Catching Up On the Boston Bruins' NHL Draft Class of 2013

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJune 2, 2014

LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 06:  Linus Arnesson #8 of Team Sweden skates against the USA White Squad at the USA hockey junior evaluation camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 6, 2012 in Lake Placid, New York. Sweden defeated the USA 5-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Boston Bruins inked Linus Arnesson, their first of six picks in the 2013 NHL draft, to an entry-level contract over the weekend.

The transaction prompted instant speculation that the Swedish blueliner will shuffle across the Atlantic without further delay. Ty Anderson of Hockey Buzz wrote Sunday afternoon that he believes “Arnesson will likely join a Providence cast that’s churned out one NHL-capable defender after another in recent years.”

Likewise, Arnesson’s Elite Prospects profile has penciled in Boston’s AHL affiliate as his team for the 2014-15 campaign.

The Hockey News lists Arnesson third among Bruins blueliners who are not established NHLers, behind David Warsofsky and Joe Morrow. The same site makes note of the general consensus that he “Defends well and owns a lot of shutdown upside” and that “virtually all of his value lies in his ability to defend.”

With that in mind, there is something to the timing of this deal for the individual and the organization alike. With Kevan Miller’s midseason graduation to the parent club, Providence could stand to restock on high-end stay-at-home specialists to play with Morrow.

In the wake of his first post-draft campaign, it is hard to assert that Arnesson cannot be that player. Even before his selection, he had played 31 games for Djurgarden in the Allsvenskan, his homeland’s top professional league.

In 2013-14, he added 44 regular-season and six postseason appearances with Djurgarden’s top-level team to his transcript. International obligations constituted his chief reason for missing any additional action.

For the second straight season, Sweden nabbed silver at the World Junior Championships with Arnesson pitching in on defense. He also managed a pair of assists in seven tournament games. In an additional 16 twirls with his 20-and-under national team, he mustered three more helpers.

Curiously, in an interview with THN’s Ryan Kennedy this past November, Arnesson said, “I’m a two-way defenseman and I try to use my mobility and my rough game.”

At this point, the two-way aspect looks like a garnish that may or may not surface in North America. In fairness, other observers do see the potential for an extra dimension beyond sheer grunt work in the defensive zone.

Consider what Richard Murray of Hockey’s Future wrote in a March 20 update on Boston’s top 20 prospects: “Arnesson has solid mobility, so the offense could come sooner rather than later.”

Again, though, it is the stay-at-home stripes he has logged via mature and/or elite competition that make him an attractive addition to the pipeline.

TORONTO - CANADA - JUNE 1: Linus Arnesson poses for a head shot prior to testing at the NHL Combine June 1, 2013 at the International Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
Graig Abel/Getty Images

Arnesson, who will turn 20 Sept. 21, has confronted men a cumulative 85 times in the Allsvenskan over the last two seasons. The rest of his extramural engagements have featured the best global talent in his late-teens age group.

Given the way he withstood that, the AHL is the next logical test. Barring a drastic change in course, he should skate considerable shifts with the P-Bruins for 76-plus games in 2014-15. The coming autumn will be his time to start honing an authentic feel for the organization’s system.

Arnesson’s prospective shuffle to that regimen means Boston’s 2013 draft class will start to sink in no fewer than 15 months after the fact. Although, a few other members of that class will be literally close to the main base next season as well.

Here is a glance at the status of the Bruins’ other five 2013 picks, in order of selection, after their respective 2013-14 seasons:

Peter Cehlarik, Left Wing/Right Wing

Boston’s third-round choice at No. 90 overall, Cehlarik saw his first action in the aforementioned Allsvenskan circuit over the winter. His loan to Asploven lasted 18 games and yielded five goals and eight helpers.

The Slovak expatriate to Sweden also moved up an age group to represent his native country in his first World Junior tournament. Over five games, the versatile left-shooting winger amassed three assists and retained a plus-three rating, second-best on a team that had only five “plus” players.

The context of that output flowed smoothly with Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney’s subsequent assessment. Per the team’s website, Sweeney opined Jan. 16 that “Peter was a consistent performer for Slovakia” at the WJC.

The question for 2014-15 might as well revolve around whether Cehlarik can make like Arnesson this past year and concoct an encore on both the professional and international front.

Ryan Fitzgerald, Center/Right Wing

As a Boston College freshman, Fitzgerald tapered off after a hot start with only five goals in 22 games after New Year’s. He also went without an assist in the final 10 games of the season.

That said, he did perk back up to tune the mesh twice in three NCAA tournament games. His final scoring log of 13-16-29 in 40 overall contests was good for fourth among Hockey East rookies.

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30:  Ryan Fitzgerald, 120th pick overall by the Boston Bruins, poses for a portrait during the 2013 NHL Draft at Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Bill Wippert/Getty Images

Before Fitzgerald’s midseason downturn, BC bench boss Jerry York told The Boston Globe that he, along with fellow freshman Austin Cangelosi, had “contributed on special teams, they are playing regular shifts, they’ve really been all I could’ve asked for.”

He ought to be asked to do more in the coming campaign. He will be a year older, a year more learned and raring to help fill the skates of Johnny Gaudreau, who bolted for Calgary after a Hobey Baker runaway.

Wiley Sherman, Defense

Sherman will make yet another budding Bruin studying and skating in the 617 area code this autumn. The hulking 6’6” defenseman will enroll at Harvard University 15 months after going 150th overall in the 2013 draft.

Between his selection and orientation, Sherman carried out his senior season at the Hotchkiss School in his native Connecticut. He ultimately garnered one of eight spots on the All-New England West team as his final impression at the interscholastic level.

There is all but nary a better way to finish on that platform, but how much he will need to work to build on that achievement cannot be understated. The Crimson could have up to seven incumbent defensemen returning from their 2013-14 roster.

Anton Blidh, Left Wing/Right Wing

Another aggressive Swede like Arnesson and another versatile winger who saw action in Allsvenskan in his post-draft year like Cehlarik.

Blidh spent the bulk of 2013-14 in the same Frolunda program he competed in for the previous four seasons. He averaged almost a point per game (25 in 27) at the junior level and added five helpers in 24 twirls with Frolunda’s SHL squad. He also tallied two points over an 11-game loan with Karlskrona in his country’s top professional league.

In an April 16 report, the aforementioned Murray of Hockey’s Future had this intriguing assessment of Blidh: “He is very good in the defensive zone and killing penalties and has a similar skill set to former Bruins forward P.J. Axelsson.”

According to his Elite Prospects profile, Blidh will continue to hone that skill set with Frolunda to start 2014-15. His topmost task on the development front is to start translating his double-digit scoring numbers from the 18- and 20-and-under levels to the men’s ranks.

Mitchell Dempsey, Left Wing

The penultimate pick of all teams in last year’s draft took a few strides backward in 2013-14. The former Plymouth Whaler and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound donned his third Ontario League uniform in as many seasons with six appearances in Kitchener.

Apart from that, and two more games with the Greyhounds, Dempsey devoted the rest of his underwhelming campaign to refinement—or attempted refinement—at a lower level. In a combined 17 regular-season and playoff outings with the Kitchener Dutchmen Junior B team, he scraped out a single goal and five assists.

Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via Elite Prospects.