Predicting Which Boston Bruins Prospects Will Make the 2013-14 Roster
Though few spots are open for the Bruins' top prospects, Claude Julien will be looking for a third-line winger and a backup goalie.
Beyond those two vacancies, a pair of spots will be available for reserve players on the 23-man roster.
So who has the edge with camp approaching? Here's the early projection of where the B's prospects will fall.
Jordan Caron is expected to earn a roster spot once again this fall, although he failed to establish himself with the big club in each of the past few seasons.
The 22-year-old winger has his eye on Rich Peverley's vacated spot on Boston's third line, and the former first-round pick is on the short list to slot in alongside Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg.
Caron's offensive upside is virtually nonexistent at this stage of his career, but his impact on the defensive end is superb.
As a potential penalty-kill asset, Caron offers something his competitors can't.
However, he posted a meager three points in 17 NHL appearances last year, and his total of 18 points in 47 games with Providence was hardly any better.
Bruins Daily considers Caron to be the odds-on favorite to become Boston's third right winger, but he could struggle in open competition. Ryan Spooner, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser each seem certain to provide more depth scoring, which could keep Caron off the ice in Boston.
Verdict: Jordan Caron will be a member of the Boston Bruins in October, but fans won't see much of him. According to CapGeek, he signed a yearlong one-way deal this summer that will require him to pass through waivers before returning to the AHL. As a result, Caron's days in Providence are almost certainly over, even if he fails to nab the third-line gig.
Caron should fit nicely as a Boston reserve.
Joe Morrow has a lot in common with new teammate Dougie Hamilton, suggesting that he might be ready to join his fellow 20-year-old on Boston's blue line.
Both Morrow and Hamilton were selected in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft, and both are slick-skating offensive defensemen worthy of power-play minutes.
Morrow has the most upside of the three prospects acquired from Dallas in the Tyler Seguin deal, but the raw blueliner still needs time to develop his game.
Though he is already an offensive force, Morrow needs to become more reliable in his own zone before making the jump to the NHL. He is not far away, but Boston's superb defensive corps simply has no openings at the moment.
Verdict: In addition to Hamilton, youngsters Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski should fill all of the open spots on Boston's back end. Morrow would likely snag a spot on many NHL blue lines, but Boston doesn't have room for him right now.
He will get a look in the event of injury, but for now he'll be afforded some quality time to hone his game in the AHL.
Reilly Smith has one big advantage heading into camp: He spent nearly the entire season in the NHL last year.
The 22-year-old donned a Dallas Stars jersey 37 times in the shortened season, giving him a major edge in terms of experience.
Despite seeing plenty of action, Smith only notched three goals and six assists at the NHL level. He was far more successful in the minor leagues, posting 35 points in 45 games for the Texas Stars.
The former University of Miami (Ohio) captain can shoot the puck far better than Jordan Caron. Though he won't be killing penalties, his offensive upside might net him an opportunity in Boston.
NHL.com's Corey Masisak projects that Smith will win the third-line spot, and, given the chance, he might be ready for a breakout season.
Verdict: Two of Smith's primary rivals in camp will be Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser, neither of whom are true right wingers. Smith's familiarity with the right side will give him a big advantage.
Like Jordan Caron, he should make the team, but his ice time will depend on how well he performs in camp.
Anthony Camara exploded offensively last season for the OHL's Barrie Colts, which could give him a slight chance to crack the NHL lineup this season.
One of junior hockey's hardest hitters, Camara once projected to be an enforcer at the NHL level. However, with 60 points in 50 OHL games last season, Camara proved that he does have legitimate offensive upside.
Despite the fact that he did a superb impression of Milan Lucic in juniors, he won't make his NHL debut without a spectacular training camp.
The 19-year-old is very raw and could spend two or three years in Providence before establishing himself in Boston. A call-up in 2013-14 isn't out of the question, but it's not likely.
Verdict: Camara isn't ready to compete with more mature competition for Boston's third-line spot, but the big-hitting winger will be fun to watch in the AHL this season.
Matt Fraser could be the hidden gem of the Tyler Seguin trade five years from now. The undrafted winger has dominated in the AHL for the last two seasons and could be ready for a bigger challenge.
Fraser's 70 tallies for the Texas Stars over the last two years rank first among AHLers in that span. His hard-nosed, aggressive style of play could make him a star in Boston.
According to Bruins.com's Caryn Switaj, Fraser will be in the hunt to replace Rich Peverley, though it would likely require him to move from left to right wing.
