Most people watch hockey for the love of the game, those who are lucky enough to play at the NHL level are able to do so because they love the game, but many don’t know about the game behind the game. Mostly because it’s also a business. Team building is like chess in many ways, you have to move different pieces around in order to reach the ultimate goal of winning and each piece can do different things better than the others. What people typically forget is the business behind team building is pretty complicated. Front offices have to worry about the pro team and the development of the young guys they draft each year.
A lot of times, the AHL team is used as both a farm for talent and a bank in which they have assets similar to a stock market. You want to have a high valuation of your prospects so that if you need to make a trade for a disgruntled star in the NHL, you won’t have to spend any of your NHL assets. Prospects are also important in your own team building because it prevents the need to outspend other teams to sign a free agent.
The Bruins don’t have the best draft record of late but there are some names that stick out. These players could be in the news in regard to trade rumors or whether or not they are ready to make the jump to the big leagues. The Bruins have a list of players that will be missing to start off the season due to off-season surgery. That leaves ice time for these Bruins prospects in Providence that need to step up.
The 6’1″ center has a right-handed shot and weighs in at 195 pounds. He put up a 35-point season last year in the AHL and saw some time in the NHL where he put up 3 assists in 15 games. What’s holding Studnicka back is his size. Studnicka needs to grow a little bigger so he can push his weight around and impact the game better on defense. His scouting report says that he has a versatile game so he can play both the center and the wing. If the Bruins bring back Bergeron and Krejci, Studnicka could be slotted in on the wing somewhere to get him some playing time. This would give the Bruins some sort of replacement for Brad Marchand as he recovers from double hip surgery. Ideally, he would slot in at the 4c so he can get some face-off reps and work on his playmaking ability while learning to clear the crease on defense.
Steen is a 5’9″ forward who plays center and can play on the right side. He also notched 35 points for the P-Bruins last season but had 10 fewer penalty minutes than Studnicka and had a way better plus-minus. Could be based on how the coach used them on the ice but that’s a rather large difference. Steen has a small build and could benefit from adding on some weight but he strikes me as someone who can fill the role of Brad Marchand once he decides to hang up his skates. Since he can play on the wing, it might be better to set him there in Boston. He could fly around the zone and try to dirty up the defensive set-up. If Steen can find a way to disrupt the opponent’s flow of the game then he can become a very useful part of this team. If Montgomery slots him at the 3rw spot then I think he could have some good numbers to start the year, it might even bring him into mainstay territory.
Ahcan is a left-shot defenseman who can move the puck really well but lacks size. His 5’8″ build would fit more of a wingers game but Ahcan holds his own on the blue line. He is a puck-moving defenseman much like a former Bruins blueliner from seasons past. If Montgomery sits Ahcan on the third pairing and tries to get him some power-play time on the second unit he might be the replacement for Torey Krug we have been waiting on. Ahcan takes almost no penalties and has been really productive in Providence. Last season he put up 23 points in 46 games. He moves well on the ice and he can find ways to put the puck in the net or find someone who can. If he can translate his game against NHL competition then he could find a permanent spot on the roster in Boston.
Wagner is a Walpole native who spent last season in Providence as a result of the log jam up the middle in Boston. While not exactly a prospect, Wagner boasts 7 years of experience in the NHL where he spent some time In Boston before being sent down. He has a strong center of gravity which helps him maintain his control of the puck. He could be a good bottom-sixth-depth player in a time that Boston really needs it. He could end up benefitting from the early absences and solidify a spot on the main roster. One thing that Wagner could work on is taking penalties; the forward spent 39 minutes in the box last season. That’s almost 2 periods of a game. The last thing Boston needs is to constantly be on the penalty kill. Hopefully, a real shot to come back to the big leagues is enough for him to curb some bad habits.
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