July 14, 2011

2011 Boston Bruins Development Camp roundup- the forwards (1 of 2)

By Kirk Luedeke

With the fifth annual Boston Bruins prospects development camp in the books and the players back home where most of them (minus the NCAA players) will continue to prepare for main camp in September, it’s time to review some of the observations of individual performances in Wilmington.  (photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

We’ll break the analysis up into a pair of posts, beginning with the forwards and finishing with the goalies and defensemen.

Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight (pictured right) led the way among the Boston prospects given their experiences from a year ago, but several of the newcomers impressed as well. Alexander Khokhlachev validated his selection in the early portion of the second round, while Brian Ferlin showed why the B’s grabbed the overager in the fourth (marking the third consecutive season the team has taken a previously passed-over prospect in that round: Lane MacDermid- ’09, Craig Cunningham- ’10).

Forwards

50 Alexander Khokhlachev, Center
Vitals: 5-10, 184
Acquired: 2nd round, 2011 draft (40th overall)
2010-11 amateur team: Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Signing status: Unsigned
Camp notes: Highly skilled offensive player showed off his high-end scoring potential in flashes, but was overwhelmed at times with the physical demands of camp and environment. Good skater with effective first-step quickness, elusiveness and the ability to rapidly change direction. Not tall, but strong on his skates and gets under would-be checkers, using body leverage to gain position and maintain puck possession. Elite hands and stickhandling skills. Quick shot with rapid release and nice accuracy. Plays with passion and exuberance. Was not in the kind of shape he needed to be, but should improve on that when main camp rolls around in September and a year from now (assuming he returns to development camp). English skills are raw, but improving- he showed a willingness to take on any interviews and did his level best with a smile. Has future rock star potential in Boston if he can continue his upward developmental curve. Youngest player in the 2011 draft, just making the Sep. 15, 1993 cutoff by six days.

51 Anthony Camara, Left Wing
Vitals: 6-0, 194
Acquired: 3rd round, 2011 draft (81st overall)
2010-11 Amateur Team: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Signing status: Unsigned
Camp notes: Impressive individual showing from a player who was initially thought to be a reach. The Toronto native isn’t all that tall at about 6-foot, but is around 195 pounds and is built like a fire hydrant. He skates well, with quick jump and good straight-line speed. Camara also has above average puck skills and a hard shot. While at camp, he showed a penchant for shooting often and scored from the outside as well as in close. Plays a physical game, finishing checks and relishing contact. Has a reputation as willing and fearless fighter. Won’t turn 18 until Sep. 4- just five days older than Alexander Khokhlachev, the youngest player in the NHL draft in June. Former 1st-round OHL pick (15th overall) in 2009.

64 Ben Sexton, Center
Vitals: 6-0, 193
Acquired: 7th round, 2009 draft (206th overall)
2010-11 Amateur team: Clarkson University Golden Knights (ECAC)
Signing status: Unsigned
Camp notes: Average size. Good skater with quick initial burst, top speed and some slippery elusiveness as well. Hands are average. Solid defensive hockey IQ, but may not have the vision or offensive instincts to be a point-getter at the highest level. Effective checker and penalty killer with an active stick to take away passing lanes. Typical jack-of-all-trades, master of none player who is an NHL longshot. Son of former Panthers and Senators GM Randy Sexton. Drafted out of the Jr. B Nepean (Ontario) Raiders where his coach was former Bruins defender Garry Galley. Spent 2009-10 season with Penticton Panthers of the BCHL before jumping to NCAA. Just finished his freshman season in Potsdam, N.Y. with Clarkson, scoring five goals and eight points in 12 games.

66 Tyler Randell, Right Wing
Vitals: 6-1, 195
Acquired: 6th round in 2009 draft (176th overall)
2010-11 Amateur team: Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Signing status: Signed; inked 3-year entry level contract on April 17, 2011
Camp notes: Power forward prospect with fine hands and a quick release. Average skater who is a little sluggish off the mark but has OK straight-line speed and goes hard to the net. Lacks east-west agility and is a more of a classic north-south up-and-down winger. Hard nosed; finishes his checks and finished with the third-most number of fights in the OHL with 20 last season. Also scored 20 goals for the Rangers. Projects as a bottom-six pro winger with enough offensive upside to keep an eye on.

79 Alexander Fallstrom, Right Wing
Vitals: 6-2, 203
Acquired: From Minnesota with Craig Weller and 2011 second-round pick (Alexander Khokhlachev) for Chuck Kobasew
2010-11 Amateur team: Harvard University Crimson (ECAC)
Signing status: Unsigned
Camp notes: Demonstrated improved quickness and first-step burst from where he was a year ago. Still has only average top speed, but is a better skater and effective enough in short areas with ability to rapidly close. Above average puckhandler with the ability to take the puck into traffic, dangle and finish off scoring chances in tight. Good two-way hockey sense. Protects the puck well. Projects as a bottom-six checking/energy forward at the NHL level with some offensive potential- scored 80+ points to lead Shattuck St. Mary’s in scoring during his draft year (taken in the fourth round- 116th overall by Wild).

