Bruins Call Up Jeremy Lauzon From AHL, Place Charlie McAvoy On IR

(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

By: Carrie Young | Follow me on Twitter @carrieyoung512

On Monday morning, the Boston Bruins announced that defenseman Jeremy Lauzon has been recalled from Providence on an emergency basis and Charlie McAvoy was placed on injured reserve.

Lauzon has been developing as a strong defensive defenseman for Providence this season. The 22-year-old leads the team in plus-minus with a plus-16 rating in 35 games. He has also set a personal record in points, recording one goal and nine assists. Lauzon has also shown that he can be an intimidating physical presence and a challenge to play against. At 6’1″ and 205 pounds, he has the tools to keep this up at the NHL level. He has logged 16 games with Boston, all coming during the 2018-19 season, recording one point (a goal against the Vegas Golden Knights), two penalty minutes, and a minus-1 rating.

Lauzon’s call-up gives the Bruins another opportunity to see how well the defensive prospect has been developing and test his NHL readiness. The Quebec native was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NHL draft, 52nd overall. This was the sixth Bruins pick of the draft, with Lauzon being the last of three defensemen taken in the first two rounds by Boston, the other two being Jakub Zboril (13th overall) and Brandon Carlo (37th overall). Lauzon, Zboril, and Urho Vaakanainen are widely considered to be the Bruins’ top defensive prospects and the best options for call-ups when injuries arise. That Lauzon got the call this time is a vote of confidence in his abilities by the Bruins’ coaching staff and front office.

McAvoy Placed on IR

Charlie McAvoy was injured on a hit by Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie on December 23rd. He has not played or practiced with the team since then. It has been officially listed as a lower-body injury, but the Bruins have not given a timeline for his recovery as of yet.

McAvoy has skated in 38 games so far this season, recording 13 assists and a plus-13 rating. The defenseman’s injury comes at an inopportune time as he has been pushing to score his first goal of the season and get the offensive part of his game moving. His move to IR shows that he might be out longer than coach Bruce Cassidy anticipated.

Injuries Piling Up

The addition of Lauzon adds a healthy body to a depleted Bruins blue line. Connor Clifton was injured last night in a matchup with the Buffalo Sabres. There has been no official report as of yet about the nature of his injury, but the Boston Globe’s Matt Porter reported on Twitter during the game that he did not return to the bench after the end of the first period. The Bruins later tweeted that he was officially ruled out of the game with an upper-body injury.

The Bruins face off against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. Depending on which players return from injury and what the coaching staff decide, Lauzon could be making his 2019-20 debut with Boston.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 160 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.

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: New York Islanders at Boston: 12/19/19

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Photo Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Home: Boston Bruins (21-7-7)

Away: New York Islanders (22-8-2)

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Heinen

Bjork-Coyle-Wagner

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Backes

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

New York’s Lineup

Forwards

Johnston-Barzal-Bailey

Lee-Brassard-Eberle

Beauvillier-Nelson-Kuhnhackl

Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck

Defense

Pelech-Pulock

Toews-Mayfield

Leddy-Boychuk

Goalies

Varlamov

Greiss

First Period

After a turnover in front of the Islanders net, Anders Bjork buried his first goal in 12 games to give the B’s the early lead less than three minutes into the game.

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The Bruins started the game with a big possession advantage and looked to be ready to go right from puck drop. The Islanders were called for too many men with 14 minutes left in the period, giving Boston a chance to double their lead. New York killed off the man advantage as the Bruins failed to do much in the offensive zone. Connor Clifton was called for tripping about midway through the period as the Islanders got an opportunity to even the game on the power play. The B’s killed it off as they didn’t allow the Isles to get into a rhythm.

Toward the end of the period, the game took on a physical tone as each team seemed to finish every single check. Both teams seemed to find an offensive rhythm as the period drew to a close and the Bruins got the benefit of a late power play to try to extend their lead. The B’s were unable to score before the end of the period but still had a good chunk of time left on the man advantage.

Score: 1-0 Bruins

Second Period

The Bruins couldn’t find the back of the net on the remainder of the man advantage as they failed to get any significant scoring chances. Johnny Boychuk tied the game against his former team with a rocket of a shot from the point just 3:26 into the period.

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The Bruins started to get their offensive rhythm back with a couple of good shifts by the fourth line soon after the tying goal. The Isles responded with a number of good shifts in the offensive zone as they continued to keep the pressure on Tuukka Rask and the Bruins defense. The B’s went to the power play once again as Derek Brassard was called for a high stick past the midway point of the period. The Isles killed off yet another Boston power play as the B’s continued to struggle to find scoring chances.

The Bruins pushed hard to take the lead late in the period as they put a ton on pressure on the New York defense. Both teams traded chances at the end of the period and Matt Barzal gave the Isles the lead after a great setup in the offensive zone with over a minute to go in the period.

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Brandon Carlo was called for tripping in the final minute of the period, giving the Isles a chance to extend their lead. The B’s killed the remainder of the period but New York still had time left on the man advantage.

Score: 2-1 Islanders

Third Period

The Bruins began the period with a number of shorthanded scoring chances as they looked to get a cheap one to tie the game. The B’s killed off the man advantage despite some solid puck movement from the Islanders. The Bruins had no trouble getting the puck and holding onto it but they continued to struggle to string together significant scoring opportunities. The B’s picked up their fourth power play of the game as Brad Marchand got hit with a high stick in front of the Isles net with 13:28 remaining. About midway through the man advantage, Brock Nelson was called for delay of game, giving Boston a five on three. Seconds into the two man advantage, Torey Krug launched one past Varlamov to tie it.

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The Islanders killed off the five on four to keep the game tied but the crowd was back in the game after Krug’s goal. The Bruins and Isles went up and down the ice, trading chances past the midway point of the period as the game started to open up considerably. Both teams started to hunker down defensively toward the end of regulation as they were careful to not make mistakes especially in their own zones.

End Of Regulation: Tied 2-2

Overtime

Both teams traded outstanding scoring opportunities at both ends in the extra session but nobody was able to find the back of the net and the game went to the shootout.

