August 31-in-31: Boston Bruins
Early offseason moves, including results of the NHL Entry Draft, were covered in July’s 31-in-31 series. If you missed it, please follow this link: https://dobberprospects.com/31-in-31-boston-bruins/
The Bruins have not been very active since July’s article, with Don Sweeney often referencing “internal competition” as the method in which the Bruins will fill their roster holes this season.
“I’ve always said all along, we need to infuse internal competition, bring in some players that can fill some gaps and holes.”
📝 The complete rundown from Day 1 of free agency: https://t.co/zTPxaSHgOV
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) July 2, 2019
The roster holes discussed are limited, however, which should make the team’s upcoming training camp quite fierce. The organization features many players that should be considered “on the cusp” of breaking through the NHL barrier. This includes players with high offensive upside, those with strong defensive games, or simply those with nothing left to prove at other levels of hockey. The team’s few UFA signings this offseason, coupled with their abundance of borderline prospects, should ensure that Sweeney gets the internal competition that he so desires.
The most significant news to come since July’s article is the official loss of UFA Marcus Johansson, who elected to sign a two-year deal with Buffalo rather than return to the Bruins. While Johansson was a very effective player for the Bruins during his short tenure with the team, he was simply a luxury winger that the team could not afford. His loss is also less significant than it is being made out to be, as he joined an already impressive roster at the trade deadline and his playing style and position offers many potential suitors to replace him in 2019-2020.
The only other news, or uck thereof, to come from this offseason is the team’s remaining high-profile RFAs in Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Both have yet to re-sign, however, there should be little fear that they will each be in the opening night lineup as the team has the means to lock both up long-term.
D – Matt Grzelcyk (AHL – NHL) – After proving himself a capable NHL defenseman over the last two seasons, Grzelcyk officially graduates from the prospect ranks. He likely won’t see much time in a prime offensive role with the Bruins but remains a sound puck-moving defenseman who can fill in on the power play if needed. His fantasy outlook will remain limited to deeper leagues, but he could gain additional relevance if a long-term injury to a core player bumps him into a better role.
C – Jack Studnicka (OHL – NHL/AHL) – The young stud has nothing left to prove in the OHL, and while he is technically eligible for overage status, he would benefit most from graduating to professional hockey. He earned a four-game cameo appearance with Providence during last season’s playoff run and should play most of his first pro year with them in the AHL.
With Studnicka’s speed and skill, there is an outside chance that he could earn a scoring-line spot with the NHL Bruins out of camp, perhaps on the wing alongside David Krejci. However, the Bruins can afford to be patient with this top prospect and would benefit from allowing him to remain at his natural center position on an AHL scoring line.
RW – Oskar Steen (SHL – NHL/AHL) – The undersized forward had a breakout year in the SHL in 2018-2019, finishing top-10 in league scoring. He signed his ELC back in May and should fight for an NHL roster spot come training camp. His profile is similar to that of Brad Marchand, as the two are nearly identical in height and weight, both can produce offense at a high level, and they each are capable of agitating the opposing team on any given shift. While Steen likely has an NHL future ahead of him, a year of development in the AHL would likely be the best way to begin the North American portion of his career.
C – Pavel Shen (KHL – AHL) – After performing at a high level throughout his junior career in Russia, Shen had a disappointing season during league play in 2018-2019. He has bounced around with three different teams, producing no more than two points with any of them. He fared much better at last year’s rendition of the World Junior Championship, managing three goals and four points through seven games for the bronze medal Russian squad. His play thus far was still enough to earn him an ELC with the Bruins (signed in July), and he should benefit from consistent playing time with Providence in 2019-2020.
D – Axel Andersson (Allsvenskan – AHL) – Andersson also signed his ELC in July and joins an impressive crop of young Bruins defensemen playing in the NHL/AHL. He was often buried on the depth chart with Södertälje but should receive a much more game-by-game opportunity with a Providence squad that is shaping up to be quite competitive.
G – Kyle Keyser (OHL – AHL) – After four OHL seasons, the young netminder will take his undrafted talents to the AHL this year. He saw his save percentage improve in each consecutive OHL campaign, and will now have the opportunity to adjust to the pro game with Providence. He will likely serve as the backup to Dan Vladar, and his overall numbers might be less than stellar as he adjusts to better competition. What will be important to monitor, however, is how Keyser’s natural abilities to transition to the pro game. He is squarely in the hunt for the Bruins “goalie of the future” title, and his play (however erratic it might be) during his first pro season will help to identify whether or not he has real NHL potential.
