Latest Updates on the Top Prospects for the Boston Bruins
With the halfway mark of the 2014-15 season still approaching, 11 individuals have already logged ice time for both the Providence and Boston Bruins.
There is ample time for any of those players currently in the minors to return to the parent club. On top of that, the pipeline will more than likely increase to 12 or 13, at the least, within the next three-plus months.
The widespread back-and-forth movement is enough on its own to inspire New England puckheads to track the Bruins’ prospect pool more than usual. One would be remiss not to add the presence of effective Boston draftees in the amateur ranks.
For the sake of time and space, this look at the latest news and performances on Bruins prospects will stay within continental confines. Due to a shortage of fresh, available online reportage on Europe-based prospects, the likes of Linus Arnesson will not be featured.
In addition, to be eligible for this slideshow, a player must have played no more than 10 NHL games. That rules out Jordan Caron, Joe Morrow and Ryan Spooner, even though all three are currently in Providence. It simply feels awkward keeping a “prospect” label on those who have variously logged 15, 20 or even 48 appearances with Boston in a single season.
With that being said, the American Hockey League and American college system have plenty of quality budding Bruins to keep up with. Here is a glance at the top 10 prospects in those circuits.
As long as there is a place for a physical depth winger, there is potential for Anthony Camara to break into the NHL. Providence has heavily leaned on the second-year professional in that department for much of the last two months.
Per Mark Divver of the Providence Journal, Camara’s belated season debut on Oct. 18 coincided with veteran bouncer Bobby Robins’ concussion. Robins has remained on the sideline since, forcing the P-Bruins to seek more sandpaper from younger strikers.
Citing Jared Knight and Tyler Randell as two sources, Baby Bs bench boss Bruce Cassidy told Divver, “Camara’s another guy that at times has shown he can be physical. We’re starting to ask a little more.”
In a more recent write-up, reviewing the latest weekend of game action, Divver noted that “Anthony Camara was a healthy scratch on Friday. ... He responded by scoring on his first shift on Saturday night.”
It is early, but after a production slump even by depth-line standards, perhaps the worst is behind Camara. If he can build on his Saturday performance, he should replenish his preseason outlook as one of Boston’s best untapped prospects.
There are not many logical 2014-15 call-ups who still have yet to make a single NHL appearance. Depending on the parent club’s direction in the second half of the season, an April debut is not out of the question for Camara.
The only player to have skated in each of Providence’s first 29 games, Justin Florek is another call-up candidate for later in 2014-15. He has been a strict AHLer since the Bruins swapped him out in favor of Matt Fraser in the middle of the 2014 playoffs.
Prior to training camp earlier this autumn, DJ Bean of WEEI.com recalled Florek’s first impression in the top league as follows: “It was almost immediately apparent when he got into the lineup during Shawn Thornton‘s suspension that the then-23-year-old was capable of handling fourth-line minutes in the NHL.”
After 27- and 38-point seasons in succession, Florek’s production pace has dipped a tad. But if that improves, or does not crumble any further, the so-called “little things” should keep the towering winger under consideration.
There have been no setbacks in the local product’s comeback effort.
After a midseason injury limited his sophomore campaign to 19 games, Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk has dressed for each of the first 16 ventures in 2014-15. Even more tellingly, he has been on the starting unit for 15 of them.
While there have certainly been other factors in the Terriers’ turnaround, it is worth noting that BU plummeted to a final record of 10-21-4 last season. With the precocious Grzelcyk serving as a junior captain, they have already surpassed that win total, going 11-3-2 so far.
With his 5’10” stature and 175-pound bulk, Grzelcyk’s long-term ceiling figures to resemble that of Torey Krug and David Warsofsky. He has more than proved himself as a playmaker in the college game, with 35 career assists, including seven this season. But his direct scoring touch from the point could use a little work.
The Bruins returned Alexander Khokhlachev to the AHL on Nov. 25, one day after he made his third straight big league appearance.
He has not a missed a minor league beat in the month since. The leading Providence playmaker has tallied seven helpers and nine points in his last 10 ventures, upping his season totals to 18 and 25, respectively.
Before and after the momentary promotion, consistent production has defined Khokhlachev’s campaign. After failing to get on each of the first three scoresheets, he has not endured consecutive pointless results since Oct. 17.
Barring future call-ups or ailments, Khokhlachev’s current point-per-game pace puts him on a path to finish the season with 72. That would be 15 more points than his team-leading rookie total over 65 ventures in 2013-14.
Production-wise, Matt Lindblad has been streaky down on the farm. A recent cluster of four points in three games followed a string of six straight pointless efforts. Earlier, in the first half of November, he mustered one solitary assist in an otherwise arid seven-game stretch.
