Kyle Connor is the best American forward not named Jack Eichel in this draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Kyle Connor is the best American forward not named Jack Eichel in this draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The annual NHL Scouting Combine will take place this coming week in Buffalo, meaning the Bruins will get a close look at the prospects they’€™ll consider with the 14th overall pick in June’€™s draft.

Here’€™s a quick look at some of the guys who might be around the Bruins’€™ range and a few for whom they’€™d have to trade up to secure. We’€™ll break these posts down into forwards and defensemen, starting with forwards today:

GUYS THE BRUINS COULD GET

Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS Turku (Finland), 6-foot-3 1/2, 211 pounds

The top international prospect in the draft according to NHL Central Scouting, Rantanen is hyped for having a strong shot, among other qualities. He had just nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points in 56 games this season in SM-liiga, Finland’€™s top professional league. Mock drafts have him going in the top 10, so this could be wishful thinking for the B’€™s.

Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia (OHL), 6-foot-3, 210 pounds

Played in the Czech Extraliga before coming over to North America. The 18-year-old was nearly a point-per-game player in his first season with the Sting, scoring 16 goals and adding 18 assists for 34 points in 37 games, but he also missed ample time with injuries. Remember: Injuries in his draft year helped David Pastrnak slide to the B’€™s in the late first round last year.

Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL), 6-foot-1, 209 pounds

The Switzerland native plays a heavy game and compares himself to Max Pacioretty. Meier is a left-shot right wing, similar to current Bruins Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith. Worth noting: The QMJHL has been kind to the Bruins in the past (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand), but Boston’€™s last first-round pick from the Q was Jordan Caron.

Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL), 5-foot-11 1/4, 175 pounds

Mike Morreale of NHL.com projected Barzal to the Bruins in his post-lottery mock draft. If that were to happen, Barzal could be quite the value pick.

Once considered a possibility to go third overall in this draft, a knee injury this past season hurt Barzal’€™s stock. Considered an elite offensive talent, a team prioritizing taking the best player available could capitalize should he slide. Barzal’€™s also an alum of the BCHL’€™s Coquitlam Express, which is where Milan Lucic played before the WHL.

Kyle Connor, LW, Youngstown (USHL), 6-foot-1, 177 pounds

Committed to play at the University of Michigan next season, Connor is a speedster who receives praise for his defensive play. Connor is ranked as the sixth-best player in the entire draft by TSN’€™s Craig Button, whereas Central Scouting ranks him as the No. 13 North American player.

Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa (OHL), 5-foot-9 3/4, 175 pounds

Konecny is a fast right-shot center whom the 67’€™s drafted first overall in the 2013 OHL draft. He hasn’€™t set the OHL on fire yet, but he has produced at more than a point-per-game pace in each of his two seasons in Ottawa.

Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George (WHL), 6-foot-1 1/4, 182 pounds

Frequently compared to David Krejci for being a well-rounded center, Harkins is the son of former Flames second-round pick Todd Harkins and the nephew of former Bruins left wing Brett Harkins.

Evgeny Svechnikov, LW, QMJHL, 6-foot-1 3/4, 199 pounds

After playing junior hockey back home in Russia for the three previous seasons, Schechnikov enjoyed a very strong first season in the QMJHL this year with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 55 games. Svechnikov brings a combination of skill and physicality. 

Brock Boeser, RW, Waterloo (USHL), 6-foot-0, 187 pounds

The two-way forward is ranked ninth overall on Button’€™s list but is the No. 27 North American skater in Central Scouting’€™s eyes. Boeser is committed to play at the University of North Dakota.

Nick Merkley, C/RW, Kelowna (WHL) 5-foot-10, 188 pounds

Merkley’€™s goals dropped from 25 to 20 this season, but he saw a mammoth increase in points thanks to his 70 assists (90 points in 72 games). A teammate of 2014 third overall pick Leon Draisaitl in Kelowna, Merkley will have the perfect opportunity to boost his stock further in Sunday’€™s Memorial Cup final against Oshawa.

GUYS THE BRUINS WOULD HAVE TO MOVE UP TO GET

Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL), 6-foot-3, 185 pounds

How the Bruins could get him: By trading up to No. 3 or 4

Good enough to be the first overall pick in an average draft, but this draft has two monsters at the top. Strome scored 45 goals and added 84 assists for 129 points in 68 games this season. Those numbers are outstanding; the fact that McDavid put up similar numbers (44-76–120) in just 47 games. Strome is elite, but McDavid and Eichel could be other-wordly.

Mitchell Marner, C, London (OHL), 5-foot-11, 160 pounds

How the Bruins could get him: By trading into the top five

Undersized but highly skilled, with his hands earning him more praise than anything else. Right-shot centers are always in high demand, and he’€™s the second-best in this draft behind Eichel.

Lawson Crouse, LW, Kingston (OHL), 6-foot-4, 215 pounds

How the Bruins could get him: By trading into the top 10

Crouse has the size and is praised for playing a solid all-around game. He’€™s even been compared to Cam Neely, but he hasn’€™t scored an awful lot at the junior level. He led the Frontenacs with 51 points (29 goals, 22 assists), but that total was 61st in the OHL.

As this post from SportsNet points out, however, Milan Lucic didn’€™t put up points in his draft year either (just nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points), yet he proved to be well worth the Bruins’€™ second-round reach.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

The Bruins have signed 2013 sixth-round pick Anton Blidh to an entry-level contract, the team announced Friday.

A forward who spent last season playing for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League, Blidh had five goals and no assists over 48 games last season. He totaled one goal and six assists the previous season between Frolunda HC and Karlskrona HK of Swedish Division 1.

