Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we go through the summer of 2023, each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a look at one NHL team’s top prospects or other topical article. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! You can find all the articles here as well as our extensive NHL Draft preview. Today, we look at the 2023 Boston Bruins Top Prospects.
For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2023 Boston Bruins Top Prospects
1.) Fabian Lysell
Fabian Lysell is far and away the best prospect on the Boston Bruins prospects list. The 5’10” and 172 pound right winger was drafted 21st overall in the 2021 NHL draft. A little fun fact, this writer actually had Lysell as his number one rated prospect in the 2021 class. After playing out in Sweden, with not a ton of success, Lysell made the shift to the WHL for one season. In that year, he scored 62 points in 53 games. Not bad for his first season in North America. Then, he made the shift to the AHL. In his first AHL season, he produced 37 points in 54 games. Again, not bad as an AHL rookie.
But as is the case with his abilities, his production last season was inconsistent. Lysell fizzled out towards the end of his season, and for much of his career, his success has come in spurts. However, when he is playing at his best, he can be an absolute force on the ice. His speed is incredibly difficult to maintain for any defenders, and his edges and acceleration make it incredibly difficult to judge what he will do next. Add to that confidence with his puck skills and stickhandling ability, and you get a player who can send defenders sprawling to the ice.
His play style is North-South. He primarily attacks off the rush. However, he is a little on the smaller side, as has been touched on. So he can be knocked off the puck or turned away from the net drive that he goes for. While he can still be a threat from the perimeter with strong playmaking instincts, he does lose a bit of efficiency without his speed. But man, the talent is undeniable.
2.) Matthew Poitras
Following Lysell is the Bruins second round draft choice (54th overall) in the 2022 NHL draft, Matthew Poitras. When he was drafted, he had just finished his first OHL campaign with 50 points in 68 games. This past season, he blew those numbers out of the water. Scoring 95 points in 63 games, Poitras exceeded even some of the higher expectations held for him. He is projected to play another season in the OHL, but he seems closer to being NHL-ready than it initially seemed. As a centre, if Poitras can repeat what he did last season, the NHL will be a realistic possibility as soon as next season.
The biggest thing in Poitras’ game is hockey IQ. That isn’t just on the offensive end either, it’s all three zones. When defending, he shows excellent anticipation and awareness. Positionally, it’s hard catching him off his assignment, and he can read how a play will develop. Then, this past season, his playmaking abilities took off. That hockey IQ shined, as he gained confidence and added more risk and flair to produce more offence. Now, his skating still needs more work, but he projects way better than what everyone expected when he was first drafted. A massive boon for the Boston Bruins prospects pipeline.
3.) Mason Lohrei
Lohrei, who was taken in the second round (58th overall) in the 2020 NHL draft raised many questions. It was a head-scratching pick, as he was not ranked by any notable outlets, and Central Scouting had him as the 132nd ranked North American skater. But, the Bruins are looking much smarter now. Over the last two seasons, Lohrei has played in the NCAA with Ohio State University. In his freshman season, he played 31 games and scored an impressive 29 points. Then, this past season, he managed 32 points in 40 games.
Lohrei was initially a prospect that was looked on with disappointment, why did they take him so early? It’s similar to the Blue Jackets selecting Nikita Chibrikov in the first round as well. It’s another case of the NHL organizations knowing more than the rest of the public.
The 6’4” and 201 pound defender has good size and is reliable in his own end. He can play physically, and has no issues getting in front of shots to prevent a shot against. Despite his larger frame, he is an excellent skater, which only heightens his upside. While he produced well from the blueline in the NCAA, an impressive feat, it might not translate too easily. He doesn’t flash high end skills, necessarily. Lohrei is a strong puck transporter, but doesn’t possess the best vision or in-zone pace to find the high-danger spots. But, he is smart, and could make the Bruins roster as soon as this season.
4.) Reilly Walsh
Following Lohrei is another defender, Reilly Walsh. Walsh, drafted in the third round (81st overall) in the 2017 NHL draft, is one of the older prospects that meet the requirements set by us here at Last Word. But. it isn’t the Bruins’ fault. He joined the Boston Bruins prospects pipeline from New Jersey, where he has spent the last three seasons in the AHL. The last two seasons, specifically, Walsh has proven he deserves a bigger chance. In 2021-22, Walsh produced 43 points in 70 games, then followed it up with 41 points in 71 games.
