Boston Bruins: The Future After Goaltender Tuukka Rask

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

Without a doubt in anyone’s mind, the role of a goaltender is one of the most crucial positions in all of hockey. In most, if not all cases, the goaltender is the cornerstone to Stanley Cup Champions over a large majority of the NHL’s 102-year history and it continues to be evident even today.

On January 2nd, 2019, the St. Louis Blues were dead-last in the league’s overall standings but clawed their way back to not only make the playoffs, win a series, but defeat the Boston Bruins in a seven-game series to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. A lot of players had fantastic seasons as well as the emergence of then-interim Head Coach Craig Berube but most people will credit the Blues’ success to rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington.

Teams can look great and perform great but can come to a halt if their starting netminder fails to match the performance that he had the season prior. This was evident for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers. Superstar Connor McDavid led the Oilers to their first playoff berth in ten seasons and even brought them to the second round only to miss the playoffs altogether in the two seasons that followed. The reason? Cam Talbot failed to play to the consistency that he had during the ’16/’17 campaign and the Oilers continue the struggle to find that number one goalie.

In Boston, the goaltending scene has been controlled by Tuukka Rask since Boston’s last Stanley Cup win in 2011 and rightly so. At 32 years of age, Rask already holds numerous franchise records during his time with the Bruins. The Finnish netminder has the most games played as a goalie (495), most wins (265), and most career saves (12,607) and sits second in best goals-against-average (2.28) and tied for first with Tim Thomas for save percentage (.921%).

Tuukka Rask won the Vezina Trophy in the 2013-14 season which is awarded to the goaltender who is “adjudged to be the best at this position” and has led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup Finals appearances (2013, 2019), but has yet to hoist the Stanley Cup as the definite starting goaltender, (he did win the Cup as the backup to T. Thomas in ’11) – an accomplishment that still eludes him to this day.

As previously stated, Tuukka Rask recently turned 32, meaning his time as an elite player in this league could very well be running out. The goaltender position can stay in their prime for longer than a forward or defenceman, but they still have a moment in time in their career where they slow down. For the Bruins, now is the time to look ahead past Tuukka Rask when those days come around.

For the sake of looking at the future, I will not mention backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak for the sole reason that he is 34-years-old. In addition, the following goalies are in no particular order, just randomly listed below.

Daniel Vladar – 21yrs – 6’5″, 185lbs – 2015 3rd Round Pick (75th overall)

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Alan Sullivan Photography)

Daniel Vladar is a big goaltender with his large 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame in the blue crease. Vladar was drafted by the Bruins back in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, selected in the third round, 75th overall. In the year after his draft, (2015-16), Vladar had a decent year in the USHL with the Chicago Steel, finishing with a 12-12-4 record, but boasted a 2.30 GAA and a .920 save percentage including three shutouts.

The season was enough for management to give him some time in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, where he played in eight games during the 2016-17 campaign, ending the year with .921 save percentage and a 2.62 goals-against-average. In the same season, Vladar spent time in the ECHL with the Atlanta Gladiators, where his numbers were much less impressive.

Most recently, Vladar played in 31 games for the Providence Bruins, ending the season with a 13-17-1 record, a 2.73 GAA and a .898 SV%. At 21 years of age, Vladar has work to do in order to become an NHL starting goaltender once Rask is finished, but right now, he will continue to develop with the P-Bruins. One thing to look out for is the fact that Vladar will most likely get more time in the starting role for the 2019-20 season due to the departure of Zane McIntyre, who split starts last year with Vladar. This is a big year for his future development.

Kyle Keyser – 20yrs – 6’2″, 179lbs – Undrafted

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

In my opinion, Kyle Keyser is the best goaltending prospect within the Boston Bruins system – and he was not a selected player in the NHL Entry Draft. In fact, in October 2017, the 20-year-old netminder was signed to a three-year entry-level contract by the Black n’ Gold and according to CapFriendly, that deal expires at the end of the 2021-22 season.

For the past two full seasons, the Coral Springs, Florida native has played for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League. It has been his play with the Generals that has earned him a title of being one of the top prospects. Going back to the 2017-18 campaign, Keyser finished with a record of 28-13-2 along with a 3.16 GAA and a .904 SV%.

It was a solid season, but somehow, the young goalie managed to improve even more in this past season. In 47 games played for Oshawa, Keyser finished the year with an outstanding 32-8-3 record with a 2.75 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage. Keyser was also named to the United States under-20 World Juniors, where his team won the silver medal even though he only played in two games.

The 2019-20 season is up in the air regarding where Keyser will play. It is possible that he gets time in the AHL with Providence, but with the addition of Maxime Legacé and Daniel Vladar most likely already getting a bulk of the starting minutes, Keyser may end up playing in the ECHL with the Atlanta Gladiators. Keep an eye out for his progression this season.

Jeremy Swayman – 20yrs – 6’2″, 187lbs – 2017 4th Round Pick (111th Overall)

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PHOTO CREDITS: (boston.cbslocal.com)

As of right now, Jeremy Swayman is not currently signed to a contract with the Bruins organization since being drafted in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in the fourth round. According to CapFriendly, Swayman is on the Bruins’ reserve list and his exclusive rights are with Boston up until August 15th, 2021.

The Anchorage, Alaska, USA native has spent each of the last two seasons with the University of Maine Black Bears where he started in 35 games this past season, finishing the year with a .919 save percentage and a 2.77 GAA, a continuation of his solid 2017-2018 campaign. Below is a quote from Chris Mazza of Dobber Prospects on in March of 2019 regarding Jeremy Swayman.

“Swayman was a workhorse for the University of Maine in his sophomore season, starting 35 games while posting a save percentage of .919 and a GAA of 2.77. His numbers remained in line with his dominant freshman year, and further cement the notion that the Bruins found a gem in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. He was named Third Team All-Conference for his efforts and was recognized by a leader by his coach. He should return to college for at least one more year before Boston likely signs him to his first pro deal.” – Chris Mazza

As mentioned with the goaltenders already covered above, the Bruins have quite a few goalies in the system battling for spots. However, at the end of this upcoming season, both Vladar (RFA) and Legacé (UFA) will no longer have a contract. If one or both of those players fail to meet the expectations and Swayman has yet another good year with the Black Bears, I would assume that a contract would be offered to the young prospect.

