6 Boston Bruins Prospects Who Can Make an Impact in the NHL Right Away

Chris Blanchard@@BlanchardNHLContributor IIIDecember 13, 2012

6 Boston Bruins Prospects Who Can Make an Impact in the NHL Right Away

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    Considering that GM Peter Chiarelli has managed to hold on to much of his youthful Cup winning core from 2011, the Boston Bruins may not need much help from their prospects this season.

    However, they have plenty of talent waiting in the wings, if necessary. 

    The Bruins' minor-league affiliate team in Providence is sporting a number of strong candidates seeking NHL work this season. A few other high-upside prospects are honing their craft in the Ontario Hockey League. 

    Here are six prospects who could make a meaningful impact in the NHL this season.

Dougie Hamilton

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    Current Team: Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)

    Age: 19 years old

    Drafted: First Round, Ninth Overall, 2011

    Unanimously considered to be the Bruins' top prospect, Dougie Hamilton is expected to jump straight to the NHL at the end of the 2012 NHL lockout. With a rare combination of ideal size and elite offensive upside, Hamilton should see regular minutes on the Bruins' point. 

    Listed by Hockey's Future as the no. 3 prospect in the world, Hamilton is projected to be a superstar in Boston, eventually taking over for perennial Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara as the Bruins' top defender. 

    Hamilton leads OHL defensemen in scoring for the second straight year with 41 points in 32 games. Known as a tremendous offensive force who can quarterback the power play and rip lasers from the point, Hamilton's defensive game is often overlooked. 

    At 6'5", he is a gigantic physical defender who plays a very strong game in his own zone. He currently ranks sixth in the OHL with a plus-24 rating. 

    Named the best defenseman in all of Canadian junior hockey last spring, Hamilton has only improved this season. He is coming off of a blistering November, in which he put up 21 points in just 13 games and earned OHL Defenseman of the Month honors.

    Barring the welcome arrival of an NHL season in late December or early January, Hamilton is a lock to star for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. As soon as the lockout is resolved, Hamilton will become a mainstay in black and gold.

    Without a doubt, he will deliver big hits and rack up a whole lot of points. 

Ryan Spooner

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    Current Team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

    Age: 20 years old

    Drafted: Second Round, 45th Overall, 2010

    Ryan Spooner has displayed plenty of offensive talent this fall in his first professional season. Spooner will likely make his Boston debut in a part-time capacity this season. 

    Spooner ranks second on the P-Bruins in both goals (five) and points (15) through 21 games. 

    Hockey's Future, which has compared Spooner's style of play to that of Claude Giroux, has said the following about the Ontario Hockey League product:

    Slick, fast and creative, Ryan Spooner is an offensive-minded, puck-possession player. Masterful at carrying the puck, making defenders miss with paralyzing one-on-one moves and then finding the open man. He’s the kind of player who makes his linemates better. Praised profusely by Boston’s head coach Claude Julien for his intelligence.

    The center's audition should come on Boston's third or fourth line soon after the lockout ends, and if injury strikes or the Bruins trade a center at the deadline, Spooner could see an expanded workload. 

    Given the opportunity, he has the skills necessary to make a significant contribution to Boston's scoring depth. 

Chris Bourque

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    Current Team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

    Age: 26 years old

    Drafted: Second Round, 33rd Overall, 2004 (by Washington Capitals)

    26-year-old Chris Bourque has always had talent, yet he has failed to stick in the NHL in seven professional seasons. The son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque, he will hope to finally fulfill his potential in Boston. 

    The winger's finest moment came in Boston's very own TD Garden back in 2005 when he scored the overtime winner to give Boston University the coveted Beanpot. A summer trade that brought him to Boston in exchange for first-round bust Zach Hamill, who was sent to the Capitals, will give him perhaps his last chance to be a regular NHL player. 

    Bourque has spent the better part of the last decade as one of the AHL's best players.