Walsh is more offensively-minded than the two-way Lohrei. Standing at 6’0” and 185 pounds, he is a bit on the smaller side. But that doesn’t prevent him from having a hard and heavy shot from the point that makes him a threat. Defensively, he may not be the best, but he is by no means a liability. Plus, when he gets the puck, he does an excellent job transitioning up the ice. The puck-moving and average defensive zone ability, paired with what could wind up being a strong offensive game from the back-end, could be valuable to the Bruins, if he gets the chance to prove himself.
5.) Brandon Bussi
First, it was Jeremy Swayman. Now, the Bruins have another young goalie on the come-up in Bussi. Bussi, who stands at 6’4” and 227 pounds, is 25-years-old. He narrowly makes this list by the requirements, Having gone undrafted, Bussi had his first full season in the AHL after three NCAA seasons with Western Michigan University. Playing in 32 AHL games, Bussi had a record of 22-5-4, with a .924 save percentage (SV%) and 2.40 goals against average (GAA). Additionally, he played four ECHL games, going 3-1-0, with a .922 SV% and 2.50 GAA.
Bussi has great size, and has quickly proven himself at the AHL and ECHL level. Bussi has strong lateral mobility as well, able to go post-to-post quickly and smoothly. That, paired with his large frame, makes him difficult to score against with one-timers and other dangerous shots off quick passing plays. Rebounds can still be an issue at times, and he does tend to overcommit to some shots.
But things like that get better with time, and though he is on the older side in terms of prospects, he still is new to the professional ranks. Another season in the AHL, and maybe some NHL games as well, could go a long way in figuring out if Bussi is a legitimate goaltending prospect.
6.) Alec Regula
Alec Regula, similar to Reilly Walsh, was acquired via trade by the Bruins. Regula, who was drafted in the third round (67th overall) by the Detroit Red Wings, played games with the Blackhawks organization in the AHL and NHL levels, before winding up in Boston. Over the last three seasons, Regula has played 22 NHL games, scoring just one goal. Meanwhile, he has played 108 AHL games, scoring 51 points. Last season, he had 21 points in 51 games.
The blueliner has great size, standing at 6’4” and 207 pounds, and he plays a big game. Back in 2020, he was voted the best defensive defenceman in the OHL’s Western Conference, showing just how solid he is in his own end. That aspect has translated, thanks to his defensive awareness, smarts, and knowing how to take advantage of his size physically and with his stick work. At this point, his offence is solid but nothing that will pop off the page. If the Bruins are looking to add size and more defensive acumen to their back-end, the 23-year-old could be their guy at points this season.
7.) Georgii Merkulov
Merkulov, who was another undrafted free agent brought in by the Bruins. The center helps deepen the Boston Bruins prospects pool. However, he isn’t quite as big as the other names listed, standing at 5’11” and 181 pounds. But, after one successful season with Ohio State University in the NCAA (34 points in 36 games), he has absolutely proven he can handle professional hockey. He got a taste of the AHL at the end of 2021-22, scoring five points in eight AHL games. Last season, playing in the AHL full time, he shocked everyone with 55 points in 67 games.
Merkulov plays a fast-paced style that relies on strong skating and even better puck skills. He plays quick, and has strong playmaking instincts. The issue at this point is similar to that of the more dynamic Lysell; size limits his ability to attack the middle, forcing him to produce from the boards. While he can do that, it limits his ceiling if he cannot find new ways to attack the middle without being knocked down and off the puck. Despite that, this new-found potential that Merkulov possesses still projects as a potential second-liner. Again, playing as a centre in the Bruins system only adds to his importance as the Bruins look for replacements for Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
8.) John Farinacci
Farinacci, another player that the Bruins added from outside of their organization, was drafted by the Coyotes in the third round (76th overall) in the 2019 NHL draft. Farinacci Just wrapped up his third NCAA season, and is projected to join the Bruins AHL squad. Last season, he had a sort of return to form with 20 points in 19 NCAA games. This came after a sophomore season where he took a step back from 22 points in 31 games as a freshman to 19 points in 29 games.
The former Harvard University captain in his last season, Farinacci isn’t going to have to travel far to play in the AHL with the Providence Bruins. Another centre in the Boston Bruins prospects pipeline, Farinacci is a strong two-way forward that relies on smarts and defensive abilities. Not to mention, he’s highly regarded as a high character type and a leader, especially thanks to him being named captain of Harvard last season.
