The top prospects of the Boston Bruins have a daunting task ahead of them: trying to crack an already stacked lineup with no glaring weaknesses that made it to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
You might say their chances of making the fall roster are the same as Alex Ovechkin winning the Selke Trophy.
Damn near impossible.
The youngsters in Providence will have to showcase something special in order to skate on the ice at TD Garden in the upcoming season. But if the unexpected happens and someone gets called up, what should be expected of them?
Here are the most exciting parts of each top prospects' game:
Smith, who was dealt to Boston in the Tyler Seguin deal, has 40 games of NHL experience including 37 during last year's shortened tilt.
He had an excellent campaign in the minors before getting called up, winning AHL Rookie of the Month for December. The left-handed shot had eight goals and six helpers for 14 points in as many games to earn the award.
Smith doesn't have daunting size, strength or exceptional speed. But he can finish around the net with ease. He uses his quick hands to get his shot off, especially in tight areas around the crease.
He won't overpower the opposition with a booming shot on the power play, but his quick release translates well for even-strength play with traffic in front of the net.
Alexander Khokhlachev, drafted 40th overall in 2011, is dazzling to watch. He has the size and speed to compete at the next level and Bruins fans should hope he doesn't bolt for the KHL before getting a shot with Boston.
The most exciting part of the young Russian's game is when he turns on the jets and stick-handles his way to the net. His patented move is to go wide as he crosses the blue line and curl below the face-off circles on his way to the crease. His brash entrances into the offensive zone are reminiscent of his countrymen Evgeni Malkin and Nail Yakupov.
Khokhlachev has dynamic vision, and his speed draws defenders to him, allowing the trailer to be open in the high slot. More times than not, he manages to score, dish the puck to a teammate or create a rebound opportunity off his initial shot. If Khokhlachev can consistently produce one of those three scenarios when he rushes, the Bruins coaching staff will have something to think about next season.
The skill that every defenseman must have is Joe Morrow's best, and that's being able to move the puck up the ice—especially on the power play.
The No. 23 overall pick from the 2011 draft is now on his third team in three years, and most likely won't crack the Bruins lineup this season. But when he does, expect a skilled defenseman that will get the puck to his wingers in good position to continue up ice.
Advancing the puck up the ice seems like an obvious skill to have—and it is, but it's not truly appreciated until a team can't get into the offensive zone on a power play. Bad breakouts, turnovers and suicide passes for forwards are crushing for young defenseman, especially on the man advantage. Don't expect to see any of those from Morrow when he finally dons the black and gold.
Drafted No. 24 overall in 2012, Subban recently completed a three-year career with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League and will join the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Rhode Island this fall.
The 19-year-old has an exciting style of play—he's agile, moves quickly, and flashes the leather. However, he's not as fundamentally sound as other prospects, and as hockeysfuture.com notes, he has come under fire for his technique, which is "less refined than others."
However, he's still one of Boston's elite prospects and it will be interesting to see how Boston handles his development in the minors. If Tuukka Rask continues to play the way the Bruins expect him to in the next several years, Subban could be trade bait down the line. But because he's so young, expect to see him in the Bruins organization for some time.
If and when Subban defends the pipes at TD Garden, expect to see a show.
Ryan Spooner, the Bruins' top prospect heading into the 2013-14 season, is a gifted offensive center who is comfortable both as a goal scorer and playmaker.
He led Providence in scoring last season with 57 points in 59 games and cracked the Boston lineup in four contests, going scoreless in each.
Spooner was among the final cuts that the Bruins made at last fall's training camp, and it's unlikely he'll make the opening day roster, but boy is he a gem for the future.
Described by hockeysfuture.com as "masterful at carrying the puck," there's no questioning the smoothness in which Spooner plays the game. He skates with his head up, sees the game unfold in front of him and more times than not makes the right play.
His puck possession allows his teammates to create space for themselves and be open for passes. Whoever plays wing with Spooner will see their productivity increase as a result of skating with him.