Dougie Hamilton, Malcom Subban lead Boston Bruins’ Fall Top 20

By Bill Ladd

Ryan Spooner - Boston Bruins

Photo: Forward Ryan Spooner is one of several Boston prospects who are almost ready for NHL duty. (CHL Images)

The Boston Bruins significantly improved their depth in goal this spring with the addition of 2012 first round pick Malcolm Subban and free agent signee Niklas Svedberg. The addition of the two talented netminders gives Boston five goalies in their Top 20, more than any other team in the league. Dougie Hamilton continues his reign as Boston's best prospect, but the newly drafted Subban has supplanted Ryan Spooner as the number two prospect in the organization.

1. (1) Dougie Hamilton, D, 9.0C
Drafted 1st round, 9th overall, 2011

Dougie Hamilton has the talent and ability to be the Bruins next great defenseman. The CHL Defenseman of the Year has rare size at 6'5, outstanding mobility, top-of-his-class intelligence, a penchant for big hits, and a high-end offensive game. However, the 19 year-old still has a long way to go in terms of filling out his massive frame, and as many fans saw at this summer's Canada-Russia challenge, needs to continue refining his defensive game.

Considered too good to go back to junior, Hamilton is expected to make Boston's team this fall. However, do not expect big returns right away as Bruins head coach Claude Julien is notoriously careful with his young players.

2. (NR) Malcolm Subban, G, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 24th overall, 2012

Malcolm Subban is an athletic goaltender with size and explosive lateral mobility. Practically unbeatable in one-on-one situations, he's poised but is also capable of making highlight reel saves thanks to his athleticism and agility. The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens' defenseman P.K. Subban, Malcom is similarly charismatic, though far more understated. If there is one knock on Subban's game, it is his technique, which is less refined than other goalies that have been at the position longer.

If Subban can iron out the wrinkles in his technique, he has star potential. He was one of the best goalies in the OHL last year. He was Canada's best goaltender and a stabilizing force for Canada in the '72 Tribute Series this summer, winning both his games as well as the series deciding overtime against fellow 2012 first rounder Andrey Vasilevskiy (TB). His performance makes him the odds-on favorite for the starting job for Canada at this winter's World Junior Championships.

3. (2) Ryan Spooner, C/LW, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2010

Ryan Spooner is a slick, creative forward with dynamic speed and stick-handling abilities. He has an underrated shooting arsenal but does most of his damage in close with quick shifts and feints around goal. He is also a gifted playmaker, drawing defenders out of position and then deftly hitting the open man. This past season Spooner made significant gains on the defensive side of the puck, in both his defensive zone awareness and his compete level. Unfortunately his season was derailed by a mid-season bout with mononucleosis that cost him a trip to the World Juniors.

Spooner's long-term upside is that of a top-six forward and powerplay ace. He has impressed in every one of his camp appearances and has an outside shot at making Boston's roster this fall. Failing that, he will be looked on as an offensive leader right away in Providence, and could be the most talented offensive player that team has seen since David Krejci.

3. (4) Alexander Khokhlachev, C/LW, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 40th overall, 2011

Alex Khokhlachev is something of a chameleon. He is a tremendously skilled offensive player, but unlike Spooner who is a puck-possession player, Khohklachev has the ability to be whatever his linemates need. In Windsor, he was the offensive catalyst and the offense ran through him. At the World Juniors, he had higher caliber linemates and did more of the dirty work for his line, seeing critical face-off situations, proving a presence in the corners, and playing in front of the net on the powerplay.

Khokhlachev recently signed a one year deal to play in the KHL, but Boston GM Peter Chiarelli was consulted on the decision and it is understood that this is a bridge year for the Russian forward and a chance to play against men a year earlier than his junior eligibility would have allowed. Long-term Khokhlachev has a legitimate chance at becoming a top-six forward for the Bruins.

5. (4) Jared Knight, RW/LW, 6.5B
Drafted 2nd round, 32nd overall, 2010

Jared Knight is a rugged, two-way winger with outstanding character and leadership qualities. His offensive skills are not at the same level as Spooner or Khokhlachev, he does not beat players one-on-one with creative stick-work and he is not a gifted playmaker. But he does drive to the net as hard as any player in junior hockey and has an explosive wrist shot. Given the right linemates and situation, he could parlay that shot and net drive into a top-six role but right now is trending more towards a middle of the lineup forward who can chip in offensively.

Knight is a physical specimen, easily the most physically developed player in Boston's system. He is also the most complete. As such, he has as good a chance as Spooner or any of Providence's returning forwards at making the big club in the fall. However, with Jordan Caron already with Boston, it may make more sense for both Spooner and Knight to get ample playing time in Providence next season. 

6. (5) Torey Krug, D, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent, March 25th, 2012

Torey Krug is a small puck-moving defenseman with a big heart. Most undersized defensemen are primarily offense-only but that is not the case with Krug, who blocks shots, sacrifices his body to make a play, and battles hard in the corners. When he does activate offensively, he uses his outstanding skating ability to join the rush and act as a fourth attacker, but he is smart about limiting the amount of risks he takes. He has excellent distribution skills and will eventually be an option on the powerplay.

