With the 2020-21 NHL season still a ways away, let’s spend this week assessing the state of Boston’s pool of prospects. The Bruins’ pipeline of young talent may not be as extensive (and impactful) as a number of other franchises across the league, but there are still a number of young skaters and netminders in Boston’s system poised to make the jump up to the NHL ranks in the coming years, or at the very least elevate their stock down in the AHL, collegiate, junior and international ranks.
As such, we’ve decided to rank the top 25 prospects in the Bruins’ system, highlighting a number of young skaters and goalies that could be donning black and gold sweaters up in Boston within the next few seasons. Here is a look at our previous selections:
We continue our rankings today, moving on to No. 15-11:
(Note: We’re going to count any prospect with 20+ games of service time up in the NHL ranks as “graduated” from our list, with youngsters like Jeremy Lauzon, Karson Kuhlman and Connor Clifton exempt from these rankings.)
15. Dustyn McFaul, Defenseman
Weight: 191 pounds
2019-20 Stats (Clarkson/NCAA) – 31 games, 1 goal, 7 points
Drafted: Round 6 (No. 181 overall) — 2018
McFaul’s gametape may not stand out quite as much as some of the other B’s prospects on this list, even among the smaller pool of blueliners, but Boston has to be pleased with what they’ve seen so far with their 2018 fifth-round pick.
When it comes to identifying talent in the later rounds of a draft, McFaul stands as an ideal candidate — a young skater that will need plenty of seasoning/reps before realistically vying for a spot on a pro roster, but one that boasts a pretty high floor when looking through that developmental crystal ball.
In what is a recurring trend in just about EVERY scouting report, McFaul will need to add on some muscle before taking another step forward in his career, but the young defenseman already has a sturdy frame (6-foot-2) and is already logging plenty of minutes at Clarkson — where he was named the Golden Knights' Rookie of the Year in 2019-20.
McFaul is pretty mobile for his size, although it remains to be seen how much offense will factor into his game as he progresses through the NCAA and eventually into the pro ranks. Still, even if additional years of development don't unearth some added scoring touch, the Waterdown, Ontario native should at least develop into a reliable, stay-at-home defenseman that can log a sizable amount of minutes at the next level. He has all the makings of a good pro in the coming years.
14. Matias Mäntykivi, Forward
Weight: 161 pounds
2019-20 Stats (SaiPa/Finnish Elite League) – 42 games, 3 goals, 6 points
Drafted: Round 6 (No. 185 overall) — 2019
Much like McFaul, Mäntykivi was another project (more in terms of an extended development timeline, rather than serious flaws) that is already paying dividends for Boston. While the stats may not jump off the page for the then-18-year-old forward with SaiPa in Finland's top league, the fact that Mäntykivi was even regularly earning minutes against competition 5-10 years older than him is a testament to the potential he's already showcased overseas.
While the pivot may not be the fastest skater, Mäntykivi's playmaking abilities stand out on just about every shift, especially against competition more in line with his age group and skill level. Prior to his time up in the Finnish Elite League, Mäntykivi routinely racked up points against U-20 leagues in Finland with 36 total points over 34 games.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that Mäntykivi, who just turned 19 in June, could follow a similar career path as Oskar Steen — a lower-round selection from the B's that impressed against advanced competition overseas before making the move over to North America.
The numbers may not be there quite yet for Mäntykivi with SaiPa (he has three assists in 10 games so far this season), but there's an awful lot to like about this young center's career trajectory.
13. Victor Berglund, Defense
Weight: 181 pounds
2019-20 Stats (MODO/HockeyAllsvenskan) – 50 games, 4 goals, 13 points
Drafted: Round 7 (No. 195 overall) — 2017
Yet another late draft selection makes it on this tier of our rankings, a testament to some of the intriguing talent that Boston has been able to talent with some of their later picks over the last couple of seasons.
While it's taken some time for Berglund to round into form, it certainly appears as though the 21-year-old blueliner has started to hit his stride in 2020 — as he's currently tearing up the competition for Lulea in Sweden's top division (two goals, eight points in 10 games).
Berglund has separated himself from the pack over the last few seasons thanks to his offensive talent, with the right-shot D poised with the puck on his stick and establishing himself as a power-play weapon overseas. While some of the hallmarks of his game (fluid skating, on-ice awareness) have been present since Boston selected him in the final round of the 2017 draft, Berglund's shot has come a long way — making him a viable scoring threat over his last few years in Sweden (10 goals in 52 games last season in HockeyAllsvenskan — the country's second-tiered division).
Berglund definitely isn't the most imposing presence out there on the ice, and the playmaking defenseman is going to have to fill out his frame a bit more if he wants to regularly earn minutes at the next level. Still, after a few stagnant years following the 2017 Draft, it does appear as though the Swede has started to hit his stride, at least overseas.
