Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we 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 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We 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 we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. 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.
Boston Bruins Prospects
Last season, there were a number of surprising stories in the NHL. With the expansion Vegas Golden Knights winning their division, the Colorado Avalanche going from the worst team in the NHL to a playoff spot, and the New Jersey Devils going from the first overall pick to a playoff spot, it is easy to overlook the big improvement that the Boston Bruins made last year. However, it is the Bruins whose improvement might be the most sustainable. Brad Marchand proved that 2016-17 was not a fluke, Patrice Bergeron continued his strong play and David Pastrnak had a breakout campaign. The three combined to be one of the best lines in hockey. Rookies Charlie McAvoy and Jake Debrusk made huge contributions. Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask returned to form.
This off-season the Bruins were relatively quiet. They added Jaroslav Halak to replace Anton Khudobin as the team’s backup goaltender. They also picked up Cody Goloubef, John Moore, Chris Wagner, and Joakim Nordstrom to add to the team’s depth. Despite these moves, the Bruins continued improvement relies on internal improvements. The youngsters on the roster should continue to improve and there are more quality prospects on the way.
2018 NHL Draft Picks: Axel Andersson, Jakub Lauko, Curtis Hall, Dustyn McFaul, Pavel Shen
Graduations: Charlie McAvoy, Jake Debrusk, Danton Heinen, Matt Grzelcyk, Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari, Zane McIntyre (age)
Top Prospect: Ryan Donato
Right Wing/Left Wing– shoots Left
Born April 9th, 1996 — Boston, Massachusetts
Height 6’0″ — Weight 181 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 2nd round, #56 overall, at the 2014 NHL Draft
Donato put together an outstanding season last year. He put up 26 goals and 43 points in 29 games for Harvard. He was also selected to play for Team USA at the Olympics, scoring five goals and an assist in five games. After Donato signed his entry-level contract and joined the Bruins, he put up five goals and nine points in 12 regular-season games. Despite all this, he was a regular healthy scratch throughout the playoffs and received limited ice-time in the three games he did play. He is the son of former Bruin Ted Donato.
While not a speedster, Donato is still a very good skater. His top-end speed is merely above average. However, Donato has a quick first step and good acceleration. He also has very good edgework and agility. His ability to change directions on a dime and to make quick cuts allow him to create space from defenders. Donato has a powerful lower-body. He can fight through checks and is strong on the puck. His balance helps him win puck battles and establish his position in front of the net.
Donato is a pure goal scorer. He has an excellent wrist shot, and his release is very quick. He also has a good one-timer. Donato has a knack for finding open space when he doesn’t have the puck, allowing teammates to find him for a scoring chance. He can even score with his backhand. He drives the net hard and has the soft hands to finish in close when he gets there. Donato can get tip-ins, pounce on rebounds and quickly fire them into the net.
Donato is also a good stick-handler. He protects the puck well and can control play in the cycle game with the right linemates. If he catches a defenseman flat-footed, he can make a quick cut to the net. If a passing lane is there, he will find out. Donato has the patience to work the cycle until the opportunity presents itself. His hockey IQ is very high.
Donato is willing to do whatever it takes to win. While he will need some experience to make the most of his defensive game in the NHL, he shows a high compete level. Donato gets back in his zone and supports the defenders. He uses his stick to cut down passing lanes and is not afraid to block shots. Just like in the offensive zone, Donato is willing to battle for loose pucks. When a turnover happens, he can quickly transition the puck forward.
With players like Rick Nash, Riley Nash, Austin Czarnik, Tim Schaller, and Brian Gionta not returning to Boston, there is room for Donato to grab a full-time spot in the Bruins lineup. With an open spot on David Krejci‘s wing, that spot might even be in the top-six. Donato is an NHL player, the questions now are about how good he can be.
#2 Prospect: Urho Vaakanainen
Defence — shoots Left
Born January 1st, 1999 — Joensuu, Finland
Height 6’0″ — Weight 185 lbs [183 cm/84 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 1st round, #18 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Vaakanainen had a strong season playing in the Finnish SM-Liiga for SaiPa. In 43 games, he put up four goals and 11 points. He also added an assist in nine playoff games. Vaakanainen played for Finland at the World Juniors, picking up an assist in five games. He also played for the Men’s team at the European Hockey Tour with an assist over five games. When NHL players joined the team for the World Championships, he did not make the final squad.
