WEDNESDAY MAILBAG NOVEMBER 10 2022

Randy via email asks:

My question relates to the B’s defence. My concern is lack of physicality other than Charlie. Nice to see Brandon step up with some solid hits last game. Teams are not intimidated in our zone. Reilly and especially Grzelcyk really worry me. Not so much in regular season but come playoff time. Gryz is a great skater, passer but when pressured, in corners, along the wall, net front, he gets beat consistently. Even our “next man up” D are not physical. We also do not have one guy that can really rifle the puck from the point.

Anyway, do think the management sees this as a need to address or are they happy with the set up?

Also, curious on your thoughts on Taylor Hall. I love the player, just have never seen a guy fall as much as he does. Morning Bru were asked a few episodes ago but did not really have an answer.
Any thoughts?

Answer – I’ll start with Taylor Hall. Jaffe and Razor don’t usually shy away from questions. It was probably an oversight with them. I respect them both immensely and their podcast is a must listen too. I don’t think it’s a serious issue with Hall. It’s something I’ve seen since his junior days. It’s probably a combination of him going full effort almost 100% of the time and we’re noticing it more because of the focus we are putting on him.

As for the defense, only time will tell. So far, the tweaks to their breakout appear to be working. Be the first to retrieve pucks, put a little distance between your d-men and your forwards and spread the ice just a little more. It keeps the opposition honest in their defending and technically, shouldn’t allow them on the forecheck as easily as in the past.

The physicality part, well you’re right Brandon Carlo has stepped it up a bit (I actually think he was robbed of a couple of hits in his statistics) but Connor Clifton leads the defense with 27 hits, followed by Carlo with 18 and Charlie McAvoy with 17. That all said, I don’t believe this is the defense that will be manning the blueline in the playoffs.

Finally, Coach Bruce Cassidy has also changed what shots look like from the point. The emphasis isn’t on back scratching windup shots from the point. It’s ‘get it off quickly, on target and with a purpose’. You’re going to see more wristers from the blueline than slap shots so get use to it. I’ve talked about it at length in my weekly defense breakdowns here. It hasn’t shown up on the scoresheet as much as they have wanted, but I think that’s more on the forwards than the defense.

Eric via email asks

Question – Last week you said on HF Boards that you don’t like people who post highlights of goals on Twitter. What is wrong with that? That’s the only way some of us get to see them as not everyone can afford to pay for streams like you can. Get down off your high horse.

Answer – First off, thanks for the email. Secondly, that’s not what I said at all. (See the screen capture)

That was in response to a person responding to a highlight of a Fabian Lysell goal. Over a week later, he has yet to respond to my question of whether he was basing it off of the highlight alone or something else. My educated guess based on his posting history is that he isn’t watching the games.

Highlights are fun. I like them as well. I am not against them but I am against fans who form a judgement on the player based on highlights of goals and assists. There is something wrong with that because you aren’t watching previous shifts where a player turned over the puck, decided to try an impossible pass instead of keeping possession with a safer play, and rather than changing after a long shift, selfishly stayed out on the ice. It didn’t cost them this time, but your playing Russian Roulette if it becomes a habit.  

I stand by what I said. If you are offended by it there is not much I can do about it. I would apologize but I don’t feel one is warranted in this situation (at least by me). *Now getting off of my high horse.

HustleB From HF Boards asks:

Question – Could you possibly talk about what you see for Steen’s future upside?

As much as I give European Scout PJ Axelsson a hard time pushing for his Swedes, I actually really like Oskar Steen. In 155 career SHL games he scored 22 goals and 30 assists which was pretty good considering he was a boy playing against men. His breakout season was 2018-2019 where he had 37 points in 46 games.

