Sometimes a progress report for a quarter season of development doesn’t really mean much, but sometimes it can be very interesting. With that in mind here is a brief rundown on the Bruins most important prospects.
1) Nicholas Boynton
6’2” 210 pounds
born January 1979
Entering this season, Nicholas Boynton was a prospect looking for respect having been written off my many of the so called ‘experts’. Since then he has graduated into the NHL and is playing as a top four regular with the Boston Bruins showing poise and skill to justify that he was twice considered well enough to be worthy of a first round selection in the entry draft.
Known more for his offensive potential when drafted, Boynton may not have overwhelming stats at this point of the seasons, but he has demonstrated the skills to one day still be an above-average offensive defenseman at the NHL level. His skill-set already translate nicely to aiding a solid transition game while he has shown a physical component to his game that has possibly surprised a little in a positive manner. He has good speed to aggressively challenge in the defensive zone and plays it gritty having already racked up 30 hits and 25 minutes in penalties in his first twenty games. Once he has the puck, he almost always identifies the correct head-manning opportunity and dishes the puck with authority and skill. While his meager point production of a single goal might have the casual observer wondering, Boynton gets no significant power play time to help pad his stats and favors making the head-pass rather than rushing the puck as a rule. He sacrifices his offensive potential to make the smart plays. He is in the NHL to stay which puts him at the head of this list of the Bruins most important prospects.
2) Andy Hilbert
5’11” 190 pound
born February 1981
After having a major breakout season at the NCAA Division I level last season where Hilbert emerged from off the radar screens to a Hobey Baker award finalist, he opted to forgo the remainder of his college eligibility and take a shot at entering the NHL this season. He actually had a fairly successful camp with a goal and three assists in his seven games. On a lesser team he may have stayed in the NHL, however, his training camp performance also demonstrated that he still had some additional growing to do to truly reach his ultimate potential. The place to grow isn’t in the NHL, so Hilbert has been playing the first two months of this year in Providence of the AHL where he has been the team’s top offensive player with 5 goals and 10 assists in just 16 games.
Hilbert’s game is a combination of grit, smarts, and speed. He plays a Chris Drury style where he doesn’t fear the corners or the front of the net. He plays both wing and center, preferring center himself, but probably being more suited for wing at the NHL level. Hilbert is in Providence to bulk up and/or learn the tricks necessary for a player who tips the scales at under 200 pounds to successfully handle the defensive requirements of an NHL center iceman. Boston’s success so far this season and their own increased depth acquired in an off-season of uncharacteristic free agent spending, makes it unlikely that Hilbert will get called up to the parent Bruins this season no matter how much success he has in Providence, but he seems an almost certainty to win a job in Boston next season with his strong play this year in the AHL, and having this year to strengthen his defensive abilities.
3) Shaonne Morrisonn
6’4” 183 pounds
born December 1982
Taken with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2001 NHL entry draft, Morrisonn had a very impressive showing at his first NHL training camp. As an 18-year-old who really was not being looked at to make the team at all, Morrisonn only played in four exhibition games with the Bruins during camp, but he looked very strong in all of them and showed his offensive flair picking up two assists. Since returning to his junior club, the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, Morrisonn has continued his meteoric rise up the prospect rankings. From third or fourth round projections in most scouting lists at the mid-season point of last year, to a surprise first round pick by the Boston Bruins at the draft, Morrisonn is now tearing up the WHL scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace with 6 goals and 14 assists for 20 points in just 21 games played.
The scouting reports on Morrisonn plus his dimensions show that he is clearly a work in progress possessing a heavy shot, good puck skills, and great skating ability, Morrisonn has been called the million dollar body with the 10 cent brain. Questions regarding his decision making were really the only thing that had his stock as low as it was last season. He often couldn’t get his shot through from the point as he took that extra second or two in his wind up giving the opposition time to get in his shooting lane… he didn’t always make the right play breaking out of his zone with a quick head-pass. Even with his height, he was sometimes pushed off the puck while battling in the corners as he didn’t always know the best position to take going into these little wars… his improved play starting the second half of last season, through his first NHL training camp, and now into the first quarter of this season show that most of these trouble areas have been addressed and satisfied.
The NHL agreement with the CHL will prevent Morrisonn from getting called up for the remainder of this year until the Kamloops Blazers regular and playoff season’s have ended. It is probably just as well. Morrisonn is trying to add weight but he still has a ways to go to fill out his lanky form. He also hasn’t had enough time yet to definitively address whether there might still be consistency issues to his game. Having the remainder of this season to grow in the WHL environment will be good for Shaonne. Look for him to be a ‘real’ challenger for a spot on the Boston Bruins blueline as early as the 2002-2003 season though.
4) Lars Jonnson
6’1” 200 pounds
born January 1982
Despite having moved from the top league in Sweden to Division II this season, Jonnson hasn’t seen an increase in his offensive production which might serve as a concern to some. Overall, this season hasn’t yet been a write-off for Lars, nor should it put much if any taint on his rising star as of this point.
Jonnson’s raw offensive tools are immense and unquestioned. Unleashed, he would put up numbers, maybe even enough to compensate for his poor defensive play at the NHL level, but at this point it would still be intended that he won’t need to. Rather then having to compensate for his poor defensive play once he gets to the NHL, his assignment at this point is to correct that play. In 17 games with his league team, Jonnson has worked on his physical play to the point where he leads the team with 41 penalty minutes and has worked on his defense to the point where he has only been on the ice for 4 goals against. While his 0 points might be a concern, he gets no powerplay time and has actually been on the ice for only 6 goals for, so the opportunities to pick up points have been very limited. He is a prospect in school and he is learning the required lessons well.
