Bruins Top 20 prospects

By Janine Pilkington

Top 20 at a Glance

1. Hannu Toivonen, G
2. Brad Boyes, C
3. Mark Stuart, D
4. Matt Lashoff, D
5. Milan Jurcina, D
6. Andrew Alberts, D
7. Petr Kalus, C
8. David Krejci, C
9. Martins Karsums, RW
10. Jordan Sigalet, G
11. Ben Walter, C
12. Jonathan Sigalet, D
13. Matt Hunwick, D
14. Anton Hedman, LW
15. Tyler Redenbach, C
16. Lars Jonsson, D
17. Ashton Rome, RW
18. Wacey Rabbit, C
19. Mikko Lehtonen, RW
20. Kris Versteeg, LW

Key: Rank (former rank) Name, Position, Age
How Acquired, Grade

1. (1) Hannu Toivonen, G Age: 21
Acquired: 1st round, 29th overall (2002) Grade: 8.5A

When Boston Bruins starting goaltender Andrew Raycroft showed signs he was struggling early in the season, rookie Hannu Toivonen took advantage of the opportunity. Toivonen made the Boston club right out of training camp following a spectacular season in Providence and made the transition appear seamless. He has played in 20 games and posted a 9-5-4 record, ranking him among the top 15 goaltenders of the league with a 2.63 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. He recorded his first ever NHL shutout against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 1, after stopping a total of 26 shots and has eight games where he allowed only a single goal. Toivonen was on a roll when he suffered a high ankle sprain early in January that has caused him to miss significant time. It should be only a minor setback for the acrobatic young netminder, though it is likely the Bruins won’t rush him back to duty.

2. (3) Brad Boyes, C Age: 23
Acquired: Trade with SJ (2004) Grade: 8.0A

Boyes earned a roster spot in Boston right out of camp and is having a stronger rookie year than many imagined. Though his ice time was limited early on in the season, hard work and persistence paid off and Boyes earned a spot on Boston’s most potent top line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm. He’s currently second on the team in scoring, and fourth in the league among all rookies with 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists) in 58 games. Six of those goals came on the power play, two were game winners, and the 23-year-old center has had eight games with two or more points. Boyes has come a long way from being the Maple Leafs draft pick who was once sent packing to San Jose, and has proven that when given the opportunity, he has the drive to excel at any level. Because he is not a flashy player, Boyes has often been overlooked, but he’s a hard-working, versatile center that can easily adapt to playing either wing. He has terrific hockey sense, a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and is on his way to a strong career in the NHL.

3. (2) Mark Stuart, D Age: 21
Acquired: 1st round, 21st overall (2003) Grade: 7.5B

Like many of the big, physical defenders, Stuart needed a little more time to adjust to the new rules early on in the season. He left Colorado College after his junior year to pursue a pro career and is currently in the middle of his rookie season with the Providence Bruins. So far, Stuart has spent time on both the penalty kill and more recently, the power play, in addition to his duties on the blue line. He currently has four points, 72 penalty minutes and stands at +5 on the season, and the 21-year-old rookie has come a long way since camp. Stuart can defend with authority and deliver a big check when necessary. As with many stay at home defenders, he may not put up many points, but he does have a rocket of a shot and the potential to catch teams off guard with the occasional goal. There is little doubt he is Boston’s top prospect on the blue line.

4. (4) Matt Lashoff, D Age: 19
Acquired: 1st Round, 22nd overall (2005) Grade: 7.5C

Lashoff bounced back nicely after injury and illness hampered his progress in the 2004-05 season and the beginning of the 2005-06 season. He’s already nearly doubled last season’s offensive output to 40 points (4 goals, 36 assists) in 41 games, and with the season far from over, is well on his way to his best year with Kitchener. He has 11 multiple point games, a total of 112 penalty minutes, and is currently rated at +8. While there may be some question as to whether his offensive skills will carry over to the pros, Lashoff has all the potential to be a strong top four defenseman and carries plenty of offensive upside.

