Boston Bruins prospects on display at World Junior Summer Showcase

Not too long ago team USA was celebrating their gold medal win at the World Junior Championships, but international play has moved on and previews of this year’s World Junior Championship teams were on display at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan. The week-long camp began on July 28 and featured twelve games between Canada, Finland, Sweden, and the United States.

The four teams consisted of 132 players, 111 of whom have been drafted into the NHL while the remaining 21 are eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft. Of the 111 draftees, five are prospects of the Boston Bruins: Oskar Steen (Sweden), Trent Frederic (USA), Ryan Lindgren (USA), Urho Vaakanainen (Finland), and Joona Koppanen (Finland). While Koppanen signed an entry level contract with the Bruins in April of this year, the remaining four are poised to move into the NHL within the next couple of seasons. Throughout the tournament, the boys showed off their abilities in a variety of areas. Let’s break down each of the unsigned prospects to see how they fared in the tournament and how they can help bolster the Bruins organization in the future.

  1. Oskar Steen – Sweden, 2016 draft, sixth round

The 5’9” right winger/ center from Karlstad, Sweden was not a huge offensive threat throughout the tournament, with the exception of Sweden’s game against Finland on the final day of competition when he scored four goals. In his postgame interview, Steen said “I have been working hard this tournament. It was very good feeling for me to score these goals” and it “was a really good night.” His coach Tomas Monten added of the game that it was good to see Steen rewarded for his determination and effort because “He works all over the ice. He is a scorer. He hasn’t scored, but still he worked hard and he made checks and things like that.” The drive was clearly there; it just took the right shot- or four- to go into the net.

Following his offensive outburst, regional scout for the Red Line Report and New England Hockey Journal contributor Kirk Luedeke tweeted: “Steen is not signed; under contract this year in Sweden so not an option right now but certainly made a name for himself @ B’s d-camp & WJSS.”

Steen is known for being a fast skater with scoring ability, but according to Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner he needs to work on his offensive dimension in the sense that he’s a smaller guy, although “he doesn’t play like a small guy at all.” In terms of what he brings to the Bruins’ future, Langenbrunner was not short on compliments after development camp saying “He’s a gritty guy, he has a high motor… He plays determined and hard. He’ll look to have a little more finish this year than he did last year. … But a guy who you’ve got to love the motor and the compete he has.”

For this upcoming season he will return to Sweden for another year of junior hockey with the Färjestad BK hockey club, but he has the drive and skill to make the leap to the NHL within the next couple of years if he continues on his current trajectory.

  1. Ryan Lindgren — USA, 2016 draft, second round

The defenseman from Burnsville, Minnesota is going into his sophomore season for the University of Minnesota Gophers. He had a promising freshman year – he had just come off of a great season as captain of the US Under-18 team and would help the US win gold at the World Junior Championship. But, he sustained a season ending injury when he broke his right fibula and tore a few tendons in his right ankle in March. As for the World Junior Summer Showcase, while he was listed on the Team USA White roster and his ankle was “feeling a lot better,” he didn’t play in any of the games and is playing it safe so “I’ll be ready when the season starts.” – a season where he will be an assistant captain for the Gophers and their potential packed program. With his continued development, Paul Wheeler of stanleycupofchowder.com predicts “It’s probably another season at least before we see him in the Bruins system, but all the signs so far show he could become a valuable part of it in the future.”

In talking about his skills Wheeler continues his praise of Lindgren’s defensive value “It’s hard to find video highlight packages that show what Lindgren is all about, as he’s exactly the type of defenseman that highlight packages rarely show the best of – he’s a quiet, no-nonsense physical presence on the blueline that does his job quietly and allows other players to take the spotlight.” Lindgren is a “put the team first” kind of guy and that is exactly the mentality the Bruins organization prides itself on and when his time comes he’ll fit in beautifully.

  1. Trent Frederic – USA, 2016 draft, first round

The 6’2” center hails from St. Louis, MO and, while he had no points in the Summer Showcase, he was on the top line for the University of Wisconsin this past year, racking up 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 30 games for the Badgers.

According to Chris Dilks of sbncollegehockey.com, Frederic is a great stickhandler whose “best asset has always been his smooth hands. He’s got the ability to make difficult plays in traffic and is really tough to stop in one-on-one situations because of his ability to handle the puck.” He also has a heavy snap shot that can “beat goalies from distance” which makes him a constant threat on the ice.

Where he lacks when it comes to his future with the Bruins is that he’s not an overly physical player and he struggles with speed. Dilks worries that “he doesn’t have the speed to make defenses uncomfortable and force them to soften gaps.” While scoring is something any NHL team wants, speed is crucial to the offense; scoring ability won’t matter if you can’t beat the defense and get a shot on goal.

Despite initial speculation from former Bruins amateur scouting chief Keith Gretzky that Frederic was only fit to be a bottom-six player, Dilks’ praise for the center was high: “Overall, I think Bruins fans should be extremely pleased with how their first round pick has turned out so far. His offensive production is exceeding any reasonable expectation heading into the year… He’s definitely showing the promise to a play a scoring line role in some capacity at the NHL level.”

Following the idea that he could come out of the bottom-six role, he played well at the Summer Showcase and looked better than he did last season and had “a little more skill and willingness to make plays with the puck” according to Joe Haggerty.

While he may not have been everyone’s vote for a first round pick, Frederic has managed to show he can be an asset to Team USA and the Bruins in the future. Haggerty hit the nail on the head when he said Frederic “gets a lot of the important D-zone face-offs for Team USA late in games when it can mean the difference between a win and a loss, and there’s something to be said for that.” Defense can make or break a hockey game and as of right now Frederic will be making that game for the Bruins.

  1. Urho Vaakanainen – Finland, 2017 draft, first round

While the Finnish defenseman had no points at this year’s World Junior Summer Showcase, no one can question why the Bruins chose him in the first round of the draft. Vaakanainen has a variety of strengths, namely his awareness on the ice. He can often be found in the perfect defensive spot, ready to handle the opposition’s attempts at scoring. Just Blades of habseyesontheprize.com describes his playing style as “a more active style of defense” which means “using his stick to break up passes and take the puck away from his check along the boards” then sending it out of the zone in the best manner possible, often taking it out himself because of his skating ability. Because of his awareness and how smoothly he carries himself on the ice, Blades says “he’s virtually impossible to beat to the net in a one-on-one situation” and has a “defensive game and transition ability that are already regarded as NHL-calibre.”

Despite not getting on the score sheet at the Summer Showcase and only recording two goals and six points for JYP in the Finnish Elite League last season, he scored three goals and assisted on three others when Finland claimed the silver medal at the Under-18 World Championship in April.

His highest praises were sung at Bruins development camp when Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley had compared him to Hall of Famer Paul Coffey for his skating ability, and Jamie Langenbrunner used “the equally impressive Devils player comparison of Scott Niedermayer when discussing Boston’s top pick” according to Haggerty. Langenbrunner explained “He seems to have a little bit of those tendencies that kind of floats on his skates a little bit. That’s something that I don’t believe you can really teach…You’re talking about a 17-year-old kid that played in the Finnish Elite League. He sees the ice well, he’s got good size, and he can make plays.” While he is expected to remain in Finland for another year or two, he’ll have a solid career when his development allows him to make the jump to the NHL.

 Despite not being the top scorers for their teams or making highlight-reel plays every game, these four prospects have what the Bruins are looking for and ensure the Bruins have a solid future on both the defensive and offensive side of things. It is safe to say that within the next three to five years all of them will be skating in the black and gold and showing everyone why they were drafted by the Big, Bad Bruins.

Yardbarker: NHL

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