Bruins Top 20 prospects, Spring 2009

By Dan Watkins

Top 20 at a glance

1. Tuukka Rask, G
2. Joe Colborne, C
3. Brad Marchand, RW
4. Zach Hamill, C
5. Kevin Regan, G
6. Matt Hunwick, D
7. Adam McQuaid, D
8. Andrew Bodnarchuk, D
9. Yuri Alexandrov, D
10. Carl Soderberg, C
11. Brock Bradford, C
12. Tommy Cross, D
13. Maxime Sauve, C
14. Michael Hutchinson, G
15. Jordan Knackstedt, RW
16. Mikko Lehtonen, RW
17. Byron Bitz, RW
18. Jamie Arniel, C
19. Alain Goulet, D
20. Mark Goggin, C

1. Tuukka Rask, G 8B

1st round, 21st overall, 2005

After a solid first year in North America in 2007-08, Rask seemed to be right on track in his development. He has done nothing this year to stray from that track. While being shuttled back and forth between Providence and Boston in the beginning of 2009, Rask got to start in one game for Boston, a 35-save shutout effort against the New York Rangers.  At the AHL level, Rask has a very respectable 29-19-2 record, three shutouts and a save percentage of .914.  Look for Rask to be counted on to take the Providence Bruins deep into the AHL playoffs. The quick and athletically sound goaltender has a good chance at a roster spot next season.

2. Joe Colborne, C 8.5C
1st round, 16th overall, 2008

Racking up 90 points in just 55 games in the AJHL last season, Colborne was the Bruins top  pick at 16th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’5 center has great playmaking ability while also being able to score for himself. With that said, however, he was a project since he was coming out of a lower-level Junior A program in Alberta. So far in his first NCAA season, the hulking center has put up great numbers at the very competitive University of Denver, scoring nine times while assisting on 20 others in 37 games. Showing signs of high talent against higher level opponents is great news for the Bruins. If Colborne keeps up this development curve, the Bruins might have found themselves a steal in the middle of the first round with their big and talented center.

3. Brad Marchand, RW 7.5C

3rd round, 71st overall, 2006

One of the heroes from past Canadian national junior teams is settling in very nicely in his first professional season with the Providence Bruins. Having scored 52 points in 68 games, Marchand is well on pace to establishing himself as a pro. While he has not gotten into any NHL action as of yet, the undersized but physically determined forward could not be asked to do anymore than what he has accomplished to this point in Providence. Even though his size might always be an issue at 5’9, his strong skating will serve him well. Because of his versatility and strong work ethic, he should be able to carve out a nice spot for himself in the big leagues in the coming years.

4. Zach Hamill, C 7.5C
1st round, 8th overall, 2007

After playing a handful of games for Providence at the end of the 2007-08, Hamill has made some small adjustments to his game in his first full professional season. With only 11 goals and 21 points in 53 games on the year, the swift skater has not racked up the type of points that made him the leading scorer in the WHL in 2006-07. But the adjustment period to the professional level can take a few years, even for someone drafted at eighth overall in 2007. Hamill has added weight to his frame in the past year and looks to be more of a physical presence on the ice. Expect maybe one more full year in the AHL before he is given a legitimate shot to make the big club. 

5. Kevin Regan, G 7C
9th round, 277th overall, 2003

While Rask is the main man in Providence, Kevin Regan is a solid prospect behind him. Drafted in the final round of the 2003 entry draft, Regan completed all four years at New Hampshire before moving on to the pro ranks for good this season. In his season with Providence so far, he has been able to maintain a winning record, something he was very familiar with doing during his college days. Regan is an athletic goalie with good size and above-average positioning. He has played for two different ECHL teams as well this year. Regan will probably remain in the AHL for a few seasons. He has shown that he can win at every level so far though, and the hard-working goalie has a good shot of playing in the NHL at some point in his career, whether as a starter or backup.

