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31 in 31

Top prospects for Boston Bruins

Vaakanainen, Studnicka expected to hone skills in AHL

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the top five prospects for the Boston Bruins, according to NHL.com.

 

[Bruins 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

1. Urho Vaakanainen, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 18 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Boston: 2 GP, 0-0-0; Providence (AHL): 30 GP, 4-10-14

The 20-year-old impressed during his first pro season despite missing time with a concussion. Vaakanainen (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) had four assists in seven games to help Finland win the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship and almost played in the Stanley Cup Final when the status of defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (concussion) was in question.

"He gave us a snapshot as a really young player last year with very little North American experience other than playing in the World Juniors and he acquitted himself nicely," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. "We want to continue to see him expand his offensive game. He can defend, he can skate, he can transition pucks, so those are sort of staples in his game."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: 31 in 31: Boston Bruins 2019-20 season preview

 

2. Jack Studnicka, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 53 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Oshawa/Niagara (OHL): 60 GP, 36-47-83

The 20-year-old center leads what the Bruins hope is the next wave at the position. Studnicka (6-1, 171) had two points (one goal, one assist) in four Calder Cup Playoff games with Providence of the American Hockey League and may be ticketed for extended time there this season.

"He can score and has shown the ability to score," Sweeney said. "We like his hockey sense and ability to protect pucks. He's got some similar qualities as a David Krejci where he can play with pace, he can slow it down, he can find linemates, he'll shoot, he'll hold on to pucks and he's competitive. He's got that quiet confidence in himself, and now it's just a matter of getting experience and getting stronger at the pro level, taking the next step."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

3. Jakub Lauko, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 77 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

Last season: Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL): 44 GP, 21-20-41

The 19-year-old center could play for Providence this season after winning the Memorial Cup with Rouyn-Noranda. Lauko (6-foot, 169) led the tournament with eight points (two goals, six assists) in five games, showing persistence and an ability to finish plays.

"He has a bit of a fearless style in going to the net and taking pucks there, tenacious on pucks," Sweeney said. "We're just trying to make sure he fills in the gaps as to what a pro is and seeing if he can make that jump. It's a tough, tough league to play at 19 in the American Hockey League, if he makes that jump, or the NHL. But I wouldn't count this kid out."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

4. John Beecher, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 30 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

Last season: USA U-18 (NTDP): 63 GP, 15-28-43

The 18-year-old will enter his freshman season at the University of Michigan. He quickly asserted himself by scoring three goals in the first two games with the United States at the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase, an audition for prospects hoping to play in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Beecher (6-3, 210) has skated at wing, but the Bruins prefer to keep him at his natural position of center.

"There's a unique quality about a lot of centers [who] could move to the wing and there's not a lot of wings that could move to the middle," Sweeney said. "There's other players that may or may not have more pure natural scoring ability than John has shown to this point, but he's going to give himself a lot of chances with the way he skates, covers ice, gets to the hard areas, and he's not going to get any smaller."

Projected NHL arrival: 2022-23

Video: Bruins draft F John Beecher No. 30

 

5. Trent Frederic, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 29 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Boston: 15 GP, 0-0-0; Providence (AHL): 55 GP, 14-11-25

Sweeney warned against passing premature judgment on the 21-year-old center. He compared the NHL debut of Frederic (6-2, 203) to Brad Marchand in 2009-10, when he had one assist in 20 games.

"People are just critical of him playing the 15 games and not necessarily providing a lot of offense at the National Hockey League level, but there's a growth trajectory there that everybody goes through," Sweeney said. "As he gets more and more acclimated, I think he'll get the confidence and the ability to produce."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

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