribute to a 2-0 lead. Must be nice to be on the good side of a 2-0 advantage after 20 minutes.

Score: 2-0 Bruins

Second Period

Just 2:47 into the second frame came an interesting slashing call on Danton Heinen, to say the least. A strong first penalty kill of the game allowed the Bruins to avoid getting behind the ball early in the period.

An interesting non-call came following a Sean Kuraly and Evan Rodrigues around. Kuraly then beat Rodrigues on a defensive zone draw and found himself on a breakaway, only to be denied on an attempt to squeak one through the five-hole of Carter Hutton. A huge stop by Hutton halted an attempt at a commanding 3-0 lead for the Bruins.

Responding to getting shut out 7-0 by tallying three assists within the first two periods is one way to get the offensive juices flowing – so Brad Marchand did just that. He hopped on a loose puck and found David Krejci who waited for a lane for David Pastrnak to bury his first of the season, making it 3-0 late in the second.

Heading into the offensive zone, a Nathan Beaulieu slap shot caught Charlie McAvoy pretty good on the inside of his foot with just around two minutes remaining in the period. McAvoy was slow to get up and headed off the ice to have the injury checked out. It’s one of the last things anyone on the Bruins wants to see as McAvoy is just starting his sophomore season with big expectations. Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller rotated in with Zdeno Chara after the injury.

A steady effort in the second was unfortunately hampered by losing such a prominent player to injury in Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins were set to roll five defensemen in the fold as they went into the final frame.

Score: 3-0 Boston

Third Period

The whole five defensemen thing didn’t last long as Charlie returned come the third period. This news was surely much to the relief of the Bruce Cassidy and crew especially as altering a game plan substantially with a three-goal lead isn’t ideal, at all.

Jaroslav Halak continued to make key saves, as Jake McCabe unleashed a wrister right into his chest with some heat on it in open space. The shutout is still intact at this point with 16:04 to go. Despite the 3-0 lead, shots were 24-23 Buffalo just around the halfway point of the third period.

The offensive momentum and the presence in Halak’s grill were definitely present, the Sabres just couldn’t convert. Sometimes it’s the defense, or bad luck or both. Just maybe it’s Kevan Miller eating a cannon from Jeff Skinner like it was no one’s business at the 5:42 mark as offensive chances become ever so important for Buffalo.

Big deficits can provoke desperation, and in this case, Carter Hutton vacated his crease with 4:30 to go. Perimeter work with the double-Rasmus blueline led to some extensive offensive zone time for Buffalo. David Backes and Zdeno both tried to airmail some empty-netters to put the game on ice, to no avail.

Not one, not two, not three, but four assists for Brad Marchand on the Patrice Bergeron empty-netter to make it 4-0 Bruins. Bergeron’s goal capped off an emphatic response after an eye-popping loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. Jaroslav Halak picks up a 32-save shutout.

The Bruins now head prepare for their home opener on Monday against the Ottawa Senators with a 1-1 record – and some pep in their collective step. Some rest will be nice after starting the regular season with a back-to-back from Washington D.C. to Buffalo.

Final Score: 4-0 Bruins

Bruins Prospect Andersson Returned To SEL, Among Other Monday Roster Moves

Image result for axel andersson

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced a series of roster moves yesterday.

One of the most noteworthy comes in the form of 2018 second-round draft pick Axel Andersson being returned to Djurgarden IF of the SEL. Andersson had a solid summer in Boston, most notably in preseason action with the Bruins. Returning to his Swedish stomping grounds will allow the 18-year-old defenseman to grow and improve as a hockey player in SEL, a league in which he has past experience in. This past Saturday, Axel got in the board in some preseason action this past Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Additionally, four young Bruins are heading to Providence, as Cameron Hughes, Emil Johansson, Joona Koppanen, and Zachary Senyshyn have been sent to the AHL. Johansson and Senyshyn return to the Providence with 50+ games of AHL apiece, while Hughes and Koppanen are still getting their feet wet. All four, regardless of experience, join a group in Providence with a good mix of veterans as well as young, skilled players that could very well be a solid Atlantic division team yet again.

