Bruins

A look back at the Bruins' 2016 NHL Draft: Charlie McAvoy tops solid group

A look back at the Bruins' 2016 NHL Draft: Charlie McAvoy tops solid group

The Bruins were loaded in the 2016 NHL Draft with a pair of first-round picks and a second-round pick after missing the playoffs for a second straight season.

They needed a stud defenseman after missing with Jakub Zboril the year before at the draft, and they needed good players all throughout the organization as Don Sweeney was continuing with his draft-and-develop strategy with the Black and Gold.

Well, they did a pretty good job in 2016 and learned from some of the mistakes the year before. Certainly, they hit with the most important pick after landing Charlie McAvoy in the middle of the first round, and they picked up what appear to be no-doubt NHL players with both Trent Frederic and Ryan Lindgren with the other two top picks.

They might also have a good find with Oskar Steen late on the second day of that weekend’s draft in Buffalo. All in all, it’s a pretty good draft class for the B’s even if it does appear they missed completely with Cameron Clarke. Picking McAvoy over Dante Fabbro was a big decision and they made the correct one.

Charlie McAvoy (1st round, 14th overall pick)

The Bruins went into this draft trying to decide between McAvoy and fellow Boston University defenseman Dante Fabbro in the middle of the first round. They had their choice of either one when they ended up selecting, and they absolutely made the right choice with the 6-foot, 208-pound McAvoy.

Sure, he’s had some injury issues over the last three years and he’s absolutely still learning on the job, but McAvoy still appears on track to have a very Drew Doughty-like game when he’s healthy and fully developed. He plays physical, he can play massive minutes, he can quarterback a power play and has an ability to move the puck that makes him a No. 1 defenseman-in-the-making.

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He appeared to be on his way to surpass career-highs in goals (seven) and points (32) when the regular season was put on pause and is still very much on the upswing at just 22 years old. McAvoy got off to a slow start offensively this year, but he was excellent in the second half after notching this OT game-winner against the Blackhawks back in January: 

The Bruins really needed to hit a home run with one of their D-man picks in getting their next No. 1 guy and heir apparent to Zdeno Chara, and they did it with this pick.

Grade: A.

Trent Frederic (1st round, 29th overall pick)

In all honesty, this is a pick that I’ve never been a fan of. The Bruins were clearly looking to get a big, physical center that would play a bruising game and that was the reason behind selecting him. But they could have taken Alex DeBrincat, who was a scoring phenom in junior hockey and now has 87 goals in three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Still, there is at least hope that Frederic will turn into the kind of tough customer that the Bruins could absolutely use at the NHL level. The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder was leading the AHL with eight fighting majors during this current American League season and had 11 goals and 20 points in 45 games with the P-Bruins this season. The plus-4 rating and 65 penalty minutes speak to a player that’s playing good two-way hockey and is playing with punishing purpose, and is getting close to ready to play in Boston in the manner of many Bruins players before him.

It just remains to be seen if he was worth the first-round pick for the B’s. He could become a fan favorite in Boston when he finally does get the call back after dropping the gloves in his first NHL appearance, and destroying Brandon Tanev, with the B’s a couple of seasons ago.

Grade: B.  

Ryan Lindgren (2nd round, 49th overall pick)

The hard-nosed Lindgren was moved to the New York Rangers in the Rick Nash trade as the Bruins begrudgingly traded the tough-to-play-against 6-foot, 191-pound defenseman. He’s since made it up to the NHL level and has even tangled with the Bruins this past season while putting up one goal and 14 points along with a plus-16 in 60 games.

Lindgren doesn’t have high-end offensive skills as a defenseman, but he feels like he’s going to be a winning type player in the NHL. The 21-year-old looks like he’s going to be an NHL regular for a while even if it will likely as a bottom-pairing defenseman for the Blueshirts.

Still, he has toughness, leadership qualities and would have made a very good Bruins player if the Bruins had been able to hang onto him. For a guy selected in the middle of the second round, Lindgren has turned into a good NHL player and an excellent draft pick.

Grade: A-.

Joona Koppanen (5th round, 135th overall pick)

The 6-foot-5, 192-pound Finnish center has the size and he’s flashed some skill and ability at times in the past like when playing internationally in the World Junior tournament. But since moving over to North America, Koppanen has been just okay with the Bruins organization.

He has a career-high nine goals and 18 points in 43 games with the P-Bruins this past season, but he’s bounced between the AHL and ECHL over the last two years in a less-than-ringing endorsement of his overall game. Koppanen showed some good two-way ability on this goal with the P-Bruins this season:

He’s got one more year on his contract with Boston next season, but he hasn’t shown enough strength, toughness or offensive ability to really excel in any particular area at the AHL level. In other words, he hasn’t shown much to stick around and make this a fifth-round pick with actual value. But we’ll see what next season brings.

Grade: C-.

Cameron Clarke (5th round, 136th overall pick)

The Clarke pick has turned out to be the worst pick of this draft class for the Bruins. Clarke was an average defenseman at Ferris State University after being selected by the Bruins out of the NAHL as an average prospect.

It turns out the Bruins probably shouldn’t even have bothered. The 24-year-old graduated college and played three scoreless games for the Wichita Thunder in the ECHL at the end of this season, but was never signed by the Bruins. He had good size and clearly had some tools that he flashed during his draft year, but never improved on one goal and 11 points in his freshman NCAA season.

The Bruins rolled the dice with this pick on a little-known player from a lesser hockey league and it 100 percent didn’t work out for them.

Grade: F.

Oskar Steen (6th round, 165th overall pick)

The Steen pick could turn out to be a diamond in the rough for the Black and Gold. Steen was a feisty, skilled player for Team Sweden during World Junior play and then posted 17 goals and 37 points in 46 games in the Swedish Elite League before signing on with the Bruins.

