Bruins

Bruins eyeing a number of prospects at 24th pick

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Bruins eyeing a number of prospects at 24th pick

PITTSBURGH The NHL Draft is finally upon the hockey world at the CONSOL Energy Center this weekend, and the Boston Bruins will land themselves a quality prospect with the 24th overall pick.

They wont be the belle of the ball this time around with the late pick in the first round, but there are a number of players in the mix for Bostons pick. None of them will be ready to assist the Bruins next season, but thats not really necessary given that Boston returns 12 forwards and five of six defensemen from last years team along with the expected ascendance of 19-year-old rookie Dougie Hamilton.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is fully planning for one of their targeted players to be available when they pick 24th heading into Friday nights first round festivities, and here are a list of the draft candidates in order of probability Boston will select them.

Slater Koekkoek A good defenseman on a bad junior hockey team that suffered a shoulder injury last season at the worst possible time. The expectation is he will slide because of the time missed due to that injury, and he still has plenty of filling out to do at 6-foot-2 and 184-pounds. He can skate and produce on the power play, and has a ceiling as a top four defensemen in the NHL. One thing scouts have noticed aside from Koekkoeks ability to play in all situations is that his quality of play doesnt dip despite logging heavy minutes for the Peterborough Petes. If he drops to the Bruins theyd be overjoyed with that situation.

Olli Maatta A native of Finland that really raised his stock last spring while helping carry the London Knights into the Memorial Cup Finals, Maatta is a defense-minded prospect that isnt going to light things up as a puck-moving defenseman. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound prospect can skate and shoot, and finally loosened things up offensively this year at the OHL level. But its his solid set of defensive skills and ability to protect the front of the net that will earn him a paycheck in the NHL. Scouts dont see him as a PP guy, but instead a simple, efficient puck-lugger that wont create much offensively. But he wont hurt a team either, which is important in this day and age of withering forechecks.

Matt Finn A 6-foot, 195-pound lefty shooter for the Guelph Storm that rededicated himself to the weight room prior to last season and put up 48 points in 61 games. Hes got a big shot and the ability to skate with the puck, and is another defensemen prospect that brings a good defensive mindset to the table. Finn seems to be just be clueing into how good he can be as a hockey player, and hes expected to be long gone by the time the Bruins select 24th. But he could be a Bruin if he slides.

Hampus Lindholm A 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect out of the Swedish Elite League that can skate, skate, skate and move the puck. In todays NHL its a strength that cant be understated and he impressed scouts with a solid performance for Team Sweden in the World Juniors last season. The word is that Lindholm also blew people away with his conditioning at the prospect combine in Toronto, and that is something hockey personnel people love when gauging young players.

Brendan Gaunce A 6-foot-2, 208-pound center that has the puck possession and face-off skills that the Bruins covet, and could be a prototypical third line center with grittiness and a fair amount of offensive ability. Gaunce put up 28 goals in 68 games for the Belleville Bulls this season and has solid size and a good shot, but there are questions about his overall skating ability at the next level. Not a bad choice for a team thats always looking to build on their organization depth at the center position.

Tom Wilson A mean, dirty, nasty 6-foot-4, 203-pound power forward that screams out Bruins kind of player. Wilson would be a great fit on the wing with his Lucic-style NHL game, but this right wing prospect isnt expected to be available when the Bruins make the 24th overall selection. Wilson doesnt have the greatest hands in the world, but he can skate well for a big, bruising winger and is expected to continue improvement offensively. The chatter out of Pittsburgh was that Wilson wouldnt get past the Buffalo Sabres picking a few spots ahead of the Bruins, so Boston will be missing out on their perfect-fit forward.

Stefan Matteau A 6-foot-1, 210-pound prospect at the wing that plays a northsouth game and struggles a bit with staying out of the penalty box at this point in his career. Matteau is the son of New York Rangers hero Stephane Matteau and is US-born out of Chicago. He has good size and solid offensive ability along with an excellent motor, but doesnt project much beyond a third line winger at the NHL level. The shot and hands are there, but the power forward prospect needs to work on the skating part of the game.

Oscar Dansk A 6-foot-2, 186-pound Swedish goaltender that confirms the Bruins are looking to collect a coalition of nations as their organizational depth between the pipes. If all of the defensemen and forward prospects are gone when the Bruins get to the 24th selection then theres a very real possibility they could add another top-tier goaltender with Tim Thomas now out of the picture. Its said that Dansk impressed Bruins scouts when he played a strong game against Bs draft property Zane Gothberg in international competition. He wouldnt be ready to jump into the NHL right away, but its important to keep the European goaltending pipeline active and strong.

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

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Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

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Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

GOLD STAR: Who else but Anton Khudobin? The Bruins backup netminder improved to 6-0-2 on the season and upped his NHL-leading save percentage to .938 while making 40 saves in a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. Khudobin was outstanding stoning players like Nico Hischier and Blake Coleman on breakaways, and stood tall in the third period while the Bruins were outshot 15-5 and ended up tying the game. Even better Khudobin was super-competitive in the shootout where he was challenging shooters, and even stared down Hischier after he poke-checked the puck away from him on his attempt. The Bruins don’t win Wednesday night’s game without Khudobin playing the way he did, and that should pretty much guarantee that he plays again on Friday afternoon against the Penguins.

BLACK EYE: One shot and one hit in 8:28 of ice time for Jimmy Hayes in his first game against his old Bruins team, so pretty much par for the course from the underachieving big guy. Hayes has scored a couple of goals for the Devils this season, but he’s been mostly the same as in the past with sporadic scoring, intermittent tough guy play in the danger areas and then long stretches where you don’t even notice the 6-foot-6 guy out on the ice. Of the two ex-Bruins forwards going up against their old team tonight, Drew Stafford was by far the better of the two with three shots on net and at least one pretty decent scoring chance among them after stealing a puck from Frank Vatrano.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins set things up for their shootout win with a strong opening first period when it came to finishing off plays. Yes, they were outshot by a 15-10 margin, but they also made two big plays with Jake DeBrusk scoring a goal and then David Pastrnak setting up Patrice Bergeron for his fifth goal of the season. Beyond that Anton Khudobin also stopped 14 pucks in the first period that included a number of scoring chances for the Devils, and it showed what the Bruins are capable of when they’re on the right side of some key plays early in the game. Sure, the Devils clawed their way back in, but the Bruins felt like they had the game in control because of the work they put in during the first period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy led all skaters with a game-high 27:04 of ice time, and played a strong game while totaling three shots on net and three blocked shots. But he saved the real good stuff for the 11th round of the shootout when he threw a nifty stick move at Cory Schneider, and then roofed a backhanded attempt in tight and close to the net. The McAvoy shootout move begged the question why it took so long to get to him, but also mercifully closed out a shootout session that felt like it could have gone on forever between the Bruins and Devils. The finishing move from the 19-year-old was pure, unadulterated skill with the puck.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first NHL career point for Matt Grzelcyk arrived in the first period when he picked up an assist on a lead pass off the boards that freed Jake DeBrusk up for a goal-scoring rush.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s the end of a road trip, so give the guys credit. They dug down deep and found a way to get the two points.” – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy,  

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