Vaakanainen is very mobile. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions; as well as the edgework and pivots to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. Vaakanainen is strong on his skates and has good balance. He is able to take advantage of this when fighting against bigger forwards in the corners and in front of the net. That said, he will need to continue to add muscle and strength to his fame, before moving on to a more North American game, especially at the pro level.
Vaakanainen has excellent hockey IQ. He reads the play very well in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. He chooses to make the smart plays both with and without the puck. He also can skate the puck out of danger in his own zone, and start the transition game with a good first pass. Offensively, he has decent power and accuracy on his shot, and the vision to make plays at the blue line. However, he will likely never be a huge offensive contributor but may develop a little bit of scoring ability.
Vaakanainen plays a very simple game which limits his high-end potential. He makes the safe play with the puck, instead of a riskier one with more upside. He also isn’t really creative back at the blueline. He keeps the puck in the zone and puts it in good areas, but he is not one to be patient at the line or to open up passing and shooting lanes.
Defensively, he has great gap control and positioning. Vaakanainen takes the body in the corners and in front of the net but is not a big hitter. He is not afraid to get his nose dirty in battles for the puck or to clear the crease, but he also does not get himself out of position looking for the big hit. Vaakanainen has very good positioning and is good at cutting down passing and shooting lanes. When he does create a turnover, he starts the transition game quickly. Overall, his game is well-rounded.
Vaakanainen is signed to his entry-level contract and comes to North America this year. The Bruins have eight legitimate NHL defencemen on their roster right now, as well as some more experienced prospects in the pipeline. While he has the highest potential of the team’s defensive prospects, he is at least a full year or two away from being NHL ready. The Bruins would love to see him develop some offence this year in Providence. He is eligible to play at the World Juniors in Victoria and Vancouver and would be a big part of the Finnish team if the Bruins allow him to leave the AHL and play in the tournament.
#3 Prospect: Anders Bjork
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born August 5th, 1996 — Mequon, Wisconsin
Height 6’0″ — Weight 186 lbs [183 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 5th round, #146 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
It was an up-and-down year for Bjork in his first professional season. He missed time due to injuries, including a concussion. When on the ice, Bjork played well, with four goals and 12 points in 30 games for the Bruins. He also scored two goals and four points in nine games with Providence in the AHL.
Bjork is a very good skater. He has an excellent first step and very good acceleration. This helps him to be first on loose pucks. He also has very good top-end speed and can create odd-man rushes or take an opponent wide and cut to the net. Bjork has very good agility and edgework. He can cut and change directions on a dime, making him tough to contain in one-on-one situations. He is also strong on his skates. His low centre of gravity gives Bjork good balance as well as the ability to fight through checks.
Bjork is a very intelligent player. He sees the ice well and anticipates what teammates and opponents will do. Bjork is a strong playmaker with the passing skill to put the puck through tight areas. He is also a hard-worker. He cycles the puck effectively, keeping it moving with quick passes to teammates. While he is slightly undersized, he battles hard in the corners and in front of the net.
When Bjork gets the opportunity, he takes the puck to the front of the net. He has the soft hands to finish in close. He also has a strong wrist shot and a good release. Bjork has a knack for finding open ice when he does not have the puck.
Bjork is a strong two-way player. He has good positioning, effectively cutting down passing and shooting lanes. He backchecks hard, supporting the defence down low. Bjork killed penalties in college for the Irish. Once he creates a turnover, he quickly transitions to offence.
Bjork should be a full-time NHLer this year. The Bruins hope that he will stay healthy and make an impact with some secondary scoring, helping to replace the players who left in free agency.
#4 Prospect: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson
Centre — shoots Right
Born October 31st, 1996 — Stockholm, Sweden
Height 6’1″ — Weight 184 lbs [185 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 2nd round, #45 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Forsbacka Karlsson had a solid first pro season in Providence. He put up 15 goals and 32 points in 58 games. He also added a goal in four playoff games. Forsbacka Karlsson was given big minutes and played in all situations for Providence, including the penalty kill and power play.
