Checking In On The Boston Bruins 2019 Draft Picks

( Photo Credit: Kevin Light/Getty Images )

By: Lucas Pearson  | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Bruins have taken a lot of slack on their draft picks over the years, but the fact of the matter is that the Bruins know how to draft. 10/14 of their top scorers have all been drafted by Boston and Don Sweeney has been able to rebuild a farm system that is now littered with talent.

It’s been just over five months since the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. While the Bruins missed out on a couple of rounds due to some trade deadline deals, they managed to pick up a solid group of players to add to their farm system, so let’s take a look at how they’ve been doing this season.

John Beecher – Round 1, 30th Overall

Unlike the previous year’s draft, the Bruins elected to hang onto their 1st round pick this year. With big offensive talents on the board like Arthur Kaliyev, Bobby Brink and Raphael Lavoie, the Bruins elected to go with a more well-rounded player in John Beecher. Last season, Beecher played with the US Developmental Program and put up 15 goals and 43 points while playing in a diminished role behind guys like Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield.

Now at the University of Michigan, Beecher has fit in well at the college level. He’s got wheels, a big frame and maybe most importantly, great hockey sense. The freshman has started to heat up as of late, collecting his first career multiple-goal game last weekend against UNH, and increasing his total to four on the season. He’s leading the Wolverines in points this season and with plenty of room to grow, the Bruins have a great player on the way.

Quinn Olson – Round 3, 92nd Overall

The Bruins next pick wasn’t until the 3rd round, as they dealt their 2nd-rounder to the Devils in return for Marcus Johansson’s services last year. They used that pick on Calgary native and Minnesota Duluth commit, Quinn Olson.

Joining the reigning NCAA champion Bulldogs, Olson has looked solid to begin the season. After cracking a rib and chipping a vertebrate in his season opener against UMass-Lowell, the freshman has recovered quickly and is a big part of Duluth’s depth scoring. Playing primarily on the fourth line, Olson has three points in ten games. The winger’s play hasn’t gone without praise. His coach Scott Sandelin has said; “he’s competitive, he’s smart. He brings a lot. He’s a young, young kid but like I’ve said before, he plays the game with a lot of maturity. He’s going to help us a lot.” Good early signs from the 3rd rounder.

( Photo Credit: Brett Groehler/University Minnes )

Roman Bychkov – Round 5, 154th Overall

The Bruins went to Russia with their next pick when they selected Roman Bychkov. He’s a sound defender with good hands that isn’t afraid to get physical along the boards. At 5’11 he isn’t a big skater, but he’s been able to carve out two straight seasons of strong play in the Russian Junior League (MHL). Building off of last season’s 15 points, Bychkov has put up four goals, ten points and a +10 rating for the second place Loko Yaroslavl this season.

Matias Mantykivi – Round 6, 185th Overall 

Matias Mantykivi was drafted out of the Finnish Junior League where he put up over a point-per-game pace through 34 games. This season, Mantykivi has made a full-time jump to the Finnish Pro League (Liiga). His stat-line of two goals in 16 games is far from impressive, but it’s important to remember that the Fin is an 18-year-old playing in a league with older, bigger and stronger players. Players like Joonas Donskoi, who had two goals in his first 18 games in Liiga, turned into very solid NHLers so there is no need to rush Mantykivi, he still has a lot of time to grow. With a name like that, I just hope we get to hear it in the NHL.

Seventh-round pick (192nd overall) — Jake Schmaltz, C (Chicago Steel)

( Photo Credit: Chicago Steel )

Jake Schmaltz – Round 7, 192nd Overall 

For the Bs final pick, they decided to go with an American with some NHL talent in his blood. Jake Schmaltz is the cousin of Nick and Jordan Schmaltz, who are both former 1st rounders and have over 250 games of NHL experience between the two. Jake spent last season in the USHL with the Chicago Steel but changed clubs to the Green Bay Gamblers this season.

