Boston Bruins prospects get trial by necessity in 2014-15

By Kristopher Bras
Photo: David Pastrnak, Boston's youngest rookie this season, was also its most electrifying. (Courtesy of Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Boston’s youngest rookie this season, David Pastrnak, was also its most electrifying. (Courtesy of Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

For the Boston Bruins—as well as their fans—the 2014-15 season was unacceptable. After a year full of injuries and underachievement, the Bruins failed to make the playoffs for the first time in eight years. The team’s only consolation is that the coaching staff had several chances to view their promising stable of prospects throughout the season.

Almost comically, the Bruins have the same problem in Providence that they do in Boston—too many centremen, not enough wingers. Because of this, incorporating the team’s NHL-ready forward prospects into the big club’s roster has been an awkward process.

In order to fill spots in the lineup, the Bruins have had to push Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell over to the left wing to accommodate Providence’s youngsters. And the team’s prospects who are capable of playing on the wing benefited from longer looks.

David Pastrnak, RW, 19

After showing a commitment to the organization’s program in Providence, the Bruins promoted Pastrnak to the NHL in November. Consecutive two-goal games in early January cemented his spot on the team, and he has not looked back. He finished the season with 10 goals and 27 points in 46 games, tops among Bruins rookies.

At 168 pounds, Pastrnak is a light 6’0, but keeps distance between himself and defenders with his dazzling speed. He also benefits from the lack of dedicated, NHL-ready right wingers in the organization. Thanks to Pastrnak’s exciting finishing skills, he could end up on Patrice Bergeron’s line as soon as next season.

Niklas Svedberg, G, 26

At a glance, you would think that Niklas Svedberg should be pushing Tuukka Rask for starts given his sparkling 2.33 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. What those numbers are hiding is the inconsistency he has had, and how uncomfortable he is in a backup role. Stuck behind one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, Svedberg showed an inability to stay sharp after riding the pine for several consecutive games.

Unfortunately, Svedberg is not planning on sticking around to work those issues out. Obviously unhappy with getting just 18 starts, Svedberg has decided to play the next season out with the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev, where he will get the chance to be a starter. The Bruins will likely go to Malcolm Subban as a replacement.

Ryan Spooner, C, 23

Ryan Spooner is a playmaking centre entrenched on a team that already has one of the best playmakers in the game (Bergeron). Furthermore, he is not ready to play ahead of David Krejci, so Spooner has had a hard time winning Head Coach Claude Julien over. Julien likes Spooner’s offense, but has challenged him to improve defensively and away from the puck—both crucial elements for a bottom-six centerman.

Despite spending a good portion of the season in Providence—where he has nothing left to prove—Spooner managed to contribute 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) in 29 games with the Bruins. Most notably, the Ottawa native made the most of his trips home, burning the Senators for four goals in two games in front of friends and family.

Alexander Khokhlachev, C, 22

Khokhlachev got a cup of coffee in Boston back in November. With several capable forwards in the system, he quickly became a victim of the numbers game, and was sent back to Providence to develop. It is no secret that Julien likes his tough, defensive depth forwards—attributes that Khokhlachev lacks. He did manage to help the team win one game though, scoring the shootout winner against Columbus in his first game of the season.

Seth Griffith, C/RW, 22

Griffith had a great start this season, scoring five points in his first seven games. Unfortunately, he struggled to stay consistent, going 10 games without a point before the Christmas break. A few games later, he was returned to Providence. Although injuries later created the opportunity for more call ups, the Bruins instead stuck with Spooner. Griffith had 10 points in 30 NHL games.

Joe Morrow, D, 22

After spending two seasons in the AHL, Morrow finally got the chance to play in the NHL this season thanks to injuries to Kevan Miller and Zdeno Chara. He looked good through 15 games, scoring once and finishing with a plus-3 rating. He was ultimately sent back to Providence when Boston’s blueline got healthy.

Zach Trotman, D, 24

Trotman joined Morrow on the Bruins blueline early in the season due to injuries. When Dougie Hamilton was sidelined indefinitely in March, they called Trotman back up instead of Morrow—speaking volumes about the organization’s opinion of him. Trotman finished the season with the Bruins, scoring five points.

Brian Ferlin, RW, 22

Yet another player to benefit from a rash of injuries in Boston this season, Ferlin was called up in April for a short-term stint and a few glorious NHL paychecks. Although he only registered one assist in seven games, he did not look out of place.

World Junior Championships Update

The Bruins had three players in the World Junior Championships, but only one of them would skate away with a medal. Although the Swedes swept the preliminaries, gritty winger Anton Blidh had his gold-medal hopes dashed in the semifinals by Russia. Later, they were defeated in the bronze medal game by Peter Cehlarik’s Slovakian team. Blidh finished with three points.

Rookie sensation David Pastrnak was allowed to compete in the tournament, even though the Bruins could have used him back home. He continued his wonderful season in the WJC’s, scoring seven points in five games. His Czech Republic team was also defeated by Slovakia, this time in the quarterfinals.

Cehlarik’s Slovakian team got the glory when they defeated the Swedes in the finals, a finish that is as much as any of these teams could have hoped for in a tournament where Russia and Canada seemed destined to meet in the final. Cehlarik finished with three points.

Player of the Month: Seth Griffith

Seth Griffith - Boston BruinsNone of the team’s prospects have been in action since April. At that time, Seth Griffith was getting the job done. Returned to Providence in early January, he helped the AHL Bruins come within a goal of defeating the heavily favoured Hartford Wolf Pack in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Griffith scored five points in five games during the series, leading his team in scoring. One of his goals was the dramatic triple-overtime game winner in Game 3, which put the Bruins ahead 2-1 in the series. Unfortunately, Hartford would go on to win the next two games.