Bruin’s Offseason: All Quiet On The Eastern Front (1 of 2)

(Photo Credit: AP / Nam Y. Huh)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

The start of free agency saw the Bruins come out of the gate quickly, signing or extending seven players. Forwards: Brendan Gaunce, Par Lindholm, Brett Ritchie, Ryan Fitzgerald…Defensemen: Connor Clifton and Josiah Didier…Goalie: Max Lagace. While none of these players were big-name signings, which was to be expected given the Bruin’s limited cap space and restricted free agents, it was an encouraging sign for the fans of the team.

Over the next three weeks, forward Peter Cehlarik signed a one year deal, forward Danton Heinen inked a two-year extension, and center prospect Pavel Shen signed his ELC. Since then, all has been quiet on Causeway Street, with very little being said about restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. This is not unusual for the Bruins. Since Sweeney was named GM, they like to keep everything internal and very little leaks out. The only comments on the subject came from Bruin’s President Cam Neely via Joe Haggerty two weeks ago.

That brings us to the present, and where the Bruins go from here. With the Backes’ contract still on the books, the team does not have the Cap space to acquire any more help at this juncture. So, what you see is what you get as training camp looms.

The only thing that appears certain at this point is that Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak are the B’s two netminders. In this two-part series, we will take a look at the openings and question marks the Bruins have at forward and on defense heading into the 2019-20 regular season. Part One will deal with the forwards and Part Two the defense.

The Bruins return a Top 4 that was as good as any in the NHL. Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, and Krejci combined for 333 points. Jake DeBrusk had a “decent” sophomore season, and will likely be attached to Krejci’s left side, as he has been for the first two seasons of his career. His 27 goals in 2018-19 were more than acceptable, but it would be nice to see him up his assist and overall point totals, particularly as he was a staple on the PP most of the season.

The only real question mark in the Top 6 is who is going to play to the right of David Krejci. It seems that this has been an issue headed into every season since Nathan Horton left following the 2012-13 season. My first choice to fill one of the Top 6 right-wing positions would be Danton Heinen. I have been a proponent of putting Heinen with Bergeron and Marchand on a more permanent basis for a while now. He showed last season over a 16 game stretch when Pastrnak was injured that he can play and more importantly, produce, in that role, putting up 13 points during that span. This would allow the B’s to put Pastrnak on Krejci’s right-wing, giving him his first legit scoring threat there in years.

The Bottom 6 would appear to have four spots already locked up with Coyle, Kuraly, Wagner, and Nordstrom filling those positions unless something unforeseen happens. That leaves only two openings for a wide variety of candidates.

They include incumbents Karson Kuhlman, Petr Cehlarik, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Anders Bjork. Newcomers Par Lindholm, Brett Ritchie, Oskar Steen, and possibly Jack Studnicka (although the B’s have consistently maintained they want to keep him at center) round out the group. These players represent a wide variety of styles and experience levels and while all have question marks of one type or another, they give the Bruins the ability to go in a number of different directions.

Three of the contenders, Cehlarik, Lindholm and Ritchie are not waiver exempt, meaning the Bruins risk losing them if they don’t make the team out of camp. Every year this plays a factor around the league in who makes teams initially. Many times more talented players who are waiver exempt end up getting sent down to the AHL, at least to begin the season.

Bruins fans are well acquainted with Cehlarik. The 24-year-old former third-round pick has appeared in 37 NHL games over the last three seasons with mixed results. He has tended to start off quickly and then become less visible as his appearances mount. He’s a big body that uses his size for puck possession but is a below-average skater. The left-shot wing does have the flexibility to play both sides.

Lindholm was a point per game scorer for Skellefteå of the SHL, but it didn’t translate to the NHL with Toronto last season, where he had only 12 points in 61 games. He turns 28 in October and is primarily a center (51% in the dot with 400 attempts). His advanced stats were not great, but in his defense, he had only 30% offensive zone starts.

That brings us to the newly-signed Brett Ritchie. A big, physical scoring wing in his OHL days, who scored 41 for Niagara one year. The offensive side of his game has never manifested itself in the NHL, where he only has 33 career goals in 241 games. If I had to guess, I would say that the B’s see Ritchie as a cheap replacement for what Backes brings (on ice), if they can find a way to move 42.

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

The next group of guys: Bjork, Kuhlman, Senyshyn, Fitzgerald, Steen, and Studnicka contain my two favorites to get the remaining spots and also my “long shot” candidate. All of these guys are waiver exempt, so they will be susceptible to being “stashed” in Providence to start the season. For that reason, I am going to rule out both Fitzgerald and Studnicka. I would much rather see them playing big minutes in all situations with Providence than watching from the press box in Boston.

