The Bruins have stockpiled young talent up front in recent drafts, using their first-round pick on a forward in each of the last five drafts, as well as four of their six second-rounders in that span.
And they also augmented the blue-line depth in the system with trades for the likes of Steven Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski, David Warsofsky and Colby Cohen in the past year.
But if there’s one area in the Bruins’ prospect pool that remains a bit shallow, it’s in net. That’s not an immediate concern with Tim Thomas having another Vezina-worthy campaign and signed for two more years and Tuukka Rask still just 23 years old.
Down on the farm, though, there have been some concerns in goal. Matt Dalton didn’t enter the season looking like the guy who would allay those fears, but he’s been doing his best this month to stay in Boston’s long-term plans.
Dalton lost the battle to back up veteran Nolan Schaefer in Providence to Michael Hutchinson at the start of the season, and was sent down to Reading in the ECHL in October. But Dalton and Hutchinson switched places at the end of December, and Dalton wasn’t content just to return to the AHL as a backup.
He’s now putting pressure on Schaefer to take over as Providence’s No. 1 netminder, starting the P-Bruins’ last three games and winning all three to match Providence’s longest win streak of the season. Dalton allowed just four goals on 98 shots in the three games, which included a 45-save shutout against Worcester. Dalton also posted a 34-save shutout of Manchester on Jan. 7, and is now 5-3-0 with a 2.57 GAA and a .915 save percentage with Providence.
The former Bemidji State star isn’t quite ready to crack our Top 10 Bruins Prospects list just yet, but Dalton is making strides in his second professional season and gives hope that a netminder could make an appearance sometime this season. As for which youngsters did crack the list this week, read on.
Last week: 1 1. Jordan Caron, LW/RW
Caron chipped in a goal and an assist in four games this week, scoring the tying goal at 19:01 of the third in what was eventually a 3-2 shootout win for Providence at Bridgeport on Tuesday. Caron had a slow start to his AHL tenure, but his solid January continues, and he is now up to 4-7-11 totals in 18 games with Providence.
Last week: 2 2. Jared Knight, C/RW
Knight continues to roll along in London, where he had a goal and an assist in three games this week. The goal came in a 4-3 shootout win over Sault Ste. Marie, with Knight also scoring in the shootout. For the season, he now has 17-28-45 totals and is a plus-7 in 42 games.
Last week: 3 3. Ryan Spooner, C
Spooner had a quiet week with just one assist in two games as Kingston beat Oshawa 5-3 and lost to Windsor 3-1. The Frontenacs are now third in the OHL’s East Division at 21-17-2-2, while Spooner himself has impressive 22-20-42 totals in 38 games, though he is a minus-6.
Last week: Unranked 4. Matt Bartkowski, D
Bartkowski returns to the prospect list after being returned to Providence. He played his second NHL game last Saturday, once again facing his hometown club as he made his Garden debut against the Penguins. He chipped in a hit and a blocked shot in 8:56 before being sent back down to the AHL. He then added an assist and was plus-1 in his first game back with the P-Bruins on Tuesday, pushing his AHL totals to 4-9-13 in 35 games.
Last week: 4 5. Joe Colborne, C
It was another quiet week for Colborne, who was scoreless in three games before finally collecting an assist on Tuesday against Bridgeport. He was even for the week with just four shots, and failed to convert his shootout attempt against the Sound Tigers. For the season, Colborne has 9-12-21 totals and is a minus-7 in 41 games.
Last week: 6 6. Max Sauve, C/LW
Sauve finally snapped a seven-game scoring drought with a two-goal outing against Connecticut on Saturday, as he opened the scoring and added the eventual game-winner in a 3-2 victory. Sauve didn’t have any points in Providence’s other three games, but now has 9-3-12 totals and is a plus-2 in 22 games this season.
Last week: 5 7. Ryan Button, D
Button had just one point in four games with an assist, but did rack up eight more penalty minutes in a home-and-home series against Everett. However, he didn’t hurt the Thunderbirds too much with them — half of those PIMs came on a pair of matching roughing minors. In 49 games this season, Button now has 3-22-25 totals and is a minus-7 with 39 PIMs.
Last week: 9 8. Zach Hamill, C
Hamill’s resurgence continued with a goal and an assist in four games this week. His six-game point streak was snapped last Friday, but he bounced back with a goal the next night and chipped in an assist and scored in the shootout in Tuesday’s win against Bridgeport. Hamill has 11 points in his last 10 games and 3-22-25 totals and a plus-3 over 38 games for the season.
Last week: 7 9. Jamie Arniel, C
Hamill’s reemergence has coincided with a lengthy slump for Providence leading scorer Arniel, who has no goals and just two assists over his last 10 games. That includes just one assist in four games this week, though Arniel did score in Tuesday’s shootout. For the season, Arniel still paces Providence with 14-12-26 totals and 136 shots in 40 games.
Last week: 10 10. Craig Cunningham, C
Cunningham picked up two more assists (including one while shorthanded) in three games this week to remain tied for ninth in scoring in the WHL. He also showed a feisty side, picking up an instigator penalty for a fight in a line brawl late in a 5-2 win at Kamloops on Saturday. Cunningham now has 14-40-54 totals in 45 games this year.
Dropped Out: Providence defenseman Yury Alexandrov, ranked No. 8 last week, slips out of the top 10 with Bartkowski’s return. Alexandrov had no points and just three shots in four games this week.