Goaltending prominently featured in Boston Bruins 2014 Fall Top 20

By Richard Murray
Malcolm Subban - Boston Bruins

Photo: Malcolm Subban is one of several strong goaltending prospects in the Boston Bruins system. Subban was picked in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Michael Tureski/Icon SMI)

 

The Boston Bruins have turned to some of their young guns like Reilly Smith, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and others to jump into the lineup and produce right away. With the Bruins’ current cap troubles, there is a good chance that top prospects like David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner, and Alexander Khokhlachev will be to do the same.

The Bruins filled a huge hole in their winger depth grabbing the smooth skating Pastrnak in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft and he has become one of Boston’s top prospects right away. Other than Pastrnak’s addition there were not too many changes in and out of the Bruins top 20 prospects.

1. (1) Malcolm Subban, G, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 24th overall, 2012

Subban is coming off an excellent rookie campaign in the AHL and is set to take over starting duties with the Providence Bruins. Subban is highly athletic, but still has some work to do on his overall game before making the jump to the NHL.

Last season, the Providence back up actually had better numbers than starting goalie Niklas Svedberg. In only 33 games, Subban was highly effective posting a 15-10-5 record, 2.31 goals against average, .920 save percentage and one shutout. Next season will be a big test for the 21-year-old goaltender, but he has done nothing but get better the past few seasons.

2. (2) Ryan Spooner, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2010

Deciding where to rank Spooner, Khokhlachev, and Pastrnak was no easy task, but ultimately Spooner has produced the most facing the highest level of competition. Spooner had limited success in the NHL producing 11 points in 23 games. The 22-year-old pivot is knocking on the doorstep of becoming a full-time NHL player.

In the AHL, Spooner was once again spectacular and Providence’s best offensive player. During the regular season he netted 46 points (11 goals, 35 assists) in 49 games, and in the playoffs he was over a point-per-game with 15 in only 12 games.

Reports have surfaced that the Bruins do not like Spooner on the wing and only at center, though, which could impede him from making the team right away this season, as the Bruins are deep down the middle with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Carl Soderberg, Chris Kelly, and Greg Campbell. Kelly and Campbell are certainly expendable, though, so keep an eye on Bruins training camp this fall.

3. (3) Alexander Khokhlachev, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 40th overall, 2011

Khokhlachev, like Spooner, is knocking on the door of grabbing an NHL roster spot and the Bruins salary cap situation could help. Khokhlachev is a center, but can play the wing, however he is a left-handed shot. The Bruins need a few right-handed shots in the lineup.

The explosive skating Russian made his NHL debut and grabbed an assist during the 2013-14 season. He can make sharp turns and is very quick, which helped him lead Providence in scoring during the regular season with 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 65 games. During the AHL playoffs he was only behind Spooner in team points with 14.

4. (NR) David Pastrnak, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 25th overall, 2014

Although ranked below Spooner and Khokhlachev, Pastrnak might have a better chance than both of making the NHL roster. With no impact right-handed wingers on the Bruins current roster, it wouldn’t even be that big of a reach for Pastrnak to ride shotgun with Krejci and Milan Lucic Boston’s top offensive line.

“I think the kid loves to play hockey, he loves to be around hockey and he’s smiling all the time,” Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney said at the Bruins summer Development Camp. “He really enjoys it, he cuts across the middle of the ice on a two on two that some defenseman are going to lick their chops and he’s going to pick up his helmet sideways probably at some point in time. But that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to try it again and I like that about him.”

It will be determined during training camp and maybe even the first few games of the NHL season if he is ready. The Bruins might not have many other options, though, with little cap space.

5. (7) Zane McIntyre (Gothberg), G, 7.5C
Drafted 6th round, 165th overall, 2010

Once considered a long-term project after being selected out of high school in the sixth round during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, McIntyre is starting to mature and round into form.

“Players dictate when they are ready,” Sweeney said. “He wasn’t ready to go to college after we drafted him, you know? He spent a couple years extra in the USHL and played a lot of games, grew up on and off the ice. I think he was much more prepared when he ended up going to UND (University of North Dakota) and I think you’re seeing that. He was a sophomore last year but he was able to take the pressure in situations and did a nice job with it. Now he is really, really – you watch the progression on and off the ice, the maturity of Zane, he’s far different than he was a number of years ago and I think that’s healthy.”