Maxime Legacé – 26yrs – 6’2″, 190lbs – Undrafted

While writing this piece, I contemplated the idea of adding in Legacé due to the fact that he is 26 years of age, but I ultimately decided to throw him in regardless. For argument sake, Legacé is not considered a prospect, just another goaltender in the system. Maxime was signed by Boston on the first day of Free Agency to a one-year contract worth $700,000. Legacé was originally signed to an entry-level deal by the Dallas Stars in the 2012 offseason but never played a game with the Stars in his three years within the organization.

On July 1st, 2017, Legacé signed a contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, starting the year with the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League. The 26-year-old goalie had a record of 14-5-1 with a GAA of 2.84 and a save percentage of .905% before being called up to the Golden Knights due to injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban, and Oskar Dansk.

The Saint-Augustin, Quebec, Canada native played a total of thirteen games with Vegas, ending the year with a 6-7-1 record, 3.91 goals-against-average and .867 save percentage before being sent back down to Chicago. Legacé had decent stretch with the Wolves after that, recording a .914 SV%, 2.43 GAA, and a 16-16-2 record.

The signing likely means that Legacé will get time with the Providence Bruins behind Daniel Vladar. Due to the fact that the deal is only for a single season, it may also be used so fellow prospects Kyle Keyser and Jeremy Swayman improved their games in other organizations across North America.

Out of these four goaltenders, it is not guaranteed that any of them will ever be ready to not only be a starting goalie in this league, but a Stanley Cup contending goalie, but there are options running down the pipeline. As of this moment, it will all come down to proper development from the coaching staff of the Bruins organization and the other organizations that these players currently play in.

Who appears to be the most promising? Let me know via Twitter @tkdmaxbjj .

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 141 that we recorded on 8-18-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Allred: Top-10 Bruins Prospects

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

As a diehard Boston Bruins fan, I also pay close attention to the organization’s prospects in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins and lower levels of developmental hockey around the world. I believe it’s important for B’s fans to not only be up to date with what’s going on with the National Hockey League team in Boston but also who’s standing out in the prospect pool and about to cross the threshold of future NHL professional careers.

These top-ten ranking below are my thoughts on where I see these prospects in the B’s developing depth with minimal if no games in the NHL. This was a great idea from our Senior writer Mike Cratty who came to our writing team of 17 members for that offseason content and to keep the B’s conversation going. Check out the two previous prospect ranking articles from Mike Cratty HERE, and writer Lucas Pearson’s rankings Here to see the difference in opinions when it comes to this offseason topic. Without further ado, here are my Top-10 Boston Bruins Prospect Rankings.

10) Jakub Zboril

( Photo Credit: ProvidenceBruins.com )

Sometimes first-round NHL drafted players don’t get to the highest level in the world after leaving the draft podium, but with NHL contracted players ahead of Zboril it gives time to properly develop. The now 22-year-old two-way defenseman has one-year remaining on his current entry-level contract before becoming a restricted free agent. Jakub will most likely spend another season with the Providence Bruins where he’s played in 124 career games posting 8-30-38 numbers. In two career NHL games during his callups from the AHL, Zboril went pointless but did get a taste of the NHL which could drive him to seriously compete for a spot at training camp in September.

9) Zach Senyshyn

( Photo Credit: ProvidenceBruins.com )

Another young player with tremendous upside when he was selected in the first round in 2015 along with the aforementioned Zboril. In my opinion, Senyshyn has the attributes to be an NHL’er, but the pipeline ahead of him hasn’t been easy to crack the code to be a regular. With one-year remaining on his entry-level deal Zach is going to have to work harder than ever to get the attention of the Bruins brass high above to address a serious need on the right side of the B’s forward core.

In 132 career AHL games with Providence, the 22-year-old has 26-24-50 numbers and in two games during the 2018-19 campaign got his first career NHL goal when he was called up and played in a 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild. I can see Senyshyn playing a majority of next year in Providence, but he could also get more looks during this upcoming 2019-20 NHL season.

8) Jeremy Lauzon

( Photo Credit: ProvidenceBruins.com )

Jeremy is another prospect that is being hindered by the bottlenecking factor of this Bruins organization, especially for a depth defenseman. Lauzon is on the last year of his entry-level deal and overly not sure of his NHL timeline with the core ahead of him. I’d expect he’s going to have a solid camp and will impress those who are constructing a winner in the next regular season campaign but another season in Providence developing is what I see in my crystal ball. Lauzon did play in 16 games at the NHL level during the 2018-19 season and thought he played well earning his first and only NHL goal in that timeframe. With Providence appearing in 81 games the former 2015 second-round selection posted 2-12-14 numbers in his career thus far in the AHL.

7) Trent Frederic

( Photo Credit: Team Shred Photography )

By far, one of my favorite prospects in the Bruins system. Frederic has speed and creativity, but above all, he plays with that edge that can get him into the NHL Bruins lineup no matter what forward line. He has good speed with or without the puck, and his strength in the faceoff circle is another tremendous attribute when winning draws in critical situations.

The 2018-19 season was Frederics first full season of AHL hockey and as a rookie in the league contributed offensively with 14-11-25 numbers. I still believe that Trent’s game can only get better with his time developing in Providence but did have a few good looks in his first career NHL games in the 2018-19 season where he spent 15 games with the Boston club failing to register a point.  Frederic is another big kid with serious upside as a 21-year-old and can definitely see his offensive numbers getting better with the upcoming season with two more full seasons under his current entry-level contract.

6) Kyle Keyser

( Photo Credit: TheAHL.com / NBCSports.com )

Signed to an entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent back in October of 2017 after losing former Bruins prospect netminder Malcolm Subban via the waiver process to the Vegas Golden Knights. Since Keyser’s addition to the future plans of the Bruins crease, the Coral Springs, Florida native has really impressed me and continues to pass other goaltending prospects that were drafted in previous years.

Keyser is a 20-year-old netminder who’s eligible for the AHL action in the upcoming season. With Zane McIntyre out of the picture and the Bruins signing Maxime Legace to a one-year deal to add to the netminding depth there are rumors he could start his minor-pro career in the ECHL. The AHL full time is not out of the realm depending on what the B’s want to do with goaltender Dan Vladar. Kyle had a career year last season playing for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals where he tied his career-high in games played with 47 and a record of 32-8-0 with a 2.45 goals-against-average and .915 save percentage.