My favorite to take the first open spot in the Bruin’s forward lineup this season is Anders Bjork. The 23-year-old graduate of the University of Notre Dame already has 50 NHL games under his belt but has yet to have any tangible impact because of a variety of injuries. Shoulder surgeries have cut short Bjork’s seasons in consecutive years, but perhaps the third time is the charm? Bjork has an NHL-caliber shot, a quick release, excellent skating skills and is a good three-zone player. The only thing he needs to stick in my opinion is a bit of luck and some good health. As a rookie, Bjork put up 3g/6a in his first 16 games (playing with Marchand and Bergeron) before suffering a concussion after a collision with Toronto’s Matt Martin. The Bruin’s staff seems to really like Bjork, so he’s a possibility for Top Six duty again, but personally, I would start him on the third line at left-wing and see what happens.

The other player I see cracking the lineup in October is Minnesota-Duluth’s, Karson Kuhlman. Bruin’s fans are already familiar with him due to his strong play down the stretch and into the playoffs, where he compiled eight points in 19 games. Kuhlman is another player (like Bjork) that possesses plus speed and skating ability and a strong defensive game. I believe he would be a strong complement to Bjork and Coyle at right-wing on the third line. Bruce Cassidy could use a line like that in a variety of situations, including up against the top two lines of opposing teams. Combine that with the confidence he already has in the “fourth line” and it would provide him a great deal of flexibility when matching lines.

A player I’m sure the Bruin’s brass would love to see grab a spot is former first-round pick Zach Senyshyn. Bruin’s fans would likely be relieved as well if he became an NHL regular so they did not have to hear about the 2015 draft any longer. Senyshyn has the size/speed ratio needed to roam the right-wing on the third line. The only issue is that the scoring touch the 6’2″, 200 pound Ottawa product displayed in the OHL (114 goals in 195 games) has yet to manifest itself as a pro in the AHL. His supporters point to his deployment as a third liner and the desire to develop his three-zone game as reasons why he has not scored more. His critics say that a lack of consistency and hockey IQ’s are the culprits. I would love to see Boston start him off in a fourth-line role and let him play his way higher into the lineup. However, it may be a case of musical chairs, where there are too many bodies and not enough seats to go around?

My dark horse candidate for the third-line right-wing position is Swede Oskar Steen. He was a 6th Round Pick (165 overall) in the 2016 draft. He got off to a slow start in his first two seasons with Farjestäd of the SHL. In 2018-19, Steen was given a larger role and ran with it. He finished the season with 17 goals and 20 assists in 46 games. It was good for 10th in scoring in the SHL and he was the only player in the Top 10 under the age of 26 (20 at the time). He also finished with 49 PIM’s (18th) which is impressive for a guy of Steen’s small stature (5’9″, 187-pounds). I had the pleasure of watching him at several of the Bruin’s Development Camps, and in my opinion, he was easily the most skilled forward I saw. He’s quick, explosive, and strong on his skates. Given that skill set and his build, he will definitely garner some comparisons to Marchand. Obviously, he has a long way to go before he ever reaches that level.

Bruins development camp

(Photo Credit:  Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

I wouldn’t put money on it, but if someone twisted my arm and forced me to put in in writing, this is what my starting lineup would look like for Opening Night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas on Thursday, October 3rd:

Marchand-Bergeron-Heinen

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Bjork-Coyle-Kuhlman

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Ritchie

There are definitely some question marks in the Bruin’s top nine, but there are also a number of candidates that could fill those holes. The options, competition, and differing styles of the players involved should make for an interesting Camp where roster spots will be on the line.

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

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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)

(Kevin Light/Getty Images)

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

Cratty: Top-10 Bruins Prospects

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(Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

The Bruins’ prospect core is looking pretty solid after the 2019 NHL Draft. This list includes players on ELC’s, so a player like Cooper Zech will not be included because he is on an AHL contract.

Additionally, I will not include Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman on this list as Bjork, despite still being on an ELC, has played 50 NHL games. Karson Kuhlman has pretty safely established himself as an NHL player, in my opinion. With all of that on the table, here are my top-10 Bruins prospects right now.

1. Urho Vaakanainen

At number one stands the top defensive prospect in the system. The 18th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Urho Vaakanainen absolutely the potential to be a top-pairing NHL defenseman. Currently, the defensive core is crowded, but Vaakanainen will carve out an important defensive role sometime in the near future.

His ability to clean things up in his own zone and dictate the play from the back end through the neutral zone is at a high level. Defensemen who can do that thrive in today’s NHL. Offense isn’t his strongest suit, but his skating and puck-moving abilities allow him to find his teammates with ease for scoring chances. This combination of skills puts him at the top of the Bruins prospect core in my eyes.

