The Stanley Cup has been awarded and we now head into the busy part of the offseason. The first buyout window opens today, the NHL Draft takes place Thursday and Friday and free agency begins on the 13th. Not to mention the Bruins need to hire a new coach.
With the draft beginning Thursday, It’s time to do a ranking of the current Bruins prospects.
As you probably already know (or should), these lists are always subjective no matter who is making them. For me, it comes from countless hours of watching them play whether they are in the USHL, NCAA, CHL or Europe.
The criteria are simple: they must be drafted, signed to an NHL contract as an undrafted free agent or must be 25 years of age or under before September 15, 2022. Jack Ahcan has aged out on this list and is therefore not considered a prospect. Oskar Steen has signed his one-way deal and is no longer waiver exempt and although Jack Studnicka has not yet signed an extension, he is probably heading towards the same type of deal and therefore not included.
Bruins Development camp is fast approaching and there will be many, many opinions about players based on how they do in that mini-camp. My advice: Don’t put too much stock into that and look at the complete body of work. The Bruins have often said it’s about getting the players accustomed to what it takes to become a pro and if anything, you should judge a player more on what they do after development camp and whether they take that with them next season to improve, and not on what they did at camp.
1A) Fabian Lysell – 21st overall pick in 2021
Lysell tops the list here but honestly, if you wanted to make a case for Lohrei, you wouldn’t get an argument from me which is why I ranked them a 1A and 1B; they are that close. After drafting him, the Bruins brought Lysell to North America and found a home for him with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. That raised a lot of eyebrows with Bruins fans, many of them unhappy with the decision. But it took Lysell some time to get accustomed to the North American game and lifestyle and once he reached that comfort level his game took off. And he’s taken it to another level in the playoffs. Expect him to join Providence as soon as his WHL playoffs conclude. He will need a year of development in the AHL to round out his game even though GM Don Sweeney said he could be an option for Boston in the Playoffs.
1B) Mason Lohrei – 58th overall pick in 2020
I will always remember the angst many fans had when the Bruins drafted an “overager”. And when he put up 59 points in 48 games for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL in his draft plus-1 year that angst turned into a “he’s a man doing it against kids” argument. Well, he put up 29 points in 31 games for Ohio State in the BIG-10 and some fans still won’t give up the argument that “he’s older”. The forward turned defenceman is an offensive driver from the back end and a dominant one at that. He’s also a true powerplay quarterback, one the Bruins have been lacking since the departure of Torey Krug. Lohrei could have turned pro once his season ended but chose to go back for another year at Ohio State. All bets are off after that, but he will need a year in Providence as well to round out his defensive game.
3) Georgii Merkulov – Free agent signing in 2022
As soon as the Bruins announced this signing, I immediately called him the organizations third best prospect behind Lysell and Lohrei and I stand by that. Merkulov showed some very impressive offensive abilities in college this season and as a teammate of Lohrei’s with Ohio State the Bruins did an excellent job in recognizing those abilities and an even better job of getting him to leave school and sign his first pro contract. Those offensive abilities have been on display in Providence so far in his first professional experience. Merkulov is going to require some patience to round out his game, but you most certainly have to be impressed with his vision, playmaking skills and most importantly, his ability to make those around him better. There is no need to rush him to the NHL.
4) Brett Harrison – 85th overall pick in 2021
The tools are there for Harrison to develop into a second line center should he reach his potential. There is plenty to like. He was already a leader for the Oshawa Generals and is one of the players who could be in line for the captaincy next season. Would like to see his work ethic improve which will greatly increase his chances of reaching his potential. On skills alone, he deserves this spot.
5) John Beecher – 30th overall pick in 2019
Everyone should know by now how far along Beecher’s defensive game is as well as his puck possession and zone exit and entries are. Not always placed in the premiere offensive positions through college, now is the time to see if there is untapped offensive abilities there and putting him in the middle between two highly skilled players should prove his worth. He should, to start, get the top powerplay unit time while still maintaining his penalty kill time.
6) Oskar Jellvik – 149th overall in 2021
Jellvik put up great numbers in Sweden’s J20 Nationell this season. The tell tale for me is that when the competition got stronger as the season moved into the J20 Top-10 and then the playoffs, Jellvik only got better and that was the thing that stood out to me the most. He is headed to Boston College next season and how his transition to North America goes in the next few years will determine how high he climbs on this list or whether he falls off the map. I certainly would not bet against him.
7) Matias Mantykivi – 185th overall in 2019
Mantykivi got off to a slow start this season with Ilves Tampere in the Finnish Liiga but once he got going, he showed that not only could he put up points, but he could play a well rounded 200-foot game. He’s been playing against men in Finland since the Bruins drafted him in 2019 and that bodes well for his development. He told me he will be at Development Camp this summer and has one year remaining on his contract in Finland and then he will head over. A dominant season in Finland next year will have him climbing this list. You should not sleep on this player.
8) Marc McLaughlin – Free agent signing in 2022
Bruins fans got a taste of what could lay in store with the undrafted free agent signing. And why wouldn’t you be impressed? But I am a patient person with youngsters come in like this. I often ask myself how much adrenaline fueled his performance. I believe a season in Providence will benefit him and the Bruins most. But his engine, work ethic and skills are something to take notice of.
9) Ty Gallagher -217th overall in 2021
I guess when you look at Gallagher’s body of work through the US Development program and the WJC U-18, one should not be surprised by Gallagher. But to say his first season with Boston University wasn’t a surprise may be a white lie. It wasn’t just about the points he put up in his first year, it’s how quickly he adapted to the higher level of play and he kept improving in many areas as the season progressed. Placing him ninth on this list may be a little low. But he has a lot of time to move up this lest in the next couple of seasons.
10) Ryan Mast – 181st overall in 2021
A big, mobile defender with excellent agility, strength, long and useful reach, and an ability to transition, Mast himself says he models a lot of his game after Brandon Carlo. However, I do think Mast brings a touch more physicality than Carlo does. There aren’t many players his size that I would say are better backwards skaters then Mast. His pivots, crossovers and ability to gains speed going in reverse are near perfect. He has shown an offensive ability in junior and a willingness to join the rush, but I still question how that offence translates to the next level. As a late round pick in 2021, Mast was always going to be a project. After missing all of last season due to the pandemic, I would say he has been a pleasant surprise.