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Bruins Prospect Roundup: 1/11/15

by Kirk Luedeke / Boston Bruins -
The 2015 World Junior (Under-20) Championship ended this week in dramatic fashion, with Canada capturing gold in Toronto for the first time since 2009. Although the Bruins did not have any players in the championship game against Russia, David Pastrnak (Czech Republic), Peter Cehlarik (bronze medal-winner Slovakia) and Anton Blidh (Sweden) represented the Black and Gold well at the prestigious tournament.

Pastrnak, who is the first 18-year-old Boston prospect to produce more than a point per game at the AHL level for Providence, finished the competition among the top scoring leaders. A skilled and dynamic forward who plays with passion and lethal creativity, Boston’s top 2014 draft choice an instant fan favorite and saw time with the big club last month before this week’s second call up.

As for Cehlarik, the lanky winger has impressed observers with his natural offensive talent and potential. Skating for Luleå in Sweden’s top pro league, Cehlarik has upped his production from a year ago, and is improving his all-around game. After representing Slovakia in the last two World Jr. tournaments, he has helped that nation to its first WJC medal since 1999.

With the size, vision and hands to be an impact scorer at the NHL level, Cehlarik could stand to improve his first few steps. His big frame, long reach and heavy shot combine to make him tough to defend in the offensive zone. Not an overly physical player, Cehlarik will need to do more honest work in the greasy areas of the ice to deliver on his impressive ceiling.

Blidh scored a goal and three points in seven games for Sweden’s disappointing WJC entry, losing to Russia in the semifinal round and then dropping the third-place game to Slovakia.

The Bruins also boast a pair of Swedish defensemen in their system: 2013 top pick (second round) Linus Arnesson and 2014 seventh-rounder Emil Johansson.

Both are in key roles for their respective clubs Djurgården and HV71. Neither prospect is what you would consider a high upside offensive talent for the NHL, but bring impressive skating and defensive credentials to the table.

Johansson does not have ideal height at about six-foot, but has a thick body type and is strong on his skates with good balance, crisp pivots and change of direction. He moves the puck well and was a nice draft value in the last round for Boston. Watch for Johansson to make the cut for Team Sweden at the 2016 World Junior Championship, in his final year of eligibility.

Bruins Prospect Snapshot:

Anton Blidh, LW Frölunda (SHL)

Scouting Report: Gritty, energetic winger uses his speed and physicality to good effect…Solid, athletic build. Aggressive and tenacious in puck pursuit; forces turnovers with his quickness and active stick. Plus-skater with the ability to get off the mark quickly with fine east-west agility, making him a tough target for defenders to put a body on….Possesses average puck skills and offensive hockey sense. Looks to make contact and will give a hit and take one to make the play…Agitator whose high-energy style gets under opponents’ skin and should allow for a seamless eventual transition to North America.

Outlook:  Blidh plays for the same Swedish hockey club that produced longtime Bruin forward and current scout PJ Axelsson. When the B’s drafted him at the end of the sixth round in 2013, Blidh was not all that well known outside of Sweden, but those scouts familiar with him were of the consensus opinion that he the heavy game Boston appreciates in its forwards. Still a work in progress, Blidh could one day make the NHL as a bottom-six grinding winger with the physicality, passion and work ethic that any team can use. Although not keen on making player comparisons, Blidh plays a similar style to former Bruins and Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka.

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

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