Check out this heads up assist by Vaakanainen in the AHL this past January.

2. Jack Studnicka

Deciding between Jack Studnicka and John Beecher at number two was tough. But, I gave Studnicka the edge because of what he has proven in the past. Beecher proved himself to be worthy of first-round consideration behind a crop of high-end U.S. NTDP forwards this past season, but I think there is still potential to be unlocked in the future at the University of Michigan.

Studnicka possesses high-end skills in all three zones, especially in the offensive zone. His well-rounded game allowed him to thrive in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals and the Niagara IceDogs. The top-six center potential is definitely there. After lighting it up in Juniors, his sights are now set on an NHL roster spot.

Oh yeah, and he has some sick hands and finishing ability.

3. John Beecher

John Beecher has a great blend of size and speed down as a centerman. Here’s an example from yesterday at the World Junior Summer Showcase.

That combination of size and speed gives him the potential to be a deadly second-line center down the road. Said combination also makes him a menace for defenders to contain. His time at the University of Michigan in the future will only do good things for his game and makes him a very intriguing prospect.

4. Jakub Lauko

When I see Jakub Lauko, I think of Brad Marchand. They both possess high-end offensive ability as left-wingers and plenty of nastiness in their game. Lauko plays a high-energy style and has excellent puck skills. He absolutely has top-six forward upside. When he was drafted, he said he wanted to prove he was the steal of the 2018 draft at 77th overall. He’s also not afraid to show off his personality.

He was a true impact player for Rouyn-Noranda in their Memorial Cup Championship run this past season.

5. Axel Andersson

Axel Andersson is a right-handed defenseman with a powerful skating stride and solid puck skills, qualifying himself as another defenseman that really fits the mold of today’s premier NHL defenseman. He still needs some time to develop, but he projects as a top-4 defenseman. Here’s a glimpse of what he can make happen with those puck skills.

6. Oskar Steen

Everything Oskar Steen does, he does with blazing speed. He’s a very quick skater, smooth puck handler, and has an NHL shot already. His smaller frame doesn’t phase him when it comes to getting in the corners. He’s just a tough player to contain, and he’ll fight for a roster spot with the Bruins this season.

Below you’ll see Steen make a great read on a loose puck and show off that NHL shot he already possesses.

7. Jeremy Lauzon

Jeremy Lauzon gave us a quick glimpse at what he can do in a short, 16-game NHL stint this past season. He moves the puck effectively, is stout defensively, and can hold his own in the offensive zone. While the Bruins defensive core is fairly crowded at the moment, Lauzon still holds the potential to be a second or third pairing NHL defenseman.

Below you’ll find a clip of an electric goal Lauzon scored for Team Canada in the 2017 World Junior Championships.

8. Jeremy Swayman

The first goalie on the list is Jeremy Swayman of the University of Maine. What sticks out with Swayman is his athleticism and quickness. His movement in the crease is very smooth and allows him to make tough saves. Of the Bruins’ goalie prospects, he possesses the highest NHL upside in my eyes.

Below you’ll find a glimpse of that high-end athleticism and quickness on display against Quinnipiac from 2017.

9. Zachary Senyshyn

Zachary Senyshyn is another player who will fight for an NHL roster spot this season. He has a past history of being a pure goal scorer in part thanks to his excellent shooting ability. Don’t let the fact that he hasn’t lit up the score sheet in the AHL take away from his potential to be a legitimate goal scorer.

10. Kyle Keyser

Kyle Keyser also possesses some great athleticism and quickness in the crease and rounds out the top-10. He was acquired as a diamond in the rough undrafted free agent signing and is now set to spend this season with the Providence Bruins and possibly the Atlanta Gladiators.

He has a thing for sprawling saves.

The Bruins prospect core is doing just fine, which is nice reassurance to have with an already proven cup contending team.

Bruins Sign Oskar Steen To Entry-Level Contract

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( Photo Credit: BostonHerald.com)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

General Manager Don Sweeney announced this morning that the Bruins have inked forward prospect Oskar Steen to a three-year entry-level contract. The deal runs through the 2020-21 season, carrying an annual NHL cap hit of $809,167.

Steen, who was drafted in the sixth round (165th overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, has spent the last three seasons playing for Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. This season, the 21-year-old had a career year, tallying 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points in 47 games to go along with a plus-17 rating. His 37 points were good enough for second on his team and 10th in the SHL. In 14 playoff games this year, Steen recored 2-5-7 numbers.

Last season, Steen registered four goals and two assists for a total of six points through 45 games. In 2016-17, the 5-foot-9, 186-pound forward recorded five goals and six assists (11 points) in eighteen games for Sweden Junior’s Farjestad Jr. in addition to four games for Sweden 2’s MoDo. Also, Steen had a goal and an assist in one game for Sweden 3’s Forshaga in the ’16-17 season.

