The following feature appears in the January 3rd edition of the Boston Bruins Prospect Report. Download the complete report, which includes features, upcoming games and statistics on all Bruins prospects, by clicking here.
The New England Hockey Journal's Kirk Luedeke contributes an in-depth feature to the Boston Bruins Prospect report every edition.
The holiday season is in the rearview mirror, but Bruins prospects are still making an impact all over the world, whether in Providence of the American Hockey League, at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, or other amateur circuits like the Ontario Hockey League and NCAA.
With the World Junior tournament winding down, four Boston prospects will compete for bronze. Alexander Khokhlachev and his Russian squad survived a scare against Switzerland, coming back to win in a shootout after being down late in the game, but fell to defending champion Sweden in the semifinals. Malcolm Subban, Dougie Hamilton and Anthony Camara all contributed to Canada winning its pool in round robin play and earning an initial bye, but Team USA mounted an upset over the Canadians, who will have to wait until 2014 to attempt to win its first WJC gold since 2009.
Matt Grzelcyk was the final cut for Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Championship and has returned to Boston University, where he will have to put that disappointment behind him and apply his speed, sense and character going forward. The freshman defender also has a birthday this week (turning 19) and will get another shot at the 2014 WJC. Given his experience on the U.S. National Team, Grzelcyk will continue his NCAA development and be in better position to make the roster next year.
Providence Bruins defenseman Zach Trotman has emerged as a diamond-in-the-rough based on strong performances in the months of November and December. With his 6-foot-4 frame and fluid mobility, the former Lake Superior State standout and last pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (210th overall) is leading the team in scoring from the blue line with 12 points. An effective point presence on the power play with a big shot that his teammates are able to get sticks on for deflections, Trotman’s confidence seems to be growing by leaps and bounds after starting the year rotating in and out of the AHL lineup.
Max Sauve returned to the Providence lineup after a five-game absence due to an upper-body injury. The scoring numbers are down this year for the second-round pick in 2008, but Sauve brings a rare combination of size at 6-foot-2, speed and offensive flair. The skilled forward has battled injuries each season going back to his final major junior stint in 2009-10.
One of Providence’s unsung heroes is Lane MacDermid, who continues in his role as a rugged, checking forward in the Boston system. The son of former NHL player Paul MacDermid has shown significant improvement in his overall skills since he began his first professional season in 2009, and his work ethic has always been a hallmark. His persistence was rewarded with a five-game stint in the NHL last year, and MacDermid will again be on the short list for recall to Boston given his versatility and toughness.
In the OHL, London Knights winger Seth Griffith has vaulted to the top of that league’s scoring race to continue his impressive run. The offensive skills have never been in doubt, but Griffith is proving himself in other facets of the game this season. A more dedicated all-zone player than in previous years in the OHL, the fifth-round pick who turns 20 on Jan. 4 will be eligible for full-time duty in the AHL next season.
Bear Cub snapshot: Justin Florek, LW, Providence Bruins (AHL)
In his first full season after completing a four-year career at Northern Michigan University, the 135th overall selection (fifth round) in 2010 by the Bruins is contributing more to Providence’s scoring fortunes of late.
Talent analysis: At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Florek has a tall but still relatively lean frame with room to fill out a little more. Although not an overly physical player and big hitter, he’s a dedicated worker on and off the ice, who finished his NCAA career as team captain.
The product of the U.S. National Team Development Program is an average skater who possesses a long, fluid stride but is still improving his initial burst and first-step quickness, along with east-west lateral agility. When he gets up to speed, Florek is tough to contain, especially when he uses his size to crash the net and take away goaltender sight lines. His shot is hard, heavy and accurate; Florek has the ability to score from below the faceoff circles because of his quick release and the power he gets on his drive.
An all-around forward who may not bring a significant measure of scoring upside to the table, Florek does well in puck protection and is able to cycle effectively down low. He works the walls well and is willing to fight for position in front of the net. As he continues to develop and add strength, his ability to play an efficient two-way game will benefit his team.
As a mid-round draft selection at age 20 (and in his final window of draft eligibility), Florek has worked diligently to make himself an NHL option despite some early setbacks. Because you can’t teach his size, he could get a look or three sooner rather than later because he’s versatile enough to play effectively even in a limited role.
Similar to what former Bruin Byron Bitz did during the 2008-09 hockey season, Florek could earn an opportunity to contribute to Boston’s fortunes at some point. He has the intelligence, consistency and character to play on the lower lines while providing occasional offense.
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