Over the offseason, the Boston Bruins added depth to their prospect pool through the NHL Entry Draft. Overall, the Bruins are not considered to have a deep prospect pool compared to other teams. Here is a look at who the Top 10 prospects are for the Black and Gold heading into the 2021-22 season.
10. Brady Lyle
After an impressive 2020-21 season with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), Lyle signed a two-year entry-level contract in April that carries an annual $800,000 cap hit. In 19 games with the P-Bruins, he had six goals and six assists with a plus/minus of plus-10.
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The 22-year-old Lyle will attend training camp, and he is someone worth keeping an eye on. He is more than likely headed back to Providence for the upcoming season, but it’s not out of the question that if injuries begin to pile up on defense for the Bruins this season that he finds his way to Boston to get his feet wet at some point. He has NHL tools to be a part of a bottom pairing.
9. Jack Ahcan
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of St. Cloud State in March of 2020, Ahcan quietly improved his game in the AHL last season. At 24 years old, he is only 5-foot-8, but joins a list of former (Torey Krug) and current (Matt Grzelcyk) undersized Bruins who have played on the blueline in Boston, albeit just three games for Ahcan.
There is no doubt that he will be one of the top defensemen along with Lyle with Providence this season. He had an impressive showing at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo last weekend, even getting the top power play minutes.
8. Urho Vaakanainen
Once thought of as the Bruins’ top defensive prospects, Vaakanainen has had opportunities to crack the roster in Boston, but it has not worked out for the 22-year-old. Last season in training camp, he was in a battle for one of the two final defensive spots, however, he was beaten out by Jakub Zboril for the final left-shot spot.
More of a stay-at-home defenseman, he is going to find it tough to make the Bruins roster this season. Vaakanainen might be one of the Bruins’ prospects that could be moved in a deal if general manager Don Sweeney makes any deals between now and the deadline later in the season.
7. Jakub Zboril
Last season was a big step for Zboril who made the roster out of training camp on the third defensive pairing with veteran Kevan Miller. In 42 games, the 13th overall pick in the 2015 draft more than held his own and had nine assists, while playing in most situations for coach Bruce Cassidy. He was one of many defensemen that battled through injuries during the 56-game season and was on the outside looking in during the Bruins’ two playoff series.
This season, he is looking at a season in the AHL with Providence after the Bruins bolstered their blueline on the left-side in free agency by signing Derek Forbort to a three-year contract. Zboril should be one of the first call-ups should there be injuries in Boston this season.
6. John Beecher
The 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft, Beecher is beginning his junior season at the University of Michigan on a team that is considered one of the favorites this season in the NCAA. His sophomore season was cut short in February with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Health has been an issue and hopefully, it’s not a trend of things to come for the 6-foot-3, 210-pound center.
In his first two seasons with the Wolverines, he has 13 goals and 11 assists. Beecher will be teammates with four of the five first overall picks from this July’s draft class. First overall pick Owen Power (Buffalo Sabres), second pick Matty Beniers (Seattle Kraken), fourth pick Luke Hughes (New Jersey Devils), and the fifth pick Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) will all play with Boston’s prospect.
5. Jakub Lauko
Out of all the prospect forwards that will be at training camp, Lauko might be the biggest wild card. In his two seasons in Providence, he has brought his game to the next level with 10 goals and 18 assists in 45 AHL games. First-year Providence coach Ryan Mougenel spent the last three seasons as Jay Leach’s assistant with the P-Bruins and knows how much better Lauko’s game has grown in his short time in the AHL.
“Sometimes when we’re talking about players, one description I use is ‘Does he get you excited?’ and I think every time he steps on the ice, something happens,” said Mougenel. “He’s had a ton of growth, first as a person. He was a young pro coming into a men’s league and he’s definitely put the time in and with his growth as a player and a person, he’s really going to push. I think he’s the type of player that (B’s coach Bruce) Cassidy likes. He’s got some abrasiveness that really showed off last year and along with his skill package. He’s the real deal, we’re very happy with how he’s come along, He’s just an exciting kid to be around.”From ‘Lauko pushing for spot on B’s roster,’ Boston Herald, 9/16/21
Selected in the third round and 77th overall in 2018, Lauko, a left wing, should get some preseason action with Boston in the next couple of weeks to see how he handles himself against NHL players.
4. Mason Lohrei
Entering his freshman season at Ohio State University, Lohrei had two outstanding seasons in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers. In 48 games last season with the Gamblers, he had 19 goals and 40 assists, after tallying eight goals and 29 assists in 2019-20.
A good puck-moving defenseman, his offensive game is something that turned the Bruins on to him. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, the second-round pick at No. 58 in the 2020 draft has a high ceiling and someone to watch down the line.
3. Fabian Lysell
Lysell got his first taste of pro hockey in the Prospects Challenge last weekend. In the first game, the 21st pick in July’s draft scored an empty-net goal against the Buffalo Sabres and had three assists over the two games. Lysell showed some explosive speed in the open ice and finished off the tournament with a nice pass to Jesper Forden for a power play goal against the Devils.
Following the game against the Devils’, general manager Don Sweeney announced that Lysell will most likely play for the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the 2021-22 season. His development over this season will be worth watching.
2. Jack Studnicka
With David Krejci leaving the Bruins to return to his home country of the Czech Republic to continue his career, this is the best chance for Studnicka to crack the Bruins lineup out of training camp at center. Last season he made the roster at the beginning of the season as a wing with David Pastrnak recovering from offseason surgery and he struggled. He was moved to his natural center position in February when some centers were out injured and played better there.
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Studnicka has an opportunity to be a bottom-nine center on this Bruins team. He is one of the players to watch in camp and more than likely will be in a battle with Charlie Coyle for the No. 2 center spot behind Patrice Bergeron. With the recent news of Coyle dealing with a nagging injury to begin camp, which will limit his time in practice, the door is opening slowly for Studnicka to take advantage of an opportunity.
1. Jeremy Swayman
Speaking of opportunity knocking, that describes the 22-year-old Bruins goalie this season. Last season, because of injuries, he made his NHL debut and was impressive in the 10 games he played in. He went 7-3 with a 1.85 Goals-against average (GAA) with a .933 Save Percentage (SV%). This offseason, there has been some shifting of the roster in goal and the 111th pick in the 2017 draft will be in a battle for the starting job.
Tuukka Rask is still an unrestricted free agent following offseason surgery and Dan Vladar was traded to the Calgary Flames. Former Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark was signed as a free agent to a four-year deal. One of the fun battles to watch in camp and the preseason games is the Swayman/Ullmark battle.
Bruins Prospects Prepare for 2021-22 Season
Everyone has a different opinion as to who the Bruins’ top prospects are. Some will see their stock rise during the season, while others might see their stock fall. Throughout the season, there will be updates as to how some of the Bruins prospects are faring with their teams. Keep an eye out for the “Bruins Prospects Report” during the 2021-22 season here at The Hockey Writers.
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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.