Shootout

Both Jordan Eberle and Matt Barzal scored in the shootout for the Islanders while David Pastrnak scored for the Bruins but Varlamov denied Brad Marchand to end it.

Final Score: 3-2 Islanders

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Varlamov

Second Star: Boychuk

Third Star: Bjork

Breaking: Bruins Place Steven Kampfer on Waivers

Carolina Hurricanes v Boston Bruins - Game One

( Photo Credit: CBS Boston )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

The Boston Bruins announced today that the club has placed defenseman Steven Kampfer on waivers for the purpose of assigning him to Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.

Kampfer has played in four games this season for the Bruins posting no points. The 31-year-old Ann Arbor, Michigan native and was drafted in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins re-signed Kampfer this past offseason to a two-year deal worth $800,000 per season.

The news comes after the Bruins are gaining some defenseman back into their lineup as John Moore played his second game of the year after returning from offseason shoulder surgery which scratched Connor Clifton and Kampfer.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 156 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.

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The Bruins Have A Logjam On Defense

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(Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

In the 2016-17 playoffs versus Ottawa, the Bruins were forced to use both rookies like Charlie McAvoy and career 8-9 defenseman like Joe Morrow in games because their defense had been decimated by injuries. The next year it was guys like Matt Grzelcyk and Nick Holden in the lineup vs Toronto and Tampa. I can only assume that as the Bruins were being eliminated in Game 5 of their series against the Bolts, GM Don Sweeney was vowing never again to have a depth problem in the playoffs.

That summer he signed left-handed defenseman John Moore to a five-year deal. During camp, he dealt blue-liner Adam McQuaid to the Rangers but acquired the less expensive former Bruin, Steve Kampfer, in the deal along with a draft pick. That gave them proven NHL players in: Chara, McAvoy, Krug, Carlo, Moore, Miller, Kampfer. They also had Matt Grzelcyk, who had played well in 2017-18 as a rookie, not to mention promising youngsters like Vaakaneinen, Lauzon, Zboril. At the time, I remember the B’s faithful asking where all these defensemen were going to play. Apparently, Sweeney knew what he was doing?

In 2018-19, because of injuries, Boston ended up using 12 different defensemen over the course of the regular season and playoffs. All of the guys I mentioned above, plus a pleasant surprise in the form of free-agent signee Connor Clifton. A 5th round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013, Clifton was unable to come to a contract agreement with them after four years at Quinnipiac University. He ended up signing an AHL deal with Providence and performed well enough in 2017-18 to earn himself a two-year NHL deal. He ended up filling in admirably during the regular season after the usual myriad of injuries, playing 19 games. He played another 18 games in the playoffs as Boston went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Clifton 1

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Before the 2019-20 season would even begin, the Bruins depth on defense would again be tested. John Moore needed offseason surgery after he played through an injured shoulder in the playoffs last year. Kevan Miller, who ended last season on the injured reserve, would start there to begin the season. Neither Moore nor Miller has played a single game for the Bruins this year, but it appears that both are finally getting healthy, and could push for playing time within the next few weeks (Moore is closer). On the surface, this would appear to be a good thing for the Bruins, but it will force Don Sweeney and his staff to make some decisions.

The first hurdle for Sweeney was that he and head coach Bruce Cassidy would have to decide what to do with Connor Clifton, who has been quickly approaching the point where he would no longer be waiver exempt. The obvious advantage to Clifton maintaining his exempt status is that he could be sent down to Providence without another team being able to claim him when he went through the waiver process. It was something that the B’s front office must have been thinking about long and hard because Clifton sat out two of the last five games in favor of Steven Kampfer before Sunday. Apparently, the staff came to some sort of conclusion, because Clifton played his 60th NHL game against Montreal, which will mark the end of his “exempt” status.

Most people who follow the team thing it’s a foregone conclusion that Clifton would not make it through waivers if the Bruins attempted to send him down at this point. Sweeney is not going to just give an asset like Clifton away, so the logical assumption is that he is here to stay with the big club.

Other relevant news that was announced Sunday was that John Moore had been loaned to Providence of the AHL for the purpose of a “conditioning stint”. Moore played that afternoon in Providence’s 4-0 win over the Charlotte Checkers, where he recorded an assist and was a “plus” two for the game.

Moore has since been recalled and placed back on LTIR, but the Bruins have said he may be ready to play Thursday. The maximum amount of active players allowed on an NHL roster at any one time is 23. With David Backes being activated off the IR for the game against Montreal, and Gaunce sent down, the Bruins are at 22 right now. With Clifton’s waiver status changed, Moore supposedly ready to play Thursday and Kevan Miller getting closer to full health, something is going to have to give. The Bruins can add Moore to the roster and I believe they will be ok as long as Miller is still on the LTIR.

In the short-term, I would not be surprised to see the Bruins waive Kampfer. I think his ability to sit out for long periods and still play well when called upon is valuable, but I believe he would pass through waivers unclaimed (unlike Clifton). The problem is even if the B’s carry 8 D/13 F, when/if Miller returns someone is going to have to get moved.

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(Photo Credit: The Associated Press)

It would appear that the two most likely candidates for a trade would be Moore or Miller. The Bruins have won so far this season without them, so it makes sense one of them would go. The two guys are apples and oranges in my opinion. Miller is the more physical of the two, and that’s definitely something the team could use more of. On the flip side, Moore is a big body and a very good skater, but not overly physical. One advantage he has is that he is comfortable playing either side, whereas Miller is strictly a right side guy.

It’s going to be an extremely difficult decision for the front office, but one that has to be made because of the emergence of players like Grzelcyk and Clifton. It’s a good problem to have and one that 30 other NHL teams likely would not mind having.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 155 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.

 

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Bruins’ Defensemen And Goaltenders Grades At The Quarter Point Of The Season

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Boston Bruins currently sit atop the entire NHL and their defense and goaltending is a major reason why. They’ve allowed the second least amount of goals in the league and with their incredibly deep defensive core and top goaltending tandem, they should continue their stellar play for the rest of the year. Now at the quarter-point of the season, it seems like a good time to look at how good the Bs defense and goaltending has been.

