Bruins Top 20 prospects, Fall 2009

By Chris Shafer

Top 20 at a glance

1. Tuukka Rask, G – 8.0C
2. Joe Colborne, C – 8.0C
3. Brad Marchand, C – 7.5C
4. Zach Hamill, C – 7.5C
5. Yuri Alexandrov, D – 7.0C
6. Jordan Caron, LW – 7.0C
7. Jamie Arniel, C – 7.0C
8. Tommy Cross, D – 7.0D
9. Byron Bitz, RW – 6.5C
10. Mikko Lehtonen, RW – 6.5C
11. Jeff Penner, D – 6.5C
12. Jeff LoVecchio, LW – 6.5C
13. Andrew Bodnarchuk, D – 6.5C
14. Yannick Riendeau, RW – 6.5 C
15. Maxime Sauve, C – 6.5C
16. Kevin Regan, G – 6.5C
17. Ryan Button, D – 7.0D
18. Adam McQuaid, D – 7.0D
19. Carl Soderberg, C – 7.0F
20. Lane MacDermid, LW – 6.0C

1. Tuukka Rask, G – 8.0C

6’3, 169 pounds
1st round, 21st overall, 2005

In two straight AHL seasons with the Providence Bruins, goaltending prospect Tuukka Rask has made it very clear that he wants to be the man of the future between the pipes for Boston. In 57 games with Providence this past year, Rask accounted for 33 wins and only 20 regulation losses while posting a 2.50 goals-against average with a solid .915 save percentage.

Recently, veteran Tim Thomas broke out in a Vezina-winning performance, earning himself a hefty four-year contract. With cap space a major issue for some time, it is hard to tell whether or not Rask will play much in the NHL this season. In order to solve their backup situation, Boston signed Dany Sabourin to a one-year contract. With Rask in need of a new contract after this season, the Bruins may need to play around with the roster in order to fit both him and Thomas in the lineup. A trade could be in order.

2. Joe Colborne, C – 8.0C

6’5, 190 pounds
1st round, 16th overall, 2008

The Bruins first-rounder from the 2008 draft, Colborne, entered his freshman year at the University of Denver this past season and showed what a gifted play-making center can do at the college level. He played in all 40 games and racked up 21 assists while adding 10 markers of his own. Colborne finished fourth on the team in scoring and was named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team.

After a recent growth spurt, Colborne has become one of the Bruins’ tallest prospects while remaining the biggest future offensive weapon within their pool. He still has not gotten the full grasp of the advantage his height gives him as he seems to often shy away from contact too often and will not always drive to the net. While at Denver he has plenty of time to work on his physical game, and the Bruins have no reason to rush his development.

3. Brad Marchand, C – 7.5C

5’9, 183 pounds
3rd round, 71st overall, 2006

Like Hamill, Marchand was coming off a final season slump in juniors when he joined Providence. Unlike Hamill, this former QMJHL stand-out made his presence known through his production. In 79 games last year, Marchand scored 18 goals and assisted on 41 more to finish third on the team in scoring.

Marchand is also small and tries to bring a physical edge with him to the AHL. He battles for the puck in corners and works hard on every shift though he has a tendency to try to do too much at times. If he continues his production, it will be hard to keep him away from the NHL for much longer despite his size. He will never be a star, but he has a tendency of doing the little things to help win games to go along with decent offensive production.

4. Zach Hamill, C – 7.5C

5’11, 180 pounds
1st round, 8th overall, 2007

Hamill led the entire WHL in scoring before he was taken eighth overall by the Bruins in 2007, but regressed by nearly 20 points in his final season with the Everett Silvertips. With the pressure of being a top ten selection, Hamill looked forward to Providence in 2008-09 to prove that he was worthy of his draft position.

In 65 games in the AHL, Hamill managed only 26 points off of 13 goals and 13 assists. He was only 20 at the time, and the experience proved to be an eye-opening one. Despite his relatively small stature, he had always been a physically active player, but he soon discovered how critical it is for him during his year in the AHL. He has the speed, acceleration, and enough pure offensive ability to become an important player with Boston, however, he will need some more time to develop.

5. Yuri Alexandrov, D – 7.0C

6’0, 185 pounds
2nd round, 37th overall, 2006

Alexandrov has all the skills necessary to become a dangerous two-way defenseman in the NHL. He has decent size, speed, and technique making his puck-moving capabilities all the more deadly. He is also aggressive and knows how to use body positioning effectively. He can log minutes on the penalty kill or on the power play with a good shot and solid passing abilities.

While Alexandrov has spent the last four seasons playing in Russia‘s highest level of competitive hockey, he suffered a shoulder injury during the 2008-09 season which kept him out for four months. When he rejoined Severstal Cherepovets of the KHL, he did not miss a step. This summer he attended Bruins rookie camp but has yet to sign a contract with the club. While Alexandrov returned to Russia without a contract, his appearance at the camp and his comments about joining the NHL show that he’s willing to take the next step. He has one more year left under contract in the KHL.

