By Kirk Luedeke
The New England Hockey Journal’s Boston Bruins prospects review continues with the second in a three-part series ranking the organization’s future hopefuls.
The comprehensive list is a subjective assessment of players under 25 and with minimal NHL and AHL experience. The scouting reports and profiles are based on live viewings and film study of all 36 players evaluated, along with the feedback and input from NHL scouting and front office sources and other contacts in the hockey community.
Forward Matt Fraser, an undrafted free agent who was acquired from the Dallas Stars as part of the Tyler Seguin deal, just missed the top-10. Although a dangerous scorer at the AHL level, he has been unable to translate his wicked shot and nose for the net in limited NHL action. Watch for him to become a fan favorite in Providence, and he could get a longer look in Boston soon. Defenseman David Warsofsky (Marshfield, Mass.) may not have ideal height to play the position, but he brings the speed and offensive skills to contribute if the B’s need him in a pinch. The former BU standout has been unable to break into the crowded defense picture in Boston, but he’ll play an important role in Providence this season.
Several of the players featured from 11-20 have the potential to crack the top-10 by mid-season, but are ranked a little lower because of their longer-term timelines. Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) plays a similar type of game to current B’s star David Krejci and will showcase his talent at Boston College this season along with several other high-profile prospects in another impressive freshman class. Yale sophomore Rob O’Gara was arguably the most impressive player at Boston’s summer development camp, and brings size, mobility and smarts to the mix. Still several years away from turning pro, he’s a diamond-in-the-rough find for the B’s in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL draft out of Milton Academy.
The prospect series will conclude this week with the New England Hockey Journal’s top-10 prospects list for the Boston Bruins. Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Jordan Caron will not be featured in this roundup, however Reilly Smith will be ranked out of a desire to familiarize fans with his talent and projection.
NEHJ 2013 Boston Bruins preseason prospect rankings: 11-20
11. Matt Fraser, LW, Texas Stars (AHL)
Upside: Minor league scorer with a 6-foot-2 frame and a wicked release brings a Bruins-type lunch pail mentality to the rink every day. Fraser is an instinctive, driven winger who exploits seams in defenses and finds ways to produce when the game is on the line. Versatile; can play either the left or right side.
Downside: Average skater; has not elevated his offense in the NHL when he has less time, space to work with. Has a sluggish first few steps and still addressing his play in all zones to maximize effectiveness on the lower lines.
Outlook: Has second-line, 25-30 goal upside at the NHL level at his peak, but has to prove that he can find the back of the net when defenders close on him so much faster in the big show than in the minors. For now, he makes a skilled Providence forward group even more dangerous, with 70 goals in two AHL seasons.
12. Rob O’Gara, D, Yale University (ECAC)
Upside: At 6-foot-3, the Yale sophomore is a smart, effective defensive presence with quickness and fluid footwork. O’Gara plays an well-rounded, consistent game: he’s the kind of defenseman you win with, and championships at the prep and NCAA attest to that.
Downside: Still pretty raw with a lot of growing and maturing ahead. Offensive potential is still a mystery, as he played things conservatively as a Yale freshman. If he can increase his production, his prospect value will also soar.
Outlook: A sure top-10 prospect if he was a little closer to the NHL than he is, O’Gara’s stock is not dropping, but is reflected in some of the newer, higher-upside prospects who joined the B’s in the offseason. Watch for O’Gara to assert himself as one of the best young defenders in the NCAA this season and continue to elevate his standing within the organization.
13. Brian Ferlin, RW, Cornell University (ECAC)
Upside: 6-foot-2, 215-pound Floridian has added strength and mass to his frame, and is primed for a breakout offensive campaign as a Cornell junior. Ferlin is an outstanding athlete who can skate and shoot to great effect, but his improvement in all zones is the real story with this intriguing power forward.
Downside: The B’s are waiting for Ferlin to exhibit the consistent offense that could see him break into a top-nine role in the NHL. He does honest work along the boards and establishes body position in the slot, but won’t ever be much of an intimidating, physical presence.
Outlook: The B’s are quietly bullish on the last pick of the 2011 draft’s fourth round. Ferlin is a natural talent who has established himself as a legitimate NHL prospect despite coming from a non-traditional hockey background in Jacksonville.
14. Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass.), D, Boston University Terriers (HEA)
Upside: Blazing fast wheels and highly skilled; the former Belmont Hill and Team USA star wasted no time establishing himself as an impact player at BU a year ago. His hockey sense is elite, and he’s better defensively than gets credit for.