The winger’s game is one that focuses on forechecking. His ten points through 19 games aren’t incredible, but his two-way ability still projects him to be a solid bottom-six option in the future. It will be interesting how Schmaltz’s game can translate to the NCAA when he goes to the University of Dakota next year.

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 Prospect Beecher Notches First NCAA Goal For Wolverines

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By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Boston Bruins 2019 first-round draft pick John Beecher is off to a fantastic start to his collegiate hockey career. In five games thus far for the University of Michigan, the 18-year-old Elmira, New York native has four points in five games to begin his freshman year in the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Big Ten Conference. After posting his first career point with an assist in last Friday’s 4-0 victory over Lake Superior and a double helper the following night against the same Lakers club he went into last night’s contest against Western Michigan on a two-game point streak and thirsty for his first career goal.

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As seen in the official University of Michigan Wolverines Twitter Account above, at the 5:25 mark of the first period in a non-conference game against Western Michigan the wait for his first was finally over. With his first of many in last night’s contest at the Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan the B’s prospect extends his career-high point streak to three games and tied for first in the Wolverines team points at four. Fellow linemate and Bruins prospect Jack Becker who leads Michigan in goals is off to a great start to his Junior year also streaking in points with numbers in his last three games.

Both Wolverine forwards Becker and Beecher have worked well together to start the 2019-20 NCAA campaign after third-year Michigan Head Coach Mel Pearson put the pair together on the third line. Below is a Michigan Hockey official Tweet of an interview with Wolverines Assistant Coach Kris Mayotte and his thoughts after the former Bruins first-rounder got his first goal of the season.

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I know some Boston Bruins fans and prospects enthusiasts are frustrated to see Beecher playing a bottom 12 role but he’s a freshman with a lot to learn as he grows and develops. Having the will to do what it takes and learn what all forward lines can bring at any part of a hockey game is instrumental in today’s progression and climb to higher levels. For instance, Bruins prospect Jakub Lauko is a highly-touted prospect in the system and is currently playing in his first year as an American Hockey League rookie with the Providence Bruins and has constantly seen time on the third and fourth lines.

If you think about how recalls work in certain situations especially when it comes to an injury with the parent NHL Bruins club, it creates an upshift with the recalled player often seeing time slotted in the bottom six. Preparing players for these types of roles comes from the lower levels of the organization’s system and their roles on those same lines with the minor-pro affiliates. Now I know the NCAA and American Hockey League coaching styles are seemingly different but what Assistant Coach Mayotte said in the interview above (Pharaphasing Here), Beecher has time to grow and with that time he’ll earn bigger roles as he continues to develop.

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The Wolverines are back at it with another non-conference game against Western Michigan this time on the road tonight in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the Lawson Arena. Michigan has an overall season record of 3-1-1 with a .700 winning percentage and scoring 14 goals in those games while giving up seven

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Prospect Podcast episode 003 that we recorded on 10-23-19 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!

Donnelly: Top-10 Bruins Prospects

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By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Last month, Black ‘N Gold colleague Mike Cratty approached our team with the idea of coming up with our own lists ranking the Bruins 10 best prospects; you can find Mike’s article here.

One of the stipulations for the list is that the players had to be either unsigned or on entry-level contracts (ELC’s), so guys like Cooper Zech will not be included. Also, players such as Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman will not be ranked as Bjork has played over 50 games and Kuhlman seems like he has firmly established himself by now.

The Bruins’ prospect pool remains in good shape and is stronger after a solid draft class this summer. So, without further ado, here are my top-10 Bruins prospects:

10. Zach Senyshyn

The much-maligned 16th-overall pick in the 2016 draft, Senyshyn has not been able to make a meaningful impact in the NHL yet, but he was very impressive in his NHL debut last spring. He has not dazzled anyone on the scoresheet in the AHL after he lit up the OHL, but he has still been solid nonetheless. The 6-foot-1 winger has an incredible ability to shoot the puck and his blazing speed easily makes him one of the fastest skaters in the  Bruins’ system. The 22-year-old will push for a roster spot come training camp.