6. Jordan Caron, LW – 7.0C
6’2, 202 pounds
1st round, 25th overall, 2009

Caron, the Bruins’ the first-round power forward, is coming off a solid break-out season of only 56 games with the Rimouski Oceanic. He has yet to play a full season of action with the Oceanic, but he continues to progress into a solid forward. His 2008-09 season consisted of 36 goals and 31 assists for 67 points. His performance during the Memorial Cup was solid as well as he scored two goals in four games.

Caron could turn into a very good power forward for the Bruins in a couple of years if injuries do not hold back his development. He has size, a good shot, defensive awareness, and the intangibles needed to make it to the NHL.

7. Jamie Arniel, C – 7.0C

5’11, 183 pounds
4th round, 97th overall, 2008

Arniel is a solid depth center to the Bruins’ organization who excels at faceoffs. He does his best to provide energy and has the ability to react to different situations effectively. He sees the ice well for a balanced offensive attack.

After breaking out offensively in 2006-07 with the Guelph Storm, Arniel has remained consistent throughout his OHL career playing for two different teams. While his production is not going to blow anyone away, he does offer a decent bit of goal-scoring ability along with the vision to create plays. In his 2008-09 season with the Sarnia Sting, Arniel scored 32 goals and added 36 assists for 68 points and career highs in every offensive stat. Now signed to an entry-level contract, Arniel will play with Providence.

8. Tommy Cross, D – 7.0D
6’4, 210 pounds
2nd round, 35th overall, 2007

Cross has gotten a little bigger and begun the process of filling out his frame during his freshman year at Boston College. He moves well for a big guy on the blueline, but is not afraid to use his body in order to shut down opponents. While he is not overly aggressive, he is a very smart player with the stick-work to get himself out of tight situations in his own end. He has a blast of a shot, but an offensive game isn’t his bread and butter.

He has one year under his belt at the college level with 24 games and eight assists to show for it. His team-worst -9 did not reflect his defensive capabilities at all — though he has the skill set to be dominant on the blueline, he did not excel the way he could have. Expect a much better season in 2009-10.

9. Byron Bitz, RW – 6.5C

6’3, 200 pounds
4th round, 107th overall, 2003

After performing well for a season and a half with Providence, Bitz was called up to play for Boston on Jan. 10. There, Bitz scored four goals and added three assists in 35 games. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he suited up for five more games adding a goal and an assist. He finished both the regular season and playoffs with an even plus/minus.

Bitz was never going to be a top tier point-producing forward in the NHL, but he does offer his own skill set. He could offer marginal production when he has fully matured, but for now he plays the role of a checking forward. He uses his size and strength well and is good on his skates.

10. Mikko Lehtonen, RW – 7.0D

6’3, 196 pounds
3rd round, 83rd overall, 2005

Lehtonen played a number of years with the Espoo Blues of the SM-liiga before making his North American debut with Providence. He made a quick impact in the AHL, scoring 53 points in 72 games, finishing third on the team in production during the 2008-09 season.

While being a dangerous sniper, Lehtonen often commits himself to one facet of the game at a time. When he is focusing offensively, he tends to press too hard, forgetting defensive responsibilities, and while he is concentrating in his own zone he can go through scoring slumps. He has talent, speed, and size to his advantage. If he puts it all together in the AHL, he could find himself in a role as a solid NHL sniper. Based on his first AHL season, he is well on his way.

11. Jeff Penner, D – 6.5C
5’10, 183 pounds
Signed as a free agent

With Penner’s size, there was a worry that he would have issues playing against larger forwards. As a offensive-minded defenseman, he also sometimes has issues with getting caught out of position, but during his first season of AHL action with Providence in 2008-09, Penner was a stand-out. With 10 goals and 18 assists in 80 appearances, he finished second among defensemen in scoring and led the team in plus/minus with a rating of +22.

Penner makes up for his lack of size with above-average skating abilities. His overall speed and stick-work are also impressive as he shows confidence when moving with the puck. Though he sometimes forces things, he does possess a good shot and great vision.

12. Jeff LoVecchio, LW – 6.5C

6’2, 195 pounds
Signed as a free agent

It has been an interesting professional career so far for LoVecchio to say the least. After signing a contract to play with the Providence Bruins for the 2008-09 season, he suffered a concussion while skating near his home in Missouri. He missed the entire season due to post-concussion issues, but spent his time wisely by working out to stay in game shape.

Before the concussion, he spent three seasons at Western Michigan University putting up decent offensive numbers. In 14 games with Boston’s AHL affiliate at the end of 2007-08, he scored three goals and assisted on two others.

LoVecchio plays well in the offensive zone and drives hard to the net but will not likely turn into a top producer. He makes up for it with his defensive game and displayed a knack for killing penalties while in college. In what he hopes will be his first full season with the AHL, LoVecchio needs to show that he can still play up to par after the concussion.

13. Andrew Bodnarchuk, D – 6.5C

5’11, 172 pounds
5th round, 128th overall, 2006

Bodnarchuk got his first taste of substantial professional action in 2008-09. After a number of seasons with the the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, he moved on to Providence. Bodnarchuk’s game did not fully transfer immediately though as the gifted offensive defenseman only scored one goal along with 10 assists in his 62 games. He finished the season with a -2.

