So far this offseason, the Boston Bruins have been one of hockey’s quietest teams. Although they signed Craig Smith to a three-year deal, the defending President Trophy winners have only made minor additions. Their most significant change however has been the departure of Torey Krug to the Blues on a seven-year deal. Krug’s departure ended a memorable nine-year run in Boston and left a hole on the blueline. It has also created a chance for some of the Bruins prospects to step up including Urho Vaakanainen.
The Bruins selected Vaakanainen with the 18th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Since then, he has been one of the Bruins top prospects and seen some time in the NHL. Over the past two seasons, the Finnish native has appeared in seven games for the Bruins. Although Vaakanainen has failed to secure a spot, he will have a prime opportunity this upcoming season.
Good play by Urho Vaakanainen to support Clifton and break up a scoring chance for Toronto. pic.twitter.com/GMxUum6qTT
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) November 16, 2019
Since being drafted, Vaakanainen’s stock has steadily risen in the Bruins system. He has excelled due to his smooth skating and intelligence as he has become the Bruins top defense prospect. He isn’t an offensive powerhouse like Krug but did have a career-high five goals last season for Providence. Even though he failed to record more than 20 points, his game did improve.
Additionally, In Vaakanainen’s five games with the Bruins, he did not seem overwhelmed. The young defenseman landed eight hits and blocked three shots. He also attempted nine shots while averaging just under 17 minutes of ice-time per game. While his stats do not jump off the page, Vaakanainen showed that he could handle the increased pressure.
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 23, 2018
When training camp begins, however, the Finnish native will not be the only one looking for a spot on the Bruins blueline. He will have a competition with fellow prospect Jakub Zboril who signed a two-year extension earlier this week.
To secure a spot, Vaakanainen’s health and assertiveness will be two key aspects. In Vaakanainen’s first year in Providence, he suffered a concussion that limited him to just 32 games. Last year he was able to stay healthy, but his offensive production was down. The Bruins don’t need him to match Krug’s numbers, but he does need to be more of a threat in the offensive zone.
Furthermore, this upcoming season will be critical for the Finnish native. Since joining the organization this is his best opportunity to secure a spot in Boston. Regardless of how general manager Don Sweeney further improves the roster, this could be the year Vaakanainen breaks through.
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