"He is going in the right direction," Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner said of Berglund last summer. "Two years ago, when I went over and watched him it was a battle for him. It was a battle for him to be an effective player. Last year when you saw him play, he took control. He made plays, he defends well, he sees the ice well, he is competitive. We were fortunate to have him come over at the end of the year in Providence and had a hand full of games. He scored goals and he was very active. He is one of the ones who gets the message."
While it remains to be seen if Berglund can develop into, say, a top-four regular up in the NHL ranks, his floor does seem to paint the picture of a offensive-minded contributor on the blue line that can be effectively utilized on a roster if sheltered a bit with favorable zone starts and power-play reps.
12. Curtis Hall, Forward
Weight: 210 pounds
2019-20 Stats (Yale/NCAA) – 28 games, 17 goals, 27 points
Drafted: Round 4 (No. 119 overall) — 2018
Hall had a season to remember in 2019-20, with the 2018 fourth rounder's stock soaring after a breakthrough season at Yale and a spot on Team USA’s roster for the World Junior Championship.
While Hall's pro-tailored frame (6-foot-3, already over 200 pounds), skating ability and untapped offensive potential made him a solid option for Boston two years ago, the Ohio native didn't exactly set fire to the stat sheets during his two years in the USHL (20 goals in 113 games with Youngstown), nor did he earn a steady amount of reps as a college freshman with the Bulldogs (five goals in just 24 games).
But on a rebuilding Yale roster in 2019-20, Hall made the most of the added minutes awarded to him as a sophomore, potting goals early and often as a netfront force for the Bulldogs. In just 28 games, Hall buried 17 goals and posted 27 points on the year, while also serving in a bottom-six role with Team USA over in the WJC.
"He is a big boy,” Langenbrunner said of Hall last summer. "He always looked better in a game for me than practice. He is just one of those guys that it's his effort and his competing. It is not necessarily the prettiest thing ever, but he is an effective hockey player and we saw it again today. Excellent motor, big body."
Hall is cut from the same cloth as a number of forwards you're going to see later on in these rankings — big body, tough to play against, etc., etc. While the young forward still needs to pack on some muscle and play with a bit more of a snarl, Hall has all the makings of an effective, big-bodied forward up at the next level, where he could thrive if deployed on a straight-line, checking line.
But don't discount Hall's skill and especially his speed for a player of his size, as the forward has proven to be awfully effective as the F1 on Yale's forecheck — serving as the first man in on puck retrievals. We'll see how he fares at keeping the biscuit away from stronger and older players at the next level, but Boston has to be pleased with the strides that Hall has made over the past year. He should only get better with more top-six minutes down in New Haven over the next two years.
11. Oskar Steen, Forward
Weight: 195 pounds
2019-20 Stats (Providence/AHL) – 60 games, 7 goals, 23 points
Drafted: Round 6 (No. 165 overall) — 2016
As we noted above with Mäntykivi, Steen's progression through Boston's pipeline of prospects should be a path that other prospects emulate when it comes to rising through the ranks of this organization.
There wasn't much fanfare when Boston selected the undersized Steen back in 2016, with the Swede taking his lumps against much older competition in the Swedish Elite League (SHL) back in in 2017-18 — tallying just six points over 45 games. It was par for the course that a "project" like Steen was going to hit a number of setbacks upon advancing to the SHL, but few expected the type of jump that the young forward orchestrated for himself the following year.
The 21-year-old Steen established himself as one of the top forwards in the entire league, ranking 10th overall in scoring in the SHL with 17 goals and 37 total points over 46 games with Färjestad BK. That's quite the feat, considering the nine scoring leaders in front of Steen in the SHL boasted an average age of 30.2.
The sky was the limit for Steen in 2019-20, with the shifty skater deservedly earning his shot over in North America with Providence. Despite the growing pains associated with players coming over from Europe (smaller ice, more physical play in the U.S. and Canada), Langenbrunner believed that Steen's natural disposition on the ice would suit him well for his rookie campaign in the AHL.
“I think his development has gone exactly how we hoped,” Langenbrunner said last summer. “You’ve seen the transformation of his body is from a little boy a few years ago to a man now. His game this year, he was a very good player in that league, top 10 in scoring. I think his competitiveness, his willingness to get inside of people, will translate to his game here probably better than playing on the big sheet over there."
However, Steen wasn't immune from the struggles that plague most players coming from overseas, as it took him some time to settle into a groove with the Baby B's. However, that's not to say that he didn't manage to regularly show flashes of his potential, closing out his rookie season with 23 points in 60 games. Another season (or two, given that the upcoming campaign with be shortened) should do wonders for Steen, who has shown a track record of steady production upon getting settled into to new surroundings and stiffer competition. Steen could very well play himself back into a top-10 spot in in short order if he hits the ice running in Providence.