Boston, MA - The 2012-13 hockey season came to a close for Boston Bruins prospects with the end of the Memorial Cup tournament last weekend and the Providence Bruins’ second-round playoff loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The progress and development paths by numerous Boston hopefuls reinforces the current status of the organization as one that has good depth even if there are not a lot of open spots with the big club. While the Bruins may not have an abundance of elite or high-end prospects in system, there is no shortage of quality players who possess the kind of skills and character traits the team values.
Goaltender Malcolm Subban headlines a deep group which includes AHL top netminder Niklas Svedberg, his capable Providence backup Mike Hutchinson, minor leaguer Adam Morrison, along with long-term projects Zane Gothberg and Lars Volden.
At 19, Subban is coming off his best OHL season to date a year after the B’s selected him in the first round (24th overall). The highly athletic, sometimes acrobatic goalie silenced critics with a consistent performance from start to finish. He earned a spot on the Team Canada World Jr. Championship squad and although the tournament ended in disappointment for Subban and his mates, there was clearly a learning curve for him to respond to.
With good size at about 6-foot-1, Subban is extremely flexible; his lower net coverage is exceptional. Although Subban is still refining his overall technique, particularly his glove hand positioning and rebound control, his size and quickness makes him difficult to beat on the first and subsequent shots. Subban is not a particularly strong puck handler, but with the introduction of the trapezoid, that particular skill is not as important to the position as it once was.
At a time when players are bigger, faster, stronger and more talented than ever before, Subban’s size and confidence puts him near the top of Boston’s prospect depth chart. By virtue of his December, 1993 birthdate, he will be eligible to play in the AHL full-time next season as opposed to going back to major junior.
With Torey Krug currently capturing the imagination of the Bruins faithful on defense, Boston University’s Matt Grzelcyk brings similarities to the former Michigan State star in terms of style and substance.
The Charlestown native is coming off a solid and productive freshman season after being a third-rounder last June. Like Krug, he may be undersized but brings speed, hockey sense and a terrific work ethic to the mix. He is an aggressive player whose vision and ability to read the play allow him to join the rush without getting his team into trouble. Grzelcyk is also a fluid skater laterally: he can move quickly along the blue line and open up shooting and passing lanes while quarterbacking the power play.
At forward, Ryan Spooner may be on the verge of graduating to full-time NHL duty next season. Although not a lock, the former OHL star led all AHL rookies in points this season while pacing Providence in scoring.
Although he possesses just average size and strength, Spooner is an excellent skater who can back defenders up with his quickness and slick hands. Great vision and creativity make Spooner a dangerous offensive player, especially when he’s on the power play. As the season wore on, he gained more confidence in his overall play in all zones. The 21-year-old from the Ottawa area scored a hat trick in his final regular season game, and got his first taste of NHL action. He won’t ever be a physical presence, but Spooner is showing that he can boost Boston’s offensive production in the right situation.
Even if Spooner returns to Providence next season, watch for him to elevate his solid rookie numbers alongside fellow 2010 draft pick Jared Knight, who missed much of the season with an injured hamstring. Knight recovered in time to finish the regular season and saw playoff action with Providence. Bigger things are expected for the 2010 32nd overall choice in 2013-14. Also in the scoring mix on the farm next year will be Knight’s OHL teammate Seth Griffith, who posted a second consecutive 80+-point season.
With the 2013 NHL Entry Draft about a month away, the B’s do not currently possess a first-round selection (sent to Dallas as part of the Jaromir Jagr trade) but with picks in rounds 2-7, will be able to add more quality to the system.
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