It is difficult to know what the Boston Bruins are at the moment. On one hand, they are a team not too far removed from a Stanley Cup Championship and a Cup final appearance with some players from their core still intact.
On the other hand, those players are mainly aging veterans and the team should be looking to the future. After loading up with first round picks last year, and again with multiple picks in the first round again this year, the Bruins recognize the need to rebuild.
Meanwhile they acquire a veteran free agent in David Backes giving him a rich contract with significant term.
Prospects within the system have been struggling, 2015 top pick Jakob Zboril regressed offensively in his post draft season. Jeremy Lauzon and Malcolm Subban suffered significant injuries. Alexander Khokhlachev has returned to Russia signing in the KHL.
Top 10 Boston Bruins Prospects
1. Jakub Zboril – Defense
2015-16: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Drafted: 13th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Boston
Zboril had a season where he focused on refining his defensive game, and as a result his offensive totals fell from 33 to 20 in more games played. The Bruins have invested a lot in Zboril who has size, speed and a solid two-way game and he projects as a top pairing defenceman in the future. With another year of junior eligibility and the likelihood of some AHL seasoning required as well, Zboril is a few years away from making an NHL impact.
2. Charlie McAvoy – Defense
2015-16: Boston University (NCAA)
Drafted: 14th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Boston
The Bruins first selection in the 2016 draft is an intriguing prospect. McAvoy plays a solid physical game, is an excellent skater and plays a very smart game at both ends of the ice. He can create offensive transition and has a heavy point shot. While his offensive ceiling may not be as high as several of his draft class peers, there are few defenders from the 2016 draft that could have as long and productive a career as McAvoy. The Long Island native will be a staple on the Bruins top pairing blueliners and on team USA for a long time.
3. Frank Vatrano – Center
2015-16: Providence (AHL), Boston Bruins (NHL)
Drafted: Free agent signed in March 2013
Vatrano may be on the small side, but he is a pure goal scorer with good speed. He demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt he can score at the AHL level, and in his NHL audition he produced as well. Vatrano may split time again between the two leagues again this year and if he can score consistently at the NHL level, he will stick. The Boston native could pan out to be a real free agent gem for the Bruins.
4. Zach Senyshyn – Right Wing
2015-16: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Drafted: 15th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Boston
At the time of his draft, Senyshyn was projected as a second round pick by a lot of rankings. The Bruins went off the board to pick him in the first round, but in hindsight it may not have been such a crazy decision. In his draft year, Senyshyn was a little bit buried as the Sault were a team loaded up with star players in pursuit of a Championship run. Many of those players graduated to the pro ranks and Senyshyn inherited a first line role and he did not disappoint. Senyshyn posted a 20 point improvement with a 45 goals and 65 point season. He has good size and is blazing fast. Another season in junior is on tap for the Ottawa native and then some AHL seasoning where he needs to develop consistency and refine his defensive game.
5. Malcolm Subban – Goaltender
2015-15: Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 24th overall in the first round of the 2012 draft by Boston.
Entering his third pro season, there was a lot of pressure on Subban to take a big step forward in his development. He started strong in the NHL preseason, but injuries set him back early in the season. A throat injury cost him to miss the entire second half of the season after he just started hitting his stride in February. With Tuukka Rask entrenched as the starter, the signing of Anton Khudobin as the backup, it looks like Subban will remain in the AHL again. The Bruins have Daniel Vladar and Zane McIntyre on the way as well, so Subban may be best served with a trade at this point.
6. Danton Heinen – Center
2015-16: University of Denver (NCAA)
Drafted: 116th overall in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by Boston
You may not know Danton Heinen, but he is one of the fastest rising prospects in the Bruins organization. After two seasons in the NCAA where he scored over a point per game, he made the jump to pro after his sophomore season. He made his pro debut in Providence in the final two games of the season and posted two points. Heinen was one of the most impressive prospects at this summers development camp where he dominated with his speed, playmaking ability and skill level. Heinen will get a full season in the AHL to make the adjustments to the pro game, but he is definitely trending towards an impactful career.
7. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson – Center
2015-16: Boston University (NCAA)
Drafted: 45th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Boston
After being drafted by the Bruins with one of the picks acquired in the Dougie Hamilton trade, Forsbacka-Karlsson left the USHL to play NCAA in Boston. His freshman season was impressive with ten goals and 30 points in 39 games, and being named to the All-Rookie Team. His performance for Sweden at the WJC was also strong as he posted five points in seven games. His offensive ceiling may not translate to a top six role in the NHL, but he plays a strong two-way game and is already excellent on faceoffs which should serve him well as a third line center.
8. Jeremy Lauzon – Defense
2015-16: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Drafted: 52nd overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by the Bruins.
Despite a groin injury and a life threatening slash to the throat, Lauzon had a huge post draft season scoring 50 points in 46 games and a plus -40. Lauzon has NHL ready size, is an excellent skater and plays an aggressive and physical game. Despite his serious throat injury suffered late in the season, he had a strong development camp showing and at times was dominant physically and with his skill set. He has another year of junior to play and may need some AHL time as well, but he has impact defenceman upside for the Bruins.
9. Brandon Carlo – Defense
2015-16: Tri-City (WHL)
Drafted: 37th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by the Bruins.
Carlo is a big and physical shutdown defenceman. He played his final year of junior hockey posting 27 points in 52 games. Carlo made a brief pro debut to end the season playing in seven games for Providence. It is not expected that he will develop much of an offensive upside to his game, but his defensive, physical and mental game are already at the pro level.
10. Zane McIntyre – Goaltender
2015-16: Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 165th overall in the 6th round of the 2010 draft by the Bruins.
After a dominant senior year of NCAA Hockey where he almost won the Hobey Baker Award, McIntyre made his pro debut with Providence. As a first year pro, he split time in goal with Subban and posted decent numbers with a 2.67 GAA and a .898 sv %. The competition for the crease in Providence will be tough again this year. McIntyre improved as the season wore on after a slow start and continues to be a prospect on the rise.