Zdeno Chara – A

It’s hard to believe that a 42-year-old is having one of his best statistical seasons in years, but Zdeno Chara continues to amaze. Through 26 games, the big man has five goals, seven assists, and a +16 rating. While we’ve all seen his legs slow down over the years, Chara still remains one of the best shut-down guys in the league.

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Charlie McAvoy – B+

One may look at Charlie McAvoy’s stat-line (seven assists in 26 games) and think that McAvoy hasn’t played up to standards but that is simply not the case. He continues to grow his defensive game and whether it’s on the offensive or defensive side of the puck, he seems to make a game-changing play once a game. Offensively, you’d like to see some more growth from the former 1st-rounder but that will come in time.

Torey Krug – A

Over the past few seasons, Torey Krug has emerged as one of the best offensive defensemen in the league and that narrative has stayed the same throughout this season. Already with 18 points in just 21 games, Krug is well on his way to another big season for the Bs. In just the three games since returning from his injury, Torey Krug has shown how important he is to the Boston Bruins. His vision, puck movement and skating ability is second to few in the league and his five points within those three games show just that. 

Brandon Carlo – A

Many people’s biggest gripe with Brandon Carlo in the past was how little offense he was able to generate. However, the key part of that statement is “in the past.” We’ve seen steady growth in Carlo’s ability to join the rush over the past couple seasons and it’s really paying dividends this season. He’s already over halfway to his career-high of 16 points and with 3/4 of the season to go, he seems primed to break that number.

 

Matt Grzelcyk

( Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images )

Matt Grzelcyk – A

I’ve been on the Matt Grzelcyk train for a while and he just continues to improve seemingly every game. The former Boston University captain has been excellent this year, especially when fellow blueliner Torey Krug went down with an injury. In Krug’s absence, Grzelcyk was forced to play bigger minutes while slotting in on the first powerplay and the increased role didn’t phase Grzelcyk at all. in the five games without Krug, Gryz potted two goals (both of which were beauties), four points, and was a +3.

Connor Clifton – B

Connor Clifton has been as sound as a third-pairing defenseman can be. Entering his first season with a full-time role, Clifton hasn’t looked out of place at all. Despite his smaller frame at 5-11, the defenseman isn’t scared to throw his body around. He sits second out of all rookies in hits and has added two goals and a positive rating to begin the season. 

BOSTON, MA - MAY 09: Boston Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer (44) fired up after scoring the 1st goal of the game. During Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals featuring the Boston Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes on May 09, 2019 at TD Garden in Boston, MA. (Photo by Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

( Photo Credit: Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire Getty Images)

Steven Kampfer – C

There isn’t much to say about Stevie-snipes as he’s only played in three games, but in those three games, he’s looked solid. Kampfer’s possession statistics have actually been great, his Corsi and Fenwick sit at 60.3 and 63.2 respectively. His +1 rating and no points tell most of his story this year, he’s been everything he’s needed to be as a #7 defenseman.

Urho Vaakanainen – C+

Unlike last season where Vaakanainen’s stint was cut short due to an injury, we got to see a bit more of the young defenseman this year. He’s not the type of playing to blow you away but he looked like a better player compared to last season. The Fin is an incredibly fluid skater and his puck skills have continued to grow. While it doesn’t play into this grade, his stat-line since returning to the AHL has been very promising, with three goals and three assists in three games.

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( Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports Images)

Tuukka Rask – A+

The league leader in wins, top three in goals allowed average, top five in save percentage with a save of the year candidate to boot; but Tuukka Rask stinks, right? After failing to capture Lord Stanley the prior season, Tuukka has looked in the zone this season. He’s been one of Boston’s top players in all but a few games, only allowing more than three goals in just three games within his first 16 starts. Say what you want about Rask, but his stats speak for themselves.

Jaroslav Halak – A

Jaroslav Halak simply isn’t a backup goalie; he is the 1B to Tuukka Rask’s 1A. Last season, Halak was able to come in and provide much-needed stability to the Bruins’ net and has continued that through the first quarter of this season. In the ten games, he has appeared in, he’s put up a 6-1-3 record with a .930 save percentage and a 2.35 goals allowed average. 

Click here to check out the Bs’ forwards graded!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 155 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!!

Bruins Post-Game Recap: New York Rangers at Boston: 11/29/19

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Photo Courtesy Of NHL.com

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

Home: Boston Bruins (17-3-5)

Away: New York Rangers (12-9-2)

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand-Krejci-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Studnicka-Coyle

Bjork-Kuraly-Heinen

Nordstrom-Lindholm-Wagner

Defense

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Clifton

Goalies

Halak

Rask

New York’s Lineup

Forwards

Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich

Panarin-Chytil-Strome

Lemieux-Howden-Kakko

Smith-Nieves-Fast

Defense

Skjei-Trouba

Lindgren-Fox

Hajek-DeAngelo

Goalies

Lundqvist

Georgiev

First Period

The B’s opened the game with a few good shifts in the attacking zone and got a few good looks at the net as they looked to gain an early lead. The Rangers also had a few solid scoring chances in the early going but Jaroslav Halak was up to the task, including a ridiculous save on Pavel Buchnevich off of a B’s turnover. The Rangers started to impose their will in the offensive zone as the Bruins looked to be a step too slow. The Rangers would go to the power play with under eight minutes left in the period as they looked to take the lead. The B’s killed off the penalty but immediately following the kill, Buchnevich found the back of the net through traffic in front to give New York the lead.

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The Rangers seemed to find their game in the latter part of the period as the Bruins continued to struggle in their own end. Halak continued his strong period with a couple key saves toward the end of the first, keeping the deficit to just one.

Score: 1-0 Rangers

Second Period

The B’s continued to have issues defending the Rangers in the defensive zone as New York forced a few turnovers. Connor Clifton took a tripping penalty early in the period as the Rangers looked to double their lead. The Bruins were able to kill off the penalty as the Rangers failed to get any high danger scoring opportunities. New York made it 2-0 after a bad giveaway in the neutral zone resulted in a rebound goal by Filip Chytil.

