Stacked minor league system paying off for Boston Bruins

By Richard Murray

Craig Cunningham - Boston Bruins

Photo: Forward Craig Cunningham made his NHL debut this season on December 17th, 2013. Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NHL Draft, Cunningham is in his third season of professional hockey. (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

The Boston Bruins have stockpiled prospects and the Providence Bruins are starting to see some of those players shine. Multiple prospects are starting to see time at the NHL too as the Bruins have dealt with the injury bug this season.

The list of prospects who have seen time in the NHL this year is extensive and includes Ryan Spooner, Zach Trotman, Craig Cunningham, David Warsofsky, Matt Fraser, Kevan Miller, and Niklas Svedberg.

Despite having many players shuffling back-and-forth to Boston, Providence is sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division with 46 points.

AHL

Malcolm Subban, G, 20

The younger brother of P.K. Subban is making a name for himself down in Providence and it could allow the Bruins to call up Niklas Svedberg to replace Chad Johnson as the back up on a permanent basis. Subban is 6-6-2 with 2.31 goals against average and .921 save percentage in 16 games this season.

Subban is still a few years away development wise from the NHL, but he could certainly make a push to be a starter at the AHL level as soon as this season.

Niklas Svedberg, G, 24

Svedberg made his NHL debut not too long ago, beating the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime and stopping 33 of 35 shots. He was returned to Providence shortly thereafter, but proved to be capable at playing in the NHL. If the Bruins decide to move on from Johnson, who has struggled at times this season, Svedberg could be the guy to replace him.

In 25 AHL games this season, the Sollentuna, Sweden native is 14-7-5 to go along with his 2.67 goals against average and .912 save percentage

Jared Knight, RW, 22

After missing most of the 2012-13 season to injury, Knight has been able to stay in the Providence Bruins line up. He is not lighting the world on fire at the moment with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists), in 38 games, but he should continue to improve, provided he can stay in the lineup the rest of the way.

The rugged forward will need some time in the AHL to find his game again, but it was not too long ago that many thought he would crack the Bruins roster out of camp had he not been hurt.

Alexander Fallstrom, RW, 23

The Harvard product has been in and out of the Providence line up this season as a healthy scratch, but Fallstrom should be staying in the lineup more often with multiple spots opening up due to NHL call-ups.

The Stockholm, Sweden native, projects to be a third or fourth line player similar to former Bruin P.J. Axelsson. Fallstrom is a strong two-way player, but he still needs some seasoning in the AHL.

Tyler Randell, RW, 22

Randell has not found the same kind of scoring touch he showed in junior, where at one point he put together a 20 goal, 160 penalty minutes season, but he is still getting into the sin bin a fair amount. In 12 games this season, Randell has 33 penalty minutes and just one assist. It looks like the Bruins are grooming him to be a fourth line tough guy, but it could be too early to tell if he can find some more consistency in his offensive game.

Anthony Camara, LW, 20

There is still a long way to go to see if Camara can put up the type of numbers he did in his final year of junior hockey, but the big winger is off to a good start. In 32 games this season, he has scored 12 points (six goals, six assists) and has 25 penalty minutes. Camara could be a similar type power forward to Milan Lucic, but he needs a few years to groom his game in the minors before making the jump to the NHL level. The Bruins are have a deep organization though, which should allow Camara to find his game in the minors without being rushed along.

Matt Fraser, LW, 23

A piece of the Tyler Seguin trade, Fraser has had no problems scoring in the AHL, potting 16 goals and five assists in only 23 games before being called up to Boston. He has not produced at that pace in the NHL however, and only has two goals in 14 games. Fraser has mainly seen ice time with the third and fourth lines while playing in the NHL, often alongside Ryan Spooner.

Craig Cunningham, LW, 23

Cunningham made his NHL debut on December 17th this season and was held pointless through about eight minutes of play. He continues to produce at the AHL level though and has 24 points so far this season with Providence. The undersized forward's size does not seem to be a question with the Bruins and he brings a whole lot of heart to the game. Although, he was sent back to the AHL, it will not be the last you hear of Cunningham.

Justin Florek, LW, 23

Florek also made his NHL debut this season and in three games he has a goal and an assist. The big forward also has nine goals and 13 assists through 35 games in the AHL and should easily top his previous season totals of 11 goals and 16 assists in 71 games. The Northern Michigan University product is playing top-six minutes for Providence and is currently red hot, with 11 points in his last 11 games.

Matt Lindblad, LW, 23

After three seasons at Darmouth, Linblad is in his first full season of professional hockey. He got a taste of the AHL at the end of the 2012-13 season, scoring five points in four games, and he has continued to produce so far this season. Through 22 games, Lindbad has four goals and nine assists.