To wrap up the series of moves, forward Tanner Pond will report to Providence as well. After amassing 163 penalty minutes on top of 37 points in 61 games with the Atlanta Gladiators last season, Pond is not one to shy away from the fisticuffs.

The moves will continue to come as the regular season gets closer and closer to the regular season. One thing is for sure — roster decisions won’t become any easier for Bruins management as some roster battles still rage on.

Bruins Prospect Karson Kuhlman Brings Plenty To The Table

Image result for Karson Kuhlman(Photo Credit: http://www.hockeyjournal.com)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

As one of the newer additions to the Bruins organization, Karson Kuhlman brings competitiveness and much more to the fold. Kuhlman officially signed with the Bruins back on April 10. He will be one of many attending Bruins rookie camp starting tomorrow.

Keeping with his Minnesota roots, Kuhlman eventually found himself playing hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth –– the school at which he spent four years. It only took him a year to earn a letter on his sweater as a UMD Bulldog, as he had an ‘A’ sewn on his sweater for his sophomore and junior years before earning the “C” as a senior. He did a damn good job as senior captain, leading the Bulldogs to the national title game where they took down the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish with a 2-1 win. He collected a goal, an assist, and Frozen Four MVP honors in the win. Not a bad way to go out for Kuhlman and his Bulldog teammates.

Despite having a letter on his chest for three seasons, it wasn’t his point production that shined through in Karson’s game. Kuhlman is known for his impressive work ethic, speed, and competitiveness. He possesses the tools to be an NHL player, likely in the bottom six forward pairings, and gave those in attendance a look at what he can do at development camp in June.

Karson will most definitely see some time in Providence this season with the P-Bruins, but that doesn’t mean NHL time is out of the question. He will be competing with guys like Noel Acciari, Chris Wagner, and Martin Bakos for NHL ice time. Unfortunately, there are always injuries throughout the regular season, so if he doesn’t make the team out of camp, he could surely be used for injury reinforcement and depth. Otherwise, his extensive background as a leader and competitor will serve him well as a 22-year-old joining an exciting bunch in Providence. The ability to play center and wing will only benefit him as well.

The ability to be a Swiss-army knife is a beautiful sight to coaches. Kuhlman was actually invited to Bruins development camp in the summer of 2017 before signing with the team. Clearly, he did enough then and throughout his career at Minnesota-Duluth to catch the attention of the Bruins’ brass, thus earning himself his first professional contract.

Watch below as Kuhlman comes in as the second layer on the forecheck. He further flusters Fighting Irish defenseman Andrew Peeke, leading to his teammate Jared Thomas scoring the second and deciding goal of the game for UMD.

Wherever he spends his time this season within the Bruins’ organization, there’s a good chance we see a lot of what we see in the video above. A player with the willingness to get in on the offensive attack and forecheck hard, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. The Providence Bruins and Boston Bruins alike are going to have guys that can pounce on loose pucks up and down the lineup, and Kuhlman will be there when he isn’t lighting the lamp every now and again.

The Potential Fluidity Of John Moore’s Role As A Bruin

Image result for john moore bruins(Photo Credit: @NHLBruins on Twitter)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Joining a new team can provide the potential for many new opportunities, no matter who you are. Former New Jersey Devils defenseman John Moore will hop into the Bruins’ defensive core with plenty on his plate.

As of now, the Bruins’ defensive core has eight NHL-ready defensemen on their roster with the addition of Moore on top of their core from last year, minus Paul Postma who saw brief NHL time last year. Moore’s contract is fairly similar to that of both Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller’s in terms of money and years, not how they were brought into the organization.

John Moore – Five Years / $13.75 million ($2.75 million AAV)

Adam McQuaid – Four Years / $11 million ($2.75 million AAV)

Kevan Miller – Four Years / $10 million ($2.5 million AAV)

In their respective tenures with the Bruins, McQuaid and Miller have seen some fluidity in their roles due to injuries and need for a change of pace every once in a while. In an interview with Matt Porter of the Boston Globe, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy had this to say, in part, about John Moore:

“We kind of know what the seven have for chemistry. [Moore’s] a bit of a question mark there, as for who he’s going to fit in best with. How does he adjust to the way we want to play? We play a little different than New Jersey, where he’s been for 3 years. That’s a learning curve as well.”

