When it comes to prospects, I suppose the question I am asked most often is “when are the Bruins going to sign Luke Toporowski?” The answer is more complicated than not and you’d have to think that if he were in another organization, he would have an NHL deal.
Toporowski is an alumnus of an excellent program with the Chicago Mission. In the Under-14 program, he led the league in goals, points, penalty minutes and was named a Bantam All Star. In 2016 he was the eighth overall pick of the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League. He would break into the WHL the following season and notch 10 goals and 13 assists in 61 games.
From there Toporowski would play the next 4 seasons in the WHL with a cup of coffee in the USHL with Sioux Falls Stampede where he put up 14 goals and 19 assists in 32 games before going back to the WHL. In total, he played 245 regular season WHL games and scored 96 goals along with 103 helpers. He would add 17 goals and 20 assists in 37 career WHL playoff games.
Toporowski, simply stated, puts up points wherever he plays and he started that way in Providence although he has slowed down ever so slightly lately. So, why haven’t the Bruins inked him to a deal?
I’m afraid the answer has more to do with business than hockey.
First off, it must be noted that Toporowski is not property of the Boston Bruins but the Providence Bruins. His is not an NHL contract but an AHL contract and there are differences. Now, if another NHL team wanted to swoop in and sign him to an NHL deal, they are well within their rights to do so. There is no tampering here. They would first have to secure his release from his deal with Providence and I would imagine that release would be given. I don’t know of any circumstances where that has been denied in the past. On the flip side, I don’t recall any situation where it has happened.
The Bruins could turn around and offer Toporowski the same deal and convince him to sign with them at this point, but there are no guarantees.
The contractual problem for the Bruins is that before Victor Berglund and the Bruins agreed to terminate his contract, the Bruins were operating at 47 of the 50-contract limit. That is typically where General Manager Don Sweeney likes to operate. It gives the team maneuverability at trade deadline and gives them the contract spots to go after NCAA free agents once their seasons are over. (Or to sign their own NCAA players).
In the end it’s a numbers game. And Toporowski isn’t the only one on an AHL deal hoping for an NHL contract. Eduards Tralmaks, Joey Abate and J D Greenway are just a few of the others waiting. But if you ask this scribe, Toporowski has a leg up on them.
Here’s a look at the Providence Bruins leaders:
With Jeremy Swayman attempting to score a goal Saturday, let’s take a look at Francois Brassard on Sunday. Brassard is signed to an AHL deal and is playing for Maine in the ECHL.
Let’s take an odd turn here and focus our attention to a few players that were invited to the Bruins Development Camp last summer but did not get deals. Having invites serves a few purposes. First, it allows you to build up your roster in the event you don’t have enough prospects of your own. Second, it gives management a closer look at players that are either undrafted free agents now or will be at the end of their season. And finally, it gives management a closer look at players that went undrafted but are re-entering the draft and on this list Ryan Humphrey and Brayden Schuurman fall into this category.
An interesting name is Riese Gaber. The diminutive Gaber is a Junior at the University of North Dakota and a teammate of Bruins prospect Jake Schmaltz so you know the Bruins have had some good looks at Gaber. He has one more season of NCAA eligibility but should he decide to turn pro a the end of this school season, you have to think the Bruins have the inside track if he did enough to pique their interest.
William Worge-Krue is defenceman originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres drafted in the seventh round in 2018. He went unsigned and became a free agent. You have to think Bruins scout P J Axelsson was all over this invite as few know the SHL where Worge-Krue is in his second professional season. Worge-Krue will never be mistaken for an offensive threat. He is what he is, a shut down defender with great size and that will be his bread and butter – so just try and ignore the stats.
James Hardie continues to do what he has always done in the OHL – score goals. He has aged out now and is a free agent able to sign anywhere. In my own rankings I have had Hardie ranked late in each of his eligible drafts but at this point would I sign him as a free agent? I’m going to reserve judgement until the end of the season because contract spots become important at this point and would I want to risk one? I say this because it’s unknown how his game translates to the pro game. I wouldn’t hesitate in giving him an AHL deal though.
Ryan Humphrey will be re-entering the draft and unfortunately, injuries have hampered him this season. Bruins fans would love him in black and gold (well he wears that in Hamilton too) as he is a throwback to what it took to be a Boston Bruins player. Brayden Schuurman is in the same situation with injuries with the Victoria Royals of the WHL.
The two I would continue to focus on of this group are Hardie and Gaber (despite the size).
Coming up this week:
Dans Locmelis will have his schedule in the J20 Nationell Top-10 resume on January 6, 2023 but in the meantime, he will represent Latvia at the World Junior Championship Under-20. Matias Mantykivi will have one game before the holiday break on Tuesday as Ilves travels to play KooKoo in the Finnish Liiga. Roman Bychkov will play 3 games – Monday at HC Sochi, Wednesday at Ak Bars and Friday at CSKA. Everyone else is off for the Holidays.
AROUND THE GLOBE
Brett Harrison has an 8-game point streak going on 7 goals and 8 assists and points in 12 of his last 13 games. His 29 points has him second in scoring for the Generals despite playing in fewer games, just 1 point behind the leader. It took the center turned wing some time to click after returning from a fractured leg he sustained in training camp, but he’s firing on all cylinders.
Matthew Poitras had his 6-game point streak (8 assists) come to an end. Poitras leads the Guelph Storm in scoring with 6 goals and 28 assists. He has not scored in 11 games but has points in 14 of his last 17 games.
Frederic Brunet enters the break with a 2 goal and 2 assist effort in a 6-2 victory Saturday. Brunet’s 6 goals and 23 assists leads Rimouski in scoring as a defenceman. His 4-point effort ended a 3-game pointless streak.
Mason Lohrei has a 3-game point streak heading into the break on 4 assists. He has 9 points – all assists – in his last 10 games. Lohrei is third in scoring for Ohio State and is looking for his first goal of the season after scoring 4 a year ago.
Trevor Kuntar enters the break with points in 7 of his last 9 games and is second in scoring with Boston College with 14 points in 14 games.
Ty Gallagher has points in 4 of his last 6 games. After scoring 5 goals as a freshman a year ago, Gallagher is looking for his first goal through 16 games this season. It’s not all on him though as he’s not always put in the best offensive opportunities.
Ryan Mast is still out with a broken jaw. There is no firm date for his return but the club is hoping for early in the new year.
Mason Langenbrunner is pointless in 11 games.
Jackson Edward is on a 7-game pointless streak. Edward and his teammates will be grieving over the holidays with the sudden passing away of teammate Abakar Kazbekov. Our thoughts go out to Kazbekov’s family, friends, teammates and the fans of the London Knights.