The 23-year-old will be more of a defensive liability than Jordan Caron, but his goal-scoring prowess could be a game-changer. Of all the players in the mix, Fraser may have the most upside down the road.
If Claude Julien is feeling lucky, he'll take a risk on Fraser.
Verdict: Although his two-way game could use work, his prolific goal-scoring should earn him an NHL roster spot. He'll be at a disadvantage against true right wingers, unless Carl Soderberg replaces Chris Kelly at center.
If Kelly slides over to right wing, Fraser could become a lock to play every night.
Alexander Khokhlachev brings loads of offensive upside to the table, and the Russian could make his mark in Boston's top six fairly soon. However, the 2011 second-rounder is a long shot to see NHL ice this season.
He was the key prospect in the botched Jarome Iginla trade, and the Bruins are certainly glad to have both him and Iginla in the fold now.
Khokhlachev stood out once again for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires last winter, posting 48 points in 29 games, but an autumn stint in his home country raised concerns about his NHL readiness.
The Russian starlet tried his hand in the KHL before representing his country in the World Junior Championships, and he struggled against older competitors.
In 26 games against full-grown professionals, Khokhlachev posted just seven points. A year or two in Providence should bring him up to speed.
Verdict: Khokhlachev will have to put on a clinic at training camp to make the team this year, and that is not likely to happen. The 19-year-old will almost certainly spend the season in the AHL.
Jared Knight would probably be the favorite for Boston's third-line right wing spot, if not for an injury-plagued 2012-13 season.
After a sparkling junior career with the OHL's London Knights, the 2010 second-rounder was expected to play a starring role for the Providence Bruins last season. However, injuries restricted him to just 10 appearances.
The gutsy winger would be a perfect fit for the job, but Bruins brass may determine that another year in Providence may be necessary to correct his stunted development.
If Knight has made the most of his offseason, he will be ready to compete in camp. After a lost season, however, he isn't likely to take the ice on Oct. 3.
Verdict: Having played so little competitive hockey in the last 12 months, Knight will need to make up for lost time in Providence before moving up to the big show.
As the Bruins' top prospect, one might think that Ryan Spooner is a shoo-in for promotion. However, Spooner is in a tough spot.
As a center, Spooner finds himself behind Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Gregory Campbell on the depth chart—meaning he will probably have to move to the wing in order play NHL hockey this season.
He was superb as an AHL rookie last season, leading all first-year players with 57 points, and he is probably the best player heading into camp without a guaranteed roster spot.
There is little debate over his NHL readiness despite his failure to get on the scoresheet in four big league games last season. He'll make the cut if he can adapt to right wing quickly, otherwise he'll be leading another hunt for the Calder Cup.
Verdict: Spooner's NHL hopes will get a major boost if Gregory Campbell isn't ready for the season opener. According to NESN's John Beattie, Campbell's broken ankle is healing slower than expected.
If a center spot is open, Spooner will win it by default. If not, he will face an uphill battle.
Chad Johnson, who is 27 years old, will be one of the competitors to replace Anton Khudobin as Boston's backup goalie. The summer signing has played just five NHL games, but a solid minor league resume could help him crack the lineup.
In four starts for the Phoenix Coyotes last season, Johnson posted a .954 save percentage and a 2-0-2 record. Though the sample size is admittedly tiny, Johnson's poise in rare appearances is unquestionable.
If he looks solid in the preseason, he'll get a crack to relieve Tuukka Rask every once in a while. Otherwise, he'll split time with Malcolm Subban in Providence.
Verdict: Johnson's primary competition to back up Rask will be Providence standout Niklas Svedberg, and he has one major advantage over the Swede. According to Cap Geek, Johnson will cost the Bruins $400,000 less against the salary cap than Svedberg this season.
Even if Svedberg is the more impressive goalie in camp, Johnson's discount price tag should give him the job.
After leading Brynäs IF to a championship in Sweden two years ago, Svedberg signed with the Bruins and rapidly emerged as a top prospect.
The 23-year-old dominated in his first AHL season. After leading the Providence Bruins to the top of standings, he was awarded the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL's most outstanding goaltender.
His .925 save percentage and his 2.17 goals-against average each ranked near the top of the league, and his 37 wins in 48 games certainly qualify him for an NHL shot.
However, Svedberg could be a victim of economics this season, due to his $1 million cap hit (Cap Geek).
Verdict: Based purely on his play in net, Svedberg deserves to be Tuukka Rask's backup. However, the cash-strapped Bruins are likely to choose the cheaper Chad Johnson.
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