Bruins

NHL Notes: Boston University ready for historic night at NHL Draft

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NHL Notes: Boston University ready for historic night at NHL Draft

BUFFALO – There will be plenty of wide, toothy grins at the First Niagara Center on Friday night as the NHL conducts the first round of their entry draft, but no smile will be bigger than that of Boston University head coach David Quinn.

That’s because the Terriers head coach will, according to just about every NHL draftnik, see four of his players from next year’s hockey team get selected among the top-30 players drafted up on Friday night. Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows and Dante Fabbro are all incoming freshman recruits for next season expected to go in the top half of the first round, and defenseman Charlie McAvoy is coming off an outstanding first season for the Scarlet and White.

It would be only the second time in NCAA hockey history that four kids from the same college program have been first round picks in the same draft: the other was Minnesota ten years ago or when four Golden Gophers were nabbed in the first round, Erik Johnson (No. 1), Phil Kessel (No. 5), Kyle Okposo (No. 7), and David Fischer (No. 20).

So clearly it’s something that has Quinn excited at the prospects for BU next season, and continuing the impressive flow of hockey talent through the program after Jack Eichel’s departure following one brilliant freshman season.

“It’s fun watching these kids achieve their dreams and goals, and in the last 10 years the draft has really taken on an even greater significance to all these kids,” said Quinn. “We’re very fortunate at BU that we’ve got a school that supports our program, we’ve got a long and rich tradition and we’ve got very talented kids that are attracted to that.

“All of the stars have aligned here this year where we could have a lot of kids taken in the first round, so it’s fun to watch kids that you’ve built relationships with go ahead and achieve their goals. It’s a rare thing. It’s a testament to the work that Steve Greeley, Albie O’Connell and Scott Young have done. If you think about this class, these guys are from all over. Dante Fabbro is from Vancouver, and Clayton Keller is from St. Louis. Kieffer Bellows is from Minnesota, and Charlie McAvoy is from Long Island. It’s not like these guys all grew up in Massachusetts. [The recruiters] have done a phenomenal job of finding talent, and then doing a great job recruiting them. It speaks volumes to the work those guys have done.”

So Quinn, assistant coaches Albie O’Connell and Scott Young each deserve a healthy slice of the credit for keeping together the impressive class of talent, and former BU assistant coach Steve Greeley deserves just as much credit for his recruiting legwork prior to getting hired as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel for the New York Rangers.

With the Blueshirts not making a selection until the 81st pick, Greeley joked that “he'll be the guy at the New York Rangers table who has to be restrained from standing and clapping for those guys when they get picked by other teams.” He was joking, of course, but it speaks to the considerable investment of time and energy in recruiting an elite group of players, and then watching it all culminate on the draft floor before they take the ice at Agganis Arena this fall.

It also speaks to what Boston University has cooking on Commonwealth Ave. where they’re building a powerhouse program that could threaten for a national championship this season. That’s a level of expectation that Quinn welcomes along with the wealth of talented players.

“I think it will be an easier year of hockey for [the incoming players] because there’s so much pressure during your draft year,” said Quinn. “Whether or you’re playing college hockey, or the US National Program or in juniors, these kids are under the microscope. I watched Jack [Eichel] go through it last year, and I watched Charlie McAvoy go through it this year. It’s human nature at their age that you want to impress, and that can sometimes get in the way of doing things that you’re supposed to be doing.

“But we always have high expectations at BU, and we’ve always been fortunate to have great players here. The challenge we’re going to face is what every team faces. We’re going to have enough talent, but there are about seven or eight other characteristics you need if you’re going to win championships. We talk about it every year here: work ethic, leadership, camaraderie, mental toughness, perseverance, how you handle adversity…all of those things go into whether you win or lose, and whether you win championships or not.”