The Karlstad, Sweden native represented his country at the 2018 World Junior Championships, where he won a silver medal after registering two goals (both coming as game-winners), two assists, and a plus-five rating in seven games. In 2016, Steen won a silver medal at the U18 World Junior Championships as he notched 1-1-3 in seven games.

It is not yet confirmed whether or not Steen will make the jump to North American hockey next season, although it would make sense for him to join the Providence Bruins to become acclimated to the smaller ice and different style of play.

Bruins Prospect Steen Is Having Career Year In SHL

( Photo Credit: BostonHerald.com )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins could add one of their better European prospects to the developmental levels as soon as next season. 2016 sixth-round selection Oskar Steen who plays overseas with the Farjestad BK club in the Swedish Hockey League is having a big year and getting heavy praise. Providence Journal Bruins beat writer Mark Divver tweeted out that Steen is heavily considered to represent Team Sweden for this year’s World Championships being played in the cities of Bratislava and Kosice in Slovakia which would be a fantastic experience for the developing forward.

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The 20-year-old Karlstad, Sweden native is currently having a career season thus far with 17-20-37 numbers in 44 games and is playing in the last year of his contract with the SHL’s Farjestad club. As Divver mentioned in his above tweet, the 5′-9″ 187-pound forward could sign an entry-level deal during the offseason and place him in the American Hockey League as soon as the 2019-20 season to get him acclimated to the North American game and tighter playing surface.

Steen had seven points in his last three games including a 2-1-3 offensive effort in an 8-3 win on Saturday, March 2nd, 2019, 8-3 win against the visiting Mora IK club and contributed two assists today in a Farjestad 4-1 victory over Brynas. To begin the 2018-19 campaign, Oskar had 6-5-11 totals in the first 22 games and after a five-game absence from December 6th, 2018 to December 26th, 2018, the speedy forward has 11-15-26 numbers in his last 20 games.

Below, thedraftanalyst.com’s website founder Steve Kournianos had these words to say about Bruins prospect Oskar Steen in his 2016 Pre NHL Draft Rankings Top 500 Final Rankings article where Steve had him at #80. Check out The Draft Analysts other rankings from the same year in these monthly rankings –> December 2015 Top 250 Steen Ranked #74,  January 2016 Top 250 Steen Ranked #96, February 2016 Top 250 Steen Ranked #84, March 2016 Top 250 Steen Ranked #86, April 2016 Top 250 Steen Ranked #80 Not bad numbers in my opinion for a sixth rounder.

Steady climber who exploded at the most recent U18 Five Nations in Switzerland. The book is still out on him, but the more he out-produces his peers in best-on-best competitions, the more visible he’ll appear on the draft radar. Steen isn’t a gazelle, but he’s hard to handle during zone entries and cycles. He can also bring a quick and accurate shot.

Now I’m no expert when it comes to evaluating players, but if my opinion is wanted here, we go. Fast forward that protects the puck well in stride which makes him effective all over the ice even in the dirty areas for the undersized player. His speed alone is something to watch especially on the forecheck with his puck tracking capabilities.  If Steen can translate the difference in game style from across the pond, he’ll be a solid addition to an already fast developing core down in Providence under the tutelage of Head Coach Jay Leach.

Oskar is the type of player that I can easily see moving up and down the top nine of the AHL Bruins lineup or at the NHL level a solid fourth liner that not only has speed but adds a little bit of grit and in-your-face forechecking. He has a decent pair of hands that have been on display thus far this season but also has an insanely accurate shot either a quick snapshot or winding up in stride blasting one home.  His creativity in tight spaces I hear was a big reason former NHL Boston player, and now B’s European amateur scout PJ Axelsson was his selling point to B’s management in several pre-draft meetings.

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Steen is ranked 7th in the SHL is overall points and has four remaining games in this regular season before playoffs. The Farjastads BK team has a record of 27-13-6-4 and currently sit second in the league as the 50 game SHL regular season has come to an end. Oskar’s arrival in North America is currently on hold at this point and all going to depend on his efforts and teams success in the attempt to capture a league championship with the playoffs starting shortly.

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2018 Bruins Prospect Development Camp Provides The Potential For Optimism And Excitement

(06/26/2018- Boston, MA) Oskar Steen takes a shot at the Boston Bruins development camp at Warrior Arena on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Staff Photo by Matt West(Photo Credit: Matt West)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Days one through three provided plenty of great hockey and excitement for all in attendance, including myself. Development camp is an awesome opportunity for those who attend to see Bruins prospects and camp invitees, as some are unable to watch them play during their respective seasons much or at all. This is of course on top of the opportunities for growth and recognition it provides for the players in attendance across the camps of all 31 NHL teams.

