Providence Bruins Post-Game Recap Vs. Bridgeport 11/11/19

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By Carrie Young | Follow me on Twitter @carrieyoung512

The Providence Bruins faced off against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the third time this season on Monday afternoon, with Providence leading the season series two games to none. The Bruins came into the game ranked second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 8-5-0-2. Providence was looking to bounce back from a 2-1 loss to Hartford on Sunday but would have to play without defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, as he was called up to Boston this morning due to an injury to Torey Krug. Bridgeport entered Monday’s game on a two-game losing streak and ranked last in the division.

Starting Lineups

Providence:

Hughes – Frederic – Steen

Zboril – Didier

Lagace

Bridgeport:

Bourque – McDonald – Kubiak

Burroughs – Wotherspoon

Gibson

Game Recap

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First Period

The Bruins started slowly, unable to establish an attacking rhythm or challenge Sound Tigers goalie Christopher Gibson.

Bridgeport’s Arnaud Durandeau scored the first goal of the game at 6:31, assisted by Mason Jobst and Sebastien Aho. There wasn’t much that Max Lagace could do about the well-played rush, letting in just his second goal in three games.

Despite one power play for each team, the rest of the period was scoreless. Bridgeport outshot Providence 11-8.

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Second Period

The Bruins began the second period with a few seconds of carryover power play time. They were given their second man-advantage of the game 2:05 in as Sound Tigers Hickey was called for elbowing but were unable to convert. Bridgeport was whistled for yet another penalty just one second after they killed off the previous one. This time, the power play was cut short, with Robert Lantosi heading off for a trip 46 seconds in. Yet another penalty was called seconds before Kieffer Bellows exited the box, and Bridgeport headed to a 5-on-3 advantage. Providence did a good job killing the penalties off and had a shorthanded scoring chance that they weren’t quite able to convert.

Providence was nabbed for their third offensive-zone penalty of the game at 10:19 of the second. The penalty kill stayed perfect, with Lagace looking solid in net.

Simon Holmstrom scored with 4:57 remaining to put Bridgeport up 2-0. Rookie Oliver Wahlstrom provided the primary assist, his second point in two games against Providence.

Frederic was sent to the box for slashing five seconds after the center-ice face-off following Holmstrom’s goal. The Providence penalty kill remained strong, and after failing to convert on a late power play, the Bruins went to the second intermission down by two.

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Third Period

The Bruins seemed to have a jump in their step at the beginning of the third period. After largely failing to generate offense in the first 40 minutes, Providence was able to spend more time in the Sound Tigers’ zone, leading to their fifth power play of the game when Trent Frederic was tripped up on a rush to the net. They were unable to get one past Gibson.

Both goalies were excellent in the third. Lagace made some challenging saves from in close, and Gibson robbed Frederic twice on a breakaway. After mustering just 15 shots through the first two periods, Providence peppered Gibson with 17 shots in the third.

Providence had one more chance on the power play with just under 8 minutes remaining in the game as Steen was hauled down while trying to exit the Bruins zone. It proved to be short-lived, with Oskar Steen committing a penalty of his own 44 seconds later. Despite pulling Lagace for an extra attacker with over 4 minutes left, the Bruins couldn’t convert and were shut out. It was the first time they were unable to score so far this season.

The Bruins are now 8-6-0-2. Their next game is this Friday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center against the Hartford Wolf Pack

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Bruins Recall Urho Vaakanainen on Emergency Basis

urho

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

The Boston Bruins announced that the team has recalled defenseman Urho Vaakanainen from Providence on an emergency basis and joined the team for practice today, November 11, at practice at Warrior Ice Arena following a 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday Night.

Urho Vaakanainen has played in 15 games for the Bruins AHL affiliate Providence Bruins this season tallying two assists and four penalty minutes. The 20-year old defenseman has played in two NHL games during the 2018-2019 season but has yet to record a point in the NHL. His last NHL game was October 23, 2018 in Ottawa when Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki elbowed Vaakanainen and injured the young defenseman with a concussion. The 6’1″ defenseman from Joensuu, Finland was drafted in the first round, 18th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Bruins.

This call-up by the Bruins is most likely due to the Bruins losing Torey Krug in Sunday nights game against the Flyers. After the game, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said that Krug left the game prior to the start of overtime with an upper-body injury. If Krug is unable to go on Tuesday when the Bruins host the Florida Panthers, it is likely that Vaakanainen will draw into the lineup.

Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller was also skating Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena wearing a normal black practice jersey which is a good sign for the 31-year-old defenseman who has played just three NHL games since February.

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Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 2 Preview

pbruins2

(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week two of the Providence Bruins season is upon us. Our boys in black and gold had a marvelous week one beating the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-0 and taking down the Hershey Bears 2-1 in overtime. After starting on the road, the spoked P finally comes home for the first time this year. The offense is playing well. That coupled with the defense and goaltending hitting on all cylinders, should make for an exciting home-opening weekend of hockey.

The action kicks off on Saturday, October 12, 2019, when the Rochester Americans roll into Providence, Rhode Island to invade the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The weekend action continues Sunday, October 13, 2019, when a familiar foe the Springfield Thunderbirds travel to Providence to take on the Bruins at the Dunk. Finally, week two wraps up on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, the Providence Bruins travel to Laval, Quebec, Canada to take on the Laval Rocket at Place Bell.

Saturday, October 12, 2019, Providence Bruins vs Rochester Americans (HOME)

The Providence Bruins finally come back to Rhode Island for their home opener against the Rochester Americans. This will be the first of two meetings that these teams will have this season. Despite also being in the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres’ affiliate is in a different division and that’s why the two teams don’t play often. Last season our boys in black and gold were 1-1 against Rochester and have been good against them in recent years.

Over the past five seasons, they hold a 7-1 record, including 4-0 at the Dunk. The Rochester Americans are 1-0 on the young season after beating the Syracuse Crunch in overtime 3-2 in their season opener. Last season they were 46-23-5-2 (99 points) this was good for second in the North Division and third in the Eastern Conference. They would go on to be swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Toronto Marlies.

Special teams are going to be a major part of this game. The Providence Bruins are a perfect 12 for 12 in killing penalties this season. The penalty kill has been outstanding. The Americans have also yet to register a goal in five power-play opportunities. Though the Bruins have only registered one power-play goal in seven chances, the Rochester club has given up two power-play goals in five opportunities. This could be a chance for the spoked P to get their power-play going.

The Bruins penalty kill was excellent stopping seven of eight power-play opportunities for the Americans, while also scoring on two of eight themselves. With both games last season one-goal games, we should be in for an exciting night of hockey. I believe the Bruins will come out of this game on top and give the home crowd something to cheer about.

Sunday, October 13, 2019, Providence Bruins vs Springfield Thunderbirds (HOME)

The Providence Bruins continue their homestand against a divisional foe the Springfield Thunderbirds. This is the first of 14 meetings between the two clubs. Last season our boys in black and gold had a rough time against the Panthers’ affiliate going 6-7-1. However, over the past five seasons, the Bruins have seen success against the Springfield club going 23-14-3, including 12-7-1 at the Dunk.

The Springfield Thunderbirds are currently 1-1 after opening weekend. They beat Bridgeport 5-1 in their opening game and fell to Charlotte 4-2 their last game. Last year was a rough year for the Panthers’ affiliate going 33-29-9-5 (80 points). That was good for seventh in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The defense and goaltending are going to be major factors in this game.

Last season the Springfield club gave up 241 goals. This was good for sixth in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins meanwhile, gave up 212 goals last season. This was good for second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference. The spoked P has a much better defense, and to top it off they may have stronger players at the position this year. The Providence club also has only given up one goal so far this year. This should all equate to a victory for our boys in black and gold.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019, Providence Bruins vs Laval Rocket (AWAY)

The Providence Bruins end week two by traveling to Laval, Quebec, Canada to take on the Laval Rocket. This will be the first of four meetings the two teams will have this season. This is another case of a team being in the same conference but a different division so they do not play each other often. Last season, Providence had a tough time with the Montreal affiliate last season going 0-1-0-1.

Over the past five seasons, they’ve gone 2-1-0-1, including 1-0-0-1 on the road. The Laval hockey club has had a rough start to the year. They lost both opening weekend games to Cleveland 3-2 and 4-1. They had a record of 30-34-6-6 (72 points) last season. This was good for seventh in the North Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.