6. Matt Hunwick, D 6.5C
7th round, 224th overall, 2004

Playing in only a 13-game stint with the Bruins in 2007-08, Hunwick has surpassed almost everyone’s expectations for this season. He is a regular fixture on the Bruins roster now and has 19 points in 42 games. The versatile Hunwick has even spent time playing forward, where he has displayed his crisp passes and smooth skating just as much as he could from the blue line. His ability to find open areas on the ice is also evident in his play. Often, he is able to get into the clear and make a great pass or take a solid shot, whether he is playing forward or defense. Hunwick will probably not see the AHL anymore this season, and could have possibly found himself a permanent NHL gig. For a seventh-round draft pick, Boston could not have hoped for any more when they selected Hunwick.

7. Adam McQuaid, D 7C

2nd round, 55th overall, 2005

McQuaid is a solid defensive defenseman who has spent the last two seasons in the minors. After being traded from Columbus in early 2007, McQuaid was able to make a solid impact along the blue line for the Providence Bruins at +14. This season, McQuaid is just +1, but has even made solid strides in his offensive game, posting 15 points in 68 games. He will never be confused with an offensive defenseman though, as he prefers the rough and dirty work in the corners and along the boards. Look for McQuaid to get a cup of coffee with Boston as early as next season.

8. Andrew Bodnarchuk, D 6.5C

5th round, 128th overall, 2006

Looking at Bodnarchuk’s stat line for his rookie season in the AHL can be discouraging. With only nine points in 58 games, the smallish offensive defenseman has had some professional growing pains. However, he has shown flashes of what made him a point scorer at the junior level. With a great skating stride, slick passes, and a rocket for a shot, Bodnarchuk definitely has the skills needed to improve on these stats. While the points might not be there currently, he is a rookie offensive defenseman. Patience is key. With other defensemen in the system on Boston’s radar before him, Bodnarchuk has plenty of time to develop in the AHL. Boston can afford to be patient with him and watch the undersized but young defenseman hopefully develop into a solid offensive contributor.

9. Yuri Alexandrov, D 7D
2nd round, 37th overall, 2006

The captain of the 2008 Russian World Junior Team failed to come to terms with the Bruins before the season started. This resulted in him playing another year for Severstal in the KHL. So far, Alexandrov has been able to produce solid numbers, with three goals, eight points, and 40 penalty minutes in 26 games. Alexandrov has a solid all-around game with great skating, solid leadership, and safe passes. He will be 21 this summer.

10. Carl Soderberg, C 7F

2nd round, 49th overall, 2004

The explosive Solderberg has a great balance of scoring mixed in with solid playmaking abilities. It has never been a question of his talent however, which has always been there with this young player. It has always been about his drive to succeed at the next level. Soderberg was traded from the Blues because they were afraid that he would not come back over to North America after a very short stint in their training camp at the beginning of the 2006-07 season. Well, after a longer training camp with the Bruins, Soderberg once again returned home for the 2008-09 season, leaving many to question his commitment to playing in the NHL.

11. Brock Bradford, C 6.5C

7th round, 217th overall, 2005

Currently the leading scorer for the Boston College Eagles, Bradford is having a very good senior season as captain. Originally drafted in the seventh round in 2005, the 5’10 center has put up 25 goals and 42 points in 36 games in his final season with the Eagles. Originally drafted as a project, Bradford is turning into a legitimate prospect. He might get some time with Providence in the AHL after his college season is over. He brings many strengths to the table, including an accurate shot and a very quick and effective skating stride. With the highest shooting percentage on the Eagles at around 16 percent, Bradford is physically able to compete against bigger opponents. His skill and determination more than offsets his size at the college level, but when he makes the, he’ll have to prove this again.

12. Tommy Cross, D 7.0D
2nd round, 35th overall, 2007

Cross is enjoying a solid season as Bradford’s teammate at Boston College. Cross is a big defensive defenseman who likes to throw his weight around. He also has an above average shot from the point as well as solid passing abilities. He has eight points in 24 games. Cross skates very well for his size, displaying strength and agility. He will probably stay in school for most of his eligibility.

