The Boston Bruins are in a very familiar position. Going into the 2012-13 season the Bruins were in need of a third line winger, they filled that role for the time being with Chris Bourque before replacing him with Jordan Caron and then playing musical chairs before acquiring Jaromir Jagr at the trade deadline. With Rich Peverly going to the Dallas Stars in the Tyler Seguin trade, we once again have an open third line spot. Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly will be the obvious roster players going into next season, but with the open spot there are plenty of candidates for who will take over that open spot.
There are 5 players in mind that could be possible and permanent roster members for the B’s.
5. Jordan Caron
NHL Experience: 88 Games (11 G, 14 A, 25 Pts)
Performance Grade: D- (NHL) / D+ (AHL)
Jordan Caron is very good at being able to make a play by throwing his body around. He positions himself in the slot and is very good at screening. He’s made quite a good few plays in his very short amount of NHL experience. He combines sort of a throw your body power-forward style with a reserved defensive style along the red line in the neutral zone and the defensive blue line.
That being said, Caron might be good at throwing his body to make a play but there have been numerous times when he throws his body along the corner boards in the offensive zone, let’s the puck go free, and refuses to chase it. He is very prone to turning the puck over at the blue-line and has shown little poise when playing at the NHL level. His short-comings don’t just bother him with the Big club either, his AHL numbers are almost as lackluster as his NHL numbers. People have sang his praise saying he seems like he’d fit better in the NHL than the AHL but it’s not showing. He can be a liability in tight situations along the offensive blue line and in the offensive zone. He might have scored 11 goals in 88 games across 3 seasons in the NHL but those goals come so few and far between. His first long stay in the NHL was 48 games during the 2011-12 season, and it was painful to watch. He only registered 15 points (7-8) and he ended his 48 game tenure a 0 +/- . He has never had a strong + Rating in the NHL, at all. The only high plus rating he had was a +3 after 23 games in the 2010-11 season.
4. Craig Cunningham
NHL Experience: N/A
Performance Grade: N/A (NHL) / A- (AHL)
Cunningham was drafted 97th overall in the 2010 Entry Draft and has been tearing up Providence both years he’s been with the club. His debut season with the Baby-B’s he netted 20 goals and 16 assists in 76 games. This year he netted 25 goals and 21 assists in 75 games. He has shown a consistent scoring touch while in Providence and was in the Top 3 for team scoring in Providence this year, behind Carter Camper and Ryan Spooner. He has very good poise and sight on the ice and would fit very well into the Bruins big league system. He could definitely be one of the sleeper hits of that 2010 Draft if he really proves himself.
He has 0 NHL experience. While this isn’t a bad thing, he only stands 5’9 and that could cause some slow adjustment to the NHL or he could not be able to adjust at all and feel too much pressure on himself (much like Chris Bourque’s problem this year) to preform above his level. Cunningham certainly has potential to be able to preform at the NHL level, but that might not mean anything until we see him on TD Garden ice.
3. Seth Griffith
NHL Experience: N/A
Performance Grade: N/A (NHL) / N/A (AHL)
Seth is coming off of a very successful OHL career as he makes the transition to Pro. Slated to join the Providence roster for the 2013-14 season there is a very good chance he could impress enough at this years training camp to possibly consider himself in the running for the spot. His four seasons with the Knights have seen him score a combined 231 points in 207 games. He played two full 68 game seasons (2010-11, 2011-12) scoring 65 points in the first and 85 in the second. He missed 14 games this year with injury, yet still managed to score 81 points and sit second in scoring on the team behind Max Domi. During his time in the OHL, the Knights have not missed the playoffs. His first two years with the team he would only play 16 total games in 2 seasons scoring 14 points. His first big run came in 2011-12, where in 19 games he netted 23 points (10-13) going on to capture 1 of his 2 OHL Championships. This year, he scored 25 points in 21 games defeating the Barrie Colts to win his second OHL Championship. He made one memorial cup appearance in 2011-12, when the team took on the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. The Cataractes bested the Knights in the series.
Just because a player has a strong junior career does not make them immediately ready for the NHL. While Seth certainly has the gift to score and could put on enough of a show to consider himself in the race for the spot. He will only be in the race, there is no way they will give him a chance at the spot without AHL time. He may definitely see some NHL time during the year if his performance in Providence is good enough he becomes the first name on the call-up list. But he needs the time in the American League to develop more, although don’t turn your back on him just yet.
2. Carter Camper
NHL Experience: 3 games (1 G, 0 A, 1 Pts.)
Performance Grade: C+ (NHL) / A+ (AHL)
Camper has seen NHL time during his career. He scored 1 goal against the Ottawa Senators while playing on the “Providence Line” made up of Jordan Caron, Josh Hennessy and Camper. Camper had a rocky start into his professional career, much like his NHL time he only played 3 games of the 2010-11 AHL season when he arrived from University of Miami Ohio. Again, much like his NHL debut he would only score 1 goal but also added 1 assist. The following year he took off scoring 48 points in 69 games, in the 2012-13 season he was second on the team in scoring with 47 points in 57 games and in the 12 game post season for the Providence Bruins he scored 13 points. His skating and overall hockey sense is strong, and you can tell from just watching how he plays. He might not have a strong goal scoring touch right now, but he can pass the puck (ala Adam Oates). Only 10 goals factored into those 47 points, meaning he assisted on 37 goals and finished a +2 on the season with 6 PIM. Showing he can play disciplined and he can certainly use the help of Claude’s defensive system especially with his passing ability.
Camper runs into two problems. The first being the same as many other people on this list; his height. Like Cunningham he stands only 5’9 and seemed a little jittery in his 3 games with the Bruins in the 2011-12 season. Another big problem for him is, he is a centre. Adding him would be adding a 3rd centre to that line and it’s not really needed, but then again we’ve only seen him play as a centre. Maybe his passing ability could greatly help even if he is on the wing, after all if the opposition is following Kelly he could easily find Camper in open ice who could more than likely find Soderberg an connect for a goal.
1. Matt Fraser
NHL Experience: 13 Games (1 G, 2 A, 3 Pts.)
Performance Grade: C- (NHL) / A+ (AHL)
Fraser was one of the two forward prospects the Bruins acquired in the Dallas trade. Although Riley Smith had more points than Fraser in the NHL, Fraser was the stronger scorer in the AHL, having back to back 30 goal seasons with the club. Along with Joe Morrow he has been rated and touted as being a having a very dangerous offensive talent. Hockeysfuture.com gave him a B rating on their Probability of Success scoring, and Dallas Stars blog “Defending Big D” wrote an article about him back in January talking the winger up and down. Everyone seems to comment on his three-zone play and his ability to hopefully posses a strong two-way game. He finished +13 this season after his first saw him end with -13, a major turn around for him.
The only real con one can find in Fraser’s play is that his defensive play needs to improve, which it will with Claude’s system. He already developed a high scoring touch with the Texas Stars and he could certainly use the two-way development of the Bruins system. There haven’t been many other criticisms about Fraser’s game and overall he seems like an all around solid player, who certainly may see himself with a B on his chest next year.
(All stats and player information provided by: HockeyDB, Hockey’s Future, Elite Prospects and Defending Big D)