Biggest Questions Facing The Bruins As They Enter The 2020 Playoffs

Notes, Thoughts And Observations From Ondrej Kase's Bruins Debut ...
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By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

What is up with Kase and Ritchie?

There is a lot up in the air with the Bruin’s two most recent acquisitions. We know Ondrej Kase was the only player to not travel to Toronto with the team. It’s been said that the Czech Republic native will meet the team later, but if he’s healthy, what role will he have? He’s only played six games with Boston, and with younger guys (that will be mentioned later) getting more chemistry with the team, it will be interesting to see what type of role he’ll have when he’s with the team.

That same story remains true with Nick Ritchie. Despite traveling to Toronto with the team, Ritchie has just now made his first on ice appearance in Ontario’s capital, in an optional skate this morning. He wasn’t featured Bruin’s lineup in the exhibition game and it’s anyone’s guess as to when he’ll join the Bs for a game. The physical forward would be a really nice addition to the lineup, and his presence would be a welcome addition to the forward group.

How will the kids play?

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 26: Jack Studnicka #68 of the Boston Bruins warms up prior to the game against the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL game at the Bell Centre on November 26, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Bruins seem to have three players penciled into their lineup that have yet to play a playoff game in their NHL career. The trio of players are Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Jeremy Lauzon. I recently wrote an article about how I believe Bjork has a good chance to break out in the playoffs. He’s an incredibly skilled player that has had success in every league he’s been in. The Notre Dame alum has developed into a really good 200-foot player and is a guy I can totally see having a Marcus Johansson like run in the playoffs. 

As for Studnicka, it appears that he will get the start to the right of David Krejci on the second line and I love it. He’s done everything you want in a young player making the jump to the pros. He led the entire AHL in shorthanded goals and was within the top 15 in both total goals and points. Getting the chance to play in the top six in the NHL playoffs as a 21-year-old is not something many can do, especially for a President’s Trophy winning team. It’s been all praise from teammates and I’m really excited to see how he does after his promising showing in the exhibition game. 

We saw Connor Clifton take big steps in his NHL career last year as a rookie in the playoffs, and now Jeremy Lauzon is looking to do the same. The French-Canadian plays the perfect playoff style of hockey. The adjective I would use to describe him certainly wouldn’t be shy as he already has 10 fights in his short NHL career. He’s added a nice physical presence next to Matt Grzelcyk and that bottom pair has been a big part of the B’s success. Since joining the big club, the Bruins have had a 15-3-1 record in games Lauzon has played in.

Can Rask replicate last year’s playoff success?

Bruins' Tuukka Rask Reveals Item He Brought To Toronto, Game Plan ...
(Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Rask was excellent in the 2018-19 Playoffs. Saying anything but that would be idiotic.  Outside of the final game of the Cup, Rask was absolutely dominant in elimination and series clinching games. In five elimination games, the Finnish tender allowed just four goals to go with a .973 save percentage. And as crazy as it may sound, he was even better in series clinching games. He allowed ONE goal in the three games, good for a .990 save percentage and if you picked this up, well done, had more shutouts than goals allowed. Those are elite numbers. 

It will definitely be interesting to see how the time off will affect the B’s starter coming off of his best regular season since winning the Vezina in 2014. Luckily if Rask falters for any reason, they have one of the best backups in the league in Jaroslav Halak. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. 

Will the formatting of the playoffs hurt the Bruins?

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 16: Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins and Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins fight during the second period at TD Garden on January 16, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Well the immediate answer is yes. As they were six points up on the second place team in the league, Bs were poised to finish the regular season as the number one seed. They would’ve had home ice throughout the entirety of the playoffs but are now forced to play in a round robin to determine where they finish. If the Bs fail to maintain the top spot in the East they would end up playing a better team than they would have normally faced. Can you believe if they end up playing the Penguins in the first round instead of a team around the 7-9 seed? No disrespect to any of those teams, but that would be incredibly tough on the Presidents Trophy winning team. 

If there’s any pro out of this, it would be the fact that the Bruins now play high intensity games that matter, but without a lose or go home stipulation. Maybe if they don’t show up in the three round robin games it sends a message. Maybe if they DO show up it will give the team confidence and add a little swagger to their play. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

Can the veterans succeed after so much time off?

Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand - Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
(Photo Credit: Minas Panaglotakis/ Getty Images)

There’s no questioning if the leadership of the Bruin’s veterans will be there when the playoffs begin, it will. But will their usual great play be there as well? Zdeno Chara (42), Patrice Bergeon (34), David Krejci (33) and Brad Marchand (31) have all had amazing NHL careers, but without a proper training camp and so much time off, it may be tough to get back into the swing of things with the intensity of playoff hockey. Brad Marchand said earlier in quarantine that he thinks younger teams like the Maple Leafs and Lightning will have the advantage over teams with an older core. With that being said, you know Bruce Cassidy and co will have the Bruins ready to play when the time comes. 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Is Jack Studnicka The Answer To The Bruins Search For Krejci’s Right Wing?

( Photo Credit Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers )

By: Jack Gotsell |Follow me on twitter @jackgotsell

Bruce Cassidy has a big decision to make when it comes to who will be playing on the right side of David Krejci this postseason for the Boston Bruins. With Ondreje Kase unable to get on the ice in the return to play phase of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, being deemed “unfit to play”, the Bruins will look to their young prospect and 2nd round pick in the 2017 entry draft Jack Studnicka to fill the void next to Krejci. If Studnicka plays well he will likely keep the role; and if not, Anders Bjork could likely get a look before we see Kase back next to Krejci.

Studnicka was drafted 53rd overall by the Bruins and has not disappointed. In his rookie season for the organization the 6’2” 21-year-old forward was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team. He led the Providence Bruins in scoring this season with 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points in 60 games. He brings a promising finishing touch that the Bruins and General Manager Don Sweeney have been searching for to boost the top six.

Sweeney was confident he found that boost when the Bruins acquired Kase from the Anaheim Ducks on trade deadline day. The COVID break has left that question still unanswered as we enter the return to play phase. Kase is a shoot-first forward and much like Studnicka, he brings a tremendous amount of speed to his game. In Kase’s time in Anaheim he dealt with a lot of injuries and despite the time off the ice was able to tally a ton of shots. Unfortunately, he was unable to convert on many of those as he continued to struggle with his finish. Kase is in his fifth NHL season and when he’s healthy he shows some flashes of high-end talent. Nothing exemplifies that more than his last healthy season which came in 2017-2018 where he was able to find the back of the net 20 times.

