Bruins

Backes on suspension: 'It's the world we live in'

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Backes on suspension: 'It's the world we live in'

BOSTON – David Backes was understandably a little conflicted about the first suspension of his 12-year NHL career, but ultimately understood that it’s “the world we live in” at the NHL level when it comes to hits and head injuries.

Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen has a suspected concussion after Backes' clipped him with a late hit as he skated by him in the Bruins' Tuesday night win over Detroit. Backes was handed a three-game suspension from the NHL on Wednesday afternoon. It was deemed “a forceful, high hit” by the NHL in addition to being very late. Those factors, combined with the injury, added up to three-game for a player with zero prior league discipline history in his 848-game NHL career.

Backes was accepting of his fate after getting to say his piece with the league in a phone hearing on Wednesday afternoon, but it was also clear that he viewed things a little differently once the decision had been rendered.

"First and foremost the fact that Frans Nielsen is hurt sucks. I wasn't intending to hurt him,” said Backes. “I hope he has a quick and full recovery and he's back on the ice soon. It was certainly an unintended consequence to a play that was kind of an awkward, one-off kind of play. The decision is the decision, and that’s the way process is currently in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. You swallow it. There’s no real recourse and there’s no appeal process for a three-game suspension.

“I think my agent did all the numbers and I’ve got something like 2,400 hits over 12 seasons. I’ve never even had a hearing, let alone a fine and let alone a suspension. I had one call maybe eight years ago from Brendan Shanahan when he was the head of player safety. He called to say ‘You’re being an idiot. Stop being an idiot.’ That seemed to be a pretty good reset for me. If we’re trying to teach a lesson or critique one out of 2,400 hits that I was trying to avoid, I don’t know how effective that is. It’s a small, little decimal if you do the division. But it’s where we’re at. It’s the situation we’re in. It’s the world we live in as the league likes to say a lot. It’s the world we live and we just have to move forward with what’s gone on.”

The Backes suspension follows the same track as the Andrew Cogliano suspension, where it appears the NHL is coming down hard on any late hits with head injuries, and in this case really looking to wipe out the late, unnecessary hits like Backes against Nielsen.

With Backes out of the lineup on Thursday night against the Flyers, Tommy Wingels will step in and center the third-line between Danton Heinen and Brian Gionta. It will be similar for the Bruins to the early-season stretch when they went the first few months without having Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Backes together due to injuries.

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Anderson: Feeling good about the Bruins chances to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

Anderson: Feeling good about the Bruins chances to sign Ilya Kovalchuk

Appearing Friday morning on Toucher & Rich, 98.5 The Sports Hub's Ty Anderson spoke about the Bruins' chances at signing former NHL All-Star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, saying he thinks they might have a leg up on other teams due to their cap space.

Kovalchuk, 35, was regarded as one of the NHL's premier scorers for much of his tenure with the Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils, before returning to his native Russia in the summer of 2013 to play in the KHL full-time. He most recently won a Gold Medal with the makeshift "Olympic Athletes from Russia" team at the 2018 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey tournament.

Candidates for the Bruins' top pick in the 2018 NHL draft

Candidates for the Bruins' top pick in the 2018 NHL draft

It’s difficult enough to project players to be taken in the first round of an NHL Draft, so it gets really dicey when that’s extended to the second round and beyond. But the Bruins will have to wait until the 57th overall pick before taking a player next weekend at the NHL draft in Dallas after shipping their first-round pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash at the trade deadline. 

So the B's will have to rely on their scouting legwork and research they’ve put into their group of targeted prospects once their pick comes up at the end of the second round. But the second round has been pretty good to the Bruins as of late: Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, and Ryan Spooner were all second round picks that have turned into NHL regulars after being selected by the B’s over the last 10 years.

