The Boston Bruins have several prospects making an impact in Europe over the course of the young season.
The team’s top pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, 6-foot-1 defenseman Linus Arnesson, is skating against men for the Djurgården senior club in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, or second division. Although that circuit is one level below the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), previously known as the Swedish Elite League, the opportunity to skate at the pro level for a second season allows Arnesson to hone his skills and gain experience against superior competition to what he would face at the junior level.
Arnesson is a mobile, smart, two-way defender who may not bring a dynamic offensive element, but is a mature and effective puck-moving presence with a sound defensive game. The 19-year-old was the 60th selection in last June’s draft after just missing the 2012 draft by about a week. B’s prospect Matt Grzelcyk, who has faced Arnesson in several international tournaments and at Team USA evaluation camp in Lake Placid the last two summers, singled Arnesson out for praise in a recent interview for his mobility and consistency. He won’t win many style points for fl ash, but Arnesson’s poise should translate into a middle-pairing NHL defenseman eventually.
Peter Cehlárik and Anton Blidh are two forwards drafted out of Sweden in the 2013 class. A third round pick out of Luleå last June, Cehlarik became the youngest player to score a goal for that Swedish team’s pro team last season. The Slovak left winger leveraged outstanding play in Sweden and at the World Under-18 Championship tourney into a top-90 selection. This season, Cehlárik was loaned from Luleå in the SHL to Asplöven of the Allsvenskan, where he posted four goals and 12 points in 15 games.
Blidh (pronounced BLEED) was a Frölunda Indians junior club standout and sixth-rounder for Boston, coming from the same Swedish hockey franchise that produced former fan favorite and current amateur scout P.J. Axelsson. The 18-year-old winger and 180th overall selection does not possess ideal size at about 6-foot in height, but is thickly built, with a low center of gravity that makes him strong on his skates. Blidh plays a rugged, two-way game, crashing the net and bringing a high-energy, agitating style. Blidh does not have the elite hockey skills to currently project as a top-liner in the NHL, but with his grit and moxie, he could one day vie for a spot on Boston’s fourth line. After beginning the season on Frölunda’s Junior-20 squad (8 goals, 14 points in 14 games), Blidh made his SHL debut and has since been loaned to Karlskrona HK of the Allsvenskan, the same league as Arnesson.
Maxim Chudinov was Boston’s first of two choices in the seventh round (195th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and has been a solid two-way presence in the KHL throughout his six-year pro career. Although undersized at 5-foot-10, the stocky Russian has fi ne speed, agility, and plays a physical game with St. Petersburg SKA. Chudinov is having a bounceback season after struggling offensively a year ago, but where he fits on Boston’s prospect depth chart and whether he will come over to North America anytime soon is still very much up in the air.
BRUINS PROSPECT SNAPSHOT
Peter Cehlárik, Asploven (Allsvenskan)
Scouting report: This skilled offensive forward has a big frame (6-foot-2) with room to grow and add mass. His first few steps are a little slow, but Cehlárik has a long, fluid stride and is a good skater in a straight line when he gets up to speed. A quick stick and fine puck skills make him a dangerous goal scorer and an effective passer/playmaker. He has a hard, heavy shot with hidden release point that he can get off quickly and has the vision and hockey sense to be a productive player at any level. The 18-year-old is not an overly physical presence; he does not often initiate contact and could stand to use his size to drive the net with more consistency.
Outlook: Although he is pretty raw and a few years away from challenging for an NHL job, Cehlárik has all of the tools to develop into an exciting forward option for the Bruins. He has superb offensive instincts, soft hands and a penchant for scoring big goals. Although he needs to improve his foot speed and stronger, he has top-six NHL forward potential and has quickly established himself as one of the more talented prospects in Boston’s system. At 90th overall, the Bruins may have snagged themselves a real diamond-in-the-rough prospect in Cehlárik, who has some real offensive upside.
Kirk Luedeke covers the Boston Bruins and NHL prospects for the New England Hockey Journal and is a contributing editor and hockey scout for the Red Line Report. You can follow him on Twitter at: @kluedeke29