McIntyre was one of the best goalies at the NCAA level with North Dakota this season. He put the team on his shoulders all the way to the Frozen Four before falling to Minnesota in the semifinals. McIntyre allowed only one goal, and it unfortunately came shorthanded in the final seconds of the game on a breakaway. This season with the Sioux, he posted a 20-10-3 record, 1.99 goals against average, .926 save percentage, and 3 shutouts.

*Note: The North Dakota standout recently changed his last name from Gothberg to McIntyre. North Dakota’s Athletic department released the following statement from McIntyre:

“My grandmother and my mother have been very influential in my life. With the passing of my grandmother and my mother getting re-married, as well as my sister getting married, I’ve made the personal choice to carry on the family name in their honor.”

6. (5) Seth Griffith, C, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 131st overall, 2012

The once overage draft selection has done nothing but improve, and he was one of the better offensive weapons Providence had last season. He scored 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists) in 69 AHL games. He has yet to make his NHL debut and probably will not this season, but he is certainly rounding into form and becoming a legit offensive weapon. Look for him to improve on his 50-point campaign from a year ago.

7. (NR) Ryan Donato, C, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 56th overall, 2014

Donato will follow in his father’s footsteps and play his college career at Harvard, but he is expected to play a year of junior hockey with the South Shore Kings before heading to school.

The Scituate, Mass. native has a high ceiling and talent, but he is still years away from competing at the NHL level. With five years to fill out his body and develop through the collegiate system, though, Donato should have a good chance to making it once his time comes.

“Here is the attraction to the NCAA kids, if they’re in a good program, they’ll develop,” Bruins General Manager Chiarelli said at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. “You get them for four years, and sometimes that youngster (in the CHL) is not ready or strong enough when they turn 20 to start playing in the AHL. You get that little period where they get a little stronger. We have a lot of good players coming out of college.”

Last season at the prep school level, Donato simply dominated, scoring 78 points (37 goals, 41 assists) in only 30 games.

8. (9) Ryan Fitzgerald, C, 7.5D
Drafted 4th round, 120th overall, 2013

Fitzgerald is coming off a strong freshman campaign at Boston College. He scored a few important goals in the NCAA Tournament on the road to BC’s Frozen Four appearance. The diminutive size forward has not let his size hold him back, scoring 29 points in 40 games.

Look for Fitzgerald to become a focal point in the Eagles’ offense this season with the departure of Johnny Gaudreau (CAL), Bill Arnold (CAL), and Kevin Hayes (NYR). Minnesota Wild first round selection, Alex Tuch and Fitzgerald could create a solid one-two punch offensively for the Eagles. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald and Tuch will no longer have the opportunity to play with Sonny Milano (CLB) this season, as the flashy forward opted to play in the OHL.

9. (11) Niklas Svedberg, G, 6.5A
Signed as free agent, May 29th, 2012

Svedberg made his NHL debut this past season against Nashville making 33 saves in a 3-2 win. He is poised to become goaltender Tuukka’s Rask backup this season, and has a solid resume. There is a good chance that Svedberg is a stop gap until Subban is ready for the NHL, as the Bruins previous back up goalies have been getting paid elsewhere once their contracts are up. With the Bruins strong defensive system many goalies have found a lot of success, Chad Johnson being the most recent.

10. (8) Matt Grzelcyk, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 85th overall, 2012

Grzelcyk has his season shortened by an injury last year, but should be ready to go by the start of the season as Boston University’s new captain. Last season, Grzelcyk had 11 points in 19 games, but he also represented Team USA at the World Junior Championships. The undersized defenseman performed well with six points (two goals, four assists) in only five games.

11. (4) Joe Morrow, D, 7.0C
Trade with Dallas Stars, July 4th, 2013

Morrow scored 29 points for Providence last season, but still has not become the lethal offensive force from the blue line that made him a first round pick during his WHL career. Morrow has size and skating ability, so the Bruins hope he can further develop his game in Providence the next few seasons. The Bruins are very deep on the blue line, so he is not expected to see much NHL time this coming year.