The ambiguity of Moore’s role at this time will allow time for him to find who he is most comfortable with on the ice. To find that comfort level, there is a chance he is playing in different situations, going hand-in-hand with different defensive partners. Moore possesses some good size at 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds and can skate pretty well for a bigger guy. He also moves the puck well, has a solid shot, and has shown that he can play on the right side on top of his natural position as a left-handed defender.

Moore has hovered around the 15-20 point mark per season over the course of his NHL career in seasons of 60 games or more. The 2016-217 season sticks out as he scored 12 goals and added 10 assists, good for 22 points in just 63 games. Last season featured a 7-11-18 stat line in 81 games, plus an assist in five playoff games.

The Bruins’ top defensive pairing will likely feature Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo. After that, the rest of the defensive core is sort of up-for-grabs among the group of eight defensemen. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo, as well as Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller, have proven to be solid matches for each other on the back end in the past.

The chemistry within the system that is already present will make things a bit difficult in terms of decision-making from Bruins management, as well as on Moore himself. The Bruins are coming off of a great season defensively, which is also worth noting. Adding Moore to that bunch provides depth and reassurance on the back end.

Having eight defensemen certainly isn’t a bad thing. Remember how bad the Bruins were hit by injuries last season? These injuries were especially present toward the beginning to middle portions of the regular season. Depth doesn’t hurt. Wherever John Moore fits in the lineup, the Bruins have plenty of options if things go haywire and/or a change of pace is needed.

(Via NJ Devils on YouTube)

Getting To Know The 2018 Bruins Prospect Challenge Invitees

Image result for Dawson Weatherill

(Photo Credit – Larry Brunt – Spokane Chiefs Photographer)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Earlier today, the Boston Bruins released their 2018 Prospect Challenge roster with some additional information about the event. Amongst the many familiar faces at the event will be four camp invitees –– Carson Focht, John Ludvig, Justin Bergeron, and Dawson Weatherill.

Carson Focht – C – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Carson Focht had some WHL experience under his belt coming into this past season with the Tri-City Americans, 64 games of experience to be exact. Fast forward to a little less a month before his 18th birthday, he was traded to the Calgary Hitmen on January 6, 2018. This deal involved highly-touted Carolina Hurricanes prospect defenseman Jake Bean going to play for Tri-City, along with other pieces being exchanged. A pretty interesting year for such a young player.

The Regina, Saskatchewan native went undrafted in June after scoring 13 goals and adding 20 assists, good for 33 points in 69 split between the Tri-City Americans and Calgary Hitmen. Before heading back to Calgary for what is set to be his first full season as a member of the Hitmen, Carson will head to Buffalo, New York for the Bruins Prospect Challenge to make an impression after going undrafted.

As you’ll see in his draft reel below, Carson has some silky mitts and a nice shot to go with it. He is listed with the same height, and nearly the same weight as Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk on eliteprospects.com. He operates like DeBrusk as well in some of these clips and wears the same number that Jake did with Swift Current and Red Deer in the WHL.

(Via Western Hockey League on YouTube)

John Ludvig – F/D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

With the 2017-2018 season came John Ludvig’s first WHL season with the Portland Winterhawks. A Native of Kamloops, British Columbia, John took his talents to Portland, Ontario in his first season as a Winterhawk, scoring two goals and adding five assists, good for seven points in 51 games. He added a goal and two assists in 11 playoff games on top of his regular season stat line. A quandary on defense in Portland forced Ludvig to play forward a bit for part of last season.

The left-handed Winterhawks forward/defenseman went undrafted and stands at 6-foot-1, 187 pounds and just turned 18 on August 2, so happy belated birthday, John. He clearly likes to fight, as the clip below shows, so add a guy who can scrap to the talented bunch that will be in attendance at the Bruins Prospect Challenge. There are more where this clip came from, but this one, in particular, is a scrap-and-a-half.

(Via hockeyfightsplus on YouTube)

Justin Bergeron – D – Rouyn Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)

Image result for Justin Bergeron

(Photo Credit – Marco Bergeron)

Another Canadian on the list is Justin Bergeron. Cool last name, Justin. That one holds some ground here in Boston. Justin is still 17-years-old and won’t turn 18 until four days after the conclusion of camp, as his birthday is on September 14.

