January 18, 2014

Boston Bruins top 10 prospects

With the 2013-14 season at its halfway point and the new calendar year underway, NEHJ’s Kirk Luedeke offers his annual look at the top players in the Bruins’ pipeline:

10. Linus Arnesson, D

2012-13 NEHJ rank: NR Shoots: Left

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 190

Born: Sept. 21, 1994 in Stockholm, Sweden (19)

Acquired: Boston’s first choice, 60th overall in 2013 NHL Entry Draft

Signing status: Unsigned

Strengths: The savvy Swede’s size, skating ability and a solid work ethic made him a priority target for Boston in last June’s draft. He makes a strong first pass, demonstrates fine gap control, and is a quiet, mature young man soaking up all he can at the pro level.

Weaknesses: He does not look like much of a point producer at the highest level (still looking for his first goal in 60-plus pro games) and projects more as a lower-end, two-way role player than a dual threat and power-play specialist from the blue line.

Projection: Still looking for his first pro goal in the Allsvenskan or second division, Arnesson has the look and feel of a solid middle-pairing, defense-first D-man. “I saw Linus (in October ) and he showed a lot of poise and confidence at the pro level in Sweden. He’s the kind of defenseman who uses his mobility to disrupt opponents’ timing and break up plays.” — Sweeney

9. Jared Knight, RW

2012-13 NEHJ rank: 5 Shoots: Right

Height: 5-foot-11 Weight: 195

Born: Jan. 16, 1992, in Battle Creek, Mich. (21)

Acquired: Boston’s second choice, 32nd overall in 2010 NHL Entry Draft

Signing status: Entry-level contract; signed through 2015

Strengths: Hard-driving, passionate winger isn’t flashy but plays an honest north-south game. Protects the puck and makes good decisions at both ends of the ice. When given the chance to skate on the power play, finds open space and produces.

Weaknesses: Appears to be short on high-end scoring upside that will translate into a top-six role going forward.

Projection: Ceiling is a top-nine winger and special teams contributor with some jam. Knight’s summer work put him in the best physical shape of his young career, but he had a tougher time carving out a niche for himself early on. Although talented, he is at a crossroads in the Bruins organization, where he is faced with living up to the expectations that came with being an early second-round selection, and getting the ice time to thrive and grow in the AHL.

8. Brian Ferlin, RW

2012-13 NEHJ rank: 17 Shoots: Right

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 215

Born: June 3, 1992, in Jacksonville, Fla. (21)

Acquired: Boston’s fourth choice, 121st overall, in 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Signing status: Unsigned

Strengths: The power forward has added strength and mass to his frame since being drafted and is off to the best offensive start of his career at Cornell. Has surprising explosive burst and is at his best when he lowers his shoulder and drives to the net with the puck on his stick.

Weaknesses: Does honest work along the boards and establishes position in slot, but won’t ever be much for banging bodies.

Projection: An ideal third-line forward who could work his way higher up the depth chart with his natural penchant for scoring. Although he doesn’t have Milan Lucic’s instinctive snarl, Ferlin has the kind of nose for the net that makes him a valued asset. “We’re happy, we’re excited … we like where (Ferlin) is right now in terms of his physical tools: excellent size, strength, shot. He continues to make positive strides in his development and playing the kind of game that suits him.” — Sweeney

7. Zach Trotman, D

2012-13 NEHJ rank: 11 Shoots: Right

Height: 6-foot-4 Weight: 215

Born: Aug. 26, 1990, in Carmel, Ind. (23)

Acquired: Boston’s eighth choice, 210th overall in 2010 NHL Entry Draft

Signing status: Entry-level contract; signed through 2015

Strengths: Size, strength, mobility and underrated passing touch round out this promising rearguard’s total package. The native Hoosier and former Lake Superior State standout has an absolute bomb of a shot.

Weaknesses: Head hits and broken bones have forced him to miss time on the IR in each of the past two AHL seasons.

Projection: With his shot and sense, Trotman is an intriguing prospect with the potential to be more than just a defensive stalwart. “We’re excited about Zach because he is a combination of physical, shutdown defense along the lines of a Johnny Boychuk, who is physically strong and can lean on people with a lot of force. He also moves well and has that potential to be involved offensively and on the power play. Being more consistent with his decision making is what we talk about with him, and he’s had some tough luck with injuries.” — Sweeney

6. Niklas Svedberg, G

2012-13 NEHJ Rank: 7 Catches: Left

Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 180

Born: Sept. 4, 1989, in Sollentuna, Sweden (24)

Acquired: Signed as free agent May 2012

Signing status: Signed through 2014

Strengths: Tall and lean with fluid agility inside his crease; tough to beat with the first shot because of his positioning and quickness. Makes key saves with the game on the line.

Weaknesses: Technique still a work in progress; gets scrambly and loses economy of motion when shot volume picks up. Kicks rebounds into danger areas in front of the net.

Projection: Had a sensational 2012-13 campaign in which he won the AHL’s top goaltender honors, but was mediocre in the playoffs. He’s coming off a strong training camp and has the tools along with the head to improve on his early numbers. “I think he got discouraged to a degree (after going back to Providence), but that didn’t stop him from working. He’s an ultra-competitive goalie who wants to be in the tough situations. The important thing is that the wins are there even if the save percentage and GAA is down from a season ago. He knows that and is committed to getting better.” — Sweeney

5. Alexander Khokhlachev, C

2012-13 NEHJ rank: 4 Shoots: Left

Height: 5-foot-10 Weight: 180

Born: Sept. 9, 1993, in Moscow, Russia (20)

Acquired: Boston’s second choice, 40th overall in 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Signing status: Entry-level contract; signed through 2016

Strengths: Impressive hockey skills: stickhandling, creativity/instincts and shot all well above average.