5. (5) Milan Jurcina, D Age: 22
Acquired: 8th round, 241st overall (2001) Grade: 6.5B

It took a couple trips back to Providence for this late round gem to stick on the Boston roster, but it looks like Milan Jurcina has finally found his place on the team. Listed at a solid 6’4 233lbs, Jurcina has begun to use his size to his advantage and has the ability to produce some powerful hits. He’s averaged about 16 minutes a game, some on the power play and penalty kill, and in recent months has even shown a little offensive flair. Though his powerful shot doesn’t often make it in the net, Jurcina does have a two-goal game to his credit and a total of nine points (5 goals, 4 assists), 42 penalty minutes and is +7 in 37 NHL games. He’s a player who has improved tremendously in the past couple years and has the potential to be a strong fourth defenseman. Jurcina is part of team Slovakia for the 2006 Olympic Games.

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

Alberts is another one of a handful of players taken in the later rounds that has become a steal for the Bruins. The sturdy blueliner completed four years at Boston College, before making an abbreviated appearance in Providence at the end of the 2004-05 season. He made the Boston roster right out of camp, and with a rash of injuries exposing the team’s blue line, was forced to take on a lot of responsibility early in his pro career. While he’s made rookie mistakes and his time on ice has become more limited, Alberts has improved his game considerably since the beginning of the season. A strong stay at home defenseman known for his jarring hits, Alberts is a good skater and can be an imposing presence on the ice. He has two assists and 53 penalty minutes in 52 games with the Bruins.

7. (8) Petr Kalus, RW Age: 18
Acquired: 2nd Round, 39th overall (2005) Grade: 7.5C

Boston’s second round pick from the 2005 Entry Draft is experiencing his first taste of the North American style game with the Regina Pats of the WHL. The 18-year-old sniper is a slick skater with a tremendous work ethic who turned a lot of heads in his first camp with the Bruins. He’s currently second on the Pats in scoring and third among rookies in the WHL with 43 points (26 goals, 17 assists) in 44 games. He’s had nine multiple point games, three game-winning goals, and is currently third in the league with 14 power-play goals. Though it remains to be seen how his skills will translate at the pro level, Kalus is decently sized at 6’1 192lbs and has all the tools to be a potential first or second line center for the Bruins.

8. (10) David Krejci, C Age: 19
Acquired: 2nd round, 63rd overall (2004) Grade: 7.0C

Krejci recovered from injury early in the 2005-06 season and is on pace to surpass the offensive production from his rookie season with Gatineau. The 19-year-old center currently has 60 (21 goals, 39 assists) points in his first 40 games, including 11 power-play goals and six game winners. Though only in his second year with Gatineau, Krejci was named one of the team’s alternate captains and played for the Czech Republic in the 2006 World Junior Championship. He has grown since he was drafted by the Bruins in 2004, is currently listed at 6’0 187lbs, and continues to demonstrate considerable talent in his puckhandling and scoring ability at the junior level. It’s impossible to predict how this talent will translate to the pros, but Krejci has strong upside as a solid second or third line center in the NHL.

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

After injury troubles that kept him out of the lineup for much of the 2004-05 season and the beginning of the 2005-06 season, Martins Karsums resumed play with Moncton in October of 2005. He quickly returned to form and has so far compiled 45 points (24 goals, 21 assists) with a +20 rating and 66 penalty minutes in 35 games, including 11 power-play goals. Karsums seems to do everything right, and though he’s on the small side, he’s a sturdy player who is strong on his skates, and he’s got a physical edge to his game that makes him seem bigger. If he can remain healthy, he’s a player with a tremendous upside who’s got all the skills to compete at the pro level, and could become a solid second line center in the NHL.

