The Boston bruins enjoyed another successful season in 2018-19 on the strength of their top line (arguably the best line on hockey) of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. But in the modern NHL salary cap era, a team must rely on a steady and reliable flow of prospects playing their way onto an impact role in the roster with an entry-level cap hit.
The Bruins have recently graduated prospects such as Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and Brandon Carlo; and more help is on the way. Boston continues to do a great job of scouting, drafting and developing, and not rushing prospects.
Top 10 Boston Bruins Prospects
1. Jack Studnicka, C – Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 53rd overall in the second round of the 2017 NHL draft by Boston
Studnicka has been on a steady development trend since his draft year. In fact, the summer of 2018 he began turning heads at training camp and earned a shot at NHL preseason action. Ultimately the Bruins decided to return him to Junior where he posted 83 points in 60 OHL games as well as representing Canada at the World Junior with another four points in five games. Studnicka completed the season in the AHL in the playoffs with Providence contributing two points in four games.
With his Junior career complete, Studnicka has embarked on his pro career and is adjusting at the AHL level where he has found early success with a goal and five points in his first eight games.
Studnicka plays a complete game, he has a nose for the net, is reliable defensively, can skate, has good size and strength and is a leader in the room. Look for Studnicka to get more AHL seasoning before making a full-time push on the Bruins roster, but he is the heir apparent for the first-line center position after Bergeron and Krejci age out.
2. Urho Vaakanainen, D – Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 18th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Boston
Vaakanainen is regarded more as a defensive defenseman, but his offensive game may be underrated. He has demonstrated the ability to move the puck, either carrying it or passing it to create transition offense.
The Finnish defender made his North American debut last season posting 14 points in 30 AHL games. He even made his NHL debut, playing in two games. A concussion interrupted his season but he returned on time to represent Finland at the World Junior where he helped anchor the Finnish blueline posting four points and helping to win the Gold.
Vaakanainen has started the season in the AHL where he is continuing to develop playing top minutes but should be rewarded with an NHL recall when injuries strike.
3. Anders Bjork, LW – Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 146th overall in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL draft by Boston
Bjork enjoyed a strong NCAA career where in his junior season posted 52 points in 39 games before turning pro. Since then he has split time between Boston and Providence playing 50 NHL games, but only producing 15 career NHL points.
His AHL production is significantly stronger and continues to improve. Bjork currently has three goals and eight points in seven games. Injuries have interrupted his NHL momentum but he needs to find his scoring touch at the NHL level before he locks down a regular top-six role.
4. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C – Vaxjo (SHL)
Drafted: 45th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Boston
The Bruins were dealt a blow when they were unable to re-sign JFK and after playing the past six years developing in North America – he signed back in Sweden. JFK had a strong NCAA career with the Terriers, and had two good, but not great seasons as a pro splitting time between the AHL and the NHL.
Forsbacka-Karlsson plays a very competitive game. He is tenacious on forechecks, wins puck battles, plays a solid two-way game but may have a ceiling as a middle to bottom-six player.
JFK is not the first top prospect the Bruins have lost to Europe as they still hold the NHL rights to Russian winger Alex Khokhlachev. It remains to be seen if the Bruins will be able to persuade either prospect to return, perhaps they can trade them to recover an asset or they could possibly just be gone.
5. Trent Frederic -C Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 29th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Boston
Some argued that the Bruins may have reached selecting big Frederic in the first round of the draft. After developing in the NCAA with the legendary University of Wisconsin, Frederic made the jump to pro after his sophomore season. Last year was his first full pro season which was a very successful season including a 15 game NHL audition. He failed to record his first NHL career point in that time but did manage 14 goals and 25 points in 55 AHL games.
Frederic is a big power forward that is not shy about using his size and strength or dropping the mitts. He is strong on draws has some offensive upside but will likely be used as a defensive shut down player in a bottom-six checking role when he arrives shortly.
6. John Beecher, C – University of Michigan (NCAA)
Drafted: 30th overall in the first round of the 2018 draft by Boston
Similar to Frederic, Beecher is a big throwback type center. He plays a strong two-way game, uses his size and strength to his advantage but also has some offensive upside.
Beecher had the benefit and challenge of playing or possibly the greatest USNTDP team of all-time in his draft year. He played on a stacked team that boasted centers such as Jack Hughes, Alex Turcott and Trevor Zegras which gave him plenty of looks from scouts but limited his role and ice time.
As an NCAA freshman, he has produced three points in his first four games and will likely be allowed to develop in the NCAA with the University of Michigan for one or two more seasons.
7. Peter Cehlarik, LW – Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 90th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by Boston
Cehlarik has gone under the radar as a prospect despite being a prolific scorer consistently for three seasons in the AHL. His production at the NHL level has lacked consistency perhaps due to injuries that have cost him to miss chunks of time in his pro career in North America.
He has lead the AHL Bruins in scoring and has started the season off strong again with five goals and seven points in seven games. Look for his next opportunity to play on the big squad to be injury free and possibly his breakout opportunity and performance at the NHL level. The time is now, or never for the Slovakian sniper.
8. Karson Kuhlman, RW – Boston Bruins (NHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent in 2018
A late bloomer, Kuhlman played out his full four seasons of NCAA at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He split his first pro season last year between Providence and Boston after he signed his ELC. Kuhlman had his big break in the 2018-19 playoffs where he was given an opportunity and ran with it.
His game is based on his compete level and his hustle. Kuhlman may not be the fastest skater, or most skilled (which suggests why he was never drafted) but his determination and compete are second to none. His ceiling is limited to an energy role type player that is responsible defensively and can generate some momentum.
9. Oskar Steen, C Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 165th overall in the 6th round of the 2016 draft by Boston
Steen is a rapidly rising and developing prospect in the Bruins system. He enjoyed a breakout season in the SHL posting 17 goals and 37 points in 46 games. It was more than enough to persuade the Bruins to sign him to his ELC and bring him to North America. The early returns are promising as Steen has produced two goals and two assists for four points in his first eight games while adjusting to North America.
The 21-year-old Swede may be undersized but he is very shifty and elusive, highly skilled and isn’t shy to drive straight to the goal and go to the “hard areas” of the ice. Steen will need the better part of the season in the AHL adjusting and developing but is trending towards challenging for a top-six roster spot in the near future.
10. Jakub Lauko, LW – Providence Bruins (AHL)
Drafted: 77th overall in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft by Boston
Lauko made the transition to North America last year to play in the QMJHL and there he helped lead the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to a Memorial Cup Championship with eight points in five games.
The speedy Czech winger plays the game with speed, skill, smarts and a little bit of an edge. These attributes all translate well to the NHL. Lauko may not have a tremendously high offensive ceiling but he plays a strong two-way game and can be a shift disturber as well. He has a tremendous foundation and has been consistently developing. He is a longer-term prospect but one with significant and intriguing upside.