Bodnarchuk possesses a strong set of wheels and eyes allowing him to almost distribute the puck at will. His hard shot makes him a dangerous power-play weapon. He is relatively small though, and it hurts him substantially at the professional level. While other smaller defensemen have used their other skills to adapt, Bodnarchuk did not during his first season in the AHL.

14. Yannick Riendeau, RW – 6.5 C

5’11, 180 pounds
Signed as a free agent

The QMJHL is known for its speed and its high scoring. While Riendreau lacked the former when compared to the skating abilities of some of the other young, elite players in the league, he certainly made up for it with the latter. After three seasons of decent and steadily rising production, in 2008-09 Riendeau took the league by storm with a new team, the Drummondville Voltigeurs. In only 64 games, he scored 58 goals and added 68 assists for 126 total points on his way to becoming the CHL scoring champion.

He has signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Bruins and will see how well his offensive abilities transfer to the professional level. He does not have size or skating on his side, but if he finds other ways to make up for it he could become a dangerous NHL winger.

15. Maxime Sauve, C – 6.5C

6’0, 170 pounds
2nd round, 47th overall, 2008

Two-way center Sauve has continued to progress since being drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft while getting new career highs in goals, assists, and points. His 76 points spread across 27 goals and 49 assists were good enough to lead his team in scoring by over 20 points. On a relatively bad team, Sauve’s plus/minus ended at a -7, while many of his teammates found themselves in the negatives ranging from the late teens to late 20s.

Sauve lacks the size and strength to play a true physical style of hockey, but that does not necessarily stop him from trying. He is a hardworking, aggressive forechecker who works hard to be the first forward in the rush and the first back to the blueline. He has the offensive capabilities to turn himself into a solid two-way center at the NHL level.

16. Kevin Regan, G – 6.5C
6’0, 195 pounds
9th round, 277th overall, 2003

Regan spent a number of seasons with the University of New Hampshire, putting up solid numbers before turning to the professional level. In 2008-09, his first full season of professional play, he saw 21 games with the Providence Bruins and was a decent backup for Rask. Though his 2.99 goals-against-average and .896 save percentage were nothing spectacular, he did get to show off some of his athleticism.

He has solid technique, good work ethic, a competitive nature, and good awareness while rarely getting caught out of position. He has the mental attitude to survive as a professional goalie, but he is currently locked behind Rask who, thanks to the salary cap and Thomas’ new contract, is locked in the AHL. If Rask does join Boston or moves on to another NHL team next offseason with his contract set to expire, Regan may get his opportunity to start at the AHL level.

17. Ryan Button, D – 7.0D
6’0, 185 pounds
3rd round, 86th overall, 2009

Button is yet another puck-moving defenseman. He had a breakout season in the WHL scoring 37 points off a 32-assist performance. He finished second on the Prince Albert Raiders in scoring by a defenseman, and though his -15 looks worrisome, compared to the rest of the team he finished about average.

At 6’0, he has shown flashes of physical play when he needs to, but generally relies on his skating, vision, and hockey smarts. He has a couple more seasons ahead of him in the WHL and will have to take his development further to make an impact on the Bruins. While his 2008-09 performance was decent, he will have to show that he’s capable of more.

18. Adam McQuaid, D – 7.0D

6’4, 197 pounds
2nd round, 55th overall, 2005

In 2008-09, McQuaid spent his second full professional season with the Providence Bruins and progressed very well. His plus/minus fell considerably, but that seems to have more to do with the team than his own play. For a shut-down defenseman though, his point total increased substantially with a bigger role on the blueline. In 78 games, he assisted on 11 goals and added four of his own for 15 points.

He has all the size necessary and does not leave anything to be desired in terms of mobility. He can move around the ice pretty well and makes good decisions with the puck though he has limited offensive capabilities. His physical style only makes him that much more effective in his own zone.

19. Carl Soderberg, C – 7.0F
6’3, 198 pounds
2nd round, 49th overall, 2004

Despite a 31-game, 30-point performance with Malmö IF of the Elitserien in 2006-07, Soderberg has spent his last two seasons dominating the Allsvenskan. His abilities to distribute the puck effectively have developed well, and though he was never a superior sniper, he has a knack for finding teammates. Other than his average sniping skills, he is the total offensive package possessing size, speed, quick feet, vision, and superior puck-handling. While his defense was not always spectacular, it has gotten much better while playing in the Allsvenskan.

He has the potential to become a solid NHL forward but has not displayed any interest in coming to the NHL. He seems reluctant to leave his life in Sweden behind.

20. Lane MacDermid, LW – 6.0C

6’3, 205 pounds
4th round, 112th overall, 2009

With their fourth-round selection in 2009, Boston got more size on the wings. MacDermid is a physical menace at the forward position while offering some decent production. Over the course of the 2008-09 season, he played games for both the Owen Sound Attack and Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He totaled 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points in 64 games.