Boston Bruins system flush with size and toughness

By Richard Murray

Reilly Smith - Boston Bruins

Photo: Forward Reilly Smith has had an instant impact on the Boston Bruins NHL roster. Smith came to Boston as part of an off-season trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars. (courtesy of Michael Tureski/Icon SMI)

The Boston Bruins have not been afraid to acquire prospects, whether by draft or trade. Love it or hate it, the Tyler Seguin trade gave the Bruins even more depth in their minor league system. Reilly Smith is currently in the NHL while Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow are considered to be close to NHL ready and valuable commodities.

Boston has also drafted its fair share of players that that are considered close to the NHL, and Ryan Spooner leads that group as one of the most dynamic players in the AHL. Spooner was one of the final cuts from the big clubs roster during training camp, and there is a reason he led all AHL rookies last season with 57 points (17 goals, 40 assists).  

The Bruins have several prospects that are NHL ready or at least very close to it. Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, and Smith have made an immediate impact this season. Others like Spooner, Jared Knight, and Fraser are knocking on the doorstep.

Left Wing

Although the Bruins have no elite offensively gifted players on the left side, Boston has several prospects that hold valuable stock. Fraser is close to being NHL ready, and he has showed an ability to put the puck in the net, posting back-to-back 30-plus goal seasons at the AHL level.

Spooner is being groomed as a center, but there is always the possibility with the Bruins depth down the middle he could play the wing. He is a left-handed shot, and he could be used there if needed. The Bruins would likely rather wait for a pivot spot to open up though.

The Bruins selected Peter Cehlarik with their third round selection in 2013, and he has the size and release to be a force off the wing. The 6'2 Slovakian native will continue to develop in Europe for the foreseeable future, but he is someone to keep an eye on as his attributes should translate will to the NHL level.

Anthony Camara is another hot ticket on the left side, but he will probably need some time to develop in the AHL as he proved to be a late bloomer in junior. Camara is big and tough, which is something the Bruins have always liked with their prospects. He scored a career-high 60 points (36 goals, 24 assists) in the OHL last year with the Barrie Colts. He also had 91 penalty minutes as he frequented the sin bin throughout his junior career.

Rounding out the left side is Craig Cunningham, Justin Florek, Matt Lindblad, Anton Blidh, Mitchell Dempsey, and Colton Hargrove. Of the remaining wingers on the left, Cunningham and Florek are the most intriguing. Both have yet to reach the NHL level, but Florek and Cunningham have opened some eyes down in Providence.

At 6'4, Florek is very strong on the puck. He had very strong numbers at Northern Michigan University, and although he has not yet replicated those stats in the AHL, he seems to be getting closer. Last season, the Marquette, Michigan native scored 27 points with the Providence Bruins. Florek is a very responsible two-way player, so he has a good chance of eventually earning a third or fourth line role.

Although, Cunningham projects as a bottom-six forward at the NHL level, he has earned his stripes at the AHL level. Last season, he earned a top-six role, and Cunningham scored a career-high 46 points (25 goals, 21 assists).

Center

The Bruins not only have good center depth in the NHL, but are flush at the position throughout their minor-league system as well.

Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Ryan Fitzgerald are project to be first or second line players with high offensive upside. Khokhlachev has seen some time at the wing in Providence, but that was more so to get him into the top-six at times.

Fitzgerald is very raw, as he is a freshman at Boston College, but BC coach Jerry York has a knack for developing undersized players. The North Reading, Massachusetts native has scored three points through his first five collegiate games centering the Eagles second line.

When the Bruins drafted Seth Griffith as an overage draft pick in 2012, many had questions about him. Griffith has responded though by posting 81 points during his last season of junior a year ago, in only 54 games. He has now slowed down at the AHL scoring five points through his first five professional games.

Rounding out the pivot spot is Rob Flick and Clarkson's Ben Sexton. Both project as third line players at the big level.

Right Wing

Boston is very deep on the right with Smith currently in the NHL and Knight not too far behind. Knight lost his season last year due to injury, so this year is crucial for his development. He changed his workouts over last off-season, changing from a football style lifting program to one better suited for hockey, which left many good impressions at training camp. Providence will look for Knight to continue to get his game back on track this season. He has three points, in eight games, this season.

Cornell's Brian Ferlin is also looking for a rebound season after a disappointing sophomore season with the Big Red. So far so good for the Jacksonville, Florida native who has four points (one goal, three assists) through his first two NCAA games this season.

Rounding out the Bruins prospects at right wing are Tyler Randell, Carter Camper, and Harvard product Alexander Fallstrom. Camper has also seen time at center and has been one of the more productive players in Providence over the past few years. The Miami (Ohio) product has the skill to be successful, but he will always have doubts about his lack of size.

Defensemen

Hamilton and Krug are obviously the big Bruins prospects on the back-end, as both have earned spots on the NHL roster this season. Krug's speed and flash was a big part of last year's Stanley Cup run, so the Bruins hope he can continue to show that and help cure a historically dreadful power play.

Maxim Chudinov is still in Russia, and if he ever comes over remains to be see. It seems unlikely, but you never know considering Carl Soderberg magically decided he wanted a shot at the NHL last season, after spending many years in Europe.

Matt Grzelcyk was very impressive for Boston University last season, scoring 23 points, in 38 games. The BU blueliner has recorded a goal and an assist through six games, this season.

After helping Yale win a national title last season, Rob O'Gara returns for his sophomore season. The big blueliner does not have a ton of offensive skill, but his presence in the defensive zone was a major reason the Bulldogs were able to make their title run last season.

Zach Trotman, Kevan Miller, and David Warsofsky continue to push towards NHL duties. All three have been impressive with Providence, and it seems like only a matter of time before they get a shot at the NHL.

Linus Arnesson, Chris Casto, Wiley Sherman, and Matt Benning round out the Bruins defensive depth. Arnesson was a second round pick last season, but has yet to show much offensive skill. He had one assist last season, so the Bruins hope he can use his passing abilities to find the score sheet more.

Goaltenders

Malcolm Subban has turned pro, and is backing up Niklas Svedberg this season, in Providence. Subban has struggled going 0-2 so far this season. Svedberg will continue to get the majority of the starts down on the farm, and it would seem likely that he is being groomed to be Tuukka Rask's backup, as soon as next season.

Zane Gothberg enters his sophomore season with North Dakota after picking up his NCAA tournament victory last season.

Follow Richard Murray on Twitter: @Richie_Murray