The Magog, Quebec native, stands at 6-feet, 181 pounds and played 67 games with the Rouyn Noranda Huskies this past season. Bergeron, a left-handed defenseman, scored nine goals and added 21 assists, good for 30 points in the regular season, plus an assist in seven playoff games. He also played in eight games with the Huskies the year before and tallied one assist. Justin Bergeron looks to be an intriguing addition to the group at the prospect challenge.

Dawson Weatherill – G – Spokane Chiefs (WJHL)

The oldest of the camp invitees is 19-year-old and Red Deer, Alberta native, goaltender Dawson Weatherill. To this point in his WHL career, Weatherill has seen action in 87 games. His numbers have steadily improved over the course of his career as his workload has increased. Most recently, Weatherill appeared in 46 games and finished with an impressive 26-12-3 record, a 3.09 goals against average, a .893 save percentage, and two shutouts to boot. He also managed to obtain two penalty minutes as a goalie, so that’s interesting.

Back in mid-to-late October of 2017, Weatherill was named WHL goaltender of the week. Not a bad title to hold in the best season of your WHL career to this date. The towering tendy will look to make some noise amongst fellow goaltenders Dan Vladar and Kyle Keyser.

(Via Western Hockey League on YouTube)

These four CHLers and Canadian natives will be interesting additions to the talented bunch of young players at the Bruins Prospect Challenge. The event as a whole is set to be another exciting opportunity to watch some great young talent for whoever chooses to do so.

Big Expectations For Bruins Forward Donato In 2018-19

(03/19/2018- Boston, MA) Boston Bruins center Ryan Donato reacts after scoring his first career goal in his first career game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden on Monday, March 19, 2018. Staff Photo by Matt West(Photo Credit – Matt West)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Last season was a busy one for Ryan Donato that ended up entailing his final year at Harvard University, and his first stints as a USA Olympian and Boston Bruin. This time around, the 2018-2019 season holds the opportunity to go all-in as a member of the Bruins organization in his first full NHL season.

Despite not seeing the ice much in the playoffs and not tallying a point, Donato made an excellent first impression late in the regular season. Putting up nine points in 12 regular season games is nothing to glance over, and it presented an idea of what to expect from Ryan Donato. Maybe not that high of a pace regarding points right off the bat, but the idea that he can seriously contribute at the NHL level. What was impressive outside of the numbers aspect of his late-season performance, was the fact that he was doing it on the wing instead of his natural position of center.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Being a right-winger on a team like the Bruins will give Ryan plenty of possible situations to play in with the current state of their roster. On top of a top-nine right-wing role could be some power play time on the half-wall, much like Ryan Spooner used to do. His positional versatility allows him to play any forward position, which could come in handy with injuries or just simply a change of plans in the lineup.

The forward core in Boston is shaping up to be one with great depth. Danton Heinen put up 47 points in 77 games last season while spending a good chunk of his ice-time on the third line. Ryan Donato could be put in a similar situation to Heinen come the 2018-2019 season. In Heinen’s career up to this point, he has played both left and right wing, in multiple different situations.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Whether Donato holds a third-line wing position opposite say Danton Heinen or holds a top-six role, he’ll have very capable linemates to work with. The presence of options for Donato gives him a great platform to succeed in one singular role for much of the season or to not let the possibility of being juggled around in the forward core bother him and his growth as a player.

There’s a chance that the possibility of winning the Calder Memorial Trophy is in the back of Ryan’s mind somewhere, despite the likely presence of many other very skilled rookies across the NHL. The top two picks from the 2018 NHL Draft –– Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov, are two of a large number of possible Calder candidates outside of Donato.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Scituate, Massachusetts native has plenty to look forward to for this upcoming season and beyond on a formidable Eastern Conference team like the Bruins. Whether it is on the left side, right side, or even back in the middle like his time before Boston, Donato will have the opportunity to turn-and-burn with a lot of skill surrounding him in the Bruins’ lineup. Things have gone pretty well for young wingers as of late for the Bruins, just ask Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen. Ryan Donato looks to be the next man up in the impressive crop of young Bruins wingers.