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Halak continued to be busy with the Rangers getting a number of shots on goal and time in the offensive zone as the period went on. To try to get the Bruins going, Charlie McAvoy dropped the gloves with Brendan Smith about midway through regulation time. The Bruins scoring chances came few and far between in the middle period as they tried desperately to stay relevant in the game. The Rangers would go back to the man advantage as Matt Grzelcyk was called for a high stick. New York would make it a two man advantage as Sean Kuraly was called for a cross check. The B’s were able to kill off both penalties without any significant scoring chances against.

Late in the period, the Bruins finally broke free as a Kuraly deflection somehow found its way into the back of the net as Henrik Lundqvist inadvertently knocked the puck in.

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Score: 2-1 Rangers

Third Period

The Bruins opened the period with some solid attacking zone time as they looked to tie the game early in the frame. Both teams traded some outstanding scoring chances early in the period but neither team could find the back of the net. David Pastrnak tied it with 15:33 to go as he slammed home a great feed from Jake DeBrusk.

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The Bruins seemed to get a big energy boost from the tying goal and Pastrnak nearly got another as the team started to impose its will on the Rangers. The Bruins seemed to greatly improve their play in the own zone which was helped by some very solid breakout plays. Boston picked up their first power play of the game as Smith was called for hooking with 9:25 to go. The Bruins were unable to take the lead on the man advantage as Lundqvist made a few monster saves.

Par Lindholm took a penalty soon after the power play which gave the Rangers a four minute man advantage and a chance to retake the lead. The Bruins were able to kill off the penalty as the Rangers managed only two shots on goal.

End Of Regulation: Tied 2-2

Overtime

David Krejci buried the winner after a ridiculous setup by Pastrnak, giving the Bruins yet another come from behind victory.

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Final Score: 3-2 Bruins

Three Stars Of The Game

First Star: Pastrnak. The third period and overtime was vintage Pasta as he led to team to the win.

Second Star: Halak. The B’s backup kept them in the game all afternoon and was a huge reason the team pulled off yet another comeback.

Third Star: Kuraly. The Bruins center was a monster in this game and his goal in the second period kickstarted the comeback.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: Boston @ New Jersey: 11/19/19

Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) stops a shot as New Jersey Devils center Kevin Rooney (58) watches during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Newark, N.J.

(Photo Credit: Julio Cortez, AP)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: New Jersey Devils

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Krejci – Pastrnak

Bjork – Coyle – Heinen

DeBrusk – Lindholm – Ritchie

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Grzelcyk – Carlo

Vaakanainen – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

New Jersey’s Lineup

Forwards

Hall – Hischier – Bratt

Wood – Hughes – Palmieri

Coleman – Zajac – Gusev

Hayden – Zacha – Simmonds

Defense

Butcher – Subban

Greene – Severson

Mueller – Vatanen

Goalies

Blackwood

Domingue

Bad news came in warmups when it was announced that Patrice Bergeron would miss a second straight game. But, Jake DeBrusk and Brett Ritchie did return to the lineup. Baby steps were made towards a healthy Bruins team. Regardless, the Devils, winners of their last two games, stood in the way of the Bruins at Prudential Center.

First Period

DeBrusk was buzzing early, as he forced a turnover at the offensive blue line and nearly scored. After that, through the first half of the opening frame, there were just three combined shots (2-1 Bruins). It was a bit of an odd start at times.

Things got a bit more interesting when DeBrusk took down Pavel Zacha, creating the first power play opportunity of the game. Luckily for the Bruins, they escaped the penalty kill unscathed. Shortly after the conclusion of that penalty kill, Matt Grzelcyk laced one past MacKenzie Blackwood to open the scoring with 5:34 to. Grzelcyk’s first of the season was assisted by Brad Marchand (20) and David Krejci (10).

That wasn’t all. David Pastrnak found himself open in his favorite spot on the ice – waiting for a one-timer on his off-wing. Two goals in 14 seconds for the Bruins gave them advantage in quick fashion. Pastrnak’s 18th goal of the season was assisted by Marchand (21) and Krejci (11). That’s one way to get things going on the road.

Things didn’t get much better for New Jersey after the Pastrnak goal as with 1:54 to go, Taylor Hall went off for tripping. The Bruins carried left six seconds of power play time on the table going into the second period. Blake Coleman nearly buried a shorthanded chance in the dying seconds, but failed to score and even collided with Rask in the process. The shots were 6-5 in favor of the Bruins at the end of the first, so the Bruins making their shots count in a fairly low-volume period was big.

Score: 2-0 Boston

Second Period

The Bruins came out of the gate with speed and good place, keeping the Devils on edge early in the period. Tempers eventually flared up between DeBrusk and Damon Severson in Blackwood’s crease. Severson was likely looking to ignite his team a bit, and chose DeBrusk as his dance partner for a scrum after the whistle.

Shots were 6-2 Bruins through the first seven minutes of the period. In the limited action he saw, Tuukka Rask was sharp through the first half of the game. The Devils began to ramp things up after the halfway point of the period though, generating four shots in 34 seconds of ice time at one point.

The resurgence paid off for the Devils, as found enough space to roof one on the backhand to cut their deficit to one with 1:49 to go. The Bruins still managed to carry a lead into the third period, but struggled in the latter portion of the second period. Also the Charlie Coyle line was playing consistently well. The shots were 12-11 in favor of the Bruins, 18-16 overall.

Score: 2-1 Boston

Third Period

Tensions were high to start. Charlie McAvoy and Taylor Hall got in each other’s faces, as did Sean Kuraly and P.K. Subban before teammates joined the fray. Just 3:11 into the frame, Subban took a penalty that gave Pastrnak a green light to score his second of the game just eight seconds into the power play. Pastrnak’s 19th was assisted by Marchand (22) and Coyle (7).