9. Trent Frederic

Frederic’s low ranking on this list is not necessarily a knock on him despite how it appears on the surface. The bruising center did well in his first full season with the Providence Bruins and wowed Bruins fans in his NHL debut where he beat the wheels off of Brandon Tanev. However, the rest of his stint with the varsity club was just ho-hum as he failed to produce much of anything on offense. The Wisconsin product definitely still has top-nine NHL potential and maybe even top-six, but Jack Studnicka’s continued progression as well as the addition of John Beecher have lowered his stock for me.

8. Jeremy Lauzon

Lauzon was certainly impressive in his brief stint with the big club last season and showed us a sneak peak of what could be down the road. A sound defensive player, Lauzon’s playmaking instincts in the offensive zone is another part of his game that stands out, especially when taking into account all the assists he racked up playing juniors (95 total). The 22-year-old certainly has the makings of a future top-four defenseman in my opinion, but the plethora of defensemen in the Bruins’ system will likely keep him out of a full-time NHL gig this season.

7. Kyle Keyser

Since signing with the Bruins as an undrafted free agent, Keyser has been extremely impressive with his progression, shooting up the prospect pool rankings. After an impressive career with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL (highlighted by a .915 save percentage last season), Keyser will likely make the jump to the pro ranks this season with either Providence or Atlanta (ECHL). The 20-year-old has a knack for coming up with big saves.

6. Oskar Steen

Steen had a career season in the SHL last year as he transitioned from wing to center full-time. A sixth round draft pick in the 2016 Entry Draft, Steen ranked tenth in total scoring in the SHL with 37 points in 47 games. The speedy forward is a crafty player with a blistering shot that looks NHL-caliber already and was easily the most impressive skater at the Bruins’ latest Development Camp earlier this summer. It looks as if Steen will transition to the North American ice this season and play with Providence, which will serve him well in his adjustment to a slightly different style of play, considering his smaller frame.

5. Axel Andersson

Andersson has all the tools to be a successful defenseman in today’s NHL between his skating and puck-moving abilities. A shifty player on the backend, Andersson still has some developing to do, considering his small-ish frame (6-feet, 179 pounds). If he plays for Moncton of the QMJHL this season, a full year of experiencing the North American game will do him a world of good.

4. Jakub Lauko

Lauko has the tools of the trade to become a top-six winger down the road. After a strong showing in training camp and pre-season last fall, the winger went on to have a strong year in the QMJHL. Lauko’s shot, speed, and ability to control the puck while at full speed are the shining elements of his game. He’ll look to build on his success with another strong showing at camp this fall.

3. John Beecher

The Bruins’ first round pick this year, Beecher boasts gobs of potential. The thing that stands out the most for Beecher is his speed; he can skate like the wind. Not to mention the fact that he has size and knows how to use it, playing a powerful, heavy style of play. The Elmira, New York native is committed to play at the University of Michigan this season where he’ll get to work on his offensive creativity and scoring touch, which he did not flash off on a consistent basis.

2. Jack Studnicka

After lighting up the OHL over the last few seasons, Studnicka will make the jump to the pro game full-time this season. The center will likely begin with AHL Providence in my opinion, but you never know, especially given the Bruins’ situation at right wing, which the former second round pick can also play.

Studnicka boasts top-notch, high-end skill in all three zones and looks as if he has the potential to be a future top-six center in the NHL. The crafty Windsor, Ontario native has had his sights set on a spot on an NHL roster spot each time he’s been to training camp, and his goal will be no different this year.

1. Urho Vaakanainen

The 18th-overall pick in 2017, Vaakanainen is far and away the Bruins’ best defense prospect, and good enough to take the top spot on my list. The left-shot defender is not going to “wow” anyone with gaudy offensive numbers; however, his strong skating ability and the way he is able to move the puck up ice with ease is what intrigues me the most about Vaakanainen.

The 20-year-old Finn will push hard for a spot on the opening night roster after an impressive year in Providence (although it was somewhat derailed after he sustained a concussion in his second NHL game after being called up). The only thing standing between Vaakanainen and a spot on the NHL roster is the logjam the Bruins currently have on defense; top-four potential is there for sure, maybe even top-two.