The crop of young players in attendance at Warrior Ice Arena was one that didn’t disappoint and brought players from all over, including but not limited to the NCAA, OHL, QMJHL, SHL, and OJHL. The main standouts for me were Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka, Jakub Lauko, Jeremy Swayman, and Curtis Hall, amongst a few others. This doesn’t mean that any players not included were bad or didn’t stand out to me.

Oskar Steen

The speedy Swede, Oskar Steen, stood out yet again, just like last year at camp. His quickness and speed allow him to evade defenders and create space to unleash his impressive wrist shot. The 2016 sixth-round pick arsenal was put on display at the 2018 World Junior Championships as well, with two goals and two assists in seven games en route to a silver medal with Team Sweden.

His speed and desire to have the puck on his stick could lead to him being an effective penalty killer at the pro level. Steen is still just 20-years-old as well, so the room to grow as a player and mature physically in his pursuit of an NHL job is certainly there.

Jack Studnicka

Stud is in his last name, folks. A 2017 Bruins second-round pick, Studnicka killed it at camp after an impressive 2017-2018 campaign with Oshawa Generals. The 19-year-old Canadian kid has his sights set on an NHL gig for the 2018-2019 season, and for good reason. His competitiveness, playmaking skills, and smooth skating make him a tough player to contain.

His 22-50-72 stat line in 66 games was good for a spot in the top-30 OHL scorers at number 27 on the list in the company of high-end prospects like Owen Tippett and Robert Thomas, to name a couple. 2018 second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov was in that range as well. But, he only played just 44 games, compared to everyone around him on the leaderboard being in the 50’s and high 60’s in games played.

There is a chance Riley Nash isn’t back with the Bruins in the near future, as he is an unrestricted free-agent come July 1. The Bruins’ third line center void is up for grabs if Nash goes elsewhere, with players such as Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Trent Frederic, and one of the new guys Martin Bakos also amongst the group that will vie for that third-line ice-time. With that being said, cracking the roster will not be easy for Studnicka. If he doesn’t make the NHL roster, he will need to go back to Oshawa in the OHL per the NHL/CHL Player Agreement, which would prohibit him from going to the AHL due to the fact that he is under the age of 20.

Jack Studnicka watch is on.

Jakub Lauko

A new talented Czech in Jakub Lauko joined the fold when he surprisingly fell in the Bruins’ collective lap at 77th overall. Lauko is a first-round talent in the eyes of some, and I am onboard with that. Just look at what Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley had to say after drafting Lauko:

“We had him on our list as a first-round pick. We’re ecstatic to get a player like this at that point in the draft.”

Getting a first-round talent late in the first-round certainly makes the Bruins brass feel better about not having a first-round pick this year. What sticks out past his dynamic skill set, and speed is his confidence in himself as a player and desire to make teams regret passing on him. This drive and determination alone should have Bruins fans on the edge of their seats eagerly waiting to see what Jakub Lauko can do at the NHL level.

After being drafted, Lauko had this to say about how he felt about his draft position, “I expected to be higher,” said Lauko (6 feet, 179 pounds), a left-shot who can play center or wing. “But now I can prove to everyone that I am one of the biggest steals in the draft.”

How can one not love that confident mindset and positional versatility? Fast forward to day two of development camp where he did his best Anze Kopitar vs. Tim Thomas impression against Kyle Keyser and succeeded in doing so.

 

From my perspective, I think it’s fair to say that Jakub Lauko was one of the best, if not the best player on the ice for much of the duration of the first three days of camp.

The offensive instincts are there on top of his bulldog mentality and willingness to work in the gritty areas and play physically. I can’t think of anything that worries me with Jakub Lauko as a player. He just has the makings of a successful NHL player with time to improve even more past development camp, get stronger and to mature.

Lauko said after the draft in the video above that he is willing to take on any challenge and talks about his appreciation of fellow Czech’s within the organization in David Pastrnak, David Krejci, and prospect Daniel Bukac – who Jakub has known since he was around seven-eight-years-old. On top of his offensive prowess, Jakub is confident that he is one of the fastest players in the draft, he’ll block shots, and he doesn’t shy away from going at it with players that are bigger than him. How did he fall into the late third-round of the draft?!

Lastly, I’ve said it on Twitter, so I’ll stress it again here.

There is plenty of room on the ‘Laukomotive’.

Curtis Hall

First and foremost, Curtis Hall’s hair. My goodness, what a mane.

Curtis Hall comes to Bruins development camp with a playstyle reminiscent of current Bruin David Backes, who Hall models his game after.