It was all Grzelcyk and Pastrnak in the scoring department. Grzlecyk made a move around Subban, then sniped yet again to give the Bruins a vital insurance marker, extending their lead to three. His second of the season and the game was assisted by McAvoy (7).

Connor Clifton then wanted in on the second goal of the season party for Bruins defensemen. The goal was unassisted. After only being up a goal going into the final frame, the response from the Bruins was a huge one. It was 5-1 Bruins with 6:18 to go.

The Devils generated some decent chances late, but it wasn’t enough. The Bruins took over in the third and won by a good margin. Shots were tied at ten in the third and finished at 28-26 in favor of the Bruins. With five goals on the board, a 25-save win for Rask may fly under the radar, but this was a really solid game for him. Next up for the Bruins are the Sabres on Thursday at TD Garden at 7:00 PM ET. The Bruins are 13-3-5.

Final Score: 5-1 Boston

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Bruins’ Defensive Logjam

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

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The Bruins have rarely had success in developing and building their defensive depth. Before 2010, the Bruins hadn’t selected a defenseman in the first round since Matt Lashoff in the 2005 draft, who only played 74 NHL games. For nearly 5 years, the Bruins’ highest priority was a left-handed puck-moving defenseman. The Bruins either didn’t select a D-man entirely or swung and missed on every blue-line draft pick. Their former General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, had a knack for trading picks and upcoming talent for NHL-ready players but had almost no success in drafting. To put it into perspective, the Bruins selected six times in the 2007 draft, four of which were D-men. The six picks appeared in 23 NHL games, three of those games coming from one of the four D-men. Peter and the Bruins alienated their draft boards almost entirely and focused on free-agent signings and trades.

During the 2011 season, the Bruins possessed some talent on the back-end. Captain Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, and Andrew Ference donned the black and gold. There was a hole on the left side on the second/third pairing. They had tried Matt Hunwick, Matt Lashoff, Mark Stuart, and Matt Bartkowski, all of whom weren’t making a lasting impression. At the trade deadline, Chiarelli set out to find the defenseman they had been desperately wanting. He traded away Mark Stuart and former 2004 top-five pick Blake Wheeler for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik to the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets).

Peverley was seen as a bottom-six role player and ended up being an integral part of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run. This created an even bigger hole on the blue-line, which many felt was a complimentary move for a bigger trade. Sure enough, Chiarelli traded for Tomas Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs for Joe Colborne (former first-round pick in 2008), a 2012 second-round pick and a conditional pick. The conditional pick turned into a first in 2011 if the Bruins went to the Stanley Cup, which came to fruition. It was a hefty price tag for one player, but at the deadline, teams are desperate and prices run high. At the time of the trade, Kaberle was a 12-year veteran with 520 points and a plus 25 rating. These two deadline moves, along with the Horton and Campbell trade, launched the Bruins into a strong playoff contender and yielded them their sixth Stanley Cup in history.

Since 2011, the Bruins have had more success drafting defensemen in large part to high draft picks (thank you, Toronto) and personnel moves. The Bruins brought in Keith Gretzky as Director of Amateur Scouting. Keith played a role in drafting players such as David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Jakub Zboril, Jake Debrusk, Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon, and Charlie McAvoy. It has taken years for the blue-line to finally take shape but after trades, free-agent signings, and better drafting, the Bruins finally have a good defenseman logjam problem.

Including two long-term injured reserve spots, the Bruins have nine NHL defensemen on the roster. The current six players have solidified their spots, so what happens when Kevan Miller and John Moore return from their injuries?

Miller came into the league from the University of Vermont as an undrafted free agent. He brings toughness, grit, and resiliency to the Bruins D-line. He’s currently playing out the last year of his four-year, $10 million deal, which many believe will be his last in a Bruins uniform. Miller fractured his knee cap in April of last season and has yet to return, however, Cassidy has reported he will be back to the Bruins soon.

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Miller’s been plagued with the injury bug his whole career. He has yet to play a full 82 game season. In 324 NHL games, Miller has 534 blocks and 712 hits. He is not afraid to put his body down for the team, but unfortunately, it has resulted in too many injuries. His recent kneecap injury allowed Connor Clifton to seize the opportunity to play in the bigs, and he ended up making a lasting impression on the third pairing. When Miller returns, the Bruins have a difficult choice to make. They could healthy scratch Steven Kampfer or Connor Clifton or reassign them to their affiliate in Providence. Clifton was waiver exempt before November 9th, but he has played in 15 games and therefore needs to clear waivers if the Bruins want to send him down. It would be no surprise if another team scooped him up on the waiver wire.

It would be an unfortunate move because Clifton has played well enough to continue his role as a bottom pairing D-man and recently signed a three-year, $3 million deal this past off-season. The Bruins could also look for a trade partner for Miller. Unfortunately, his current trade value is minimal with the recent injury; therefore he will need to showcase what he has left before General Manager, Don Sweeney, picks up the phone. If the Bruins do trade Miller, it could be for a middle-to-late-round pick to alleviate their cap situation and allow their young D-men more opportunity to make a name for themselves.

The other returning defenseman, John Moore, was signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2018 to a five-year, $13.75 million deal. Moore is a former first-round pick in the 2009 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He never found his groove in Columbus, nor New York, before moving on to New Jersey. He averaged 19:39 time-on-ice for the Devils and discovered some offensive ability, but still couldn’t post a positive plus/minus stat. Sweeney signed Moore for depth at the blue-line and spread his cap hit throughout the five years to avoid further cap mismanagement. The 6’2, 210-pound defender played in 61 games in the regular season for the Bruins and 10 games in the recent NHL playoffs. He made it through the Stanley Cup Final, before being ruled out with an impending shoulder surgery that would sideline him for four to six months. He has yet to return but is skating with a non-contact jersey which is a good sign for any player on the injured reserve.

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When Moore finally returns, his situation is a bit trickier. The Bruins could find a new home for Miller in the meantime, which would alleviate the pressure of trying to plug Moore back into the lineup. If Sweeney is unable to find a trade partner for Miller, the recent General Manager of the Year has a taller task. Moore’s contract is easy to trade because of the low cap and could also warrant a mid-round draft pick. But, like Miller, his trade value is quite low because of the recent injury.

