The Boston Bruins dipped into the NCAA free agent well once again on Saturday when the team announced they had signed Georgi Merkulov to a three-year entry level contract beginning with the 2022-2023 season. Merkulov was a teammate of Mason Lohrei with Ohio State University during this season. He will join the Providence Bruins on an amateur tryout agreement to finish out the current AHL season with the P-Bruins.
It’s looking more and more like Jack Studnicka will finish out the season in Boston so Merkulov will likely get some key offensive situations with Providence. While he is a force when it comes to goal scoring and setting up teammates, some might be surprised at how far along his two-way game is.
I don’t believe the Bruins are finished yet. As per CapFriendly, Boston is at just 30 contracts of the 50-contract limit for next season with Patrice Bergeron being the only one in the “must sign” category and several players to make decisions on. The next prospects up for contract before their rights expire are not due until 2023, so there is plenty of time. One of those players they needed to decide on was Oskar Steen and the team announced Sunday, they have extended him with a two-year, one-way deal worth $800,000 per season. I do believe the Bruins are very interested in the top NCAA free agent, Ben Meyers from the University of Minnesota but so are several other teams. While Meyers attended Bruins development camp in the summer, some believe that gives the Bruins an advantage, but that is not always the case.
Of course, the Bruins are waiting on two of their own prospects to decide on whether they are wanting to turn pro now or return for another year of college. Lohrei just completed his freshman season and there is speculation he is leaning towards turning pro.
And John Beecher, who had a disappointing end to his season when Michigan lost it’s first and only match at the Frozen Four held at TD Garden in Boston. Should Beecher decide to return to Michigan for a fourth season, then the Bruins will have until August 15, 2023 to sign him or he could walk as an unrestricted free agent. I truly believed Beecher would have signed by now, but I do believe he will very shortly.
I also believe that once the 2022 NHL Entry Draft is completed, the Bruins will be scouring undrafted players looking for talent.
For Matias Mantykivi and his Ilves Tampere squad in Finland’s Liiga quarter final matchup, it was a long tight series against Karpat that went the distance. It was so tight that game seven required overtime to determine a winner and Ilves came out on top. Four of the seven games required extra time. Only one game was decided by more than a goal and that was the opener Ilves took 5-1. Of the remaining six games, one finished with a 3-2 score (Karpat in overtime), one finished 1-0 (Ilves in regulation) and the remaining four games finished with identical 2-1 scores. Mantykivi finished the quarter final series with 2 goals and one assist in those seven games.
Saturday saw the start of the semi finals as Ilves took on TPS Turku. While Mantykivi was held pointless, Ilves was able to pull out a 3-2 victory over TPS to take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series. Game two took place on Sunday and it wasn’t even close as TPS trounced Ilves 6-0.
In case you missed last week’s update I wrote this: Mast has a goal and 8 assists in his last 10 games. Sarnia has lost 6 of their last 7 and are on the verge of dropping out of the playoff picture. Hard to imagine the Sting needing more from Mast, but if they are going to right the ship then they do.
Well, on Monday Ryan Mast scored the opening goal to put Sarnia up 1-0 against the Soo Greyhounds. But then things fell apart for Sarnia as they were thrashed 8-2 and were left on the outside of the playoffs 1 point behind the Erie Otters. That set up a match on Thursday between Erie and Sarnia. The Sting won the game 5-4 and while Mast didn’t register a point, allow me to explain how vital he was to the victory.
Mast wasn’t on the ice for a goal against with 29:58 TOI in the game. They were up 4-2 entering the third period when Erie scored twice in the first 5:36 of the period. Mast went on to have 10:17 TOI in the period including 5:47 of the last 7:39 after Sarnia took a 5-4 lead and closed out the final 2:08 to help secure the victory.
That impressed me, but not as much as this: After the final horn, it appeared there was going to be some extra curricular activity near center ice. As the officials skated towards the players to prevent anything from happening, Mast skated towards the red line as both teams came off the bench. The Alternate Captain put himself between the Otters’ players and his teammates and it appeared as though he motioned his teammates to head to their dressing room while he remained between the two teams until the last of his teammates were off the ice. That may not seem like much to a lot of people, but it speaks to the kind of teammate and leader he is.