Bruins NCAA Prospects Head Back to School

2019 NHL Draft - Portraits

(Photo Credit: Kevin Light, Getty Images)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

It’s back-to-school time again. Six Boston Bruins prospects are currently playing or committed to play NCAA hockey, this season including John Beecher, Jack Becker, Cam Clarke, Curtis Hall, Dustyn McFaul and Jeremy Swayman.

Beecher was selected by the Bruins in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and will begin his collegiate hockey career at the University of Michigan this season. He will join Becker in Ann Arbor. Becker will be a junior in 2019-2020.

Beecher, a center/left wing, comes to Michigan after spending the 2018-2019 season moving from the United States National Team Development Program to the U.S. National Under 18 Team to the Under-18 World Junior Classic team. The now 18-year-old Beecher amassed a total of 67 points in a combined 97 games.

Becker is a 22-year-old Minnesota-born center who was selected by the Bruins in round seven of the 2015 Entry Draft. He has played in a total of 69 games during his first two seasons with the Wolverines, accounting for 15 points in each of his freshman and sophomore years.

Clarke is entering his fourth year at another Michigan school, Ferris State University, where he has seen game action each of his first three seasons with the Bulldogs. He is a 23-year-old defenseman from Tecumseh Michigan and was drafted by Boston in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Clarke posted a career high 11 points for Ferris State in 2016-2017, his freshman season, followed by seven points and eight points, respectively, the next two seasons. He has appeared in a total of 99 games so far in his collegiate career.

Ohio native Hall and Alaska product Swayman are two Bruins prospects who are playing their college hockey in New England. Hall is entering his sophomore year at Yale University, and goaltender Swayman will be playing in his third season at the University of Maine.

Hall is a 19-year-old center from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Last season, his first with the Yale Bulldogs, he put up five goals and six assists in 24 games. Hall was drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2018 draft.

Swayman, the lone netminder of the group, is 20 years old and was selected by Boston in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. He has posted impressive numbers in his first two seasons with the Black Bears. He finished the 2017-2018 season with a 2.72 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. Last season, Swayman had a 2.77 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

According to McFaul’s profile on Elite Prospects, he is committed to play at Clarkson University and is expected to begin his freshman campaign there this year. McFaul is a 20-year-old Waterdown, Ontario-born defenseman. He has played the past two seasons for the Pickering Panthers of the Ontario Hockey League, posting a total of 35 points in 86 games. He was selected by Boston in the sixth round of the 2018 draft.

Bruins’ Prospect Beecher Shined At World Juniors Summer Showcase

John-Beecher

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By: Ian Frazier | Follow Me On Twitter @ifrazier95

Boston Bruins fans must be feeling pretty good right now after reading the reports and watching recent YouTube videos about the team’s 2019 National Hockey League first-round draft selection John Beecher. The 18-year-old Elmira, New York native was labeled as a draft steal to some experts when he was selected 30th in late Junes NHL Entry Draft from Vancouver, British Columbia. The jury is still out on him, but with the way Beecher played in the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase held at the Team USA Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, the B’s scouting staff certainly got this one right when addressing future needs.

Beecher looked like an absolute beast compared to other prospects his age. As shown in the video above, he was able to win puck battles on the boards as well as score a couple goals down low. He also battled hard on faceoffs and generated a nice breakaway goal that was made possible by his fast acceleration down the ice beating two defenders. During his time at WJSS, he developed great chemistry alongside fellow Bruins’ prospect Curtis Hall showing their nice one-two punch that was on display during the domination of Finland 7-1. One of his biggest attributes on display was his overall team awareness. He knew exactly where his teammates were and was able to make crisp passes or be able to skate in and help contain the puck near the crease. From what he has shown so far, many hockey insiders believe his style of play is very similar to Sean Couturier with additional speed and size.