He can play almost any role asked of him, willing to get physical and play hard, or he can play a more finesse game with strong puck skills. But, a back injury last season limited how much he could play, so he likely needs a full AHL season to see where his development is. But there is NHL potential for Farinacci, especially considering his leadership and versatility.
9.) Jakub Lauko
Jakub Lauko, who was drafted in the third round (77th overall) in the 2018 NHL draft by the Bruins, is looking to build off of last season. Over the last four seasons, Lauko has played in the AHL. In 2019-20, he scored just nine points in 22 AHL games for Providence. However, he would play 23 AHL games the next season, and improved his production to 19. Then, in 2021-22, playing a full AHL season, he scored just 16 points in 54 games, a big step back. However, last season was one to remember. He managed to score 17 points in 35 games at the AHL level, and earned a call-up to the big club. Playing 23 NHL games, Lauko produced seven points.
Lauko is incredibly fast, with really good scoring abilities. That scoring was displayed last season with 10 goals in those 35 AHL games, plus four goals in the NHL in a small role. With his speed and scoring abilities, Lauko is also a pretty physical presence, not backing down from anyone. That aggressiveness and speed element that he brings middle-six or bottom-six potential to the table, as he can be that energizing presence that could help tilt the momentum. While his ceiling isn’t very high, he was able to showcase his skills at the NHL level despite the Bruins being the best team in NHL history, with the most regular season wins all-time.
10.) Brett Harrison
Harrison, another home-grown talent for the Bruins, was taken in the third round (85th overall) in the 2021 NHL draft. He just wrapped up his third OHL season in four years, with one season in Finland (due to COVID). In his OHL career, he scored 167 points in 180 games, including 69 points in 57 games last year. This season, he is projected to play in the AHL with Providence.
The Boston Bruins prospects are all pretty much playing in Providence, so Harrison will get to build some chemistry with guys he may play alongside of in the future. Harrison, like Farinacci, provides a lot of versatility with his style. He can play with anyone and mold with them. His defensive game is strong, relying on a high-end hockey IQ and positional awareness. In the offensive end, he possesses a strong smart and is a smart passer, which leads to points. It isn’t flashy and it isn’t always pretty, but Harrison is efficient. That is projectable to the NHL level. Maybe not a big role, but there is always a role for responsible, smart, and versatile players on an NHL roster.
HM (Round 4 or Later): Andre Gasseau
Gasseau adds a lot of size to the Boston Bruins prospects pipeline, especially the forward core. A 6’4” and 205 pound center, who was drafted in the seventh round (213th overall) in the 2021 NHL draft, is coming off a strong first NCAA season. After being drafted, he stuck in the USHL for one more season with the Fargo Force, where he scored 38 points in 60 games. Then, joining Boston College last season, he would exceed expectations with 29 points in 36 games. He’s slated to play next season with Boston College.
Gasseau plays a physically imposing style. He attacks on the forecheck consistently, and loves getting into corners and to the net-front, constantly wreaking havoc. When he has the puck, he possesses a decent shot that features a lot of power, but he isn’t the most dynamic. Gasseau is a creator of chaos, doing more of the dirty work to allow the star players to shine brighter. NHL coaches love having a player like that. If Gasseau can produce at a high level again with Boston College, there could be even more there than meets the eye, in terms of potential. He has much to work on, but he has the makings of a pain in the back-side for opponents that the Bruins love having on the team.
In The System
The Bruins are an old team. But with savvy signings and trades, plus a couple sneaky good draft picks, the Boston Bruins prospects pool has improved. Ever-so-slightly, but improvement is improvement. Young players who have already graduated to the NHL include Trent Frederic, Jesper Boqvist, Charlie McAvoy, Ian Mitchell, and Jeremy Swayman. Meanwhile, some players under contract who just missed out on this list include John Beecher, Trevor Kuntar, Marc McLaughlin, Ryan Mast, and Kyle Keyser. Finally, some other names who just missed this list include Quinn Olson, Chris Pelosi, Cole Spicer, Dans Locmelis, Beckett Hendrickson, Oskar Jellvik, and Riley Duran.
It’s no secret; the Bruins have been a very good team for a very long time. Their prospect pool has taken quite the hit as well because of that. Yet, they’ve managed to keep up a decent pipeline. While they don’t have any clear elite guys, outside of maybe Lysell, to yet make an NHL impact, there are some solid role players that they can build with. Yes, a rebuild is inevitably coming. But it may not last as long as many might think (or hope for). The Boston Bruins prospects are not great, but for those who are praying on the Bruins downfall may not be satisfied for long.
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