Still, he has flexed enough hunger when opportunity has knocked, including a brief November call-up. Pundit Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, for one, allowed that the 24-year-old winger “played pretty well in a limited role on a ‘kid line’ with Alex Khokhlachev and Matt Fraser” against none other than Montreal on Nov. 22.
That aforementioned six-game scoreless skid immediately followed Lindblad’s return to Providence after that Montreal bout, but he has since picked the production back up. He will need to maintain that if he wants to stay ahead of Camara, Florek and others in the internal competition for call-ups.
Can Bruins buffs handle yet another elite goaltending prospect in the organization’s professional system? Barring a trade, that is what they can expect in the next year or two.
In a Sunday morning midseason report card, Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald declared Zane McIntyre the North Dakota team MVP. In Schlossman’s words, “McIntyre has been a difference-maker in a number of games this season. The coaching staff never has to worry about what type of performance it’s going to get in net.”
The fact that UND fields 14 NHL draftees lends extra decibels to the junior netminder’s handle on the sport’s most demanding position. He has left an unmistakable imprint on the team’s 13-4-2 start to this season.
McIntyre’s 1.95 goals-against average and .929 save percentage are both slight improvements on already elite numbers from his sophomore surge. Unless a continued craving for Frozen Four fulfillment grips his spirit, he may decide he has nothing more to prove at the college level after this season.
The Yale Bulldogs are getting as much as they can out of Rob O’Gara and his 6’4”, 204-pound frame. The junior blueliner has been on the starting unit in the majority of the first 12 games and is in a six-way tie for the team lead with a plus-four rating.
It will be a while before O’Gara sees much, if any, action in The Show. It would not be a surprise if he maxes out his college eligibility by returning to New Haven for his senior year in 2015-16. In terms of his NHL auspices, anything can happen between now and then.
Regardless of when he leaves, at least one full AHL season will be in order so as to acclimate him to the professional regimen.
Still, as an upperclassmen in the NCAA, O’Gara is emboldening his outlook as a classic, dependable stay-at-home defender. Even if his long-term future is not in Boston, the Bruins will want to make sure he fetches a worthwhile return if his rights go elsewhere.
Last week, Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe drew an intriguing parallel between David Pastrnak and Nashville forward Filip Forsberg. The Predators rookie, who bridged his own transition from Sweden to the NHL via the AHL, offered his thoughts in Benjamin’s notebook:
I took that step last year, so especially coming over from the second league in Sweden, not even the highest league there, so obviously it’s a huge step. But it’s good, it was a good transition for me playing a little bit in the AHL last year…He’s still learning, but he’s got the abilities that you want to have. He’s got a good shot, good hands, and good skater.
Following a five-game call-up, Pastrnak returned to Providence earlier this month. He amassed four multipoint efforts and nine total points in six subsequent AHL twirls.
Entering his World Junior endeavor with the Czech Republic team, he is second among all AHL rookie producers with 23 points. His only leader, Charles Hudon of the Hamilton Bulldogs, is ahead by four points and has played in seven more games.
Upon his return for the WJC, look for continued consistency from Pastrnak on the AHL scoresheets. Moreover, look for him to start handling the other aspects of the North American game with more self-assurance. That should be the organization’s fundamental objective for their latest first-rounder this season.
If any member of the Bruins organization has a shot at hardware this year, the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award for the AHL’s top rookie may be it.
In Boston, Tuukka Rask has the Montreal Canadiens. In Providence, Malcolm Subban has the Manchester Monarchs and Worcester Sharks.
Through his first 14 outings in his second AHL season, Subban has had a combined five drubbings of four or five goals via Manchester or Worcester. But against all other opponents, he has been consistently efficient en route to a 5-1-0 record.
Where he is in his development, Subban is in the middle of an enviably deep organizational goaltending stable. With the aforementioned McIntyre bound to turn pro in 2015 or 2016, the Bruins have plenty of long-term planning to tackle.
Several writers, such as Adam Gretz of CBSSports.com and Haggerty, have speculated that either Subban or current Boston backup Niklas Svedberg could be trade bait this season. If that is the case, the Bruins should give the younger netminder his first few looks this winter, either to entice prospective suitors or better ensure his NHL readiness.
Pint-sized puck-mover David Warsofsky barely qualifies for this list, having logged only 10 regular-season appearances in the NHL. He might have more on his transcript if not for a month-long groin ailment, but the number is what it is.
The Bruins reassigned Warsofsky to Providence two weeks ago, one day after his first post-injury practice with the team. He has since chipped in two assists over five appearances with the P-Bruins.
Odds are that higher-ups will want the 24-year-old defenseman to keep logging regular game action for the foreseeable future. Add the fact that, on top of Joe Morrow’s recent reassignment, Zach Trotman may soon be returning to the minors as well. That is assuming Adam McQuaid returns on his original timetable.
Still, Warsofsky will more than likely put in another appearance with the parent club before this season is up.