Kase’s battle for the second line right wing will have to wait until he is able to get in the bubble. With that out of his control for now, Studnicka will look to fight for and hold the job. Studnicka only played two games with the big club this season and has never played in an NHL postseason. Being a natural center, he will have to adjust to the responsibilities of the wing while dealing with the pressure of his first postseason minutes. That’s not to say he never played wing; Jack played wing for the Canadian junior team in the 2019 World Junior Championship. In that tournament he tallied 1 goal, 3 assists, and 4 points in 5 games for the silver medalists.

Bruins teammate Patrice Bergeron has been impressed with Studnicka saying “he seems to be getting faster, which is scary.” Bergeron also mentioned that he looks a lot stronger than he did in camp at the beginning of the season and that he plays the game the right way. That’s quite a compliment coming from a future Hall of Famer like Bergeron. Studnicka will continue to look to that vetran leadership as he joins this hungry club in the postseason. 

Cassidy has said “It wouldn’t be automatic that I put Ondrej [Kase] in if the young kid was playing really well.” Cassidy has also made some comparisons between Bergeron and Studnicka referencing that he hopes that Studnicka is the next Patrice Bergeron. He’s noted that it would be great for everyone in the organization if he is and I have to agree. However, Cassidy has said all camp that Anders Bjork looks like one of the best players out there, so he is another guy seeking that job. If Studnicka slips up, Bjork could get that chance not only on the third line with Sean Kuraly and Charlie Coyle, but on the second line as well with Krejci. Clearly the Bruins have some faith in Bjork’s future as they just recently signed him to a 3-year extension. 

The unfamiliarity that Bruce Cassidy has with Kase really hurts him. He doesn’t know him as a player. He was only able to see him in 6 games before the season was put on pause. Cassidy is more familiar with Studnicka and Bjork and he is ready to see both of them lace up in this round-robin tournament. 

For now, it looks like Studnicka will be the guy on the second line when the Bruins play Columbus at 7PM. However, Cassidy confirmed earlier today Bjork and Karson Kuhlman will also see some time at second line right wing tonight. Unfortunately for Kase, he will be watching this one from home as he has still not been able to make the trip to Toronto. It remains to be seen how the lineup will look when the Bruins face the Flyers to open the round-robin tournament. If Studnicka is able to produce some secondary offence it will be an uphill climb for Kase to get back into the Bruins lineup. This is a good problem for Bruce Cassidy and the Boston Bruins to have.  

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below on 7-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Boston’s Newest Winger’s Future

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(Photo: Maddie Meyer, Getty Images)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The Boston Bruins’ phones are generally ringing off the hook at each trade deadline.  This year, they made two moves, with the same team, in two separate trades.  The Bruins acquired Anaheim Ducks’ Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase for David Backes, Axel Andersson, a 2020 first-round pick, and Danton Heinen.  General Manager, Don Sweeney, received tons of praise for these separate deals because it relieved some cap stresses and brought NHL-ready talent to a team that is in a “win-now” mode.

Ondrej Kase is a 24-year old right-winger who hasn’t tapped his full potential.  His last meaningful game with the Bruins was on March 10, and he’s been a ghost since the NHL announced its Return To Play plan.  The NHL’s Return To Play plan consists of four phases, with the second phase being one of the more important ones. Step 2 of Return To Play allowed players to practice in small-group sessions, without contact.  NHL clubs were not permitted to require players to practice, making them voluntary.  In the world of COVID, Kase opted not to skate.

The NHL’s training camp, beginning on July 10, was its third phase of the plan.  These camps were to be held in the club’s respective cities and last about two and a half weeks.  The Bruins had a near-perfect attendance during training camp.  David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase were the regular absentees.

The Bruins went about their regular business during these two and a half weeks and did not give the media any info to work off of related to the two absentees.  Recently, however, news broke as to why both players were held out.  Kase and Pastrnak attended a practice unrelated to the NHL’s Return To Play plan a few days before Phase 3, which required them to quarantine for 14 days.  Pastrnak joined the team on the charter to Toronto; however, Kase did not.  He had to fly coach, which means he needs to quarantine for an additional four days before rejoining the Bruins.

The problem here is, he is new to the Bruins.  Pastrnak has been with the Bruins for five years now and can integrate with his linemates with ease.  Kase has played a whopping six games with the club and was coming off of a concussion that he suffered earlier this year.  The Phase 2 training camp was the best thing that could have happened to Kase to allow time to get his skating legs back and chemistry flowing with his new teammates.  The unregulated practice was harmless, but it costs him time with his team and, now, potentially his spot on the second line.

Jack Studnicka is a promising young right-winger, who was drafted 53rd overall in the 2017 NHL draft.  The pick was acquired from Edmonton in return for Peter Chiarelli, their former General Manager. Studnicka played two games with the Bruins this year, tallying an assist against Montreal on November 26, 2019.

He has a nose for the net, averaging 1.4 points per game in the Ontario Hockey League in the 2018-19 season.  Jack has been hyped as maybe the best prospect the Bruins have in the system, and he’s showing Head Coach, Bruce Cassidy, he can earn a spot in the starting lineup in Thursday’s exhibition game vs. Columbus.

One scenario that would be quite troubling for Kase is if Studnicka is given the right-wing spot for the beginning of the playoffs and plays well enough to stay in the lineup.  Would Bruins fans be okay with spending a first-round draft selection on a player who watches the more playoffs than not from the ninth floor?

The above scenario would be a tough pill to swallow for Sweeney, but it’s unlikely it to happen.  Kase will likely play the majority of the playoffs, but his current absence is troubling.  His playoff performance could determine his future with the Bruins.  If Kase plays from the beginning and plays stellar, he’ll probably be on the second line come next season.  But if he doesn’t play well or at all, Sweeney could move him in the upcoming off-season.

The Bruins announced a contract extension for one impending restricted free agents last night.

The NHL announced next season will feature a flat salary cap, meaning the cap will neither increase nor decrease.  The Bruins currently have $18M in cap space after the Bjork extension.  They still need to sign Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, and Matt Grzelcyk.  There are some murmurs DeBrusk’s agent pegs him at $6M per year, and Krug has stated he is looking for a 6-year, $49M deal this off-season.  If both players receive what they’re asking, the Bruins will have $4M left in cap space.  Don Sweeney has not given a current Bruin their first figure at the negotiating table, and he’ll continue that trend.  But what if Kase doesn’t have a fruitful playoff and the DeBrusk does?

