BostonBruins.com -- As spring blooms on the hockey season, a group of first year players have established themselves as important factors for the Providence Bruins in 2014.
Matt Lindblad’s steady progress and complete play earned him a recent stint with the big club. A heady and instinctive undrafted free agent out of Dartmouth College a year ago, Lindblad impressed in the final weeks of the 2012-13 campaign, picking up where he left off at his first NHL training camp by impressing the B’s coaches. Although not a dynamic offensive talent, the Illinois native is creative and has established himself as a quietly effective and consistent presence at forward. Intelligent and versatile, Lindblad carries the kind of hockey traits and attitude the B’s look for in their players.
A pair of OHL standouts in Seth Griffith (London) and Anthony Camara (Barrie), are also impact performers for Providence. Griffith is a natural scorer who wasted no time finding the back of the net when he got into the AHL lineup, while consistent offensive success has taken a little longer for the rugged Camara.
Griffith is a smallish but highly skilled winger who was a 2012 draft steal in the fifth round with a pick acquired for Benoit Pouliot. Although he needs more development time in Providence to better round out his overall game, the former 45-goal scorer with the Knights is knocking on the door of his first 20-marker AHL campaign. With his vision and natural instincts, Griffith has shown himself to be a tough draw on the power play, where he excels in space and exploits defenses with the extra room to operate.
Camara, who posted his best junior season a year ago, has had more of an adjustment period in Providence, but is a solid checking forward who looks for the big hit and does not back down from the opposition. His NHL upside is still a question mark, but he brings the physicality and abrasiveness that the B’s covet. Watch for him to spend a few more seasons in Providence developing more of the offensive touch he showed last year.
In net, Malcolm Subban has been a revelation, flourishing with added playing time and posting quality numbers as he nears the 30-game mark. His pure athletic ability is well documented, but the real story of Subban’s success is the evolution of his technique and mental approach, which has led to more starts and a bigger role on the team. A confident, poised Subban is now stealing games and using his lightning-fast leg pads and cat-like quickness to frustrate opponents in shootouts. He’s ready for a primetime AHL role next season.
Bruins Prospect Snapshot:
Alexander Khokhlachev, C Providence
Scouting report: This dynamic offensive talent has come to the fore with an all-star caliber second half in 2014. Although undersized, the mighty Muscovite’s puck skills and hockey sense more than compensate. A good skater who has added speed and quickness to his repertoire since Boston drafted him in the second round, ‘Koko’ is more elusive than fast, using his quick stick and athletic ability to get around defenders and take the puck to the net. Superb vision and soft hands allow him to distribute the puck and finish off plays in close. A nose for the net and killer instinct when the puck is on his stick make him a threat to score on each and every shift. Defense is still a work in progress; needs to elevate his energy, diligence and compete levels in all zones, but getting there. Still needs to be stronger on the puck and show more determination in winning the one-on-one battles.
Outlook: It has been a tale of two seasons for the skilled but enigmatic Koko. After he joined Providence last spring, he appeared unready for the pro game and was a step behind much of the play, barely making an impact down the stretch. However, after a gradual yet unspectacular beginning in 2013-14, the 40th overall selection in 2011 has taken his scoring to a whole new level, bringing the kind of consistency and game-breaking skill always in demand. After being nearly traded to the Calgary Flames a year ago, Khokhlachev has established himself as a legitimate AHL threat and is knocking on the door to see some time in Boston. He projects as a top-six NHL forward and power play ace, but will likely face stiff competition trying to break in full-time next year. However, should he continue to round out his defense and get stronger, the 20-year-old could certainly make things interesting for the coaches when it comes time to make cuts next fall.