5) Axel Andersson

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

One of the more intriguing defensive prospects, in my opinion.  Drafted in the second round in 2018, Andersson was quickly signed to an entry-level contract after the close of the teams annual Development Camp. The 6′-0″ 180-pound defenseman has impeccable skating abilities along with impressive edge work. He has a high hockey IQ and the ability to snap tape to tape stretch passes for quick transition offensively.

Andersson is not a point-producing blueliner, but that part of his game could be incorporated with his time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Moncton Wildcats a team who selected him in the 2019 CHL Import Draft where he went 30th overall in the first round. From the folks I talk to in the Moncton, New Brunswick Canada area is that he’s going to be heavily relied on the backend and could see top-line minutes in all situations.

4) Jakub Lauko

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Probably one of the most exciting prospects when it comes to raw talent. Lauko’s speed and puck control in full speed has been a pleasure to watch in his first development camp and his games in the “Q” with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. After he was selected in the third round of the 2018 NHL draft, he joined the Huskies club a year later as the Rouyn-Noranda club had his rights from drafting him in the CHL import draft. Lauko and the Huskies would go onto have one of the best seasons known to be with the team being the best in the QMJHL during the regular season, capturing the Presidents Trophy in the playoffs, and marching into Halifax, Nova Scotia to take home the Memorial Cup,

In 44 games for the Huskies, Lauko contributed with 21-20-41 numbers and 6-7-13 totals in the postseason. He’s definitely a work in progress and will be in the pro ranks soon enough, but I’m a firm believer in properly developing players and could see him back with the Huskies for the upcoming 2019-20 season. The AHL is another possibility but like I said another solid year in the QMJHL defending the outstanding President Trophy and Memorial Cup-winning year wouldn’t be a bad idea.

3) John Beecher

( Photo Credit: by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images )

Beecher is a 2019 first-round draft pick that has intimidating size and speed for an 18-year-old that’s about to start his NCAA hockey career at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2019. With players like Studnicka, Lauko, and Keyser excused from the 2019 Bruins Development Camp festivities, Beecher had the spotlight on him as the new kind in the system. His power forward mentality and creativity for a bigger player has been something to watch that’s for sure. His tremendous upside was on full display in the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase held in Plymouth, Michigan where he was in the top-six of the tournament scoring for earning 4-1-5 numbers in five games played.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what this type of player he becomes at Michigan in his first year of collegiate hockey. If he can earn five points in five games on a team highlighted with names like Cole Caufield, Arthur Kaliyev, and Joel Farabee, the young Beecher could see an increased role with the NCAA Wolverines in a top-six powerhouse role under the tutelage of Head Coach Melvin Pearson and play with fellow B’s prospect Jack Becker.

2) Urho Vaakanainen

( Photo Credit: NBC Sports )

If any prospect defenseman is ready to cross the threshold of a long NHL Bruins career, it’s former first-rounder Vaakanainen. Due to an unfortunate head injury to start the 2018-19 NHL regular season, Urho would come back to the game later after recovering from a concussion to play the remaining games of the year with the Providence Bruins. The 20-year-old Vaakanainen started his pro career with Providence and was called up in October of 2018 due to injuries at the NHL level.

After only two NHL games and zero points, Urho suffered a concussion and didn’t return to the game for two months. When he did return to the game, he was placed in Providence where he played the remainder of the 2018-19 AHL season. Vaakanainen’s return would be in mid-January of 2019 and in 30 games to close the regular season Urho posted 4-10-14 numbers. As mentioned above a few times, current NHL contracts in Boston could hinder Vaakanainen from an NHL return for the upcoming season but the rumors of B’s defenseman going on the LTIR to start the year, Urho could easily make a return to the NHL lineup without a doubt.

Jack Studnicka

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Drafted in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft, Studnicka has worked extremely hard the last couple of seasons trying to make the NHL out of training camp. This year he could very well be in the mix for a forward position, but with the current depth up the middle, jack very well could see time on the wing if needed. The 6′-1″ 172-pound natural center has spent the last four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and last season posting 12-22-34 numbers in 30 games for the Oshawa Generals before being shipped to the Niagara Icedogs via trade where he posted 24-25-49 numbers in 30 games played.

Between Oshawa where Captain Jack played three seasons prior and Niagara for a 30 game stint, Studnicka had his best offensive numbers posting 36-47-83 totals for his best OHL career season surpassing his previous career-high of 72 points in the 2017-18 campaign. As a person that like to see Bruins prospects properly develop, I’d like to see Studnicka play at least a full season in the AHL because if the B’s organization is seriously considering moving him to a wing position, he should learn that transition in Providence with what’s looking like a very impressive lineup for the upcoming season.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 139 that we recorded on 8-2-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Sticher.

Massachusetts Native Mike Hardman Excited To Attend Bruins Development Camp

<who>Photo Credit: Lorne White/KelownaNow </who>Mike Hardman's scored his seventh of the season for the Warriors.

( Photo Credit: Lorne White/KelownaNow )

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

A native of Hanover, Massachusetts, the early portion of Mike Hardman’s hockey career started with the Bay State Breakers and Providence Capitals as a young kid, and eventually blossomed into a very productive year in the BCHL that helped him catch the eye of Jerry York and the Boston College Men’s hockey staff. I caught up with Hardman ahead of development camp.

For Hardman, his determination and diligence paid off in his quest to play college hockey at the Division I level. Hardman will join the Boston College Eagles, along with 2019 first-round pick Matthew Boldy, Spencer Knight, and Alex Newhook, amongst others this fall.

After development camp, Hardman is very excited to be a part of such a talented group. “It’s really exciting, grew up in Hanover so going to Beanpots and Hockey East games, it’s really just a dream come true to play for coach York and just to go to school at BC is unbelievable,” said Hardman. “We have a good class coming in, but if you look at all of the other Beanpot schools, there’s a lot of good freshmen going to those schools too, so, it’s going to be a really, really fun year and hopefully we can win some championships.”

Hardman played prep hockey at The Winchendon School (MA) before playing for the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers for a year ahead of his most recent season with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors.

His lone season with West Kelowna, ahead of his freshman year with Boston College this fall was his best yet. His 72 points (39-33-72) in 58 games were good for third in BCHL scoring behind Ryan Brushett (84) and Alex Newhook (102). His 39 goals were good for second in the league. His success at the BCHL level drew the attention of more college teams, so Hardman eventually decided to flip his original commitment from Union College to Boston College this past January. Although he gained a lot of confidence from playing in the BCHL, he knows the transition to NCAA hockey will be a challenge.

