5 Boston Bruins Prospects Most Likely to Make Their NHL Debuts in 2014-15
From Kevan Miller on November 21 to Alexander Khokhlachev on April 13, the Boston Bruins dressed eight players for their first NHL regular-season game in 2013-14. The other six debutants were Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek, Matt Lindblad, Niklas Svedberg, Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky.
That made for the most individual NHL career icebreakers in a single Bruins season since 2005-06. Since the start of the Claude Julien era, the team has given 34 players their big break-in day for an average of almost five per year.
Fresh first-round draft pick David Pastrnak’s performance at this month’s development camp has spawned speculation that he could earn a spot this autumn. Caution is advisable on that front due to his late-round status, current lack of size and general modicum of familiarity with the system.
Conversely, there are four other skaters and one goaltender with at least one full season in Providence to their credit and a contract running through at least the coming campaign.
Assuming they escape the trade winds and stay in the organization, they ought to return to Rhode Island in September. But if they retain, let alone accelerate, the current pace of their development, then there should be a window for them to partake in at least one of Boston’s 82 regular-season tilts.
Pastrnak or not, the following five established members of the pipeline are the prime candidates to hatch their games-played goose-eggs with the Spoked-Bs.
Unless otherwise indicated all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com.
The 6’0", 192-pound Anthony Camara presently ranks fifth among Bruins left wings as their depth chart reads on The Hockey News’ website. Meanwhile, Hockey’s Future lists him at the top among the franchise’s prospects in that position.
Granted, that does not take into account the potential for natural centers Khokhlachev and Ryan Spooner, both left-handed shooters, to fill a slot in that position. Nevertheless, Camara should be no more than two injuries or illnesses to a teammate away from a promotion.
That, naturally, assumes he builds on the upward trend he established as he assimilated into the American League in 2013-14.
In a postseason wrap on the Providence squad, Dan Cagen of the Fall River Herald News paraphrased assistant general manager Don Sweeney as saying that “Camara found his game as a third-liner late in the season after early struggles.”
But if Camara restores his form before, or even during, the 2014-15 season, then his physicality and improving production should earn him substantial consideration.
Seth Griffith was Khokhlachev’s co-pilot on the P-Bruins scoring chart, placing second on the team with a 20-30-50 scoring log. He followed up with 11 points in 12 playoff outings, including a three-point performance in the deciding Game 5 of the first round versus Springfield.
His 5’9” stature will subject him to a measure of doubt, though that did not hinder him much as a Providence rookie. The fact that he fills that frame with a listed 192 pounds means he has no shortage of brawn with which to work.
One or two years of splitting time between the AHL and NHL, starting in 2014-15, is a reasonable projection.
Last Sunday, amidst the team’s development camp, csnne.com beat reporter Joe Haggerty caught up with Baby Bs bench boss Bruce Cassidy, who offered the following as to Griffith’s status:
I think he needs more time. I hope he proves me wrong because I know the right hand shot forward is in demand here, so great for him…Better on the walls, he’ll have to get better against men. But the other parts of his game, I think he could come up and compliment skilled players.
Translation: Griffith is not likely looking at a 2010 Brad Marchand-esque leap to The Show. But with the numerical right-side shortage Cassidy alludes to and his general progression, he should be a leading candidate to step in when injuries strike.
There was a time when Jared Knight and Spooner’s brother-like bond gave them the look of a dynamic duo in the making.
A slew of injuries has since hampered Knight’s progression whereas Spooner is a candidate to permanently graduate this fall. Knight mustered only 10 regular-season and six postseason appearances with Providence in 2012-13.
This past year was also an incomplete campaign with 58 games in the regular season and nine in the playoffs. However, a 17-game hot streak to start his sophomore campaign (nine assists, 12 points) yielded a glimpse of his true potential.
The trick in 2014-15 will be to follow another sound summer of reformation with another promising autumn that transitions to a fulfilling winter. If Knight can achieve that, then there will be no reason to omit him by the time a cluster of call-ups are filling in while the key cogs rest for the playoffs.
Two full professional seasons in three different organizations have seen Joe Morrow stick strictly in the AHL. That does not mean he has not been drawing attention and consideration from the parent club as he progresses.
In a December 26 write-up by the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver, Boston assistant general manager Don Sweeney offered this midseason assessment:
Where he finished up (training) camp and where he is now is a real good progression. He’s got a much better understanding of how we play, what the systems are, what the responsibilities of D-men are, where his strengths are going to apply — using his skating ability, getting up ice but defending.
The Bruins are overflowing with NHL-caliber defensemen at the moment, but they are sure to jettison at least one via trade. Between the salary cap and an individual player’s need for thicker ice elsewhere, the Boston blue-line brigade should whittle down to seven.
When that happens, Morrow is up there with David Warsofsky among the logical go-to call-ups as needed throughout 2014-15.
On the one hand, the undersized Warsofsky has already garnered some NHL action with six appearances last season. On the other, the 204-pound Morrow has the size and sandpaper the Bruins will surely need at some point.
Barely a week ago, goaltender Malcolm Subban was the lone Bruins development camp participant with prior professional experience. When the prospects dispersed, as quoted by the aforementioned Haggerty, general manager Peter Chiarelli offered the following assessment:
He had a slow start, but I thought he had a real strong finish. He really came in and he has stuff to work on still, but -- if you look at his stats and you look at his start -- you can really appreciate how well he played. So he’s on the right track.
Those stats, by the way, include a 2.31 goals-against average in his rookie campaign with Providence. That placed him fifth on the AHL’s overall regular-season leaderboard while his .920 save percentage gave him a virtual tie for sixth.
Granted, that came in a relatively small sample size of 33 games while Niklas Svedberg scraped the blue paint 45 times. But with Svedberg presumably moving up to Boston’s backup slot, Subban ought to earn more extramural action this winter.
More often than not, being an organization’s No. 1 netminder in the minors entails at least one night of action in The Show. That was the case for Svedberg last year, Anton Khudobin in 2011-12 and Tuukka Rask in his two AHL seasons.
With Svedberg on a one-year contract, the Bruins may want to give Subban multiple looks to formulate a better-informed long-term plan for their surplus of young goaltending talent.
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