10. (9) Jordan Sigalet, G Age: 24
Acquired: 4th round, 100th overall (2005) Grade: 6.5C

After completing four years of college hockey with Bowling Green State University, Jordan Sigalet was one of a handful of goaltenders vying for a spot on the Providence roster. He made the team right out of camp, and has continued to demonstrate the tremendous athletic ability that he holds. In 24 games with the Providence Bruins, the rookie goaltender has a 12-8-2 record, is 11th in the league (fourth among rookies) with a 2.67 goals against average and 30th in the league with a .895 save percentage. Eight of his starts were decided in overtime, and he’s made an average of 21 saves per game. If Sigalet is able to maintain his health, he has the possibility of a solid pro career, and could become a competent backup in the NHL or a journeyman No. 1 goaltender.

11. (12) Ben Walter, C Age: 21
Acquired: 5th round, 160th overall (2004) Grade: 6.5B

Ben Walter decided to leave UMass Lowell a year early to begin his pro career with the Providence Bruins. His performance earned a brief call-up to Boston for five games in January, though he saw limited ice time and wasn’t able to put up any points. Walter has played 38 games with the Providence Bruins and ranks fifth on his team for scoring with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists). Four of his goals came on the power play, and he’s had six multiple point games. Walter is a smooth skater and skilled forward with excellent hockey sense. He’s also a tireless worker, who seems to have adjusted well to the pro game. Walter has a very good chance at making the NHL as a second or third line center.

12. (13) Jonathan Sigalet, D Age: 20
Acquired: 4th round, 100th overall (2005) Grade: 7.0C

Jonathan Sigalet opted out of college after two years at Bowling Green State University to sign his first professional contract, and joined his older brother Jordan in Providence for the 2005-06 season. Sigalet is an incredibly fluid skater and intelligent defenseman who also has considerable offensive upside. Though he’s still young and needs to build his strength, he’s often able to out-skate his opponents and has the stamina to log high minutes. Overall he’s adjusting well to the pro game and is currently the top scoring defenseman for the baby B’s with 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists) in 51 games, as well as 26 penalty minutes and a +3 rating. Though not a sure bet, Sigalet has tremendous potential as an offensive defenseman in the NHL.

13. (14) Matt Hunwick, D Age: 20
Acquired: 7th round, 224th overall (2004) Grade: 7.0C

Hunwick returned for his third season with the University of Michigan Wolverines as one of the team’s alternate captains. He’s had a strong year with defensive partner Jack Johnson (CAR), logging a lot of minutes in both the power play and 5-on-5. In 32 games Hunwick has nearly matched his point totals from the 2004-05 season with 23 (7 goals, 16 assists), along with 54 penalty minutes and a +14 rating. While there was concern about his size early on, Hunwick has bulked up a little since he was drafted and looks to be one of those players who could find success at the next level regardless. He’s got tremendous drive, a strong work ethic and a solid game all around. If he is able to continue his success as a pro, Hunwick could someday be a very solid NHL defenseman.

14. (NR) Anton Hedman, RW Age: 19
Acquired: 8th round, 255 overall (2004) Grade: 6.0C

A debut on the top 20, this 19-year-old Swede is attracting attention his first season on American soil with the Sudbury Wolves (OHL) as a rugged power forward not typical of European players. He’s filled out his 6’3 frame significantly (218 lbs) and is as much of a scoring threat as he’s apt to deliver a powerful hit. Hedman currently has 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in 49 games with the Wolves along with a total of 104 penalty minutes. He has 10 power-play goals, three shorthanded, and six multiple point games. Hedman will be one to watch and if his skills translate to the pro level, could quickly become a fan favorite in Boston.

15. (NR) Tyler Redenbach, C Age: 21
Acquired: Free Agent (2005) Grade: 6.5C

The former Phoenix Coyotes third round draft pick (2003) quickly secured a spot in the Bruins system after attending training camp in 2005. He’s in his rookie season with the Providence Bruins (AHL) and has so far made a successful transition from the junior level to pro. Redenbach is the top scoring rookie on the team, and currently has 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 51 games, along with 26 penalty minutes and a team leading +16. He’s a skilled forward with excellent hockey sense who actively seeks out scoring opportunities. Though he may still be a year or two away, Redenbach has a good shot at making the NHL as a second or third line center, as well as seeing duty on the power play.