Forsbacka Karlsson has decent, but not great speed and acceleration. However, the other parts of his skating are at a high level. He has excellent lower-body strength and balance. It is hard to knock Forsbacka Karlsson off the puck and he uses his size to protect it effectively in the cycle. He also has very good agility and edgework, allowing him to be elusive in the offensive and neutral zones.
Forsbacka Karlsson is much more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He makes good passes to his wingers off the rush and can use strong vision and passing skills in the cycle game. He has good stick handling and uses his size to protect the puck down low, working well in that cycle and maintaining possession for his team. Forsbacka Karlsson has an accurate shot and a decent release, but he could add power. He is gritty in the corners and often comes out with the puck. Forsbacka Karlsson is very effective on the forecheck, forcing defenders to rush plays and make mistakes.
He may need to add some upper-body strength to continue to play this type of game at the NHL-level. This has improved a lot since his draft year but more muscle can still be added to his frame. He could also use some work on finding openings and being in good position to take a pass and get a scoring chance when he does not have the puck.
Forsbacka Karlsson is a strong two-way player. He is very good in the face-off circle, winning draws in both the offensive and defensive zone. The fact that he is a right-handed centre even increases the value of these face-off skills. He is also strong positionally, works well to help his defenders, and contain opposing forwards down low on the cycle game. Forsbacka Karlsson is not afraid to block shots. He brings his gritty game and ability to battle hard on the boards to all three zones. A top penalty killer for Providence Bruins, he should grow into this role at the NHL level, even if he does not start his career playing there. He shows very good anticipation and the ability to cut down passing lanes with his long and active stick.
Forsbacka Karlsson’s strong two-way game will help him to compete for the Bruins third line centre position that has been opened up by the departure of Riley Nash. Things will not be easy as Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and even David Backes could be considered for the role. There are other prospects in the mix too (more on that below) Even if Forsbacka Karlsson is sent back to the AHL for more development, he could see call-ups if there are injuries in Boston.
#5 Prospect: Trent Frederic
Centre — shoots Left
Born February 11th, 1998 — St. Louis, Missouri
Height 6’3″ — Weight 215 lbs [191 cm / 98 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 1st round, #29 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Frederic had another solid season with the University of Wisconsin, even if his points per game were slightly down from his freshman campaign. He ended up with 17 goals and 32 points in 36 games. Frederic also won a Bronze medal with Team USA at the World Juniors, scoring five goals in seven games. After the college season, he signed his entry-level contract and joined Providence. Frederic had five goals and eight points in 13 regular-season games and one assist in three playoff games.
Frederic is a decent skater. He has adequate speed and acceleration. While not a speedster, he moves well enough to be dangerous off the rush or to get in on the forecheck. He improved his edgework and agility, but can sometimes have issues navigating through traffic. Frederic shows good power in his stride. He fights through checks. He also has the balance to win battles on the boards as well as establish his position in front of the net.
Frederic shows good size, and plays a power forward style of game. He loves to get in on the forecheck, pressuring defencemen, and throwing hits in the offensive zone. Frederic creates turnovers and generates offence by winning battles along the boards or working to establish space in front of the net. He protects the puck well down low and is able to prolong possession and generate plays.
Frederic scores goals with a strong wrist shot and good release. He is also able to score in close, taking the puck to the net when he gets the opportunity. He has fast hands that get to rebounds and deflections. In terms of stickhandling, Frederic protects the puck well, but he is not one to make a lot of fancy one-on-one moves. His passing game also relies on making the simple play and does not typically look for the overly fancy or creative play. Frederic shows good hockey IQ, finding open space away from defenders and making smart safe plays.
For a young player, Frederic is already developing a strong defensive game. He is tenacious on the backcheck and willing to use to use his size and grittiness in all three zones. Frederic is a smart player who contains well against the cycle game and provides good back pressure. He is good in the face-off circle and does a good job cutting down passing and shooting lanes on the penalty kill.
Frederic will play his first pro season this year. He heads to camp looking for the third-line centre spot in Boston. As one of the lest experienced players in that battle, he is a long-shot to claim the role. If he is not part of the top nine, he should go to the AHL where he can play big minutes in a big role for Providence. At this point, it does not make sense to keep him in the NHL if he would only play a fourth line role. Frederic could see call-ups from time-to-time if the Bruins experience injuries this season.
