Bruins Top 20 prospects

By Janine Pilkington

Top 20 at a Glance

1. Hannu Toivonen, G
2. Mark Stuart, D
3. Brad Boyes, C
4. Matt Lashoff, D
5. Milan Jurcina, D
6. Andrew Alberts, D
7. Lars Jonsson, D
8. Petr Kalus, C
9. Jordan Sigalet, G
10. David Krejci, C
11. Martins Karsums, RW
12. Yan Stastny, C
13. Ben Walter, C
14. Jonathan Sigalet, D
15. Matt Hunwick, D
16. Mike Brown, G
17. Martin Samuelsson, LW
18. Vladimir Sobotka, F
19. Mikko Lehtonen, RW
20. Vladslav Evseev, LW

Key: Rank (previous rank) player name, position, Age
How acquired, Grade

1. (1) Hannu Toivonen, G Age: 21
Acquired: 1st round, 29th overall (2002) Grade: 8.0A

After a strong second year in Providence of the AHL, Toivonen is all but a lock for a spot on the big club this fall. He ranked near the top among goaltending prospects in the AHL, and completed the 2004-05 regular season with a 2.05 GAA and .932 save percentage before leading the Providence club deep into the playoffs for a record of 10-7, a .923 save percentage, and 2.43 goals against average.

Although there is no 100 percent guarantee that he’ll perform as well in the NHL, the Bruins feel he has accomplished all he can at the minor league level and are more confident than ever that he can make the transition. Toivonen was originally selected 29th in the 2002 draft and has improved continually since coming to the US from his native Finland. His biggest obstacle now will be Andrew Raycroft, who earned NHL rookie of the year honors in 2003-04, but if he keeps at his current pace, Toivonen will prove worthy competition for the starting goaltender position in Boston.

2. (2) Mark Stuart, D Age: 21
Acquired: 1st round, 21st overall (2003) Grade: 7.0B

The former WCHA defensive player of the year and Colorado College team captain will get his shot at the NHL this fall at Bruins training camp. Stuart opted out of his final year in college after finishing his junior year in 2004-05 with 19 points and 94 penalty minutes in 43 games. His presence in the B’s camp has been highly anticipated since he was drafted in 2003.

Stuart is not expected to be a high-scoring defender in the NHL, rather it will be his physical presence and ability to take care of his own zone that will be most valuable. He is certainly not a sure thing to make the roster at this time. But he is among the few rookie names that have a strong chance to make the club out of the gates.

3. (3) Brad Boyes, C Age: 23
Acquired: Trade with SJ (2004) Grade: 7.0B

Boyes is another player that has pushed the limits of his ability at the minor league level, who has a lot riding on this year’s camp. He was dominant in Providence during the 2004-05 season, scoring 75 points in 80 regular season games and finishing first in the league with 20 power play goals. His success continued into the postseason with 15 points in 17 games. He had four game-winning goals in the postseason.

Boyes is a consistent, all-around player with the natural ability to find scoring opportunities. He’s proven himself to be as valuable in the face-off circle as he is on the power play, and demonstrates the drive and enthusiasm necessary to break into the NHL. Boyes has the tools to become a solid second line forward.

4. (NR) Matt Lashoff, D Age: 18
Acquired: 1st Round, 22nd overall (2005) Grade: 7.5C

The Bruins 2005 first round pick debuts at No. 4 in the top 20. Eighteen-year-old Lashoff battled his way back into the Rangers line-up after a bout with mono that put a dent in his playing time during the 2004-05 season. Although he still wasn’t believed to be in top form, Lashoff finished with 22 points and 44 penalty minutes in 44 games for the OHL Kitchener Rangers.

What is most attractive about Lashoff is that he plays a strong all-around game. He’s solid in his own end, an excellent skater, and possesses considerable offensive talent. Though he could stand to use his size a little more, the 6’2 205 lb defender is not easily knocked down. His stock is so high simply because of potential, and while he is far from a sure thing right now, Lashoff is projected to be a No. 2-4 offensive defenseman.

