August 3, 2012

Bruins 2012-13 preseason prospect rankings: 30-21

By Kirk Luedeke

With the 2012 NHL Entry Draft now more than a month in the books, the latest iteration of development camp complete and most of the signings done, it’s time to re-rank the Boston Bruins prospects for the 2012-13 campaign.

The New England Hockey Journal prospect rankings are based on live and video viewings and the observations of scouts and hockey operations people inside and outside the Bruins organization. One of the challenges in developing a comprehensive list is taking into account the different stages each player is in his development and balancing the all-important upside and ceiling for each with how close another player might be to making the Boston roster or at least seeing action via call up. As such, there will be variance in terms of how certain players are ranked, especially after the top-10, when there is little difference between the players starting at about 12 and going down to about 25.

This organizational depth chart will be reevaluated in December for the January issue of New England Hockey Journal, when the annual B’s prospect rankings (mid-season) are published.

Until then, here is part one of a three-part series that will count down the top Boston prospects. Even if the player who sits at No. 1 may not be much of a surprise to the loyal readers and fans, there are sure to be a few along the way.

Matt Bartkowski has appeared in nine NHL games. (Getty Images)

30. Colby Cohen, D—This talented defender has the tools to be a successful NHL role player, but has yet to put it together. His overtime goal in 2009 won a national championship for Boston University, but the Pennsylvanian has struggled to find his offensive mojo in the pro ranks since being acquired in late 2010 for Matt Hunwick. Team sources have questioned Cohen’s natural instincts and work ethic, so it will be up to him to fight his way into a very crowded positional battle in Boston and Providence.

29. Alexander Fallstrom, RW—The rising Harvard senior did not attend development camp in late June because of injury, but is primed for a solid final year with the Crimson after breaking out as a junior. The Swedish native and Shattuck St. Mary’s product is a rugged, checking forward who doesn’t bring any real standout tools to the mix. He has good size and smarts, but will need a productive year in the ECAC to get a contract and opportunity in Boston’s system. Fallstrom, along with a second-round selection (Alexander Khokhlachev) were acquired by Boston from Minnesota for Chuck Kobasew way back in October, 2009.

28. Ryan Button, D—At one time, Button looked like he might project as a No. 3 NHL defender with two-way upside, but at this point, he’ll be challenged to crack the league as a regular. After turning pro at the end of 2011 out of the WHL, Button bounced back and forth between the AHL and ECHL. He’s a swift skater who has the ability to advance the puck effectively, but has taken a conservative, sometimes even tentative approach with his overall game.  The Edmonton native is a project who will have his hands full in even making the Providence roster out of camp given the current depth on defense.

27. Tyler Randell, RW—After being picked in the sixth-round of the 2009 draft, the underachieving Randell went to work in becoming one of the toughest, nastiest wingers in the OHL. After beginning 2011-12 in the AHL (30 games, two goals), the B’s returned him to the Kitchener Rangers for his overage season. Coming off a lengthy suspension, Randell tallied a Texas hat trick (4 goals) in his first contest and finished the postseason with seven goals in six games. Although heavy-footed, he has a quick release on a heavy shot, and uses his size effectively to create space for himself and linemates. He’ll be better prepared to take on the enforcer role in Providence this time around. If more seasoned Bruins fans are looking for a similar player, Randell reminds of a young Lyndon Byers.

26. Matt Bartkowski, D—The other player acquired in the 2010 trade deadline deal that brought Dennis Seidenberg to Boston from Florida, the Ohio State University standout is at a crossroads this season. After impressing in his very first pro training camp and nearly making the opening night roster, the shutdown defender has not gone far in his development since. Although mobile and steady in his own end, there isn’t much in the way of offensive upside for the Pittsburgh native. With Adam McQuaid holding down a spot in the rotation but only now coming off a concussion suffered late last season, Bartkowski may get another chance, but his previous stints in Boston have been uneven at best.

25. Adam Morrison, G—The former third-round pick by Philadelphia in 2009 was not signed a year ago and became a free agent pickup by the Bruins in March after posting solid numbers with Vancouver in the WHL. One NHL scout familiar with him drew similarities in his size and style to current Boston prospect Mike Hutchinson. A big (6-3, 200) butterfly-type goalie, Morrison has a lot to prove but is clearly a project player for the B’s. Because he only started in the WHL for one season, Morrison is still relatively raw and will likely benefit from an opportunity for increased playing time with the South Carolina Stingrays, Boston’s new ECHL affiliate.