80 Brian Ferlin, Right Wing
Vitals: 6-1, 200
Acquired: 4th round in 2011 draft (121st overall)
2010-11 Amateur team: Indiana Ice (USHL)
Signing status: Unsigned
Camp notes: Impressive first impression: displayed offensive hockey skills and scoring ability. Does not possess ideal skating technique, but is effective, with explosive first-step, good top speed with separation gear and solid lateral movement as well. Fine stickhandler with a rapid and accurate shot. Sniffs out scoring chances by being in the right place at the right time. Sees the ice well and is an effective passer/playmaker. Hustles and works hard along the walls. Shields the puck and was highly effective on the cycle with Justin Florek, another big-bodied winger on the same line. Native of Jacksonville, Florida. Will attend Cornell University in the fall.

83 Craig Cunningham, Center
Vitals: 5-9, 175
Acquired: 4th round in 2010 draft (97th overall)
2010-11 amateur team: Vancouver Giants/Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Signing status: Signed three-year entry level contract; July 14, 2011
Camp notes: Solid, unspectacular two-way performance. Good skater with quickness and agility. Not a blazer, but slippery and shifty. Strong vision and two-way hockey sense. Quick stick and ability to take the puck into traffic and distribute well. Not a highlight reel player, but shoots the puck well and can finish in close. Effective two-way forward who initiates contact despite a lack of ideal size. Highly respected teammate and utility player- former captain of the Vancouver Giants before being traded to Portland in late December.

84 Ryan Spooner, Center
Vitals: 5-10, 185
Acquired: 2nd round, 2010 (45th overall)
2010-11 amateur team: Peterborough Petes/Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Signing status: Unsigned
Camp notes: Has emerged as Boston’s most skilled offensive player in the prospect pipeline. High-end skater with explosive burst, top speed/separation to back defenses up and the east-west lateral quickness to turn defenders inside-out. Handles the puck very well and can make all his moves at speed. Wicked shooter who can pick the corners and score in a variety of ways. Outstanding playmaker and puck distributor. Electrifying presence who has become a fan favorite in short order. Playing style compares to Marc Savard, but with more foot speed and quickness than the veteran possesses. Like the veteran when he was younger, Spooner’s defense is still a work in progress but has showed a willingness to address that and is getting better. Grew up in Ottawa suburb of Kanata, Ontario where his favorite NHL team was the Montreal Canadiens. Scored two goals and three points with Providence Bruins in the AHL to finish out the season.

85 Justin Florek, Left Wing
Vitals: 6-4, 195
Acquired: 5th round in 2010 draft (135th overall)
2010-11 amateur team: Northern Michigan University Wildcats (CCHA)
Signing status: Unsigned
Camp notes: Showed marked improvement over where he was a year ago as a new Boston draft choice. Still filling out his impressive 6-foot-4 frame, but is a good skater for a big man. Quick and light on his feet. Tough to knock off stride when he gets up to speed and goes to the net. Will be an even bigger load to handle when he reaches his projected weight of 215-220 pounds. Has a powerful shot that he unleashes quickly and can put anywhere on net. Sees what the goalies give him and then puts the puck in small spaces. Aggressive forward when around the net. Not a huge physical presence but will initiate contact and shields the puck well. Needs to focus on being consistent and working hard from shift to shift, as he may lack the innate creativity to be a regular point producer without the presence of a playmaker on his line. May only project as a grinder in the pro ranks, but has shown enough potential to be worth watching.

87 Jared Knight, Right Wing
Vitals: 5-11, 202
Acquired: 2nd round in 2010 draft (32nd overall)
2010-11 amateur team: London Knights (OHL)
Signing status: Unsigned
Camp notes: Along with Spooner, the best Boston player at development camp. Showed off improved skating, especially in terms of ability to accelerate and separate from would-be checkers. Powerful skater who uses his strength and athleticism to fight off bigger guys and get the puck to the net. Nasty shooter with lightning release and accuracy. Hides his release point well and is like a shark who smells blood in the water anytime there is a scoring opportunity. Drilled goalie (and OHL, AHL teammate) Mike Hutchinson on the first day by powering his way to the net (Hutch was fine- no damage done). An old-fashioned north-south winger who isn’t flashy but can create and make things happen with his competitiveness and hockey sense. Grew up and matured a great deal over the last season with London when the Knights traded away a significant contingent of veteran players, establishing career-bests in assists (45) and points (70) to lead the team. Effective two-way player who may be the most NHL-ready of Boston’s d-camp prospects in terms of physical and emotional maturity plus skill. Will be in Lake Placid in early August to attend Team USA World Jr. Evaluation Camp. Diabetes diagnosis of 18 months ago is under control and should not affect his ability to compete at a high level.