At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Hardman carries a big frame on the left wing and uses his size to his advantage. He looks forward to continuing to do so in the future, starting with development camp. “I think the big thing for me is I’m a big guy with a good shot, good hands as well and I think my skating has gotten a lot better in the past couple years,” said Hardman.

As much as he recognizes his strengths on the ice, he is looking forward to improving parts of his game that need some work. “The biggest thing for camp is to see how my game is against others, you’re playing against some guys that are first-rounders, so I’m just looking at these guys and seeing what I need to work on,” said Hardman.

Additionally, he wants to improve certain aspects of his skating game, “It’s my first three steps, accelerating, I think when I’m skating, I can keep up with anybody, but getting off to a quicker start is the biggest thing for me.”

Unfortunately for Hardman, his name wasn’t called this past weekend at the NHL draft, but he isn’t going to let going undrafted deter his focus going forward. “I was pretty disappointed with what happened in the draft, but I think it might be the best thing for me going forward,” said Hardman. “I’m really just humbled and happy to be invited to Bruins camp, it’s going to be a ton of fun.”

World Juniors 2019: Bruins Prospects Heading Into Quarter-Finals

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PHOTO CREDITS: (saultsports.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

The 2019 World Junior Championships have truly been entertaining so far this year. From dominating performances such as the 14-0 by Canada over Denmark and Slovakia’s 11-2 win over Kazakhstan. Valiant comeback efforts such as the United States scoring four unanswered goals in the final ten minutes to force overtime versus Sweden. And of course, the feel-good stories like the support of the underdogs – Team Kazakhstan as every shot, save, and goal were met with loud, roaring cheers.

The Boston Bruins, like many NHL teams, are well represented in the tournament. Jakub Lauko and Daniel Bukac on the Czech Republic, Jack Studnicka on Canada, Kyle Keyser on the States, Pavel Shen on Team Russia, and the addition of Urho Vaakanainen just before the tournament to Team Finland. Not only are these players playing in the tournament, but they are playing a crucial role for their respective countries.

G Kyle Keyser – United States

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PHOTO CREDITS: (JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

As one of the favourites to win the gold medal when the under-20 tournament concludes, the United States used the four preliminary games to judge who gets the starting role in between the pipes because once the team makes it into the Quarter-Finals, it is not too common to switch goaltenders as you would see in the National Hockey League regular season.

Keyser’s teammate, Cayden Primeau, is the other goaltender that is looking to grab that starting role. The Montreal Canadiens’ 2017 seventh-round selection played two games and so did Bruins’ goalie prospect Keyser. Keyser played two games – the 5-4 OT loss to the Swedes and the 2-1 win over Slovakia on Boxing Day.

Keyser’s 1-1-0 record alongside his 0.87 save percentage and 2.95 goals-against-average is ranked as the second-worst for goaltenders heading into the Quarter-Finals. Only Switzerland goalie, Akira Schmid has worse statistics so far in the World Juniors. It is fair to note that the five goals he allowed versus Sweden drastically impacted those numbers.

Against the Swedes, Keyser made many solid saves off of poor plays by his defensemen. The Swedish players had numerous 2-on-1s that were stopped by Keyser and his saves arguably gave the team the drive to come back and tie the game.

With that said, Team USA announced that Cayden Primeau, the other American goaltender, will get the start in the crease for the United States in their Quarter-Final game against the Czech Republic. Yesterday, Head Coach Mike Hastings said it was a coin toss as to who will get the starting role as both goalies earned it, but clearly, he decided to go with the Canadiens prospect due to his strong 4-to-1 win over Finland.

F Jakub Lauko – Czech Republic

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PHOTO CREDITS: (nhl.com)

Drafted 77th overall (3rd Round) by the Boston Bruins in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, forward Jakub Lauko has had a successful season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), scoring 12-14-26 totals in 26 games this season before being called to the World Juniors.

While at the U20 World Junior Championships, Lauko has one goal and one assist in four preliminary games. The 18-year-old forward scored his lone goal of the tournament in the 4-0 win over Denmark on New Year’s Eve. The tally ended up being the game-winning goal for the Czechs. Lauko also helped out in the opening game of the tournament, recording his only assist thus far on the overtime-winning goal against Switzerland.

Lauko has been good on the other end of the ice too. In the same game as his assist versus the Swiss, Lauko made a great defensive block on a 2-on-1 that kept the game tied around the midway point through the third period of play. Without that Lauko block, the Swiss may take a 2-1 lead and may end up winning the hockey game.

D Daniel Bukac – Czech Republic

Only one team in the World Juniors this year has two Bruins prospects on its roster – the Czech Republic and it seems more and more that the Bruins like having Czech players when you look at David Pastrnak and David Krejci on the full-time Boston roster up in the NHL.

As with the already-mentioned Jakub Lauko on the forward core, the Czechs have 6-foot-5, 209-pound defenceman Daniel Bukac on their blueline as well. The Bruins drafted Bukac with their seventh-round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. The former player in the Western Hockey League joined the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League in the 2018 CHL Import Draft.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Doug Westcott)

Bukac is not known as an offensive defenceman by a stretch of the imagination. With his big frame, he is a solid shutdown defender on the back end and that was mentioned by the Ice Dogs General Manager, Joey Burke, when they added Bukac to their roster.

“Daniel is a big addition for our club. He provides help in an area we needed to improve in. A proven player at this level who brings size, defensive prowess as well as strength, adds a special dynamic to our group. Anytime you can add an NHL drafted player,  it always makes an impact. We look forward to the pedigree Daniel will bring. This is yet another exciting signing for us this offseason, and Daniel will be fun to watch in Niagara.”

Bukac has six points (two goals, four assists), in twenty-four games with the Ice Dogs before going to the WJC. Bukac has one assist in the World Juniors, against Denmark, when he assisted on the fourth and final Czech goal in the 4-0 win. Bukac has also been one of the top penalty-killers for the Czech Republic, who has a third-best 85.71% success rate on the penalty-kill.

Bukac, Lauko, and the Czech Republic battle Kyle Keyser and the United States in today’s quarterfinal.

