Trio of D-men prospects at forefront of Bruins' draft thoughts

Trio of D-men prospects at forefront of Bruins' draft thoughts

BUFFALO -- The Bruins were every bit as active as the other 29 teams at the NHL scouting combine this week and that meant plenty of meetings with players, along with the typical measuring and testing for the 100-plus prospects. 

Plenty of the top prospects had interviews with the Bruins contingent regardless of whether or not they will still be available at the No. 14 spot in the first round, and that is par for the course.

The Bruins scouts and management-types want to be prepared in case a player drops into their laps at the 14th spot, or if they manage to pull off what they couldn’t last season in moving upward in the first round. The leading prospects for the Black and Gold if they stand pat at the 14th spot are defensemen, and Dante Fabbro, Jake Bean and Charlie McAvoy all met with the Bruins representatives this week in Buffalo.

Along with that trio, the Bruins brass met with Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows, Alex Nylander, Jakob Chycrun, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mikhail Sergachyov, Olli Juolevi, Tage Thompson, Logan Stanley and Andrew Peeke along with a host of other prospects.

Boston University-bound defenseman Chad Krys was one local, Connecticut-born player that the Bruins didn’t meet with while in Buffalo.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney came away impressed with the talent pool that will be available in three weeks and is looking forward to making three choices in the top 44 picks in the draft.

“The quality of the draft is really good,” said Sweeney. “We saw some really, really impressive kids over the course of the last [five] days where we fell very good having two picks in the first round, and [another] again in the second round. We feel like we’re going to get good players.

“I believe there will be pockets of the draft where you could get runs on certain positions if somebody thinks things are going to thin out at a certain time. So we have to be aware, and try to forecast that a bit. The top part of the draft, in particular, is really strong.”

The interview process is always an interesting one at the combine, and that was no different this season. Peeke said that one team asked what kind of hockey pants he wears in a line of questioning that made him pause for a second. Sweeney said he got a kick out of question posed by the one of the draft prospects.

“We had a player [on Friday] ask us how old that [Zdeno] Chara was,” said Sweeney with a smirk. “I told him if he had the chance to step on ice with us then he'd realize that Chara isn’t as old as maybe he thinks that he is."

For the record, Chara is set to turn 40 the middle of next season and that would make him old enough to be a father to every one of the 100-plus prospects that ran through Saturday’s battery of tests at the combine.


'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

BRIGHTON, Mass – The long regional nightmare for Bruins fans might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

That’s because Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of his team’s morning skate and then stuck around to jump in and out of drills while showing strong progress from his fractured right foot suffered at the end of February. 

Clearly,  Bergeron isn’t ready to play now and will miss his 11th consecutive game Monday night when the B's face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.

Still, it looks like No. 37 will be headed on the four-game road trip after the game and could potentially become an option to play at some point over the next week or two. Certainly, it’s a sign that Bergeron is going to be able to come back and play meaningful games before the playoffs. That’s something that has the 32-year-old excited after missing the past three weeks.

“It was nice to be back on the ice and skating. It felt good. It’s been a long three weeks, but it was nice to finally move forward and be on the ice. It was definitely nice to be on the ice with the guys,” said Bergeron, who skated on Sunday with Bruins Skating and Skills Coach Kim Branvold as well. “There’s definitely still some discomfort, but it’s a lot better. That was to be expected that it wasn’t going to be perfect when I was back right away.

“I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel right now being on the ice. We’re trying not to set a timeline right now, but just make sure I feel good and have my bearings on the ice. So far I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Certainly, it would be good timing if Bergeron returned soon when it appears David Backes (deep laceration on his right leg) is going to miss a week or two and Jake DeBrusk is out with no timetable for a return after getting dinged with a big hit in Carolina on Boston’s most recent trip.

Impressively, the Bruins have gone 8-2-0 since Bergeron has been out. Riley Nash has been a point-per-game player in March while filling in for No. 37 with three goals and nine points in nine games along with a plus-4 rating. Still, the Bruins all know their all-around game will rise to another level when they get their best all-around player back in the lineup and re-form what’s been the best two-way forward in the NHL this season with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.


Donato to make Bruins debut as a member of the third line

File photo

Donato to make Bruins debut as a member of the third line

BRIGHTON --  Ryan Donato will make his NHL debut for the Bruins on Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it looks like he’ll do it as a member of the third line.

The newly-signed Harvard star was wearing No. 17 at morning skate on Monday at Warrior Ice Arena, and skating on the left wing with Noel Acciari and Brian Gionta in a new-look third line made necessary by injures to Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk in the last few weeks. 

Donato signed with the Bruins on Sunday, so it will be interesting to see how ready he is to “plug and play” at the NHL level after crushing NCAA competition with 26 goals in 29 games for the Crimson this season. 

Otherwise it was a fairly standard lineup for the Bruins aside from Tommy Wingels dropping down to the fourth line to allow Acciari to center the third line, and thereby allow Donato to play the wing position where the B’s project him to be at the NHL level.

In other very positive B’s news, Bergeron -- recovering from a fractured right foot -- made a return to the ice, working on his own ahead of morning skate and then jumping in here and there in the team skate/

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Blue Jackets based on morning skate: