Big Bad Blog AT&T
WEEI.com Blog Network

Pre-combine look at forwards Bruins could target in NHL draft

05.30.15 at 9:30 am ET
By   |   Comments
Kyle Connor is the best American forward not named Jack Eichel in this draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Kyle Connor is the best American forward not named Jack Eichel in this draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The annual NHL scouting combine will take place this coming week in Buffalo, meaning the Bruins will get a close look at the prospects they’€™ll consider with the 14th overall pick in June’€™s draft.

Here’€™s a quick look at some of the guys who might be around the Bruins’€™ range and a few for whom they’€™d have to trade up to secure. We’€™ll break these posts down into forwards and defensemen, starting with forwards.

GUYS THE BRUINS COULD GET

Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS Turku (Finland), 6-foot-3 1/2, 211 pounds

The top international prospect in the draft according to NHL Central Scouting, Rantanen is hyped for having a strong shot, among other qualities. He had just nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points in 56 games this season in SM-liiga, Finland’€™s top professional league. Mock drafts have him going in the top 10, so this could be wishful thinking for the B’€™s.

Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia (OHL), 6-foot-3, 210 pounds

Played in the Czech Extraliga before coming over to North America. The 18-year-old was nearly a point-per-game player in his first season with the Sting, scoring 16 goals and adding 18 assists for 34 points in 37 games, but he also missed ample time with injuries. Remember: Injuries in his draft year helped David Pastrnak slide to the B’€™s in the late first round last year.

Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL), 6-foot-1, 209 pounds

The Switzerland native plays a heavy game and compares himself to Max Pacioretty. Meier is a left-shot right wing, similar to current Bruins Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith. Worth noting: The QMJHL has been kind to the Bruins in the past (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand), but Boston’€™s last first-round pick from the Q was Jordan Caron.

Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL), 5-foot-11 1/4, 175 pounds

Mike Morreale of NHL.com projected Barzal to the Bruins in his post-lottery mock draft. If that were to happen, Barzal could be quite the value pick.

Once considered a possibility to go third overall in this draft, a knee injury this past season hurt Barzal’€™s stock. Considered an elite offensive talent, a team prioritizing taking the best player available could capitalize should he slide. Barzal’€™s also an alum of the BCHL’€™s Coquitlam Express, which is where Milan Lucic played before the WHL.

Kyle Connor, LW, Youngstown (USHL), 6-foot-1, 177 pounds

Committed to play at the University of Michigan next season, Connor is a speedster who receives praise for his defensive play. Connor is ranked as the sixth-best player in the entire draft by TSN’€™s Craig Button, whereas Central Scouting ranks him as the No. 13 North American player.

Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa (OHL), 5-foot-9 3/4, 175 pounds

Konecny is a fast right-shot center whom the 67’€™s drafted first overall in the 2013 OHL draft. He hasn’€™t set the OHL on fire yet, but he has produced at more than a point-per-game pace in each of his two seasons in Ottawa.

Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George (WHL), 6-foot-1 1/4, 182 pounds

Frequently compared to David Krejci for being a well-rounded center, Harkins is the son of former Flames second-round pick Todd Harkins and the nephew of former Bruins left wing Brett Harkins.

Evgeny Svechnikov, LW, QMJHL, 6-foot-1 3/4, 199 pounds

After playing junior hockey back home in Russia for the three previous seasons, Schechnikov enjoyed a very strong first season in the QMJHL this year with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 55 games. Svechnikov brings a combination of skill and physicality.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 NHL Draft,

Bruins sign Anton Blidh to entry-level contract

05.29.15 at 10:21 am ET
By   |   Comments

The Bruins have signed 2013 sixth-round pick Anton Blidh to an entry-level contract, the team announced Friday.

A forward who spent last season playing for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League, Blidh had five goals and no assists over 48 games last season. He totaled one goal and six assists the previous season between Frolunda HC and Karlskrona HK of Swedish Division 1.

The 20-year-old left wing is listed at 6-foot-0 and 181 pounds. He becomes the second member of the 2013 draft class to sign his entry-level with the B’s, joining fellow Sweden native Linus Arnesson. The B’s signed Arnsesson last June, with the second-round pick coming over from Sweden late in the season and playing 11 games for Providence.

The Bruins did not have a first-round pick in 2013, as it was dealt to the Stars in exchange for Jaromir Jagr.

 

Read More: Anton Blidh,

Bruins sign Finnish F Joonas Kemppainen to 1-year deal

05.21.15 at 9:27 pm ET
By   |   Comments

The Bruins on Thursday announced the signing of forward Joonas Kemppainen to a one-year, two-way contract.

Kemppainen, 27, was second on the Finnish team in scoring at the IIHF World Championships, finishing with three goals and six assists in eight games.

Kemppainen, who stands 6-foot-2, 213-pounds, played for Oulun Karpat of the Finnish Elite League in 2014-15, recording 11 goals, 21 assists and a plus-15 rating in 59 games. He added 10 goals and 14 assists with a plus-14 rating in 19 playoff games.

He has played nine seasons in the Finnish Elite League with three teams, totaling 62 goals, 99 assists and a plus-41 rating in 464 regular-season games.

 

Read More: Joonas Kemppainen,

Don Sweeney wants to get feel for Milan Lucic’s contract demands before making decision

05.20.15 at 8:59 pm ET
By   |   Comments
Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

How the Bruins proceed with Milan Lucic will be high on the list of things that define the early going of Don Sweeney’€™s tenure as Bruins general manager. Sweeney is well aware.

Lucic, who turns 27 next month, has been a dominant player in seasons past. His numbers have been in decline for years, however, and he carries a $6 million cap hit entering the final year of a contract that allows him to pick 15 teams to which he’€™d accept a trade.

Speaking to WEEI.com Wednesday evening, Sweeney called Lucic a “foundational type player” but noted that the B’€™s will get a feel for Lucic’€™s future contract demands before proceeding. Trading Lucic would shed cap space, but the team might not get the return they’€™d have gotten for him in years past given that he is coming off a season in which he scored just 18 goals.

“The CBA at this point in time, you can’€™t argue with what’€™s in front of us and the challenges it may present,” Sweeney said. “[Lucic] is going into a contract year and free agency’€™s on the other side of it. We’€™re going to have to be out in front and have some early discussions and certainly get a temperature read as to how much he wants to be a part of the Boston Bruins‘€™ future going forward.

“We have to convey a similar thing and make a [decision]. Some of these decisions and conversations aren’€™t going to be easy. They’€™re not, but it was part of me as a player that I appreciated when coaches and people had conversations with you. You may not like all the stuff being said, but you can process it and move past it and understand that it’€™s part of it.”

With the exception of his improvement from a disastrous 2013 season, Lucic’€™s goals per 60 and points per 60 have dropped in each year since a career year in 2010-11 in which he scored 30 goals. Sweeney said he feels Lucic can still be the impact player that he’€™s been in the past.

“He has a presence about him,”€ Sweeney said. “€œIt might not have been his finest year, but there are moments where you realize, ‘€˜Wow. This guy is a unique player.’€™ We’€™re going to have to have discussions along those lines.”€œ

Read More: Don Sweeney, Milan Lucic,

Cam Neely mum on final say, seeks better president-GM communication with Don Sweeney

05.20.15 at 3:36 pm ET
By   |   Comments

While Cam Neely defended his relationship with Claude Julien Wednesday, he revealed a bit more about how he got along with the recently fired Peter Chiarelli.

After the Bruins introduced Don Sweeney as the team’€™s next general manager, Neely stressed the importance of communication in the front office, prompting a question as to whether he felt he and Chiarelli communicated as well as they would have liked.

“The communication could have been better,” Neely answered.

Chiarelli was the GM before Neely was president, but Chiarelli’€™s success prevented Neely from picking his own guy until the Bruins missed the playoffs this season.

Given that Sweeney is both a former teammate of Neely’€™s and the general manager of Neely’€™s choosing, the working relationship between he and Neely figures to be better. He claimed that his friendship with Sweeney did not take priority over the qualifications of other candidates.

“I’ve been president of the Bruins since 2010,” Neely said. “I have not hired a friend.”

Neely repeatedly deflected questions about who gets final say on player personnel, but noted he doesn’€™t want to do his general manager’€™s job.

“I’€™ve made it very clear: I’€™m not a GM. I don’€™t want to be a GM,” Neely said. “I want the GM to do the job, but I want to know what’€™s going on. I don’€™t know how much more clear I can be with that. If the GM wants to push and fight and say ‘€˜This is the right thing,’€™ then I’€™ll sit down and listen. I want to have conversations. My door is always open.”

