Top Shelf Prospects: Boston Bruins
Yesterday I launched “Top Shelf Prospects” a look at the top prospects for all teams in the NHL. Yesterday we started with the Anaheim Ducks. Today I move on to the Boston Bruins.
Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2012 draft, as there have been no games since the draft, and my reports on them will not have changed.
What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2012-13 roster of the NHL team in question. I will also bring you one sleeper pick. A player who was either drafted in the 4th round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL.
2012 Draft Picks that were reviewed in our preview:
Top Prospect: Dougie Hamilton, Defence
Born Jun 17 1993 — Toronto, ONT
Height 6.04 — Weight 195 — Shoots Right
Drafted 9th Overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft
Dougie Hamilton was taken with the second of the two first rounders received by the Boston Bruins in the Phil Kessel trade. He is a huge physical specimen at 6’4″ and 195 lbs. Hamilton has put up extremely impressive offensive stats, leading the OHL in scoring by a defenceman despite only playing 50 games last season due to missing time with a suspension, and playing for Team Canada at the World Junior tournament.
Hamilton is a gifted skater for his height, and has good mobility, agility and acceleration. He is also a strong stickhandler who protects the puck well. He combines these skills to help skate the puck out of danger in his own end and elude forecheckers. He also is very adept at joining the rush and creating offence from the back end. Hamilton has a hard and accurate slap shot and one timer which he has used to great effect on the Niagara powerplay. His vision and passing skills are also elite, and already NHL ready. I expect to see him on the point of the Bruins power play beside Zdeno Chara in the near future.
Defensively Dougie Hamilton continues to improve. He used to be the type of player that relied on his positioning and good instincts solely in the defensive zone. While those are very good, and very useful in defending, Hamilton was criticized by many for lacking physicality despite his size. This is no longer the case, as Hamilton upped his physical game last season. While no one will confuse him with Scott Stevens, and he’s still not the biggest hitter around, Hamilton has show the ability to lay the body and added an effective physical dimension to his game. Hamilton’s game is now extremely well rounded and he truly can do it all.
Hamilton has nothing more to learn in the OHL. He is dominant in that league, and I don’t believe another year in Niagara would help him to progress as a player. The issue here is that as a June 1993 birthday he is also not eligibile for the AHL next season. He may not be ready for huge minutes, but I believe the Bruins will keep him in the NHL next year and ease him into their lineup as they did with Tyler Seguin. Hamilton is the heir apparent on defence and the Bruins hope he will eventually grow to lead their defence core in the same way that Zdeno Chara has done for years.
Jared Knight, Right Wing
Born Jan 16 1992 — Battle Creek, MI
Height 5.11 — Weight 196 — Shoots Right
Drafted 32nd Overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft
Jared Knight was the 2nd round pick given to the Bruins by the Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel trade. Bruins fans should call Brian Burke and thank him, because that deal is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Knight was a PPG player for the London Knights last season, as he put up 26 goals and 26 assists in 52 games. However his OHL playoff and Memorial Cup was disappointing as he only put up 8 points in 15 playoff games and 1 assist in 4 Mem Cup games. Knight was however battling an upper body injury that may have still been bothering him in the playoffs.
Knight is a tenacious worker and is at his best controlling the puck down low and working the cycle game. He loves to beat his man and take the puck to the net, and is also not afraid to take the punishment in the dirty areas of the offensive zone. He has a good shot and release, along with good hands in tight which help him to score a lot of goals at the OHL level. The question remains given his size, if he can continue to play such a game at the NHL level and be successful.
Knight is likely headed to the AHL next season. The Bruins have a deep group of forwards, and I think he still has aspects of his game that will need some work before he is NHL ready. The question with Knight is whether or not he can continue to generate offense at the pro level. Knight is likely to be an NHLer, but will he be on the third line, or the 2nd line in the future.
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention two other top prospects. Many would consider Jordan Caron a top prospect for the Bruins. However with 71 NHL games under his belt, and likely to start next season on the big club, I am considering him graduated to the NHL.
The Bruins number 2 prospect ahead of Knight, should be Windsor Centre, and 2011 2nd round draft pick Alexander Khoklachev. He is a dynamic player with the talent to develop into a surefire top 6 forward in the NHL. However he has left the Spitfires and will be playing in the KHL next year. As the Bruins must sign him by May 2013, or he will re-enter the draft, his status as a Bruins prospect is in doubt at this point.
Matt Bartkowski, Defence
Born Jun 4 1988 — Pittsburgh, PA
Height 6.01 — Weight 203 — Shoots Left
Drafted 190th Overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2008 NHL Draft. Traded to Boston at the Trade Deadline in 2010.
Bartkowski is a project defenceman. His skating, mobility and agility are already at an NHL level for the 23 year old defender. He has the puck moving ability to be a bottom pairing NHL defenceman and 2nd unit Power Play guy right now. Bartkowski is able to rush the puck, and to make clean crisp passes on breakouts, and in the offensive zone.
Unfortunately Bartkowski’s defensive game has always held him back. He is willing to throw the body, but often gets himself caught out of position looking for the big hit. He also sometimes has lapses in his positioning and defensive zone coverage. If he can work on these issues, Bartkowski could be valuable depth as a 6th/7th defenceman for the Bruins, or another NHL team.
A look at the Bruins system makes one thing clear. Their prospects should be called, “Dougie and the Other Guys”. Hamilton is clearly the only elite talent in their system today, with most of their other prospects looking like depth guys. However they have a strong NHL club and it is one where many of the young pieces have already been incorporated into the lineup in guys like Seguin, Kreijci, Rask, Lucic, Marchand as well as relatively young veterans like Bergeron, and Horton. This is a team that should compete for the foreseeable future.
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