5. (4) Milan Jurcina, D Age: 22
Acquired: 8th round, 241st overall (2001) Grade: 6.0B

Jurcina is another defender who will be in contention for a roster spot in Boston this season. He’s been close to crossing over a number of times, with appearances in the 2002 and 2003 camps, and though he didn’t see any ice time, he traveled with the team in 2003 as the seventh defenseman. He has played the majority of time in Providence since he was drafted in 2001, most recently capping off the 2004-05 season with 23 points and 92 penalty minutes in 79 games.

Jurcina is making strides with his physical game, but at 6’4 233 lbs, needs to be a more consistent physical presence. He is not loaded with offensive talent, and tends to be a stay at home type defenseman, but when he’s using his size to full potential, he can be dangerous and near impossible to get by. When Jurcina joins camp this year, he will be competing with a number of capable defenders for a very limited number of jobs. Where he lands will depend on his performance. He’s got the tools to be a powerful presence, but the question is if will he use them.

6. (6) Andrew Alberts, D Age: 24
Acquired: 6th round, 179th overall (2001) Grade: 6.5B

The 6’4 215 lb Alberts is coming off a busy season in 2004-05 where he capped off his college career at Boston College with 16 points and 67 penalty minutes in 30 games before joining the roster in Providence. He spent eight scoreless games with 16 penalty minutes and continued to contribute defensively for Providence’s 16 playoff games
where he scored his first professional goal and finished with five points and 40 penalty minutes.

There’s little doubt that Alberts’ strength is in his defensive game. He may not put up a lot of points, but he’s not afraid to hit, and he acclimated himself quickly to the pace of the minor league game. Will he make the roster in Boston? With the competition in question, Alberts may be hit or miss this year, but he’s another player that’s right on the cusp. He’s got the size and strength to play at the NHL level, and it’s reasonable to think that even if he doesn’t make the team this fall, his turn will be in the near future.

7. (7) Lars Jonsson, D Age: 23
Acquired: 1st Round, 7th overall (2000) Grade: 7.5C

Possibly one of the most highly anticipated of Boston’s prospects, Jonsson has yet to become the offensive dynamo that so many have predicted. The 2000 first round draft pick continued play in his native Sweden for Timra with 11 points in 50 games during the 2004-05 season. While defensive play in his own end has been an issue in the past, Jonsson still demonstrates his phenomenal skating ability and glimpses of just how dangerous he can be offensively.

Jonsson is loaded with talent. The biggest question, however, isn’t so much what he can or can’t do, as it is to wonder when — or if — he will finally come to the States. Jonsson hangs onto his spot in the rankings by virtue of the fact that he is so gifted, but his stock is on the verge of crashing. It’s now been five years since the young Swede was drafted, and if Boston doesn’t coax him overseas soon, there’s a strong possibility they never will.

8. (NR) Petr Kalus, RW Age: 18
Acquired: 2nd Round, 39th overall (2005) Grade: 7.0C

The newly-drafted Kalus debuts in the top ten, an intriguing prospect with a good mix of technical skills and natural ability. He played for Vitkovice of the Czech Junior League during the 2004-05 season and finished with 31 points, 161 penalty minutes and a +1 rating in 39 games. He also made the Czech team for the 2005 WJC, where he was able to score three points and accumulate 12 penalty minutes and a +4 rating in seven games.

The Bruins are in need of more offensive talent, and because of that Kalus will be a player to watch in the coming years. He is loaded with talent and has the potential to be a high scoring power forward. Kalus’ biggest test, however, will be how he adjusts to the North American game, and with his entrance into the WHL this year, maybe we will get a better handle his capabilities.

9. (8) Jordan Sigalet, G Age: 24
Acquired: 7th Round, 209th overall (2001) Grade: 6.5C

With the attention paid to Sigalet’s ongoing battle with MS, his talent as a goaltender is often forgotten. The 6’0 172 lb Bowling Green State alum was a Hobey Baker award finalist in his senior year capturing a team record of 1,140 saves and also led the nation in saves, shots faced and minutes played for 2004-05. He had a .915 percentage and a 2.89 GAA and became the first goaltender in the history of Bowling Green State to be named a captain.

Sigalet has signed a contract with Boston and is projected to take on the starting role in Providence. He’s a skilled player and tremendous athlete who has offered hope to people with MS for the simple fact that he has been thus far successfully able to overcome any physical limitations the disease might impose.