The Bruins have to start thinking about next off-season, as they have a few key players on the last leg of their contracts, one of which is power-play quarterback, Torey Krug. Krug is playing the last year of his four-year, $21 million deal and is coming off two consecutive 50-point seasons. There’s word around the league that he should gain a significant raise and has been rumored to be gaining trade interest in the past two years. Sweeney has made it clear he wants to keep the 5’9 D-man in a Bruins uniform.

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Another likely – and more plausible – scenario has the Bruins keeping their D-men and waiting until the February trade deadline to strike a deal. History has shown deadline day prices can be high, so Miller or Moore could yield the Bruins an unexpected player or pick. Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jakub Zboril are all knocking on the Bruins’ roster door. All three have showcased some skill in the NHL over the past few seasons, but none have been able to solidify a roster spot yet in large part to the logjam at defense. The Bruins have a very good problem at defense with their plethora of NHL-ready names. They haven’t had this luxury in quite some time, but Sweeney will need to work his magic once again if he wants the right talent in the lineup and a positive cap balance in next year’s off-season.

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Bruin’s Offseason: All Quiet On The Eastern Front (2 of 2)

Bruins D

(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

In part 1 of this two part series, I discussed the open positions among the Bruin’s forward group, the options, and how those spots were likely to be filled. Now we are going to look at the Boston defense, which many believe is the strength of the team, based on the depth they possess on the back end from top to bottom, positions 1-8.

If we discussed this back in July, the conversation would not have been a very long one. Five of the starting six positions appeared to be relatively set with regulars from the 2018-19 team that lost in the Cup Finals. Chara, McAvoy, Krug, Carlo, and Grzelcyk would have been pretty much unanimous choices, with Connor Clifton and Kevan Miller the likely candidates to be battling it out for the last spot on the right side of the 3rd pair. Steven Kampfer signed a two-year extension worth $800,000 per season and would appear to be a lock for the 8th/Press Box spot. John Moore was the other guy in the mix, but will likely start the season on LTIR after playing through a broken humerus in the playoffs. There also would have been some calls for Vaakaneinen, Lauzon, and Zboril, the Providence defensemen that are on the cusp and next in line for a shot.

Fast forward about eight weeks and that conversation has become a lot more complicated and the starters on defense a lot less certain. The first problem (and the most serious) is obvious and has been a talking point since the regular season. Both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo (the Bruin’s first and second pair right D-men) are restricted, free agents. As of today, neither has agreed to terms on an extension with the team. The second issue is that Kevan Miller is reportedly not skating yet after his knee injury and subsequent setback during the playoffs. Due to Miller’s tendency to get hurt every season, I don’t think many thought he would last all year unscathed. However, if he is unable to start the season the Bruin’s blue line depth will take yet another hit. If he can be ready for October, he could provide valuable insurance on the right side of the Boston defense.

Let’s take a look at the cast of characters that should make up the Bruin’s back end and the ones that may have to fill in for either injury or hold outs.

At the top of the list of any discussion regarding Boston’s defense is the 42-year-old Slovakian behemoth, Zdeno Chara. The captain signed a one-year deal with the team worth $2 million for 2019-20, but the Cap hit could rise to $3.75 million if he meets his performance bonuses. Chara is no longer the guy that could once log 26 minutes a night for 82 games against the Bruin’s toughest opposition, but he still can do it for shorter periods of time and has a key role on the team, both on and off the ice. I would love to see Boston cut down on Chara’s minutes even more than they have in recent years, and use him as a 3rd pair PK specialist. I think this would allow him to play at a higher level and save him for a playoff run. However, given the current makeup of the left side of the defense, I’m not sure that will be possible? With Moore injured, Chara is the only left defenseman that is capable of playing a defensive shutdown role.

That brings us to 21-year-old, Long Island-born Charlie McAvoy. In most circles, McAvoy is considered the next all-star D in what has been a long line of them in Boston. In any other offseason, we would be discussing the positive impact that he would be having on the team come October, but not this year. Right now, there is a hefty list of impact restricted free agents that have yet to agree to terms with their respective teams. Unfortunately, McAvoy, who averaged 22:10 TOI and totaled 7g/21a in only 54 games last season is one of the big names on the list. The point of this article is not to debate McAvoy’s salary, but it would probably be safe to assume he will get in the $6-7 million range easily. The rumor is that McAvoy turned down a 7-8 year deal in the $7.5 million range. If that is the case, I can only assume he wants to go the route that Auston Matthews did and sign a five-year deal that will make him an unrestricted free agent at the age of 26.

The next Bruin’s defenseman is a lightning rod among fans and media alike. There may not be another player on the team (well, maybe Tuukka) that inspires more debate and venom than Torey Krug. People are divided about how much he’s worth, how good he is offensively, how much of a liability he is in his own zone…even who is taller, he or Brad Marchand. No matter what your feelings on Krug (I am a fan personally), even his harshest critics have to admit he’s an offensive catalyst on both the power play and at even strength. He stretches the opposing defense like no other defenseman in the organization, whether it be by a long outlet pass or bringing the puck up the ice himself.

Since Krug signed a four-year deal worth $21 million in 2016-17 ($5.25m per) he is 5th in the NHL for defensemen with 163 regular-season points in 221 games. To say he is a bargain on his current deal would be an understatement. The question people have now is not about this deal, it’s about his next one. How much money and term should the Bruins invest in a 29-year-old that many view as a one-dimensional player? That’s the $6-8 million question. I ask myself that same question, but Krug went a long way towards convincing me with his performance (both offensively and defensively) in last season’s playoffs. In my opinion, he was hands down the Bruin’s best blue-liner in the postseason, and his defense was above average on the whole. He’s a key player any year, but if Boston has holdouts, he will play an even bigger role.