Whether we see Lars Jonnson at the Bruins camp this next season is beyond my ability to guess at the moment. Arguments could be made both pro and con as to whether he would be better served by another year in Sweden or a year at the AHL level getting used to the North American style of game. In either case, Jonnson is still most likely at least another full year away from being ready for a tour at the NHL level.
5) Martin Samuelsson
6’2” 195 pounds
born January 1982
Entering the 2000 NHL entry draft, Martin Samuelsson had been considered a potential first overall talent before a broken leg cost him most of his year and saw his eventual draft position fall all the way to 27th in the first round when the Bruins took him with interest in his fantastic skating skills. Hopes were to see him develop into an explosive scorer. Now after a year and a quarter of another season, some serious questions have yet to be answered as to whether Samuelsson will ever be able to translate his speed into offensive success at the NHL level. This doesn’t mean that he still won’t have a fine future in the NHL though.
Not yet 20 years of age, there is obviously still time for him to put his skills together and start getting some offensive results. He does have 4 goals in just 16 games this season and has fired 29 shots on goal to demonstrate decent offensive instincts in the tight checking Swedish system. Not overwhelming success to be sure, and perhaps even a tad worrisome given that he isn’t even in Division One competition yet, but while his offensive production has yet to take off, his defensive play is coming along well. Samuelsson is a plus 9 and has only been on the ice for 6 goals against in 16 games.
Martin’s future role in the NHL is more likely to be similar to a Niklus Sundstrom style checking line winger than it is to a Marcus Naslund style front line sniper. In either case, it is quite possible Martin will come over to try to win a job with the Bruins as early as this next camp. His size and skill-set may well give him an edge in battling for a fourth or even third line spot with the Bruins if he can play defensively soundly. He is still very much a top-class prospect in the deep Bruin system.
6) Andrew Raycroft
Currently playing with Providence in the AHL after starting last season in Boston as a very raw rookie. Lost almost the entire season do to circumstances with injuries to the Bruin regular goaltenders and being thrust into a ‘savior’ role far to prematurely into his career. Raycroft is bouncing back nicely this season and has been very stellar with a 2.47 goals against average and a 0.923 save percentage with the Baby B’s so far in 10 games. Raycroft certainly could figure quickly into the Bruin’s plans if anything were to happen with either Byron Dafoe or John Grahame, but goaltender development is a tricky process and thus it may still be a while before we see Raycroft in the NHL.
7) Johnathon Girard
Spending another year in Providence of the AHL may well look like a major setback for a player whom has already spent parts of three seasons at the NHL level. In fact, by the criteria here at Hockey’s Future’s, Girard is no longer even considered to be an official prospect, but he still realistically is a work in progress and someone who shouldn’t yet be written off as having a chance of having an impact in the NHL. His offensive skills aren’t in question. In 51 games in the NHL during his first three seasons he posted up 4 goals and 15 assists. This season, in just 16 games with Providence, he already has a goal and 9 assists. Girard isn’t in the AHL for a lack of being able to run an NHL level attack from the blueline… he is down there because he stands only 5’11” and weighs less than 200 pounds. By the standards of the modern NHL defenseman, he is small. Girard needs to bulk up and learn the tricks of the trade to compensate for his physical limitations. How well he handles this assignment will be the end determent on whether he ever does become more than a sixth d-man and part time powerplay specialist at the NHL level.
8) Lee Goren
Goren is a specialist in his skill set, a below average skater, Goren is going to have to get by as a Dave Andreychuck/Charlie Simmer style front line scorer. The Bruin’s depth this season doesn’t allow him a spot on a scoring line and his skills are wasted on a fourth line grinding unit. He is in Providence to get his confidence up and work on his defensive play. With only 2 goals in 16 games, his play hasn’t been up to expectations yet, but the season is still young and Goren has been getting his chanced having fired 44 shots on net. At this point he should still be considered an important prospect with a real chance at having an impact in the NHL, but turning 24 in December shows that he is going to have to make it soon or he won’t make it at all.
9) Darren McLachlan
Might be a surprising choice to have made this list as his upside potential is far more limited then anyone else’s profiled here. Despite being a third round pick who was projected as high as a second rounder by many analysts, McLachlan’s skills have him destined to be a fourth liner at the NHL level. Even if he were to learn enough checking skills to work up to third line duties, he will never be a big scorer at the NHL level. He has just 3 goals and 5 assists with Seattle of the WHL this season. If McLachlan does make it to the NHL look for a Turner Stevenson style fourth line grinder who can and will drop his gloves when needed. Players like he are great for depth and certainly have a role to play on good teams, so don’t write him off yet, but at the same time, don’t get fooled into expecting more either. McLachlan is going to need to significantly improve his skating to even make it close.
10) Ivan Huml
There is no question that Huml has very good skills, probably good enough to be able to put up some decent point totals at the NHL level. In his second season at the AHL level this year he is breaking out and has scored 7 goals in 16 games. Huml was selected with the Toronto pick acquired when Boston decided to let Dimitri Khristich leave two seasons ago, ironically, Huml’s offensive game reminds me a lot of Khristich’s, but his weaknesses are also very similar. In fact, defensively, Huml is quite inferior to Khristich at this point. Whether Huml is able to beat the odds and move all the way from 10th on my list of Bruin’s most important prospects to actually have an impact in the NHL is a question that only time will answer. For the time being he will please fans in Providence scoring points while he tries to strengthen both his physical body and his deficient aspects of his game.