Boston Bruins have NHL-ready prospects at all positions

By Richard Murray
Zach Trotman - Boston Bruins

Photo: Defenseman Zach Trotman was recently recalled to the NHL from the Providence Bruins. Trotman was seventh round pick from the 2010 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

 

The Boston Bruins strength at the NHL level has always been down the middle and that is no different in their prospect system. The Bruins helped filled out some issues on the wing during the 2014 NHL Draft this past summer with first round pick David Pastrnak, but still remain thin along the boards.

Left Wing

The Bruins are a bit weak on the left wing, but it will be interesting to see how Peter Cehlarik develops in Europe this season. Cehlarik could fit in well to a goal-scoring role, as the Czech Republic native has a bit of flair to his offensive game. He has eight points in 15 games in the SHL so far this season.

Anthony Camara is another winger on the left side that some offensive upside and could be an eventual top-nine contributor. He was hurt for most of NHL training camp and will try to build upon his 22-point season from a year ago with Providence.

Craig Cunningham showed some promised pivoting the Bruins top line with Gregory Campbell out of action the first few games of the NHL season. The Trail, British Columbia native did not register a point in three NHL games during his early stint with the Bruins, but he showed that he was defensively responsible and a capable penalty killer. Those are things that the Bruins and Claude Julien tend to like, so Cunningham’s time in the NHL should come.

After a strong season with the US Development program last season, Anders Bjork has settled into the Notre Dame line up nicely. The Bruins fifth round selection last summer has three points in his first six collegiate games.

Justin Florek was expected to compete for a roster spot during NHL training camp, but was cut fairly early in camp. Florek will likely have a few stints in the NHL this season, and he will try to stick around this year. Matt Lindblad, Anton Blidh, Mitchell Dempsey, and Colton Hargrove round out Boston’s prospects on the left side, who all project to be bottom-six forwards.

Center

While Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Carl Soderberg, and Campbell fill out the NHL roster, the likes of Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, Ryan Fitzgerald, Ryan Donato, and Seth Griffith fill out a solid foundation of pivots in the Boston farm system.

To make the NHL roster, though, some of those prospects may have to adjust to the wing. Griffith has been getting a strong look on the B’s top line with Milan Lucic and Krejci on the right side. Griffith picked up his first career NHL against San Jose earlier this season. He has two points in his first six NHL games. With Jarome Iginla and Nathan Horton no longer members of the Bruins, Griffith has some tough shoes to fill if he is going to stick on the Bruins top line.

Spooner still does not appear to be ready to become a full-time NHL player. He was sent back down to Providence after going scoreless in five NHL games to open up the season. With Krejci out, Spooner got ice time with Lucic, but the two did not seem to have much chemistry.

Khokhlachev is back in the AHL and, like Spooner, and hopes to grab a few stints at the NHL level this season. The flashy Russian could see sometime on the wing if he gets a chance with the big club.

Fitzgerald is moving into a big offensive role with Boston College this season, and he is off to a hot start. Fitzgerald has three goals and an assist through the Eagles first four contests. With a lot of talent leaving BC this past offseason, it could be time for Fitzgerald to soar.

Danton Heinen has three points through his first two collegiate games. Heinen has the potential to be a two-way second or third line forward.

Ben Sexton and Rob Flick fill out the center pool. Both are projected to be depth type players.

Right Wing

First round selection Pastrnak is highly skilled and has started the season in Providence. In five games at the AHL level, Pastrnak has impressed with six points. It will be interesting to see if the Bruins give him a crack at the NHL because they are lacking a right-winger with his offensive upside.

Cornell alum Brian Ferlin is getting his first crack at the pro level after a solid career with the Big Red. Ferlin has registered one-point so far this season, but he has second or third line potential. The Bruins like his big size and strength on the puck.

The jury is still out on Jared Knight, but it is not looking too good for the Battle Creek, Michigan native. Knight has one assist through seven games this season.

Alexander Fallstrom and Tyler Randell finish off the Bruins right side. Both are depth players.

Defensemen

One thing the Bruins are not short on in their prospect pool are defenseman. Boston currently has 11 prospects on the blue line under HF’s prospect criteria. Highlighting that group is former first round pick and the final piece of the Tyler Seguin trade, Joe Morrow. With both Kevan Miller and Zdeno Chara hurt, Morrow could at some point get a look with the big club. The Sherwood Park, Alberta native should get a strong look with some open spots. He has the potential to develop into a two-way, top-four defenseman, but how ready he is for the NHL remains to be seen.

Like Morrow, Zach Trotman could help stabilize the Bruins blue line and fill in for their injured defensemen. The Carmel, Indiana native made his NHL debut last year, appearing in two games for Boston and the 6’4 defenseman certainly has the size to compete. Like Morrow, how ready Trotman is for the NHL remains to be seen, but the Bruins should find out soon enough with early season injuries.

After missing most of last season with an injury, Matt Grzelcyk returns to Boston University as its captain. He will try to build upon his 11-point shortened season from a year ago after a 23-point campaign as a freshman. Rob O’Gara is returning for his junior season with the Yale Bulldogs and will look to expand on an 11-point season a year ago. He is known for his defense, but O’Gara is making strides in the offensive zone. His 6’4 frame does not hurt either.

Wiley Sherman will make his debut for Harvard this season after finishing his prep school career a year ago. At 6’4, Sherman has the build to become a punishing defenseman. Across Boston over at Northeastern, Matt Benning enters his junior year and will look to build off of Northeastern’s strong season from last year.

Bruins second round pick Linus Arnesson did not get much action in the preseason because of an injury and has returned to Sweden for another season. Maxim Chudinov is also across the pond playing in the KHL, but the 2007 seventh round selection appears unlikely to play in North America.

Tommy Cross, Emil Johansson, and Chris Casto round off the remaining defensive prospects. All project to be depth or bottom pairing players at the NHL level.

Goaltending

The Bruins are rock solid in net with Malcolm Subban, Zane McIntyre, and Niklas Svedberg all still considered prospects. As expected, Svedberg earned the back-up role to Tuukka Rask in Boston. In four games so far this season, Svedberg has impressed posting a 1.57 goals against average and .951 save percentage.

Subban is transitioning back into a starting role after backing up Svedberg in Providence last season. Meanwhile, McIntyre has become one of the premiere goalies at the collegiate level after leading North Dakota to the Frozen four. With McIntyre’s emergence the past few seasons, Subban could become an expendable asset in a trade.

Follow Rich Murray on Twitter via @Richie_Murray