#6 Prospect: Jack Studnicka
Centre — shoots Right
Born February 18th, 1999 — Tecumseh, Ontario
Height 6’1″ — Weight 171 lbs [185 cm/78 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 2nd round, #53 overall at the 2017 NHL Draft
Studnicka greatly improved his numbers across the board in his post-draft season with Oshawa. He put up 22 goals and 50 assists for 72 points in 66 games. He also added a goal and five points in five playoff games, but the Generals fell in the first round of the OHL Playoffs. Studnicka joined Providence and impressed with a goal and five points in five games.
Studnicka has taken some big steps in improving his skating but can still get even a little better. He has very good top-end speed once he has gotten going. There are some issues in his first step though, and he needs to continue to work on his acceleration. Studnicka is better at getting in quickly on a forecheck, or on using his speed off the rush, then he is at tracking down loose pucks or making short bursts in the offensive and defensive zone. He has good agility and edgework, as well as the power to fight through checks and get to the net. Studnicka does a good job of battling along the boards in junior hockey but will still need to get stronger before heading to the pro game.
Jack Studnicka is a very smart player. He is a strong playmaker. Studnicka has excellent vision and is able to make tough passes to teammates. He moves the puck smartly, putting it in good spaces where a linemate can race onto it if he doesn’t have another play. He is a decent stick handler who protects the puck well down low and in the cycle game.
Studnicka can also score goals. He has a good wrist shot, with power and accuracy. He could stand to work on his release though. Studnicka used his shot a little more often this season, which helped him to keep defences off-balance and gave him more room to operate. He gets himself open for shots by finding soft spots in the defence, and finishing passes from teammates.
Studnicka is willing to get to the net and battle in the corners. He is not afraid to play in the dirty areas of the ice or to take a hit to make a play. However, Studnicka needs to bulk up to continue to play this game at the pro level.
Studnicka has a well-developed defensive game. He kills penalties, anticipating plays and cutting down passing lanes. He has a strong positional game and is not afraid to block shots. Studnicka shows his grit in all three zones, battling for position and winning loose pucks. He is also very good in the face-off circle for a teenager.
Studnicka is a real long-shot to crack the Bruins roster this year but it is not impossible. The likely outcome is that he finds himself back in Oshawa at the start of the year. If the Generals are not a contender, he could find himself moved at the OHL Trade Deadline. A long playoff run would give Studnicka valuable experience. He could also use some AHL time. It might be 2020 before he is a full-time member of the Bruins roster.
#7 Prospect: Jakub Zboril
Defence — shoots Left
Born February 21st, 1997 — Brno, Czech Republic
Height 6’0″ — Weight 200 lbs [183 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 1st round, #13 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Zboril also had his first pro season with Providence. He put up four goals and 19 points in 68 games. He also appeared in four playoff games but did not put up a point.
Zboril has good skating skill and his excellent pivots, edgework, and agility allow him to cover a ton of ice. He is able to transition quickly from offence-to-defence and vice-versa. He has good balance and is hard to knock off the puck. That balance and power are also very useful in clearing the front of the net, or in battling for loose pucks in the corners and along the boards. Zboril’s skating stride is a little bit choppy and his acceleration could improve by working to make it smoother. It has not had a huge effect on his top end speed which is very good in both directions.
Zboril hs some offensive skill that can continue to develop. He has a rocket of a slap shot, as well as an excellent wrist shot and quick release. Zboril is patient and waits for a proper shooting lane to get his shot through to the net. He is able to use his agility, and edge work to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes to the net. In addition, Zboril has good instincts for pinching in at the blue line, or for joining the rush. He has the puck handling skills to skate the puck out of danger in his own end, and can make a smart first pass to start the transition game.
There are some issues though. Zboril does not always make the smart play with the puck in the offensive zone. Whether this is due to a lack of vision or a lack of hockey sense is not quite clear. He must improve this area if he wants to take his production to the next level and be able to produce at the NHL level.
Opposing forwards must keep their head up when making a rush down Zboril’s end of the ice. If they have their heads down, he is more than willing to throw a big hit. He does have to time these hits better though, as he can have a tendency to get himself out of position to make such a hit. Zboril is also not afraid to be physical in the defensive end of the ice, battling hard in front of the net and in the corners. He is not afraid to block shots. He could use some work on his positioning and reading of the play as this has caused some inconsistency in his defensive game. He’s also had an issue getting caught flat-footed against particularly quick forwards.
