Taking stock of the Bruins top prospects ahead of 2019 NHL Draft
The 2019 NHL Draft is now here, and the Boston Bruins will get a chance to add to their young prospect core with the 30th overall pick in the draft. The team has quite a few possibilities with it, but they also have some depth in the organization.
Ahead of the draft, here's a run-down of the top prospects in the Bruins organization and where they are in their respective developments.
1. Jack Studnicka
Studnicka is the great hope at the center position for the Bruins with both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci well into their 30’s, and got a good look at NHL training camp when both of the top-6 centers remained home with the team in China. The 20-year-old posted 36 goals and 83 points in 60 games in the OHL and then was a point-per-game player in the playoffs for the Niagara Ice Dogs. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound center played a handful of AHL games for Providence at the end of the season, but still only has nine AHL games of experience.
Strengths: Goal-scoring and high-end offensive ability, good size and a strong shot.
Weaknesses: Still needs more pro experience and is working on gaining NHL strength.
Forecast for the NHL: 2020-21. He needs at least one year in the AHL before he’s going to be ready for big time NHL duty, but he projects to be a top-6 center in the NHL.
2. Urho Vaakanainen
The 20-year-old Vaakanainen came pretty close to dropping into the lineup for the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final when it was uncertain whether Matt Grzelcyk was going to be able to come back from a concussion. That says how strongly the Bruins feel about the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Finnish D-man after just one year of pro hockey. The former first round pick came from a concussion to a strong second half for the P-Bruins with four goals and 14 points in 30 games as a young, inexperienced former first round pick.
Strengths: His skating game is elite, and he’s shown good willingness to play two-way hockey. He can play big time minutes as a top-4 D-man.
Weaknesses: Given that he was knocked out of his second NHL game with a concussion, he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy at the physical NHL level.
Forecast for the NHL: 2019-20. Vaakanainen could win an NHL job in training camp and is ready to step in if Torey Krug or Matt Grzelcyk ended up getting traded over the summer.
3. Trent Frederic
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Frederic made a big impression when he dropped the gloves for a fight in his NHL debut, and there’s little doubt he brings blue collar toughness and rugged two-way play to the table. The former first round pick did show some offense with 14 goals and 25 points in 55 games for the P-Bruins last season, but went scoreless in 15 games with the Bruins at the NHL while mostly playing in a bottom-6 role as a third or fourth line center. Frederic remains a prospect in development at 21 years old, but his inability to claim the third line job at the NHL level last season moved the Bruins to trade for Charlie Coyle.
Strengths: Frederic is big, strong and willing to play a physical game, and that’s something the Bruins need at the NHL level. He’s got leadership qualities and plays a Bruins-style game.
Weaknesses: He’ll need to show more offensive capability if he wants to stick around at the NHL level.
Forecast for the NHL: 2019-20. If Frederic can win the third line center job, it might allow the Bruins to move Coyle into a top-6 winger role.
4. Jakub Lauko
The 6-foot-1, 172-pound Lauko was a steal as a third round pick last summer for the Bruins, and he showed it this season. Lauko flashed at training camp and then posted 21 goals and 41 points in 44 games for Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL before dropping another 13 points in the junior playoffs. Lauko is fast, tenacious and shown an ability to finish off plays offensively in a skill set that could open up a lot of roles for him.
Strengths: Speed, skill and tenacity is a pretty good way to go through life as an NHL prospect.
Weaknesses: Lauko needs to add strength to withstand the NHL pounding and play with the aggressiveness that he’d like to.
Forecast for the NHL: 2020-21. Lauko definitely needs more seasoning, but could come quickly once he’s ready based on what we’ve already seen.
5. Anders Bjork
The 22-year-old has played a total of 72 games between the NHL and AHL over the last two seasons due to shoulder injuries, and really needs to stay healthy through a full season to continue his development at this point. Bjork finished with two goals and 13 points in 33 games between Boston and Providence this season, and also seemed to lose his offensive swagger while fighting through the injuries and the general physicality level of pro hockey. Bjork looked extremely good in college and at the development camps for the Bruins, but that hasn’t yet fully translated at the pro level.
Strengths: Speed, skill and a pretty good two-way game.
Weaknesses: Bjork seems to shy away from the danger areas and hasn’t held up to the physical demands of pro hockey as of yet.
Forecast for the NHL: 2019-20. Bjork developing into a top-6 right wing would answer a lot of problems for the Bruins.
