This season, Boston Bruins top prospect Jack Studnicka has drawn all the attention, rightfully so, with his play for the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League. However, he is not the only Bruins prospect down in the minors who is making a case to be part of the big club in the near future.
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Four other prospects along with Studnicka are making an impact in Providence this season. Forwards Trent Frederic, Peter Cehlarik, Oskar Steen and defensemen Uhro Vaakanainen are having solid seasons numbers-wise in the minors. All four continue to develop with an eye toward making their way to the TD Garden in a Bruins uniform full-time.
Drafted 29th overall in the first round of the 2016 Entry Draft, Frederic has seen action in Boston over the past two seasons. Last season he suited up in 15 games and this season he has played in two. He has yet to record a point in 17 NHL games, but he is not afraid to shoot the puck with 20 shots on net.
A 6-foot-2, 203-pound center, Frederic has 8 goals and 24 assists in Providence this season in 58 games and is a plus-10. Last season, he scored 14 goals and had 11 assists in just 55 games in the AHL. He does have an offensive upside that can translate to the next level with the more experience he gets. He also is a strong checking defender who has the ability to shut down the opponent’s top forwards.
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Going forward, Frederic most likely could be a bottom-six forward for the Bruins. He would be a good addition to a checking line as his physical presence and willingness to drop the gloves and fight is something the Bruins could use. He has 148 penalty minutes this year for Providence.
Steen might be undersized at 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, but what the 21-year-old lacks in size, he makes up with his skill. In 59 games with Providence this season, he has 7 goals and 16 assists and is a plus-four.
Selected 165th overall in the sixth round of the 2016 Entry Draft out of Sweden, he is in his first season in the AHL after a breakout season in the Swedish Hockey League for Farjestad BK last season. Steen scored 17 goals and had 20 assists in 46 regular-season games, and added two goals and five assists in seven playoff games. A right-wing, he has developed his game this season with the P-Bruins and should challenge for a spot on the Bruins roster in the future.
Selected 90th overall in the third round of the 2013 Entry Draft, the Slovakian forward has spent 40 games (five goals and six assists) in a Boston uniform over four years after signing his contract in 2016. This year he had one assist in three games back in the first month of the season.
He has shown the knack to be able to score in the minors. This year he has 16 goals and 20 assists. Nine of his goals have come on the power play and that leads Providence. At 24 years old and with the success he’s had down in the AHL, you get the sense that within the next year or two that it might be now or never for the left-wing.
The Finnish defenseman has a lot of promise and upside, which earned him five games back in November in Boston when the Bruins defense was hit hard with injuries. It’s clear that general manager Don Sweeney and the front office liked him as they selected him 18th overall in the first round of the 2017 Draft.
He has five goals and nine assists this year in 53 games for Providence. He is more of a defensive defenseman, which makes his plus-18 rating this season even more impressive. After this season, there is plenty of uncertainty around the Bruins defense. Torey Krug becomes a free agent and will look for a big payday. Captain Zdeno Chara is 42 years old and appears to be taking it year-by-year. Look for Vaakanainen to make a serious run at a roster spot next season.
All four prospects have played a hand in Providence having the fifth-best overall record in the AHL as the season winds down. Look for Frederic, Vaakanainen, and Steen to make a push in the near future for a spot on the Bruins roster. For Cehlarik, it’s time to make that push to get through the door and land a bottom-six spot on the roster as soon as next year.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.