Weaknesses: More quick than fast, he does not possess the blazing speed to separate, but compensates with high hockey IQ.

Projection: Top-six NHL scoring forward with 30-plus goal upside who can play center or wing. “Koko” is a fan favorite for his highlight reel-caliber skills, but he has yet to consistently demonstrate the work ethic and tenacity that the Bruins value. He’s not talented enough to earn a Boston job on talent alone, but is steadily improving. “You don’t want to stifle creativity because it’s very difficult to teach the skill sets players like Koko have. You can work on where to position yourself to be more effective defensively, but when it comes to the kind of style he and guys like Spooner can play naturally, it’s certainly something we value and want to encourage.” — Sweeney

4. Matt Fraser, LW

2012-13 NEHJ rank: NR Shoots: Left

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 205

Born: May 20, 1990, in Red Deer, Alta. (23)

Acquired: Via trade with Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow for Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button on July 4, 2013

Signing status: Signed through 2014

Strengths: With the puck on his stick below the faceoff circles, there aren’t many players in the AHL better than Fraser. A sublime release, accurate drive and soft hands for receiving passes make him a threat to find the back of the net on every shift when his line has possession in the offensive zone.

Weaknesses: Heavy feet and a lack of top-end speed are what primarily have prevented him from grabbing a regular NHL roster spot.

Projection: If Fraser can carve a niche for himself inside a team’s top nine and stick, he has eventual 25- to 30-goal potential, but he still has to prove he can score with significantly less time and space to work with in the NHL. “In terms of shooting-passing, I would say (Fraser is a) 95 to 5 on the side of taking the shot; he’s a pure shooter who is looking to get the puck on net whenever he’s in the right spot. He’s got unreal hands and is the best shooter I’ve ever played with.” — Ryan Spooner

3. Joe Morrow, D

2012-13 NEHJ rank: NR Shoots: Left

Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 207

Born: Dec. 9, 1992 in Sherwood Park, Alta. (21)

Acquired: Via trade with Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser for Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button on July 4, 2013

Signing status: Signed through 2015

Strengths: With his mobility, vision and puck-moving skills/shot, the former Portland Winterhawks star has all of the physical tools to be an impact player at the highest level. Weaknesses: The Edmonton native is a bit too laid back at times and is prone to making mental errors in his own end. His shortcomings are nothing that added experience can’t address.

Projection: Morrow has the talent and potential to be a top-three NHL defenseman and power-play specialist if he continues his upward developmental path. The Bruins are deep at the defense position, so expect him to remain in Providence for now, where he can continue to log big minutes and play in all situations. “His offensive abilities — the skating, the passing, the way he shoots — it all comes naturally to him. How he plays defensively and systematically in our organization and becomes a better fit for the teams he’s on is something we’ve talked to him about.” — Sweeney

2. Malcolm Subban, G

2012-13 NEHJ rank: 3 Catches: Left

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 201

Born: Dec. 21, 1993, in Rexdale, Ont. (20)

Acquired: Boston’s first choice, 24th overall in 2012 NHL Entry Draft

Signing status: Entry-level contract; signed through 2016

Strengths: Superb quickness/reflexes; reads, reacts and recovers quickly. Able to make subsequent saves because he gets across the crease with speed and agility. One of the best shootout/breakaway goalies at any level; posted a perfect SO record in his final year of junior.

Weaknesses: Plays deep in his net, which leaves little margin for error when skilled shooters pick the corners. Needs to improve rebound control and avoid kicking pucks out into danger areas in front of his net.

Projection: Subban has the talent to be an accomplished No. 1 in the NHL one day, but with Tuukka Rask the long-term Boston starter, he and the team will have to be patient and play the long game. Watch for him to spend a minimum of three seasons in the AHL assuming he remains Bruins property and spend considerable time as a backup after that. “The (goaltender) position requires a blend of skills and athletic ability, and I think Malcolm still needs to work to find the balance between his extraordinary athleticism and the various demands and challenges that he faces.” — Sweeney

1. Ryan Spooner, C

2012-13 NEHJ rank: 2 Shoots: Left

Height: 5-foot-11 Weight: 190

Born: Jan. 30, 1992, in Kanata, Ont. (21)

Acquired: Boston’s third choice, 45th overall in 2010 NHL Entry Draft

Signing status: Entry-level contract; signed through 2015.

Strengths: Possesses high-end speed, hands and offensive hockey IQ. Spooner is a dangerous playmaker, excelling along the half-wall where he uses his superior vision and deft passing touch to great effect. Worked hard over summer to add the right kind of weight and led Providence in scoring at the quarter mark.

Weaknesses: Defense will never be a strong suit, but needs to focus on bringing consistent effort to each shift. Will need to improve his faceoff skills going forward.

Projection: Ceiling is a second-line NHL center and power-play threat. Spooner is receiving his first extended NHL look with the Bruins, as no other B’s prospect has his combination of speed, scoring and sense. “If you want to be part of what we call a ‘winning culture,’ then you have to be willing to adapt and put in a lot of work to do those things we expect. Ryan has had to focus on other things beyond his obvious speed and skill level, but his willingness to address the different elements of our system speaks to his maturity and desire to contribute.” — Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney

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