Jeff Cox (@JeffCoxSports on Twitter) of the New England Hockey Journal, wrote the following about Hall this past January, “Hall, who has spent some time playing right wing in international competition, feels more comfortable at center. He tries to emulate Boston Bruins versatile forward David Backes, who also plays center and right wing.” Positional versatility and buzzsaw on the wing or down the middle like David Backes? I’d take that.

Throughout days one to three of development camp, Hall used his large 6-foot-3, 196-pound frame fight for puck possession and score in close proximity to the net, or with his sweet wrist shot. Another thing that stands out is his work ethic, which goes hand-in-hand with his willingness to fight for pucks and create an offensive flow for himself and/or those around him.

Yale University will be an excellent place for Hall to grow as a player and a person in the NCAA’s Big Ten. Adding more strength to his already impressive frame will make him a nightmare to play against, especially in the physical game at the next level.

Pavel Shen

The Russian centerman Pavel Shen rounded out the 2018 draft class for the Boston Bruins at 212th overall. What stood out to me with Pavel Shen was his smooth skating ability, puck skills, and how it looked as though he wasn’t overcomplicating how he handled himself on the ice. It is understandable for players to be nervous in their first go at an NHL development camp, Pavel Shen didn’t seem nervous to me, he looked pretty comfortable to me out there.

The ‘Shensation’ as I now like to call him, looks to hold solid value as a seventh-round pick near the very conclusion of the draft. Below is a video that I found to very cool, take a look.

Whether it was the first Bruins 1-on-1 in Russian or not, it was very cool to see something like this in an interview with two young players – Pavel Shen is 18-years-old, Philip Lagunov is 19-years-old.

Martin Bakos

The oldest player in the group, Martin Bakos comes to camp as the oldest player from Slovakia and the Czech pro league. The Bruins signed Martin Bakos to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 back on June 14, shortly after, he was invited to development camp at age 28. An interesting start to his Bruins career to say the least.

Unsurprisingly, he looked comfortable right from the get-go as a 28-year-old veteran in a sense. His confidence with the puck is very present whenever he is on the ice and he clearly has a very solid hockey IQ in the offensive and defensive parts of his game.

As mentioned earlier, if Riley Nash does, in fact, move on from the Bruins in free-agency, Bakos is certainly a candidate for the third-line center position. It will be very interesting to see how he progresses over the summer and into the regular season. Keep an eye out for Martin Bakos.

Martin Bakos, certified surgeon with those hands.

Karson Kuhlman

Karson Kuhlman is a player that myself amongst a growing amount of people are starting to believe can contribute at the NHL level. This isn’t to say that if not, Providence would be a step-down, but rather it is a statement that he is making a name for himself early in his career as a Bruin.

He was definitely a leader as a 22-year-old at camp with many guys who are younger than him – he would help warm up the goalies at times during camp and anyone who looked closely could see his vocal nature on the ice. Not to mention, he works extremely hard whenever he is on the ice and the desire to be a difference maker is very much present in how he operates as a hockey player.

A high character kid with speed and a great shot to go with experience as a winner at the University of Minnesota Duluth – particularly the two National Championship appearances, including one National Championship title in which he won MVP.

The Goalies: Jeremy Swayman, Kyle Keyser, and Daniel Vladar

Jeremy Swayman

Honestly, all three goalies put solid performances forward in the first three days, but Jeremy Swayman with his athleticism and quickness, in particular, stole the show in my eyes, in a sense.

Swayman made great strides throughout his freshman year as a University of Maine Black Bear. Swayman put forward a great freshman season at UMaine – after 31 appearances, yes 31 appearances as a freshman, Swayman finished the season with a 2.72 goals against average and .921 save percentage. That’s not something to glance over and forget about, that is seriously impressive.

Kyle Keyser

Kyle Keyser’s aggressiveness and quickness in the crease are impressive attributes within his arsenal. He had a consistently solid first three days and is the youngest of these three goalies. On day three, Keyser made an incredible save on a 2-on-1 chance from Jack Becker. A teammate of fellow Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka this past season, Keyser will look to continue his progression in Oshawa for a three season. The 19-year-old goaltender from Coral Springs, Florida, has amassed 73 appearances over two seasons in Oshawa – with 47 of them coming last year.

That’s a pretty tough save to make in a high-pressure situation.

Daniel Vladar

Three things that Daniel Vladar likes are the hit TV series ‘The Office’, hockey, and modeling his game after Bruins starting goalie Tuukka Rask (6-foot-3), as well as Nashville Predators veteran goalie, Pekka Rinne (6-foot-5) – two large goalies, like Daniel. His movement in the crease is impressive for someone of his size, like Rask and Rinne and with a keen eye, one can definitely see similarities in their playing styles. Just ask BNG team member Thomas Nystrom (@nahstrom on Twitter) or Boston Sports Journal Bruins writer Anthony Gulizia, as he wrote about Vladar, Rask, and Rinne not too long ago.

