Report out of Europe indicate another addition to the goalie stable. The Bruins who signed WHL standout Adam Morrison have added another talent to the equation. Now before we dive into who might or might not be traded Niklas Svedberg does have some pretty outstanding numbers in the playoffs, and more than respectable numbers in the regular season, but has never played a single game in North America. According to Elite Prospects he also appears to have another year on his contract.

Also of note is Svedberg’s reported stats. Listed at six-two and one-seventy-six he’s both taller and thinner than Krejci. With height and weight identical to the Buffalo Sabres Ryan Miller, it doesn’t mean he can’t succeed or even thrive in the NHL environment, simply that injuries are likely on a frame without much in the way of extra muscle or insulation.

Svedberg seen here in white, is an interesting addition for the Boston Bruins who have prospects, Michael Hutchinson, Lars Volden, Zane Gothberg (@ZanoInsano_29), RFA to be Adam Couchraine, the previously mentioned Morrison, in addition to starter Tim Thomas, backup Tuukka Rask, and Anton Khudobin. It’s hard to argue that Khudobin is not NHL ready after a second solid season’s numbers behind a poor team, or that Hutchinson is not progressing nicely when he finished tied for third in sv% in the AHL in his second professional season.

It is unquestionably for the best that depth is added, and that the depth be of high quality. After two (and counting?) Vezina seasons from Thomas, and a legendary Stanley Cup run that saw him become the first American goaltender to win the Conn-Smyth trophy, it’s unlikely any goaltender not playing at an elite level will survive the not so tender mercies of Bruins fans and media.

With speculation about Tim Thomas potentially being traded, and his age, added to the questions of Rask’s health and contract (RFA) we could see a seeming embarrassment of riches disappear in a single afternoon or two. One things for certain, if the Boston Bruins are going to have playoff success in the post-Thomas Era, they will need goaltending that doesn’t lose them games.

S/T to Boston Julie for the Svedberg 411

Tim Thomas has had an interesting season. He opened the season playing behind a team with five players who were showing up skating in front of him. He played well through that. In October he had a less than modest .929 sv%, and then he got better. In November and December his numbers were off the charts, even by his standards. Since he was part of the backslide that will end up costing the team the nearly meaningless President’s Trophy. Faced criticism for how he chose to spend a day off, and had his popularity on Facebook go from modest to major. He’ll probably eclipse 20,000 likes before the playoffs start.

While whispers have floated that he would retire at the end of the season have surfaced, I’m not entirely certain I believe them. Looking at his last three or four games played he looks to be back to something like the form he was in last season. While it’s hard to imagine him simply seeking more material for his hagiography,  it is worth noting that he is six wins from his 200th career regular season win. He’d have to play and win all six of the remaining regular season games to do that. With Marty Turco having played well on the west coast there may not be a need for that. Given how many games he’s already played this season it might even be counter productive.

As of today he sits 4th all time in wins for the Boston Bruins, not a bad accomplishment for a perennially discarded goalie derided as a flopper right up until he won his first Vezina. With 37 wins he would leapfrog the legendary Gerry Cheevers and Frank Brimsek to take sole possession of second all time in wins for the oldest American franchise in the NHL. If healthy there is no reason he couldn’t do that before the end of next season. His best season to date was 36 wins in 54 games. Should he be extended beyond the one season remaining on his contract, the all time wins lead is 59 games away. If he goes through next season as the number one goaltender, and hits the 37 between now and the end of next season needed to move into #2 all time, even taking a fifty fifty split of games the following season that all time wins total would only be 21 wins away.

Going forward the rest of the season, and post season it is unlikely he plays more than four of the remaining six even with only one back to back. Tuukka Rask has yet to resume skating, and even the lower end of the 4-6 week range puts him as back April 5th, the date of the second to last Bruins game of the season. With Turco unable to play in the post season, it will be up to Thomas, and possibly Khudobin and Hutchinson. It would be dismaying to see either of the latter two in a game, barring the ridiculous it’s unlikely even Rask plays this post season. Tim Thomas fearless rider of Boston cabs, will one way or another be among the most talked about players from April 11th until at least the draft.