The Bruins could be staring down another cap clearing trade this off-season.  If the Bruins decide to trade Kase and his $2.6M cap hit, they would increase their current cap space number to $20.6M.  Trading Kase wouldn’t mean that he is damaged goods, it’s just the timing of everything.  He hasn’t practiced with the team, he hasn’t played a meaningful game in 4 months, and he had been coming off an injury in March.  Some players need ample opportunity to get up to speed, especially on a new team.  The playoffs are not the time to get back up to speed, hence why the NHL allowed a two and a half week training camp.

The Bruins would have to look for a trade partner who is in need of a top-nine forward.  They could package Kase and another draft selection or higher-end prospect to get back into this year’s first-round.  The Bruins have been stockpiling their prospect pool for a few years under Sweeney, and it would be challenging to watch newly-acquired Kase and another prospect leave for a draft selection we already possessed.  But, the Bruins face more significant issues with their impending free agents that they’ll have to address, and freeing up cap space is the number one priority.

Another scenario is Kase plays unbelievable and DeBrusk is unwilling to sign a bridge deal that would pay him significantly less than his $6M per year ask.  Maybe the Bruins look to trade DeBrusk’s rights to a team.  This would allow the Bruins to get compensated for their player, sign Krug and Grzelcyk, and the receiving team would be able to sign DeBrusk before July 1.

Trading Kase seems to only happen if he doesn’t participate in the playoffs or play up to his potential.  It would be more beneficial to the Bruins and management if their newly-acquired right-winger can step into a top-six role and have an immediate impact.  Most Bruins fans want the latter scenario and hope both Kase and Studnicka can take a leap forward this playoff and beyond.  But, if Kase is unable to keep pace, there could be some new unforeseen changes on the Bruins horizon.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below on 7-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

 

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

Bruins, Bjork Agree To Terms On Extension

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(Photo: Brian Fluharty / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced today that the team has agreed to terms with forward Anders Bjork on a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Boston through the end of the 2022-23 season. The deal carries a cap hit of $1.6 million per season.

In 58 regular season games this year, a career-high, Bjork posted nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points to go along with a plus-5 rating, also career-highs. The 23-year-old has 14-20-34 totals in 108 games through his first three seasons in the National Hockey League.In 29 American Hockey League contests with Providence, the Mequon, WI, native has six goals and 16 helpers for 22 points.

Prior to becoming a Bruin, the 6-foot, 190-pound winger served as an assistant captain during his junior season at the University of Notre Dame, recording 21-31-52 numbers. During his three years with the Fighting Irish, Bjork registered 40 goals and 69 assists for 109 points in 115 games.

Boston selected left-shot forward with the 146th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. With the deal, the Bruins and Bjork will also avoid a potential arbitration hearing this offseason as Bjork was slated to become an unrestricted free agent.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below on 7-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

 

Anders Bjork Looks Set To Break Out In 2020 NHL Playoffs

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Having a breakout performance in the playoffs can take your career to brand new levels. Someone can go from a third liner, to a super impactful player on a Stanley Cup caliber team. We’ve seen it recently with guys like Jake Guenztel, Nikita Kucherov and even Boston’s own Brad Marchand. And you know what? Nows a pretty good time for another Bruin to join that list, and I think that Bruin can be Anders Bjork. 

Bjork has enjoyed a nice first full (ish) season with the big club. After two seasons cut short to shoulder injuries, there was some worry that the Notre Dame product would never be the same. Thankfully that was not the case. Featured primarily in a 3rd line role, Bjork was able to hit career highs in both goals (nine) and assists (ten) in 58 games. So realistically, could we see the soon to be 24-year-old follow in the aforementioned Marchand’s footsteps?  

Marchand came into the league as a 21-year-old and was incredibly disappointing, putting up a single assist in 20 games. But the following season he was able to put up a very respectable 41 points and more importantly, 19 points in the playoffs. His league-leading 10 even-strength goals helped the Bs capture their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Playing with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi helped Marchand become the star he is today. Now with Bjork getting a similar treatment, he can certainly find his way to have a break outperformance.

(Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

Bjork has succeeded everywhere he has played. He was on the same U18 Developmental Team as Jack Eichel, Alex Tuch, and Dylan Larkin, finishing 5th on the team in scoring. When he reached the college level, he was always the best player on the ice for the Fighting Irish. He was a Hobey Baker finalist in his final season in college, touting the “A,” he scored 21 goals and 52 points in just 39 games.

The lefty had a lot of success at the World Juniors as apart of team USA that had studs like Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, and Zach Werenski on it. He was featured on the 2nd line with Christian Dvorak and Sonny Milano for most of the tournament, putting up three goals in the seven games. Most importantly scoring two goals in the bronze medal game, one of which was UNREAL.

There’s a bit in question regarding David Pastrnak (and now Ondrej Kase) and his availability at the moment. While I don’t think his absence will carry over into the playoffs, the Bruins would still be in good hands with Bjork on their top line. The Wisconsin native has had success playing beside the dynamic duo of Marchand and Bergeron. When paired together, the trio has produced a GF/60 rate of 4.02. For comparison, with David Pastrnak to the right, the line has a 3.63 GF/60. But even if he isn’t on the top unit, there’s no reason he can’t succeed on the 3rd line as Marcus Johansson and company did last postseason. 

Bjork has developed some great chemistry with Charlie Coyle on the third line. Their combination of speed and skill makes them a dangerous duo in all ends of the ice. The two are excellent possession players, and it gives coach Bruce Cassidy the option to roll his lines in any way he pleases. Bjork’s two-way play has been a much-improved area in his game, making him far from a one-dimensional player. His hockey IQ is up there with the best on the Bs, and with all eyes on him, it’s a perfect time to show everyone how good he really is.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 186 that we recorded below on 7-20-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Options For The Bruins If Torey Krug Doesn’t Re-Sign

Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins
(Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Bruins are going to have a biiiiig decision this offseason when dealing with upcoming UFA Torey Krug. Now that there’s a flat cap for the next couple years, Don Sweeney and co will have their work cut out for them. Personally, I think the Bs need to resign Krug, his departure would leave a big hole at the left side and on the powerplay. But what if, for whatever reason, Torey Krug and the Bruins don’t find common ground and he walks? I’ll go through a couple options that the Bruins can do. 

Cap Projections

The Bruins are projected to have a tad under $18 million in cap space. They have options on what kind of contracts to give to guys like Jake Debrusk and Matt Grzelcyk; they may choose to save cap now and sign their younger players to bridge-like deals or choose to give out longer deals. With a Krug contract likely taking up around  $6.5-7 million in cap per season, the Bruins would have around $11 million to work with to sign Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, Anders Bjork, Jake Debrusk and Joakim Nordstrom (who is likely gone). It will be a hard task regardless of what Sweeney decides to do. 