There are flashes of high-end potential in Zboril’s game, but he still has some areas of his game that need refinement. Defencemen typically take longer than forwards to develop and Zboril is still young. He should get another year in Providence before being re-evaluated. The Bruins would love to see the former 13th overall pick take a big step forward.
#8 Prospect: Zachary Senyshyn
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born March 30th, 1997 — Ottawa, Ontario
Height 6’3″ — Weight 196 lbs [191 cm / 89 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 1st round, #15 overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft
Senyshyn struggled in his first pro season. He put up 12 goals and 26 points in 66 games for Providence. He also added one assist in four playoff games.
Senyshyn is an absolutely elite skater, one of the best in the AHL. The Ottawa native has a powerful stride that generates great speed and the acceleration to reach that top speed in just a few steps. He also has the strength and balance to fight through a check and drive to the front of the net. This allows Senyshyn to take defenders wide off the rush and cut inside.
He is deadly when he catches a defender flat-footed in the neutral zone and will be behind them before they know it. The balance also allows Senyshyn to win battles along the boards and to establish his position in front of the net. The only downside in Senyshyn’s skating is his agility and edgework. He could work on maintaining his speed while making sharp cuts, and changes in direction to be even more dangerous. This area of his game is not that bad, it just doesn’t live up to the speed and power that he shows and is an area to improve.
Senyshyn plays a very straightforward power game. He goes to the net hard both with and without the puck. He plays gritty and digs in the corners and in the front of the net. Senyshyn uses his speed to get in quickly on the forecheck and force defenders into mistakes and turnovers. He finishes his checks.
Senyshyn has a lethal arsenal of shots. His wrist shot and snapshot are both powerful and feature good releases. His stickhandling is decent, but he’s more likely to beat a defender with his speed than with his hands. It is an area of his game that certainly can get better. Senyshyn makes smart, simple passes of the puck in the cycle game, keeping possession, but is not one to make a creative pass through a small opening. He’s much more of a goal scorer than a playmaker.
Senyshyn works extremely hard. He backchecks effectively and gets involved in battles in his own end. He is willing to play a physical style, separating his man from the puck. Senyshyn is not afraid to put his body down and attempt to block shots. He’s really worked on being more disciplined and picking his spots of when to be physical. While he will still hit, he no longer takes himself out of position chasing hits in bad situations. His overall positioning is improved as well. Senyshyn helped kill penalties for Providence this year.
While Senyshyn’s offensive numbers were not there this year, he did a good job of becoming more well-rounded and improving his defensive game. Senyshyn may never become the top line winger that the Bruins hoped for when he was the 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft. However, if he can show just a little improvement in his offensive game, he could combine that with his skating and defensive game to be a bottom-six option.
#9 Prospect: Jakub Lauko
The Bruins drafted Lauko with the 77th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Lauko. No games have been played since that report; so we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#10 Prospect: Peter Cehlarik
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born August 2nd, 1995 — Zilina, Slovakia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 202 lbs [188 cm / 92 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 3rd round, #90 overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft.
In his second pro season, Cehlarik put up 11 goals and 23 points in 35 games with Providence. He also added two goals in three AHL playoff games. He got a short run with the Bruins, scoring his first NHL goal and adding an assist in six games with the big club.
The biggest thing holding back Cehlarik from a full-time NHL spot is his skating. His speed is below average at the NHL level. He also needs work on getting a quicker first step and better acceleration. Cehlarik’s edgework is decent, but he needs to work on his footwork and agility as well. He has good size and a strong lower-body. This helps Cehlarik to be strong on the puck and to win battles on the boards and in front of the net.
Cehlarik protects the puck well and can extend possession in the cycle game. However, he is not the type of forward to make a lot of dekes to get around a defender. Instead, Cehlarik makes the pass to the open man and keeps the puck moving. He sees the ice very well and can make passes through tight areas to set up a scoring chance. Cehlarik keeps his feet moving after passing the puck and often heads for the front of the net where he can take a pass back on the give-and-go.