The oldest of the goalie group, Vladar is well-spoken with a giant goaltending frame with good crease awareness and vision to go along with it who will look to build on his development in Providence this upcoming season.

Camp Invitees: Stephen Baylis, Henry Bowlby, and Teemu Kivilhalme

Stephen Baylis

Stephen Baylis, Henry Bowlby, and Teemu Kivilhalme stood out to me amongst the solid group of camp invitees at camp. Although they may never join the Bruins organization, their solid performances at camp certainly helped their chances of landing a spot in professional hockey someday, whether that is within the Bruins organization or not.

Stephen Baylis is a 23-year-old forward from Bowling Green State University. He showed solid hands, a good skating stride, and he played heads-up hockey.

Baylis will head back to Bowling Green State University for his senior year this fall to continue to his developmental path.

Henry Bowlby

Henry Bowlby is an incoming sophomore at Harvard University from one of Minnesota’s hockey hotbeds in the city of Edina. As a freshman at Harvard, he scored eight goals and added as many assists, good for 16 points in 24 games. Not too shabby for a freshman. Bowlby’s quickness, soft hands, and shooting ability were on display at camp and really caught my eye.

Bowlby can be found in the video below displaying his quickness and skills with the puck on his stick in tight below wearing number 75.

Henry Bowlby is definitely a player that I will continue to monitor. If he progresses nicely at Harvard and Bruins management keeps an eye on him, maybe he could land a contract in Boston someday and join Harvard teammate and current Bruin, Ryan Donato in the organization.

Teemu Kivilhalme

Now here is a player with an interesting background that led him to Boston for development camp – Teemu Kivilhalme. Teemu was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL draft by the Nashville Predators, played three seasons at Colorado College, left college a year early to play for Kärpät in Finland and never signed with Nashville. The next step? Prospect development camp with the Boston Bruins.

On day one of camp skated towards a barrier on the blue line, stumbled right in front of the barrier on a zone-entry drill and recovered very quickly to evade the barrier and plant a wrist-shot in the top-left corner of the net. Some may not have noticed it, but his quick recovery and impressive finish made me watch him closer as camp went on. He is a smooth skater with a quick shot. He wasn’t overly flashy with anything, but showed a structured and calm playing style throughout the first three days.

Kivihalme is set to play for Kärpät again next year and is most definitely a player to monitor for me due to his skill set and his interesting path to get where he is today.

Be optimistic and get excited if you somehow aren’t already – because outside of the NHL and AHL rosters that are in pretty good shape, there is plenty of depth in the Bruins’ prospect core. Plus, there is the possibility of one, if not multiple of the camp invitees in attendance becoming members of the Bruins organization someday.

PuckNerd Presents: Bruins PuckRants

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By: Spencer Fascetta                                                                            Twitter: @pucknerdhockey

Featuring: Mike Cratty                                                                         Twitter: @mike_cratty

I had Mike Cratty join me for a long-awaited episode of PuckRants, the official PuckNerd podcast. We discussed a myriad of topics, including the recent World Junior Championship Tournament, some Bruins’ prospect talk, and the tire fire that seems to be half of the Atlantic Division. Listen to all the fun yammering on Episode 7 of PuckRants!

2018 World Junior Championship Will Feature Plenty Of Bruins Prospects

(Photo Credit: Rena Laverty: Rena Laverty Photography & Design)

By Mike Cratty                                                    Twitter: @Mike_Cratty

The 2018 U20 World Junior Championship will get underway starting Monday, Dec. 26 in Buffalo, New York. Team USA won the tournament last year in dramatic fashion over team Canada in a shootout. The World Junior Championship is a great tournament every year – one that is worth gluing your eyes too as you watch some young, highly-touted players showcase their skills. The two groups in the tournament are comprised of five teams. Those groups, as well as the schedule for the whole tournament, can be found below.

Group A: USA, Canada, Denmark, Slovakia, Finland.

Group B: Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus.

Schedule: http://www.buffaloworldjuniors.com/schedule

Six Boston Bruins prospects will be in action throughout the tournament and will all be worth watching. These prospects are featured three of the 10 teams; USA with Trent Frederic, Ryan Lindgren, and Jeremy Swayman, Finland with Urho Vaakanainen and Joona Koppanen, and Sweden with Oskar Steen.

USA: Trent Frederic

The 29th overall pick in 2016, Trent Frederic is having yet another solid season at Wisconsin, this time as a sophomore assistant captain. Frederic’s 16 points in 21 games have him in second place on the Wisconsin Badgers, two points behind senior forward Ryan Wagner.