With Beecher showing flashes of top six potential, this should be great news for Bruins center David Krejci going forward. Krejci has had seasons where he struggled to have consistent scoring due to the lack of explosiveness on his right side and someone like Beecher could bring that explosiveness to the black and gold and could fill the much-needed position soon. The Bruins had a few prospects the last few seasons try out there with Jackob Forsbaka Karlsson being the most recent. JFK, however, decided to go back to Sweeden to help his development. In the meantime they found a solid replacement with Bruins forward Karson Kuhlman to hold down the fort until someone like Beecher is ready to be called up. Beecher is scheduled to transfer to the University of Michigan where he will play for the Wolverines during the 2019-20 NCAA season.

Over the past few seasons, players like this have been a much-needed asset for many teams and Beecher may be the next in line that fits that mold. One thing is for sure though, Bruins fans should be excited about him, and they should be happy knowing that Sweeney may have found a future solution at second-line right wing. We still don’t know for sure if Beecher is a long-time solution for the club down the road, but the future looks bright for this young man. Time will tell!

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

Pearson: Top-10 Bruins Prospects

VICTORIA , BC - DECEMBER 21: Jack Studnicka #23 of Team Canada raises his stick to salute the fans following a game versus Team Slovakia at the IIHF World Junior Championships at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on December 21, 2018 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)

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By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Recently fellow Black N’ Gold writer Mike Cratty had an idea to simply rank the Bruins prospects and suggested that we all take a stab at ranking the Bs farm system. His rules were simply that there were no players on AHL only deals (like Cooper Zech) and that Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman weren’t eligible for the list. Make sure you read Mike’s article here, but without further ado, here’s my list.

10. Jakub Zboril

Just because the Bruins may have missed out on players like Thomas Chabot and Matthew Barzal doesn’t mean they did not get anything of value with those picks in that infamous 2015 draft. With the ridiculous amounts of injuries that plagued the Bruins defense, we all got to see Zboril in a little NHL action. He looked pretty good in his two games with the big club and after back to back solid years in the AHL, it’s not time to give up on this promising young Czech man.

9. Zach Senyshyn

From one criticized pick to another, Senyshyn is not a bust just yet. While he hasn’t had the most outstanding numbers in the AHL (with 50 points in 132 games) but was a two-time 40 goal scorer in the OHL. We saw a glimpse of the Ottawa native in a couple of games to end the season, and he looked far from out of place in Boston. It will be very interesting to see how Senyshyn will play with his first true shot at cracking the top 9 in Boston.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Boston Bruins

(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

8. Trent Frederic

Unlike the previous two players, we got to have an extended look at Trent Frederic in the NHL. He was far from dominant in his 15 game stint, failing to register a point in all 15 games, but showed that he had the grit and work ethic of an NHL player. I think Frederic will 100% become a regular NHLer but whether that is in the top or bottom six has yet to be seen. A full year of top-six minutes in the AHL would do wonders for Frederic’s game.

7. Kyle Keyser

I’m a huge fan of Keyser. Last year with the Oshawa Generals he boasted the second-best save percentage (.915) in all of the OHL and was even better in the playoffs where he posted a .925 save percentage in the Generals 15 game playoff run. Keyser was able to make the World Junior Championships with the US and start their first two games but was unfortunately struck with an illness before the team’s third game and didn’t play again in the tournament due to teammate Cayden Primeau’s stellar play. At just 20 years old, Keyser has a real chance to take the reigns from Tuukka Rask a few years down the line if he continues to impress in his development.

(Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)

6. Oskar Steen

After a year in the SHL where he had a grand total of six points in 45 games, Steen had a breakout season in the for Farjestad BK where he was able to notch 17 goals and 37 points in 46 games, good for 10th in the SHL. What was even more impressive about that season was that the nine players above Steen had an average age of 30, the youngest being 26 while Steen is still just 21. With his speed and agility, I’d lookout for the young Swede to be an under the radar fit for the Bruins big league roster this year.