Still, the last regular NHL player to be developed after being the 57th overall pick in the draft was William Carrier, who was drafted by St. Louis in the second round of the 2013 draft before later developing into an energy player for the Buffalo Sabres and Vegas Golden Knights. Here are a few players to give you an idea of what the Bruins will be looking at as draft possibilities when they step to the podium to make their second-round pick next weekend in Dallas. . .

Oskar Back – center (Farjestads): The 6-foot-2, 192-pound center has the size and tools that you look for in a frontline center and posted 10 goals and 32 points in 38 games for his Swedish junior team this past season. The Bruins already have a wave of young center prospects in Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Jack Studnicka, but you can never have too much depth or quality down the middle of your lineup. Back didn’t score in a 14-game audition in the Swedish Elite League last season, but just the fact that he was there for that many games says something about his game and the high ceiling for his hockey talent. His overall performance doesn’t scream out anything dynamic offensively, but the reports indicate he’s smart, strong along the boards and makes his teammates better when he’s out on the ice. He’d be a pretty safe pick at the 57th spot, but given his size/strength and the intangibles in his game, it certainly sounds like there’s some serious NHL potential there even if he doesn’t turn out to be a top-6 center. Why the Bruins would select Back: They certainly value prospects coming out of Sweden and he checks off many boxes at the point that the Bruins will be selecting at the very end of the second round. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Back: He sounds like another potential third line center in an organization where they’ve already got a couple of those guys in Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.   

Aidan Dudas – center/right wing (Owen Sound): The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Dudas is the kind of player that seems to be finding a lot of success at the NHL level these days. He’s extremely undersized, but he’s also fast, creative and highly productive offensively. The Bruins have already passed on a couple of these type players in the draft having bypassed both Alex DeBrincat and Kailer Yamamoto in recent years, and perhaps they’ll make up for that by zeroing in on Dudas. The right-shooting center-wing finished his draft season with 31 goals and 65 points in 68 games for the Owen Sound Attack, and really elevated his draft stock this year after a quiet rookie season in the OHL. The fact he also busted out for a pair of goals and three points in the CHL Top Prospects Game against the best and brightest of his peers also showed that size and strength levels will play beyond junior hockey. His blistering shot and release are probably his most NHL-ready attributes and certainly could carry him a long way. Why the Bruins would select Dudas: You can never have enough speed and skill, and Dudas has both of those things in large amounts even if he doesn’t have the prototypical size to go along with it. Plus the kid is from Parry Sound, and things worked out pretty well for the Bruins the last time they took the best player from that area. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Dudas: They’ve passed on smaller skill players like DeBrincat and Yamamoto before, so they certainly could do it again as they’re already size and strength-challenged a bit on the wing. 

Kevin Bahl – defenseman (Ottawa): The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Bahl is one of the biggest players in this year’s draft and has consistently been a winner and among the best shutdown D-men of his age group throughout his amateur hockey career. Bahl is intimidating at his size and strength level, using his stick very well for a younger player and also skates pretty smoothly despite his massive frame. He hasn’t shown much offense at all to this point in his career and may be a fairly one-dimensional shutdown defenseman at the NHL level. Still, there is room for those kinds of players at Bahl’s size. The one thing that seems to be an issue for Bahl at this point in his career is his willingness to throw his weight around and play a more physical game. That’s something he’s going to need to do if he’s going to consistently play at the NHL level without much offensive skill. For the Bruins, it’s certainly a good value pick if you can get an accomplished, mammoth shutdown D-man at the end of the second round. Why the Bruins would select Bahl: With Zdeno Chara turning 42 years old this upcoming season, the idea of drafting a huge, left-shot shutdown defenseman is pretty sound logic. Bahl has been a winner throughout his career as well, and the Bruins value those kinds of players. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Bahl: They already have Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vaakanainen in the system, and may not want to use their top selection in this draft on another left shot D-man. We’ll see.   