The defense is going to play a major role in this game. The Montreal affiliate gave up 231 goals last season while only scoring 195. This means their goal differential is -36. Anything below zero is incredibly bad, but -36 is awful. With the Bruins having one of the stingier defenses in the league, this should be an easy win for Providence.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Hot

Brendan Gaunce: Brendan Gaunce came to the Providence Bruins on a one-year contract after being an unrestricted free agent. He played in 60 games with the Utica Comets last season, netting 16 goals and dishing out 22 assists for 38 total points. So far this year, he’s netted two goals and dished out one assist for three total points in two games. He’s been excellent. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Anders Bjork: Bjork has had a rough few seasons. He’s needed season-ending shoulder surgery two-years in a row. In the first two games this year he’s netted a goal and dished out an assist for two total points. The Notre Dame alum looks excellent so far this year. If he keeps playing at a high level, we may see him called up to Boston before long.

Not

Zach Senyshyn: Zach Senyshyn remains a player that Boston Bruins fans are split on. You have one side that is ready to call him a bust. Then you have the other side who says he just needs time to develop. The young winger has had an up and down career in Providence and has started this season slower than you’d like. He’s yet to register a point in two games. Hopefully, he just needs time to warm up and gets his game going soon.

Trent Frederic: Frederic is another guy who fans seem split on. The young center, I believe may end up being a solid NHL player, but he too has started the year slower than you would like. He has yet to register a point this season, but hopefully, the slow start comes to an end this weekend.

My Players To Watch This Weekend

Up Front

Jakub Lauko: Lauko is playing in his first season with the Bruins. The young forward comes to Providence after an excellent season the QMJHL where he scored 21 goals and dished out 20 assists for 41 total points in 44 games for Rouyn-Noranda. He has yet to score a point this season, but I expect that to change soon. He’s a top prospect in the Boston system and is primed to have an excellent year.

On The Blue Line

Urho Vaakanainen: Vaakanainen is one of the best young defensemen in the Bruins system. I expect him to take a big step forward in his second full season in North America. He’s looked good so far this season. He’s also played really well against Springfield in his career. In nine games he’s netted three goals and dished out five assists for eight total points. I expect him to have a big weekend.

In Net

Dan Vladar: Dan Vladar is one of the best young goaltenders in the Bruins system. He had an excellent first outing against Hershey stopping 21 of 22 shots in an overtime win. It’ll be interesting to see how the 22-year old follows up his excellent first win of the season.

It’s been an excellent start to the 2019-2020 season for the Providence Bruins. Taking their first two games of the year on the road was important. Now they get to come home and play two games at the Dunk in Providence, Rhode Island. I expect them to finish the weekend with two more wins under their belt, and honestly, I expect them to beat Laval on Wednesday. This team has a chance to be something special. I hope everyone enjoys the weekend action and as always, GO, Bs, GO!

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Boston Bruins Announce More Cuts As Preseason Nears Conclusion

david-backes-boston-bruins-vs-devils-preseason-92519.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (NBC Sports)

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

As the Boston Bruins prepare for their final preseason game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, the management staff have officially announced another round of cuts from the training camp, leaving only a few “bubble” players remaining as the roster for opening day on October 3rd begins to take shape.

In addition to the already-released news about the one-year contract signing of defenceman Alex Petrovic, the Bruins have sent down the following players for purpose of assignment to the American Hockey League affiliate of Boston – the Providence Bruins.

  • F Ryan Fitzgerald
  • G Kyle Keyser
  • F Joona Koppanen
  • D Jeremy Lauzon
  • F Zach Senyshyn
  • F Pavel Shen
  • F Oskar Steen
  • D Urho Vaakanainen

As well, forward Robert Lantosi will report to the P-Bruins according to the Bruins’ press release today, September 26th. Along with Petrovic, forwards Paul Carey and Brendan Gaunce were placed on waivers for purpose of AHL assignment and will be likely that they do not get claimed and will join Providence shortly.

As for the list of prospects that were sent back down to the minors, there are not any real surprises. In a few short years, players such as Kyle Keyser, Jeremy Lauzon, Oskar Steen, and Urho Vaakanainen are more likely to join the Boston Bruins as they all show promise to compete in the National Hockey League one day soon. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has said some good things over the course of the past week for Pavel Shen and others listed, but with an already log-jammed roster in Boston – it is not much of a shock to see these specific players sent down.

