Ranking the Top 5 Under-the-Radar Prospects for the Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins prospect Anthony Camara received a profile promotion this past Tuesday courtesy of the NHLPA. An official press release listed Camara and Alexander Khokhlachev as two of the 33 invitees to the organization’s 2014 rookie showcase.
Camara and Khokhlachev are both coming off their first professional seasons in the AHL. Khokhlachev debuted with the big club on the final day of the regular season after leading Providence with 36 assists and 57 points.
Camara, whose campaign ended prematurely due to injury, posted less magnetic data with a 9-13-22 scoring log in 58 games. Even so, his invitation to the upcoming showcase validates the buzz he is bringing as a budding Bruin.
Consider what WEEI.com reporter DJ Bean wrote going into last season:
The guess here is that with some AHL seasoning, Camara could make a name for himself as a fourth-line type. His game is very simple -- speed and net drive, says Chiarelli -- so as long as he doesn’t put his team in costly situations, he could give the Bruins a pretty good return on their investment.
That is an attention-grabbing brand of Bruins prospect, all right.
With Camara staying the course as a blend of strength, sandpaper and scoring touch, which of Boston’s aspirants could still stand to garner more notice?
Virtually everybody who has already dressed with the Spoked-Bs has nailed down his pegs on the radar. So has goaltender Malcolm Subban, the franchise’s first-round draft pick from 2012 who had a sound AHL rookie campaign in 2013-14.
Attention-wise, it does not hurt the likes of Ryan Fitzgerald and Matt Grzelcyk to be incubating at Boston College and Boston University, respectively.
Beyond that, the best of the rest are ranked as follows.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via EliteProspects.com
5. Peter Cehlarik
Boston’s top picks from the last two drafts, Linus Arnesson and David Pastrnak, have both been grooming their game in their native Europe.
Even if they remain on that side of the pond for 2014-15, they will garner their share of scrutiny from North America. But Peter Cehlarik, a third-round choice from 2013, is worth monitoring as well.
The versatile Slovak striker, who can patrol either wing, saw substantial action at the top level of Sweden’s professional ranks in 2013-14. He tallied 13 points in 18 appearances in the Allsvenskan circuit and then dressed for 32 games in the SHL.
As his Hockey’s Future profile sums up his potential, “Cehlarik is a big-bodied winger with a high offensive pedigree and a goal-scoring release. He could develop into a top-six forward down the line.”
Granted, the same scouting report adds that “He is still years away from the NHL.” But how much he progresses in the Swedish pro and international ranks could influence Boston’s incentive to test him in the North American minors sooner rather than later.
For what it’s worth, Cehlarik’s five points in three games with the Slovak junior team has already matched his eight-game output from last season. Come December, he will be a natural candidate to return to the World Junior Championships, where he tallied three assists in five outings last winter.
4. Jared Knight
Besides the second overall pick in 2010 (Tyler Seguin) and the ninth pick in 2011 (Dougie Hamilton), the Bruins obtained the No. 32 selection for the 2010 draft. They used it to nab the rights to then-OHL forward Jared Knight.
Knight has since tripped over a few speed bumps on his incomplete trek to The Show. An early season injury marred his first professional campaign with Providence in 2012-13, confining him to 10 appearances.
Upon revamping his training regimen, Knight took at least a few strides back in the right direction. He took 58 regular-season twirls as a sophomore and pitched in 19 points for the P-Bruins.
Granted, that is still a shell of the point-per-game pace he established in his last three years at the major-junior level. But at the unripe age of 22, he can make a charm out of the third and final year of his entry-level contract.
The Bruins organization—and therefore its followers—have two reasons to watch and see if the real Knight breaks out in 2014-15.
For one, if Khokhlachev and Ryan Spooner are to graduate to Boston, then Providence will be leaning on other talented holdovers to plug the voids on the strike force. For another, there is the shortage of quality right-handed shooters in the pipeline, which a renascent Knight could help to remedy.
When he spoke to CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty last month, P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy cited the latter circumstance as a reason why Seth Griffith could see action with the parent club this winter. But if Knight comes back on the other side of another progressive summer, he should be in the same mix.
