Bruins

Bruins sign talented defenseman Jack Ahcan out of St. Cloud State

Bruins sign talented defenseman Jack Ahcan out of St. Cloud State

Will the Boston Bruins ever be without defensive depth? Probably not. 

While the NHL season is on pause due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney wasted no time in signing undrafted free agent defenseman Jack Ahcan out of St. Cloud State, and he seems pretty excited about getting things rolling in Boston.

Mark Divver, a hockey writer who has in-depth knowledge of college hockey and its players gave us a little insight as to what we might expect from Ahcan. 

Before college hockey, Ahcan played for Burnsville High School in Minnesota and also played for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League. He was a member of USA Hockey's U20 team at the World Junior Championship in 2016-17 and notched an assist through seven games. 

The 22-year-old spent four seasons at St. Cloud State, tallying 21 goals and 82 assists for 103 points in 144 games -- not bad for a defenseman. He is just the third defenseman in St. Cloud State history to score 100-plus points and was selected as the team captain for the 2019-20 campaign. 

Is it a coincidence Ahcan decided to sign with Boston? Who knows, but when he visited Boston for a matchup with the Boston College Eagles in 2018, he couldn't wait to tour the home of the Boston Red Sox. 

"We're taking a little tour of Fenway (Park) and I've always wanted to go there," Ahcan said in 2018, according to Mick Hatten of the St. Cloud Times. "I've seen it on TV with the Green Monster (fence) and I love baseball.

"I'm excited to get out there and see the atmosphere."

Did the Boston atmosphere play a role in the young defenseman signing with Boston? It's possible, but we'll surely hear from the new Bruin when the signing is officially announced. 

Anyway, it certainly looks like B's defenseman Torey Krug is pretty pleased with the signing.

Ahcan isn't the only player Sweeney has signed since the NHL season was put on hold. The B's have also reportedly signed defenseman Nick Wolff out of Minnesota-Duluth while also signing goaltender and 2017 fourth-round pick Jeremy Swayman to an entry-level contract. 

Who are the Top 10 NHL players from Massachusetts?

Who are the Top 10 NHL players from Massachusetts?

There’s a strong tradition of hockey in the state of Massachusetts, and not so surprisingly there is also no shortage of standout NHL players from this state.

A great deal of those talented players arrived in the years since Bobby Orr first came to town in Black and Gold and brought with him a hockey rink boom all over the Commonwealth, so there’s no coincidence to the timing of it all.

Another non-shocker: The greatest generation of Massachusetts hockey players continues to be the 1990’s when Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk and Tony Amonte along with Bill Guerin grew into dominant forces of talent at the NHL level. There may never such a concentration of star NHL players from Massachusetts all playing at the same time.

There were older pioneers and standouts, of course, like St. John’s Prep phenom Bobby Carpenter, one of the few high-level elite Massachusetts guys that laced up for the B's, and Acton-Boxborough’s Tom Barrasso on those Stanley Cup teams in Pittsburgh. Here’s a list of the top-10 all-time NHL players born in Massachusetts with apologies to Scott Young, Mike Milbury, Cory Schneider, Tom Poti, Tom Fitzgerald, Chris Nilan, Shawn McEachern and Jay Pandolfo for not quite making the cut.

Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

Canadiens in the playoffs? Tony Marinaro calls that 'the stupidest thing I've ever heard'

The one clear benefit of the play-in round for this summer’s Stanley Cup playoff conclusion to the 2019-20 campaign is it gives new life to hockey clubs otherwise out of it with a month to go in the regular season.

The biggest beneficiary of that new postseason life is undoubtedly the Montreal Canadiens, who had the lowest point total (71) of any of the 24 teams that will qualify for the play-in round. The Habs were a bad team playing out the string that’s now been thrown a life preserver due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Montreal is scheduled to play the fifth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins once the postseason format begins and will face an uphill battle against a healthy, rested group that still features Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and is just a few seasons removed from back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. One would expect that Canadiens fans, media and anyone interested in the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge would be looking for reasons to justify their newfangled postseason presence.

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But TSN 690 radio host Tony Marinaro wasn’t having any of that sunshine Habs talk during a recent NBC Sports Boston Zoom call with myself and Boston Sports Now’s James Murphy when asked about Montreal’s new life.

“The station I work for TSN 690 is the official partner of the Montreal Canadiens. We air Montreal Canadiens on our radio station. This is great for the Montreal Canadiens. It’s great for the fans. It’s great for the radio station that I work for. It’s great for me and it’s great for my show,” said an animated Marinaro. “Now, personally how do I feel about it? I think it’s stupid. [This is] a team that lost eight in a row at one point, and on another occasion lost another eight in a row. On another occasion lost five in a row.

“On another occasion lost three in a row and finished with 31 wins and 40 losses. [They] have a chance at a play-in to get into the actual playoffs? I think it’s the stupidest thing that I’ve ever heard in my life. These are exceptional times that call for exceptional measures. There are a lot of things that I don’t agree with. I think I speak for all of us that we all want hockey back and that the National Hockey League would want to have as many markets involved, in the mix, as possible to try and generate as much interest as possible, and to try and generate as much of the lost revenue as possible. I’m at a point where I just want sports back. As I much as I think it’s stupid, I want sports back more than I think it’s stupid if that makes sense.”

It certainly should make sense to anybody and everybody that loves, and right now misses, the NHL.

The hapless Canadiens were 10 points out of a playoff spot when the NHL regular season went on pause, haven’t made the postseason in back-to-back years, and will have not won a playoff series in five years when they eventually suit up against the Penguins this summer. Despite all of this, they might have a fighting chance with a rested, healthy Carey Price in a short series against a Penguins group coming off a long break.

A win by the Habs in the play-in could even eventually set up a playoff series between the Bruins and the Canadiens. Selfishly, who wouldn’t want to see Claude Julien and his Canadiens match up with the Black and Gold in a playoff series that could help rekindle a rivalry that’s been on life support over the last few seasons?

All that being said, it’s going to be tough to feel like low-seeded play-in teams like the Canadiens actually deserve a regular Stanley Cup playoff berth given so many critical voices viewing skepticism at the 24-team postseason format set up by the NHL.