Top prospects for Boston Bruins playing in OHL

By Bill Ladd
Photo: Jared Knight has been among the top forwards for the London Knights (OHL) this season. Already locked up to an entry-level deal, Knight will go pro at the conclusion of his 2011-12 junior season. (Photo courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Boston Bruins have a small but talented group of prospects developing at the junior level, with four of Boston’s most talented prospects competing in the OHL.

OHL

Doug Hamilton, D, Niagara Ice Dogs
Acquired: 1st round (9th overall) in 2011

Dougie Hamilton has elevated his game considerably in his post-draft year. Named Defenseman of the Month for the OHL in October, the 6’5 blueliner has been a dominant presence offensively for Niagara. Through 27 games he leads his team in scoring with 11 goals and 41 points, good for eighth best in the league, where he’s the only defenseman in the top 20. 

Hamilton also looks like a lock for Canada’s World Junior Team, and prepared for that tournament by playing for Team OHL against the Russians, where he served as Co-Captain, recording a goal, two assists, and smothering defense in the two meetings. 

Hamilton is not however, a finished product. His strength, while imposing at the junior level, has not yet caught up to his massive frame, and because of his long stick and strong skating, he makes very aggressive decisions that sometimes draw him out of position or lead to him over pursuing. Still, it’s hard to imagine Hamilton has anything left to learn from another year of junior hockey given just how dominant he’s been.

Ryan Spooner, C/LW, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 2nd round (45th overall) in 2010

Spooner got off to a slow offensive start on a very young Kingston squad. To his credit, he didn’t complain about his situation or his linemates and instead, focused on developing a more complete game. A game that was on full display in the Subway Super Series, a two-game tournament against the Russians that he dominated from start to finish, putting up six points, while playing both special teams and a complete three-zone game that earned him Player of the Game honors in the second contest.

Back home in Kingston, he’s been on a tear of late, racking up 23 points in the last 11 games. Half of his 14 goals have come shorthanded and his efforts have recently earned him Player of the Week honors for both the OHL and the entire CHL. However, it’s expected that the rebuilding Frontenacs will eventually deal Spooner to a contender. 

Making Canada’s World Junior team is the next challenge in store for Ryan Spooner. There’s never a shortage of high-end talent available for Canada’s team, but Spooner’s been in the mix from the beginning, and his recent dominance in Kingston and particularly on the big stage against the Russians showed what he can do when surrounded by talent. The fact that Spooner was also named Team OHL’s only permanent assistant captain also shows that he’s earned the respect of players and coaches in the league.

Jared Knight, RW/LW, London Knights
Acquired: 2nd round (32nd overall) in 2010

Jared Knight is back to being the sniper the Bruins thought they were drafting when they selected him 32nd overall in 2010. Boston’s most complete prospect has 14 goals and 28 points through 24 games and if he can maintain that pace, he’ll set career highs across the board.

The Knights are the best team in the OHL and Knight has a lot to do with that. His offensive development is important, especially if the Bruins expect him to become a top-six forward for them one day, but it’s the rest of Knight’s game that draws rave reviews. He’s a leader on that team, and a mentor to his young linemates. He sets the tone on and off the ice with his work ethic and drive. He’ll take on any role without complaint, from shadowing the opposition’s top scorer to net-front presence on the power-play, and is able to play those roles well. It’s these intangibles that make him such a highly regarded prospect in the Bruins organization.

Like Spooner, Knight’s next big challenge is earning a spot on his country’s world junior team. He has a bit of an uphill battle because Knight snubbed the US program to play for London, but if he continues to play well and be a leader on the best team in junior hockey then the US would be foolish to turn their back on a player who could help them in so many ways.

Alexander Khokhlachev, C/LW, Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 2nd round (40th overall) in 2011

The Bruins are very excited about what they have in Alex Khokhlachev. The 18-year-old Russian had a strong first year in Canadian junior hockey when he posted 34 goals and 76 points on a good team in Windsor. This year, Koko has become a leader, playing with determination and carrying Windsor’s offense. Through 29 games, he has 23 goals and 24 points.

Like many players his age, Khokhlachev does have areas of his game that need to improve. His defensive coverage is spotty and inconsistent, his skating could use more refinement and he has to continue to get stronger, but his off-ice work ethic is good.

Anthony Camara, LW, Saginaw Spirit
Acquired: 3rd round (81st overall) in 2011

When the Bruins drafted Anthony Camara, General Manager Peter Chiarelli said he believes Camara can be more than just a fighter. This was a player who, despite only recording 17 points last year, was a better skater and had better hands than most pugilists. Someone who could play the game and who they think could develop into a player like Shawn Thornton. So far those early projections look true. After just 27 games, Camara has almost eclipsed last year’s point totals, while maintaining his ornery style of play.

Camara was one of the youngest players taken in last year’s draft and as such, he’s expected to take several years to develop into an NHL ready player. Expect another full year of junior as well as some AHL time.

USHL

Zane Gothberg, G, Fargo Force
Acquired: 6th round (165th overall) in 2010

The Bruins drafted Zane Gothberg with the understanding that he was a long-term project. He was one of the youngest players in his draft year and as such, they expected him to see two more years of junior hockey in the USHL followed by several years of college hockey. He’s currently in year two of that plan and showing signs of growth and positive development. He’s the starting goalie in Fargo, and has a 2.90 goals against average and a .903 save percentage on a team that struggles at both ends of the ice.

Gothberg also got to represent his country for the second year in a row at the recent World Junior A Challenge where he sparkled in the Bronze medal game recording a 32 save shutout win, to go along with his tournament leading .979 save percent. Gothberg has committed to play for North Dakota next fall.