Neely was then asked who’s responsible for the moves the team makes, whether good or bad. He said that the president should take responsibility, but still avoided whether he makes the final decision. Asked who makes the call when the hockey operations department is split on a decision, he responded “tie goes to the runner.”

“Then who’s the runner?” multiple media members asked.

“Ultimately, if Don feels strongly about something, I’ve got to allow him to do his job,” Neely said, “but if I feel strongly about something then I’ll let him know. But this total autonomy thing, since I became president in 2010, it’s been [considered] a big deal, and I don’t get it. I really don’t.”

The Bruins fired Chiarelli on April 15. He has since taken over the Oilers as team president and GM. Because he had term on his contract that the Bruins would pay had he not found work elsewhere, the Bruins can seek draft pick compensation from the Oilers. Neely confirmed the Bruins are seeking a pick from the Oilers, which would be a second-round pick in one of the next three drafts. The Oilers get to pick which year they give up the pick, making it unlikely that they’€™ll part with the third pick of the second round in this June’€™s draft.

Read More: Cam Neely, Don Sweeney, Peter Chiarelli,

Claude Julien’s fate with Bruins still undecided

05.20.15 at 3:01 pm ET
By   |   Comments

While the Bruins now officially have a general manager, the situation with their head coach remains unclear.

Speaking at his introductory press conference, Boston GM Don Sweeney would not confirm whether he intends to retain or fire Claude Julien. The Bruins gave their final two general manager candidates the opportunity to meet with Julien, something Sweeney did earlier this month. Sweeney also spoke to Julien upon being promoted on Wednesday.

Both Sweeney and Julien were at a number of Providence Bruins games down the stretch as well.

“I have some things that I want to sit down with Claude and go through in a very orderly fashion,” Sweeney said. “As to where I think things need to change and to what direction we need to change as a group, and also acknowledged to Claude during this whole process that I think tremendously as a coach and as a person. It’€™s just about lining up philosophical approaches that I believe in, that he believes in and that we can move the group forward.

“Some of that will involve personnel decisions. Some of that will involve staff member decisions and/or changes. That’€™s to be determined. He’€™s the coach of the Boston Bruins as of today. That’€™s for sure.”

Speaking after the press conference, B’€™s president Cam Neely spoke highly of Julien and downplayed the belief that he has wanted to fire Julien at multiple points during his time as team president.

“Let me be clear. I think we have a good coach,” Neely said. “I know it’€™s been reported that we have a problem with our coach. I think over the years I would have liked to see some adjustments, but it wasn’€™t about [seeing] certain coaches available. For me, it was about making sure we were making the right decision with our GM first and then we’€™ll go from there.

Asked whether he felt Julien could change with the organization as it tweaks its approach to winning, Neely was noncommittal.

“He’€™s another smart hockey guy. He knows the game extremely well,” Neely said. “He’€™s had a lot of success. This is where Don is going to make those decisions with Claude as far as the adjustments that he thinks we need to make.

“This comment that I made in 2010 about [how] we can’€™t win games, 0-0, keeps getting played. Claude and I flushed that out in 2010. It’€™s 2015 now.”

Julien has been Boston’s head coach for eight seasons, reaching the postseason for seven consecutive years prior to this season. His 351 wins with the B’s put him 10 wins away from tying Art Ross for the most wins in Bruins history.

The pool of top coaching candidates has thinned, most recently with Mike Babcock‘€™s decision to coach the Leafs on Wednesday.

Read More: Cam Neely, Claude Julien, Don Sweeney,

Milan Lucic says Don Sweeney a ‘great’ hire for Bruins

05.20.15 at 1:18 pm ET
By   |   Comments

Milan Lucic‘s future is now in Don Sweeney’s hands. Reached for comment upon the team’s hire of Sweeney, Lucic expressed excitement for the new GM.

“I think it’s great,” Lucic said of the hire. “He’s been around the organization for a while and [I] think he’ll do a great job.”

Lucic is entering the final year of a three-year, $18 million contract. Sweeney and the B’s could either try to extend the player, trade him or go into the season with him unsigned, a rare practice in the days of former GM Peter Chiarelli.

Lucic has a partial no-trade clause that allows him to submit a list of 15 teams to which he would accept a deal.

Speaking to WEEI.com on Monday, Lucic declined to share whether he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Bruins.

“We’ll see what happens,” Lucic said Monday. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Don Sweeney, Milan Lucic,
Bruins Headlines
NHL Headlines