With the Bruins in the middle of an ambiguous, rebuilding-not-rebuilding season where the goal is to simultaneously compete at top level and reassemble a fierce squad, getting to know the prospects is a must.
There are a number of names to know going into this season, and we’ve picked out several that are expected to appear in the season with the Bruins at one point or another.
One player we can finally look forward to in the near future is forward Anders Bjork, who decided to sign with Boston in May after completing his junior year at Notre Dame. Though he was taken late in the 2014 NHL Draft (146th overall) and therefore did not create notable expectations, Bjork went on to play three years at Notre Dame and improve his game to become one of the Bruins top prospects.
Last season with the Fighting Irish, Bjork delivered 21 goals and 31 assists in 39 games, leading the team in scoring and earning himself a nomination for the Hobey Baker award. Now under contract, Bjork attended the Boston Bruins Development Camp in July and was almost unanimously the stand-out name for any prospect on the ice, outskating his peers and carrying himself in a way that signals he is ready for NHL-level play.
Along with Bjork, winger Jake DeBrusk will be looking to break into the NHL scene. DeBrusk played the last season with the Providence Bruins, earning 19 goals and 30 assists as well as six goals in the playoffs. Debrusk has the ability to shine offensively, scoring highlight-reel goals in Providence and giving a playoff performance that the Bruins look for in young guys. DeBrusk was drafted 14th overall in the 2015 draft, and will also have to fight for a roster spot against his fellow draftees Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn, who were drafted 13th and 15th overall, respectively.
From the most recent draft, though, one promising prospect to watch for is the 18th overall pick, defenseman Urho Vaakanainen. While only 18 years old, Vaakanainen played the last season in the Finnish Elite League as a regular, and scored three goals in 14 postseason games. He also represented his country at both the 2017 World Junior and U-18 World Championships.
Vaakanainen showed a strong skating capability with and without the puc at the Bruins Development Camp this summer, and a quick mind to play in all three zones. How he fares in a game with greater physicality and skill will determine whether or not he is ready for the NHL, which means his performance at rookie camp – and possibly at Bruins training camp as well – is something to keep an eye on.