Cehlarik also has a good shot and release. He has a knack for finding dangerous areas of the ice when he does not have the puck and getting open for a quick wrist shot or a one-timer. Cehlarik is able to battle along the boards and in front of the net, but he is not one to initiate contact. He will take a hit to make a play but is not one to throw many hits despite his size and strength.
Cehlarik has good positioning and works hard in his own end of the ice. He is willing to support the defence against the cycle and works to contain his man. He also battles hard for loose pucks but again he is not a big hitter. Cehlarik uses his stick to cut down passing lanes. He does have some issues defensively as his lack of speed can sometimes get him caught up the ice or out of position.
Cehlarik enters the final year of his contract before becoming a restricted free agent. At 23-years-old, he needs to show management that there has been some progression in his game, particularly in his skating. If he can do this, he might see some NHL time as an injury replacement and can earn another deal with the Bruins next summer. There is potential here, but the time to unlock it is running out.
Sleeper Prospect: Ryan Fitzgerald
Centre — shoots Left
Born October 19th, 1994 — North Reading, Massachusetts
Height 5’10” — Weight 177 lbs [178 cm / 80 kg]
Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 4th round, #120 overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft
In his first full pro season, after leaving college, Fitzgerald had 21 goals and 37 points in 65 games for Providence. He added two goals in three playoff games.
Undersized at just 5-foot-9, Fitzgerald needs to make up for this deficiency in other ways. Unfortunately, his skating is not going to be one of those areas. Fitzgerald has above average speed, but it is not something that is going to set him apart. The other areas of his skating are decent to good as well but there isn’t an elite skill here. His edgework and agility are good enough to create space in one-on-one situations. He also has a low centre of gravity and good balance.
Fitzgerald’s biggest asset is his positioning and hockey sense. He sees the ice very well and makes smart plays with the puck. Fitzgerald has a knack for anticipating the movements of those around him and making the right play to create a scoring chance. He can stickhandle and protect the puck to extend plays, before hitting a teammate with a tape-to-tape pass when they get open. He also has a good wrist shot and quick release. Fitzgerald has a knack for going to the right spot without the puck.
He is also a feisty player. Fitzgerald is willing to battle on the boards and gets to the front of the net. He is always in the middle of the action, looking to drive the net in the cycle game or to get there without the puck. His soft hands and quick reflexes help Fitzgerald finish plays from that area.
Fitzgerald also reads the play well in the defensive end of the ice. He combines this with strong positioning to create turnovers and turn them into offensive chances. Fitzgerald also brings his gritty game to his own end and is willing to battle down low and support the defence. This is the biggest area where a lack of size hurts him though, as he can be overpowerered by bigger, physical forwards.
Fitzgerald should also be involved in the Bruins battle for the third line centre spot. However, he needs a bit more time in Providence before he is NHL ready. While he will never be able to grow a few more inches, he can get quicker and stronger in order to fully take advantage of his skills.
The Bruins graduated a ton of talent last season and more is likely to make the roster this year. They have done an excellent job of re-tooling their team through the draft, even if they have made some unconventional picks at times. Some of those picks have really worked out, while they could be even further ahead without some of the other gambles they made. Overall, the results have been strong and have set the team up to be a contender for a long time. That said, because of the graduations, when we look at the actual depth and talent currently in the system, the Bruins are likely to be ranked in the middle of the pack amongst NHL teams.
At forward, Alexander Khokhlachev is still considered a prospect but it seems unlikely that he will ever play another game for the Bruins. Prospects of note in the system who were not reviewed above include Joona Koppanen, Cameron Hughes, Karson Kuhlman, Oskar Steen, and Anton Blidh.
On defence, the Bruins have added Axel Andersson at this year’s draft. Jeremy Lauzon, Wiley Sherman, Connor Clifton, and Emil Johansson are also in the system. The Bruins could use a little more depth, in their system, on the blueline but have Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk already contributing at the NHL level and this lessens that concern a little.
The Bruins top goaltending prospect, Jeremy Swayman, had an excellent season with Maine in the NCAA last year. Further down the depth chart, Kyle Keyser, and Daniel Vladar are part of their prospect pipeline.
Main Photo: BOSTON, MA – MARCH 19: Boston Bruins center Ryan Donato (17) skates by the bench after scoring his first NHL goal in his first game during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 19, 2018, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Blue Jackets defeated the Bruins 5-4 (OT). (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)