Option 1: Fix the problem internally

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If Krug says goodbye to Boston, there will certainly be a missing presence at defense. But one thing’s for sure, the Bruins have a plethora of guys in Providence and Boston ready to fill the void. One player that would have a far bigger role with Krug’s departure would be Matt Grzelcyk. He would likely take over powerplay duties and with the success he’s had when featured on the 1st PP unit, I don’t think the Bruins will be too upset. 

Chara will likely be around again next year, leaving one more spot on the left side. The contenders for that spot would be: Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen, John Moore and Jeremy Lauzon, with the latter two able to play the right side as well. Zboril is an interesting case. In most other organizations, he’d likely be an everyday NHLer right now,  but with the Bruins depth at the back end, he’s spent most of his professional career in Providence. He’s eligible to be claimed on waivers starting next year, so it’s a sink or swim situation for the Czechman. 

(Photo Credit: Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports)

Urho Vaakanainen is still just 21-years-old and has loads of potential. He’d certainly be up to the task of becoming an everyday dman but if it doesn’t seem like he’s ready, the Bs can still send him to Providence to eat a ton of icetime up. Jeremy Lauzon has been really good since getting called up to Boston. The big, physical defenseman has played both sides and has been a solid presence to have on the bottom pair. I can’t see him not retaining some sort of role on the blue line next year. And finally John Moore, who has always been a good bottom pairing guy for the Bs. With the low cap, Moore’s days in Boston may be numbered, but if he stays a Bruin, he’ll be a solid, mobile dman for them. 

If the Bruins decide to go in house with their team next year, that would allow them to sign guys like Jake Debrusk and Matt Grzelyck to longer term deals rather than bridge deals. Instead of giving them contracts around 2×4.5 and 2×2.5 respectively, they could look to go for deals around 6×6 and 5×4 to set up the team in a better long term position. 

Option 2: Fix the defense internally, use the money to acquire another forward. 

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Instead of the money being allocated to longer deals for Gryz and Debrusk, the Bruins could use the hypothetical $7 million from Krug and go out and sign a big time forward. There’s a solid crop of UFAs to hit the open market that would look great wearing the spoked-B. I’m not too sure the Bruins have the real estate to pull off a big signing like Taylor Hall, but there are plenty of B+ players the Bruins could go after. 

There are a couple of forwards (who can play both wings) coming out of Florida who would fit very well to the side of David Krejci. Those two names being Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. Hoffman has spent his entire career in the Atlantic division and hasn’t scored under 22 goals and 56 points since the 2014-15 season (where he had 27 goals and 48 points). He’s a creative player a lot of skill and a great release. With a playmaker like Krejci and speedy winger like Jake Debrusk, it would be hard to think of him not putting up 30 goals and 60 points. 

Dadonov is another skilled winger and is coming off of a big 70 point season. He’s been a great possession player since returning to the NHL, averaging a 52.5 Corsi% in three seasons. Something that may get overlooked are the players Dadonov had success with in Florida. He’s used to a center that likes to slow the game down (Alexsander Barkov) and playing with a similar player in Krejci could prove to be beneficial for both players.

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 28: Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) makes a save on Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli (73) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings on October 28, 2016, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Kings defeated the Bruins 2-1 (OT). (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

And then there’s a player who’s been linked to Boston for years, Tyler Toffoli. He’s always been a player who can play anywhere in the top nine, and always performs in the playoffs. After watching him succeed in Vancouver this year, there’s clearly not an issue of fitting a new system. I’d think Toffoli would be a bit cheaper than the previous two options, and money is everything these days.

Guys like Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Alex Galchenyuk and Derick Brassard are some others the Bruins could choose to buy low on. Granlund had many great seasons in Minnesota but hasn’t looked the same in Nashville. Haula erupted in Vegas but hasn’t been quite as good after his gruesome injury last year. Galchenyuk has all the talent in the world and I would be really interested how he’d fare in a system like the Bruins, with leaders like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. Brassard could slot in a lot of places and with his playoff track record, could be really solid. To end this off, just take a look at this hypothetical disguuuusting lineup.

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Debrusk – Krejci – Hoffman/Dadonov/Toffoli

Bjork – Coyle – Kase

Ritchie – Kuraly – Wagner

Option 3: Sign a replacement defenseman

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

The market for defensemen isn’t flowing with crazy talent, but there are a lot of solid pieces in free agency. If the Bs can’t sign Krug, they likely wouldn’t be able to go after Tyson Barrie either. He’d probably have a cap hit a bit under Krug’s, but with how good the Bruin’s right side is, wouldn’t make much sense regardless of his cap hit. But there are two targets that would likely come in at a decent cap number if they hit the open market.

Those two are a pair of Calgary Flames dmen by the names of Erik Gustafsson and T.J. Brodie.  Gustafsson had an excellent 2018 campaign. He broke out with a 60 point season and actually had more even strength assists than Krug. After a down season this year, it would certainly be more of a gamble but I can’t see his cap hit getting too high. A one-two year deal around $4 million could be a good, prove it contract for both sides. 

T.J. Brodie has had a couple really solid years in a row. He’s averaged over 30 points, a +20 rating and right around a 54.2% Corsi, despite not having a big role in the Flames powerplay. He’s more reliable than Gustafsson and if Grzelcyk or McAvoy can take over powerplay duties from Krug, the Bs would still have a great defensive core. 

Obviously trades can also happen. If the Bruins sign a forward, they could trade one of their middle-six guys, maybe for a defenseman, maybe for a draft pick, who knows. But at the end of the day, Krug or no Krug, the Bruins will still be a competitive team next year. I just hope he’s a part of their success. 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 185 that we recorded below on 7-12-20! 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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Which Current Bruin Had The Best NCAA Career?

(Photo Credit: Craig F. Walker | Boston Globe)

By Bryan Murphy | Follow Me on Twitter @bryan_murphy10

The college hockey pipeline has certainly been a favorite for the Boston Bruins.

From powerhouses like Boston University and Wisconsin, to smaller schools like Miami-Ohio, the Bruins have not shied away from drafting collegiately. Depending on who Bruce Cassidy roles with, there is a chance that four of the six defensemen the Bruins dress came from the NCAA (Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk and if Cassidy goes Connor Clifton).

With a lot of talent coming via college, it begs the question – which current Bruins had the best NCAA career?

