We’re several months into the 2014-15 hockey season, and it has been an eventful time for Boston Bruins prospects.
Boston fans have gotten numerous glimpses of the B’s AHL talent in October and November. Three players who are among the top of the organization’s futures depth chart made their NHL debuts this season: Seth Griffith (5th round, 2012), Joe Morrow (trade with Dallas) and David Pastrnak (1st round, 2014). Several other key players on the Providence Bruins roster, forwards Alexander Khokhlachev (2nd round, 2011), Ryan Spooner (2nd round, 2010) Craig Cunningham (4th round, 2010) and defensemen Zach Trotman (7th round, 2010) and David Warsofsky (trade with St. Louis) have all played multiple NHL games as the Bruins have been beset with injuries in the season’s first seven weeks.
With so many veterans out of the lineup at both forward and defense positions, youngsters like Griffith, Khokhlachev and Pastrnak have infused the NHL roster with some scoring flair in showing flashes of what could come with more experience and established roles on the top three lines and special teams.
In the NCAA ranks, the Bruins are seeing some impressive early returns from a pair of fourth-round forwards in Boston College sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald (2013, 120th) and Denver University freshman Danton Heinen (2014, 116th). Both are heady, instinctive scorers who can push the offensive pace and have the production to match. Heinen currently is in a three-way tie for the Pioneers’ scoring lead and has been one of the most notable players to have an instant impact across the nation.
Ivy League defensemen Rob O’Gara (5th round, 2011) and Wiley Sherman (5th round, 2013) are both New England prep products who bring size, fluid footwork and untapped offensive potential to the mix as longer-term projects. However, no Bruins' prospect in college has been more integral to his team’s success thus far than North Dakota junior goaltender Zane McIntyre has been.
On track to post career numbers in all meaningful categories, McIntyre’s skill, drive and maturity have been on display for the Sioux this season. More of a battler than a technician when first drafted, McIntyre’s game has evolved in the more than four years he’s been a B’s prospect. Refining his overall technique and getting quieter in the net while using his mental toughness and focus to avoid prolonged slumps have been important to McIntyre’s ascendancy as a player who will challenge for the Mike Richter Award this season, given to the NCAA’s most outstanding Division I men's hockey goaltender.
McIntyre is one more quality option in net the B’s could eventually have to join Malcolm Subban as challengers to Tuukka Rask for playing time in Boston. Bruins Prospect Snapshot: David Pastrnak, RW Providence (AHL)/Boston (NHL)Scouting report:
Still physically maturing and well away from reaching his peak playing size/weight. Excellent skater with a long, loping stride and the ability to get up the ice with speed and elusiveness to shake defenders in open ice and get past defenders who try to stand him up at the offensive blue line. Outstanding puckhandler who can make plays at the quick, making opponents miss with crisp movements and effortless adjustments. Willingly takes the puck into traffic and to the net. Fine vision and hockey IQ for making plays in the offensive end. Makes everyone around him better with his on-ice creativity and natural scoring instincts. Room to improve shot power and selection; could stand to be more unselfish at times and take the shot himself. Still learning how to be a complete player and North American pro: coachable and willing, but will try to do too much at times. Terrific personality who has an infectious smile and exuberance that makes him a popular and valued teammate. Outlook:
Outstanding forward prospect with the skating, sense, skill and spirit to be an NHL star for a long time. Just drafted last June, the 18-year-old has already gotten his first taste of the big show with much more to come, but is still developing and could benefit from the central role he has in the AHL on Providence’s top line. As a point-per-game player at such a young age, the Czech native is justifying the positive reviews he earned from scouts going into the 2014 draft and is going to be a big part of Boston’s plan at forward in the not-too-distant future.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