We saw over the course of the 2010-11 season and all the way through last week’s fifth annual development camp that the Bruins have the type of prospects that should guarantee the wait for the next Stanley Cup championship won’t take another 39 years.
Some prospects have a chance to contribute to Boston’s attempt at a repeat, while others are three to five years away from donning black and gold on a regular basis. Some fall some place in between those two extremes.
What follows is a list of Bruins’ prospects ranked in terms of their chances of contributing to the 2011-12 Bruins. It is in no way a ranking of who the best prospects are, or who has the best chance to be an NHL superstar.
Obviously age, pro experience and pro eligibility have a large impact on this list. Also keep in mind that up front the Bruins have lost Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, while adding Benoit Pouliot, and on defense the club only lost Tomas Kaberle and imported Joe Corvo to replace him.
So at most, there is one job available on D and one that could be taken by an upstart up front. And even then the ice time and games played might be few and far between.
Let the arguing begin:
1. Jordan Caron, LW/RW
We saw his nose for the net and his ability to play responsibly in his own end during a 23-game stint in the NHL last season. Caron’s numbers (12-16-28 in 47 games) in the AHL weren’t all the impressive, but it took him a while to come down from the excitement of starting out in the NHL. Plus, he wasn’t exactly surrounded by a lot of firepower. You like Caron right now for his intangibles, and that’s why he could easily win a second- or third-line winger job with the big club this fall.
2. Jamie Arniel, C/W
Without the benefit of a lot of high-end offensive skill or the assistance of much super-skilled support, Arniel led the Providence (AHL) farm club with 50 points last season and was among the “Black Aces” until the Bruins hoisted the Cup. He projects as a grinder in the NHL, so he could prove to be a cheaper third- or fourth-line alternative for the Bruins, should they bump a player up the depth chart or decide to ship someone out of town.
3. Steven Kampfer, D
Without that injury he suffered during an AHL conditioning stint at the tail end of the season, Kampfer would’ve been able to contribute to Boston’s cause in the postseason when Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid were forced from the lineup for various reasons. Instead he had to work his way back into shape and wait in reserve over the course of the final two series. Although he struggled at points during the regular season and wound up as a healthy scratch for the stretch run, Kampfer’s early-season impact as a first-year pro playing defense was remarkable. If he can regain his confidence and readjust his game against opponents that now have a book on him, he’ll push for at least a top-six spot.
4. Anton Khudobin, G
This is the guy you don’t want to see — and it’s no knock on Khudobin’s skills. But if he’s with the big club, Tim Thomas or Tuukka Rask is hurt. Should one on those veterans go down briefly, the Bruins should be able to rely on the 25-year-old Khudobin, who in six career NHL games (all with Minnesota) has compiled a .955 save percentage and 1.40 goals-against average. Odds are, after a full season of perfect health, Thomas or Rask is going to have to some sort of ailment creep up this season. That’s why Khudobin coming back to Boston was a big deal this summer.
5. Max Sauve, C/W
The injuries that limited him to 61 games played last season might’ve delayed Sauve’s development a little bit. He’s not helped by the fact that the Bruins’ openings up front probably require a bit more physicality and defensive ability than he has right now. But there’s no denying that this guy’s speed and hands should put him in the mix for a call-up from this season on out.
6. Jared Knight, RW
Development camp always has a way of raising a guy’s stock. But when he left Boston last summer, Knight knew he needed to bulk up and get better in his own end. Well, he put on 20 pounds of almost pure muscle and by all accounts he learned responsibility last season with London (OHL) while putting up 70 points in 68 games. And he showed how much he improved during this summer’s development camp. When it comes down to it, based on available playing time the Bruins will probably want Knight to get more junior seasoning. But in terms of a combination of physicality, skill and a solid head on his shoulders, Knight’s the type of kid that can sometimes alter a team’s plans.
7. Matt Bartkowski, D
The Bruins got the best of both worlds with the first-year pro blueliner last year. They were able to get him most of a full season with Providence (5-18-23 totals in 63 games) but also gave him a six-game cup of coffee with the big club and kept him around with the “Black Aces” for the duration. He still has a lot to learn and another year of AHL seasoning should do him well, but should there be a rash of injuries on Boston’s back end Bartkowski would be in line for more NHL time.
8. Ryan Spooner, C
With a little more physicality in his game during development-camp scrimmages, Spooner showed that he hasn’t rested on his laurels from last fall’s push for an NHL job. He still needs to add more weight and keep expanding the breadth of his hockey sense. His game’s probably too cute to fill a role with Boston right now, but you can’t count him out considering how well he performed in his first NHL camp. A return to junior, however, is probably in the cards.
9. Colby Cohen, D
Had he not battled injury when Boston first acquired him from Colorado, Cohen might’ve pushed Bartkowski for one of those second-half call-ups. Nonetheless, he was a solid plus-5 with 12 points in 46 games for a poor Providence team last season. With a full training camp in Boston’s system, Cohen could show enough to be in the mix as an injury call-up or seventh D this season, in particular if Boston decides it needs more size on its back end. They kept him around among the “Black Aces” in the playoffs, so the Bruins must like what they see.
10. Zach Hamill, C
Head coach Bruce Cassidy has hinted at the potential for a position change for the former first-round pick if he doesn’t pick up his play in the middle. The Bruins have tried a lot of things in an attempt to motivate Hamill, so one more maneuver wouldn’t be surprising. Hamill didn’t look completely out of place in his brief NHL stint (three games, one assist), but that he wasn’t kept around with the “Black Aces” tells you all you need to know about his standing in the organization at this stage of his career.