Downside: Beyond the obvious physical limitations associated with a 5-foot-9 frame, Grzelcyk is a long-term option for the B’s. Needs to ensure he’s in peak physical condition and on track to take the next step as a sophomore.
Outlook: It’s growing increasingly difficult to be a prospect in Boston’s system these days especially on defense, but with plenty of time to stay at BU and improve his core strength, gain experience- this Townie could one day make a splash with the team he dreamed of skating for.
15. Anthony Camara, LW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
Upside: Grinding, agitating winger has an NHL-caliber shot and the ability to score goals through gritty work around the net. Camara plays a Bruins-style of game as a heavy-hitting middleweight who can provide offense.
Downside: With questionable hockey sense and creativity, Camara’s offensive success has been tied to higher-end linemates. Although a big hitter who never misses a chance to finish a check, he is not all that effective a fighter, so fans should not expect him to develop into a legitimate enforcer type in the NHL.
Outlook: With a deep, experienced roster of players who have experienced the NHL, Camara should spend the entire season in the AHL figuring out the system and how to get the most from his abilities. He’s a prototypical Bruins winger who crashes the net and plays a rugged up-and-down game, but he may be more of a Jeff Odgers-style contributor than a top power forward in the Milan Lucic mold.
16. Seth Griffith, RW, London Knights (OHL)
Upside: Elite vision and a sniper’s touch make the London Knights product a wild card to develop into a top-six NHL winger some day. Thinks the game at a high level and has a natural nose for the net both as a setup man and finisher.
Downside: Griffith lacks ideal size (5-foot-10) and speed for the NHL. He is not a top defensive player and needs to round out his game before he is ready for the highest level.
Outlook: A productive and savvy scorer with the London Knights, Griffith has managed to put up big numbers at every level despite not having the skating and frame that NHL teams covet. He is a coin flip to have a seamless transition to the AHL or be challenged to have a significant impact. However, regardless of how successful Griffith is in his rookie pro campaign, he’s got a lengthy developmental path ahead before he can challenge for a job on Boston’s deep forward corps.
17. Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.), C, Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL)
Upside: Creative center has a natural feel for the game that few others possess. Can do a little bit of everything, including score goals and kill penalties; will likely be a star player that Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.) can use in all situations at Boston College.
Downside: Like Griffith, Fitzgerald does not possess ideal size (5-foot-10, 170) or speed, though he does compensate with shifty elusiveness.
Outlook: You hear about draft steals every year, but getting Fitzgerald at the end of the fourth round means that there is no pressure on him to develop in his hometown team’s system. He has solid NHL potential, but it is a tad early to try and project what kind of role he might play before he establishes himself in the NCAA.
18. David Warsofsky (Marshfield, Mass.), D, Providence Bruins (AHL)
Upside: A speedy and skilled defender who has won titles in the NCAA and the World Jr. Championship, Warsofsky also plays with a chip on his shoulder. As an effective puck-mover and power play specialist he’s on the verge of putting up big numbers in Providence and could see time as a call-up to Boston this season.
Downside: His lack of size (5-foot-10) is an issue, and he doesn’t quite have Krug’s wheels and offensive creativity.
Outlook: The B’s traded fan favorite Vladimir Sobotka for the South Shore native at the 2010 draft. . Although Warsofsky is skilled and determined, he’s subjectively behind Krug and Grzelcyk in the pecking order and may have to find another landing spot if he can’t make his mark in Boston this season.
19. Craig Cunningham, RW, Providence Bruins (AHL)
Upside: Opportunistic forward finished second on the team in goals (25) to Jamie Tardif. More quick and elusive than blazing fast, the 2010 fourth-rounder has a natural nose for the net as an effective two-way forward who can play in all situations.
Downside: Another small forward in the system; could stand to get stronger on the puck and improve the grit factor in his game.
Outlook: The Bruins drafted the former junior teammate of Milan Lucic more for his versatility and character than anything else. He brings the kind of attributes that the team values for the lower lines and special teams units.
20. Carter Camper, C, Providence Bruins (AHL)
Upside: Tenacious little (5-foot-9) pivot has been a point producer and impact performer at every level with his soft hands and great head for the game.
Downside: Small, plus lacks separation speed and quick burst.
Outlook: The former Miami University captain finds himself at a crowded position for jobs with the big team. A key cog for Providence this season, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for Camper to see action in Boston unless the forwards get hit with a rash of injuries. The Ohio native and undrafted free agent in the final year of his deal could be a nice trade chip for the Bruins if they want to give him a change of scenery.