The Bruins have demonstrated a tremendous amount of confidence in the young goaltender by signing him. While his future in Providence may be all but guaranteed, the Bruins have great depth between the pipes, and Sigalet faces some tough competition in Raycroft and Toivonen ahead of him. Still, the possibility remains that one of the two may end up leaving, so the chances of Sigalet making it to Boston are not completely unheard of.

10. (9) David Krejci, C Age: 19
Acquired: 2nd round, 63rd overall (2004) Grade: 6.5B

It’s safe to say that Krejci’s transition to the North American game has been a successful one. During his first season with the Gatineau Olympiques in 2004-05, he finished second on the team in scoring with 63 points in 61 games. He was also part of the bronze-winning Czech team for the 2005 WJC.

Krejci’s raw talent makes him an attractive player. At the junior level, he’s already demonstrated a natural scoring ability and tremendous work ethic, something that gives him a tremendous upside. Based on potential alone, Krejci could someday crack the second or third line in the NHL, but for this to be a realistic possibility he will need to continue to work on his strength.

11. (10) Martins Karsums, RW Age: 19
Acquired: 2nd round, 64th overall (2004) Grade: 7.0C

After enjoying a successful rookie season with Moncton in the QMJHL, Karsums had problems with injury that limited his playing time. Despite the setback, he still managed to score 26 points and collect 31 penalty minutes on 30 games.

Karsums does very little wrong at the junior level and he holds the potential to be a very solid second line player in the NHL. It’s too soon to tell if last year’s injury will have an impact on his development, and like the other 2004 draftees, he has not had the benefit of an appearance in a Bruins camp.

12. (18) Yan Stastny, C Age: 23
Acquired: 8th Round, 259th overall (2002) Grade: 6.5C

The decision to bring his game overseas has paid off for Stastny. Two seasons in Germany meant more ice time and more experience for the young center, which no doubt has been valuable for his development. He finished the 2004-05 season at Nurnberg with 54 points in 51 games and was part of Team USA in the World Championships.

Because of the vast improvements in his game, Stastny’s stock has risen significantly. The Bruins will need to see another camp appearance to truly gauge how he stacks up against NHL-caliber players, but judging by his recent progress, he should have a much better chance. He is by no means a lock for a major role on the Boston roster, especially on a team that is stacked at center, but Stastny has demonstrated potential as a second or third line NHL’er.

13. (11) Ben Walter, C Age: 21
Acquired: 5th round, 160th overall (2004) Grade: 6.0C

Walter recently completed a successful 2004-05 junior season at UMass Lowell with 39 points, in 36 games, 26 of which were goals. His play earned him recognition as one of the top forwards in Hockey East and finalist for the Hobey Baker award. Half of his 2004-05 season goals came on the power play, which topped all of Hockey East, where he led with goals scored, as well.

If he’s able to continue his success at the minor pro level, he’s got the potential to crack an NHL lineup. Walter will be entering his senior year at UMass in the fall of 2005.

14. (NR) Jonathan Sigalet, D Age: 19
Acquired: 4th round, 100th overall (2005) Grade: 6.5C

The younger Sigalet debuts in the top 20, a quick young defenseman who recently completed his sophomore season with Bowling Green State. For 2004-05 he put up 15 points and 36 penalty minutes in 33 games, and earned recognition for his academic and athletic achievements.

Sigalet surprised some when he opted to sign a contract with the B’s rather than complete his final years with Bowling Green, but developmentally, it should provide a valuable opportunity for the defender. Likely he will not make the big club out of the gates, as he doesn’t quite
have the size and strength yet, but Sigalet plays an intelligent game and has considerable potential as an offensive defenseman.

15. (16) Matt Hunwick, D Age: 20
Acquired: 7th round, 224th overall (2004) Grade: 6.5C

Hunwick made significant improvement in his offensive production and overall game during 2004-05 and finished the season with 25 points, 60 penalty minutes and a +15 rating in 40 games. He was part of Team USA for both the 2004 and 2005 WJC and was named to the All-CCHA second team. Hunwick will be an alternate captain for Michigan beginning in the 2005-06 season.