He’s now enjoying a breakout year for Providence and leads the team offensively with 5 goals and 5 assists in 6 games. Steen may be small in stature but he’s built (Ford F150 Final Five) tough. You’d think he would be easy to knock off of the puck, but his amazing lower body strength allows him to stay on his feet. He has very good speed and possesses a separation gear. He has an ability to gain the offensive zone using his speed, puck possession skills and stickhandling abilities and his ability to read and think the game should find him success. He also has a superb shot and he catches goalies off guard with different release points. The question that will only be answered with time is “can he find the same success against NHL goaltenders?”

He’s playing almost exclusively on right wing in Providence and I believe that’s where he’ll make his bread and butter in the NHL. But David Pastrnak and Lysell will be ahead of him in Boston in the future so he’ll be a third liner who could move up in a pinch when needed. And he’ll be there just in the nick of time for when the Craig Smith and Nick Foligno deals comes to an end.  

Patrick Renzi via Twitter asks:

Question – do you get the sense from the org and contacts that the bruins are going to focus on a center or LD for the Trade Deadline (they need another serviceable RD to be honest, Clifton is a tweener at best)

Answer – At this point no, they haven’t really played enough hockey games to determine what their biggest need is at the moment. At different points so far, all four lines have had their moments and that with the absence of Foligno. But I do believe that they will be players on the market to address what they feel is a need. However, I do get the sense that they feel they may need an upgrade on Clifton.

Pauly Walnuts via Twitter asks:

Question – How long before the B’s are almost forced to give Steen a serious chance to crack this lineup.

DJ via Twitter asks:

Question – When will Lauko get good chance?

Answer – Combining these two questions because the answer is the same: When injuries occur. I know fans don’t want to look at the business side of the game, but it plays a huge role here. We all know how important depth is, and the Bruins don’t have anyone on their 23-man roster they can send to Providence to open up a spot for one or both of them without requiring waivers. They are already going to have to place someone on the waiver wire once Anton Blidh and Foligno are cleared to play. To call up one or both of Steen or Jakub Lauko will require additional waivers. They won’t risk it to protect depth.

RJ Williams via Twitter asks:

Question – At what point do we really worry about Hall’s lack of production?

Answer – When he stops producing. At the time of your question, Hall had 3 goals and 3 assists in his first 9 games. I think if you had told me that before the season started, I would have been happy with that. Sure, he’s been a little cold lately, but it’s hard to get into a groove and find your stride when everyone else in the league is playing more games than you.

The Bruins Fan Digest via Twitter asks:

Question – Who is your favorite Bruins prospect?

Answer – Putting me on the spot? I follow all the prospects closely and hope for the best from all of them. But gun to my head forcing me to choose it’s Lysell but Mason Lohrei is right there with him. But there are a couple I am very intrigued about since the Bruins drafted them in 2021: Oskar Jellvik, who is playing for Djurgardens IF J20 in the J20 Nationell and Ryan Mast who is playing in the Ontario Hockey League, only because they were picked late and are off to great starts this season and because they are underdogs.

Nikos Papadopoulos via Twitter asks:

Question – Is Sweeney all but guaranteed a new contract?

Answer – Yes

Mark Allred via Twitter asks:

Question – John Beecher had a solid return to the University of Michigan lineup last night (Friday) against cross state rival Michigan State University with 1-1-2 numbers after missing 8 games. Thoughts on his upside and how a full season with the AHL Bruins soon will be beneficial to the player & the Bruins organization.

Answer – As usual, Mark bringing the tough question regarding John Beecher. I think with such a power house team in Michigan, Beecher will be playing a different role where it will do everything to help him develop his overall game. I actually wrote about what we might expect from Beecher here earlier this season.

I think the adrenaline was running in his first game back and he didn’t look like a guy who had missed four weeks of the season. His skating looked like he was in mid-season form. Now it’s about accepting what ever role the coaching staff put him in and working hard. I actually think Beecher signs with Boston once his season is over (whether it’s a PTO to finish out the Providence season or his entry level contract is yet to be determined). Once in Providence, he’ll spend a year learning and developing his pro game and might be ready for the NHL for 2022-2023.