As many users on Twitter have already mentioned, some key names in the Boston Bruins organization were not included in this round of cuts – leading us to believe that there is a true chance that they may see some NHL time at the beginning of the 2019-20 season, or the Bruins want to see them play in the final preseason contest against Chicago.

Forward Jack Studnicka, forward Trent Frederic, forward Anders Bjork, forward David Backes, defenceman Jakub Zboril, and forward Karson Kuhlman have all survived the cuts, making for a very important game on Saturday. Look for any one of these players to play some of their best hockey to date to fight for one of those final spots on the roster or to, at the very least, impress the bosses to earn a shot at playing in Boston when the inevitable injuries come about.

For the latest on the Boston Bruins regarding injuries, news, and all of the most recent updates – make sure to give me a follow on Twitter (@tkdmaxbjj ) and stay locked on the Black N’ Gold Hockey website for articles from all our staff writers.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 146 that we recorded on 9-22-19 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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Bruins 2019 Prospects Challenge Recap

Bruins rookie camp

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

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

For the fifth year in a row, the Bruins sent a team to participate in the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo. This year’s edition split it right down the middle, finishing with a 1-1-1 record after three games versus prospects from the Penguins, Sabres and Devils organizations. I would like to say that it was a good opportunity for fans of the team to become more familiar with some of their prospects. Unfortunately, that was not the case, unless you were lucky enough to actually attend the Challenge in person.

That’s because the Bruins organization did not see fit to televise or stream any of the games. The Penguins and Sabres streamed the games locally, but most in the Boston area were unable to watch. Fortunately, the Devils broadcast the Monday game on YouTube, and it’s still available for your viewing pleasure. It would be great if the Bruins decided to remedy this situation going forward, but that’s a discussion for another day. On to the actual games.

On Friday afternoon the Bruins took on the Penguins, and the good guys managed to come out on top, 4-3. The game did not start off very well for the Bruins, with the team falling behind 2-0 after goals by Sam Miletic and Pittsburgh first-round pick, Samuel Poulin. Boston bounced back on goals from draft picks Jakub Lauko, and Jack Studnicka and camp invite Scott Conway. The Pens tied it on a score by Nathan Legaré late in the second period. Anders Bjork came to the rescue for the Bruins, scoring the game-winner on the PP with just two seconds left in regulation. It was a good showing for Bjork, who had an assist to go along with his goal. Jack Studnicka also had a score and a helper.

The second game was Saturday evening against the host Buffalo Sabres. The final score was the same as Friday, 4-3, but the hometown boys came out on the short end, despite a great offensive effort by C/W Oskar Steen. Buffalo opened the scoring on a goal by Rasmus Asplund. Steen tied it midway through the second period on a feed from diminutive camp invite Dante Hannoun before the Sabres scored three goals in less than four minutes. Two of the goals came from center Matej Pekar, a fourth-round pick in 2018. The Bruins closed the gap in the third period on two power-play goals, from Steen and QMJHL free agent signing Samuel Asselin. They had a number of good chances to tie the game in the last minute or so with goalie Dan Vladar pulled for the extra attacker. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the equalizer by 2014 draftee Jonas Johansson.

The final game was a breakfast tilt with an unusual 9:30am start time Monday morning against the New Jersey Devils prospects, including first overall pick, Jack Hughes. The Bruins dropped this one in OT, but I felt they were the better team for the majority of the game, particularly at even strength. Both regulation goals by NJ were scored on the PP. The Devils tallied the first goal of the game while on a 5 on 3 PP. I would term the calls that led to the two-man advantage as “generous.” The score came by Nathan Bastian off a tic-tac-toe passing play that goalie Kyle Keyser had no chance at.

The Bruins tied the game with less than 30 seconds to go in the first period on a Dante Hannoun goal (assisted by first pair d-men Urho Vaakanainen and Axel Andersson). Scott Conway put the Bruins ahead 2-1 midway through the second period. That was it for the regulation scoring until 8 seconds remained in the contest. NJ was on the PP (thanks to another iffy penalty call) and had the goaltender pulled when former Merrimack forward Ludvig Larsson tied the game. Larsson scored again, ending it two minutes into the OT, even though Boston had the better of the play and chances.