D Urho Vaakanainen – Finland

Coming off a concussion that he suffered during his brief tenure in the National Hockey League, the eighteenth-overall draft pick in 2017 by the Boston Bruins joined his national country of Finland for the World Juniors.

Due to his NHL experience earlier in the year, Finland knew that they had to play Vaakanainen in a top role on the defensive core due to the lack of experience on the rest of the team. For the majority of the preliminary games, Vaakanainen played in the most minutes over all of the other Finnish players.

Dawning the “A” on his sweater, Vaakanainen also added two assists in the four games – in a 5-1 win over Slovakia on December 29th and assisted on the only goal by Finland in the 4-1 loss to the United States. Below are some scouting reports on the Finnish defenseman.

“An intelligent, two-way defender…reads the play really well, has his head up all the time and makes quick decisions with the puck.” – Futureconsiderations.ca 2017

“He has good puck moving ability and strong offensive upside. He is also a good skater and can rush the puck up ice with confidence.” – Hockeyprospect.com 2017

Urho Vaakanainen and Team Finland will play Jack Studnicka and the Canadians in the second quarterfinal of the day.

F Jack Studnicka – Canada

Before the tournament started, many analysts covering the competition said that Jack Studnicka was the best player in the pre-tournament events including the multiple games that Canada played in.

While Studnicka did not play at the high-scoring level that say, a Maxime Comtois on Team Canada has, but he has been key on the Canadian power-play, even though it has struggled. Studnicka played right in front of the opposing net on that man-advantage, in a position called the “bumper spot”. Someone else who is great in that spot on the ice on the Bruins, a guy by the name of Patrice Bergeron.

Studnicka is currently on a point-per-game status, scoring four points in four games. Three of those points are assists, but he did add a goal back on December 26th in the 14-0 Boxing Day shutout over Denmark. Jack continues to be one of the better players on Canada’s bottom-nine forward core.

The Bruins drafted Studnicka in the second-round, fifty-third overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. He is currently playing in the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals, where he had 12-21-33 totals in 29 games before being sent to Vancouver/Victoria for the World Juniors.

F Pavel Shen – Russia

The final prospect of the Bruins to be listed and he just happens to be on the team who took the first place in Group A, after a narrow victory over Canada on New Year’s Eve. Shen has played a big part in Russia’s success in the tournament so far. Shen is currently tied for second on the team in points with four points in four games.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (nhl.com)

In the December 31st game against Canada, a game between two undefeated countries and that would decide who wins Group A, Pavel Shen had a game that put himself on the hockey map. The Russian drafted in the 7th Round back in this past draft scored the game-winning goal late in regulation off of a nice zone entry, drive to the net and a goal past DiPietro of Canada.

Shen’s goal-scoring talent has been shown in the past, such as when he scored three goals and one assist in six games during the CIBC Canada/Russia Series, where the top Russian prospects play the best CHL players in the three different leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL). Shen has the ability to score and he can do it well.

Many have said that Shen is a sleeper player in the tournament and one of the underrated prospects in the Bruins system. If his development continues the way it has, he very well could make the Providence Bruins and maybe even the Boston Bruins in the near future. Pavel Shen and Russia play Slovakia in the Quarterfinals tonight.

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Bruins Defense: Will Vaakanainen Make An Appearance In 2018-19?

MOVING ON UP: Urho Vaakanainen, the Bruins’ first pick in the 2017 draft, skates during a development camp workout Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena. The Finnish defenseman is expected to play in Providence next season.

Photo Credits: Matt West/Boston Herald

By: Liz Rizzo | Follow me on Twitter @pastagrl88

You could say that the Bruins didn’t really make any heavy-handed moves this offseason. But you have to hand it to Don Sweeney. By not panicking and making “crazy” trades, he’s making a clear statement: the Bruins will continue to focus on their explosive youth movement. During training camp this coming September, the B’s will need to make some tough roster decisions.  As players vie for a spot on the team this season, many will be looking to make a long-lasting impression. And for one player, he’ll be aiming to get an even longer look from the coaches. The question is, will he blossom into a top defenseman while playing down in Providence? And is there a small possibility that fans will see a young Finnish player named Urho Vaakanainen on the ice.

 SMOOTH OPERATOR

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Photo Credit: Jaakko Stenroos

After last season’s unexpected successful run (and yes they did tucker out at the end) the Bruins have now set the bar very high for this season. There’s no shortage of good stock being added to the Bruins defense. The 19-year-old Finn will have a chance to show off his smooth skating skills when the varsity team heads over to China.

As an 18-year-old prospect, Vaakanainen made an impression during development camp shortly after being drafted by the Bruins 18th-overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. Watching him skate on the ice drew comparisons to another great NHL player: Scott Niedermayer. Development Coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner and Assistant General Manager Scott Bradley noted:

” [Vaakanainen] seems to have a little bit of those tendencies that he kind of floats on his skates a little bit, and it’s something that I don’t believe you can really teach. …

“Fluid, you’re almost floating on the ice, you’re not exerting extra effort to get to the same place. It’s effortless, where you think a guy like that could play 50 minutes in a game and not be tired, which Niedermayer probably could have.”

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SOME QUICK STATS

Vaakanainen spent most of the 2017-18 season in the Finnish League (Liiga) playing for SaiPa. He racked up some pretty decent numbers and led SaiPa defenseman with an eight-plus rating. In 43 games Vaakanainen netted 4 goals and added 7 assists. An appearance in the 2018 World Junior Championship for Team Finland had Vaakanainen record an assist with a three-plus rating.  For the Joensuu, Finland native,  playing for the Bruins is a goal that is quickly becoming a reality. This past June, Vaakanainen signed a three-year entry-level contract with Boston.

Photo Credit: Boston Bruins

BREAKING OUT

If you take a look at the current situation the Bruins face, you’ll notice one thing; the B’s have a lot of D-men. Not only do you have a few veterans, but you now also have a good amount of young players with a full season under their belt (not to mention some playoff experience). For someone like Vaakanainen, where would he fit in? Especially on a team with eight very capable defensemen. The question — or rather, the problem — is how the Bruins will be able to play all these guys? If Boston makes any other kind of trade during the season, it would make sense that a defenseman would be involved (those Krug rumors just won’t go away). Could that possibly open the door for Vaakanainen? Perhaps when the day comes that Zdeno Chara retires (it’s painful to even type that), Boston could see a McAvoy-Vaakanainen combination.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For Vaakanainen, I think this season would be a long shot as it will be extremely competitive out there on the ice. But that certainly won’t stop him from making a bigger impression than he did back in 2017. Having played overseas has definitely made the 6-foot-1, 185-pound defenseman more confident and if he continues to impress during training camp, it won’t be long before we see him in the big leagues.

