NHL clock beginning to tick on B's 2015 first-rounders Senyshyn and Zboril

NHL clock beginning to tick on B's 2015 first-rounders Senyshyn and Zboril

BRIGHTON, Mass – There’s no denying that pressure is starting to mount for Bruins prospects Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Zboril.

Two of the NHL-record three consecutive draft picks taken in the middle of the 2015 first round, Senyshyn and Zboril both have extreme outside shots at winning an NHL roster spot when training camp closes in October. Both are again taking part in the B’s rookie training camp that got going at Warrior Ice Arena on Thursday morning, but they’re also slowly evolving from prospects into whatever they’re going to be at the pro level.  

After watching fellow first-round brother-in-arms, Jake DeBrusk, make a splash with the Bruins last season, and witnessing fellow 2015 first-rounders like Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, Mitch Marner, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Ivan Provorov, Zack Werenski, Mat Barzal and Kyle Connor establish themselves the past three seasons, it’s got to feel to them like it’s “go time” for Senyshyn and Zboril.

Fair or unfair, too much more time spent marinating in the AHL is going to have people begin to whisper that both first-rounders are trending toward the bust category. Clearly, they’re not there yet with just one season of AHL experience each under their belts, but you also get the sense there’s an anxiousness among them to get to the NHL proving ground.

“Obviously I’m chomping at the bit, and I want to get to the NHL and I want to help this team,” said Senyshyn. “Seeing the young talent that we have in the locker room is unbelievable. But I try not to think about that too much, and try not to focus on [getting an NHL shot]. I just focus on myself and what I can do to help the team win.

“This is my fourth camp now and [the coaches] have instilled in me to try and be the best player that I can be. When I’m ready they’re going to be put me in, so I’m just trying to show everything that I can right now.”

Both had solid introductory seasons in pro hockey. Senyshyn finished with 12 goals and 26 points in 66 games for the P-Bruins after back-to-back 40-goal seasons in junior hockey, but clearly didn’t dominate offensively in the way one might expect given his skating wheels and his 6-foot-3 frame. Senyshyn admitted that there is still plenty for him to learn after one AHL season and a lot of it is about playing to his strengths and getting a little stouter in the scoring areas.

“I definitely want to be more aware defensively and be more defensively responsible, and to use my speed not just for offense but for defense as well,” said Senyshyn. “[It was about] learning new ways to score and news to create offense. I’m a big kid and I like to use my size and physicality now, and it’s a year where I learned I can’t be one-dimensional. I had a lot of video sessions with coach [Trent] Whitfield and that was awesome. I’m really looking forward to this year.”

Zboril has a lot of the necessary talent to be an NHL defenseman and should be a top-four guy if he can realize the potential that his skating, shooting, physicality and hockey smarts have provided for him. Zboril, 21, had four goals and 19 points in 68 games for the P-Bruins and admitted he learned a lot about simply being a pro hockey player last season. For a talented guy that perhaps wasn’t always lauded for his overall work ethic in the past, Zboril took on a lot of good work habits both on and off the ice.

“I just learned a lot about taking care of my body, being better in my nutrition and being a better pro as I would say,” said Zboril. “Just being earlier for meetings, being earlier on the ice and how I act on the ice. [It’s not] being a guy that goes on the ice and goofs around, but instead being a guy that goes out there and puts in some work to get ready for the games.”

The pressing problem for both prospects is that they’re beginning to recede in the overall Black and Gold landscape of young players.

At a time when Zboril should be knocking down the NHL door, the Bruins went out and signed left shot D-man John Moore to a five-year contract and now have eight legit NHL D-men signed to contracts entering camp. That means it’s going to be virtually impossible for Zboril to make the tea, out of camp, and would only have a legit shot at NHL playing time this season if injuries or a big trade comes down.

Even if both prospects still have ample time to carve out a career in Boston, it also becomes a perception problem given where they were selected.

After watching Barzal take the NHL by storm with his 22 goals and 85 points in 82 games en route the Calder Trophy last season, Senyshyn and Zboril will always be judged as the players Boston selected right before the electric Barzal, who was scooped up by Islanders GM Garth Snow with the very next pick in the middle of the first round.

DeBrusk has already proven his worth and certainly belongs in that draft class based on the way he played as a rookie last season, and that pick has turned out to be a prudent, productive one for Don Sweeney and the Bruins.

Still, no matter how many prospects the Bruins churn out and how fertile their draft-and-development plan continues to be, the 2015  draft is going to be viewed as a pretty big bust if Senyshyn and/or Zboril don’t find a way to bust through in Boston sooner rather than later. That may be a difficult weight to bear for a couple of 21-year-olds learning the pro game, but that’s what it is until they start showing what they can do in the NHL as have so many of their first-round peers.   