The second potential holdout and another key player on the defense is Brandon Carlo. The soon to be 23-year-old had his best year as a pro last season, building on what fans saw in 2017-18. While his point totals didn’t necessarily reflect it, Carlo took a big leap forward. His TOI was up about 90 seconds per game (20:55), and his shots, hits, and plus/minus were all career highs for a season. Unfortunately for Carlo, while there is some potential there, he has shown very little in the way of offense since making the Bruins as a rookie three years ago. In the NHL, there are very few, if any, defensive-minded defensemen that get paid like their puck-moving brethren. If I had to compare him to a recent player and his contract, the closest I can come is probably the Avs Nikita Zadorov, who signed a one-year deal with Colorado in July for $3.2 million. Zadorov is roughly 18 months older than Carlo, but he plays a similar defensive style. He does produce offensively at a better clip with 62 points in 292 NHL games, versus 32 points in 230 games for Carlo. To be honest, I am not quite sure what the hold up is here? I expected this contract to be the far easier of the two Bruin RFA defensemen without deals, but that has not been the case.

Grizz Photo by Claus Andersen - Getty Images

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

That brings us to the Bruins third pair, which will most likely be made up of two of these three: Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, or Kevan Miller (health permitting). For the sake of discussion, I am going to assume that Miller will not be able to start the season. If he can, to me he is the favorite for the RD position on the third pair, despite a strong showing by Clifton last season in his absence. Barring injury, I don’t see how Grzelcyk is not your starter on the left side. While his advanced stats were not as impressive in 2018-19 as they were in his rookie campaign, I would chalk that up to the fact that his playing time rose almost 2:30 minutes per game, he faced stiffer competition due to injuries, and his offensive zone starts were down nearly five percent. Despite those obstacles, Grelcyk finished the regular season a “plus nine” and up three points from the year before. In my opinion, he is the perfect puck-moving third pair in today’s NHL. While he does lack size, he has a good stick and sound positioning in the defensive zone. His contract ($1.4 million) is also a bargain by today’s standards. The question in a lot of people’s minds is whether or not Grizz can jump into a Top Four role with the team if they are forced to move Krug. I root for guys like Grzelcyk, but I’m not sure he’s up to that task? Despite the size similarities, he and Krug have different games. Grizz is the better skater and better defensively, but he lacks Krug’s cannon shot and end to end passing ability. I would prefer the Bruins keep number 48 right where he is, but Cap concerns may force their hands?

On the right side (assuming Miller can’t go), the likely candidate will be Connor Clifton. The 24-year-old New Jersey native played his college hockey at Quinnipiac College in the ECAC. He was a 5th round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013 but was unable to come to an agreement with the Yotes after graduating and ended up signing a deal with the Providence Bruins in 2017. He played 54 games for the Baby B’s that year and impressed the front office enough to get a two-year NHL deal. He started 2018-19 in the AHL, but was called up in November and again in the Spring because of the plethora of injuries on the B’s back end. He endeared himself to the fan base by playing what Coach Bruce Cassidy called “Cliffy Hockey,” a blend of fearless physical play along with joining the rush that was exciting but at times stressful.  Stressful or not, Don Sweeney liked what he saw enough to sign Clifton to a three-year deal worth $1 million per season that begins next year when his current contract expires. Despite all that, I have to admit that I am not 100% sold on him. I am hoping that one of the three or four prospects I am about to discuss can steal one of those third pair spots, and Clifton becomes the 7th d-man eventually.

Last year when injuries ravaged the B’s defensive corps, three rookies other than Clifton also made their NHL debuts. Urho Vaakaneinen, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jakub Zboril all donned the Black and Gold for the first time to varying degrees of success. Zboril (2015) and Vaakaneinen (2017) are both former first-round picks that have pretty impressive draft pedigrees, but it was the lower-drafted Lauzon (52nd overall in 2015) that made the more lasting impression. The big, rangy left-handed product out of Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL is a good skater, but not quite as smooth as his Euro-counterparts. He’s a little more physical and played more of a “stay at home” game than I expected, given his production in Juniors. I’m sure that some of that was due to nerves and wanting to take care of his own end before joining the rush as a rookie. He had only one goal in his first 16 NHL games but looked increasingly comfortable as the games mounted. If McAvoy and Carlo do hold out, Lauzon would be my choice to step in, although management might prefer the more experienced Steven Kampfer, at least to start.

Vaakaneinen and Zboril would appear to be the next ones in line, but like Lauzon, both are left-handed shots. Vaakaneinen, a 20-year-old Finn, did spend some time playing the right side for SaiPa in the Liiga (the top tier men’s league in Finland), which may give him an advantage. It’s easy to see why the B’s European scouts liked Vaakaneinen, as he combines good size (6’1″, 190 pounds) and excellent skating ability in one package. Early viewings suggest that right now “Vaak” is more comfortable playing a defensive game. I think that his ability to get up and down the ice will eventually lead to more offense in his game. I thought he looked pretty good in his debut, but unfortunately, a nasty elbow by the Ottawa Senators Mark Borowiecki in Vaakaneinen’s second game resulted in a concussion that sidelined him for months.

Zboril was the 14th overall pick in the now infamous 2015 draft for the Bruins, where they passed on players like Matt Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Thomas Chabot. The B’s were starved for defense prospects at the time, and Zboril was given a mid-first grade by most scouts, so I have no issue with the pick. I am a fan of Zboril’s but am a little perplexed by him. He is as smooth a skater as I have ever seen, making it seem effortless as he makes his way around the ice. He displayed some offensive ability for Saint John’s of the QMJHL, and I have also seen him show bit of a mean streak. When you add it all up, he should already be playing in the NHL. It appears that inconsistency is holding him back? This is a big year for Zboril, he’s on the last year of his ELC, and the Bruins have several other young defensemen vying for spots. If he doesn’t “put it together” this season, I could see him playing elsewhere going forward.

The two defensemen at the bottom of the Bruin prospect food chain (and this is not an insult in any way) came to the organization in completely different ways. Cooper Zech was an undrafted free agent that signed with Providence after an impressive freshman year at Ferris State. Axel Andersson was a 2nd round pick by Boston in the 2018 draft. He played a full season for Södertälje in the Allsvenskan (Sweden’s second-tier pro league) at age 18, which is impressive in its own way as well.