5. Jeremy Lauzon

In his short stay in the NHL, this season Lauzon impressed a lot of people. He isn’t the flashiest player, but is really solid in his own end and showed a lot of playmaking ability in his years in the QMJHL, tallying 40 assists in 46 games during his final season. If the Bruins didn’t have such a logjam at defense, Lauzon would certainly be on the Bruins roster this year.

(Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

4. Jakub Lauko

Lauko continues to look more and more like a steal as we continue to see him grow. Originally projected to go in the middle of the second round, Lauko fell to the Bruins in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft. The 19-year-old notched 41 points in 44 games and helped the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies win the President’s Cup this past year. His blazing speed and hockey IQ sets him apart from most of the competition and should set him up to be a really solid NHL player.

3. John Beecher

I’m not going to lie, when I saw that Arthur Kaliyev dropped all the way to pick 30, I really wanted the Bruins to hop all over him. When I learned that the Bruins drafted yet another player that was expected to go later in the draft I was honestly pretty disappointed but man, every single day I learn more about Beecher I continue to love this pick more and more. Beecher was overshadowed heavily by players like Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, and Alex Turcotte but still put together a solid season playing outside of the top six in the US developmental program, putting up 43 points in 63 games. Most recently Beecher has raised a lot of eyebrows at the World Junior Summer Showcase where he has displayed his speed, agility and two-way prowess while impressing many people.

Urho Vaakanainen

(Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

2. Urho Vaakanainen

It really is a shame that Vaakanainen had to get cheap shot early in just his second NHL game because we didn’t get to truly see what the young Fin had in store, but there’s no question that the Bruins have something in store with this defenseman. The 18th overall pick in the 2017 draft is a strong skater and is very reliable in his own zone with the ability to move the puck very well. Vaakanainen is already a two-time gold medalist, winning the U-18 and U-20 championships with team Finland.

1. Jack Studnicka

I thought for a while on who deserved the top spot on this list, but ultimately, I chose Studnicka. Last season Studnicka began his season with the Oshawa Generals, averaging above a point per game but really stepped up when he was traded mid-season to the Niagra IceDogs where he was able to light the lamp 24 times and add 25 assists in just 30 games. Even when he was on team Canada at World Juniors with players like Morgan Frost, Cody Glass and Barret Hayton, he was able to stand out and catch the eye of everyone. Bob McKenzie said following a game that “It was pretty obvious that Jack Studnicka was the best player on the ice,” quite the praise for a guy that wasn’t playing top minutes on the team. A year after missing out on the 3rd line center position, Studnicka will once again look to crack the Bruins roster and make his mark in the NHL.

Honorable Mentions: Axel Andersson, Pavel Shen, Jacob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Peter Cehlarik, Cameron Hughes, Jeremy Swayman

Do The Bruins Have Enough Coming Down The Middle?

( Photo Credit: Brandon Taylor/OHL Images )

By: Jack McCarthy  |  Follow Me On Twitter @73johnnymac

The Boston Bruins, via Team President Cam Neely, identified a top-six winger as a position of need heading into the summer of 2019 following a largely successful 2018-19 campaign in which they finished in a tie for second overall in the NHL standings and advanced all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.  While the addition of a top-six winger clearly addresses a current need, should the Bruins be concerned with the long-term outlook at the center position?

The Boston Bruins have been blessed with a rock steady, 1-2 combination down the middle in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for the better part of the last decade.  Whilst there has been a revolving door of pivots on the third and fourth lines over that time, the Bruins have been led by one of the leagues’ top 1-2 center-ice combinations providing them with consistent scoring, defensive prowess, and abundant leadership.