Forwards graduating from the AHL to the NHL
Central to the team’s focus on “internal competition,” the Bruins will have an abundance of forwards that spent much of last year in the AHL push for a roster spot in the NHL for 2019-2020. These names include Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlárik, Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Ryan Fitzgerald, Karson Kuhlman, and Zach Senyshyn. Of this group, JFK played the most NHL games last season, while a strong argument could be made that Kuhlman had the greatest impact from an offensive standpoint. Fitzgerald is the only one to have not suited up in an NHL game, however, his first opportunity should surely come at some point during the 2019-2020 campaign. The most fantasy-relevant opportunity available on the Bruins roster is the second line RW role (alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk), which could be claimed by any one of these players. The most likely to assume this spot would be Bjork (who has made the team out of camp in each of the last two seasons) or Kuhlman (who performed well in this role near the end of the season).
Defensemen graduating from the AHL to the NHL
The training camp competition for the team’s minimal defensive openings will be just as fierce as the battle at forward. All of Connor Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon and former first-rounders Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen saw time in the NHL last season and should push for a spot on the team to open 2019-2020. Of this group, Clifton or Vaakanainen might be best suited for NHL duty, as each plays a steady and mature game. While unpredictable opportunities may arise, it is highly unlikely that any of these players would step into a role with much fantasy relevance this year.
- Oskar Steen – RW – The biggest riser in the Bruins system also made noise on a league-wide level. Steen put the hockey world on notice with a remarkable season in the SHL. He finished among the top-10 scorers in one of the best pro leagues in the world, taking the offensive jump that many of the Bruins brass had been expecting. His production spike (shown below) was quite remarkable and earned him a contract with the Bruins. While Steen will likely spend the season in the AHL, it would be no surprise to see him earn a few games of NHL action in 2019-2020.
- Jakub Lauko – LW – The Bruins third-round selection in 2018 had a wildly successful first season on North American ice. There was a learning curve for him early on, however, he managed to finish his season with nearly a point per game, a QMJHL championship and a Memorial Cup championship, leading the latter tournament in scoring. He is eligible for the NHL, AHL, and CHL this season, so his training camp performance will dictate where Lauko spends his upcoming season.
- John Beecher – C – The Bruins’ most recent first-round selection has already earned a spot on this list by flashing his high-end potential during his on-ice opportunities this offseason. His speed and elite skating ability were evident during the team’s development camp, and he has been one of the most impressive players for the U.S. squad at the World Junior Summer Showcase. He managed three goals and one assist through his first two games at the event and often took control of the game. His first year in the NCAA will be a better indicator of Beecher’s potential upside, but for now, it appears as though the Bruins did well with their first pick in 2019.
- Zach Senyshyn – RW – In each year since he was selected 15th overall, Senyshyn has been passed over by more promising forward prospects in the Bruins’ system. While he did manage to see his first taste of NHL action last season, it does not mask what was overall another disappointing year. Where a prospect at his stage of development should have been dominating the AHL competition, Senyshyn somehow managed a drop in production. His 14 goals and 24 points in 66 games show a lack of offensive consistency that has plagued him for years. He is still young, however, and has all of the raw tools that a team could ask for. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year that he breaks out.
- Jakub Zboril – D – Similar to Senyshyn, Zboril has yet to take the step forward that has been expected by Boston management and fans alike. He has also seen many other prospects pass him on the team’s depth chart, and has struggled to find consistency in the AHL. The good news, however, is that Zboril has taken strides from a defensive standpoint over the last few years, and still holds plenty of NHL potential.
- Anders Bjork – LW – Bjork will be 23 years old when training camp begins, and he will be looking to make the NHL roster for the third straight year. He has been long thought of as a potential scoring-line fixture and is now entering a vital year in proving that he belongs in such a role. The recurring injuries contribute to him being on this list, however, his production when healthy also leaves much to be desired. He had a promising rookie season before stumbling to a meager three points in 20 NHL games last year. If Bjork’s recovery from his second-consecutive season-ending shoulder surgery goes well, his play to open the 2019-2020 campaign could easily earn him a spot on the list of risers.
Prospect Depth Chart
The Bruins’ prospect pool features players at each position that are close to making the NHL jump. They have a logjam at both forward and defense, where prospects with similar skillsets are competing for the very few spots available on the NHL roster. Several of these players could have already assumed roles at the next level with teams that lack the depth that the Bruins possess. Boston lacks a marquee player in their pool, however, there are a handful that have the upside of a high-end producer in the NHL.
Top 20 Fantasy Prospects
- Jack Studnicka – C
- John Beecher – C
- Jakub Lauko – LW
- Oskar Steen – RW
- Anders Bjork – LW
- Trent Frederic – C
- Jeremy Swayman – G
- Peter Cehlárik – LW
- Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson – C
- Axel Andersson – D
- Karson Kuhlman – RW
- Zach Senyshyn – RW
- Urho Vaakanainen – D
- Jakub Zboril – D
- Alexander Khokhlachev – C
- Kyle Keyser – G
- Pavel Shen – C
- Ryan Fitzgerald – C
- Matias Mäntykivi – C
- Jeremy Lauzon – D
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