Skating is one of Hunwick’s strongest assets, and he has as good a chance as any to find success in the NHL. He has the outside chance of landing a position as a No. 3 or 4 defenseman, but realistically Hunwick will probably fill a lesser role at the pro level. He’s on the small side, but still holds enough of an upside that if he continues to develop his all-around game, he should be able to overcome that.

16. (15) Mike Brown, G Age: 20
Acquired: 5th round, 153rd overall (2003) Grade: 6.0C

Brown is the third goaltending prospect to crack the top 20, a position where the Bruins have some of the greatest depth. He split the 2004-05 season between the Saginaw Spirit and the stronger Owen Sound Attack. Brown played 26 games with Saginaw, where he earned a 7-17-1 record, 3.68 GAA and .901 save percentage. He then played his remaining 33 games with Owen Sound, with a significant improvement of 2.48 GAA, .913 save percentage and 17-11-4 record.

Brown recently signed a contract with Boston and will make an appearance in this year’s camp. Where he ends up will depend on many factors, including how the other young goaltending prospects fare. Overall he is a very athletic goaltender who is technically sound, but will still need a great deal of development. Should there be a job open in Providence, Brown could at least get his professional debut in 2005, and it will likely be his performance there that dictates his future. Things can change rapidly at any level, but as it stands now Brown is in line to back up a group of very capable goaltenders.

17. (13) Martin Samuelsson, LW Age: 23
Acquired: 1st Round, 27th overall (2000) Grade: 5.5B

Samuelsson had a decent year in Providence during the 2004-05 season. He came back in better health and finished the season with 17 points, a +6 rating and 35 penalty minutes in 64 games. Samuelsson’s biggest obstacle on the road to the NHL has been injury, something that has caused his stock to drop drastically. Still an agile skater with a gritty, two-way game, he certainly has the size and the tools to make the NHL. His problems with injury and inability to produce big numbers, however, change the outlook for this once highly promising draft pick. Chances are, if Samuelsson sees any more ice time in Boston, it will be part time third or fourth line duty, or a mid-season call-up.

18. (NR) Vladimir Sobotka, F Age: 18
Acquired: 4th Round, 106th overall (2005) Grade: 6.5C

Sobotka spent the 2004-05 season on HC Slavia Praha’s U20 team and finished as leading scorer at the junior level with 33 points, 93 penalty minutes and a +18 rating in 27 games, and was consequently promoted to the big club. He fared well in those 18 games and managed one point, eight penalty minutes and a +2 rating. Sobotka was also part of the under 18 Czech team in the 2005 WJC. The most obvious downside for Sobotka is his size, at 5’10 185 lbs, he could have a tough time competing in the NHL with the aggressive style of game that he plays. It is, however, this fearless determination that is part of what makes Sobotka attractive. If he continues to build upon past success as he continues at the elite level during 2005-06, his stock should rise.

19. (NR) Mikko Lehtonen, RW Age: 18
Acquired: 3rd Round, 83rd overall (2005) Grade: 7.0C

Lehtonen played the 2004-05 season at the Junior A level with the Espoo Blues in his native Finland and finished with 15 points and 38 penalty minutes in 37 games. Projected as a top line forward, Lehtonen has all the tools to be a high-scoring finesse type player. At 6’3 and 191 lbs, he’ll need to add some bulk if he’s to be an NHL-caliber player, and overall, he’s still a very raw talent who has yet to live up to his scoring potential. Lehtonen is, however, only 18 years old, and should have plenty of time to develop. He will begin the 2005-06 season at Finland’s Elite level with Espoo.

20. (14) Vladslav Evseev, LW Age: 21
Acquired: 2nd Round, 56th overall (2002) Grade: 6.0C

Evseev played 12 games with Dynamo Moskva in 2004-05 with 2 points and 2 penalty minutes before he was traded to Salavat for five scoreless games near the end of the season. He’s a good sized forward at 6’2 196 lbs that owns untapped potential. Though he plays a good all around game, his focus and finishing skills are not consistent. A major obstacle for the young forward has been injury, and consequently, Evseev has lost some valuable development time. Likely the Bruins will not bring him over anytime soon, and he will need to come back healthy and continue to work on his game if there’s a chance for an NHL career at all.

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