Ordinarily this time of year in conjunction with our player reviews, we’d probably be finishing up the Top 25 Under 25, a post about 25 prospects under 25 who could be, in the not too distant future, Boston Bruins one day, or already are.
This year, we’ve decided to do something a little different for a couple of reasons:
1) The Boston Bruins have been largely content to fill their system with project players.
That’s not to say that there isn’t high-end talent in their system, in fact most of the players that will be highlighted here could probably be considered high-end for their positions, for their contributions of their teams/nations at the world juniors, and their chances for making the big dance. But the overwhelming majority of the B’s depth are longer term development players will at best be options for the 2021 season or beyond, and at worst are...well...it’d be rude to try and rank these guys when many of whom have yet to actually make it to the AHL or even to their college teams, let alone take a stab at the NHL. The reasons why are varied (draft position, GM and scout preference, team needs, etc.), but the end result is this: It would be a massive waste of time to take the first 20 spots to tell you that a player exists and that he needs to do all the usual things a prospect has to do (eat right, do the strength/conditioning, play at the level expected of them, etc. etc.) and that if they do all of that they could possibly have a chance in about...four years, maybe.
2) The actual number of open spots on the Boston Bruins roster right now for 2019-20 could be counted by an exceptionally careless fish cleaner.
That is to say, there are only two or three spots open. They are:
- Depth Winger (probably third line RW, though that’s no guarantee)
- Depth Defenseman, but only until around December/New Year’s (John Moore and Kevan Miller are still on the mend.)
Our criteria as it follows runs like this: Front Runners, or the guys who probably have the best shot of making it, the “Needs a strong camp”, or players who aren’t in the front running due to age or having extenuating circumstances like being an unknown quantity or this being their first or second camp or something like that. “Long shots” are just that; guys who are in the conversation, but entirely unlikely to make the team this year.
So let’s look at who would be considered realistic shots at making the NHL, based on what is available and who is closest among those still on ELCs...and under 25, I guess.
Top 6 or Depth Winger:
A job with either an easy win condition for most fans (look better than David Backes), but also one that could be just as easily lost due to the expectations of being a top 6 player, which as time and Bruce Cassidy has shown, is both stringent and with little room for error unless you’re proven.
- Karson Kuhlman
- Jack Studnicka
- Peter Cehlarik
Kuhlman is pretty high on people’s lists for his performance during the playoffs and for being pretty good in Providence, and is probably going to be the expected favorite going into training camp. Right behind him however, is Jack Studnicka, who’s been tearing up Junior hockey as a member of Oshawa/Niagara, was an immediate impact player for the P-Bruins in their doomed 2018-19 playoff run, and more importantly has outright stated he’s willing to move from Center to Wing to become a Boston Bruin; something the B’s are always willing to do. I’m pretty sure if given the chance, they’d sign and draft nothing but Centers until the end of time.
While we’ve already spent enough time trying to explain in glib ways why Cehlarik might enjoy this spot ( , .), one area that could put Celery into this spot ahead of either is that Cehlarik’s natural position is winger first and foremost, where Kuhlman and Studnicka have experience at wing, they are still officially listed as centers by trade; an area that will suddenly have an opening come the end of the season, where either could theoretically find a more permanent home. Combine that with now a working critique on his performance that he’d been working on in Providence, there’s a good chance he could be the solution to players like Jake Debrusk’s streaky play due to his underlying numbers showing an absurd ability to create scoring plays.
“Needs a strong camp to get close“:
- Oskar Steen
- Trent Frederic
- Jakub Lauko
Oskar Steen just made it to North America recently, but the absolute tear he went on in Sweden last year made him look like a player with enormous promise for a 6th rounder. Steen’s probably got the best shot of any of these three to make the B’s due to this professional experience and the fact he is the ever popular C/RW. But if professional experience is what you want, Trent Frederic may be the best of the three, due to having actual NHL games under his belt, but his offensive upside may be his most damning attribute here; it isn’t high, and he’d be expected to play with DeBrusk and Krejci or Coyle and Heinen. Again, another player who’d be better off improving at Center where there might be an opening in about a year.
Lauko is primarily here due to his explosive 2018-19, where he went from unknown quality from the Czech Republic nerds swore up and down would be better if the team he played for (including his own nation!) would just freaking play him, to a QMJHL and Memorial Cup Champion, with a “Rookie of the Playoffs” win. The big knock?...He’s 19, and that was year one on the retrospectively best team in Major Junior by a longshot. Best Teams in the CHL rarely stay the best team for long due to roster turnover. Camp will have to be his lifeline towards either making it into a Gold and Black Providence uniform to kickstart his development in-time for him to maybe make the Bruins by the time he’s able to purchase beer, or if keeping him in Rouyn-Noranda so he can continue to feast on the defense of Canadian teenagers.
- Zach Senyshyn
- John Beecher
- Pavel Shen
Beecher looks like he’ll be a really fun prospect to watch due to his speed/size combo, and when he gets to the AHL I’d highly recommend getting flex-tickets to go see the P-B’s play.
One small problem: He also plays for the Michigan Wolverines for the time being. And is also a natural center, Coyle probably leaves after 2020, etc. etc. point is, it’s better for him to get some reps in at training camp then go play man-sized hockey players in the Big 10 then come back and compete for that, rather than graft him onto a winger position.
As for Senyshyn...while the team did their best during their fanfests to make sure he was front and center as if to say “Aw man watch this guy he’s sure coming up the pipeline and his drafting isn’t a constant indictment on our scouts and GM’s personal taste in players!”, the reality is that the path to the NHL for him is enormously difficult; he’s still a winger, which is good, but he’s also one whose ability at the AHL level seems to have leveled off to sub-30 points in 2018-19, which is especially not-great for him considering older players like Kuhlman played less games than him and had better production. His chances are slipping away fast and if he isn’t lights out in every game he plays this preseason?...It’s gonna weigh heavy on the Bruins scouting staff.
Pavel Shen meanwhile is an almost total unknown 19 year old, no thanks to Ufa kicking him up, down and all around the Russian hockey system all last year while also being one of the Russian Federation’s star talents in international play. His entire 2019-20 will basically just people taking stock of who he is and why he’d be so willing to cut ties with Russia to come play here.
Best Story if they made it:
- Senyshyn and Shen are tied
Come on...This is perfect territory for either. The kid nobody believed in suddenly roaring back to be a Boston Bruin or the Russian kid who took a gamble on himself by terminating his contract in Russia (which previous Russian players have made clear is like pulling teeth), and having it pay off by making the team in his first camp. You’d be called a hack if you wrote this for a movie, but your returns at the box office would be staggering.
Join us next time as we get into a much more fun discussion: who gets to replace John Moore and Kevan Miller while they’re out!