Bruins junior prospects update

By Janine Pilkington

Of the eight prospects the Boston Bruins had playing in the CHL last season, only two remain. Lukas Vantuch and Anton Hedman, in the WHL and OHL respectively, began the 2006-07 season with new teams. Matt Lashoff, Martins Karsums, David Krecji, Kris Versteeg and Wacey Rabbit turned pro for the 2006-07 season, while Ashton Rome went unsigned by the Bruins, and is beginning his pro career as part of the San Jose Sharks organization. Of the six remaining Bruins prospects at the CHL level, four were drafted in 2006.

QMJHL

Andrew Bodnarchuk, D – Halifax Mooseheads (5th round, 128 overall in 2006)
HT: 5’11 WT: 193 lbs Birthdate: July, 11 1988

Andrew Bodnarchuk is in his second season with the Halifax Mooseheads, and the only defenseman currently playing at the junior level in the Bruins prospect system. Bodnarchuk’s strengths lie in his speed, stickwork, and his ability to control the puck. As a defender, he’s best when using his stick to disrupt passes or pick off the puck, and he does a decent job of keeping the puck out of his team’s defensive zone. He’s also seen time on Halifax’s power play and penalty kill. Though Bodnarchuk doesn’t shy away from contact, he would benefit from continued work on his strength, as he has some difficulty defending the league’s larger and more powerful forwards.

With 20 points in 26 games so far this season, Bodnarchuk is already well on his way to surpassing his 23-point total from last season. He’s got six goals to his credit, which ties his season total from 2005-06, and of those six, three were power-play goals and one shorthanded. Bodnarchuk is currently sixth in the league for scoring among defensemen.

Brad Marchand, C – Val d’Or Foreurs (3rd round, 71 overall in 2006)
HT: 5’9 WT: 183 lbs Birthdate: May 11, 1988

It was shortly after his appearance in the Memorial Cup tournament with the Moncton Wildcats that Brad Marchand was traded to the Val d’Or Foreurs. While the 18-year-old forward wasn’t very enthused with the arrangement initially, he has made the most of the situation, and currently leads his team with 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) in 27 games.

Marchand likes to be actively involved in his team’s offense, whether he is creating scoring chances for teammates or shooting on net. He is often relentless in his pursuit of the puck, and can hold his own, whether it is along the boards or in front of the net. While he’s still on the small side, he is remarkably strong on his skates and difficult to knock off the puck. The only real downside to Marchand’s game is that he still has the tendency to try to do too much, and needs to focus on keeping it simple.

WHL

Milan Lucic, LW – Vancouver Giants (2nd round, 50 overall in 2006)
HT: 6’3 WT: 220 lbs Birthdate: June 7, 1988

After a disappointing Memorial Cup loss in the spring, the Vancouver Giants have come back determined to make a return trip at the end of this season. The team currently sits on top of its division at 19-2-1-1, and can count the performance of their returning players as part of that success. Left wing Milan Lucic is now in his second season with the Giants, where he continues to be one of the team’s core players. Lucic is best known for his aggressive, in-your-face style, and at 6’3 220 lbs, he can be a punishing physical force. Despite the fact that he already has nine fights and 70 penalty minutes to his credit this season, however, Lucic is also contributing more offense. With 17 points in his first 23 games, he is only two points away from his 2005-06 season total of 19.

Levi Nelson, C – Swift Current Broncos (6th round, 158 overall in 2006)
HT: 6’0 WT: 168 lbs Birthdate: April 28, 1988

The Swift Current Broncos are now in second place in their division, with a record that has them sitting right at .500. With 17 points in his first 25 games, Levi Nelson is the top scorer for the Swift Current Broncos. He’s coming off a strong 2005-06 season where he earned rookie of the year honors, but doesn’t yet appear to be on pace to build on last year’s 38-point total. Nelson is a high-energy, smooth-skating center with a tremendous work ethic. He’s always looking to make a play and has the ability to make quick, accurate passes to his linemates. Nelson has only two multiple-point games to credit so far this season, one with three assists, and another with two goals, which came back to back in early November.

Lukas Vantuch, C – Lethbridge Hurricanes (6th round, 72 overall, 2005)
HT: 6’4 WT: 210 lbs Birthdate: July 20, 1987

Vantuch began his second season in the WHL with a new team after having an overall unimpressive first year with the Calgary Hitmen, and the towering Czech needs to turn it on this season if he’s to make a favorable impression on the Bruins. Vantuch currently has 13 points in his 24 games with the struggling Lethbridge Hurricanes. Three of those 13 points were goals, all scored on the power play, and two of them came in an October game against his former team. Vantuch has incredible size and skill, but has yet to use them fully to his advantage. The good news is he also seems committed to improving his overall game. He does appear more comfortable with his new team, and it’s quite possible that a slow adjustment to the American game could take some of the blame for last season’s struggles. While he is not yet a consistent contributor on offense, he is on pace to improve from last year’s 19-point total.

OHL

Anton Hedman, LW – Owen Sound Attack (8th round, 255 overall in 2004)
HT: 6’3 WT: 220 lbs Birthdate: May 15, 1986

The powerful Swede is now in his second season in the OHL, and with a new team, where he is expected to bring some muscle to the top line, alongside center Trevor Lewis (LA) and right wing Bobby Ryan (ANA). The trio has not yet demonstrated the dominating offense that their potential suggests, at least not on a consistent basis, but it’s a skilled combination that should give Hedman the opportunity to chip in a few more points. He had a good overall season his first year in America, putting up a respectable 34 points in 60 games, and surprised many with his punishing physical game. Hedman is on a pace to exceed those totals this season, though not by a large margin. He currently has a total 14 points in 22 games, with four of his six goals coming on the power play, which is an area where he could be a real asset for this Owen Sound team. A developing power forward, Hedman’s work ethic, attitude and willingness to stick up for his teammates make him a more impressive player than his stats might suggest.

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