Something very noticeable about Frederic’s game is his composure and maturity on the ice. His calm, intelligent hockey mind allows him to make smart plays with smoothness in his stride, making things happen in all three zones. In his first go-around in the world juniors, Frederic will be looked to in order to help secure back-to-back tournament victories for the United States.

USA: Ryan Lindgren

At 49th overall in 2016, 20 picks after Frederic came Ryan Lindgren, who will wear an “A” on his sweater throughout the tournament, as he does at the University of Minnesota. Through the first 20 games of his sophomore season at Minnesota, Lindgren has scored two goals and added two assists. This will mark Lindgren’s second world junior tournament with team USA. Last year, he tallied an assist in seven games en route to a shiny gold medal,

Although he isn’t known to put up prolific offensive stats, Lindgren boasts a rigidly defensive game, awareness with and without the puck, and solid skating ability. The United States goaltenders have comfort in knowing Lindgren will be there to clear opponents out of their faces.

USA: Jeremy Swayman

The third Bruins prospect on Team USA is Jeremy Swayman. Drafted just this past summer, 111th overall, Swayman has already taken the role of starting goaltender at the University of Maine of Hockey East in the NCAA. A good friend of the Black N’ Gold team, Drew Johnson of the Hockey Writers, has been all over it when it comes to Jeremy Swayman. Just a glimpse of Drew’s praise for the young goaltender is given when talking about an incredible weekend Swayman put together earlier in the month.

With Jake Oettinger and Joe Woll in the goaltending mix as returners to the team, it is uncertain how much playing time Swayman will receive. Regardless, learning from fellow talented Hockey East goaltenders in Oettinger (BU) and Woll (BC). Swayman carries a 7-3-1 record with a 2.58 GAA and .927 save percentage for the Maine Black Bears heading into Christmas. It’s worth noting that Swayman holds the nation’s eighth-best save percentage, amongst goalies who have played at least 33 percent of their team’s total minutes. Pretty impressive for a freshman.

Finland: Urho Vaakanainen

The most recent of Don Sweeney’s first-round pick’s, specifically 18th overall in 2017, will return for his second World Junior Championship. Likened to that of Scott Niedermayer, Vaakanainen is an excellent skater who makes smart decisions with the puck. Spending his first season with SaiPa of the Liiga, Urho has a goal and three assists in 23 games. Like Ryan Lindgren, he’s not a defenseman who will be leaned on to produce offensively, but rather jump start chances with their skating ability and vision.

In his last go-around in the World Juniors, Urho had a goal in six games on a surprising struggling Finnish squad one year removed from taking gold in 2016 on a wheelhouse Finnish team. Finland will boast an experienced blueline this year including five first-round picks on it (Vaakanainen, Juolevi, Heiskanen, Jokiharju, Valimaki). Vaakanainen will be relied on heavily to make Finland a powerful force in the tournament again.

Finland: Joona Koppanen

Joona Koppanen is off to a weird start to his season playing for Ilves Tampere in the Liiga. Moving up a level from playing for Ilves in juniors to playing for the big club has proven to make things tougher for Joona scoring wise. Playing juniors last year, Joona tallied 23 goals, 31 assists and 54 points in just 38 games. Since being loaned from his junior team to the big club, he has yet to tally a goal but has eight assists in 24 games. The stats show that this may be an adjustment year for the young Finn, which isn’t a bad thing for his development in the long run.

Craziness aside, Joona is an intriguing late-round prospect, 135th overall in 2016, with a daunting 6-foot-5 frame. He skates well for someone of his size, uses his frame effectively and has solid offensive tools. A big guy like him playing amongst a talented Finnish team could produce more great results for Joona in his first go-around in the U20 tournament.

Sweden: Oskar Steen

Oskar Steen, drafted 165th in 2016, boasts some of the best speed and acceleration in the Bruins’ prospect core. An undersized player who can play center and wing that turned some heads at Bruins prospect development camp this summer.

Oskar is adjusting to new surroundings in his first SHL season for Färjestad BK this year. In 28 games, he has scored three goals and added two assists in a year that will be a feeling out process where he’ll have to earn his keep. Tons of points shouldn’t always be expected in those types of years. Not only does Steen show great speed and acceleration, he shows a great desire to have the puck on his stick often, as well as a pretty decent wrist shot. His speed and offensive mind will certainly help within a dynamic, highly skilled Swedish U20 team.

The World Juniors come the day after Christmas so the gifts just keep on giving. Keep an eye on some Bruins prospects playing important roles and enjoy this fantastic tournament. Happy holidays.