3. Rob O’Gara
Towering 6’4” blueliner Rob O’Gara is at the midway point of his collegiate career at Yale University.
The surface of his transcript alone speaks to strides through his first two years in New Haven. He went from a 0-7-7 scoring log and a minus-five as a freshman to a 4-7-11 output and plus-14 rating as a sophomore.
All things considered, there should be another two years left for O’Gara to refine his day job and maybe hone more of a point-based scoring touch. Amid the Bruins’ development camp earlier this summer, assistant general manager Don Sweeney offered the following to the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver:
If you’ve watched him play over the course of his two seasons at Yale and realize how much he plays and the situations he plays in…I think you quickly understand that he has a lot of good tools…This isn’t a sprint. The finished product is still well down the road, but he’s made a lot of good strides and we feel really good about where he is and, more importantly, where he’s going to go to.
The aforementioned Arnesson is likely closer to AHL, let alone NHL action. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Grzelcyk and Matt Benning both rank higher in the eyes of The Hockey News. They are also bound to draw more casual attention by playing at BU and Northeastern, both Hockey East and Beanpot institutions.
But southwest of the state border, a potential depth defenseman with ideal instincts is growing in the Ivy.
2. Zane Gothberg
The aforementioned Subban and Niklas Svedberg lend no shortage of quality to Boston’s goaltending pipeline.
After they split the crease time with Providence in 2013-14, the consensus is that they will each move up one rung. That is, Svedberg backs up Tuukka Rask in Boston while Subban surfaces as the organization’s clear-cut AHL starter in 2014-15.
But what happens in another year or two, if and when one of those stoppers goes elsewhere to find thicker ice?
Zane Gothberg, a rising junior at the University of North Dakota, could be the answer to that. He was seventh among NCAA netminders with a 1.99 goals-against average in 2013-14 and has retained a save percentage of .920 or better in both years.
Last month, Evan Sporer of Boston.com described Gothberg’s second-year surge as follows: “With UND’s incumbent starter Clarke Saunders now playing the role of backup, Gothberg ran away with the starting role, using his blend of lateral speed and grounded positioning to make life difficult for shooters.”
Sporer added that “While Gothberg is certainly capable of making the dramatic save, it’s more impressive that he rarely puts himself in that spot by staying square to shooters.”
Provided those propensities translate to similarly sparkling results in 2014-15, there is a chance Gothberg may soon have nothing left to prove in the college ranks. By that point, he should be shuffling out east and into the view of more Bruins buffs.
But whether the project begins in 2015-16, 2016-17 or with a late-season amateur tryout beforehand, Providence will have a sound specimen of potential to knead in its blue paint.
1. Joe Morrow
Assuming restricted free agent Torey Krug re-signs, the Bruins could have 10 established professional defensemen with at least one game of NHL experience under contract.
That congestion leaves little wonder why Joe Morrow will not readily enter the conversation among potential Boston players in 2014-15. David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman each debuted last season, and recent acquisition Christopher Breen is higher on Boston’s THN depth chart.
Even so, Morrow has been paying his dues with three different organizations through two AHL seasons. One of the pieces in last summer’s blockbuster deal with Dallas, he was an instant mainstay on the Providence blue line.
That is at least when he was healthy. A knee injury forced him to miss 20 games in February and March.
But not long after returning, Morrow demonstrated some convincing consistency to close out the regular season. He sculpted a plus-five rating over eight outings through the month of April without a single “minus” game.
As Mick Colageo of SouthCoastToday.com observed in an April 12 write-up, “In David Warsofsky’s absence (hand), Morrow has to be the most ambitious defenseman. On Friday, he flung several lengthy transition passes, some of those diagonal but all of them on the money.”
To punctuate that all-around evolution, the gritty Morrow posted seven points and a plus-seven rating in 10 playoff tilts for the P-Bruins.
Restoring, let alone building on one’s old form so soon after a prolonged ailment is one way to amplify an impression. It is quite another to compensate for the absence of a key teammate at the same time.
Leaving off on 2013-14 in that fashion, Morrow should be raring to wrest more widespread attention from New England puckheads as early as this autumn.