“He certainly has played at a higher level against men for two consecutive years,” Sweeney said, “so he recognizes it but … it ramps up.”-General Manager Don Sweeney.

Bruins Coaches & Scouts Positively Impact Young Players

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(Photo Credit: Causeway Crowd)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

What do the coaches and scouts of the NHL Bruins and Julius Caesar have in common? Well, besides having an affinity for all things black and gold, they are both believers in an old Roman proverb:

“Usus magister est optimus.”

Thanks to the four years of high school Latin I took while back in the Berkshires of Western, Massachusetts (I knew it would finally pay off!), I can tell you what it means:

“Experience is the best teacher.”

And you’d be hard-pressed to find a more accessible, capable and successful organization, as of late, which brings that experience behind the bench–and behind the scenes–than in Boston. From the coaching staff to the professional and amateur scouting departments, the Bruins organization is filled with the ideal mix of resumes all with the right amount of know-how when it comes to selecting, developing and ultimately pushing young talent to the tops of their game.

Just in the past two years, we’ve seen it happen with the likes of Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato, to name but a few of the up-and-coming B’s players that could easily wind up future all-stars and/or impact players.  And there’s no reason right now to think that won’t happen with players like Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork (ready for NHL play) or Zach Senyshyn, Trent Frederic, Urho Vaakanainen or Jack Studnicka (on the cusp of NHL play).  And the big reason why all of the above has been possible is because of the names listed below:

Bruce Cassidy – Head Coach

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(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

If you want Experience with a capital “E” then there’s no better man on the B’s to look at. Sure, tons of writers and bloggers and beat reporters have profiled Coach Cassidy before (so I won’t do that again here), but here’s an impressive reminder of why “Butch” has one of the best working-with-young-guys track records in the game (and winning records–68-28-13 to start his regular season Bruins bench boss career) AND what each of these bullet points means for developing the Sundance Kids.

  • 1st Round Pick — Cassidy can relate to the expectations and pressures of not only being selected high in the draft (18th overall), but also by an Original Six team (Chicago).
  • 5 pro seasons, 3 European seasons — He knows what it takes to play at the most competitive of hockey levels, in two very differing leagues, and can translate that to today’s NHL game.
  • Coaching positions in the ECHL, IHL, OHL and AHL (then of course the NHL) — There’s no better way to develop youth than to see it up close in all its hockey stages and watch players as they grow, encouraging them along the way.

All of this is in addition to his time as an assistant and later head coach in Providence and then assistant under he-who-must-not-be-named in Boston.  In short, Butch Cassidy has exactly the right amount of experience to lead the Sundance Kids currently on his roster, and the ones pushing to be on it soon, for the foreseeable future. With a talented communicator, teacher and mentor like this behind the B’s bench, sometimes a big trade isn’t necessary as @bruinswriter12 Max Mainville recently BlackNGold Hockey blogged about!

Jay Pandolfo, Joe Sacco & Kevin Dean – Asst. Coaches

(Photo Credits: Getty Images/NHL.com)

You can add three more former pro players and coaches to the “Experience” list now with Kevin Dean (top left), Joe Sacco (bottom left) and Jay Pandolfo (shaking hands with Cassidy) returning to the B’s bench for the upcoming season.  And all from varying backgrounds with the ideal combination of leadership, wherewithal and hockey sense.

  • Pandolfo is an ex-Bruin player and former 2nd-round pick who played 15 years in the NHL after a national championship winning career at Boston University. This is a guy who understands how young players think, how they translate success from the college ranks to the professional ranks, and how they can make the most of their unique skills.  He honed in on recognizing those particular skills and talents as a Bruins player development coach then later the Director of Player Development. So there are no better hands to be in for young B’s players than Jay Pandolfo’s.
  • Sacco, a 4th-round pick by another Original Sixer (Toronto), also cut his teeth at BU before a very successful 13-year NHL playing career followed by a decade of coaching across the AHL and NHL.  Additionally, he played for USA hockey in the World Ice Hockey Championships and at the 1992 Winter Olympics.  Who better to groom the likes of McAvoy, Donato, Carlo, Acciari and other USA kids playing on the B’s (and also hoping to follow in his footsteps at the Worlds or the Olympics) than a guy with this kind of past and pedigree.
  • Kevin Dean, like his fellow assistants, played college hockey in New England (UNH) and was a 5th-round pick, thus giving the B’s 4 coaches from 4 different rounds in the draft and 4 different success, hard work and determination stories to share with their youthful players.  Furthermore, Dean helped turn the Baby B’s into one of the best AHL teams during his time as a Providence assistant and head coach. And as @hockeygirl29 aka Jen Stasio recently wrote here, he’s the type of coach who knows how to pick “The C” on a player’s jersey. His familiarity with many of the organization’s prospects has been key to their improving skills (and personalities) over the past few years and he’ll undoubtedly continue to hone in on that with more new talent coming up the Pike.

Bob Essensa – Goaltending Coach

Perhaps my favorite of all the Bruins coaches, especially after the above went down, Bob Essensa has been with the team since 2003, working closely with all the B’s netminders — from starters to backups to prospects — both in The Hub and down in Providence. He played for a dozen seasons in the NHL before becoming a full-time coach, but it was his unprecedented junior & collegiate success in Canada and at Michigan State University where he made a name for himself between the pipes. In particular, Essensa was coached by the legendary Ron Mason of MSU and CCHA lore (Central Collegiate Hockey Association) and learned a lot from one of the greatest hockey coaching minds in the game (Pierre McGuire concurs–just hit play below).

 

The Bruins were smart to recognize all of this when they brought Essensa on 15 years ago and many of the B’s best goaltending prospects and players have greatly benefited from it no matter where their careers went (Andrew Raycroft & Manny Fernandez = thumbs down, Tim Thomas & Tuukka Rask = thumbs up).  This is very exciting news for aspiring Number 1 B’s netminder Dan “Darth” Vladar, as @markallred27 our Editor-In-Chief pointed out in a recent blog post!