So when last we met, I was waxing poetic about the talent on the ice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Ma., where the future B’s (they hope) had gone through Day 4 of Development Camp.  Well, the young men were back on the ice for Day 5, and there were some notables in attendance as well.  Peter Chiarelli had a great spot to watch the action from and Claude Julien, sporting some after playoff facial hair and possible golf attire, was walking the seating area during the intermission.  Unsure as to how much of the action he witnessed, but my guess is he saw quite a bit.

The day started out with, of all things, skating drills.  These were fun to watch on Day 3 and exposed some skating issues for the young guns.  Today was no different.  Everyone seemed to grasp the concept of skating forwards and backwards, staples to be sure, but coach Besa Tsintsadze had other plans.  Anthony Camara had issues skating over his stick and and also with the “stand your stick on the butt end, spin around and catch it before it falls” drill.  He fell once.  He wasn’t the only one that fell, Koko had his issues as well, but showed some good footwork making figure 8s around his stick while it lay prone on the ice.  The good news is that once again Tommy Cross showed no ill effects as he worked the drills with no issues but did appear to take one or two of them a little more slowly than the others.

At the opposite end of the ice sheet coach Essensa put the goaltenders through some workouts, and once again Lars Volden showed that he was equal to the task.  As mentioned in the previous post, he has nice horizontal movement from post to post, and also showed a strong glove hand when faux one-timers were being fired at him from 1o feet out.  Hutch and Goth looked strong through most of the drills but appeared a little exposed when shots were taken over there shoulders to the top shelf.  None of the three are going to be challenging for a starting spot on the Bruins any time soon, but Hutch looks to be heading toward a back up role in Providence with the baby B’s.

Some more mental notes…

Zane Gothberg:  Showed that he can handle the rubber being fired at him and stopped just about everything he was supposed to stop.  During the scrimmage section he did make some nice stops, but never really ventured away from the net.

Ben Sexton:  Showed some speed during both the skills and scrimmage.  Had some issues during the scrimmage but looked good on offense.  The thing with Sexton that I liked most was his ability to take direction and his willingness to ask for direction, as evidenced by his taking face off instruction from, I believe, Cunningham or Koko.

Jared Knight:  One of the most polished of the crew at camp this week.  He looked as though he was showboating a little, as was Spooner during the skating drills.  Jared is better at back-checking and defense and he is really good in the offensive zone, as to be expected.  His passing is spot on, and he has a good shot, but looks much better from in close.  He was also willing to get a little physical.

Craig Cunningham:  To me Craig didn’t do anything blatantly wrong, but he didn’t jump out at me either.  He has good speed, but had an issue finishing one timers in front of the net.  He did go into the corners and was willing to muck it up, which works for me when it comes to having a B’s mentality

Alexander Fallstrom:  Alex doesn’t seem to shy away from the physical contact, both taking and receiving it.  It appeared that he checked Camara into the stanchion (anyone say Max?) but it was later learned that Anthony put himself into the stanchion avoiding or trying to hit Fallstrom.  Anyway, Alex did appear to have some issues with the skate drills in the morning session but he showed good hustle and grit.

Brian Ferlin:  Brian showed some hustle and speed on Day 4 scrimmage.  Day 5 saw him repeat the effort.  Appeared to be having a good time on the ice, nothing glaring about his defense, would like to see more physical in his game.

Justin Florek:  He can score, and what a shot!  Fairly accurate as it hit the back of the net twice.  The line combo for both scrimmages had Florek and Ferlin centered by Spooner, and they clicked well together.  All three were vocal and knew who was supposed to be where.  He was physical behind the net and didn’t shy away from contact.

Only got a few in here, but keep an eye out for the rest of the Development Camp roster…

I’m hardly discounting the rest of the season, but with the draft combine here and now, I can’t go another day without posting something.

At forward for the Bruins only Recchi and Ryder are unsigned unrestricted free agents.  Brad Marchand is an RFA, and as this is his entry contract and he’s played just one full year the Bruins have all the leverage.

