BostonBruins.com — A few weeks before the NHL Draft comes one very significant event used to determine which players, several years down the line, might become the brightest new NHL stars: the NHL Scouting Combine.
Members of the Bruins front office, scouting department and training staff will spend this week in Buffalo, N.Y., meeting with prospects and watching their fitness tests. Once the week is over, they will begin to narrow down their list of players to target during this year’s draft, which will occur on June 26 and 27 in Sunrise, Fla.
The prospects — about 120 in total, from both North America and Europe — arrived in Buffalo at the beginning of this week and will conduct 1-on-1 interviews with a variety of teams at the First Niagara Center. They will undergo medical examinations on June 4 and fitness testing at the HarborCenter on June 6. Be sure to follow along with BostonBruins.com and @NHLBruins on Twitter for updates from the Combine on June 5 and 6.
The Bruins will pick 14th in the first round of this year’s draft, and though there is no way to know which prospects will be on the board for their selection, here are some players to keep your eyes on during the Combine and in the weeks leading up to the draft, based on Central Scouting's rankings.
Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa/OHL
Konecny has been described as a forward who “never quits,” which makes him seem like he would be an ideal fit for the Bruins, who thrive upon gritty, hard-nosed players who aren’t afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice. Konecny fits that bill. The first overall pick in the 2013 OHL draft also has the versatility to succeed in a system that has stocked up on centers over the years: He can play in the middle or on the wing with equal proficiency. His strengths are his skating and his determination to do whatever it takes to win a game, and he also has NHL pedigree: The Ontario native is a second cousin of Bo Horvat, who just capped off a breakout year with Vancouver.
Jakub Zboril, D, Saint John/QMJHL
Zboril is ranked anywhere from 12th (Central Scouting) to 22nd (ISS Hockey) in this year’s draft class, but the two-way defenseman certainly seems to have the speed and the hockey IQ to succeed in Boston’s system. He can generate speed through the neutral zone and support offensively, but a sound defensive game and an ability to backcheck effectively are also hallmarks of his style of play. Additionally, Zboril is a native of the same country that produced David Pastrnak, Boston’s popular first-round pick in 2014: He hails from Brno, Czech Republic.
Kyle Connor, LW, Youngstown/USHL
There is only a slight chance that Connor could be on the board when the Bruins pick at No. 14; most have him ranked just outside the top 10 among this year’s prospects. There are plenty of buzzwords you might hear when Connor’s name is mentioned that lead you to believe he could be a great fit in Boston: two-way player. Quick and speedy. Playmaker. Elevates his game when the stakes are highest. His numbers prove that his offense is a strength, as he finished second in the USHL in 2013-14 with 74 points. This season, he was MVP of the league and snatched the scoring title with 80 points. He has cited a need to get bigger and stronger, but he has plenty of time to do that at the University of Michigan, where he has committed to play next year.
Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John/QMJHL
Like his teammate Zboril, Chabot is heralded as a two-way defenseman who can pack some serious offensive punch. This season, he led all Saint John defensemen with 41 points in 66 games with a plus-6 rating. He also proved his mettle on the international stage this past season at World Juniors, tying the team lead among defensemen with five points in seven games and earning bronze with Team Canada. Chabot has been heralded for his quick decision-making and his mobility, and again, like Zboril, he has the speed to join the rush without getting caught flat-footed coming back the other way.
Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George/WHL
Harkins’ impact on his WHL team can be seen in the way the Prince George Cougars have ascended the ranks of the league: In the three seasons he has been a part of the club, the Cougars have become a threat. Harkins is unlikely to be solely responsible, but he has certainly been a significant part of the surge. Harkins may not be flashy, but he is a sound defensive player who is ferocious on the forecheck and strong on the puck. He plays a strong north-south game. In fact, many of the cornerstones of his game are bit reminiscent of a current Bruin who, like Harkins, is also a former Vancouver Giant.
Evgeny Svechnikov, LW, Cape Breton/QMJHL
Svechnikov has spent just one season playing in North America, but already, he has proven his worth. In 55 games with the Screaming Eagles, he registered 78 points and a plus-19 rating. In seven playoff games, he was just as good, tallying a point per game. There seemed to be no dropoff in his game as he adjusted to a new style of play, which speaks to his consistency and his adaptability — both of which will obviously come in handy as he makes his way toward a professional career. Even at 6’3”, the native of Neftegorsk, Russia, has been heralded as a smooth, graceful skater with a good nose for the net and a lethal shot.