Boston, MA - The 2013-14 hockey season is in full swing, with Boston Bruins prospects competing in various professional and amateur leagues across the globe.
The bulk of the team’s top futures are skating in Providence of the AHL, and the club has opened the new season with a 2-1-1 record, getting good production from OHL graduates Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev and Jared Knight. The defense is shaping up well thanks to Zach Trotman’s strong two-way play, while Niklas Svedberg has provided the club with top-shelf goaltending, as he did last season when he earned top AHL goalie honors.
Spooner posted a two-goal, three-point effort in a win over Portland, a performance punctuated by a second period breakaway strike that showcased the 21-year-old’s impressive combination of speed and slick hands. The center and 45th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has come a long way in his development since the Bruins selected him.
After successful offseason training in his hometown of Ottawa, Spooner showed up to Boston training camp a little heavier and stronger, and that has showed in his play, as he is more involved physically and in battles for loose pucks along the boards and in front of the net. Spooner’s strength is his offensive ability, but his overall game has substantially improved in the past three years, and with two goals and five points in four AHL games, he’s off to a fine start and making a case to see time with Boston if the team needs him.
Khokhlachev had a good rookie camp and tournament in Coral Springs, Fla., and has three assists for Providence after making his AHL debut late last season. As one of Boston’s most talented and skilled forward prospects, ‘Koko’ is working to be a more effective performer in all three zones. He has superior vision and puck skills; he is able to thread the needle with pinpoint passes, with a quick, accurate shot. He has yet to find the back of the net this season, but it won’t be long.
With two goals in four games, Knight is enjoying good health and opportunistic play. His second goal of the season came against Manchester on a quick one-timer from a perfect Alex Fallstrom feed out in the slot. With his blurry-fast release and nose for the net, Knight is at his best when driving hard between the hash marks and scoring gritty goals. Providence coach Bruce Cassidy has been moving the 2010 second-rounder up and down the team’s lines in the first four games, so Knight will look to settle into a regular role soon.
Seth Griffith, who sat out the first three games of the year, scored in his AHL debut against Portland. It’s a testament to how deep Providence’s group of forwards is when a player who tallied 101 career goals in the OHL, all with the London Knights, is a healthy scratch. If he can continue to make the most of his opportunities, Griffith will earn more of a role on this contending squad.
On defense, Trotman continues to make a compelling case for NHL duty. After a standout tournament against Tampa Bay, Florida and Nashville rookies, the Indiana native showed up to main camp in Boston ready to work. He was rewarded with opportunities to showcase his impressive package of size, mobility and smarts during exhibition play before being returned to the AHL. With the B’s loaded at the defense position, Trotman is best served by playing top minutes in Providence in all situations. He has two assists so far, and with his cannon shot, expect him to contribute goals to the mix at both even strength and on the power play. He’s big, strong, and has underrated vision and puck-moving skills. He may need another full season in the AHL, but the last pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is knocking on the door for a big league job.
Picking up where he left off after becoming the first Providence goalie in team history to win the Aldedge “Baz” Bastien Award, Svedberg has gone 2-0-1, posting a 2.25 goals against average and outstanding .936 save percentage. With fine size and reflexes, Svedberg is fundamentally sound and efficient in his crease movements. However, what makes him so valuable for his team is an ability to make key saves at the right moments. Although Providence has surrendered late analysis takes leads this season, Svedberg has done his part to keep his team in it each and every night, with three quality starts under his belt.
That kind of consistency is what will earn Svedberg an NHL opportunity sooner rather later. He is making an early season case as the team’s MVP and most consistent player.
In the next roundup, we’ll travel to Europe to look at a trio of Boston prospects playing in Sweden.
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