(Via NHL on YouTube)

AHL Time Has Proven To Be Beneficial For Young Bruins In Recent Years

Image result for Matt Grzelcyk(Photo Credit: Kim Klement – USA Today Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

With a plethora of players within the Bruins organization vying for NHL ice-time during the 2018-2019 season, it’s simply a fact that not all of them will be able to fit into the lineup on a consistent basis. Said players include, but aren’t limited to –– Trent Frederic, Jakob-Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Urho Vaakanainen. Whoever one may think could see NHL ice-time this season with the Boston Bruins, some time in the AHL isn’t necessarily a bad thing otherwise.

Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen were once prominent Providence Bruins Forwards

Two wingers who although were highly-touted prospects as they entered the Bruins’ organization, had AHL stint’s before becoming impactful NHL players. Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen both hold roles in the top-nine forward core and have shown top-six forward capabilities.

Once a member of the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos and Red Deer Rebels, Jake DeBrusk went on to play for the Providence Bruins to get his first taste of professional hockey. As the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, fan expectations were high for DeBrusk from the start. The 2016-2017 season rolled around, and DeBrusk found himself in Providence, where he then played in 74 regular season games and 17 playoff games. He amassed 43 points in the regular season, plus an additional nine points in the playoffs.

Come the 2017-2018 season, Jake DeBrusk was a hungry, dynamic winger that was fully ready to make a difference in the NHL –– and that he did. In 70 games, he put together a 16-27-43 stat line and got noticeably more comfortable as the season went on. This lead to his figurative explosion in the playoffs for six goals and two assists in 12 games and some huge plays that hockey fans won’t soon forget.

(Via SPORTSNET on YouTube)

Jake now holds even higher expectations coming into the 2018-2019 season, and it’s fair to feel pretty comfortable with his capabilities. It started in the AHL when it comes to professional hockey, and things will continue to blossom for Jake DeBrusk.

On the other hand, Danton Heinen played in the NCAA as a Denver Pioneer before heading to Providence on his way to a solid NHL role. Over parts of three seasons, Danton saw 70 games of regular season AHL action, with the 2016-2017 season being his most prominent. The 28 career AHL playoff games he played in didn’t hurt either. Heinen really showed what he could bring to the table after putting together a 44-point season over 64 games in the 2016-2017 season, plus 18 points in 17 playoff games with the Providence Bruins.

Danton Heinen’s productive 81-game AHL rookie season eventually earned him consistent ice-time in the left and right-wing positions within the Boston Bruins’ top-nine forward core. He was even sent down in October of 2017 for four games this past season where he averaged two points-per-game with eight points. That didn’t deter him too much, as he played in 77 NHL games and tallied 47 points in those games. Additionally, he added a goal in nine playoff games.

Heinen, like DeBrusk, will look to expand on his NHL role and skill set over the course of the 2018-2019 season and beyond. His three-zone prowess and smarts will continue to be welcomed in the lineup in hopes to build on a successful 2017-2018 season for himself, as well as the team as a whole.

Anders Bjork looks to continue to grow in his second NHL season

Once an icon at the NCAA’s University of Notre Dame and Hobey Baker winner, even Anders Bjork saw some AHL time. In a rookie season that had its hills and valleys for Bjork, nine games of AHL time may not end up being the worst thing for him. Although a small sample, he had four points in those nine games and some bright moments along the way. It’s a shame that he didn’t get a full season under his belt due to concussion and shoulder problems, but this shouldn’t hide the fact that Anders has a high NHL ceiling as a mid-round draft-pick back in 2014.

Bjork showed varying degrees of comfortability in important roles with the Bruins within the 30 NHL games that he played in. Injuries and butterflies in the stomach along the way made it so it wasn’t a perfect first go at the NHL for him, but certainly not a bad one. The dynamic winger will look to build on a 12-point rookie season come October of 2018 and into the future.

Matt Grzelcyk, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari all have important NHL roles

Matt Grzelcyk played a bigger role this past year than some may have expected. Those who watched him at Boston University and/or in Providence might not have been as surprised by the role that he played this year. He is a bit undersized, but he doesn’t let that get in his way as he is very shifty and smart with and without the puck on his stick. How good he did this season was refreshing to watch, joining his former BU defensive partner Charlie McAvoy in making up a third of the defensive core most nights.

