The 2019-20 AHL season ended prematurely and before several of Boston’s top organizational prospects could have one final chance to prove their worth in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Boston has already seen strong playoff performances from a few of its younger players, while others wait in the wings for their chance.
Of that elite group, here are three players we will see up at the NHL level for the start of next season.
This is an obvious one and probably would have been true even if the season wasn’t cancelled, but Studnicka has made the most of his opportunity in the playoffs so far with Boston.
Studnicka’s four games in the postseason are more than his NHL regular-season tenure. And though he is a minus-one and with no points and two penalty minutes, he has shown flashes that could see him take on a similar role as Sean Kuraly in his early days.
Studnicka, however, has more scoring finesse than Kuraly, making him a commodity for the organization.
By next season, Studnicka could find himself firmly cemented as a bottom-six (at worst) forward at the NHL level, and his special teams experience gives him an edge over other fringe players.
Currently serving as the backup, Boston has developed Vladar for a few seasons and has seen him turn into one of the AHL’s top goaltenders.
After Tuukka Rask opted out of the playoffs with just one year left on his current contract, the future looks uncertain for Boston’s franchise netminder.
Retirement rumors swirled even before Rask’s return-to-play exit, so this prediction is made under the assumption that Rask steps away from the team next year or is traded – not that we want that to happen.
Further complicating that is Jaroslav Halak, who’s contract also only has a year left on it, likely looking to earn his last shot at a big-money deal before retiring, while Vladar is in an opposite situation, looking to earn organizational trust as he vies to become the club’s next top goaltender.
The pressure is even higher given the depth at that position, so Vladar would have a point to prove and the skill to follow through.
The former top draft pick for the club has spent two seasons developing in Providence and his native Finland, and next year may be his window to make the leap to the NHL.
Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara are unrestricted free agents, while Matt Grzelcyk is an RFA. Vaakanainen is a cost-effective option for a Boston team loaded on the back end.
He’s made a few appearances at the NHL level already, but he is still waiting for a more permanent, long-term shot.
Jeremy Lauzon has already made the most of his shot this year and is carving a role for himself in the future. Vaakanainen may be set to follow in his footsteps and has proven to be just about ready for an NHL shot.