August 6, 2012

Bruins 2012-13 preseason prospect rankings: 20-11

By Kirk Luedeke

The countdown to No. 1 in the Boston Bruins organizational rankings continues with the next tier of prospects in what is a prolific stable of players. 

Max Sauve's inability to avoid injuries cost him a top-10 ranking. (Getty Images)

Although the quality of Boston’s depth in terms of high-end talent is still up for debate, the B’s have a lot of young players looking for NHL jobs, but not a lot of open spots on the big club.

There are a few players here who are sure to raise eyebrows for their presence outside of the top-10 such as Max Sauve, but it is a subjective call based more on his injury history than a lack of hockey ability. In Sauve’s case, the old adage of: if you don’t play, you won’t stay applies to him. He’s in the final year of his ELC and will need to stay healthy to bounce back and have a legitimate chance of earning a longer-term spot with the B’s.

With Mike Hutchinson sitting at 13, it takes the guesswork out of the fact that the B’s have two goalies much further away in their development sitting inside the top-10 in Malcolm Subban and Zane Gothberg. For them, the tipping point is the sheer athletic ability and upside (Subban) and consistency factor (Gothberg) even if Hutchinson is more proven at the professional level than either younger player.  You can make an effective case to have Hutchinson inside the top-10 and ranked ahead of one or even perhaps both, but to have him just outside that pecking order is about right—until he can establish himself more as a starter at least at the AHL level and parlay that opportunity into production.

Hutchinson and Svedberg would appear on paper to have an edge over Gothberg at the very least and perhaps even Subban, but that’s the beauty of ranking prospects: there will always be differences of opinion involved in a subjective ranking system like this one.

So with the administrative notes out of the way, here’s a look at the second third of Boston’s top-30 prospects in the organization. The third and final installment of the B’s top-10 prospects as New England Hockey Journal sees it will be published by mid-week.

20. Anthony Camara, LW—Boston’s third-round pick in 2011 (acquired from Phoenix for Derek Morris) established career-highs in all offensive categories last season, but is known more for his hitting and nasty disposition than anything else. Like Grzelcyk, you can make the case that Camara was a reach where the B’s drafted him, but the B’s liked enough of what they saw from the Mississauga native to take him inside the top-90. Camara skates well and has good hands to finish off chances in close, but appears to lack the vision and hockey sense to be a point-getter at the next level. He does relish physical contact and is a willing fighter, even if his size prevents him from winning a lot of his bouts. Barring a major leap in his development, Camara looks like a meat-and-potatoes bottom-six winger at the highest level who will need substantial time in the minors before he’s ready to compete for full-time NHL duty.

19. Matt Grzelcyk, D (Charlestown, Mass.)—A four years younger carbon copy of David Warsofsky, Grzelcyk will even sport the same No. 5 at BU when he matriculates there in the fall. Pronounced ‘Grizz-lick’, the smallish but speedy blue liner is currently making a case for a spot on the 2013 U.S. World Jr. Championship Team in Ufa, Russia after winning gold last spring with the Under-18 squad.  The Townie was a star blueliner at Belmont Hill before going to the U.S. National Team for two years and should make an immediate impact with the Terriers this fall. A superb skater and puckhandler, he needs to add velocity to his shot, but is getting there. At 5-foot-9, he’ll be susceptible to getting overpowered down low and along the boards, so he’ll have to compensate by using his superior hockey sense and positioning.  “Grizzy” brings the kind of heart and passion that would make him a natural fan favorite even if he didn’t grow up just down the street from the TD Garden. The good news for Grzelcyk is that he'll have plenty of time to develop under Jack Parker (Somerville, Mass.) and the B's won't be in any hurry to bring him up to the pro ranks.

18. Kevan Miller, D—One of Providence’s unsung heroes in a third-straight non-playoff finish by the team, Miller is an older player (he turns 25 in Nov.) after captaining the University of Vermont Catamounts a few years back. The late-blooming Californian is not spectacular, but brings smarts, positional savvy and toughness to the equation. He had a blistering fight in one of Boston’s prospect games against the Islanders a year ago and is not afraid to get his nose dirty. Like Aaron Miller, another former UVM defenseman with the same last name (no relation) who became a pro amidst low expectations, the B’s prospect could develop into a solid bottom-pairing kind of guy who can do everything that is asked of him. Kevan Miller skates well and is a pretty good player for one who was never drafted. Whether he has enough ability to crack a logjam on defense in Boston to make his mark with this organization is the biggest question and remains to be seen.

17. Rob O’Gara, D—If players like Dougie Hamilton and Zach Trotman are big, skilled guys vying for limited spots on the Boston blue line in the short term, the former Milton Academy captain and Yale-bound O’Gara is taking the long road. After impressing for the second consecutive B’s development camp after being drafted at the end of the fifth round in 2011, O’Gara’s size (6-foot-3), footwork and an underrated offensive game could mark him as a real diamond-in-the-rough pick.  Long Island native is a smart defensive player who isn’t overly physical, but has an active stick and angles about as well as any player his age. If he adds more aggressiveness as he fills out his live athletic frame more, he could round out as a middle-pairing d-man in the NHL one day. 