Including 14 games this season, Matt Grzelcyk has seen 84 games of regular season AHL action, and an additional 17 games of playoff experience. This all built up to him playing in 61 regular season NHL games, and 11 NHL playoff games. He looks to be a defenseman who can put up 20 points minimum per season, as he put up 15 points in 61 games this past season, plus an assist in 11 games in the playoffs. His steadiness and hockey IQ were a great addition to the back end, and he can credit part of his growth to this point to the environment that surrounded him as a Providence Bruin in recent years.

Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari hold down sturdy bottom-six roles with the Bruins at this point in their careers. With Sean Kuraly, it was four years at the University of Miami (Ohio) and a trade with the San Jose Sharks that brought him to the Bruins organization. Kuraly spent the majority of the 2016-2017 season with the Providence Bruins, 54 games to be exact, where he put up 26 points. He also played in eight games with the Bruins that same year and tallied an assist.

The 2017-2018 season rolled around, and he was an effective wheelhouse down the middle in 75 games of regular season action in which he had 14 points. This earned him playoff minutes that he took full advantage of and proved to be extremely effective at many points throughout the Bruins’ playoff run. His efforts as a professional hockey player thus far were enough to earn himself a comfortable three-year, $3.825 million contract in which he signed on July 3 of this summer.

Noel Acciari, or the buzzsaw as I like to call him, is in the NHL because he seems to hit anyone who touches the puck whenever he’s on the ice. That’s the role he has embraced, along with the weirdest stat line ever of ten goals and an assist in 60 NHL games last season. He signed with the Bruins as an undrafted free-agent fresh off of a National Championship title as captain of the Providence College Friars, as well as one of the best all-around college hockey players in New England. What did he do after all of that glory? He went to Providence to grow as a professional hockey player post-graduation.

For his first two pro seasons, Noel Acciari saw brief stints of NHL –– 46 regular season games over two seasons, as well as 75 regular season AHL games with Providence. Within these seasons also came 12 games of playoff experience, four with Boston and eight with Providence.

No matter how much success a player has before becoming a professional, time in the AHL can help them mature and adapt to a much different game at the professional level. Noel Acciari is a prime example of this. His physical edge has always been there, so the rigors of professional hockey, despite some injuries, haven’t deterred him too much. His journey up until this point has allowed him to become a rugged, effective NHL player.

Providence will continue to groom potential NHL players

As previously mentioned, players like Trent Frederic, Jakob-Forsbacka Karlsson, and Ryan Fitzgerald, and Urho Vaakanainen –– just to name a few, won’t necessarily see a decline in their development if they play in the AHL next year. This is no matter how NHL ready they may be. It doesn’t matter if someone is to play 20 games in the AHL, or 100 games, the AHL is a great platform for growth in young players that are on the brink of NHL readiness.

Bruins Have No Shortage Of Options At Third-Line Center

Image result for Jack Studnicka boston bruins

(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

One of the burning questions within the Boston Bruins’ forward core is what to do at the third line center position. Riley Nash, who held the third-line center role consistently last season, has since moved on to Columbus as an unrestricted free-agent –– now it is time to replace him. The competition for the position is steep.

Sean Kuraly

Well known as the fourth-line buzzsaw at the center position, Sean Kuraly earned himself a three-year contract extension with an average annual value of $1.275 million. Will he able to handle the promotion, or is he better suited in an energy role on the fourth-line.

His left-wing, Tim Schaller, has moved onto Vancouver in free agency, and Noel Acciari is still in the mix for fourth-line minutes next season. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom were brought in via free agency to reinforce bottom-six depth. I wonder if a bit of a different vibe in the bottom-six provides confidence in the idea of giving Kuraly a promotion and reshaping the fourth line next season and possibly beyond.

(Via NoLifeGamerYo Extras on YouTube)

Colby Cave

Colby Cave is the dark horse on this list. It is reasonable to expect that Cave will re-sign with the Bruins at some point over the summer as he is currently a restricted free-agent. Although he has only seen three games of regular season action in his tenure as a Bruin. Last season as a Providence Bruin, Cave potted 11 goals and added 22 assists, good for 33 points in 72 games.

