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Prospect Roundup

by Kirk Luedeke / Boston Bruins -
The Boston Bruins have three prospects still playing in the OHL playoffs after trading Cody Payne to Dallas as part of the Jaromir Jagr deal. In the wake of Rob O’Gara and the Yale Bulldogs going the distance to capture that school’s first-ever NCAA Division 1 championship, we’ll review the bidding...

Malcolm Subban is having a dominant postseason run with the Belleville Bulls. His .951 save percentage, 1.31 goals against average and three shutouts leads all OHL goaltenders by a wide margin. His excellence revolves around his elite athletic ability, but his poise in net has also been a critical factor to personal and collective success in going 8-2. In seasons past, Subban had a tendency to overcommit to the shot, but he’s taken the time to keep things simple in his finest season and his composure has elevated him to a completely different level. When you hear the Boston brass talk about not trading Subban, simply point to his stellar performance at “crunch” time and you begin to understand why the 2012 first-rounder is proving the doubters (present company included) wrong. Subban was particularly impressive in his team’s second-round series sweep of the Sudbury Wolves, where he allowed just four goals (in as many games) and stopped 101 of 105 shots, including a perfect 55 of 55 in the final two contests. He has made a compelling and convincing case as Boston’s top prospect, with the greatest pure potential of any player in the system.

Going head-to-head with Boston’s young goaltender for the right to come out of the OHL’s Eastern Conference is Anthony Camara, who like Subban, enjoyed his finest year of major junior. After breaking out offensively with the Barrie Colts, he’s carried his goal scoring exploits into the playoffs, having tallied four goals in five games. On the downside, he was suspended for three games in the first round for flipping a puck into the stands. Camara must continue to work on his self-discipline in order to not let his emotions get the better of him, as his offensive presence and fine chemistry with close friends Mark Scheifele and Zach Hall is an essential part of Barrie’s attack.

London Knights winger Seth Griffith signed a three-year entry-level contract with the B’s this week after a great season, marred only by a broken hand that forced him to miss the final month. Although slow to get his offensive numbers going in the early part of the postseason, Griffith started to find the back of the net with more regularity. Although he does not possess ideal size, the fifth-round pick is an instinctive forward who exploits defensive seams and uses his quick stick and NHL-caliber release to be an ever-present threat on offense. He turned 20 in January, and is therefore eligible for full-time AHL duty in Providence next season.

The B’s signed Dartmouth standout Matthew Lindblad, 23, as an undrafted free agent earlier this month. He tallied his first professional goal in Providence’s 2-0 win over the Springfield Falcons Apr. 13, adding assists on a pair of Alexander Fallstrom goals the next day against Norfolk. The Illinois native is a heady player with good vision and slick hands; he is one more prospect vying for playing time on a stacked offensive AHL roster. Lindblad finished his collegiate career with 28 points in 30 games, second on the Big Green in scoring.

Bear Cub snapshot: Rob O’Gara, D Yale Bulldogs (ECAC)

As the clock ticked down on Yale University’s 4-0 victory over Quinnipiac University to secure the 2013 NCAA National Championship, 19-year-old freshman Rob O’Gara was on the ice, making one last clearing pass to end the game and preserve the shutout. His poised, veteran-like play validated the trust head coach Keith Allain showed in him all season, and is a sign of things to come for the promising fifth-rounder from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Talent analysis:  At 6-foot-4, O’Gara has excellent height and long limbs, allowing for optimal reach and a long, powerful skating stride. He’s still lanky, with a lot of filling out and physical maturing ahead, but as he gets stronger and gains more experience, he’ll be even tougher to beat 1-on-1. Fluid skater with very good footwork and edge control; has the speed to join the rush, but also the lateral agility to force opponents to the outside and change direction quickly. Makes crisp, effective outlet passes to aid in transition. Big, powerful shot; still working on improving the release, but the drive is heavy and accurate. Has an active stick and demonstrates good awareness and gap control. Possesses vision and the right feel for the game, anticipating the developing play and keeping his game simple. Driven, character kid who is loyal and brings all the attributes NHL teams look for. Not an overly physical player, but understands body leverage and will staple opposing skaters to the walls even if he isn’t out looking for the big hit on every shift.

Outlook:  Also a prep champion and captain with Milton Academy, O’Gara is a winner. He may not have a high offensive ceiling at the pro level, but he’s only scratching the surface in terms of what he can become after a solid, unspectacular first year in the ECAC. Like Tommy Cross, watch for O’Gara to be a long-term project who will become a fixture and leader at future Bruins summer development camps and will soon wear a letter on his jersey in New Haven. His sterling work ethic and on-ice poise mean bigger things and greater minutes for his team, but B’s fans will have to be patient with this game, but raw defender as he spreads his wings and develops his talent in the NCAA first.

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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