24. Justin Florek, LW--  The former Northern Michigan University captain had a Cinderella pro debut, scoring two goals and four points in his first game with Providence after finishing his senior season last spring. A power winger with a bomb of a shot, Florek doesn’t have high-end upside, but is a smart and industrious winger. If he can improve his foot speed, the U.S. NTDP product has legitimate potential as a grinding, bottom-six forward who will chip in some offense. Florek is more skilled than MacDermid, but doesn’t have the pure snarl or toughness of his OHL-produced counterpart. 

Tommy Cross won his second national championship as a senior at BC in 2012. (Getty Images)

 23. Lane MacDermid, LW—After making his NHL debut last season and fighting Mike Rupp to get his first major penalty in the books, this effective middleweight will look to earn more playing time in Boston. With NHL bloodlines and a strong work ethic, MacDermid’s average skill level means he isn’t going to be a scoring forward in the show, but he does have potential to be a player similar to Shawn Thornton.  If the ranking looks a little low, it’s simply based on the lack of a high ceiling. Gritty glue guys like MacDermid can usually carve a niche somewhere, but given Boston’s surplus of similar players, he might need to establish himself elsewhere.

22. Craig Cunningham, LW-- The smallish but versatile forward was drafted as an overager two years ago and just finished his first full pro season. After starting the year buried on the bottom line and seeing time as a healthy scratch, the scrappy B.C. native came on like gang busters in the second half, finishing as Providence’s top goal scorer with 20 markers.  His strong defensive play could mean he’ll get his first NHL chance in Boston sooner than others ranked ahead of him, but his long-term upside is still a question mark.

21. Tommy Cross, D (Simsbury, Conn.)—The last hope (Chris Bourque aside) of salvaging the disastrous 2007 draft for Boston is a solid, but unspectacular player. The Westminster star spent four years at BC, winning a pair of national titles and captaining the team to great heights after overcoming multiple surgeries in his first few years on Chestnut Hill. Turning 23 before the season starts, Cross is still young enough to develop into a solid NHL role player, but the potential that saw Peter Chiarelli and staff move up to take him 35th overall in the second round five years ago despite a knee injury suffered playing baseball before the draft is probably not there. Character matters and Cross has it in spades, but the fragility of his right knee and/or average hockey sense may see him top out as little more than a bottom-pairing NHL defender if he reaches that level.

The rest:

Lars Volden, G— Although talented and intriguing in his own right, the Norwegian’s lack of playing time and overall uneven showing has him outside of the top-30 for now. Trying his hand in Sweden next season, he could boost his stock with a strong performance. For now, it’s more about a lack of experience and exposure than any major flaws in his game.

Cody Payne, RW—The second of two fifth-round picks in June (Seth Griffith) has been buried on talented teams in Oshawa and Plymouth of the OHL, but brings rugged power forward potential. A tough kid who can hit and fight, the Bruins pointed to flashes of Payne being something more in late December/early January when several Whalers teammates were in the World Jr. Championship and he stepped up effectively into a top-six role during their absence. Payne is more of an unknown commodity than anything else after getting only a few shifts in games for much of the season, but if the untapped upside the B’s saw proves to be legitimate, watch for Payne to rise up the depth chart.

Colton Hargrove, RW—The Texan is a tough, rugged power winger out of the USHL and will play for Western Michigan University in the fall. Although he’s still pretty raw and his skating needs work, he’s a big hitter who plays a strong game along the walls and in front of the net. Decent hands and a heavy  shot mean he’ll get some scoring chances in close, but his real chance to earn an NHL spot will be with the physicality and fighting ability.

Ben Sexton, C-- With 29 points in 27 games as a sophomore at Clarkson, Sexton is knocking on the door and on the verge of elevating his standing. His presence outside the top-30 is more reflective in his being a jack-of-all-trades player. He didn’t look like a great pick back in 2009 even for the seventh round, but to young Sexton’s credit, he’s progressing and has a chance to be a solid two-way forward in the minor leagues at the very least.

Nic Tremblay, C—After tying for the lead in scoring at Clarkson and finishing up his NCAA career, the blazer and former CJHL star went 1-1-2 with Providence in four games. A long shot to make the NHL as a regular, with his pure speed and versatility, Tremblay could be a serviceable minor leaguer.

Mark Goggin, C—Missed the 2010-11 season and got into just 14 games at Dartmouth (3-3-6) last season. After impressing onlookers at his first development camp in 2008, this prospect is essentially on life support and would need a huge senior year to even be in the mix at contract time.

Graduated or not ranked due to age

Jordan Caron, RW

Anton Khudobin, D

Chris Bourque, C/W (Topsfield, Mass.)

Jamie Tardif, RW

Christian Hanson, C

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