What makes his case for the vacancy at third-line center is his two-way game and his smarts on the ice. He plays the game methodically, focusing on making smart decisions rather than being a big-time scorer –– a decent offensive skillset is definitely present, but other intangibles shine in his game the most.

Cave is only 23-years-old and no matter if he plays in Providence, or Boston, his presence will be felt. Replacing Riley Nash on the third line would be especially weird for Cave, because he looks like his twin. Look it up.

(Via Dafoomie on YouTube)

Chris Wagner

One of the new additions that could be in the mix is Chris Wagner. Although I don’t see this happening, the possibility is certainly there. To me, Chris Wagner is exactly what you want in a fourth-liner –– a player who has wheels, forechecks hard, and hits like a freight train. Lose Tim Schaller, add Chris Wagner to a fill a fourth-line void. But, if they value a freight train in the middle of say Danton Heinen and David Backes, he is the guy to fill the void.

(Via SPORTSNET on YouTube)

Joakim Nordstrom

Nordstrom has an interesting case in the bottom-six as one of the newer Bruins. A left-handed forward who can play left-wing and center provides versatility, along with his penalty killing ability and decent skating –– he won’t put up a lot of points, but will find other ways to contribute.

When it all comes down to it, I see Nordstrom playing a fourth-line role or a 13th forward role. He will wear number 20 with the Bruins, just like Riley Nash and the third-line center job could be his, but he certainly has a lot of competition for that ice-time.

(Via SPORTSNET on YouTube)

Trent Frederic

One of a few prospects vying for the third-line center position is former Wisconsin Badger and 2016 Bruins late first-round pick Trent Frederic. For a 20-year-old, he plays a very composed game reminiscent of someone who has been around a while. His three-zone ability, hockey IQ, and finishing ability allow him to thrive wherever he plays.

After wearing an “A” on his sweater as a sophomore at Wisconsin and putting up 32 points in 36 games, he played 13 regular season games with the Providence Bruins on an ATO. Eight points were amassed over those 13 games, plus one point in three playoff games.

I remember watching Wisconsin take on Ohio State in a regular season game last season. Midway through the game, the play-by-play broadcaster with Fox Sports Wisconsin, who is clearly familiar with Frederic’s game due to the fact that his place of work is based in Wisconsin, said that he believed Trent Frederic was already NHL ready at the time, if not in the 2018-2019 season. From what I’ve seen, I agree. This doesn’t mean some AHL time would be a step down for him, look what it did for Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen –– just to name a couple. He is definitely going to make the Bruins’ coaching staff think for quite a while on who gets the third-line center job.

(Via bigwhite06 on YouTube)

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson

From Boston University to Providence, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson has carried quite the hype with his name. With 58 games of AHL experience under his belt in which he put up 32 points, JFK has his eyes set on an NHL gig sooner rather than later. His case to be an NHLer is backed by his three-zone game, smooth skating, and playmaking capabilities.

Talent in all three zones and point producing capability is what Riley Nash brought to the third line, JFK could be the next in line to hold that role and pick up where Riley Nash left off. If he doesn’t crack the lineup, he is still young at 21-years-old, so some more AHL time won’t hurt him.

(Via _BoSToN #44 on YouTube)

Jack Studnicka

It’s either Oshawa or Boston for the 19-year-old Jack Studnicka, per the NHL/CHL player agreement. The NHL/CHL Player Agreement would prohibit him from going to the AHL because he is under the age of 20. The reason he saw 5 games of AHL action following the conclusion of his third season in Oshawa was because he was on an ATO, not an official contract.

Take the first four letters of his last name and that gives you a first impression of him –– he’s a stud. Jack is a truly dynamic, intelligent centerman with high upside as a scorer in the NHL who will create havoc for opposing defenders. He was 27th in the OHL scoring this past season with 22 goals, 50 assists, and 72 points in 66 games.

If Studnicka does in fact go back to Oshawa to play for the Generals, he will be a key contributor. Allowing him to gain confidence in his game and grow as a player wouldn’t be the worst thing, as there are plenty of other options for the third-line center vacancy if he doesn’t earn it out of camp.

(Via HSD Prospects on YouTube)

The Bruins’ coaching staff will have a lot to contemplate down the road when it comes time to formulate the opening night roster –– with the third-line center position being at the forefront.