Five Bruins Training Camp Questions: Part 3 – Bruins prospects to watch
(Photo credit: Steve Babineau, Boston Bruins)
All this week, Bruins Daily will countdown the most important questions surrounding the Boston Bruins entering training camp. In Part 3, we’ll look at the Bruins prospects have the best chance to make the roster.
With the flurry of transactions that Don Sweeney made this off-season, the new Bruins GM moved some pieces, acquired others, and made some questionable trades as well.
Sweeney’s first off-season wasn’t perfect to say the least, but it was quite eventful. But the trade of Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton and other departures like Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Carl Soderberg begs the question: are the Bruins in a rebuilding mode?
Sure, the B’s still have some strong veteran leadership with their big four in Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. They also made a couple of key additions in acquiring Jimmy Hayes and signing Matt Beleskey. And David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner look to make the next step in their NHL careers after a strong showing in 2014-15.
Still, the roster has its share of flaws. Their defense is a work in progress while the makeup of the top four lines is uncertain at this point. That’s where some of the Bruins prospects can take advantage of an opportunity and make the jump to the opening night roster with a strong pre-season.
Which Bruins prospects have the best chance to shine during training camp? Let’s take a look.
The Bruins blue-line is in need of a spark after Dougie Hamilton’s departure. Miller, at least offensively, could fill that spot.
Acquired from the Kings in the Lucic trade on Draft Day, Miller is coming off a season where he compiled 52 points (19 goals, 33 assists) in 70 games with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. He carried that strong offensive showing in the playoffs with 10 points in 19 games sparking the team to a Calder Trophy triumph.
Offensively, Miller provides a hard shot and good puck-moving ability. But scouting reports consistently look at his defensive game as a work in progress.
The Black and Gold could use a jump start in their transition game after a season where they were slow — and at times lethargic — when transitioning with the puck. That’s an area where Miller could really help, even if he still struggles defending the Bruins zone at times. The question is, will Miller be donning the Spoked B to start the season? Only time will tell.
Although some considered Sweeney’s performance underwhelming at the Entry Draft, selecting Zboril is one move he shouldn’t regret.
Although a bit undersized — at 6-foot-1 and 184 pounds — Zboril is known to have a good two-way game. The blue-liner came off his only season at the QMJHL tallying 43 points (13 goals, 30 assists) and 73 penalty minutes in 44 games with the St. John Sea Dogs. The 18 year old was a member of a Czech Republic squad that won silver at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament, tallying six points (four goals, two assists) in five games.
Zboril, who signed his entry level contract in July, will find himself getting top-four minutes in the future. He may see some time this season in Boston, but expect the 13th overall pick to start the season in Providence.
For a first rounder who has been dealt twice already from Pittsburgh and Dallas, Joe Morrow seems to have weathered the storm. The 23rd overall pick in 2011 earned his first callup with the Black and Gold and played in 15 games, tallying one goal and averaging nearly 17 minutes a night in that span. Despite a knee injury in February, Morrow returned to Providence and provided some much needed stability on the Baby B’s blue-line and made some strides in his development.
Unlike Miller and Zboril, Morrow comes in with previous NHL experience. Morrow can provide a good two-way game and would be a welcoming sight to the main roster if he can stay healthy.
Early on in 2014-15, Griffith became a player to watch as he spent time on the top line with Lucic and Krejci. As guys got healthy, Griffith’s game regressed, however, and he was sent back down to Providence following a Jan 8th game vs. the Penguins where he tallied just 5:21 of ice time in eight shifts.
The 5-foot-9 Griffith was best known for his highlight reel goals in the first two months of the season. Although he performed well when he returned to Providence, it’s still uncertain whether Griffith can overcome his lack of size and strength and make the roster for opening night.
He can make up for it with his speed, but unless he adds other elements to his game, Griffith’s presence won’t be felt on a nightly basis.
For the past two seasons, Khoklachev has been a primary offensive weapon for Bruce Cassidy in Providence. The 2011 second round pick took another step forward with the Baby B’s in 2014-15 and earned a spot in the AHL All Star Game in a year where he tallied 43 points (15 goals, 28 assists) in 61 games.
His track record, his offensive touch and his speed would be a good fit for the Bruins roster. Yet, he faces an uphill climb thanks to Boston’s depth at center and asking him to make a quick transition to wing might not be the best thing for his development.
Still, it’s safe to assume that Koko should be one of the first players on the P-Bruins to earn a callup if and/or when his services are needed.
At 27, Kemppainen is not exactly a prospect per se, but he’ll be playing in his first season of North American hockey in 2015-16 after signing a one-year, two-way contract in May.
Kemppainen spent the first four years playing for Karpat of SM-liiga in Finland and tallied 100 career points (44 goals, 56 assists) in 230 career regular season games. Those might not be the best offensive numbers, but he followed his 32 point season in 2014-15 and notched 24 points in 19 playoff games and led his team to their second straight league title. Following that, he represented his country at the IIHF world championships tallying nine points (three goals, six assists) in eight games.
At 6-2, 213 pounds, Kemppainen adds another big body to the front 12. He may not see top six minutes, but his two-way game should earn him a spot on the bottom-six. Can he make a smooth transition from the European to North American style of hockey? Only time will tell.
Other Bruins prospects to watch: Linus Arnesson, Brian Ferlin, Noel Accari, Anton Blidh, Anthony Camara, Tyler Randall
Check back tomorrow for Part 4 where we look at some possible roster additions before the start of the regular season.