12. (10) Peter Cehlarik, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 90th overall, 2013

Cehlarik split the season between the SuperElit, SHL, and Allsvenskan in Sweden this past season. His production (four points in 32 games) at the SHL (Sweden’s highest league) suggests he still needs some more time to develop. He is still young and one of Slovakia‘s premiere players at his age group. During five games in the World Junior Championship he registered three assists. He should get another crack at the SHL this year and he hopes for more production this season.

13. (15) Linus Arnesson, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 60th overall, 2013

The Bruins second round pick in 2013 was able to build upon his one-point season a year ago registering six points in the Allsvenskan this past season. He is not expected to become a highly effective offensive player, but Arnesson has good mobility and passing skills that could allow him to become a solid two-way defenseman. He represented Sweden in the WJC and dished out two assists.

14. (9) Anthony Camara, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 81st overall, 2011

Camara did not enjoy the same success he finished up the OHL with this past year in Providence. Camara scored 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 58 games, and he did not play in the AHL playoffs because of an upper body injury. If he can build upon his rookie campaign at the pro level, Camara could still be a lethal power forward in the future.

15. (13) Zach Trotman, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 210th overall, 2010

Trotman is getting close to being NHL ready, and he saw some NHL time this year. If injuries pop up again this season, he could get some more time in the NHL, but with the Bruins depth at defense he is poised to spend the majority of the season in Providence. Trotman is a lengthy defensive defenseman at 6’3, but he is also continuing to develop offensively. He had a career high 24 points last season with Providence. That is not far off from the offensively gifted Morrow.

16. (14) Rob O’Gara, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 151st overall, 2011

Two seasons ago, O’Gara and Yale enjoyed a National Championship with O’Gara becoming a backbone to the Bulldogs defensive corps. Yale did not make the NCAA Tournament this past season, but O’Gara finally did register his first collegiate goal. He had four goals and seven assists for Yale, and although he will never be mistaken for an offensive defenseman, he is learning how to chip in offensively at Yale. At 6’4, the defenseman can certainly put some power behind his slap shot, though. O’Gara is expected to play two more seasons at Yale before turning pro.

17. (NR) Danton Heinen, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 116th overall, 2014

Heinen will be a freshman at the University of Denver this season. Last season with the Surrey Eagles in the BCHL, Heinen produced at over a point-per-game pace with 62 points (29 goals, 33 assists) in 57 games. Heinen is a player that can be useful in all three zones, and he will have plenty of time to develop at Denver with the Pioneers.

18. (NR) Anders Bjork, C, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 5th round 146th overall, 2014

Bjork spent last season on the US Development Team’s second line and showed promise in all zones of the ice.

“It was a great experience because they really know how to develop players,” Bjork said about the US Development program. “It was a really good place to evolve. Playing college games was great because it gets you ready to take your game to the next level.”

Bjork is a two-way forward that can chip in at both ends of the ice. Last season, splitting the season between the USHL schedule, college games, and other exhibition games, he scored 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) in 61 games. His two-way ability also comes from his strong hockey sense.

“Making plays, thinking the game and knowing that I have to be responsible in all areas of the ice,” Bjork said is something that he does well. “I’m a two-way forward with a pretty good amount of offensive ability and skills.”

19. (NR) Justin Florek, RW, 6.0B
Drafted 5th round, 135th overall, 2010

The Northern Michigan University product set a new career high in the AHL this season with a 38-point season. The 6’4 forward also made his NHL debut scoring two points in four regular season games. Florek also stepped into the Bruins lineup for a few NHL playoff games and scored a goal in six games. Florek has the potential to be a third or fourth line player and with the Bruins cap situation should compete for a roster spot this season.

20. (12) Maxim Chudinov, D, 7.0F
Drafted 7th round, 195th overall, 2010

It is highly unlikely that Chudinov ever comes over from Russia, and in Russia, he has seen his production drop. After a 35-point season in 2011-12, Chudinov has only scored 10 and 18 points the following two seasons. He has a ton of potential, but it is hard to know what that is with him still playing in the inferior KHL.

Follow Rich Murray on Twitter via @Richie_Murray