Jamie Langenbrunner – Player Development Coordinator

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(Photo Credit: Associated Press)

Anybody who appreciated Jamie Langenbrunner as a player, and as a Devil, would never have their expectations bedeviled in his current capacity. Langenbrunner is now in his fourth season as the B’s Director of Player Development, working extensively on exactly what his job title suggests: the successful development — both as players and smart hockey gentlemen — of the Bruins prospects.

Candid, yet cautious, optimistic yet realistic, Langenbrunner’s personality is exactly what the current core of Bruins up-and-comers need.  And the fact he’s consistently on-the-ice pushing them, as well as in the front office pushing his friends in management, goes to show you he wields influence, admiration and respect similar to the way he did as a player — a player with his name engraved on the Stanley Cup twice! Solid motivation for the young guys to see and be around.

PJ Axelsson, Matt LindBlad, Dean Malkoc – Scouting Department

(Photo Credits: Getty Images/NHL.com)

I’ve always thought it sport savvy for any organization to utilize former players as scouts.  They have a feel for the team and management, they appreciate the passion and drive of the fans, they know the ins-and-outs of the city and playing environment, and they can speak genuinely about their time on and off the ice.  The Bruins have the made the most of these connections since hiring PJ Axelsson, Matt Lindblad and Dean Malkoc as scouts after all of them spent time wearing the coveted Black ‘N Gold.  Here’s why they’ve made an impact, and continue to make one, on some of the B’s best and brightest:

  • Axellson was one of the toughest, most skillful Bruins forwards for the better part of a decade and it showed by his adoration and appreciation from the fans, teammates, coaches and management.  Who didn’t want to feel the need for Swede whenever he was on the ice or in the locker room?  Well, now a part of the draft room, Per-Johan is the Per-fect international scout, helping acknowledge and nurture talent from Europe and North America, building the B’s brand both abroad and at home.  He’s an invaluable asset for new players like Joakim Nordstrom & Chris Wagner who play similar on-ice styles to his while also being a role model for current role players like Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork and JFK.
  • Linblad’s tenure with the Bruins, like his NHL career, was cut short due to injuries and bad luck.  But that didn’t stop the Dartmouth alum from recognizing the off-ice intangibles he brought to the rink everyday in other youthful players: balance and speed, puck-moving skill, skating power and defensive positioning. He currently scouts California and the West Coast for the Bruins.
  • While Malkoc was never known for offense during his brief NHL career, he did have a reputation as a hard-nosed, utility D-man and proved it during his limited playing time in Boston.  His time as an amateur prospects scout, however, has been much more successful, as he works throughout Western Canada to highlight top prospects that could bring the same rugged characteristics befitting the spoked-B that he did.

Svenake Svensson, Mike McGraw and Tom McVie – Veteran Scouts

(Photo Credits: Twitter/NHL.com)

If an organization decides your expertise, wisdom, hard work and most importantly, Experience, are worthy of having your name etched onto the Stanley Cup as a Scout, then you know you’re good at your job and doing things the right way.  That can definitely be said for Sven Svensson, Mike McGraw and Tom McVie — all long-time Bruins scouting experts and team ambassadors who’ve helped the franchise stay relevant, entertaining and competitive for the last 30 years (give or take a few forgettable campaigns — I’m talking about you, 1996-1997).

  • Svensson, you could say, is the man who taught Axelsson everything he knows about scouting throughout Europe while based in Sweden (I call it the sson-to-sson relationship) since he’s been doing it successfully for almost three decades.  Many prospects the Bruins find in both the Finnish Elite League or the SHL come with his recommendation so fans should be thankful to see all the upside in players like Urho Vaakanainen, Axel Andersson, Joona Koppanen, Victor Berglund and Oskar Steen, among many talented others.
  • McGraw works to find, critique and recommend high-end talent from high school, college and the USHL and with North American hockey producing recent studs like Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk and the B’s own Charlie McAvoy in the draft, it’s an integral part of the Boston scouting machine. However, the Bruins have also had recent success taking players directly from college like Torey Krug from MSU (Bob Essensa would be proud), Noel Acciari from Providence College and the recently departed Austin Czarnik from Miami.  So McGraw’s pipeline to talent is timely and needed for the B’s to maintain their current growth.
  • Tom McVie is nothing short of a Hall-of-Famer in this aspect of hockey, having earned respect in all facets of the game throughout his illustrious career (which you can expertly read about thanks to the “My Expansion Story” articles NHL.com did last year). He currently scouts from professional leagues on the West Coast so if the Bruins are looking to add top-notch talent from the West and Pacific divisions of the ECHL, he’s your man.

It’s obvious the Bruins have stocked their system with talent in more ways than one, as evidenced by the aforementioned roster of coaches, scouts and player personnel who bring the Experience factor to the game the same way this current group of young players will bring the Excitement factor.

And unlike Caesar’s last Shakespearean words, “Et tu, Brute,” I think it’s fitting to say “Et tu, Bruins” these days.

Because yes, “Even You”, Bruins fans, can be encouraged by the men Behind the B’s for 2018-2019 and beyond!

Bruins Studnicka To Attend Canadian WJC Summer Camp

(Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

By: Mark Allred   |   Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Hockey Canada announced today that they’ve released a list of 40 players that were invited to this summers Sport Chek World Junior Showcase. Amongst the list of young developing players that were invited is Boston Bruins forward prospect Jack Studnicka who was born in Tecumseh, Ontario and currently a member of the Ontario hockey Leagues Oshawa Generals. The eight-day event from the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia will feature teams from Canada, Finland, Sweden, and the United States will play an eleven game mini-tournament from July 28th to August 4th, 2018.

Hockey Canada Head Scout Brad McEwen had this to say below about the upcoming camp and whats expected from this year’s event in Kamloops in an article on hockeycanada.ca

“The Sport Chek World Junior Showcase gives us an excellent opportunity to begin the evaluation process and for the staff to familiarize themselves with the players before the new season kicks off,” said McEwen. “We also get to see the players in competition against the teams who will be returning to Vancouver and Victoria this December. It’s a unique opportunity, and we’re looking forward to making the most of it as we kick off our journey to the 2019 World Juniors later this month.”