Despite not being drafted, the left-handed Zech (5’9”, 170 pounds) has been busy piling up the awards the last couple of years. In 2017-18 while playing for the Wenatchee Wild (BCHL), he was named First Team All-Star, Top Defenseman, and won a championship. Last year at Ferris State (WCHA) he took home Rookie of the Year honors and was again named First Team All-Star. He left Ferris State and signed with Providence, acquitting himself quite well in twelve regular-season games (0g/4a) and four playoff games (2g/0a). There will be the obvious size comparisons to Krug and Grzelcyk, and his game is similar. He’s a smallish puck mover and power play guy that will put up the points but needs some work defensively against pro-caliber players. The B’s have an excellent recent history with free agent NCAA defensemen (Miller, Krug, Clifton) and they are hoping Zech is the next diamond in the rough.

Last, but not least, we have 2018 second-round pick (57th overall), Axel Andersson. The Bruins didn’t have a first-round pick in that draft, and I remember saying, “Axel who?”, when the pick was announced, but since then, I have become a fan. Last year at the Bruins Development Camp he was one of the best players there when I saw him. He followed that up with a very good preseason, getting first pair minutes with Chara. The 6 foot, 180 pound native of Järna, Sweden is bigger than I thought, but still an excellent skater and puck mover. It appears those two skills have become prerequisites for nearly all of the Bruins recent draft picks on defense. The organization clearly believes that is the direction the NHL is headed.

There seems to be some question about where “AA” will be playing in 2019-20? He is eligible to suit up for Providence, but he was also drafted by Moncton (QMJHL) 30th overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Recent news seems to indicate that he will play there and get big minutes for a good Junior team. The only way this may change is if McAvoy and Carlo hold out, which would likely open Top Four spots in Providence. I don’t think the Bruins can go wrong either way, as long as Andersson is getting the time on ice he needs to progress. The situation on the Bruins blueline is a fluid one at the moment, but if everyone is signed, I see the defense pairs like this to start the season:

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller/Clifton

Kampfer

That alignment would give the Bruins a puck-mover and a strong defensive presence on each pair, which I believe is the proper way to go. In the past few years, the Bruins have been bitten hard by the injury bug on the back end. If everyone is in camp, the team should be well-positioned to handle the inevitable injuries. If there are holdouts, the organization’s depth on defense could be tested right out of the gate.

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Providence Bruins Player Profile: Cooper Zech

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(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Cooper Zech is a name you might not recognize, and that’s because he is someone who wasn’t drafted by the Boston Bruins. In fact, he was not drafted at all. In March of 2019, the young defenseman signed a two-year AHL contract with the Providence Bruins after finishing his freshman season at Ferris State University. Zech is an undersized puck-moving defenseman from Michigan. The Bruins’ recent history with a player that fits that same mold is pretty good. So, let’s get into what Zech did before coming to Providence, and what the Bruins saw in him.

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(Photo Courtesy of Odessa Jackalopes)

Cooper Zech spent the 2015-16 season with the Odessa Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).  In 51 games with the Jackalopes Zech netted eight goals while dishing out 17 assists for 25 total points and plus/minus rating of 0. It was not a bad first season in the NAHL where Zech’s offensive ability was really on display. The Michigan native would go on to earn NAHL All-Rookie First Team and NAHL All-South Division Rookie Team honors.

The young defenseman would go on to play the 2016-17 season with the Odessa again, and in 41 games found the back of the net three times and dished out 29 assists for 32 total points and a plus/minus rating of +9. Zech would also play a part of that season in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with Muskegon Lumberjacks. In 25 games with the Lumberjacks Zech would dish out four assists for four total points, and plus/minus rating of -6. It was another solid year of development for Cooper.

Zech would go on to play the 2017-18 season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild, and he would have a stellar season. In 58 games with the Wild, the Michigan native would net 11 goals and dish out 58 assists for 69 total points. He would also play in 20 playoff games for Wenatchee netting four goals and dishing out 19 assists for 23 total points en route to leading the Wild to the BCHL Championship. Cooper would also be a BCHL First Team All-Star, he would also lead the league in assists, lead defenseman in assists, lead defenseman in points, and be named the league’s top defenseman. Zech really shined during this season and was able to prove what he could do.

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(Photo Courtesy of Western Collegiate Hockey Association)

Cooper Zech would spend the 2018-19 season playing in his freshman season at Ferris State University for the Bulldogs. The young defenseman would make his presence felt early and often. In 36 games with the Bulldogs, he would net eight goals and dish out 20 assists for 28 total points and a plus/minus of +3. It would be the first time since 1987-88 a freshman led Ferris State in scoring. The excellent year earned Zech some accolades. He would win the NCAA Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Rookie of the Year and would also be named to the NCAA WCHA First All-Star Team and NCAA WCHA All-Rookie Team.

After his collegiate season ended, Zech had multiple offers from AHL teams. Ultimately he would choose to sign with Providence and was able to get into 12 regular-season games for the AHL club in 2018-19. In those 12 games, he would dish out four assists for four total points while playing very good defense. The Michigan native would also play in the team’s four playoff games netting two goals for two total points. In his short time playing for Providence, Zech looked really good on the ice. He looked comfortable in each zone, and he looked comfortable both with and without the puck. The game didn’t seem too fast for him, which can happen for players coming into the AHL for the first time.

Going into this season, I believe we can expect big things from Cooper Zech. Despite only being 5’9, he plays without fear. He is quick on his feet and can play with or without the puck, though he’s more comfortable with it. Not only do I think he can be a very good hockey player, but the Bruins have also had success signing guys to AHL deals and developing them. Connor Clifton is a good example of that just this past season. Zech’s game is a lot like Torey Krug, and I believe he will be a player to watch this season in Providence. To me, he’s one of their most intriguing players heading into 2019-2020. As we get closer to the start of the season, remember the name, Cooper Zech. You could be hearing it a lot. As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to send them to me on Twitter. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and Go, Bs, Go!

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