Krug has legitimate top-four talent, but there will always be questions about his size and ability to handle power forwards. Last season, Krug stepped right onto Boston's roster mid-season and while he did not look overwhelmed in his debut, it is believed those games were more about burning a year off of his entry-level contract. If Krug can not beat out Dougie Hamilton for the sixth and final slot on Boston's defense this fall, he will be better served by going to Providence and getting ample playing time in all situations.

7. (8) Brian Ferlin, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 121st overall, 2011

Brian Ferlin is a big, industrious winger with good hockey sense and scoring ability. Not a mean player per se, but he knows how to use his big frame to protect the puck and win battles along the walls. His best asset is his ability to play with skilled linemates. He can read the game at a high level and knows how to get open or create space. His skating is a little unconventional but it does not hinder him, as he has demonstrated both quickness and good straight line speed.

The ECAC Rookie of the Year has top-six potential as a complimentary power winger in the mold of a Mike Knuble. Unfortunately for Bruins fans, they may have to wait awhile as Ferlin takes his education and commitment to Cornell seriously, which means that despite his early success, he plans on staying in school all four years.

8. (9) Carter Camper, RW, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent, April 7th, 2011

Camper is a small but intelligent and highly skilled offensive forward. The undrafted college free agent led the Providence Bruins in scoring last year with 48 points in 69 games which projects close to a 60 point rookie season over a full 80 games. Camper's best asset is his mind. He thinks the game at an elite level which helps compensate for his lack of size and speed. He can finish as well as he passes and quarterbacks the power play in Providence.

Camper has top-six skills but people will question his size until he proves it is not an issue. So far, he's managed to work around it, dominating college for four years at Miami and then earning an AHL All-Star berth as a first year pro. Camper is poised for a breakout season with Providence. The influx of new talent combined with his experience should make for a potent combination, and increased production should only lend itself to more auditions in Boston.

9. (7) Max Sauve, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall, 2008

Max Sauve may be the fastest player in the Bruins organization. His offensive game and combination of size, speed, and hands are good enough to be ranked alongside players like Spooner and Khokhlachev. However, Sauve has been incredibly injury prone throughout his career, and his inability to stay on the ice for a full season has severely hampered his development.

This is a critical season for Sauve. If he can remain healthy, he should be one of Providence's best players and will be in the conversation regarding call-ups and openings in Boston. If he can not, then he could be a fast faller in the Bruins organization, with his contract up at the end of the 2012-13 season.

10. (10) David Warsofsky, D, 6.5C
Trade with St. Louis Blues, June 6th, 2010

David Warsofksy is a highly mobile, offensive defenseman who carries the puck well and can make things happen on the ice. He has 'plus' offensive skills from the back-end, can run the power play, and is equally adept at shooting and distributing the puck. Defensively however, Warsofsky is still learning the game. He also does not have the size or strength to match up with bigger forwards, making his defensive positioning and decision making all the more critical.

Warsofsky really came on at the end of last season. The rookie put together a few multi-point games for Providence and started to look like a player ready to break out. Long-term, he projects as a third-pair, power-play specialist, although he is still young enough to develop a more complete game.

11. (18) Zane Gothberg, G 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 165th overall, 2010

Zane Gothberg is a talented and athletic goaltender with strong puck-handling skills. Drafted as a long-term project, Gothberg has developed nicely in Fargo and recently won the USHL's award for best goaltender. Headed to North Dakota of the WCHA next fall, the slow and steady approach has paid dividends for Gothberg, who is a driven and diligent worker. And while he has not accomplished as much as Svedberg, who won a Swedish Elite League title, or played at as high a level as Michael Hutchinson who posted a .927 save percent in the AHL last season, he played more than any goalie in Boston's system this past season and of the three, looks like he has the best chance of developing into a starting goalie one day.

12. (11) Tommy Cross, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 35th overall, 2007

Tommy Cross is a big, steady, stay-at-home defenseman with outstanding character and leadership qualities. The two-time, national champion with the Boston College Eagles has improved every year at the Heights and this past season was named their captain. Cross is not particularly mean, but he is physical without taking himself out of position. He is not fast, but his mobility has improved and is now quite good for a big man who plays a heavy game. There are however serious questions about his durability. Cross blew out his knee prior to the 2007 draft and has had issues with it in all but one year at BC.

Cross was drafted to be a solid, second-pair, defense-first defenseman, but he has fallen off that trajectory a bit and now looks more like a good third pair/penalty-kill specialist with leadership qualities. Next season will be a big one for Cross. He is expected to start in Providence, and will be watched closely to see if he has the confidence in his knee to play his game against bigger, stronger opponents.

13. (NR) Niklas Svedberg, G, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, May 29th, 2012

Svedberg is a tall, technically sound goaltender who absolutely dominated the Swedish Elite League playoffs, posting a gaudy .948 save percentage. The late bloomer bounced around quite a bit up until last season, playing in both the Elite League and on loan to Mora who plays in Sweden's tier-two division. Last season however, Svedberg found his game, posting a .915 save percentage in 29 regular season games and then leading Brynas to the Elite League championship. Because of the relatively small sample size as a starter, it's hard to know whether Svedberg projects as a starting goalie capable of playing 50 or more games or as a backup goalie capable of giving 30 strong efforts with ample rest and preparation between contests. The latter has clearly been the case with Providence's other netminder, Michael Hutchinson. Coming to North America, and to a team in Providence that is in need of a starter should help Svedberg and the Bruins answer some of those questions.