6. Axel Andersson
The former second round and 6-foot, 178-pound Andersson played for Sodertalje SK in Sweden and held his own with five assists and a plus-5 in 41 games this past season. He’s a strong skater with offensive instincts and the ability to move the puck, but he’s still extremely raw at this point as a 19-year-old prospect.
Strengths: Skating, offensive skills and his puck-moving skills all play in today’s NHL.
Weaknesses: Andersson needs to get much stronger to be able to withstand the physicality of the pro game.
Forecast for the NHL: 2020-21. Andersson would be well-served by coming over to North American next season and getting a year of pro experience to get ready for the NHL.
7. Jakub Zboril
The 22-year-old Zboril has posted nearly identical seasons for the Providence Bruins with four goals and 19 points, but played in 12 less AHL games this season while filling in when injuries hit the back end in Boston. While there’s no denying the potential of the former first-round pick, the 6-foot, 200-pound Zboril still needs to show more to his game to live up to his draft status considering Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski were all in his draft class.
Strengths: Flashes high-end offensive playmaking at times, has good size for the pro game.
Weaknesses: Hasn’t earned trust of the NHL staff yet, hasn’t shown a ton of development since turning pro.
Forecast for the NHL: 2019-20. It’s now-or-never time for Zboril to start showing something at the NHL level.
8. Zach Senyshyn
The 22-year-old Senyshyn looks the part with good size (6-foot-1, 200-pounds), good skating ability and there’s no denying his numbers at the OHL level. But it hasn’t translated into production in the pro game for the Bruins with just 14 goals and 24 points in 66 games for the P-Bruins last season. He made his NHL debut last season and even scored a goal, but he’s been a disappointment thus far.
Strengths: Has the size, skating and skill to be an impact player.
Weaknesses: Hasn’t played to his talent level, hasn’t scored enough and doesn’t play physical enough for his size.
Forecast for the NHL: 2019-20. Like Bjork, it would help the Bruins greatly if Senyshyn could finally pop next season.
9. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson
The 22-year-old Forsbacka Karlsson had a great opportunity to win the third line center job last season at the NHL level, but couldn’t do it despite a number of chances. JFK posted three goals and nine points in 28 games at the NHL level, and managed seven goals and 16 points in 28 games for Providence last season as well. He showed high-end playmaking skill and some of the tools needed to be a strong two-way center at the NHL level, but couldn’t maintain his consistency and seemed to disappear for long stretches of time. Then he returned to Sweden to play overseas for personal reasons, so his future with the Bruins is unknown at best.
Strengths: Smooth playmaking and plenty of high-end skill. Has the makings of a strong two-way center at the NHL level.
Weaknesses: Not nearly strong enough or consistent enough to be effective as of yet.
Forecast for the NHL: Unknown at this point.
10. Peter Cehlarik
The 23-year-old Cehlarik has had his moments and posted 38 points in 53 games for the P-Bruins last season. The 6-foot-2, 202-pounder has size and strength around the net, can make offensive plays with playing the puck possession game and is another player that would seemingly fit what Boston needs right now. Still, the B’s went out and traded for Marcus Johansson at the deadline because he wasn’t giving them enough.
Strengths: Size, strength and skill around the net.
Weaknesses: Puck management and decision-making still isn’t ideal, something doesn’t play big or strong enough.
Forecast for the NHL: As with Bjork and Senyshyn, the time is now for him.
11. Jeremy Lauzon
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Lauzon is a big, strong stay-at-home defenseman that will battle in the D-zone and give you everything he’s got. The 22-year-old Lauzon acquitted himself well in 16 games at the NHL level while filling in during the regular season, but was behind Connor Clifton when it came time to claim a spot on the Bruins postseason roster.
Strengths: Size, strength and competitiveness make him a strong stay-at-home candidate. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes with the puck.
Weaknesses: Skating is always going to be an issue. Appears to be limited offensively.
Forecast for the NHL: Could be good trade bait for Bruins given their surplus on defense.
12. Kyle Keyser
The 20-year-old Keyser finished off his junior career with his best season for the Oshawa Generals with a 2.75 goals against and a .915 save percentage, and then made a cameo P-Bruins appearance at the end of the season. Has good size at 6-foot-2, 175-pounds and impressed Bruins brass with his athleticism between the pipes.
Strengths: Good size, strong OHL background and finishing strong at Oshawa.
Weaknesses: Zero pro experience, so he’s probably years away.
Forecast for the NHL: 2021-22. Keyser will need at least a couple of years of development at the AHL level.