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The 6′-1″ 179-pound forward has spent his Canadian Junior career with his Generals team and contributed 150 points in 192 games. His best season offensively came in the  2017-18 campaign where he posted 22-50-72 numbers in 66 games and was named team captain before the regular season started. The 19-year-old was selected by the Bruins in the second-round of the 2017 National Hockey League Entry Draft from Chicago, Illinois with the 53rd selection and is very close to making his NHL debut. If the talented center who was ranked 120th in last year’s NHL Central Scouting final rankings doesn’t make the NHL Bruins roster for the upcoming season, he’ll head back for further development with his OHL team.

When I attended last weeks annual Bruins development camp from the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton. Massachusetts, Studnicka didn’t disappoint the Bruins brass, fans in attendance, and Boston Sports Media from above. In an article by Boston Herald Bruins beat writer Steve Conroy last week ( CLICK HERE ) during last weeks camp, Studnicka had these things to say about his future in the Bruins organization.

“It’s always been my dream to play in the NHL and looking at the roster, there are spots there that are up for grabs,” Studnicka said yesterday after the hour-long practice. “I’m going to put my head down, go to work and hope for the best.”

“My second year, my NHL draft year, there were a lot of nerves. It was a big year for me,” said Studnicka. “But I think I showcased myself, and I think I gave teams a glimpse of what the future is to hold. Boston obviously saw that. Last year, my third year, I think I took a huge step. I thought I controlled the play a lot. I thought I controlled the locker room. I worked as hard as I could, and I think I was more dominant in my third year.”

“Going in there and putting up a point per game definitely helps. It’s in the back of my head,” said Studnicka. “But the important thing is to stay level-headed in a situation like that. I’m still a 19-year-old kid who’s got a lot to learn and a lot of room to grow in his game.”

“Going back to the OHL and developing more there, I’d like to be a dominant player,” he said. “If that happens, I hope to win a championship there. But my main goal is sticking with the big club.”

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This summer showcase will be a tremendous experience for the future NHL’er as he tries to solidify a roster spot on the Canadian 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship team. The annual IIHF under-20 tournament will kick off in late December of 2018 and filter into January of 2019 and be hosted by two beautiful British Columbia cities such as Vancouver and Victoria. The events will be held at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver and Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.

The Bruins center last dawned the Red and White colors of his country in the 2016-17 season for his under-18 team posting three goals in three games. Studnicka wasn’t invited to the 2017 38-player Canadian camp in Plymouth, Michigan but is sure to get noticed and be heavily considered for the honor of representing his Canadian country against the worlds best players at his age level.

Bruins Prospect Curtis Hall; High Ceiling, Great Flow

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(Photo credit: Boston Bruins)

By Jacob Albrecht | Follow me on Twitter @bruinsfan3725

With their late 4th round pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins selected center Curtis Hall, a Princeton, New Jersey native currently playing in the USHL at 119th overall. At only 18 years of age, Hall has a man’s body, coming in at 6’2″ and 200 pounds. Here are Hall’s first words as a Boston Bruins draft pick:

Hall has committed to Yale for the coming school year, which in of itself shows that he’s a smart kid with a strong work ethic off the ice. It is a very convenient situation for the Bruins to have Hall playing right in their backyard as well. It’ll be interesting to see how he competes and the numbers he can put up at the college level. This past season he put up 13 goals and 18 assists for a total of 31 points in 54 games with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms. Those numbers are a significant improvement over his 7 goals, 14 assists, and 21 points in 59 games the year before in 2016-2017.

Hall won’t be seen as an incredibly highly skilled player which his numbers reflect, however he chips in strongly on offense, but focuses mainly on playing a consistent, 200-foot game. After being drafted, the American described himself by saying, “I’m a hard working two-way centerman. Coaches can rely on me in all areas of the game. I have offensive ability, but I can play really good defense as well. I’m a 200-foot forward.” That description is very comparable to many other current and former Bruins centers. His ceiling likely isn’t as high as that of Patrice Bergeron’s, but his game is clearly reminiscent of the the 4-time Selke Trophy winner’s. Curtis Hall could also be compared to a guy like Rich Peverley, strong in his own end and can chip in offensively at the same time without compromising defense. Hall looks to have a ceiling of a very strong 3rd line center, and very likely could be a top 6 center behind Bergeron if his development goes well. Regardless of his skill and ceiling, his lettuce is absolutely unreal. as is evidenced below in exhibits A, B, C and D:

Hall impressed quite a bit at the Bruins Development Camp this past week. He was able to effectively use his frame to create space for himself and his teammates, including in the dirty areas in front of the net. With that size, he should be able to push a lot of other guys around at the NHL level when he’s given a chance. He’s a guy that wants to get in there to make a difference in a game, and as our favorite Bruins broadcast team Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley would say, “he’s got jam.” Another of Hall’s strengths is his skating, and he knows it. He knows what his strengths are and how to properly use them to his advantage to best his opponent. He seems to have a strong shot from what could be seen throughout the on-ice sessions of development camp, and he especially showcased it during the scrimmage on Friday:

Not only is the shot itself impressive, being from a very tight angle, top shelf and the puck being positioned on the outside, but so is the work required to get the opportunity. He uses his size, speed and agility to beat the defender on a spin move which creates the space he needs to drive towards the net. His quick acceleration on a few strides from a slow speed affords him that scoring chance. Some guys in this same situation would’ve backed off and stayed on the boards or rotated out to the point, but not Hall. It could be guessed that Hall wouldn’t always shoot that puck if he had a man open right in front of the crease. Despite him scoring on a beautiful finish on this play, the most critical part is the decisions he makes leading up to that finish. It shows Hall has a strong hockey IQ that can be improved and heightened on his journey through professional hockey.

After day 2 of development camp Hall gave the interview above, and there’s a lot to like about it. He’s confident in his game and the way he plays, which is huge in professional sports of any kind. Having that good head on his shoulders gives him a great chance of success at the NHL level. He’s calm, cool and collected, he’s respectful with the media and wants to jump right in and communicate well with the organization and his teammates. These are all good signs to see from a young guy less than a week after being drafted. The strongest sign I saw during camp was his work ethic. On that third day of camp, he was one of the last few guys off the ice. He stayed out there to get those extra few shots, strides and stickhandling in. Being one of the last off shows that extra dedication and want to improve.

Hall is committed to improving his game, and that has to make the Bruins management and coaching staff very happy with their 119th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The Bruins might have a long-term top 9, hopefully, top 6 center on their hands in Curtis Hall. He’s got the heart, work ethic, strong body/head, and he’s got some unreal, majestic flow. Welcome to Boston, Curtis!