It really has not taken long for Don Sweeney to put his developmental finger prints all over the Boston Bruins organization. We’ve already seen some of “his” young players (Vatrano, Carlo, and McAvoy) making an impact on the Bruins. And overall the B’s have gone from having a bottom-third ranked farm system to a top-10 stud filled one in just two drafts.
To get an idea of where the then lowly regarded Bruins farm system was prior to Sweeney taking over as the GM here is a list of Peter Chiarelli’s first round draft picks while he was in Boston:
- Zach Hamill (8th overall)
- Joe Colborne (16th overall)
- Jordan Caron (25th overall)
- Tyler Seguin (2nd overall – thank you Toronto)
- Dougie Hamilton (9th overall – thank you Toronto)
- Malcolm Subban (24th overall)
- David Pastrnak (25th overall).
If it were not for the Toronto Maple Leafs being so bad after the Phil Kessel trade the Bruins would have never been in a situation to draft Seguin or Hamilton. Pastrnak was drafted once Keith Gretzky got his hands on the head of scouting position. And it’s no surprise Chiarelli gave Gretzky a new job in Edmonton.
In Chiarelli’s first three drafts as Bruins GM the prospects taken did not produce one full time NHLer for the Bruins. Joe Colborne turned into a serviceable full time depth NHL player in Calgary and beyond. And goaltender Michael Hutchinson (3rd round, 77th overall in 2008) has gone on to have a decent career with the Jets. But of the 17 players taken in those first 3 drafts just those two became full time NHL players. And again, neither did so with the Bruins.
This is one of the major reasons the Bruins were in salary cap hell when Sweeney was eventually handed the keys to the car.
Fast forward to the 2015 and 2016 drafts and Sweeney generated nine picks in the first two rounds of those drafts, completely restocking the prospect cupboard. Now comes the hard part of figuring out which prospects you start integrating into the big club’s roster and who you use to get other assets.
Back in December here at BostonPucks.com we ranked our “Top 10 Prospects”. At the time it looked like this:
- Charlie McAvoy
- Anders Bjork
- Jakub Zboril
- Jeremy Lauzon
- Zach Senyshyn
- Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson
- Jake DeBrusk
- Trent Frederic
- Danton Heinen
- Zane McIntyre
Certainly a lot has happened since December. Now it’s time to revisit our rankings as it seems a few of these guys have made some significant strides. Here at BostonPucks.com we rank players based on who is the closest to contributing to the Bruins now. It’s not necessarily who’s the best long term prospect. We also factor in the player’s ceiling.
So lets review each of these prospects and give them a new end of season ranking:
#10: Trent Frederic – It seems like it has been a long time since we have heard anything regarding Trent Frederic. He has not played since Wisconsin’s season ended in March. Frederic was named the NCAA’s Big-10 Freshman of the year. He had 33 points (15 goals and 18 assists) in 30 games as a freshman. Frederic has the body type and the skill to make it to the NHL. He probably will not be a top 6 forward but he could be a bottom 6 face off specialist that plays physical and has some offensive upside. I expect Frederic to stay at Wisconsin for one more season, and maybe longer. The upcoming season could be huge for Frederic. He will most likely make Team USA for the World Juniors this December and be a leader at Wisconsin.
#9: Jeremy Lauzon – Lauzon battled a few injuries this season while playing for Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL. He finished with 5 goals, 23 assists for 28 points in only 39 games. He was a plus-25 during the regular season and stepped up in the QMJHL playoffs with 14 points (5 goals and 9 assists) in 13 games. Lauzon was plus-3 in the playoffs as well. Lauzon was the 7th defenseman for a Canadian team that was runner-up at the World Junior Championship (in international play each team can dress 20 skaters, so he was in the lineup for all 7 games and scored 2 goals and an assist). He scored a big goal in the Gold Medal game against Team USA but was over shadowed by USA’s and fellow Bruins prospect, Charlie McAvoy. Lauzon is currently with the Providence Bruins for their AHL playoff run but has not seen time in a game. However just like Zach Senyshyn it is a good experience for him just to be there. Lauzon is going to need some AHL seasoning, but he could end up being a very good middle pairing defenseman in the future.
#8: Jakub Zboril – Zboril’s St. John Sea Dogs team won the QMJHL Championship in almost easy fashion. The Sea Dogs are 1-2 in the Memorial Cup round robin so far including a 12 -5 loss to Erie on Monday but they redeemed themselves Tuesday with a 7-0 win over Seattle. Zboril ended up getting a game misconduct after getting a roughing penalty in Monday’s game. It looked like he might have been chirping the ref a bit. Yet Zboril has all the tools. There is just no knowing if he will be able to put it together and play up to his potential. Statistically, Zboril had his best season with 41 points (9 goals and 32 assists) in 50 games and was also a plus-19. He has chipped in 13 more points in the playoffs with an assist in Tuesday’s game. Zboril will most likely need some maturing at the AHL level before being NHL ready but could be the most likely prospect on this list to be used in a trade this off season.
