Boston Bruins: Updated Prospect Rankings

Chris Blanchard@@BlanchardNHLContributor IIIJuly 11, 2013

Boston Bruins: Updated Prospect Rankings

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    Since the last edition of our Boston Bruins prospect rankings came out in February, the Bruins' pool of young talent has received a major shake-up. 

    Defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug have each graduated to the senior level, and they should be considered full-fledged NHL players from now on. As they continue their hockey journeys with the big club, new blood has entered the system by way of both draft and trade. 

    The Bruins selected six players at the 2013 entry draft in New Jersey, and a few of them are likely to emerge as top prospects in the near future. GM Peter Chiarelli also restocked the cupboard with three high-end prospects acquired in the Tyler Seguin Trade. 

    Following a 2012-13 season in which the Providence Bruins finished with the AHL's best record, here is a look at Boston's top 15 prospects: 

    All statistics courtesy of Elite Prospects

15. Ryan Fitzgerald

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    Most Recent Team: Valley Jr. Warriors, EJHL 

    Age: 18

    Drafted: Fourth Round, 120th Overall, 2013

    Massachusetts native Ryan Fitzgerald comes from a superb hockey bloodline. The 18-year-old is the cousin of future Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk, and his father Tom spent the final season of his 17-year NHL career in Boston. 

    The 5'10" center was expected by many, including TSN's Craig Button, to be selected sometime in the second round, so the Bruins could have a steal on their hands with the fourth-round pick. His excellent vision and hands could make him a quality playmaker at the NHL level. 

    A long-term project, Fitzgerald will join the Boston College Eagles in the fall, and he will likely spend the next four years developing as part of the NCAA powerhouse. If you can't wait to see him at the TD Garden, he will take the ice there for the annual Beanpot Tournament and the Hockey East Tournament in each of the next few seasons. 

    2012-13 Stats:

    Valley Jr. WarriorsEJHL26141630

14. Matt Grzelcyk

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    Most Recent Team: Boston University, NCAA-Hockey East

    Age: 19

    Drafted: Third Round, 85th Overall, 2012

    Much like his new opponent in the BU-BC rivalry, Ryan Fitzgerald, BU's Matt Grzelcyk is an undersized player with elite hockey sense and hands. Employing his skills on the blue line, Grzelcyk excelled in his first season at Boston University. 

    He ranked behind just two Hockey East defensemen in points and finished fifth among all conference freshmen with 23 points in 38 games. A high-end version of former Terrier and fellow Bruins prospect David Warsofsky, Grzelcyk has a chance to be a very good playmaking defenseman in the NHL. His skill on the power play could be especially valuable in Boston. 

    The 19-year-old was the last cut from the American team that won World Junior gold in January, which should motivate him to improve tremendously in his sophomore season at BU. He will likely remain on campus until he graduates in 2016, and he should make the leap to the NHL immediately after. 

    2012-13 Stats:

    Boston UniversityNCAA3832023+12

13. Peter Cehlarik

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    Most Recent Team: Luleå HF, SHL

    Age: 17

    Drafted: Third Round, 90th Overall, 2013

    The most electrifying member of Boston's 2013 draft class, Peter Cehlarik can score in bunches. The sizable, though not particularly physical, winger has hands capable of making him a star. 

    The 17-year-old Slovakian is very raw, only recently making the jump from the Swedish junior ranks to  the country's top league. In his eight career top-flight games, Cehlarik has looked comfortable and confident with three goals and three assists. With one of those goals, he became the youngest player in the history of Luleå HF to score a goal in the top division. 

    With a full season in the SHL ahead, Cehlarik will have an excellent opportunity to hone his craft against grown men. If he can emulate Carl Soderberg's goal-scoring success in Scandinavia, he could expedite his path to Boston, but regardless of how his 2013-14 season goes, it will be a while before Boston fans will get see the high-upside European in the NHL. 

    2012-13 Stats: 

    Luleå J20SuperElit38172037-1

12. Linus Arnesson

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    Most Recent Team: Djurgårdens IF, Allsvenskan

    Age: 18

    Drafted: Second Round, 60th Overall, 2013

    Boston's first selection in the 2013 draft, Linus Arnesson is far from exciting, but what he lacks in flare, he makes up for in fundamental excellence. 