    He led the league in points (93) with the Hershey Bears last season and is a three-time Calder Cup champion. He has 411 points in 414 career AHL games. However, his minor-league dominance has not translated into NHL success. 

    In 33 NHL games split between Washington and Pittsburgh, he has just one goal and three assists. For some unknown reason, his talent has failed to translate to the big leagues. 

    This season, Bourque is leading the P-Bruins in scoring with 18 points in 22 games. He leads Providence in shots on goal but did not inherit his father's trademark accuracy. He has only struck the twine on a measly 2.8 percent of his shots. 

    He has undeniable talent and will likely get a few call-ups in 2013, but it remains to be seen which Chris Bourque will show up. 

Jordan Caron

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    Current Team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

    Age: 22 years old

    Drafted: First Round, 25th Overall, 2009

    Jordan Caron has found himself in a frustrating limbo for the past few seasons. The former first-round pick has been favored to claim a permanent spot in the Boston lineup in each of the past two seasons. 

    Unfortunately, Caron has struggled in numerous NHL stints and finds himself once again relegated to Providence. 

    With just 22 points in 71 NHL games, he has faced constant criticism.

    But perhaps his detractors have spoken unjustly. 

    Caron may lack the offensive skills expected from a first-round pick, but he is a superb defensive player. Bruins Daily's Chris Chirichiello offered Caron the following praise at the end of last season: 

    Although he only notched seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 48 games played, he blocked dozens of shots and was not afraid to use his body.  He had 64 hits and most importantly was a tremendous asset on the Bruins penalty-kill. He is a very scrappy, hard-nosed player who is not afraid to put his body in front of the opposing team’s net to help his team. 

    His defensive ability makes him an ideal fit on Boston's third or fourth line, and he'll be given every opportunity to earn the regular spot that has eluded him in the past. 

Niklas Svedberg

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    Current Team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

    Age: 23 years old

    Drafted: Undrafted

    Niklas Svedberg has been Providence's biggest surprise this season. Signed as a free agent in the summer after leading Brynäs IF to the Elitserien crown in his home country of Sweden, Svedberg has adjusted quickly to life in North America. 

    He stole the starting job in the Providence net from Michael Hutchinson with a brilliant first month in black and gold. Now firmly established as the P-Bruins' top netminder, he is leading the team up the standings. 

    He has been in net for 10 of Providence's 12 wins and ranks among the league's Top 10 goalies in both goals-against average (2.34) and save percentage (0.921). 

    With 2012 first-round pick Malcolm Subban not yet ready to play in the NHL, Svedberg sits third on Boston's goaltending depth chart behind Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin. 

    If injury strikes in the Boston crease, expect Svedberg to make his NHL debut. If he builds on the form that has seen him become an instant star in the AHL, he could have a bright future ahead. 

Torey Krug

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    Current Team: Providence Bruins (AHL)

    Age: 21 years old

    Drafted: Undrafted

    The former captain of the Michigan State University Spartans made his NHL debut late last season. He suited up for two games and recorded one assist. He could see much more action in Boston this season. 

    The 5'9" defenseman is considerably undersized, but he certainly isn't lacking in talent. Although he was named the CCHA's Best Offensive Defenseman in 2011, he has a rock-solid two-way game. 

    Hockey's Future said the following about him:

    Torey Krug is a small puck-moving defenseman with a big heart. Most undersized defenseman are offense first, but that is not the case with Krug who will do whatever it takes to win; block a shot, take a hit to make a play, or battle in the corners. When he does activate offensively, he uses his outstanding skating ability to join the rush and act as a fourth attacker, but he’s smart about limiting the amount of risks he takes. He has excellent distribution skills and will eventually be an option on the power play.

    Krug has legitimate top-four talent, but there will always be questions about his size and ability to handle power forwards.

    Considering that three of Boston's top six defensemen are over the age of 30, new blueliners will be desperately needed in the near future.

    Alongside the much larger Dougie Hamilton, Krug could become a key member of the Bruins' next generation of defensemen.