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the play of Jack Hughes. It’s very early in his pro career, but I have to say, I wasn’t overly impressed. He’s a very good skater, extremely quick, but appeared to be forcing a lot of plays. He fanned on a wide-open chance that would have been the go-ahead goal in the third period. Then in the OT, he failed to make a pass on a great 2 on 1 opportunity. I have no doubt that Hughes is going to be a fantastic player in the league, but I can’t help but think he would have been better off playing in college for at least a year like older brother Quinn. He was overshadowed, at least in this one game, by forwards Jesper Boqvist (36th overall 2017) and Mikhail Maltsev (102nd in 2016) who both played extremely well.

As much fun as it is to watch hockey again, that’s not really the point of these prospect games. With Training Camp starting today, the idea was to get these kids some playing time before training camp and to allow the staff to see if they think any of them can make the jump to the NHL. In the case of the camp invites, the teams want to see if there are any players they should bring on board. I will be basing my observations primarily on the game against NJ. I watched the game Saturday night versus Buffalo as well, but the quality of the stream I found left a little to be desired.

There were no huge surprises, in my opinion, but a few players made good impressions. I’m going to preface everything that comes after this by reminding people that it was only a prospect tournament. Players that performed well aren’t necessarily going to be superstars, and ones that did poorly are not necessarily busts. My colleagues at Black N Gold Hockey are doing a fine job giving in-depth looks at these prospects. There is no need to rehash that, but let’s take a quick look at how some of those prospects acquitted themselves.

 

Forwards:

Most of the kids up front that impressed at the Challenge were the names you would expect. Studnicka (1g/2a in 3gp) and Steen (2g/1a in 3gp) each had three points to lead the team, while Bjork had two points (1g/1a in 2gp). Lauko only had one goal in three games, but played well and showed his speed. Bjork (in the little I saw of him) was moving well and looked strong, which was to be expected given the experience advantage he has over the other prospects. There were few unheralded kids that I thought played well also. Scott Conway and Tommy Marchin, who both have AHL deals in place with PRO for the 2019-20 season were solid. Conway, who played his college hockey at Providence had two goals in his two games. Marchin, a Brown University product was held off the scoresheet, but every time he had the puck, he seemed to make the smart play, even if it was a just a cross-corner dump-in.

The player that surprised me the most this past weekend was an undersized wing, Dante Hannoun. He played his junior hockey for Prince Albert in the generally rugged WHL, and it showed. Despite being only 5’6″, and 165 pounds, he was fearless, taking hits and delivering some to much larger opponents. Hannoun was very quick, displayed a strong base, and was able to protect the puck well. He collected a goal and an assist in his two games and did not look out of place. He has not officially signed a deal yet, but based on comments from Bruins management, it appears that he will be somewhere in the system (possibly Atlanta).

On the flip side, a couple of kids that didn’t really stand out, in my opinion, were Robert Lantosi and Pavel Shen. Lantosi is a 23-year-old right shot wing who averaged more than a point per game in the highest Slovakian league last year. Shen, the Bruins 7th Round pick in 2018 looked a step slow. He was significantly better in the WJC’s this year for Russia, playing against his peers. It could just be that both Lantosi and Shen need time to get acclimated to the smaller ice surfaces and style of play in North America

Defense:

The prospect that stood out on the back end was definitely Cooper Zech. He had two assists in three games, but it was his skating and “escapability” that impressed me the most. He is calm with the puck, makes good decisions, and on the rare occasion when he doesn’t, he’s able to skate his way out of trouble. I think he is going to have a great rookie year in PRO and I’m looking forward to catching as many games as possible. Next up was Urho Vaakaneinen. He started off slow but seemed to get progressively better. Monday was his best game by far. He was very efficient on the defensive side and led several rushes into the offensive zone as well. He’s not flashy, but he moves extremely well and is very efficient.

It’s going to be tough for him to crack the NHL roster, but I believe he’s definitely the first man up in case of injury. Another guy I was really looking forward to seeing was 2018 2nd rounder, Axel Andersson. He only played in Monday’s game and looked a little tentative. The skill is there, and you can see flashes, but I think he just needs to be a little more consistent, which should come in time. Wiley Sherman was decent, but not really noticeable one way or another (which is not always a bad thing for a defenseman). Unfortunately, none of the camp invites on the blue line did much. On the positive side, as long as the contracts get done, the Bruins appear to have plenty of depth on defense at both the NHL and AHL levels.