Ryan Spooner, C, 21

With Chris Kelly out of the lineup for an extended period, Ryan Spooner has stepped into the third line spot in Boston. He has yet to register his first career goal, but has 10 assists in 19 games this season.

Spooner and Carl Soderberg have developed good chemistry, allowing the third line to contribute to the offense. They were recently joined by Loui Eriksson, who returned from a concussion. It will be a great opportunity for Spooner, as he could rack up some impressive offensive numbers playing alongside those two.

Before making the jump to the NHL this season, Spooner was over a point-per-game with 23 points (five goals, 18 assists), in 21 games with Providence. He is extremely talented and seems to be playing his way into a regular NHL spot. His defensive skills could use some work though, which could result in him being sent back to Providence once Kelly returns.

Alexander Khokhlachev, C, 20

The Russian-born pivot is adjusting well to professional hockey with Providence this season. He has found a spot in the top-six and is producing. He has 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists), in 29 games. Khokhlachev could compete for an NHL roster spot next September during camp, but for now he will continue to grow his game with Providence.

There is always a concern that Russian players will bolt for the KHL, but Khokhlachev has showed a willingness to commit to North America by playing several seasons of CHL before his first year in the AHL. He has also shown no qualms about paying his dues at the minor league level.

Seth Griffith, C/RW, 21

The overage draft pick from 2012 has cooled off a bit since his junior days, but Griffith has been productive thus far with Providence. He has 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists), in 32 games this season. Griffith has seen a lot of time playing with Florek and Carter Camper so far this season.

Rob Flick, C, 22

In 23 games this season, Flick only has three points and he has been in the penalty box for 57 minutes. He will not frequently be seen on a scoring line, but he could develop into productive checking line player.

Joe Morrow, D, 21

Morrow has a high upside, especially when it comes to his offensive skills, and he is getting closer to the NHL. He still needs some time in Providence though and the big club seems to think that too, as the Bruins have called up several defenseman from the AHL this year and Morrow has not been one of them.

So far this season, Morrow has 22 points (three goals, 19 assists), in 38 games. With the emergence of Torey Krug, the Bruins do not have a dire need to rush Morrow along.

Tommy Cross, D, 24

With only five points, in 31 games this season, Cross is not going to win an NHL job because of his offensive abilities. He is a physical, defensive player that could be valuable to an NHL team. He could be a bottom-pairing defenseman in the NHL one day, but he probably will not be much more than that.

Zach Trotman, D, 23

After three years at Lake Superior State, Trotman has continued to impress in the AHL, and he even made his NHL debut this season on December 28th. He is a big defenseman who is known for his defense, but he can also be involved in the offense. He has nine points so far this season in the minors.

The Bruins are deep in the defensive zone, so it will be interesting to see when Trotman will get a full time look.

David Warsofsky, D, 23

The Boston University alumnus made his NHL debut in a four-game stint earlier this season and scored his first NHL goal. Warsofsky has since returned to Providence, where, so far, he has put up very good offensive numbers. In 33 games, he has scored two goals and 17 assists.

If the Bruins suffer another injury bug later this season, Warsofsky will likely be a first on the depth chart to be called up, provided Kevan Miller is still in the NHL.

Carter Camper, RW/C, 25

There is little question about Camper's skills and talents on the ice, but the concern will always be his height. Standing at 5'9, Camper is not going to be the biggest guy on the ice, so he will rely on his speed and skills to be successful. The Miami (Ohio) alum is in his third season at the AHL level and he has 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists), in 38 games this season.

Camper has never had problems putting up points in the AHL, but the question will always be if he can do the same at the NHL level.

Kevan Miller, D, 26

After grinding out two full seasons in Providence, Miller has gotten his chance this season in Boston. With injuries piling up on the blue line, Miller has stepped into a third pairing role, and has not looked out of place.

He seems to be well suited as a third pairing or seventh defenseman moving forward. Through 13 games in the NHL, the University of Vermont alum has a goal and an assist. Prior to his call-up to the NHL, he managed two goals, three assists, and 39 penalty minutes in 19 AHL games.

Chris Casto, D, 22

Casto has played one game in the ECHL and 16 with Providence so far this season. He has some players in front of him on the depth chart, but should be able to see an increased amount of playing time when injuries occur. He has two goals and three assists on the season.

ECHL

Adam Morrison, G, 22

Morrison has only played two games at the ECHL level this season. He holds a 2-0 record in those games, but has a very poor 3.36 goals against average and .883 save percentage. At this point, Morrison appears to be a career minor league player.

Follow Richard Murray on Twitter: @Richie_Murray

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