16. (7) Lars Jonsson, D Age: 24
Acquired: 1st round, 7th overall (2001) Grade: 7.5D

It’s never been a question of talent with Swedish top draft pick Lars Jonsson, but a question of whether he will ever play in the NHL. The smooth skating defenseman has been putting up respectable numbers in the Swedish Elite League, and in 40 games with his current team, HV71, he currently has 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists). Unfortunately the Bruins haven’t yet been able to tempt the talented young blueliner to stay this side of the ocean beyond training camp. He’s still young and he’s playing a solid game, but it seems the window of opportunity with Boston is narrowing for this talented first rounder.

17. (NR) Ashton Rome, RW Age: 20
Acquired: 4th round, 108 overall Grade: 6.5C

Rome is a gritty winger who can play physical yet can also be a legitimate scoring threat. He is currently 18th in the WHL and tops on the Kamloops roster with 52 (24 goals, 28 assists) points in 53 games, and a total of 114 penalty minutes. Rome began the season as captain of the Red Deer Rebels before being traded to Kamloops in late October of 2005. Between the two teams he’s scored nine power-play goals, two shorthanded goals, and has had 14 multiple point games. He is near the end of his junior career and how he does during his next Bruins camp will determine where he starts his pro career. He likes to get under his opposition’s skin, which coupled with good skating ability and some offensive upside gives Rome a good shot as a checking line player in the NHL.

18. (NR) Wacey Rabbit, C Age: 19
Acquired: 5th round, 154 overall (2005) Grade: 6.5C

Rabbit is an intriguing prospect with so much speed and offensive talent that he could be Boston’s sleeper pick from 2005. Currently in his fourth season with the Saskatoon Blades (WHL), this 19-year-old center is a scoring threat every time he’s on the ice. The Blades’ team captain can out-skate and outmaneuver most any opponent, and is currently sixth on his team with 37 total points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 49 games. Though Rabbit is currently listed at 5’10 180 lbs, he is still on the small side, which poses some question as to whether he’ll have a big future in the NHL. The league’s rule changes could significantly improve his chances.

19. (18) Mikko Lehtonen, RW Age: 18
Acquired: 3rd round, #83 overall (2005) Grade: 7.5D

Projected as a top line forward, Lehtonen has all the tools to be a high-scoring finesse type player, but he’s still a very raw talent who has yet to live up to his scoring potential. At 6’3 and 196 lbs, he’ll also need to add more bulk, however, at only 18 years of age he should have plenty of time to develop. Lehtonen has spent the 2005-06 season at Finland’s Elite level with the Espoo Blues where he’s played in 23 games and scored a total of four goals. He may be far from NHL ready, but a prospect to watch as he develops in the coming years.

20. (NR) Kris Versteeg, LW Age: 19
Acquired: 5th round, 134 overall (2004) Grade: 6.5C

Versteeg began the season with the Kamloops Blazers where he played until late October of 2005 when he was traded to the Red Deer Rebels in exchange for Boston prospect Ashton Rome. A speedy and agile forward with natural scoring ability, Versteeg has the tools, but still lacks some consistency. In 57 games between both Red Deer and Kamloops, he’s tallied 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) and 106 penalty minutes. Versteeg is not a sure bet for the NHL, but the potential is there.

Honorable Mention

Centers Brock Bradford (2005) and Nate Thompson (2003) bear watching in the coming years. Bradford is quietly putting together a strong freshman season with Boston College and currently has 11 points in 28 games. Thompson is in the middle of his first professional season with the Providence Bruins, and though it doesn’t show up on the score sheet (8 points in 48 games), he’s a hardworking player who gives a strong effort every shift.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.