Five prospects for Bruins fans to watch at combine
Five prospects for Bruins fans to watch at combine
By JOE HAGGERTY
More than 100 of the best and brightest NHL prospects will be headed to Buffalo this weekend for the NHL Draft combine where they will be weighed, measured, interviewed and tested by the 30 NHL clubs interested in their services. While anything can and will happen a little more than three weeks from now when the 2016 Draft convenes at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, there’s already a few whispers and hints as to what the Black and Gold might be do with their two first round picks.
There’s a good chance one of them, the San Jose pick potentially, will be on the move as part of the package for a top-pairing transition defensemen the B’s have been looking for since trading Dougie Hamilton. The Bruins do appear set to make their selection with the 14th spot in the first round where they landed Jake DeBrusk last year at this time, so here are a few of the leading candidates as the B’s get ready to conduct interviews with their lead prospects:
1. Dante Fabbro – Defenseman (Penticton, BCHL)
The fast-paced 17-year-old defenseman has been an offense producer for Penticton for the last two years, and really took a step forward this season with 14 goals and 67 points in 45 games for the Vees. He and fellow first round hopeful Tyson Jost tore up defenses in the BC league, and gave scouts a window into what they’ll be doing on the big stage a couple of years down the road. He’s got good size at 6-foot-1, 185-pounds, will be in Boston’s backyard with a commitment to Boston University hockey for the next four years and the offensive skills had one talent evaluator compare Fabbro to Kevin Shattenkirk at the exact same place on his NHL development path. His ability to process the game quickly and get his shots through from the point sound like exactly what the Bruins are looking for right now for their big club in Boston, but they’ll have to wait at least a couple of years for Fabbro to become NHL-ready.
2. Max Jones – Left wing (London, OHL)
If the Bruins decide they’re looking for the next Milan Lucic-type player in their top-6, then Jones could very well get the call for a team that needs defensemen and size/strength/skill on the wing. The 6-foot-3, 203-pounder finished with 28 goals and 106 penalty minutes for the Knights in an admirable mix of offensive skill and brute strength, and definitely flexed his muscles around the Ontario Hockey League. The son of former NHLer Brad Jones, he has the requisite hockey smarts and poise that one expects from a second-generation NHL talent. The Rochester, Michigan native had just five goals and 10 points in 24 games for the U.S. National Development Team Program last season where he perhaps held back just a little bit after racking up 189 penalty minutes with Under-17 team, but the power forward let it rip this past year in junior hockey. While the size and strength are obvious pluses along with his willingness to take the puck to the net, Jones also has the kind of straight-ahead skating speed that he’ll need to keep producing at the higher levels of hockey. If the Bruins decide to go for a strictly Bruins-style player on draft night, then Jones might very well be the selection at the 14th spot right around where he’s expected to be picked.
3. Charlie McAvoy – Defenseman (Boston University, Hockey East)
A primo prospect out of Long Island from the same area of New York as fellow up-and-coming hockey players and draft picks Sonny Milano and Jeremy Bracco, McAvoy had a dandy of a freshman season for the Terriers while posting three goals and 25 points in 37 games for BU. McAvoy was a steady plus-5 in seven games at the World Junior tournament, but didn’t make the same kind of impact at the international level as he did in the NCAA’s last season. The 6-foot, 183-pounder has been a steady, smart, productive player while going through the U.S. NTDP for two years prior to moving to BU, and has excelled at every different level he’s faced thus far in his young career. McAvoy might not be as explosive as some of the other D-men that will be taken in the first round, but he could be a steady, solid top-4 in the NHL for a long time. Those kinds of players can be extremely valuable at the NHL, and the BU program will make his transition to the pro game a smooth one.
4. Jake Bean – Defenseman (Calgary, WHL)
The Bruins could do a lot worse than this talented defenseman, who led all of junior hockey D-men with a whopping Brent Burns-like 24 goals scored last season. Bean is still a bit undersized at 6-1, 185-pounds and will need some strength development time before he’s physically ready to endure the fierce NHL pounding that routinely awaits all good blueliners at that level. But the wealth of talent for Mr. Bean is hard to argue with: he is a smooth skater, an adept puck-mover and has one of the biggest bombs from the point of all draft-eligible players in an impressive full package of skills for an offensive defenseman. The hockey IQ is a plus, and Bean is said to process things very quickly on the ice as a must-have quality for a D-man prospect. The one slight knock against the Calgary native is that he hasn’t delivered as overwhelmingly in big game moments or during international play through his career, and needs to step up more in pressure situations as he is routinely one of the best players on the ice. But that’s a bit of nit-picking for a player that’s produced and impressed scouts all over North America.
5. Kieffer Bellows - Forward (U.S. National Development Team Program)
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Bellows is a pure sniper from the left side, and has the 50 goals scored in 62 games last season for the US National Under-18 team to prove it. Whether it’s the Minnesota public high school level, the USHL, the U.S. NTDP level or international play, Bellows has translated his size, NHL smarts, whip-like shot and release and natural offensive instincts to score tons of goals. The son of former NHL standout Brian Bellows, the 17-year-old should get even bigger and stronger as a Boston University-commit that will be tormenting Hockey East opponents next year with his goal-scoring prowess. The fact that Bruins brass could watch over Bellows while playing on Commonwealth Ave. is certainly a drawing point, as it would be with fellow top prospects McAvoy and Fabbro. While Bellows plays the power game using his strength to push toward the net and create turnovers on the fore-check, he’ll need to show he continues to have the skating speed to excel at each level with all of the other offensive tools at his disposal. If the Bruins are looking for a player that can provide instant offense when they get to the NHL level, then Bellows could be the selection provided he’s even still available at the No. 14 spot.