The B’s don’t boast an abundance of defenders who are considered “high end” prospects on defense, but they have a group of players who have the skills and moxie to play in the NHL albeit in supporting roles. Via the draft and through trades in the past several seasons, the B’s have serviceable players who have faced significant challenges this season as one of the younger defense corps in the AHL.
In net, veteran Anton Khudobin
and second-year man Michael Hutchinson
are keeping the team in range of a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Khudobin’s 40 appearances and 19 wins lead the club, along with a solid .919 save percentage to go with a pair of shutouts. Khudobin’s unorthodox, even combative style resembles that of Tim Thomas
, standing in contrast to partner Hutchinson, who is more of a classic butterfly netminder. At 6-foot-3, Hutchinson, 21 (he turns 22 on March 2) is the prototypical modern goalie who takes up a lot of net and relies on his athleticism and positioning to deny scoring chances. He has a solid .920 save percentage and six wins.
At the top of the team scoring list for defensemen is Matt Bartkowski
, who shares that spot with Marshfield, Mass. native and former Boston University star David Warsofsky
. Like Khudobin and Hutchinson, Bartkowski and Warsofsky are a study in contrasts: the former being a rugged, shutdown defender who can make a crisp first pass, while the latter is more offensively inclined.
Also playing well for Providence this season on the blue line is Andrew Bodnarchuk
, Brad Marchand
’s close childhood friend from Hammonds Plains. Nova Scotia was also drafted in 2006 and was recently recalled to Boston. Although he did not get into any games with the big club (and has not appeared in the NHL since late in the 09-10 campaign), the scrappy if undersized rearguard uses his speed and smarts effectively, the summons serving as a reward for his hard work and acknowledgement of his experience in the system. The 23-year-old has four goals and 11 points in 48 games with Providence this season. Bear Cub snapshot: David Warsofsky, D
The former Cushing Academy star moved on to the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. before coming home to play for Boston University. A fourth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2008, as a freshman, he played on the Terriers’ 2009 NCAA championship squad. The Bruins acquired his rights on the 2010 NHL Entry Draft’s second day in exchange for Vladimir Sobotka. Warsofsky turned pro at the end of the 2010-11 season, appearing in 10 games for Providence (three assists). Talent analysis:
Listed at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Warsofsky may be undersized, but he plays with an element of grit and tenacity. A good skater who can advance the puck with confidence and make all the requisite passes, he is an effective puck-moving defenseman at the AHL level. Like most defenders of his physical stature, he has to keep building his strength and develop the experience and savvy that will allow him to compete for a spot with the big club in the next few seasons.
Warsofsky has heard the doubts that he has the size to reach the highest level for a long time now, but the pugnacious blue liner could be another Andrew Ference
in the making. A winner who captured both an NCAA title and gold medal at the World Jr. tournament before turning 20, the longtime Bruins fan has an opportunity to one day play for the team he grew up watching. Although there are concerns he may be a ‘tweener: a player who can be effective in the AHL, but lacks the size to be an impact NHL player, don’t bet against him as a lower-pairing defender and special teams contributor in the league one day.
Next time, we’ll wrap up our look at the prospects in Providence with the rest of the defense group including Colby Cohen
, and a snapshot profile of Mike Hutchinson. Kirk Luedeke covers the Boston Bruins and NHL prospects for the New England Hockey Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at: @kluedeke29