In a recent Twitter poll, fans seemed to bring six names – McAvoy, Krug, Grzelcyk, along with Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman and Jeremy Swayman. While Swayman has yet to play for the Bruins, his stellar season this winter makes it very hard to count him out.

The verdict on Twitter was in resounding favor of Chaaaahlie. I would say it’s a toss-up between Krug and McAvoy as to who is the best player on the Bruins that played college hockey, but did either have the best college career? Let’s dive in.

Anders Bjork (Notre Dame 2014-17)

While Bjork’s game hasn’t translated as smoothly to the NHL level, there’s no denying Bjork’s talent in college. 

A Hobey Baker candidate in his final season with Notre Dame, Bjork was nearly a point-per-game player in college, with 85 points in 87 games. His 52 points in 2017 was tied for fourth-most in Hockey East and ninth in all of college hockey. 

What stands out the most about Bjork’s collegiate career was his ability to show up in the big moments. His freshman season, Bjork has five points in the six playoff games he played in. In his final season, he scored two goals, including the game winner, in the NCAA Northeast Regional semifinals against Minnesota. He followed that up by recording assists on all three of the Fighting Irish’s goals in the Northeast Regional championship game, a 3-2 OT win to send Notre Dame to the Frozen Four despite being the No. 4 seed in the region. 

Bjork’s accolades include 2016 All-Hockey East Second team, 2017 All-Hockey East First team, 2017 Hockey East Three Stars Award, 2017 AHCA All-American East Second team and 2017 Northeast Regional MVP. Bjork showed up when Notre Dame needed him most and helped them to a National semifinal. The Bruins have to be hoping to see some of the magic return at the pro level.

Matt Grzelcyk (Boston University 2012-16)

Grzelcyk’s collegiate career is well known in the Boston area. With Boston University, Grzelcyk was a two-year captain and helped lead the Terriers to two Hockey East Championship games, winning the title in 2015. The Terriers also went to the National Championship in 2015, losing 4-3 to Providence. 

Grzelcyk’s best known accomplishment was his overtime winner in the 2015 Beanpot final against Northeastern, earning the Terriers their first Beanpot title since 2009. Grzelcyk had two goals in the game, and was tabbed the tournament MVP. 

In terms of personal awards, Grzlecyk was named to the AHCA All-American East First team twice and the All-Hockey East First team twice, both awards in 2015 and 2016. The Terriers sensational 2014-15 season also earned Grzelcyk a spot on the All-Regional team in the NCAA Tournament, as well as the Hockey East All-Tournament team. That season, Grzelcyk led all Hockey East defensemen in conference points (20) and was fourth in the nation in points per game among defenseman (0.98). 

A total of 95 points in 125 career games, Grzelcyk was a great D-man for the Terriers. He quarterbacked the power play unit while also a leader in the locker room. There’s no denying Grzelcyk’s impressive collegiate resume.

Torey Krug (Michigan State 2009-2012)

Krug had a very solid individual career at Michigan State. In total, Krug racked up 83 points in 114 career games and captained the team both his sophomore and junior year before foregoing his final year of eligibility to sign with Boston. 

He was named to the First Team All-CCHA in 2011 and 2012, in addition to being named the CCHA’s Best Offensive Defenseman in both of those seasons. His junior year, Krug recorded 34 points to lead all CCHA defensemen and won CCHA Player of the Year, as well as a place on the AHCA All American West team and a nomination for the Hobey Baker award. 

What Krug never had with Michigan State was postseason success. In fact, the Spartans did not win a single playoff game in Krug’s tenure. Michigan State was swept in the first round or quarterfinals of the CCHA tournament in each of the three years Krug was there. The Spartans made it to the NCAA tournament in 2012 as an at-large bid, but lost to Union 3-1.

While Krug certainly enjoyed individual success in East Lansing, his lack of postseason experience casts a bit of a black eye on his college career. All of Krug’s accolades are individual, with Michigan State not winning any regular season or tournament titles in Krug’s three years. Krug was a fantastic offensive defenseman at the NCAA level but the lack of hardware is his one knock.

Karson Kuhlman (University of Minnesota-Duluth 2014-18)

A sensational two-way forward, Karson Kuhlman found much success with the University of Minnesota-Duluth in his four years of college. 

Kuhlman participated in the NCAA tournament every single year, playing in two National Championships and helping lead the Bulldogs to an NCAA Championship win in 2018. His goal and assist in UMD’s 2-1 championship win over Notre Dame earned him 2018 NCAA Tournament MVP. 

In conference play, Kuhlman won the NCHC title in 2017 with the Bulldogs, a 4-3 victory over North Dakota to bring UMD its first NCHC championship and first conference title win since 2009. Kuhlman also won the NHCH’s Sportsmanship Award that year. 

With the completion of his collegiate career, Kuhlman skated in 166 consecutive games, which tied a program record and puts him seventh all-time in NCAA history. While he hasn’t been able to see consistent time in Boston, he brings a ton of postseason experience and success, and could be a year or two away from becoming an every day player. 

Charlie McAvoy (Boston University 2015-17)

The babyface killer in Boston has been a fan favorite since his college days.

McAvoy played just two seasons with Boston University before signing with the Bruins, but he built himself a pretty good resume those years. McAvoy had 51 points in 75 games as a Terrier, including the double-OT game winner in the Regional semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

McAvoy certainly benefited from playing alongside some collegiate studs like Clayton Keller and Jordan Greenway. However, the only title Boston University was able to claim in McAvoy’s short term there was a share of the Hockey East regular season title in 2016.

That same year, McAvoy was named to the All-Hockey East Rookie team. A year later, McAvoy was selected to the All-Hockey East First team and the AHCA All-American East First team. If McAvoy had continued his career for another year or two, he most likely would have seen more hardware, as Boston Univeristy won the Hockey East title the next season.

There’s no doubting how skilled of a player McAvoy was and is now. But playing only two seasons in college certainly hurts his argument as to the best college career.

Jeremy Swayman (Maine 2018-20)

Swayman has yet to dress in a Bruins or even P-Bruins uniform yet. But the season that Bruins fans saw out of the Maine Black Bear certainly placed him in the argument as having the best NCAA career.

Swayman was one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award this past season, an extremely rare feat for a goaltender. No goalie has won the award since 2001 when Ryan Miller took home the honor.

What Swayman did win however was a multitude of other honors. He took home the Mike Richter Award for NCAA goalie of the year, Hockey East Player of the Year, Hockey East Goaltending Champion and was named to the All-Hockey East First team and the AHCA All-American East First team.

