The Providence Bruins are in 14th place in the Eastern Conference in mid-November. Offense has been tough to come by and the defense has been up and down, but there are some bright spots in player development on the farm.
Sophomore pro Carter Camper is off to another solid season in Providence, currently sitting in third on the team in assists behind Ryan Spooner and Chris Bourque. Although the former Miami University star does not possess ideal size or speed, he excels with his smarts, passing skills and underrated shot. Camper has repeatedly proven himself throughout his young career without high marks from the scouting community.
Lane MacDermid and Justin Florek provide big bodies to grind it out on the wings even if the pure talent isn’t there for them to project as top-six forwards in the NHL. MacDermid has made significant strides in his development since the B’s took him in the fourth round in 2009, improving his skating and shooting skills. Florek plays a classic north-south game and uses his size effectively to gain position in front of the net. He has a rifle for a shot, but could stand to pick up a step.
Last spring’s free agent signing out of Michigan State, defenseman Torey Krug, is a small, but speedy package of skill, smarts and spirit. Productive at every level before turning pro with Boston, Krug paces the Providence blue line corps with three assists in 10 games and is still looking for his first professional goal. David Warsofsky, who resembles Krug in terms of style, is struggling to find the offensive element of his game after leading Providence in scoring from the blue line last season. The 22-year-old former BU standout needs to help get the offense going soon.
Goaltender Michael Hutchinson is still looking for his first win of the season. Although the 2008 third-round pick has been the victim of some bad bounces and inconsistent offensive support, his .857 save percentage speaks more to the early season struggles than anything else. Streaky play has dogged the OHL graduate going back to junior, so for now, he’ll take a back seat to the far more effective Svedberg.
On a European note, center Alexander Khokhlachev has struggled to earn significant ice time playing in the KHL for his father’s Spartak (Moscow) squad, but fans in North America have gotten a glimpse of his potential recently. Named to the Russian squad that competes in the annual Subway Super Series against the three major junior leagues in Canada, “Koko” has spent the last couple of weeks in Canada showing off his pro upside. He’s a little faster than when he was first drafted, and although he still needs to add strength and mass to his smallish frame, there is no denying his impressive puckhandling ability and high-end offensive instincts.
Bear Cub snapshot: Matt Grzelcyk, D Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Talent analysis: The BU freshman and third-round pick possesses everything you need in a successful pro blueliner except the size. A brilliant skater who is quick off the mark, agile, and has separation speed in open ice, Grzelcyk also pivots smoothly and has an effortless stride. The Charlestown native sees the ice well; natural hockey instincts allow him to anticipate and read the play in all zones. He is a superb passer who was one of the more underrated puck-moving defenders in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, with the ability to make accurate long leads through the neutral zone or hit on crisp outlets to instantly transition to the attack. Although he does not have an overpowering shot, Grzelcyk’s quick release is a threat whenever he jumps up into the play and takes the puck to the net. He is undersized at a listed 5-foot-9, which is one reason he was not rated higher by most independent scouting services going into the draft. However, he has been diligent in his off-ice work with Mike Boyle and with the U.S. National Team Development Program to build his functional strength. Although he does not play a physical style, Grzelcyk’s passion for the game and work ethic are second to none: he’s a likely future captain for the Terriers.
Outlook: Although the pick raised some eyebrows in Pittsburgh, Grzelcyk is rewarding Boston’s faith in him with an instant impact at the NCAA level. With eight points in his first eight collegiate games, he recently earned Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors for November 5-11. The B’s believe in defenders with speed and skill regardless of size, so when you account for his high character and intelligence, it isn’t hard to see why the team took Grzelcyk where they did. Having grown up in the shadow of the TD Garden, few youngsters understand Bruins hockey or what it will take to one day crack the lineup better than the son of a longtime member of the building’s bull gang. His NHL upside is open to debate at this stage of development, but Grzelcyk has the tools and drive to be an effective 4/5 defender and power play specialist.
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