    The conservative defenseman is very strong in his own zone, although he doesn't offer much at the other end. He has little in common with free wheeling future teammates Dougie Hamilton or Torey Krug, but he should be a reliable blue-liner in Boston. 

    According to Elite Prospects:

    Arnesson is not flashy at all, but always gets the job done... [He] has some offensive upside, and will join the rush at times, but it is his overall sound defensive game that makes him a stand out prospect.

    The trustworthy Arnesson looked strong in Sweden's second division this past season and could be the eventual replacement for stylistically similar defenseman Dennis Seidenberg in a few years. 

    2012-13 Stats:

    Djurgårdens IFAllsvenskan31011-3
    Djurgårdens IF J20SuperElit13134+2
    Sweden WJC60000

11. Jared Knight

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    Most Recent Team: Providence Bruins, AHL

    Age: 21 

    Drafted: Second Round, 32nd Overall, 2010

    Like Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, Jared Knight was selected with a draft pick acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade. Though he has always been overshadowed by Seguin and Hamilton, Knight has long been considered a top prospect.

    After a few superb seasons with the OHL's London Knights, the winger joined the pro ranks this year, but the season did not go as planned. Hampered throughout the year by injuries, Knight played just 10 regular-season games for the Providence Bruins.  

    A grinding winger with top-six upside, Knight could have been in line to reach the NHL this fall if not for the lost season. Forced to worry more about getting back on the ice than developing his game, Knight's growth as player may have been stunted. 

    He is one of Boston's most talented youngsters, but his health will be a major concern moving forward.

    2012-13 Stats:

    Providence BruinsAHL10123+3

10. Seth Griffith

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    Most Recent Team: London Knights, OHL

    Age: 20

    Drafted: Fifth Round, 131st Overall, 2012

    One of the Ontario Hockey League's most prolific scorers over the last few years, Seth Griffith can be lethal in the offensive zone. 

    Despite lacking ideal size and speed, the hyper-competitive center racked up 81 points in just 54 games this year. Though Griffith's scoring rate slowed down as the year went on, he never dipped below a point-per-game in any month. 

    In November, Griffith was an unstoppable force. With 27 points in just 14 games, he suggested that he might be the biggest steal of the 2012 draft. 

    Griffith could trade London, Ontario for Providence, Rhode Island this fall, and if he continues to light up the scoreboard, he might have a small chance to make his NHL debut this season. Gifted with elite vision and a top-notch shot, Griffith has enough upside to potentially become a big star in Boston

    2012-13 Stats:

    London KnightsOHL54334881+18

9. Reilly Smith

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    Most Recent Team: Texas Stars, AHL

    Age: 22

    Drafted: Third Round, 69th Overall, 2009 (Dallas Stars)

    Likely the least familiar name in the blockbuster trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas, Reilly Smith has instantly become a key figure in Boston's farm system. 

    Smith is an instinctive winger who finds space with ease, and his excellent shot should pay off down the road. The 22-year-old has 40 games of NHL experience under his belt, and he put up nine points in 2013 while spending most of the season with the Dallas Stars. 

    According to Hockey's Future:

    He has very good vision and can skate well – his offensive instincts are top-notch. Smith is a noted finisher with a quick shot.

    As a Bruin, Smith will likely be given more time to develop and bulk up in the AHL, time that would not have been afforded to him in Dallas. Though he'll be near the top of Boston's call-up list this season, he won't likely be a regular at the TD Garden for a year or two. 

    2012-13 Stats:

    Texas StarsAHL45142135+13
    Dallas StarsNHL373690

8. Jordan Caron

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    Most Recent Team: Providence Bruins, AHL

    Age: 22

    Drafted: First Round, 25th Overall, 2009

    Jordan Caron is something of an enigma in the Boston farm system. The former first-round pick has long been considered Boston's most NHL-ready prospect, but at the same time he is relatively short on upside. 

    After being expected to establish himself in the NHL over the past two seasons, Caron has reached a make or break point in his career. With the vacant third line right wing spot in Boston calling his name, it is time for him to step up or get out of town. 

    The grinding winger is a tremendous asset on the penalty kill, but his lack of production on offense is troubling. With 88 career NHL games under his belt, Caron looks destined to be a third- or fourth-line winger in the long run, but his permanent stay in the NHL shouldn't be far off. 