14. (NR) Zach Trotman, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 210th overall, 2010

No player in Boston's system has risen as far or surprised as much as defenseman Zach Trotman. Literally the last player selected in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the late bloomer has worked hard to improve every year. Trotman has a rare combination of size, mobility and puck moving savvy. The two-way defenseman has good offensive skills and can play on both special teams. And while he is not a puck-rusher, he will join the attack and has a sneaky shot that he's able to get through traffic with uncanny precision. Trotman's long-range upside is changing all the time; he started last season as a player with third pair aspirations, but is now looking like he may have second pair potential.

Look for Trotman to start the year on Providence's crowded blue line. The 6'4, 200-pounder has impressed in each and every development camp and while he still has elements of his game to improve on, he could continue to be one of Boston's biggest risers this season.

15. (13) Craig Cunningham, C/RW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2010

Craig Cunningham is an undersized sparkplug who plays with drive and determination. He has good wheels and solid offensive skills to go along with a mature defensive game. Cunningham is also a winner and a leader as his Memorial Cup and junior captaincy will attest. As a rookie in Providence last season, it took him a little while to play his way up onto a scoring line, but once there the offense opened up and Cunningham ended up leading the team in goals with 20.

Cunningham's top-end looks like a quality third liner who brings some offense, versatility and leadership to the table. He is expected to return to Providence this season and build on his promising rookie performance.

16. (NR) Seth Griffith, C/W, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 131st overall, 2012

Seth Griffith is a small, skilled forward with excellent hockey sense and solid offensive skills. The overager out of Ontario broke out in a big way this season, doubling his previous high in goals en route to an OHL Championship with the London Knights. The big difference in Griffith's game was an impressive compete level that saw him winning pucks from much bigger defenseman all through the playoffs. Offensively, Griffith's best attribute is his hockey sense. He thinks the game at a high level and knows how to get the most out of his linemates.

Griffith's potential is somewhere between an offensively inclined third liner and a complementary second liner. He will head back to London this fall and if he can build on his impressive offensive performance from last year, he should make a strong case for the top-six scenario.

17. (NR) Matt Grzelcyk, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 85th overall, 2012

A native of Charlestown, Massachusetts, Grzelcyk is a small, but highly mobile defenseman with excellent offensive instincts. He is a strong puck-handler who can rush the puck and drive the offense. He is a powerplay weapon thanks to his sharp distribution skills and his ability to find soft spots in defensive zone coverage. Defensively, Grzelcyk brings a good compete level and is a determined player but his positioning is still a work in progress. He impressed at this summer's US World Junior evaluation camp, and is believed to have the inside track on a spot on the 2013 squad.

Grzelcyk is very much like David Warsofsky in terms of his size, ability, and upside. Also like Warsofsky, the Grzelcyk is headed to Boston University in the fall to play for Jack Parker.

18. (15) Michael Hutchinson, G, 6.0B
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2008

Michael Hutchinson is a big, technically sound butterfly goaltender with consistency issues. After splitting time during his rookie season between the AHL and ECHL, he broke out last year, posting a .927 save percentage in 29 games for Providence. Part of the reason for his success was the limited number of games. Hutchinson has battled inconsistency going back as his junior days, so having fewer games and more time to recover and prepare between contests allowed him to deliver his best effort every time out.

Hutchinson showed this past season that he can be a highly effective player if used properly, and right now projects as a quality NHL backup. Next season, he is expected to return to Providence and share the net with Swedish sensation Niklas Svedberg.

19. (NR) Kevan Miller, D, 6.0B
Signed as a free agent, October 21st, 2011

Simply put, Kevan Miller was Providence's best defenseman in 2011-12, by a fairly wide margin as well. On a team where most of the players finished in the minus column, Miller was an impressive plus-20. The former University of Vermont captain is smart, mobile and can move the puck efficiently. He is willing to drop the gloves and knows how to use his 6'2, 200 pound frame to dispossess the opposition of the puck.

It is hard to know how much upside Miller has given his age, but his impressive rookie season has opened people eyes to the fact that this undrafted college free agent does in fact have NHL potential. Miller is expected to return to Providence this season, but he could be one of the first to get called up to Boston this season.

20. (NR) Lars Volden, G, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 181st overall, 2011

Rounding out Boson's Top 20 is European goaltender Lars Volden. Most European goaltenders play deep in their net, but at 6'3, Volden is long limbed and able to take up a lot of space simply by getting set. Volden has excellent technique and has quick hands and feed to complement his size. However, his consistency and mental toughness have been questioned in the past.

Coming off a blistering playoff for Jokipojat in Finland's second tier league, posting a .954 save percent and a miniscule 1.62 goals against, Volden is primed to take on a larger role in the Elite League this fall.

 

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