Top forward prospects, in no particular order include:

  • Max Suave who’s fast, has hands that will make any goal scoring aficionado drool, and a long injury history.  At 6’2 and 184 he’s a bit wiry. This is if not his last year to make the club certainly the year he needs to hit 30 goals or 65+ points in Providence and stay healthy.
  • Jordan Caron, in essence he only has to do two things at camp next year a: bring his A game, b: remain consistent. He made the team out of camp this year, got second line minute, and penalty kill time under our fairly conservative coach. Of all the top six potential forwards he’s the only one listed over 200lbs, by the Bruins.
  • Jamie Arniel, after a day at rookie camp and watching the second of the rookie games at the Boston Garden last fall, I predicted he’d be the first Providence Bruin called up and he proved me right. Remorseless work ethic, was the leading scorer in Providence last year topping the charts with 27 goals and 50 points. This is the final year of his entry contract. While most projections list him as bottom six forward in the NHL systems vary and Juliens could favor him if he brings full effort. 5’11 193.
  • Ryan Spooner, pure fun to watch. Amazing puck disher I heard comparisons to Marc Savard like passing at rookie camp and the rookie game. One ace he may have up his sleeve is faceoff performance, which goes well with a solid shot and great vision. He did spend the year in Juniors where he set a point per game pace for two different teams, and in the playoffs. Not exactly imposing, at 5 10 17o. Finished the year with the P-Bruins.
  • Jared Knight won three awards among them hardest working player on his team this year. He also lead his team in scoring. Having added enough mass to top 200lbs, his relentless drives for the goal scoring areas are likely to be harder to stop this year than last. If you haven’t seen the goal scoring highlight reel on Youtube, go look. Like Spooner he finished off his playing year in Providence collecting a pair of assists.

What the Bruins lack in general is the aggressive, physical power forward type that has been key to the success of the team in the bodies of Horton and Lucic this year.  Bergeron, Seguin, Krejci and Marchand are hugely talented but none of them tops two hundred lbs and adding a little more size to some of the teams speed could make them even better.

Defense is honestly the position I find the Bruins depth thinnest at. Kaberle and Hnidy are the expiring contracts, and I expect to see Kaberle resigned for at least a year or two unless he unexpectedly retires. Steve Kampfer is likely graduated to full time duty and then we get the true prospects.

  • Yury Alexandrov is a Russian prospect with a couple years experience in the KHL. He was second in scoring for defensemen on the lackluster Providence Bruins last season. Fairly small, but smooth skating. Spoke no English when arriving last year. Had a better +/- at -6 than the leading scorer for defensemen on the P-Bruins last year.  Hockey’s future lists him as a potential 5-6 man at the NHL level.
  • Ryan Button, freshly signed to his entry level deal he’s listed just above Alexandrov on Hockeysfuture.com, the is another smaller defensemen projected towards the middle or end of the depth chart. Well respected in various circles for work ethic. Played the final seven games of the Providence series.
  • Matt Bartkowski, was called up for six games, including the Montreal game in which Chara was ejected for the hit on Pacioretty where he saw over 13 minutes of ice time. In six games he was a -1, with no points. This probably doesn’t reflect on him. His latest callup was during a funk in Boston that saw losses to half the leagues bottom feeders. Was the last cut at training camp. Could be called a smaller Boycjuck.
  • David Worsofsky, college player very small, agile picked up 3 assists in 10 games with Providence last year. Unlikely to see the NHL this year. Almost purely an offensive defensemen. Pro-comparison would put him in a similar mold to Marc-Andre Bergeron.
  • Colby Cohen, picked up in exchange for Matt Hunwick he’s billed as an offensive defensemen with passable ability in his own zone, was one of the few players and the only defensemen to finish the season in Providence with a positive +/- at +5. Projects as another 4-6 guy. Played three games in an Avalanche uniform before being traded.

These are the best of the guys signed for next year. None of whom projects to the type of number two or number three defenseman who can run a powerplay and or lead the defense if Chara is injured, suspended or in the penalty box.