So here are a few thoughts from Quinn on each of the Big Four, including D-men in Fabbro and McAvoy that have attracted the eyes of the Bruins in a very big way:

*The creative and skilled playmaking center Clayton Keller, who lists Patrick Kane as the player he models his game after: “He’s very dynamic. He’s a guy that can really create offense off the initial rush. When he has the puck, good things always happen. He’s got elite vision, elite skill set and he’s competitive. He’s a guy that obviously needs to get a little bigger and stronger, but he’s got a swagger about him. All great players have a swagger. I know he elevates everybody’s game when he’s out there, and he’s a special talent.”

*The deadly sniper Kieffer Bellows, who hopes to follow in his father Brian’s footsteps at the NHL level someday: “When everybody talks about Kieffer they talk about his shot and his goal-scoring ability, and rightfully so. He’s got an NHL shot right now. He’s a true goal-scorer that likes to get the net, and knows where he wants to go. Not only does he know where to go, but he knows how to take advantage of his opportunities. But the thing that I really like about Kieffer is that he’s continued to improve as a player, and he’s much more than a shooter. He’s a guy that sees the ice well, and he’s smart. Sometimes when you’re really good at one thing people kind of think you’re a one-trick pony. There are a lot of other elements in his game to like. His skating continues to improve, he’s competitive and tough…and scoring goals isn’t easy in this day and age. Sometimes he makes it look easy.”

*The steady, heady Dante Fabbro, who plays in all situations and is extremely adept at moving the puck: “He’s a guy that can really control a game. He’s got a patience about him, and he’s got a confidence about him. He’s very competitive, and he doesn’t waste a lot of energy. He’s a great power play player. He makes great outlet passes, and has a real mature game already at his age. I really think the sky is the limit for him.”

*The speedy Charlie McAvoy, who was arguably BU’s best defenseman last season as the youngest player in college hockey: “The thing that impressed me the most is how he handled the physical aspect of college hockey. He was the youngest kid in college hockey and played half the season as a 17-year-old going up against 22, 23 and 24-year old kids. A lot of kids come into college hockey and have good seasons statistically, but can get physically overwhelmed at that level. That didn’t happen with Charlie at all. A lot of times he’d go in one-on-one with guys six or seven years older than him, and he’d win the battle. That says an awful lot about him as a player. You add that to his skating ability, his vision and his hockey sense, and he’s put himself in position to be a top-10 draft pick.”

Remember, keep shooting the puck at the net and good things are bound to happen.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Could two goals in the Bruins scrimmage spark David Pastrnak?

Could two goals in the Bruins scrimmage spark David Pastrnak?

BOSTON – Certainly an intra-squad scrimmage isn’t going to amount to much in the grand scheme of things once the Stanley Cup Final gets going at the start of next week.

But maybe, just maybe, Bruins right winger David Pastrnak can start catching fire offensively in the best-of-seven game series against the St. Louis Blues after scoring a couple of goals in Thursday night’s glorified practice. Pastrnak and David Backes both scored two goals apiece in the 5-3 final score in the intra-squad, and Pasta does have a solid seven goals and 15 points along with a plus-7 in 17 games during the playoffs.

“It was good. I’m going to give it to Jaro [Halak] a little bit,” said the Czech-born Pastrnak, who scored both of his goals against B’s backup Jaroslav Halak. “He’s Slovakian, so I love to score on him. I’ve never practiced so many days without a game before, so [the scrimmage] is going to be useful.”  

Certainly Pastrnak was being tongue-in-cheek about scoring on his own goalie, but the truth is that the 22-year-old hasn’t really enjoyed a truly dominant stretch in this postseason to this point aside from notching two-goal games against both Toronto and Columbus in the first couple of rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Certainly part of that is the tight-checking nature of the playoffs and the best teams’ top lines cancelling each other out in most games. But there’s also a sense that Pastrnak hasn’t been able to unleash his big shot on the power play with much regularity, and a legit curiosity factor as to whether or not he’s playing through some kind of injury.

As he said during the Columbus series when things were a little slow offensively, Pastrnak is doing the best he can and has certainly seen an uptick in his involvement since joining back up with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the Perfection Line.