GeeWally via Twitter asks:

Question – Looking into your crystal ball, if Tuukka can physically come back and Bruins have accrued $ how does it work with 3 goalies? Trade? Sway waiver eligible? Roster expands?

Answer – At first glance, this looks like an easy question. But the answer is not short. Let’s cover the cap first. As of today, barring any changes, the Bruins will bank enough cap space that signing Tuukka Rask will not be an issue, at least cap wise. The roster, and how it is affected all comes down to timing. If it were at trade deadline (March 21, 2022 this season) then there is really no impact as the 23-man roster limit goes out the window on trade deadline day as long as the team remains cap compliant. However, all indications are that if Rask returns, it will be well before trade deadline.

In that case, the easy answer is Jeremy Swayman would be assigned to Providence since he does not need to clear waivers. Linus Ullmark has a full no movement clause for this season and next, so he can not be waived. And this is where many fans have an issue – giving Ullmark a full NMC. Ullmark was fully aware of the situation with Rask and the NMC wasn’t to protect himself from getting traded, but to give him a say on where he does get traded if that’s what the Bruins decide to do (hello Edmonton Oilers?). Would Don Sweeney trade Ullmark? My opinion is no. What if Rask has a setback and Ullmark is gone via trade? Do you want to go into the playoffs with Swayman and Kyle Keyser as your goalies? I think we are headed into the playoffs with a combination of Rask/Ullmark or Ullmark/Swayman. The off season however, could be a different story if Rask returns and is himself again.

Brian Casey via Twitter asks:

QuestionOne prospect I don’t hear much about is Quinn Olson. Any thoughts on how he has been progressing at UMD?

Answer – I think the reason you don’t hear much about him is that no one really wants to take the time to discuss a player that looks to be a tweener. The problem for Quinn Olson isn’t Olson, but who is ahead of him on the depth chart. For starters, there is Lauko, Trevor Kuntar and Matt Filipe on the prospect list. At the NHL level, Brad Marchand and Hall are there for at least three more seasons after this one. A decision will need to be made on Jake DeBrusk and no one really knows if Trent Frederic will eventually make his way to the middle or be kept on left wing. That’s a lot of bodies to beat out. Personally, I have Olson ranked 17th on the Bruins prospect list. That’s not to say Olson has not shown progression with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he has. Just not enough to overtake anyone on the prospect list. It’s why I give him a less than 1 in 5 chances of ever playing for the Bruins in my weekly prospects update.  

Andrew Ryan via Twitter asks:

Question – Which Bruins prospect are you most excited about and why?

Answer – Bruins Fan Digest asked a similar question earlier, but there is a difference between favorite and most excited about. Again, the obvious choice is Lysell because of draft positioning and the ‘hoopla’ surrounding him. But I am going with Lohrei again. The reason why is not what you think though. For over a year I had to listen and debate the internet crowd who used the “but he’s doing it against kids in the USHL” mantra. Many of them didn’t understand the USHL and the ‘age of players’ in the league. And when you attempted to have a rational conversation with them explaining it, they chose not to respond or simply ignored it. There was also the “he couldn’t do it in the CHL” crowd. Again, that crowd would ignore any attempts by me to explain the age comparisons between the USHL and CHL. And finally, there was the “I will get excited when he does it in the NCAA” crowd. Well, that time is here and now. Lohrei has played in 8 games and has 2 goals and 5 assists and is a plus-7. I do believe there is a real chance he signs his ELC once his season is over. And that has me very excited. Not to mention it has quieted the internet crowd.

BruinsNetwork via Twitter asks:

Question – Brett Harrison— drafted as two-way center but currently looking more like a one-way center. Not that focusing on scoring goals is a bad thing, especially for this organization, but what are your thoughts on his two-way game. Any idea as to what might be the culprit(s) right now?

Answer – My dear friend Anthony! Well, I was going to respond with “You watch the games. You know the answer.” But that would have been the easy way out and I can’t do that. So, here is my long-winded response.

Let me begin by saying I am answering this question before Brett Harrison takes to the ice in Sunday night’s matchup against the Sudbury Wolves because I wanted to answer right away.

After a slow start, the offense has taken off but, on most nights, I am disappointed with the defensive part of his game because that’s not who he is. There is no recency bias here, because you can find examples of what I am about to say through his first 8 games.

In Friday’s matchup against the Barrie Colts, which they lost 5-4 in overtime, there were a couple of defensive zone gaffs that really stood out to me. On the first one, one of the Colts retrieved the puck behind the Generals net, skated through the corner and all the way up the half wall before dishing it off. My problem here is that Harrison followed him the whole distance and stayed three to four feet away from him never once putting his stick or body on him. Harrison had a teammate standing close by waiting for him to rub him out against the wall so that he could pounce on the puck, but that contact never came. It didn’t cost them this time, but next time he might not be so lucky.

The other glaring gaff came in the second period with the score tied at three. There was a 50-50 battle for the puck in front of his own net. Harrison made a bad decision and attempted to fly the zone. The problem is that one of his teammates had already flow the zone and was up at center ice. When Harrison realized that Barrie had gotten control of the puck, he turned back and seemed lost as to who to pick up. His “guy” was the player that eventually scored the goal. And this time it cost his team.

As for the culprits? I can think of a few. First and foremost, Harrison is playing on the wing a lot and it’s not his natural position. There may be a learning curve there. But he is smarter than that to be making those poor decisions. And I haven’t pounced on him for those decisions because I want to give him a few more games to see if he works through it. He’s certainly capable of it.

I also see some comparisons as to the way Harrison is being used now to how the Soo Greyhounds utilized Zach Senyshyn back in the day.  The Greyhounds used Senyshyn to score goals and only score goals. His defensive game took a hit because he never learned it. Oshawa is in the bottom half of the OHL in goals for – goals against ratio and Harrison spends a lot of time on wing with Calum Ritchie (2023 NHL draft) and Ty Tullio just to go out there and score goals. In fairness though, he gets quality PK minutes and is successful there. When your duty is to simply go out there and try to outscore your opposition, you don’t concentrate on defense.

Finally, I don’t see the commitment defensively I have been so used to seeing. Part of it may be playing the wing as a winger has different responsibilities than the center does. It’s most noticeable coming back on the back check. I see a lack of effort too many times and that is not like him. In the end, I know he can work through it. He has it in him. I’m just not going to guarantee it will happen.

Edit: I was at Sunday’s game and Head Coach Todd Miller had him back in the middle. Noticeable difference.

 Front Office via Twitter asks:

Question – Does their org need a revamping of their domestic and international scouting group? Are they understaffed? Or are they just missing? Haven’t had much development from their drafts in the last few years.

Answer – Since taking over as GM, Don Sweeney has made numerous additions to the scouting department both in North America and Europe and they are good quality hockey people. I may be alone in this line of thinking, but I believe a couple of scouts have a greater voice at the table and over the years it’s been noticeable with some of the decisions that were made. However, I also believe that changed at the 2021 draft. Only time will tell if that continues.

I am a firm believe that you assess a player’s strengths and you put them in a position to succeed and then work on other areas of his game rather than putting a player in a position where he’s doomed to fail because it’s a weak part of his game. There are a couple of examples in the system where a player wasn’t necessarily put in a position of strength and it’s hurt the player and the organization. That’s on the development side not the scouting side.

Thanks for all the questions. There are some tough ones there. Let’s do this again next week. If you have any questions you can email them to ohlwriters@gmail.com

Follow me on Twitter @dominictiano

Published by Dominic Tiano

Following the Ontario Hockey League players eligible for the NHL Draft. I provide season-long stats, updates and player profiles as well as draft rankings.

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