In what would be his final collegiate season, Swayman finished the shortened year with a 2.07 goals against average (GAA) and a .939 save percentage. He finished in Orono with a career GAA of .260 and a save percentage of .924.

What stands out the most about Swayman’s career is he did it on a very sub-par Maine team with practically zero help from his fellow goaltenders. He was the starter right away when he got to Maine and the last two seasons, started or played in every single game but one. No relief for him in net, yet he was able to put up fantastic numbers.

Similar to Krug, the team around Swayman just wouldn’t good enough to get anywhere in the postseason. This season was the year for Maine to make some noise and it was unfortunately cancelled.

Swayman will certainly give other prospects like Dan Vladar and Kyle Keyser competition for the starting goaltender job in the next couple of years in both Providence and possibly Boston. And frankly, he has the NCAA career to back it up.

Verdict

This was by no means an easy decision. But if I had to select someone who had the best NCAA career in whole, I would have to go with …

(Photo Credit: Mary Schwalm | AP Images)

Bjork just did it all at Notre Dame. He was far and beyond the best player on his team by junior year and one of the best in the nation. He was a dynamic player on a team with guys by the name of Jake Evans and Alex Oglevie. Who? Exactly. Bjork was the guy in South Bend and had the stats and awards to prove it.

Honorable Mention

Chris Wagner put up 51 points in 38 games at Colgate his sophomore season. But he was outshined that year by his teammate, Austin Smith, who was a Hobey Baker finalist and ECAC Hockey Player of the Year. Just had to give the Mayor of Walpole some love.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 185 that we recorded below on 7-12-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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

Who’s The Most Underrated Player On The Bruins?

(Photo Credit: James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

I’m a Bruins fan, but I feel there’s a lot of players on the Boston Bruins roster that don’t get the recognition they deserve. Whether that be league-wide, or by fans in Boston, there are a lot of underappreciated guys like Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly, and Torey Krug just to name a few. As you continue to read below, I give my idea’s as a diehard and question who is the most underrated player on this National Hockey League Bruins team? Let me kno0w your thoughts in the comments section below about my mentions of the Bruins players.

Brad Marchand

When 95% of hockey fans hear the name “Brad Marchand,” the first thing they think of is his antics on the ice. While he’s certainly deserved his reputation in that sense, he needs to be talked about amongst the greats of the NHL right now. He should be spoken in the same breath as the likes of Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Alex Ovechkin. 

Over the past three seasons, only Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, and Leon Draistaitl have more points than the A1 agitator. And he does far more than just score points. He’s been in the top 16 for Selke voting over the past three years and is well known as one of the better playoff performers in recent history. Despite one specific play sticking out like a sore thumb, everyone’s favorite rat led the playoffs in scoring last year and is currently 17th in active playoff scoring, despite being younger, and having fewer games under his belt than just about everyone around him. 

Charlie Coyle

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(Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins have had a hole at the third-line center position for quite some time. They’ve gotten good performances for a year from guys like Ryan Spooner and Riley Nash, but the consistency was never there. Now with Charlie Coyle, the Bruins have never been deeper.  He’s given the Bruins a level of stability that’s really needed to be a Stanley Cup contender.  

He’s managed to average more even-strength minutes than guys like Patrice Bergeron and Jake Debrusk, and it’s been remarkable how much he’s helped the Bruin’s even-strength woes. 13 of his 16 goals have come at even strength, good for 4th on the team. He has a ton of skill for a guy his size and his ability to keep control of the puck is excellent. If he was put in a more prominent role, I think he’d have a real good chance to be a 20-something goal, 55 point guy. 

Brandon Carlo

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks
(Photo Credit: Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Offensively, he’ll never get confused with his defensive partner Torey Krug, but Brandon Carlo may be one of the best defensive defensemen in the league. At 6’5, Carlo has a great reach, and despite his big frame, the Colorado native can really move. He’s relentless in the Bruin’s own zone and has helped the Bs boast the 3rd best penalty kill in the league. 

As he’s gotten older, the 23-year-old has only improved. He’s added a much-needed snarl to his game, and the once nicknamed “Bambi” has been way better with the puck on his stick. Despite the shortened season, the defenseman notched a career-high with 19 points in 67 games, following an excellent run in the playoffs. It took three seasons for Carlo to get a shot to play for Lord Stanley, and he did not disappoint. He touted a +10 rating, good for second in the entire playoffs, and had a couple really important goals for the Bruins. Learning from one of the best, Brandon Carlo will be a force at the blueline for many years to come. 

Matt Grzelcyk

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 19: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on January 19, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

If I had to describe Matt Grzelcyk in one word, it would probably be easier than trying to remember how to spell his last name. But that word would be great. He’s just great at everything he does. He makes a great first pass, he’s great at leading the transition, he’s a great skater with a great head on his shoulders. The Boston University product has simply been a swiss army knife. The Bruins have had nine defensive pairings this season that have played over 100 minutes together. Matt Grzelcyk is on the top FIVE in terms of GA/60 (goals allowed per 60 minutes). And in terms of Corsi, Gryz is featured on three of the top four. Give him more minutes. 

Honorable Mentions

(Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

David Krejci – He’s never really been appreciated by fans. He’s done everything you want from a 2nd line center despite not having a real right winger for years.

Patrice Bergeron – A little out of the running because he’s been “underrated” for so many years. But I still think he needs a more praise for how good he really it. 

Zdeno Chara – People seem to focus on his legs, not his importance to the Bruins. Their D-core won’t be the same when he leaves. 

Tuukka Rask – It seems like everyone outside of Boston realizes how good Mr. Rask is, he’s elite.

I’m not sure I could pick the most underrated player on the Bruins. Gun to my head, I’d think I would have to say Brandon Carlo, but the others aren’t far behind. Who do you think takes the crown for the most underrated player on the Bruins?

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! 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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What The Bruins Forward Lines Could Look Like In The 2020 Playoffs

(Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

I think we all need hockey back in our lives ASAP. Thankfully the return is getting closer and closer by the day. But as hockey comes back, a lot of questions come back as well. The Bruins, especially after a pretty busy trade deadline, have one of the deepest and most interesting forward cores in the league. With such a competitive group and only a limited number of spots, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Bs forwards lines shake up. Here’s my best guess at what we see. 

1st Line: Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

It’s going to be reeeeally fun to see these guys dominate again. Obviously if the rest of the lines stall and aren’t able to generate offense, we’d likely see Pasta on the 2nd line to spread the wealth a bit, but there just isn’t a better line in hockey. To have a line that sports an 100 point player, Selke winner, and now Rocket Richard winner is something no other line in the league can do. 