We have to take the good with the bad right? On Friday night, Sarnia had the opportunity to pull into a tie with 7th place Kitchener as the travelled to take on the Rangers head-to-head. Mast played a key shut down role with 27:12 TOI in that contest. Trailing 3-2 with 3 minutes remaining, Sarnia pulled their goaltender to try and notch the equalizer, but they scored two empty net goals to take it 5-2. Mast was even up to that point but finished with a minus-2.
The Sting lost 4-2 on Sunday to the Flint Firebirds and sit 1 point ahead of Erie for the final playoff spot but have played in one more game. It’s not looking good for the Sting.
On Saturday, Oskar Jellvik had a goal and an assist – which was a nice set up 6 seconds into the second period to even up the score – and defeated Rogle BK 6-1 in the one game elimination semi-final of the J20 Nationell Slutspel (Championship). With 4 goals and 4 assists in 5 games, Jellvik leads the J20 playoffs in scoring. The win put Djurgardens in a one-game winner-take-all final on Sunday for the Anton Cup.
But it just wasn’t meant to be for Djurgardens as they lost 5-2 and would settle for silver in the J20 Nationell. Jellvik would score once in the game and give him 5 goals (tied for most) and 4 assists for 9 points (finished 2nd) in 6 playoff games. He finished the Top-10 second in scoring with 15 goals and 30 points in 18 games. He would finish the J20 Nationell season with 26 goals and 55 points in 41 games and third in points per game with 1.34 points-per-game. Bruins fans will get a close up look at Jellvik as he plans attend Bruins’ development camp in the summer before heading off to Boston College for next season.
Prospect playoff watch
As we enter the last week of the OHL and WHL regular season, and the last 2 weeks of the USHL season, where are our Bruins prospects heading?
For Philip Svedeback and the Dubuque Fighting Saints they can finish no worse then second spot in the Eastern Conference as they have a 13-point lead over Muskegon Lumberjacks with just 5 games remaining. They still have a mathematical chance at first spot, but trail the Chicago Steel by 4 points so they will need a lot of help to accomplish that.
Securing second spot means that Dubuque will not have to play a best of 3 series in the opening round and will move directly to the Conference Semi Finals.
As for Andre Gasseau and Mason Langenbrunner and the Fargo Force, they too have clinched a playoff spot. Forgo is currently tied for 5th spot but do have a game in hand. They will have to participate in the opening round and securing fifth spot would mean a first-round matchup with the Omaha Lancers. If they drop to sixth it would mean a matchup against a superior Lincoln Stars squad.
For Fabian Lysell and the Vancouver Giants, just 1 point separated sixth place from 9th place and missing the playoffs heading into Sunday’s action. The good news for the Giants is they held two games in hand on the other three clubs. But on Sunday, the Giants used one of those games in hand to upset the Kelowna Rockets and move into sole possession of sixth place and still have a game in hand on the three teams chasing them.
Brett Harrison and the Oshawa Generals entered their only game of the week on Sunday already having secured a playoff spot. They currently sit in 6th spot and can not move any hire. They could finish as low as 7th and that may not be a bad thing as they would avoid Shane Wright and the Kingston Frontenacs in the first round and instead face the North Bay Battalion. On Sunday, they lost 5-3 against the Hamilton Bulldogs who have gone 8-0 against Oshawa this season. The Gens now have 3 chances to secure two points and clinch 6th spot.
Providence Bruins Player Stats
Providence Bruins Goalie Stats
Maine Mariners Stats
Coming up this week
* If necessary
|MANTYKIVI||Vs TPS||Vs TPS||*Vs TPS|
|GASSEAU||Vs LIN||Vs LIN|
|LANGENBRUNNER||Vs LIN||Vs LIN|
|HARRISON||At N B||Vs MIS||Vs N B|
|MAST||At FLT||Vs SAG||At LDN|
|LYSELL||Vs SEA||Vs KEL||At KAM|
|SVEDEBACK||Vs C R||At G B||Vs G B|