Tonight’s rookie game between the Bruins and Islanders at the Garden might not count in the standings or even be remembered a few weeks from now when the Bruins begin regular season play in Europe. But it is the first real taste of hockey we’ll have at the Garden this year, and it will give fans an opportunity to see which prospects could come knocking at the Garden door for a chance to play with the big club before long.
Almost all eyes will be fixated on second overall pick Tyler Seguin, who will most certainly be lacing them up for the Bruins this season. But there is a lot more to watch for in tonight’s matchup. Here are some things/players to keep an eye on:
After picking Seguin second overall, and trading their 15th overall pick to the Panthers in the Nathan Horton-deal, the Bruins’ next draft pick came around at No. 32 overall, where they scooped up center Jared Knight.
Listed around 5-foot-11 and 180-185 pounds, Knight doesn’t possess a real big frame. However, that doesn’t stop the 18-year-old from battling for the puck and playing the body. Knight possesses pretty good speed, but his competiveness could be what turns him into a solid NHL player.
Knight improved drastically in his second season in the OHL in 2009-2010, scoring 21 more goals and accumulating 27 more points than his previous season. He finished the 2009-2010 campaign with 36 goals and 21 assists in 63 games. In the playoffs, he continued to strive, improving his stock enough to be selected with the second pick in the second round. In 10 playoff games for the London Knights last season, he totaled 10 goals and seven assists in 12 games.
The Bruins may already have a phenom goalie in Tuukka Rask, but the NHL is evolving into a game where two goaltenders are essential to withstand an entire NHL season. It is similar to what the NFL has become in terms of running backs. The Bruins may even have that luxury at this point with Tim Thomas backing up Rask, but Thomas’ days in Boston could be numbered – whether that means him leaving via a trade before or during the season or him walking away after his contract is up.
The B’s will, at some point, need a formidable backup to aid Rask. Courchaine doesn’t necessarily project to be that guy, but he has an opportunity to make an impact on the Boston crowd tonight when he gets the start in net.
The B’s signed Courchaine in 2007, but he has had made a minimal impact in the organization thus far. He has mainly bounced around the OHL since being signed, and battled an always-dangerous groin injury that caused him to miss some time. In four career games with Providence, Courchaine is 2-1 and has allowed seven goals.
Hockeysfuture.com tabs Courchaine as a butterfly style goaltender who stays square with the shooter and is quick to react. While the site also considers him a long shot for the NHL, they did praise his ability to remain calm and focused, two assets that could bode well for his future, even if it isn’t in black and gold.
The progression of Jordan Caron and Joe Colborne
Caron, 19, was drafted 25th overall by the Bruins in 2009. Playing the last few seasons in the QMJHL, Caron’s size and physicality has impressed. However, he has been injury-prone throughout his young hockey career, and it will be interesting to see if Caron can remain healthy this season and continue to climb the ranks of the Bruins organization.
It will be very interesting to see how Colborne has progressed since being drafted by the Bruins with the 16th overall pick of the 2008 NHL Draft. He is still only 20 years old and has yet to play a game in the Bruins organization, but his third season since being drafted could be the one where he makes an impression on the front office.
At 6-foot-5, Colborne stands out on the ice. The biggest leap would be if Colborne could further utilize his size to knock more players on their asses. He is a solid distributor for his size – a la Joe Thornton – but he will need to increase his physicality in order to become the “strong, second line center” that hockeysfuture.com projects him to be.
Tonight could be the point at which Colborne – or any other Bruins rookie for that matter – begins his journey on the fast track to the NHL.