Heading into last season, the Boston Bruins were looking like a team in transition. The shelves appeared relatively barren of prospects with only a dented can of SpaghettiOs sitting at the very back of the pantry. Many would not have been surprised if the Bruins had missed the playoffs, but the team battled its way into the postseason.
The future now looks a little brighter in Beantown these days. Defenseman Brandon Carlo surprised in his rookie campaign and played top-four minutes and looks to be a legit NHL player. Top prospect, Charlie McAvoy, looks almost too good to be true and there appears to excellent talents in the pipeline with Frank Vatrano, Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Jakub Zboril and Anders Bjork among others.
Thanks to a late injury to Torey Krug, McAvoy played a prominent role in the Bruins short playoff run. McAvoy led the Bruins in power-play minutes and only 40-year-old Zdeno Chara logged more overall ice time during the postseason for Boston.
McAvoy’s three points in six playoff games with the Bruins capped off a fantastic year where he scored 26 points in 38 games in what will be his final year at Boston University. He also managed to squeeze in four AHL games, recording two points. McAvoy was voted to the Media All-Star team at the World Junior Championship, where he had six points in seven games for the gold medal winning Team USA. He also got the call to represent his country at the World Championship.
All of the above accomplishments are amazing for a player who has yet to play a regular season game in the NHL. He will only be 19 years of age when the puck drops on the 2017-18 campaign. In dynasty leagues, I’d be all over this guy, but in one-year leagues, I’d be more cautious, especially with Krug back in the fold. Don’t expect McAvoy to replace Krug as the team’s top blueline point producer quite yet.
After breaking out in 2015-16 for 49 points, this season’s 39 has to be considered a setback. He was in the mix for top-unit, power-play minutes, averaging 2:37 per game, tied with David Pastrnak for fourth most on the team. Unfortunately, Spooner averaged only 11:14 at even-strength, which is more in line with third-line duties.
Even though the 25-year-old pending restricted free agent will likely re-sign with the Bruins, he’ll still be a risky pick for your fantasy team. Spooner has been able to score at all levels, but he’s far from a player you can bank on, especially when he's playing a limited role at even strength.
I’ve never been a big believer in advanced statistics, but when I did a Google search for “advanced stats hockey”, the top player on the list was Bergeron. The list was sorted by CF%. I have no idea what that is, but I’m sure it’s important. Though the next “best” player on that list was Jonny Brodzinski, but that’s not fair because he only played six NHL games last season. Taking out players with less than 20 games played, the top of the list is dominated by Boston and Los Angeles players except for San Jose’s Timo Meier.
Of course, I’m kidding about the usefulness of advanced statistics, they have their uses, but need to be taken in the right context and with a grain or two of salt (and maybe some pepper). Most of us don’t need advanced statistics to see that Patrice Bergeron is one of the more valuable players on his team and the NHL.
Bergeron had a somewhat disappointing season, recording 53 points, down 15 from the previous year. That said, old reliable still delivered in face-off wins, finishing atop the league for the fourth straight season. Along with his face-off prowess, he’ll chip in with 15-20 power-play points and his 302 shots on goal were his most since 2005-06. Expect him to threaten the 60-point mark this season and provide some valuable peripherals.
Due to a foot injury, Vatrano didn’t, ahem, kickoff his season until late December. He can be a streaky player, and with that, comes some dry spells. He finished the season with 18 points in 44 games.
In his first full professional season, 2015-16, Vatrano split the year, suiting up for 39 NHL games, recording 11 points, but he really dominated in his 36 AHL contests, scoring 36 goals and 55 points. He led the AHL in goals while averaging over five shots on goal per game and was voted the AHL Rookie of the Year. Vatrano finished the year with an unexpected invite to play for Team USA at the World Championship, where he recorded eight points in 10 games.
The 23-year-old undrafted Massachusetts native will be entering his third NHL season. If he can get off on the right foot with a full offseason of training and a good camp, he could very likely earn himself a top-six role this year. There will be competition, but Vatrano should have the inside track.
The warning signs were all there at the time Boston persuaded Beleskey to put pen to paper on July 1, 2015. After posting a career high in goals with 22 in 65 games with the Ducks, Boston signed Beleskey to a five-year pact with a cap hit of $3.8M, that is looking like it’s four years too long.
His first year in Boston was decent enough, recording 15 goals and 37 points, but the wheels came off this season, where he finished with eight points in 49 games. He was even a healthy scratch during the playoffs, getting in only three of six contests.
The good news is that the type of game Beleskey plays. He is well-suited for third-line responsibilities. The bad news is that his contract is a little rich for said duties.
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