Bruins Top 20 prospects, Spring 2010

By Kyle Kujawa

Top 20 at a glance

1. Tuukka Rask, G
2. Joe Colborne, C
3. Brad Marchand, RW
4. Yuri Alexandrov, D
5. Zach Hamill, C
6. Jordan Caron, C
7. Tommy Cross, D
8. Jamie Arniel, C
9. Mikko Lehtonen, RW
10. Jeff Penner, D
11. Andrew Bodnarchuk, D
12. Adam McQuaid, D
13. Matt Bartkowski, D
14. Michael Hutchinson, G
15. Alexander Fallstrom, RW
16. Jeff LoVecchio, LW
17. Yannick Riendeau, RW
18. Maxime Sauve, C
19. Kevin Regan, G
20. Ryan Button, D

1. (1) Tuukka Rask, G — 8.0C

6’3, 169 lbs
Acquired from Toronto
March 10, 1987

Rask remains the top prospect in the organization as he slowly works his way towards graduation. After just five NHL starts in the past two seasons, Rask earned himself a permanent role as the Bruins backup netminder for this season, appearing in 29 games. He has put up a 14-8-4 record with a .926 save percentage and a league-leading 2.15 GAA.

Rask started all but one game for the Bruins in February and rode a four-game winning streak into the Olympic break. It seemed like his strong play would guarantee him more starts down the stretch, but an injury has forced Tim Thomas back in the crease. Rask would need to nearly be perfect to get significant time as Boston fights for a playoff spot.

2. (2) Joe Colborne, C — 8.0C

6’5, 195 lbs
1st round, 16th overall, 2008

The Bruins knew they were getting a project when they took Colborne with their first pick in 2008. They didn’t anticipate that same project pick becoming one of the most dangerous players in all of college hockey in his sophomore season. Colborne is having an exceptional season for the University of Denver, currently ranked as the top team in the NCAA. He leads the team in goals with 20 to go with his 18 assists in just 34 games played.

Colborne has started to take his game to the next level after being knocked in the past for being a timid player, despite his obviously high skill level and impressive frame. He has the reach, making himself virtually impossible to knock off the puck, and the hands in close to make sure he capitalizes on his opportunities. The fact that he’s still not done filling out makes the choice to rank him as the top forward prospect in the organization an easy one, as he still has a very high untapped potential.

3. (3) Brad Marchand, RW — 7.5C

5’9, 190 lbs
3rd round, 71st overall, 2006
May 11, 1988

A second-year pro, Marchand continues to make strides on solidifying himself as a regular NHLer. Marchand played 12 games in Boston this year as well as 34 so far with Providence, scoring 32 points. That rate is good for the best pace of any of the team’s regulars. His +14 rating also leads the team and speaks well of the quick adjustment he’s made to professional hockey.

Marchand doesn’t possess elite offensive abilities, but has proven in juniors and now professionally that he is useful in all situations on virtually any line. His work ethic and ability to play on the edge, while rarely crossing it, will help his case as he shoots for an NHL job sooner rather than later. He was recently called back up to Boston.

4. (5) Yuri Alexandrov, D — 7.0C

6’1, 185 lbs
2nd round, 37th, 2006
June 24, 1988

Now in his fifth season of regular service for the Severstal Cherepovets in the KHL, Alexandrov’s play has jumped to the next level this season. After 22 points in his first four seasons, Alexandrov has racked up six goals and 21 points in 56 games this season. Health was an issue for him last season, but he’s been able to play in every game, while becoming one of the most dependable defensemen on his team.

As with many Russian prospects, the issue for Alexandrov is going to be when he’s planning on coming to North America. He’s said he’s still interested, and coming to Bruins prospect camp last summer is a good sign, but there are no definite plans in place. Should he come, the Bruins will have themselves a very reliable two-way defender.

5. (4) Zach Hamill, C — 7.0C

5’11, 190 lbs
1st round, 8th overall, 2007
September 23, 1988

After a bit of a rocky start to the AHL last season, Hamill has rebounded nicely. Through 62 games, he sits second in Providence in assists (27) and points (40). These numbers are drastic improvements over the 26 points he managed in 65 games as a rookie. Those aren’t good numbers for a player who was once a top 10 pick.

Hamill still has a ways to go before making the NHL, but his production this season is promising. At times he looks overmatched physically at this level, but he is learning to adapt his game in other areas. He has good speed and is a gifted playmaker, but at this point Hamill doesn’t look like the top point producer some expected after his success in the WHL. He is more likely to find a niche as a two-way forward with good leadership and hockey sense who can be used anywhere in the lineup.

6. (6) Jordan Caron, C — 7.0C

6’2, 206 lbs
1st round, 25th overall, 2009
November 2, 1990

Caron had a rough start to his tenure as a Bruins prospect. While at the summer camp for the Canadian World Junior team, Caron took a vicious hit from Colten Teubert (LAK) that held him out for the beginning of the QMJHL regular season. Luckily for Caron, his play left an impression and he still cracked the WJC roster, playing more of a physical energy-line role.