Over the past three years, the trio has combined for 312 goals and 726 points in 625 games. Their success has been unparalleled by the rest of the league and man, I haven’t even started to talk about what they do in the playoffs. Obviously Marchand and Bergeron have a cup to their name and with the way Pastrnak has played in the postseason, I don’t think he’s too far behind. And for all of the advanced analytics guys, how does a combined 56.1 corsi sound? There’s not much more to say about the excellence of the three, so I’ll just move onto the more interesting lines of the Bruins. 

2nd Line: Jake Debrusk – David Krejci – Ondrej Kase

(Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

The age old question. Who the hell is playing on David Krejci’s wing? Well I think the Bruins may have found that answer in Ondrej Kase. The young Czech native does a lot well, but the most important thing for him (and the Bruins) is that he puts up points AT EVEN STRENGTH. Two seasons ago, Kase potted 20 goals and 38 points in 66 games and guess what, 19 even strength goals, 35 even strength points and five game winners. The next year he scored just one PP goal out of his 11 in total and didn’t score a single goal this season with a man up. If Kase can stay healthy, I think Krejci may have a permanent resident to his right. 

The other two members on the 2nd line aren’t too much of a surprise in David Krejci and Jake Debrusk. The veteran and the young winger have built some solid chemistry over the past couple years, and while they’ve been a bit streaky at times, when the two are on their game, it’s a major asset for the Bruins 2nd line. 

Everybody knows how lights out playoff David Krejci is. He’s led the league in playoff scoring twice, including in the Bruins’ cup victory in 2011. When intensity is at its peak, Krejci always seems to step to the plate and his winger Debrusk has started to follow in his footsteps. We saw Debrusk’s flair for the dramatic in the playoffs of his rookie year. He lit it up against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, scoring five goals (including this beauty) and seven points in seven games. 

3rd Line: Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork

(Photo Credit: Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Outside of Charlie Coyle slotting in at 3C, the bottom six is basically all up for grabs. The Bruins and coach Bruce Cassidy have a lot of options. They could go young and fast, they could go with a more defensive outlook, they could try and out-muscle, or (like I have) a mix of all three: grit, size and speed. 

Nick Ritchie is a big dude. At 6’2, 234 pounds, the former Duck knows how to throw his body around. He averages over 200 hits a season and we saw pretty quickly that he knows how to drop the mitts. The winger has a surprisingly good set of hands in tight, and is not forgein to dishing out some A+ passes. Ritchie spent a lot of minutes in Anaheim centered by Ryan Getzlaf, and his new center in Charlie Coyle, has a lot of similarities to Getzlaf. He’s a big, strong center, just maybe with a bit more hair.

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Last year’s acquisition of Charlie Coyle may have been the best move Don Sweeney has made in his tenure as GM of the Bruins. After a slow start to his career in Boston, the Boston University product was a major part of the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals. With Coyle anchoring the 3rd line, it gave Cassidy the option to simply roll four lines. On a line that was money all playoffs, Coyle put up nine goals and 16 points to go along with great 200 foot play. 

And then that leaves Anders Bjork. He’s got skill, he’s got speed, he’s got high hockey IQ and he finally began to put it all together this season. After a couple injury riddled years bouncing between the NHL and AHL, the Notre Dame grad finally found some consistency to his game. He’s looked stronger, more confident with the puck and most importantly, has been able to drive a play by himself. His 19 points in 58 games aren’t going to blow you away, but he’s got all the little things down, the points will start to come. 

4th Line: Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Karson Kuhlman

(Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Aside from Sean Kuraly, the usual members of the 4th line have not had the same success as they had last season. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom have been far from bad, but they haven’t been as effective. So instead of the veteran Wagner on this line, I think Karson Kuhlman should get the nod. My reasoning? Speed. The entire league is going to have fresh legs, so having a guy who’s as tenacious as it gets on the forecheck with wheels is going to be key. We saw what Kuhlman can bring to the table in a handful of the regular season and playoff games and, he never looked out of place. In the playoffs, the waterbug ripped a goal (which was unreal) and had two assists in eight games. 

Like I said before, I think Kuraly is a shoo-in for a spot in the lineup when the Bruins return. He’s been as clutch as you can get when the playoffs begin. We saw it against Ottawa, we saw it against Toronto (a lot) and into the finals against St. Louis. He’s got a lot of skill for a bottom-six forward and has the perfect mix of size and speed. 

Stanley Cup winner Joakim Nordstrom (yeah, he won a cup) was awesome in the playoffs last season. After we curiously saw the speedster to the left of David Krejci a few times in the regular season, Nordstrom took off as a fourth-liner. He just works incredibly hard, winning puck battles and cutting off passing and shooting lanes. In 23 postseason games, the Swede had three goals, eight points and was second among Bruins forwards in blocked shots. 

As for the rest, we’ll certainly see Chris Wagner and Par Lindholm as defensive, able bodies. But I also think we get to take a look at some prospects from the AHL in the playoffs, you can take a look at who I think will have a shot here

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

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Bruins’ Top 5 Underrated Draft Picks Of The Decade

(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe | bostonglobe.com)

By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter @andrewlindrothh

Every year, one of the most significant events in the National Hockey League occurs; the Entry Level Draft. Draft picks play an incredibly important role in a General Manager’s Strategy to improve his hockey team. Some picks carry high expectations from the start, and others become well over-looked. The Boston Bruins are well known for having three straight 1st round draft picks in 2015 and only one so far being a full-time NHLer. But, they have had other selections even in later rounds that ended up becoming a hidden gem for the organization that nobody would’ve predicted right away, or at all.

Many of these young talents boast so much potential, and others fly right under the radar of discussion. Today, I will be diving deep in the debate on who I believe are the most underrated draft picks for the Bruins this past decade (2010-2019). Please note, these are in no particular order.

Jakub Lauko (F) 3rd Round, 77th Overall Pick – 2018 Draft

(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe | bostonglobe.com)

Jakub Lauko is a versatile forward that brings a lot of energy and momentum to his game. After being drafted, he reported to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and played for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) as an 18-year-old forward. The 6’0, 195-pound forward suited up for 44 games and posted 21-20-41 numbers with a whopping +34 rating from 2018-2019.

Lauko played a significant role for the Huskies (QMJHL) during their playoff run, contributing 6-7-13 numbers with a +10 rating in 19 games played, helping the team to win the President’s Cup in 2019. The Huskies went on to compete for the Canadian Hockey League’s championship, the Memorial Cup. They ended up winning the championship with Lauko taking home the CHL Ed Chynoweth Award for most points in the memorial cup (2-6-8 numbers in five games). With such an impressive rookie season, the Bruins decided to call him up to the Providence Bruins for further player development.