Goaltending, while Tim Thomas does impressive things in net on a regular basis, and Rask has had an admirable career so far, that is about all that can be said for the Bruins goaltending. Khudobin is a UFA and will likely get an NHL or KHL contract of some sort next year, Schaefer is not a viable choice, and Zane Gotheberg is going the college route so he’s unlikely to be seen for three or more years.

  • Michael Hutchinson played just 28 games in Providence this year, allowed five goals in four of those occasions one of which was a win, had one shut out. In Reading of the ECHL he had better numbers than in Providence. It’s hard to tell how much is the the problem of the first year pro, and how much was just an underwhelming Providence club.

That’s it, after Rask and Thomas there is one goalie signed for next season to fill two Providence slots, two Reading slots and cover for injuries at all three levels.

Draft Wishlist:

  1. Strong top three defenseman.
  2. Goaltending depth, even if these pieces are dealt later.
  3. Power forward.

 

With Savard likely out at least a month, and Sturm down checked until probably December, the race for roster spots has gotten even more interesting. I went to the second rookie game against the Islanders and was treated to more hustle and grit from some players than I had expected.

Jamie Arniel was relentless about chasing the puck in his own zone and turned in a very solid two way game. I’ve seen him play before and his speed is no surprise, but his tenacity and work ethic are reminicient of P.J. Axellson.

Ryan Spooner, if there’s any of the picks from this years draft who have just jumped on the ice determined to make every GM who passed him over look silly, it’s this guy. Fast, quick release, solid shot and did better than certain other centers in the faceoff circle tonight against Montreal.  He even picked up a point against the defense that shut down Semin and Green last spring.

Jordan “I’m a first round pick too” Caron had a hat trick in the first game against the Islanders rookies, and delivered three in the Bell Centre tonight. On a team starved for size (Bergeron at 194 lbs was their largest center last year.) his now two hundred plus pound frame might leverage out the slighter men. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a versatile player comfortable at both wing and center. Of note was his penalty kill time against Montreal. He was the only rookie forward to get any PK time, and was just behind Seguin in powerplay time for rookies.

Maxime Suave. It’s hard to believe this guy had a pin removed from his ankle just a few weeks back. His speed is top shelf, and like Arniel his two way play came as a pleasant surprise. This is of course in addition to his release which will remind Bruins fans of a young Glen Murray. Add in his passing ability and you’ve got a lethal combination. During the second rookie game he peeled around the back if the Islanders net, zoomed towards the blueline and made a tape to tape backhand saucer pass to a waiting Spooner who fed it into the goal mouth.

Joe Colborne despite the nose they feared was broken he’s somehow flown under the radar, despite having a solid camp. I suspect he’ll get more of a look this year than he might have if Savard were healthy. He’s packed on a lot of muscle since he was drafted, but still has yet to play an 82 game schedule and was we saw with Blake Wheeler, and other college players this can add some hiccups the already rough transition from other levels of hockey to the NHL.

Michael Hutchinson. While this is probably the least interesting position for the Bruins this year, I got to see this young goalie do some impressive things. He’s very sound positionally, and uses both glove and stick effectively.

Ryan Button. My level of whelm has climbed greatly since prospect camp. I’m not prepared to rewrite the Bruins top 7 depth chart to include him, but I don’t wince when I hear his name.

Matt Bartowski is another of the new boys with his aims set on a top six defense spot. I’m liking what I’m seeing so far, but with defensemen it is so hard to tell.

Yury Alexandrov. I liked his game a lot against the Islanders, his speed and positioning are more than just sound, and he clearly has a “game speed” that is a step or more above his “practice” and “scrimmage” levels. I wonder if he’s doing enough in practice to snatch a roster spot, but I don’t think it matter Julien is pretty conservative overall and he at least knows what he’s gonna get from the seven guys who played defense last year for the Bruins.

These guys will almost certainly be the last half dozen cut with one or two making the squad. Others with an outside shot include Jeremy Reich, Zach Hamill, Jared Knight, and Brad Marchand.