The 20-year-old left wing is listed at 6-foot-0 and 181 pounds. He becomes the second member of the 2013 draft class to sign his entry-level with the B’s, joining fellow Sweden native Linus Arnesson. The B’s signed Arnsesson last June, with the second-round pick coming over from Sweden late in the season and playing 11 games for Providence.

The Bruins did not have a first-round pick in 2013, as it was dealt to the Stars in exchange for Jaromir Jagr.

 

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Don Sweeney has work to do. (Brian Babineau/Boston Bruins)Since the Bruins promoted Don Sweeney to general manager, lots of folks have weighed in with to-do lists. Some have been good and some have been dumbfounding.



The Bruins on Thursday announced the signing of forward Joonas Kemppainen to a one-year, two-way contract.

Kemppainen, 27, was second on the Finnish team in scoring at the IIHF World Championships, finishing with three goals and six assists in eight games.

The Bruins on Thursday announced the signing of forward Joonas Kemppainen to a one-year, two-way contract.

Kemppainen, 27, was second on the Finnish team in scoring at the IIHF World Championships, finishing with three goals and six assists in eight games.

Kemppainen, who stands 6-foot-2, 213-pounds, played for Oulun Karpat of the Finnish Elite League in 2014-15, recording 11 goals, 21 assists and a plus-15 rating in 59 games. He added 10 goals and 14 assists with a plus-14 rating in 19 playoff games.

He has played nine seasons in the Finnish Elite League with three teams, totaling 62 goals, 99 assists and a plus-41 rating in 464 regular-season games.

 

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Don Sweeney, who was hired as the Bruins general manager yesterday speaks with Dale and Holley about his new position and where the Bruins go from here.

Don Sweeney played 15 seasons for the Bruins. (Dave Sanford/Getty Images)Don Sweeney is Cam Neely’s guy. That can end up being either a good thing or a bad thing for the Bruins. 



Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

How the Bruins proceed with Milan Lucic will be high on the list of things that define the early going of Don Sweeney’€™s tenure as Bruins general manager. Sweeney is well aware.

Lucic, who turns 27 next month, has been a dominant player in seasons past. His numbers have been in decline for years, however, and he carries a $6 million cap hit entering the final year of a contract that allows him to pick 15 teams to which he’€™d accept a trade.

Speaking to WEEI.com Wednesday evening, Sweeney called Lucic a “foundational type player” but noted that the B’€™s will get a feel for Lucic’€™s future contract demands before proceeding. Trading Lucic would shed cap space, but the team might not get the return they’€™d have gotten for him in years past given that he is coming off a season in which he scored just 18 goals.

“The CBA at this point in time, you can’€™t argue with what’€™s in front of us and the challenges it may present,” Sweeney told WEEI.com. “[Lucic] is going into a contract year and free agency’€™s on the other side of it. We’€™re going to have to be out in front and have some early discussions and certainly get a temperature read as to how much he wants to be a part of the Boston Bruins‘€™ future going forward.

“We have to convey a similar thing and make a [decision]. Some of these decisions and conversations aren’€™t going to be easy. They’€™re not, but it was part of me as a player that I appreciated when coaches and people had conversations with you. You may not like all the stuff being said, but you can process it and move past it and understand that it’€™s part of it.”

With the exception of his improvement from a disastrous 2013 season, Lucic’€™s goals per 60 and points per 60 have dropped in each year since a career year in 2010-11 in which he scored 30 goals. Sweeney said he feels Lucic can still be the impact player that he’€™s been in the past.

‘€œHe has a presence about him,’€ Sweeney said. ‘€œIt might not have been his finest year, but there are moments where you realize, ‘€˜Wow. This guy is a unique player.’€™ We’€™re going to have to have discussions along those lines.’€œ

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Cam Neely. (Getty Images)

Cam Neely. (Getty Images)

While Cam Neely defended his relationship with Claude Julien Wednesday, he revealed a bit more about how he got along with the recently fired Peter Chiarelli.

After the Bruins introduced Don Sweeney as the team’€™s next general manager, Neely stressed the importance of communication in the front office, prompting a question as to whether he felt he and Chiarelli communicated as well as they would have liked.

“The communication could have been better,” Neely answered.

Chiarelli was the GM before Neely was president, but Chiarelli’€™s success prevented Neely from picking his own guy until the Bruins missed the playoffs this season.

Given that Sweeney is both a former teammate of Neely’€™s and the general manager of Neely’€™s choosing, the working relationship between he and Neely figures to be better. He claimed that his friendship with Sweeney did not take priority over the qualifications of other candidates.

“I’ve been president of the Bruins since 2010,” Neely said. “I have not hired a friend.”

Neely repeatedly deflected questions about who gets final say on player personnel, but noted he doesn’€™t want to do his general manager’€™s job.

“I’€™ve made it very clear: I’€™m not a GM. I don’€™t want to be a GM,” Neely said. “I want the GM to do the job, but I want to know what’€™s going on. I don’€™t know how much more clear I can be with that. If the GM wants to push and fight and say ‘€˜This is the right thing,’€™ then I’€™ll sit down and listen. I want to have conversations. My door is always open.”

The Bruins fired Chiarelli on April 15. He has since taken over the Oilers as team president and GM. Because he had term on his contract that the Bruins would pay had he not found work elsewhere, the Bruins can seek draft pick compensation from the Oilers. Neely confirmed the Bruins are seeking a pick from the Oilers, which would be a second-round pick in one of the next three drafts. The Oilers get to pick which year they give up the pick, making it unlikely that they’€™ll part with the third pick of the second round in this June’€™s draft.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

While the Bruins now officially have a general manager, the situation with their head coach remains unclear.