13. Maxime Sauve, C 6.5C
2nd round, 47th overall, 2008

After being drafted in the second round of the 2008 entry draft, Sauve has had a breakout year with Val d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL. More than doubling his point total from last year already, Sauve has scored 26 goals while assisting on 49 others in 64 games. This ranks him tied for 17th in the league in scoring. Sauve has good natural size, and is solid in his own end. Strength is a current issue with Sauve, as he likely needs to put on some more pounds before graduating to the professional ranks. A good work ethic, smooth skating, and aggressive forechecking ability are all working in his favor as well. 

14. Michael Hutchinson, G 7D
3rd round, 77th overall, 2008

Playing on a less than spectacular Barrie Colts team, Hutchinson has played admirably since being drafted in the third round of last summer’s entry draft. The tall and athletic netminder has been able to put up a very respectable save percentage of .915 and 3.02 GAA. Having just turned 19, Hutchinson still has plenty of time to improve his overall game at the junior level before he is thrust into the pro ranks. As a very athletic goaltender, he can often overreact to a shot, causing him to miss the rebound.

15. Jordan Knackstedt, RW 6.5C
7th round, 189th overall, 2007

After a successful but short stint with Providence in the 2007-08 season, Knackstedt made his complete transformation to the pro level this season. The right winger has great size for a forward, and has translated his grit and hard work ethic into 21 points in 59 games this year. Although he probably will never be a top-six forward, Knackstedt displays skills that suggest he could turn into a contributor as a power forward. Not afraid to drop the gloves either, he often stands up for his teammates and does the dirty work that smaller forwards are not always capable of doing. Look for him to be a nice and steady influence in the NHL as a third or fourth liner in a couple of years.

16. Mikko Lehtonen, RW 6.5C

3rd round, 83rd overall, 2005

Lehtonen is a supremely talented player who also had great size standing at almost 6’4. Lehtonen can do it all. He has a deadly wrist shot that he has used to abuse goalies in the AHL in his first season, scoring 25 goals in 62 games so far. He can also dish the puck very well and skates tremendously for a forward of his size. The question is can he put all of these useful talents and skills together? While his numbers in the AHL are great for a rookie, he still has a lot of work to be done to his game before he is ready for the NHL. This includes working on his defensive play while also being effective offensively.

17. Byron Bitz, RW 6.5C

4th round, 107th overall, 2003

Currently on the Boston Bruins’ roster, Bitz has come a long way since being drafted as a project player in 2003. With great size and a solid all-around skill set, Bitz could be a contributor on the NHL level for years to come. It will probably not be on the top two lines however, as his offensive game has not yet caught up to his defensive game. He can play the power play and is incredibly strong on his skates. The hulking right winger stands tall at 6’5, and has racked up seven points (four goals and three assists) in 28 games for the Boston Bruins since being recalled in January. With Providence he has 10 points in 37 games. Much like Hunwick has found a spot with the big club, Bitz might have most of his AHL days behind him.

18. Jamie Arniel, C 7D
4th round, 97th overall, 2008

Playing as an overage player in the OHL, Arniel has had a spectacular season to date. He has scored 32 goals and has a total of 69 points in 63 games. He has already passed his career high in points, and as the season continues, he will look to rack up even more goals with his deadly shot. On top of that, he is a good all around center who wins the majority of his faceoffs. When his OHL season is over, look for him to possibly head to Providence for some much needed professional experience. Arniel has probably learned everything he can from playing juniors, and now it is time for him to graduate to the professional level.

19. Alain Goulet, D 6.5D
6th round, 159th overall, 2007

Starting the season as a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Goulet transitioned to the Gatineau Olympiques after 17 games, where he has averaged just over a point per game. The 6’3 defenseman has good speed for his size to go along with solid offensive ability from the back end. As this 2007 seventh rounder progresses, look for him to try and put more weight onto his frame. If he can beef up from his current weight of 190 pounds, then he can improve the physical side of his game which is lacking.

20. Mark Goggin, C 6.5D
7th round, 197th overall, 2008

The hard-working Goggin played for both Choate Rosemary and the USHL Chicago Steel this year. In nine games with the Steel, he has one goal. Born in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Goggin has above-average puck skills. The 5’11 center, who will play at Dartmouth in the fall, is very intelligent for his age and shows why the Bruins took a flyer on him in the seventh round of last year’s entry draft.