The Bruins’ three-day Development Camp provides the brass with an idea on their prospects’ progression both on and off the ice. Some players, including all five of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, are a little further away from making the jump to the pros. Others are much closer to tasting the big time.
A pair of Swedish prospects, Axel Andersson and Oskar Steen, fall in the latter category.
Andersson, a 2018 second-round pick, has a blue-chip pedigree and traits that the Bruins’ brass value immensely.
The athletic 6-foot-1, 179-pound Jarna, Sweden native provides traits that many scouts blush over. He’s puck mover that displays tremendous ice vision, skating ability and lateral quickness.
Andersson mentioned looking up to Charlie McAvoy during last year’s Development Camp. After all, he displays a similar skillset to the talented McAvoy.
The Swede gave Bruins fans a glimpse into his potential last preseason, pairing with Zdeno Chara for a part of their September slate. But the Bruins opted to return Andersson to Sweden thanks to a crowded defensive prospect core.
Upon his return, the shifty defenseman struggled a bit offensively for Sodertalje SK. He tallied just five assists in 41 games.
“This year in Sweden was the first with men. First pro year. I think I developed mostly my defensive game. Developed defensively, took more responsibility this year,” Andersson said about his first year of professional hockey in Sweden. “They told me I would get bigger and more stronger. When you play with men, you develop your strength and weight. That’s a big thing in development.”
Yet despite his slight adjustment period to the pro game, it is hard to think that he won’t make the jump to Boston’s pro ranks in the very near future. In fact, Providence Bruins’ head coach Jay Leach said that Andersson isn’t far off and could easily play in the AHL this season.
The Bruins don’t want to rush Andersson’s development. They want him to grow into his own skin naturally. Andersson has the talent and it won’t be long until we see him don a black and gold sweater.
Making the jump to Boston isn’t too far fetched, either. We saw it with Connor Clifton last season where he went from prospect camp to Providence and eventually up to Boston during the 2018-19 season.
“He’s continuing. He’s still young, he still looks like a young kid. He played there in the second division there in Sweden, and had a little bit of a rough start, offensively I’d say,” said Bruins director of player development Jamie Langenbrunner.
“Probably just trying not to make a mistake. You know playing pro as an 18-year-old, you’re going to be a little cautious and he was. I think his game, you guys saw it a little bit in the preseason, he has the ability to create plays and make plays. His instincts are very good. He’ll be over here in North America this year, whether that’s in Providence or playing in junior, that’s to be determined I guess.”
Andersson’s pedigree gives him plenty of room for growth. But his fellow countryman, Steen, might be a bit closer to making the professional jump.
The 2016 sixth rounder made a significant leap forward in his development since last year’s camp. His talent and work ethic impressed the brass enough to consider him a darkhorse for a potential top-six spot come training camp.
Steen lit up the score sheet this past season for Frajestad BK, finishing second on the team with 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 46 games. To put things in perspective, the season prior he had a mere six points in 45 games.
“It was a really good season,” Steen said. “[Scored] a lot of points, had a good role in the team and had a lot of ice time.”
“A lot, for me,” Leach said about Steen’s improvement. “I remember him in the rookie tournament two years ago in Buffalo and I remember the speed, he was obviously a lighter player. And then last year here he was impressive but this year it just seems that he is really mature. I was able to see a few games online in the playoffs for him and he was really impressive. Clearly, you can tell he’s taken a step and it’s quite impressive.”
Steen moved to North America this summer in order to fulfill his sole focus on putting together an impressive training camp this fall.
Boston’s deep prospect system gives them a building block for further success following its run to the Stanley Cup Final. But general manager Don Sweeney still has some important free agent decisions — including Marcus Johansson — that might open up some roster spots.
Both Steen and Andersson have a good chance of at least landing a job in Providence this fall. They may make the trip up I-95 a few times depending on circumstances.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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