The 22-year-old had seven goals and 23 points in 60 games for the P-Bruins in his first pro season this year at the AHL level and the 5-foot-9, 186-pounder showed plenty of promise for his future at the NHL level. Steen has speed and a dangerous shot, and plays with the kind of fire that will be needed at his size to excel in Boston.

In his first goal scored for the P-Bruins, you can see Steen’s battle level and the bomb from the slot that will make him a good pro:

Steen might need a little more seasoning at the AHL level before he gets a look in Boston, but it feels like he’s going to be playing for the Bruins within the next couple of years.

Grade: B+.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy responds to Tuukka Rask's 'exhibition' remark

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy responds to Tuukka Rask's 'exhibition' remark

Tuukka Rask's comments after the Boston Bruins' Game 2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night rubbed some the wrong way, but head coach Bruce Cassidy wasn't fazed.

Rask raised eyebrows when he said, “To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there. There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game." That isn't exactly what B's fans want to hear from their goaltender after a playoff loss, but Cassidy downplayed Rask's remarks Friday during a video conference with reporters.

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“I didn’t speak to him after his comments. Tuukka, I think the Boston media knows him well enough — he answers his questions the way he feels,” Cassidy said. “It is a unique environment, but to me, there’s playoff intensity on the ice. You’ve just gotta control what you can control when you’re a player. In my situation, as a coach, the way I look at it, at the end of the day, they’re gonna hand out the Stanley Cup this year. So we’ve gotta play our best hockey if we want to be that team.

"That was our goal at the start of the year. We didn’t anticipate it would end up in an environment like this, but here it is, right? You play the hand you’re dealt, and you prepare yourself — and in my case prepare the team — in this case, for Game 3, to play our best hockey game and that’s what my focus is on right now, plain and simple. That’s what we’re gonna do tonight and puck drop tomorrow at noon, we’re gonna put our best foot forward.”

While Rask's comments may have been off-putting, they weren't unfounded. The NHL's bubble environment is unlike anything these players have experienced before. Matching the level of playoff intensity that's in the arena when fans are in attendance is virtually impossible.

Regardless, Rask and the B's will have to be on their game if they're to regain the series lead on Saturday. Puck drop for Game 3 vs. the Hurricanes is set for 12 p.m. ET. on NBC.

Bruce Cassidy says Bruins will be making changes for Game 3; Is it Jack Studnicka time?

Bruce Cassidy says Bruins will be making changes for Game 3; Is it Jack Studnicka time?

The Bruins are expecting to make some lineup adjustments headed into Game 3 after the Hurricanes evened the series 1-1 apiece in Thursday night’s 3-2 loss in the Toronto bubble at Scotiabank Arena.

Bruce Cassidy said the B’s have some banged-up players that will also have to be factored in as well, but it sounded like he was looking to go a little smaller and faster with his group to counteract some of the speed and aggressive pressure that the Hurricanes are throwing at them.

“We’ve thought it through. There are always day-to-day bumps and bruises, but we’ll be making changes both at forward and at [defense]. Some of that is getting some energy in the lineup and changing the look of our forward group,” said Bruce Cassidy of his Game 3 lineup vs. the Hurricanes.

“Overall [Anders Bjork] did what he could with his skill set to help that line. Nobody is going to replace Pastrnak, but if guys can go in there and complement Bergeron and Marchand and help them create some offense, then they’ve done a good thing. [Bjork] may not go back there, but I don’t think that’s why we feel a goal short [in Game 2].”

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Cassidy said he “anticipates” that Rask will start Game 3 on Saturday at noontime and that David Pastrnak “could possibly play” as a game-time decision after he didn’t practice on Friday with small optional group.

Ideally, the B’s would like to have Pastrnak be able to test out the injury in practice ahead of trying to give it a go in a game, but they won’t get that chance with a noontime start on Saturday after the 24-year-old Pasta didn’t skate on Friday.

“There were some good goals and good saves, but in those one-goal games each goalie needs to make one more save along the way [if they hope to win],” said Cassidy of Rask, who has a “meh” .899 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against average in two games vs. Carolina.

“We didn’t get it and they did, and the opposite was true the game before. I think [Rask’s] game can grow like all of our games. The goalie position is probably a tougher one to get up to speed with not a lot of room for error.

“All of the goalies coming back are all in that same position. Hopefully he’ll be better [in Game 3] and we’ll be better in front of him.”

The bet here as far as the lineup changes go? One would expect that Nick Ritchie would be coming out after he was a non-factor in Game 2 with just 10:45 of ice time, and Jeremy Lauzon as well after playing just 13:16 of ice time and taking an early undisciplined penalty chasing after Carolina players after a clean hit laid on Karson Kuhlman.

If Pastrnak can’t play Game 3 and the speedy, responsible Kuhlman stays in the lineup that could open up a chance for rookie Jack Studnicka to play right wing on either the first or third line with Anders Bjork swinging over to his natural left wing side.

Studnicka is the only player the Bruins have among their current reserves that could really make a significant offensive impact with the kind of upside where the 21-year-old could be a difference-maker in a possible one-goal game. So it would make sense that the kid gets the call if the Bruins are looking for energy and a little offense with Pastrnak’s skill set potentially missing from the Game 3 lineup. 

Studnicka played in the first game of the round robin and didn't do much beyond some nice hustle plays on the back-check, but it's pretty clear he has top-6 skill and goal-scoring abilities. 

On defense, it might be time for Cliffy Hockey and Connor Clifton after he played a gritty, agitating game in the round-robin finale against the Washington Capitals. Clifton could play a role similar to the one that Haydn Fleury has played very well for the Hurricanes as a D-man that’s been unafraid to stir things up physically against the Bruins.