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Patrice Bergeron is a future Hockey Hall-of-Famer, all but confirmed with the recent selection of Guy Carbonneau to the Hall.  Long regarded as one of, if not the best two-way player in the game, Bergeron is coming off a career season in points production having amassed 79 points in just 65 games played.  He scored an equal-career high 32-goals as he topped the 30-goal mark for the fifth time in his career.  He also garnered an eighth consecutive Selke Trophy nomination and finished third in voting behind winner Ryan O’Reilly and runner-up Mark Stone in a closely contested vote.  Bergeron has previously won the award in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

In David Krejci, the Bruins have a center who is also coming off a career season production-wise.  Krejci scored 73 points, equalling his previous career-high set all the way back in the 2008-09 season.   He hit the 20-goal plateau for the fourth time in his career.  Krejci also had 16 points in 24 playoff games during Boston’s Stanley Cup run.  Twice in his career, Krejci had led the NHL in playoff scoring, back in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup as well as in 2013 when they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.  Krejci had a solid all-around season in 2018-19 finishing with a CF % (Corsi for) percentage of 55.98.  Bergeron, as a comparison, finished just slightly better at 56.77.

So we know that the Bruins have enjoyed a decade long luxury at the top of the center depth chart and for the most part have made things work with various options at the center depth positions.    There is a reality that the Bruins and their fans must start to consider here very quickly, however.  Both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are 33 years old.   In fact, Bergeron turns 34 this month.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Reality tells us that both of these career-long Bruins are well into the back nine of their respective careers.  The question for Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney is, what is the succession plan as the end approaches for Bergeron and Krejci?  It’s not something that Bruins fans like to contemplate, but these players won’t be here forever, and that endpoint is now beginning to approach.

If we look at the players’ respective contract statuses, Bergeron is under contract for three more seasons at $6.875M per season.  Krejci has two seasons remaining at $7.25M per season.  There has been much speculation that this off-season is the right time to move Krejci in a salary dump to provide cap relief.  There may be some merit to that argument as his trade value is likely as high as it is going to get.  With the possibility of diminishing returns and production next season, not many 33-year-olds have career-best seasons after-all, the trade Krejci argument is understandable.  On the other hand, if the Bruins believe they are still in a championship-contending window, and most of their fans believe they are, then trading David Krejci likely weakens your team, depending on the return, and puts you further from contending at a time that your two best forwards in Bergeron and winger Brad Marchand continue to progress into their thirties.   If winning now is still the priority, unless you can bring in a top-six center to replace David Krejci, I have to believe you need to keep him.

Getting back to the question of what happens in two and three years when their contracts expire and their play has inevitably tailed off, whom do the Bruins see as their top-six centers of the future?  Have they already acquired those pieces through the draft or via trade?  Or is this an area of need that, although not pressing, will reach out and bite the Bruins if they don’t begin to plan for it now.

Let’s consider the centers already within the organization and see if any project as a Bergeron or Krejci replacement.  For the purpose of this exercise, this will consider prospects whose rights the Bruins currently control, be it under contract or not.

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Beyond Bergeron and Krejci, the current third-line center in Boston is Charlie Coyle.  Coyle is coming off a successful playoff after being acquired in a trade deadline move from the Minnesota Wild.  Coyle has one year remaining on his current contract at a reasonable cap hit of $3.2M.    Bringing good size and skating, the 6’3”, 220-pound Coyle slots well into the third-line center position and has been touted as a possible solution at second-line right wing heading into next season.  Such a move would put further pressure on the Bruins to find in-house options to fill out their center depth positions.    For the time being he gives the Bruins what they need centering the third line but his long-term future in Boston may well be tied to the type of dollars and term he seeks on a new contract as he heads towards unrestricted free agency next summer.

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The Bruins appear set for the foreseeable future at the fourth line center position with Sean Kuraly.  Kuraly is a key bottom-six forward for the Bruins, and his absence was noticeable for the first four games of Boston’s opening-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Kuraly’s return from injury in game five sparked the Bruins and helped stabilize the line-up as they went on to eliminate the Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes.  Kuraly could be an option to play in the third line center position if required, but his perfect role in the Bruins lineup would appear to be a fourth-line pivot.

The Bruins also appear to boast several depth centermen who appear capable of playing in the bottom six.  Some of their current wingers can also play center including Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, and Karson Kuhlman.  None of these players are likely options to replace Bergeron or Krejci however.  The same applies to David Backes, a player who could fill a role as a center or a winger up or down the Bruins line-up but at this stage in his career, he doesn’t factor into the conversation at hand.