David Warsofsky had a strong season with 29 points in 66 games for Providence. (Getty Images)

16. David Warsofsky, D (Marshfield, Mass.)-- Providence’s top-scoring rearguard is one more in a pretty long line of players at the position who stand under 6-foot. As a former standout player at Boston University, the pugnacious offensive-minded d-man not only won a national championship as a freshman, but also grabbed gold at the 2010 World Jr. Championship eight months later. The former fourth-round pick by the Blues in 2008 was a star prep player before joining the U.S. NTDP and has very good speed and hockey skills. He’ll need to use every bit of his talent and mobility in order to crack the B’s as a regular because there aren’t many jobs open.  At just 22 years of age, spending another full year in Providence is not a bad thing for him, and as long as he keeps working hard on the farm, will get a chance to show what he can do at the NHL level if injuries take a toll. The issue that NHL scouts have raised with Warsofsky and his long-term outlook is that he’s a bit of a ‘tweener: not skilled/dynamic enough to offset the lack of size and be a roster regular. He may have to make his mark first as a specialist with limited minutes and be patient enough to earn his ice time gradually.

15.  Niklas Svedberg, G-- The Bruins’ answer to shoring up strength at the position when Tim Thomas approached Peter Chiarelli about sitting out next season, Svedberg is coming off an amazing playoff run in Sweden. In leading Brynas to the Elite League championship, Svedberg’s stock is on the rise, but his sample size is still pretty small at this stage as a late-bloomer. He impressed observers at Boston’s development camp with his quick pads and lateral movement, but is still a work in progress. With solid size and athletic ability in his favor, he’ll probably need some adjustment time on the smaller ice surface in the AHL, but he and Mike Hutchinson should be a highly capable 1-2 punch in Providence.

14. Seth Griffith, RW—Boston’s best value pick in the 2012 NHL draft in our view (fifth round) will have advocates who say he should be higher than 14th in his Boston prospect list debut, but his lack of size and speed calls for a more conservative outlook right now. Griffith is a great athlete with high-end hockey smarts who also starred in lacrosse, so he could end up being a very good player with a nice scoring upside. However, he was passed over completely in the 2011 NHL draft and fell past pick 130 this time around. He’s poised for a big breakout in his third and final OHL campaign with London, but there are questions about whether he can eventually be a top-six forward in the NHL even with the impressive production. If he can elevate his scoring numbers even more in 2013, watch for him to crack the top-10 on the organizational depth chart.

13.  Mike Hutchinson, G—At 13, the former third-round pick is underrated and is pushing for a spot inside the top-10. The knock on the 6-foot-3 netminder has always been his consistency. When on his game, “Hutch” flashes solid NHL starting potential, but he’s had trouble stringing together strong starts going back to his OHL days with Barrie and London. One of the newer generation goalies who is extremely calm and relaxed off the ice while showing strong competitive drive on it, Hutchinson looks like a prototype and if the B’s run into injury problems at the position, could be the first to get the call. At the same time, the team was not ready to give him his NHL shot last spring, signing Marty Turco when Tuukka Rask went down and Anton Khudobin was also injured in lieu of giving the second-year pro a start in the big show.  The biggest factor in Hutchinson’s favor is that he overcame a rocky start last season in the AHL to finish with a .927 save percentage and excellent 2.36 GAA in 29 total appearances.

Carter Camper led the P-Bruins in scoring during his first season as a pro in 2011-12. (Getty Images)

12. Carter Camper, C—The undrafted free agent signed out of Miami University in spring 2011 made his NHL debut last season and scored a goal in limited action. Although he led Providence in scoring as a rookie, he did so with a paltry 48 points, which is more of an indictment of that AHL club’s punchless team offense than a critique of Camper’s ability. Undersized and lacking in blazing speed, the former Hobey Baker finalist makes up for that with tremendous vision and a natural feel for the game. He knows where to be on the ice and has a soft touch on the puck for exploiting seams in defenses.  A versatile, hard-working player, Camper will always have to fight for respect because he is small and undrafted, but he went out and did in just three NHL games what eighth overall pick Zach Hamill could not in 20 career games with the B’s: find the back of the net. A productive player at every single level, watch for Camper to raise his production in Providence this season while giving Boston an option up front if injuries cut into the big club’s depth. 

11. Max Sauve, LW—On talent alone, Sauve is clearly a top-10 player in Boston’s system and pushing closer to five or six, but he drops just out of the top-10 this time because of concerns about his durability.  On the plus side, the 2008 second-rounder has nice height at 6-foot-2, speed and underrated offensive instincts. His quick hands and aggressive, attacking style translate into solid production at the AHL level. Unfortunately, Sauve simply has not been able to stay healthy for three consecutive seasons and has a troubling trend of lower- and upper-body injuries that have all kept him out of action for large chunks of games in each of the past three years.  Even with his skill and natural gifts, Sauve is still skinny and lacking in functional strength entering his third full pro season. This is a critical time for him: he’ll need to not only have an outstanding camp, but needs to stay off the IR in order to have a realistic chance of being an impact player for Boston.

Outside the top-30 post script:

Matt Benning, D—Overlooked in the first article of the series, Boston’s sixth-round pick in the June draft will skate for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. Despite only having average height, Benning has a solid frame and hits like a truck coming out of the AJHL with Spruce Grove. The son of former NHL d-man Brian Benning is Boston assistant GM Jim Benning’s nephew. There isn’t a lot of flash with the rugged defender, but the Bruins obviously like his bloodlines and toughness. He’s on the long-term program, but once we get a college commitment and can get some better looks at him in the USHL this season, we’ll have a better idea of where he slots in against his peers in the organization.

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kluedeke29.