#7: Anders Bjork – The man of mystery with blazing wheels. Is he going to sign, or is he not going to sign? My money is on him not signing with the Bruins. The reasons are in the blog I wrote back on April 18th, Bjork to Play in World Championships for USA. The biggest reason for Bjork’s drop is his inability to create any offense at the World Championships and his signability concerns. Now, he was in a limited role with Team USA and a healthy scratch toward the end of the tournament so it’s not like he was in a position to produce much. Fellow Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy was also playing for Team USA alongside his former BU teammate Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes) and had a fantastic tournament. Thankfully Bjork was still really good in the NCAA tournament and ended the season with 52 points (21 goals and 31 assists). I still think the Bruins will be able to sign Bjork, but I do think he is going back to Notre Dame for his senior season.
#6: Zach Senyshyn – The kid can flat out score goals and he has jets for skates. Senyshyn has had 2 consecutive 40-goal seasons (45 and 42) for the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL. He added another 4 goals in 11 playoff games. Right now Senyshyn is with the Providence Bruins for their AHL playoff run. He has been in the lineup for 4 of the playoff games with the Baby B’s but has goose eggs for stats. From all reports he has played well and has had some opportunities to score. In Sunday’s game he was absolutely robbed by a save with the knob of his stick. Providence coach Kevin Dean said Senyshyn’s “got speed, seems to have some courage on the wall, goes to the front of the net. Those are all good things. We’ll continue to work with him on a few things. He seems to like to change the flow, he recognizes that maybe a little more slowly than we’d like, but he’s 19 years old. That will come. He’s very engaged, which is good, he wants to be coached, he wants to learn. He’s only going to get better.” With it also sounding like Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari are close to returning from injury Senyshyn could be out of the lineup. Either way it is a great experience for Senyshyn to get some AHL experience in the high pressure of playoff hockey.
#5: Danton Heinen – It might not be fair to have Heinen ranked this high on the list due to his skill and high hockey IQ but other forwards on this list bring a little more in the jam category. And even though Heinen might have more offensive skill than others on this list that does not always transfer to the NHL level. He had a pretty nice rookie season in Providence after he broke camp on the Bruins roster but could not hold onto an NHL gig. In Providence Heinen had 14 goals and 30 assists for 44 points in 64 games and has taken his play to another level in the AHL playoffs. He has been a point per game player with 17 points (8 goals and 9 assists) in 15 games and the puck seems to find Heinen. He just needs to get stronger on the puck. Heinen will have another opportunity to grab a full time NHL gig next season. If his AHL playoffs output is any indication it looks like he has improved and is ready for the big time.
#4: Zane McIntyre – The backup (and more?) of the future. Bruins GM Don Sweeney mentioned at the end of the season when he was addressing the backup goalie situation that if McIntyre, or someone else passed Khudobin, they would get the job. I do not see how McIntyre is not the full time backup goalie for the Bruins next year. It would be a waste for him to go back to the AHL as he is dominating at that level now. He was second in the league in goals against average with a 2.03 and first in save percentage with a nice .930. He also had a 21-6-2 record with 2 shutouts. In the AHL playoffs his numbers are down from the regular season, but he also had a 50 save effort in an elimination game in the first round against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. McIntyre is a little bit older than most prospects and will turn 25 before training camp opens. But he has a very high work ethic and compete level which gives me reason to believe he will be ready to take the backup goalie job in the fall.
#3: Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson – The Swedish Patrice Bergeron turned pro once his Boston University season came to an end. Due to work Visa issues he was only able to get into one Bruins game. JFK did not look the most comfortable in his first NHL game and at times it looked like the game maybe sped up on him. But he has a bright future in Boston possibly starting next season as the 3rd line center. It is unfortunate that JFK was not able to go to the AHL to get some seasoning this postseason. Overall, JFK had a solid season at BU. He finished with 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points in 39 games and showed good skill as well as being depended on for leadership. JFK was an assistant captain as a sophomore.
#2: Jake DeBrusk – DeBrusk made the biggest jump on our top 10 prospect list. I will admit some of it might be due to DeBrusk being the hot prospect toward the end of the AHL regular season where it seemed like he was registering a point per game. He played in all 74 games at the AHL level and registered 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 points which was good for 5th in rookie scoring in the AHL. In the AHL playoffs he has continued to score with 6 goals and 3 assists in 14 games. I was able to see a Providence Bruins game back in March and although he did not register a point he was the best player on the ice and should start this upcoming season with the big Bruins.
#1: Charlie McAvoy. He might as well be taken off the prospect list and put on the rookie sensation list but he hasn’t done enough time yet to get that kind of treatment. McAvoy recently played at the World Championships for Team USA where he registered 1 assist in 8 games. Going to the World Championships was great for McAvoy’s development as he got eight more high pressure games under his belt against NHL level talent.
This list really could have been easily fifteen players deep. It’s not crazy to say the top 5 guys on this list could be full time NHL players next season. Key exclusions from this list are Peter Cehlarik, Rob O’Gara, Daniel Vladar, Jesse Gabrielle, Ryan Lindgren and Ryan Donato. Personally it was really hard to leave Ryan Donato out of the top ten. He had a fantastic sophomore season at Harvard and was a two time BostonPucks.com prospect of the week. But again, we try to list these players in terms of who can and will contribute to the Boston Bruins the soonest.
Bruins management now has the difficult task of trying to fit all of these prospects in the lineup with all of the current veterans. It was only a few years ago Bruins fans were excited by David Pastrnak’s performance at rookie training camp because the team had not had an exciting rookie since Tyler Seguin. Now the Bruins, although not all Pasta level, have more prospects than they know what to do with. That’s a great problem to have.
The future is bright and it’s always more exciting when young players make their way to the big club.