That’s going to put a wrap on the 2019 Prospects Challenge. There was some good and some bad, but we will get a much better idea about what some of these kids are capable of over the next week or so as they hit the ice with the big boys at Bruins Training Camp. I’m not sure I see any of the guys from the Challenge roster breaking camp with the NHL team, but only time will tell.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 144 that we recorded on 9-8-19 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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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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Donnelly: Top-10 Bruins Prospects

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(Photo: NHL.com)

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.

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

Image result for urho vaakanainen

(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.

Next Man Up: Zdeno Chara Status Uncertain for Bruins in SCF Game 5

charainjury

( Photo Credit: wcvb.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

As the Bruins and Blues prepare for a pivotal game five in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins could be without their captain. In game four at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Zdeno Chara took a puck to the face in the second period that prevented him from returning to the game. Now, Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins might have to adjust to missing their leader for a big game of a tied Stanley Cup Final series.

Just three minutes into the second period of game four, the Bruins lost their captain after Brayden Schenn rifled a shot that ramped off of Chara’s defending stick and into his mouth area. Chara would leave for the second period, and the Bruins were again down to five defensemen much like game two in which they lost in overtime. At the start of the third period, Chara was on the Bruins bench with a full shield on, leading many to believe that the monster defenseman would play. However, he did not touch the ice besides in between TV timeouts to rally up his troops. It was later revealed by Cassidy that Chara was advised not to play as he was “very uncomfortable” but wanted to sit on the bench to be there for his teammates.

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After Ryan O’Reilly buried a late third-period game-winning goal that would ultimately tie the Stanley Cup Finals series at two games apiece, worry crept into Bruins fans’ minds about the status of the Bruins captain. On Tuesday, it was reported that Zdeno Chara broke his jaw as a result and he ultimately missed practice on Wednesday at TD Garden. At the conclusion of Bruins practice, Cassidy spoke about Chara’s facial injury and that it was not a good sign that Zee was not on the ice on Wednesday.

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So, all signs are pointing to Big Zee potentially being out for at least game five in this series. That leaves Bruce Cassidy with some very tough decisions heading into arguably the biggest game of the series and the season for both the Bruins and the Blues. With Grzelcyk going down after a hard hit from Oskar Sundqvist in game two, John Moore was called on to step in and replace Grzelcyk on the blue line. The next man up that we have seen step up in these playoffs would be Steven Kampfer. However, Cassidy has second-guessed the insertion of Kampfer because he is a right-handed shot and would throw off the right-left balance between Kampfer and Connor Clifton – a balance that is consistent with the rest of the defense.

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Another option would be for Cassidy to insert Bruins rookie standout Urho Vaakanainen into the lineup. Urho would solve the right-left shot balance as he is a left-handed shooting defenseman. However, this could be a risky move as Vaakanainen has only played two regular season games in the NHL.

The third option for Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff is to roll eleven forwards and seven defensemen. This, of course, would mean that a forward would be scratched in order to make room for the seventh defenseman which would likely be David Backes as he was often the odd forward out in the earlier rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Karson Kuhlman was with Krejci and DeBrusk on the second line. The Blues have beaten the Bruins twice this series, and both times the Bruins have lost defenseman for a big chunk of the game when they lost Grzelcyk in the first period of game two and Chara at the beginning of the second period of game four.

On Wednesday, the practice lines looked like this:

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes
Johansson – Coyle – Heinen
Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari
Moore – McAvoy
Krug – Carlo
Kampfer – Clifton
Grzelcyk – Vaakanainen
Rask
Halak

As of Wednesday, Cassidy stated that Grzelcyk still needs to be cleared which he is possible to get cleared tomorrow. It appears that Kampfer would play with Clifton in game five, but that will ultimately depend on if Cassidy wants to remove a forward and go with the seven defensemen, if Grzelcyk is cleared, or if Vaakanainen gets the call over Kampfer. Good news is that Grzelcyk looked well on the ice and that he skated with the second powerplay unit indicating that he is close but still needs to be cleared.

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All in all, Cassidy is in for a series of crucial tough decisions for the all-important game five at TD Garden on Thursday night. If Chara is unable to go for game five, the Bruins will undoubtedly miss his leadership on and off the ice.