“I think we’ve done just fine. We’re just playing as a team and every single night it’s somebody else’s turn to shine. That’s what the good teams do,” said Pastrnak. “It’s unbelievable how good every line has been in different games, and that’s what so much for us to enjoy in the room.

“I’m doing my best. Every game is different. Obviously there have been games where I’ve been better and there have been games where I’ve been worse, but this is not what I’m focusing on. I’m focusing on trying to help the team rather than whether I’m scoring or not.”

Still, Pastrnak only had six shots on net in the entire four-game conference final series against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he should be more of a consistent threat than that when he’s healthy and going well. So perhaps that scoring burst in the scrimmage can light the candle that ignites the flame on Pasta’s offense at a crucial time when a hot goal-scorer could carry his team to the Stanley Cup. 

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Bruins mock draft 2019 roundup: Who can B's target late in first round?

Bruins mock draft 2019 roundup: Who can B's target late in first round?

The Boston Bruins are four wins away from reaching the NHL mountaintop.

But if they want to stay there, finding strong talent in the draft is a good place to start.

The 2019 NHL Draft is less than a month away -- June 21 in Vancouver -- and the Bruins will have either the No. 30 or No. 31 pick pending their result in the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.

Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are virtual locks to be the top two picks, but there's a lot more uncertainty after that, especially near the end of the first round.

Which prospects could the Bruins target? To get a sense of who's in the mix, we've combed through a few NHL mock drafts to see who the analysts have the Bruins taking in the first round.

JOE HAGGERTY, NBC SPORTS BOSTON -- ALEX VLASIC
Age:
17
Position/Shot: Defenseman, Left
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 198 pounds
Last played for: U.S. National Team Development Program

Vlasic has good hockey genes; his cousin is San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and his sister, Emma, is a senior forward and captain at Yale. He also stands at 6-foot-6, so if the Bruins are looking ahead to life without 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Chara, Vlasic might be worth considering. 

SAMMI SILBER, NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON -- ALEX VLASIC
The Bruins don't have a pressing need at defenseman with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo in the fold, but Vlasic has been tied to Boston in a couple mock drafts. The 17-year-old boasts plenty of upside and will play at Boston University this fall, so there's a local tie here, too. 

STEVE KOURNIANOS, THEDRAFTANALYST.COM -- RYAN JOHNSON
Age:
17
Position/Shot: Defenseman, Left
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0, 161 pounds
Last played for: Sioux Falls Stampede, USHL

Another left-shot defenseman, Johnson doesn't boast Vlasic's size but still plays a physical game. He also has experience in big moments, tallying eight points in 12 playoff games to help lead Sioux Falls to this year's USHL championship.

DAVE STEVENSON, FANSIDED -- PAVEL DOROFEYEV
Age:
18
Position/Shot: Left Wing/Right Wing, Left
Height/Weight: 6-foot-0, 163 pounds
Last played for: Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk, MHL

Dorofeyev would need time to develop, but the upside is there: The Russia native racked up 31 points on 17 goals and 14 assists in 19 MHL games this past season while earning a spot in the MHL All-Star Game. He could be an intriguing project for the B's at the end of the first round.

BILL PLACZEK, DRAFTSITE.COM -- BOBBY BRINK
Age:
18
Position/Shot: Right Wing, Right
Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 163 pounds
Last played for: Sioux City Musketeers, USHL

Brink blew up for the Musketeers this season, winning USHL Forward of the Year honors after tallying 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists) in 43 games. The Minnesota native is headed to the University of Denver next season but appears to be developing into a strong offensive talent.

CHRIS RYAN, NJ.COM -- PHILIP TOMASINO
Age:
17
Position/Shot: Center, Right
Height/Weight: 6-foot-10, 181 pounds
Last played for: Niagara Ice Dogs, OHL

An excellent skater with strong hands and proven play-making ability, Tomasino is another offensive-minded forward who put up 34 goals and 38 assists in 67 games for the Ice Dogs this season. The B's took three centers in last year's draft, though, so Tomasino would be entering a crowded space here.

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