    2012-13 Stats: 

    Providence BruinsAHL4711718-5
    Boston BruinsNHL17123+1

7. Anthony Camara

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    Most Recent Team: Barrie Colts, OHL

    Age: 19

    Drafted: Third Round, 81st Overall, 2011

    Once considered to be little more than a punishing hitter, Anthony Camara proved that he can score with the best of them this season. He nearly doubled his point total from the previous year despite playing in 16 fewer games, and as a result he now looks like a future top-six winger. 

    Playing alongside Winnipeg Jets top prospect Mark Scheifele in Barrie, Camara scored 36 goals, adding nine more in the postseason. Comparisons to Milan Lucic might be unfair for the 19-year-old, but they are unavoidable considering Camara's tendency to deliver big goals and even bigger hits. 

    One of junior hockey's most intimidating players over the past few years, he will likely bring his bruising brand of hockey to the Providence this fall, and the rest of the AHL must be terrified. Though he is still raw, he could add his own chapter to the legend of the Big Bad Bruins in a year or two. 

    2012-13 Stats:

    Barrie ColtsOHL50362460+17

6. Matt Fraser

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    Most Recent Team: Texas Stars, AHL

    Age: 23

    Drafted: Undrafted

    Overshadowed by Loui Eriksson and Joe Morrow in the Tyler Seguin deal, Matt Fraser could someday make Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli look like a genius. 

    As a member of the Texas Stars, Fraser finished second in the AHL in goals scored in each of the last two seasons. His grand total of 70 strikes leads all AHL players in that span. 

    The undrafted 23-year-old has clawed his way to the top of minor league hockey, and he could be on the brink of NHL stardom. Fraser spent 12 games with Dallas Stars last year, and he just might snatch a spot on the Bruins' third line with a strong training camp this fall. 

    Described by New England Hockey Journal's Kirk Luedeke as a player who has a "fast release on a bullet shot, and goes hard to the net", Fraser could be a big boost to the Bruins offense

    A true warrior who loves the physical aspect of the game, Fraser has the potential to be a superb power forward at the next level. If the Bruins send him to Providence this fall, it's a foregone conclusion that he will lead the team in goals while improving on his playmaking and defensive game. 

    2012-13 Stats:

    Texas StarsAHL62331346+13
    Dallas StarsNHL121120

5. Joe Morrow

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    Most Recent Team: Texas Stars, AHL

    Age: 20

    Drafted: First Round, 23rd Overall, 2011 (Pittsburgh Penguins)

    Joe Morrow has a lot in common with Bruins youngster Dougie Hamilton. Both defensemen were selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, and both excel in the offensive zone. 

    Morrow is a superb skater with a rocket shot that should make him an excellent power-play weapon in the NHL. The 6'1" prospect still has work to do on his defensive game, but he should soon join Hamilton, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Adam McQuaid in Boston's rapidly emerging defensive corps of the future. 

    Hockey's Future heaped the following praise on the youngster:

    Playing with poise and maturity far beyond his years, Morrow possesses the ability to retrieve the puck from his own zone and start the play up ice. His puck-distribution ability is top notch and he has a hard and heavy shot that typically hits the net. He also owns a high hockey IQ and does an excellent job of keeping his head up when moving the puck up ice and carrying it along the blue line.

    After being traded twice in less than four months, Morrow should benefit from some stability. As a result, he should spend most of next season in Providence, afforded plenty of time to hone his craft by Boston's depth at the NHL level. 

    2012-13 Stats

    Wilkes-Barre Scranton PenguinsAHL5741115-7
    Texas StarsAHL9134+3
    Playing with poise and maturity far beyond his years, Morrow possesses the ability to retrieve the puck from his own zone and start the play up ice. His puck-distribution ability is top notch and he has a hard and heavy shot that typically hits the net. He also owns a high hockey IQ and does an excellent job of keeping his head up when moving the puck up ice and carrying it along the blue line.
    Playing with poise and maturity far beyond his years, Morrow possesses the ability to retrieve the puck from his own zone and start the play up ice. His puck-distribution ability is top notch and he has a hard and heavy shot that typically hits the net. He also owns a high hockey IQ and does an excellent job of keeping his head up when moving the puck up ice and carrying it along the blue line.

4. Alexander Khokhlachev

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    Most Recent Team: Providence Bruins, AHL

    Age: 19

    Drafted: Second Round, 40th Overall, 2011

    Back in April, Alexander Khokhlachev was practically a Calgary Flame until Jarome Iginla opted to join Pittsburgh instead of Boston. "Koko" was the top prospect involved in the proposed Iginla deal that was also set to include Matt Bartkowski and a first-round pick. 

    The Bruins must be ecstatic to now have both Iginla and Khokhlachev on their roster, especially considering the Russian teenager could be a perfect replacement for the future Hall of Famer in a few years. 

    After dominating in a brief return to the Ontario Hockey League, the former second-round pick finished his 2012-13 season in Providence where he managed just three points in 11 games, but the winger should be given the opportunity to improve his AHL numbers with a full season in Providence starting this fall. 

    Khokhlachev, who struggled in his home country's KHL last fall, has looked less effective against older players than he has when skating with kids his own age, but the Russian described by Hockey's Future as a "slick puck carrier, creative passer and courageous goal scorer" may have the most upside of any forward in Boston's system. 

    2012-13 Stats:

    Spartak MoscowKHL262570
    Windsor SpitfiresOHL29222648-8
    Providence BruinsAHL112130

3. Niklas Svedberg

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    Most Recent Team: Providence Bruins, AHL

    Age: 23

    Drafted: Free Agent

    In just one year, Niklas Svedberg has gone from undrafted free agent to elite prospect. The Swedish netminder arrived in Providence last summer after leading Brynäs IF to a championship in his native country, and he immediately blew out incumbent Michael Hutchinson in the battle for Providence's starting job. 

    Svedberg then went wire-to-wire as the best goaltender in the American Hockey League, leading Providence to the league's best regular-season record. For his efforts, he was awarded the coveted Baz Bastien Award as the AHL's most outstanding player between the pipes. Past recipients of the award include Ryan Miller and Corey Schneider. 

    A battler in the net, Svedberg ranked third in the league in save percentage and fifth in goals-against average. After such a remarkable season, the 23-year-old is in line for a big promotion. He could be the man to take over the departed Anton Khudobin's role as Tuukka Rask's backup in Boston. If not, he should make the P-Bruins a Calder Cup contender once again. 

    2012-13 Stats

    Providence BruinsAHL4837-8-22.17.925

2. Malcolm Subban

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    Most Recent Team: Belleville Bulls, OHL

    Age: 19

    Drafted: First Round, 24th Overall, 2012

    The Bruins' most recent first-round pick, Malcolm Subban was electric this past season in the Ontario Hockey League. The lights-out 19-year-old almost single-handedly carried the Belleville Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference behind mediocre goal support. 

    While his older brother P.K. won the Norris Trophy in Montreal, Malcolm led the OHL in both save percentage and goals-against average, solidifying himself as the elite junior league's best netminder. 

    Subban's one low-light of the season came in Russia, where Team Canada failed to medal at the World Junior Championships. Subban was adequate in net, but a blowout semifinal loss to the gold-medal winning Americans brought intense criticism on all of Canada's top NHL prospects. 

    With nothing left to prove at the junior level, Subban is likely to go pro in the fall. That said, don't expect to see him in Boston anytime soon. The young goalie has exceptional athleticism and natural talent, but he will spend at least a few years developing his game in Providence before debuting at the TD Garden. 

    2012/13 Stats:

    Belleville BullsOHL4629-11-42.14.934

1. Ryan Spooner

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    Most Recent Team: Providence Bruins, AHL

    Age: 21

    Drafted: Second Round, 45th Overall, 2010

    Center Ryan Spooner currently holds the coveted title of top prospect in Boston's system. The 21-year-old enjoyed tremendous success in his first professional season, leading all AHL rookies in points. 

    His 57 points also ranked first among Providence skaters, suggesting that he might be ready for a new challenge. Spooner was called up for four games in the NHL this past season, but he failed to get on the scoresheet. 

    Praised for his intelligence and creativity by Hockey's Future, Spooner should fit perfectly into Boston's possession-focused offense sometime soon. Unfortunately a logjam at the center position in Boston could keep Spooner in Rhode Island for the moment, but when a chance arises, he should be ready to seize the opportunity. 

    Spooner projects to be a top-six center who can make plays in bunches, though he'll likely get his NHL start on the Bruins' third line at some point. He could wind up in Boston in time for opening day if he can convince Claude Julien that he can play on the wing, where the Bruins are currently hunting for talent. 

    2012-13 Stats:

    Providence BruinsAHL59174057+14
    Boston BruinsNHL40000