Several Boston Bruins prospects began their 2022-23 seasons recently, while one returned from an injury that forced him to miss the first five games of his season. In this edition of the Bruins Prospects Report, we look at some of the top prospects in the Black and Gold’s pool.
Lysell Scores First AHL Goal
Top prospect Fabian Lysell was sent down to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) in a round of cuts from training camp in Boston and Bruins coach Jim Montgomery wanted the talented forward to work on some things. It’s safe to say that the 21st overall pick in the 2021 Entry Draft heard Montgomery’s message.
It didn’t take Lysell long to score his first goal in the AHL. After taking a heavy hit in the first period, he potted his first goal later in the period of the P-Bruins’ 3-1 season-opening win over the Bridgeport Islanders on Oct. 14 and it turned out to be the game-winning goal. He played on the top line with Marc McLaughlin and Vinny Lettieri and scored on a 2-on-1 break on an impressive wrist shot.
He impressed Providence coach Ryan Mougenel who said, “When he got drilled in the first period, to see him bounce back up the way he did, that was a learning moment for him. You saw his speed, you saw his separation. When there’s ice in front of him we want him to take it, but we also want him to have longevity. We don’t want to see him take those types of hits.”
Two days later, he picked up three assists in a 4-3 Providence win over the Springfield Thunderbirds. There is no doubt that Lysell is getting the experience he needs in his first full pro season, but if he continues to play the way he is, it’s only a matter of time before he makes his NHL debut this season.
Merkulov, McLaughlin & Toporowski Impress for Providence
One of the more interesting prospects down in Providence is forward Georgii Merkulov. After scoring 20 goals in his freshman season of 2021-22 at Ohio State, he signed a free-agent contract last season. He began his 2022-23 season with an impressive weekend.
On Oct. 14, the talented forward scored the first P-Bruins goal against Bridgeport, before opening the scoring against Springfield two days later. Merkulov possesses a combination of speed and skill that impressed the Boston front office, but can he translate his college game to the pros? That is what the Bruins are hoping he can do.
There were three rounds of cuts from Boston’s training camp, but the second round of cuts created the most waves when Marc McLaughlin was sent to the AHL in a stunning move. Why was it a stunning move? He was hands down the Black and Gold’s top bottom-six forward in the preseason games, even scoring two goals in a 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 1. However, because he did not require waivers to go to Providence, he was sent down, but the former Boston College forward is already making waves in the AHL.
Despite not scoring a goal, McLaughlin had a very strong first two games for Mougenel playing in all situations and creating scoring chances for Lysell. Young players who get sent down despite having a strong preseason can do one of two things, use it as motivation or sulk and let it drag them down. So far, McLaughlin is using it as motivation and that is a good sign for a young player.
Luke Toporowski was impressive at the Prospects Challenge for the Bruins in Buffalo in September and was in the first round of training camp to Providence. Toporowski scored his AHL goal for the P-Bruins and it was the game-winning goal against Springfield. He proved in his time in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Spokane Chiefs and Kamloops Blazers that he can finish after combining for 35 goals between the two teams last season. Like McLaughlin, Toporowski is looking to make an impression if there is a need for a bottom-six forward in Boston.
Harrison Makes Season Debut for Oshawa
Brett Harrison missed the first five games for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with an injury, but he made his 2022-23 season debut on Oct. 14 against the Mississauga Steelheads. Harrison wasted little time making an impact when he scored his first goal of the season in his first period of action in the Generals’ 3-2 loss. He also finished the game with six shots on the net.
The 6-foot-3, 183-pound Harrison is looking to build off of his strong 2021-22 season. Boston’s third round selection, 85th overall in the 2021 Draft, had 24 goals and 37 assists last season in 64 regular season games. He won 56 percent (%) of his faceoffs last season and is another promising young center along with Matthew Poitras and Cole Spicer who were picked in July’s draft by general manager (GM) Don Sweeney.
It was the start that the Bruins were hoping for from Lysell in the AHL, while others continue to make the case to be called up at some point this season. One of the more intriguing prospects this season is Harrison to see if he can follow up last season with another strong one as his development is big with the veteran center depth in Boston getting older by the day.
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Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. 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.