Most Bruins fans really caught a glimpse of Lauko’s work ethic and scoring potential during the 2019 NHL pre-season when he scored a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. Since then, the forward has spent little time with Providence for the 2019-2020 season due to suffering back to back concussion and knee injuries. Lauko had battled back and returned with Providence for some games before the unprecedented pandemic ended the American Hockey League (AHL) season. He finished his first AHL season with 5-4-9 numbers with a +3 rating in 22 games played.

I believe Lauko has a massive up-side to his potential; he has an incredible work ethic, scoring ability, and isn’t afraid to be a physical player either. In a few years, Lauko could develop to be a very reliable mid-six forward for the Bruins in the near future.

Jeremy Swayman (G) 4th Round, 111th Overall Pick – 2017 Draft

(Photo Credit: News Break | newsbreak.com)

Swayman was a 4th round gem for the Bruins and could be a starter/backup for the Bruins in the next season or two. The 6’3, 185-pound goaltender has spent the past few seasons with the University of Maine and has found tremendous success. Swayman was named to the NCAA (East) All-Rookie Team in 2017-2018 after finishing the season with 2.72 GAA and a .921% save percentage.

This past season, Swayman had his most stellar year yet, playing 34 games and contributing a 2.07 GAA and a whopping .939% save percentage, ultimately winning the Hobey Baker Award (player of the year). He also won the 2020 Walter Brown Award as a top American-Collegiate college hockey player in New England, NCAA Goaltender of the Year, NCAA Top Collegiate Goalie (Mike Ritcher Award), NCAA (Hockey East) Player of the Year, and NCAA (New England) Most Valuable Player. With Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak entering the final year of their contracts, Swayman could be looking to make a significant impact within the organization sooner rather than later.

Swayman decided to forgo his senior year at Maine and signed his entry-level contract with the Bruins. Maxime Legace and Daniel Vladar both have expiring deals, so I imagine Swayman will be playing with whomever Don Sweeney ends up re-signing in Providence. The quiet 4th round selection might end up being part of the long-term solution for the Bruins’ future goaltending.

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Anders Bjork (F) 5th Round, 146th Overall Pick – 2014 Draft

(Photo Credit: National Hockey League | nhl.com)

Bjork is a speedy and creative player that has the potential to be a mid-six forward for the Bruins, in my opinion. After being drafted, Bjork committed to the University of Notre Dame and played from 2014-2017 but surrendered his senior year to ink his entry-level deal with the Bruins. Bjork had his most impressive campaign during his last year with Notre Dame, contributing 21-31-52 numbers with a +17 rating in 39 games played. Since then, Bjork was one of the Bruins’ most promising rookies but became plagued with season-ending injuries from 2017-2019, limiting his ice-time with Providence and Boston.

Bjork was finally able to showcase his talent at the NHL level this season, to manage a full-time position in line-up throughout most of the 2019-2020 season, suiting up for 58 games and posting 9-19-19 numbers with a +5 rating. He began to become a healthy scratch for stretches near the end of the season due to inconsistencies, but the left-winger has shown to be a difference-maker at the NHL level.

I hope that the Bruins can come to terms with Bjork this upcoming off-season, and they choose to protect him during the 2021-2022 expansion draft as well. For a 5th round selection, Bjork was an absolute steal for the Bruins.

Trent Frederic (F) 1st Round, 29th Overall Pick – 2016 Draft

(Photo credit: ESPN | espn.com)

Even though Frederic is a 1st round selection, I believe he is an underrated pick that deserves a lot more credit, especially after a strong 2019-2020 campaign with the Providence Bruins. Frederic is a diverse player and can spark his team in a lot of different ways. The 6’2, 203-pound forward, provides a lot of physicality to the line-up and led the AHL in penalty minutes (148) during the 2019-2020 campaign. Although many Bruins fans know Fredric for his rookie game with the Bruins that involved a fight with Winnipeg Jets’ Brandon Tanev, he has the potential to be a strong two-way player through development with Providence.

Before the AHL season ended due to the unprecedented pandemic, Frederic suited up for 59 games and contributed 8-24-32 numbers with a +10 rating. Although the forward has been placed on the wing with the Bruins more often than as a center, either position he can play well as long as he is not shy, isn’t afraid to be physical and uses his large frame to his advantage.

Even though Frederic has played a total of 17 games at the NHL level without yet producing a point, he has improved substantially and could be looking to crack the bottom-six line-up for the Bruins in the next season or two. Frederic has one year remaining on his Entry-Level Contract and will use this upcoming season to prove himself worthy of this thriving organization.

Matthew Grzelcyk (D) 3rd Round, 85th Overall – 2012 Draft

(Photo credit: Bleacher Report | bleacherreport.com)

Although this underrated category is in no particular order, I can safely say that Matthew Grzelyck turned out to be one of the Bruins’ most underrated draft picks of this decade, in my opinion. Not only has Grzelyck cracked the line-up the past few seasons as a full-time NHLer, but the undersized defenseman proved much of the hockey world wrong.

After being drafted, the 5’9, 175-pound defender committed to Boston University and played from 2013-2016, appearing in a total of 87 games and contributing 23-67-89 numbers with an astounding +61 rating. He also scored the game-winning goal for Boston University to win the Beanpot Championship in 2015.

Bruins’ fans can be relentless in their opinions about Grzelcyk because of his physical stature and the fact that he doesn’t hit everything on site. Still, fans undermine his puck-moving and scoring abilities. If Krug chose not to re-sign with the Bruins this off-season, then Grzelyck would be one of the best options for the central power-play unit unless Bruce Cassidy decides to use five forwards. His skating ability also does not grow on trees by any means. When watching him play, he becomes elusive around other forwards pressuring him. He’s able to get out of tight space situations and break out the defensive zone without giving up the puck.

In the past three seasons, Grzelyck has appeared in 195 games and posted 10-44-54 numbers with a +45 rating while managing an average of 18:07 on-ice time. During the 2019 playoffs, Grzelyck produced four goals, eight points, and 17 blocks in 20 games. The defender is continually improving year after year, and with his contract expiring at the end of this season, the Bruins should focus on re-signing him.

Unfortunately, if Grzelyck were to re-sign for at least two more years, he would most likely become exposed during the 2021-2022 expansion draft. Grzelyck holds more value than most people perceive, and I believe he can become a franchise defenseman for the Bruins if he keeps up his production.

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