Justin Almeida – center (Moose Jaw): The 5-foot-10, 163-pound Almeida didn’t look like he was going to be much of a high-end draft prospect headed into this season, and then he absolutely exploded for the Moose Jaw Warriors this year. Almeida used his speed and high-end scoring ability to rack up 43 goals and 98 points in 72 games this season before piling up another six goals and 13 points in 14 playoff games for Moose Jaw. He’s obviously a bit of a project given his current size and he’s only got the one dominant season on his resume after being a bit of an underachiever earlier in his junior career, but it’s hard to ignore the kind of production and dominance he showed as a center/left wing this season in the WHL. Why the Bruins would select Almeida: The skills are there and if he’d done a bit more consistently, he’d probably be talked about as a possible first-round selection even though he’s already 19 years old. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Almeida: He was a bit of an underachiever prior to his one excellent season, so it’s difficult to gauge what exactly he’s going to be at the next level where he projected as a bottom-6 prospect prior to this season. 

Stanislav Demin – defenseman (Wenatchee): The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Demin was extremely productive in the BCHL with nine goals and 45 points in 57 games for the Wenatchee Wild. The California native is the highest-rated prospect coming out of the BCHL and had a strong playoff as well for the Wild. He’s committed to the University of Denver in the fall and could be a good, long-range defenseman prospect that the Bruins could let develop at the college ranks for a bit. The size and skill level is good as is the skating game for a solid D-man that’s only real question is going to be the competition level he faced in the BCHL. Why the Bruins would select Demin: He’s good value at the end of the second round as he looks and sounds like a prospect that could turn into a very useful and productive NHL player. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select Demin: They’ve taken a defenseman with their top pick in each of the last three drafts and might decide to go in a different direction this time around, though it shouldn’t really matter if he’s the best player available.  

Liam Foudy – center/left wing (London): The 6-foot, 161-pound Foudy was a player that really bumped up his profile in the second half of the OHL season after getting a bigger role with the London Knights. Foudy finished with 24 goals and 40 points in 65 games for the Knights and showed good skating ability to go along with a pretty good shot and solid offensive instincts. Clearly, Foudy is a player that needs to get stronger and a team will really have to project with the player they see in front of them right now. All that being said he could turn into a very good pick if he develops into a monster for the Knights next season as he gains strengths and matures while in a bigger role with the Knights. Why the Bruins would select Foudy: They could be getting in on the ground floor with an extremely talented player just as they did with the Jack Studnicka pick a year ago, and the second half of this past junior season could just be the tip of the iceberg. Why the Bruins won’t select Foudy: There will be more polished or finished prospects available to the Bruins when they select 57th overall, and they may not be looking to roll the dice with their top pick in the draft. Based on last year’s season in London, Foudy certainly seems to be on the right track.  

Jay O’Brien – center (Thayer Academy): You’ve got to have a local kid among the hopefuls for the Bruins, right? The Hingham native and Thayer Academy star dominated at the prep school level this season and has been developing right in the Bruins’ backyard under the watchful eye of Thayer head coach and former NHL standout Tony Amonte. The 6-foot, 174-pound O’Brien finished with 43 goals and a whopping 80 points in 30 games for Thayer, and has dipped his toes on other teams just to show he can play at those levels. O’Brien is committed to Providence College for next season and will be in a good spot playing for a Nate Leaman-led program that’s produced a number of Bruins players over the last few seasons. In a lot of ways, O’Brien is similar to Ryan Donato when he was drafted by the Bruins in the second round a few years back given his size and scoring abilities. So it wouldn’t be a shock if Boston calls his name should he still be available with the 57th overall pick. Why the Bruins would select O’Brien: He’s the best available local prospect, he’s going to a Hockey East school and he’s already got ties to the Bruins given a relationship he has with Ryan Donato. He makes a lot of sense. Why the Bruins wouldn’t select: There are always the questions about lack of competition from a prep player like O’Brien, but he’s clearly got the goods if he’s all lined up for Hockey East next season.  

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