Despite the well-documented drafting struggles of the Boston Bruins, the organization has been able to put together a decent farm system. Trades have had a major impact on the system, adding prospects and draft picks to supplement the talent that the team had already cultivated. The big club has locked up most of its core players for the foreseeable future, taking a lot of the pressure off the farm system to produce superstars. That being said, recent salary cap issues have required the front office to rely on younger players, putting the spotlight on the farm system in the process.
The Bruins early struggles can’t be pinned on the farm system, but they have certainly caused fans to question what other options are available. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Boston Bruins’ top five prospects.
The Prospect Criteria:
- Must be 22 or younger
- Skaters can’t have played more than 40 NHL games
- Goalies can’t have played more than 25 NHL games
5. Joe Morrow – Defenseman
After being traded twice in the span of four months last year, Morrow settled into a regular role in Providence for the duration of the 2013-2014 season. In 56 games for the Baby B’s, Morrow put up six goals and 23 assists, nearly doubling his production from his first season in the AHL. In addition to bettering his offensive production, Morrow was able to cut down his penalty minutes and made slight improvements in his +/-. By all accounts, it was a positive year in the young defenseman’s development. At 21, Morrow still has some work to do in his own end before he is ready for the NHL, but he has the potential to be a top four defensemen that sees valuable minutes on the power play. The Bruins depth on the blue line will allow them to be patient with Morrow as he develops, a decision that could pay major dividends down the road for both the team and the player.
4. Alexander Khokhlachev – Center/Wing
The talented Russian forward has made major strides over the last year, putting himself in a position to earn a roster spot in the near future. After leading the Providence Bruins in points last year in his first full AHL season, Khokhlachev showed up to training camp in September and made an impression. Blessed with strong offensive skills, Khokhlachev will need to work on the defensive side of his game, as well as his play without the puck. He plays bigger than his size, which, when coupled with his offensive acumen, makes him a great fit for the big club’s needs. He wasn’t able to force his way into the NHL lineup out of camp, but his performance definitely inspired confidence. At only 21, he has put himself in a position to be a call-up option should injuries or poor play become an issue in Boston. Khokhlachev has played predominantly as a center in Providence, but his path to Boston may require a shift to wing, due to the team’s supreme depth at center.
3. David Pastrnak – Wing
Perhaps the most talked about prospect in the Bruins system, Pastrnak was drafted 25th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. His impressive display at the Bruins Development Camp rapidly raised expectations for the late first round pick out of the Czech Republic. At just 18, Pastrnak seems poised to make his debut in Boston at some point this season. He possesses the creativity and scoring ability that the Bruins have sorely lacked in the early stages of this season. The main obstacle for Pastrnak to overcome, at least for the time being, will be his size. He has a lean frame and will need to bulk up to withstand the physicality of the NHL. Pastrnak started this season in Providence and has not failed to live up to expectations, notching two points in his first two games. If he continues to produce at the AHL, it may not be long before he finds himself in the NHL. He projects as a scoring winger, with the potential to end up on Boston’s first line, alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic. It may take him some time to settle in at the top level, but there is no shortage of optimism throughout the organization when it comes to Pastrnak’s future.
2. Ryan Spooner – Center
The first of the top five to make it to Boston, Spooner started the season filling in for an injured David Krejci on the Bruins’ top line. Like Khokhlachev, Spooner led the Baby B’s in points in his first full AHL season. Spooner was on track to repeat as the team’s top scorer, but a call-up to Boston limited his time in Providence, and gave him the chance to prove himself on the biggest stage. Blocked by the likes of Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Carl Soderberg, Spooner has struggled to break through and carve out a permanent role in the NHL to date. Based on his speed and his vision, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Spooner does not earn a top nine role in the very near future. He’s only 22, but he is currently penciled into the fourth line center role in Boston. Whether he is forced to shift out to the wing or he is traded to a different organization, Ryan Spooner’s time has come.
1. Malcolm Subban – Goalie
For development purposes, Malcolm Subban might be the furthest of the top five from playing regularly in the NHL, but it is not for lack of talent or commitment. Subban showed marked improvement over the course of last season, his first full season in the AHL. After a rough start, Subban outplayed Niklas Svedberg, the AHL’s best goalie in 2012-2013, playing to a 2.31 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. If Subban plays well enough this season, he could earn himself a cameo in the NHL, although it is likely that he will be the unquestioned #1 goaltender in Providence, with a shot to play second fiddle to Tuukka Rask next season. Subban is still only 20 years old, which is extremely young for a goaltender. Based on the typical development path of goalies, it would not be out of the question for Subban to spend next season in Providence as well, getting the maximum amount of playing time, before earning a backup role in Boston. Subban looks like a future #1 goalie, giving the Bruins a great luxury behind the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Tuukka Rask.
There is a lot of optimism surrounding this group, each with the opportunity to supplement the Stanley Cup caliber core that is in place in Boston. How do you feel about the future of the organization? Do you think these prospects will pan out in Boston? Let me know what you think in the comments below or on twitter.