He’s proving this season that he could have handled more ice time, however. Caron started the season at a point-per-game clip in Rimouski, with 20 points in the same number of games. A midseason trade to Rouyn-Noranda woke up his offensive game, where he now has 15 goals and 31 points in 21 games.

7. (8) Tommy Cross, D — 7.0D

6’3, 210 lbs
2nd round, 35th overall, 2007
September 12, 1989

Cross has stepped up his game this season, earning a major role as a sophomore for Boston College. Currently the team sits second in Hockey East, poised to make a long run in the NCAA tournament. He has registered nine points in 30 games to go along with 26 penalty minutes.

Cross did not score as a freshman, but this season he’s netted five — one-third of all goals scored by Boston College defensemen. However, his game is not based on points; he is primarily a defensive defenseman. He remains a long-term project who will need to continue to add strength and work on his skating as he progresses through his collegiate career.

8. (7) Jamie Arniel, C — 6.5C

5’11, 183 lbs
4th round, 97th overall, 2008
November 16, 1989

Arniel is in his first professional season, sitting as Providence’s top rookie scorer with 28 points in 64 games. The former two-time OHL 30-goal scorer has appeared to struggle at times adjusting to the AHL, so he’s had to change his style of play. Arniel does not possess the skills to be a big scorer at the AHL level, so he’s become more of a two-way energy line forward.

The Bruins hope he can one day do this in the NHL on a third or fourth line. His work ethic is his strongest attribute, but he’s also a gifted skater who is strong on faceoffs. He will need to add strength and be more patient with the puck to continue to develop his offensive game.

9. (10) Mikko Lehtonen, RW — 6.5C

6’3, 196 lbs
3rd round, 83rd overall, 2005
April 1, 1987

Leading Providence in both goals and points is Lehtonen, now in his second year in the AHL. Despite producing only modest numbers playing three seasons in Finland’s top league, Lehtonen has found his offensive game in the AHL, where the style of play is more fit to his game.

Lehtonen has the size, shot, and touch around the net to produce offense at the next level. He’s always been known for his intensity and aggression on the ice, but he seems to be offense first and does not always compete as hard in his own end. The consistency in point production has been impressive, but an overall more well-rounded game will be needed for a permanent NHL job.

10. (11) Jeff Penner, D — 6.5C

5’10, 183 lbs
Signed as a free agent
April 13, 1987

After a 10-goal season as an AHL rookie, Penner looked to be a steal of a free-agent signing. His progression has continued this season. Through just 55 games, he has one fewer point than he put up in 80 games last season, with 27. Penner made his NHL debut on March 9 and played over nine minutes, but did not make the scoresheet.

He is starting to get recognized for his strong play in the AHL, but has yet to find the consistency to land himself an NHL job. Penner makes up for his lack of size with great skating and puck-moving abilities. He must work on his play in his own zone. His -5 rating in Providence also stands out. It’s not much lower than the average on the team, but it doesn’t come close to the +22 he put up as a rookie.

11. (13) Andrew Bodnarchuk, D — 6.5C

5’11, 190 lbs
5th round, 128th overall, 2006
July 11, 1988

Bodnarchuk is finally starting to build off an average professional transition last season. The undersized defender has become more consistent in his own end, using his speed and patience to disrupt the play without jumping out of position. His +12 rating stands out on a team with primarily minus players.

The offensive game he was known for in the QMJHL is still coming around. After just one goal last season, he has three this season to go along with 10 assists in 63 games. His mobility and big shot from the point help him find success in juniors, but he will need to continue to find ways to get produce points at the AHL level.

12. (18) Adam McQuaid, D — 7.0D

6’3, 197 lbs
Acquired from Columbus
October 12, 1986

McQuaid is the biggest riser on the list this time around, having taken great strides this season, his third professionally. McQuaid seems to be Boston’s preferred injury call-up, having played in 15 NHL games this season. He’s also played 31 in Providence, though he is currently out with a lower-body injury.

McQuaid plays a steady, stay-at-home role and projects well as a bottom-pairing defenseman. He earned rave reviews for his physical play as well as his mobility. He could have a chance for a roster spot in the NHL next season, but for now it looks as if he will finish the year in the AHL.

13. (NR) Matt Bartkowski, D — 7.0D

6’1, 203 lbs
Acquired from Florida
June 4, 1988

Rather than making a big splash at the trade deadline, Boston chose to add some depth for the future, the biggest part of which was Bartkowski, who was acquired in the trade that saw Byron Bitz go to Florida. Bartkowski is the top point-producing defenseman from Ohio State University, where he’s currently a sophomore. Through 36 games, he’s three points shy of the 20 he put up as a freshman. He sits sixth on the team in points, and leads the team with 91 penalty minutes.

Bartkowski plays a well-rounded game at both ends of the ice. He’s developed a reputation for being one of the most devastating open-ice hitters in the CCHA. He’s equally competent in his own zone. He has a good shot, with the ability to get it to the net through a lot of traffic, assisting in his offensive production.