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The next place to look is at the Bruins current prospects who are yet to make an impact at the NHL level but maybe closer to earning that opportunity over the next couple of seasons.  The Bruins managed to get 15 regular-season games into Trent Frederic this past season.  While Frederic is still seeking his first NHL point, he may be the next Bruins prospect in line at the center position and will very likely see more NHL action in the 2019-20 season.    The question is how high in an NHL line-up does Frederic project?  While that remains to be seen, the common opinion seems to be that he projects to be a solid third-line center at the NHL level.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t help solve the issue of replacing Bergeron or Krejci in the top six.

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Jack Studnicka is coming off a successful junior career as a member of the Oshawa Generals and Niagara Ice Dogs.   This past season he scored 83 points in 60 regular-season games and represented Canada in the World Junior Championships where he tallied four points in five games played.  Studnicka has many upsides but again, his ceiling is difficult to project.   The 2017, second-round selection will benefit from the opportunity to develop at the AHL level in Providence but has the potential to grow and develop into an option to challenge for a top-six role one day at the NHL level.

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Boston’s most recent first-round draft pick, John Beecher, selected 30th overall from the US National Development Team in last month’s NHL Amateur Draft, may signal a recognition by the Bruins management that there is a need to address their lack of long-term options at the center position.  Beecher has tremendous size at 6-3” and 209 pounds and impressed onlookers with his speed and skating ability at the Bruins recent development camp.  Bruins fans shouldn’t get too giddy and hopeful of seeing Beecher in the black and gold anytime soon, however, as he has committed to play at Michigan this upcoming season and he should benefit greatly from playing in the NCAA ranks.    Beecher does, however, represent perhaps the glimmer of hope that the Bruins may have a bona fide center prospect who can play a meaningful and successful top-six role one day in the future.   Bruins fans have to temper the expectations on the 18-year-old Beecher however and realize he is likely at least a couple of years away and possibly more from a role in the NHL with the Bruins.

While there is hope that the Bruins may already have prospects that may one day fill the top six roles that have been held down for so long by Bergeron and Krejci, the reality may be that the Bruins may need to look outside their own organization to acquire at least one future top-six center, whether that be via free agency or trade.  It’s no secret that the Bruins’ depth strength is on the back end.  The Bruins may be best served by utilizing their depth on the back end to address their need at center.  This does not have to happen immediately.  The smart play, however, would be to have replacements ready to assume those roles once their existing contracts expire.  The reality is that Bergeron and Krejci can’t play forever, however, and the Bruins need to improve their organizational depth at the center position in order to be prepared for that inevitable day when they are no longer contributing at the level we have been accustomed to for such a long time.

Bruins Select John Beecher 30th Overall In The 2019 NHL Entry Draft

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(Photo: Rena Laverty / USA Hockey)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

The Boston Bruins have selected center John Beecher with the 30th-overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The Elmira, New York native is a product of the United States National Development Team Program, where he spent the last two seasons.

Last season, the 18-year-old posted 43 points (15 goals and 28 assists) in 63 games for the U.S. National U18 team last season as well as 6-14-20 totals in 27 games for the USNTDP Juniors (USHL)–all the while playing behind the likes of guys like Jack Hughes and Alex Turcotte. Beecher posted three goals and one assist for four points in seven games with Team USA at the World Junior Championships en route to a bronze medal.

In 2017-18 the 6-foot-3, 209-pound forward tallied 17 goals, 24 assists, and 41 points in 60 games while playing with the U.S. National U17 Team. Beecher also registered nine goals and 16 assists in 34 games for the USNTDP Juniors. While playing for Salisbury School (USHS-Prep) in Connecticut in 2016-17, Beecher racked up 24 points (12 goals and 12 assists), skating in 30 games.

A University of Michigan recruit for the 2019-20 season, Beecher is a very strong skater, especially considering his size, with a good shot and nice instincts. He has room to grow offensively, especially in terms of his creativity, but is a strong forechecker and penalty killer; playing in the NCAA at Michigan will serve him well.