Transitional year gets several Boston Bruins prospects into an NHL uniform

By Pat O'Rourke
Photo: Colin Miller's stock has increased considerably since he was selected in the 5th round (151st overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. (Courtesy of Philippe Bouchard)

Photo: Colin Miller’s stock has increased considerably since he was selected in the 5th round (151st overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. (Courtesy of Philippe Bouchard)

 

 

The 2015-16 season has been a campaign of transition for the Boston Bruins. Parting ways with lineup regulars Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Dougie Hamilton, Carl Soderberg, and Reilly Smith has led to a new look for the Bruins, who missed the postseason for the first time in eight years last spring.

The purging of the Bruins roster by first-year General Manager Don Sweeney, who succeeded Peter Chiarelli after he was relieved of his duties following the 2014-15 season, has meant a bevy of ice time for rookie players for the first time since the early years of the Claude Julien era.

The Bruins sit in third place in the Atlantic Division at 30-20-6, six points behind the Florida Panthers for first. The youngsters have had a big hand in that success.

Landon Ferraro, C, 24

Ferraro, the son of former NHLer Ray Ferraro, was claimed off waivers by the Bruins in November. The 24-year-old got off to a hot start offensively, with seven points in his first 12 games. However, he hasn’t recorded a point in 23 games since. He’s been as expected—a 13th forward who can step in and be reliable in a fourth line role. He’s also been called upon to kill penalties, averaging 1:35 of shorthanded time this season.

Seth Griffith, RW, 23 

The 23-year-old Griffith has torn it up in Providence this season, and is second in the AHL with 51 points (16-35–51) in 39 games. After playing 30 games in 2014-15, Griffith has played just two of the B’s 56 games this season. While just two games, it was an underwhelming two games. Despite having an assist, he was a minus-4 and was sent back down to the AHL.

He had 10 points in 30 games in 2014-15. He was held pointless in 22 of those games, and landed one or no shots in 20. While Griffith has shown progress in the minors (his 1.28 points-per-game this year compared with a 0.75 rate in his first two seasons), more needs to be shown at the NHL level. He will likely get a chance to do so at some point over the next two months.

Joonas Kemppainen, C, 27

Kemppainen, a 27-year-old forward whom the Bruins signed to a one-year, two-way contract in May, came with the potential to be a major bottom-six contributor. Kemppainen’s big 6-foot-2, 209-pound frame has borne little fruit, however, with just four points in 37 games to go along with a team-low minus-10 rating. He has spent much of the season as Boston’s third-line center. His goal in a 6-5 loss to the Red Wings on February 14 was his first since October 23, a span of 30 games.

The one bright spot for the Finnish center is his 51.2-percent win-rate on face-offs, second behind ace pivot Patrice Bergeron (56.7) among Bruins that have taken 300-plus draws. Kempainnen is best fit for a fourth-line role.

Alex Khokhlachev, C, 22

Khokhlachev is having another strong year in Providence, his 41 points second only to Griffith. Like Griffith, Khokhlachev’s NHL sample size is small yet disappointing. The 22-year-old forward is a minus-two in five games, with no points and without a shot in his final two games.

Colin Miller, D, 23

Miller had 52 points in 70 games in 2014-15 as a big piece of Los Angeles Kings affiliate the Manchester Monarchs, who won the Calder Cup as champions of the AHL.

Acquired in the June trade that sent Milan Lucic to Los Angeles, Miller was expected to get ice time on the B’s blue line. He got off to a very good start, putting up 12 points with a plus-9 rating over a 24-game stretch from October 14 to December 20. However, his deficiencies, particularly on the defensive side of the puck, have been exposed since, with just three points to go along with a minus-five rating in 13 games. He’s played in just five of the Bruins last 13 games.

Joe Morrow, D, 23

Morrow began the season on an NHL roster for the first time in his four-year professional career, expected to play a role on a young defense corps. The 23-year-old defenseman has more healthy scratches (30) than games played (22) in his first full NHL season, and just three points. More offense is expected from a mobile player whose calling card is puck movement.

The most damning statistic for Morrow? The Bruins are 18-10-6 in the 34 games he hasn’t played in. They’re 12-10 when he’s in the lineup.

Tyler Randell, RW, 24

Randell was one of the most unexpected names to break training camp with the team. He finally broke the lineup in the fourth game of the season, and scored a goal in a 6-2 win over Colorado, the team’s first of the season. He scored his second goal one game later, a 5-3 win over Arizona. Randell has five goals overall on the season in 25 games. The 24-year-old has five fighting majors, one fewer than Zac Rinaldo, who has six scraps in 47 games.

Frank Vatrano, C, 21

Vatrano, signed by the Bruins as an undrafted free agent last March, might be too good for the AHL. The 21-year-old has 20 goals in 19 games for the Providence Bruins, with 10 in nine games since being sent back down following a 10-week stint in Boston, in which he had six goals and seven points in 30 games.

A smooth skater with a heavy shot, Vatrano has shown more promise than anyone on this list. If Loui Eriksson is traded before the February 29 trading deadline, the Massachusetts native could find himself back up with the varsity.

Top-performing non-NHL prospects

Before Malcolm Subban suffered a fractured larynx on February 6, the 22-year-old was 14-8-5 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. He had a .930 save percentage and 2.05 GAA from November 28 until his injury.

Although Boston University captain Matt Grzelcyk has slowed off the pace offensively, the Terriers are 11-4-3 with the Boston native in the lineup, 6-5-1 without him. BU freshman center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, also a Bruins prospect, has seven goals and 23 points, which ranks fourth on the Terriers.

Down the other side of Commonwealth Avenue, Ryan Fitzgerald—a 2013 fourth-round pick by Boston—has 35 points in 29 games for Boston College, second behind leading scorer Colin White (36), who was Ottawa’s first-round pick in 2015.

Austin Czarnik continues to have an impressive rookie season in Providence, with 37 points in 42 games. He has 29 points since December 6, a span of 27 games. A short stint in the NHL to allow the former Miami Redhawk to get his feet wet could be coming.

Jesse Gabrielle, taken the Bruins in the fourth round in 2015, is in the midst of a breakout season playing for Prince George of the WHL, his fourth season in the league. The 18-year-old left wing has 35 goals and 67 points in 57 games, which ties him for 11th among the WHL’s leading scorers.

Zach Senyshyn, who the Bruins took with the 15th overall pick in 2015, has built on a strong rookie OHL season with an impressive sophomore campaign, with 34 goals and 50 points in 53 games for the Soo Greyhounds.

Prospect of the Month: Brandon Carlo

Brandon Carlo - Boston BruinsA prospect bursting on the scenes is Brandon Carlo, a 6-foot-5 defenseman taken by Boston in the second round of the 2015 draft. Listed at 201 pounds by his current team, the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, Carlo is a big, physical player with a long reach. After posting a combined minus-28 over his first two WHL seasons, Carlo is a plus-one in 36 games. He’s been a minus just three times in 21 games going back to the start of December, and is a plus-six in seven February games. The 19-year-old has 19 points this season, which is six shy of his career high of 25, set in 2014-15.