14. (NR) Michael Hutchinson, G — 7.0D

6’3, 185 lbs
3rd round, 77th overall, 2008
March 2, 1990

Hutchinson is in his fourth season of major junior hockey, serving this season as the starting goalie of the London Knights, a perennial contender in the OHL. He is top ten in the league in wins, goals against average, save percentage, shutouts, and minutes played. His .913 save percentage is seventh in the league.

Hutchinson will likely be thrown into the mix in Boston’s minor-league system next year, but there’s also the option of leaving him in the OHL for his overage season. His strengths lie in his size and his excellent rebound control. He’ll need to get a bit quicker to reach his potential.

15. (NR) Alexander Fallstrom, RW — 6.5C
6’2, 200 lbs
Acquired from Minnesota
September 15, 1990

Another newcomer to this list is Fallstrom, acquired by Boston earlier in the season in the trade that sent Chuck Kobasew to Minnesota. Fallstrom, a Swede, is a freshman at Harvard University. On a team closer to the bottom than the top of the ECAC standings, Fallstrom sits eighth in team scoring with four goals and eight assists.

Fallstrom is known for being a well-rounded two-way player. He already plays in all situations (and has Harvard’s only shorthanded goal on the season). He doesn’t have elite offensive abilities, but he has the soft hands and creativity to produce more offense. Youth is the movement this year at Harvard, and Fallstrom looks to be a big part of the team going forward.

16. (12) Jeff LoVecchio, LW — 6.5C

6’2, 195 lbs
Signed as a free agent
August 26, 1985

LoVecchio is in an interesting spot, as he’s a rookie for all intents and purposes despite the fact that the 2007-08 season was his last in the NCAA. LoVecchio signed with the Bruins following the completion of his season at Western Michigan University, playing in 14 games with Providence that year. An offseason concussion forced him to miss the entire 2008-09 season. He is finally back in action this season, playing in 50 games for Providence.

However, the adjustment’s been tough for him. He’s third on the team in goals with 13, but has just six assists on top of that. LoVecchio hasn’t ever been known for his offense though, as he’s stronger in his own zone. He plays an energetic game and logs a lot of minutes on the PK.

17. (14) Yannick Riendeau, RW — 6.5C

5’10, 178 lbs
Signed as a free agent
June 18, 1988

After an impressive 126-point season as an overager in the QMJHL, Riendeau has had an injury-plagued rookie season. He’s been limited to just 13 games in Providence, and three in the ECHL with Reading. Shoulder surgery kept him out earlier in the year, and a wrist injury most recently kept him out. He’s currently back in Providence’s lineup, but he’s only managed two assists all season.

Despite the slow start, Riendeau offers an intriguing package and could deliver a very high reward if the Bruins are patient with him. He needs to add strength and he could use some additional foot speed, but Riendeau has excellent hockey sense. He reads the play extremely well and positions himself to where the puck is going next. He will likely never be a good two-way player, but he could earn more ice time if he paid more attention to his own end of the ice.

18. (15) Maxime Sauve, C — 6.5C

6’0, 196 lbs
2nd round, 47th overall, 2008
January 30, 1990

Sauve was off to a sizzling start this year, landing himself in the top 10 in QMJHL scoring with 33 points in 23 games. A broken ankle sidelined what otherwise would have been a career year for him. He’s yet to return from the injury, and seems to be a little behind schedule on his recovery.

Sauve still remains an intriguing prospect because of his offensive ability. He led Val d’Or in scoring last season and could have done it again this season if healthy. He is also a hard-working player in his own end. He’s already earned an entry-level contract and should find himself in the AHL next season. He’ll need to work on adjusting to the more physical game to acclimate himself to professional hockey.

19. (17) Kevin Regan, G — 6.5C

6’1, 190 lbs
9th round, 277th overall, 2003
July 25, 1984

Despite turning 26 in the coming months, Regan still remains a project as he is only in his second professional season. He was a four-year starter at the University of New Hampshire, not turning professional until he was 23. Regan appears to be buried on the depth chart with the chance of surpassing Rask remaining very small.

This season, Regan has served as the backup to Dany Sabourin, and he’s appeared in only 19 games. However, his .918 save percentage and 2.43 GAA are both slightly better than the numbers that Sabourin has posted. He is due for a new contract this summer, but might choose a new destination where he can find more playing time in his third professional season.

20. (17) Ryan Button, D — 7.0D

6’1, 190 lbs
3rd round, 86th overall, 2009
March 26, 1991

One of just two Boston picks from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft on this list, Button is on the radar despite being a few years away. He’s known as a puck-moving defenseman, but his offensive totals in the WHL are falling a little short of his production last year, from 37 points to just 30.

Some of this can be chalked up to a heavier concentration on his defensive zone play. His plus/minus is second best on Prince Albert at +7 after putting up a combined -35 in his first two seasons of major junior. His team is missing the playoffs for the third straight season, but could be in a good place to ice a veteran-heavy lineup next season. Button will play a big part of that group.