Bruins bring back Chris Kelly as player development coordinator


Bruins bring back Chris Kelly as player development coordinator

Chris Kelly is back on the Boston Bruins, but he's trading in his hockey gear for a suit.

The Bruins announced Thursday they have hired Kelly as player development coordinator, while also adding Andrew Dickson as an amateur scout.

Kelly came to the B's as a player in 2011 and won a Stanley Cup during his first season in Boston. He went on to play 288 games for the Bruins over six seasons, tallying a total of 43 goals and 58 assists as a third-line forward.

The 38-year-old last played for the Anaheim Ducks during the 2017-18 season and spent last season as a development coach for the Ottawa Senators -- his first NHL team as a player -- before coming to Boston.

Dickson spent the last seven seasons as an amateur scout for the Detroit Red Wings.

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Is McAvoy really in line for 'a huge contract' with Bruins? Maybe not

Is McAvoy really in line for 'a huge contract' with Bruins? Maybe not

There’s quite the interesting debate going on these days about just how much Bruins RFA defenseman Charlie McAvoy should get on his second contract.

NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk tweeted out a story proclaiming that both McAvoy and Columbus Blue Jackets D-man Zach Werenski should be in line for “huge contracts” and conjured up some numbers that put those two young defenseman in a class with Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson at the same stage of their careers.

Certainly the 21-year-old McAvoy and 21-year-old Werenski have shown promise as excellent puck-movers and developing two-way D-men in their short NHL careers. But to lump the two of them together into the same class is not something I’m sure the Bruins would do at this point in their separate negotiations.

First off, both Doughty and Karlsson were Norris Trophy finalists before they got their massive contracts. Secondly, do you know how many games Doughty missed with injuries before he signed his eight-year, $56 million contract?

He missed seven NHL games with injuries in his first three seasons with the Kings, including just one in his first two seasons in Los Angeles. Doughty also put together a 16-goal, 59-point masterpiece sophomore season, all while averaging 24 plus minutes of ice time per game over those first three NHL seasons in L.A.

All due respect to a special talent in McAvoy who idolizes Doughty, but he hasn’t even been close to that kind of dominance yet in his very promising, young NHL career. He was brilliant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and he's shown big time flashes for the B's, but he's also missed almost 50 games with injuries over the last two years. 

Werenski has averaged 13 goals and 40 points in his three NHL seasons with Columbus and missed a total of nine NHL games in his first two seasons before playing the full 82-game schedule this past season for the Blue Jackets. He’s a lot closer to Doughty in terms of a comparable situation at this point in his young NHL career.

Werenski has the ability to be offer-sheeted by other prospective NHL teams, and has all the makings of an RFA who could cash in on something similar to the massive eight-year, $60 million deal signed by Florida’s Aaron Ekblad a couple of seasons ago.

McAvoy, on the other hand, has topped out at seven goals and 32 points in the better of his two NHL seasons (his rookie campaign) and has missed a whopping 47 games due to injuries in his first two seasons. McAvoy also can’t be tendered with an offer sheet by other NHL teams because he has fewer than three full years of NHL service based on the 40-game rule adopted by the league when it comes to restricted free agents.

So really there are very few parallels between Werenski’s negotiating leverage right now and McAvoy’s situation headed into his third NHL season with Boston.

If McAvoy wants to get the “huge contract” with the B’s then he’s going to have to earn it with a dominant, healthy season that he has yet to put together at the NHL level. It’s really as simple as that, regardless of his Corsi numbers when he has been healthy over the last two seasons.

The best course of action for both the Bruins and McAvoy?

It would be sign a bridge contract for a couple of years where the young D-man gets the $5-6 million per season based on his closest comparable players (Esa Lindell, for one), and puts together the kind of years that would put him closer to the Doughty/Karlsson/Ekblad max contract neighborhood that he’s clearly aspiring to at this point.

Basically, McAvoy at this point will need to sign the qualifying offer given to him by the Bruins or sit out until he agrees to a long-term second deal with the Boston. The reality is this: The Bruins young D-man has zero leverage this time around in negotiations aside from being a key player for the B's in both their present and future plans. Then again, the Bruins did pretty well in the first half last season when McAvoy was barely a presence while battling through concussion-related issues, and before he put together a very strong second half and postseason during their run to Game 7 of the Cup Final.

There’s no reason to think they can’t do the same this season with a Stanley Cup Final-worthy group if McAvoy’s camp plays hardball and holds out ahead of NHL training camp.

All signs point to McAvoy getting a big raise and eventually getting the cap-busting contract that he’s clearly going to be looking for, and he could get it as soon as a year from now at this time. But the 21-year-old needs to earn it first, and shame on Don Sweeney and the Bruins if they shell out tens of millions of dollars on an admittedly talented, highly-gifted player before he’s done the kind of things that earn players that type of money at the NHL level.

Why Heinen signing left B's with cap questions>>>>

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