The scout on John Beecher is a bottom-six forward at the National Hockey League level. The Boston Bruins’ first-round pick, 30th overall, in the 2019 NHL Draft has good size at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds and NHL-level speed. Most prognosticators see the University of Michigan product as a third-line center at best because of a need to improve with finishing around the net. In the past week at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, Beecher stood out among Bruins’ rookies and showed that the Elmira, New York native’s ceiling could be higher.
The Bruins won two of three games in the round-robin tournament, which was a good sign for a group widely considered the 32nd-best prospect pool in the NHL. Beecher showed his size and speed as advertised, but also a newly-found scoring touch and improved hands around the net and will get to show if he belongs in the NHL during training camp.
Another standout at the Prospect Challenge for Boston was forward Luke Toporowski. The former undrafted free agent was impressive in Buffalo, bringing a feistiness that the Bruins’ general manager likes. The 5-foot-9 left-shot left-wing has shown a knack for scoring goals as well as he did in the Challenge. The Bettendorf, Iowa native was invited to the tournament roster and could get a Professional Tryout offer from Boston or another NHL team this season. Last year, Toporowski split time in the Western Hockey League between the Spokane Chiefs and Kamloops Blazers totaling 35 goals.
The prospect that Bruins fans are most interested in and probably most excited about is 2021 first-round pick Fabian Lysell. Lysell had 62 points in 53 games with Vancouver of the Western Hockey League and possessed dynamic offensive hockey skills. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound winger performed well for Sweden in the World Junior Championships and continued his strong play in Buffalo. Lysell possesses excellent speed and high-end finishing ability. The question will be whether Lysell’s slight frame needs another year in Vancouver or will start his professional career in Providence in the American Hockey League or in Boston.
Boston desperately needs good young centermen in their organization and a two-room center stage at the round-robin tournament. Georgii Merkulov was signed out of Ohio State by the Bruins last season and started the first game on a line with Jakub Lauko and Lysell. After registering 34 points in 36 games for the Buckeyes, the 21-year-old center notched five points in eight games with the Providence Bruins. In the Prospect Challenge, Merkulov showed what scouts have noticed from the 5-foot-11 Russian, high-end skill with a strong left-handed shot. Expect Merkulov to be back in Providence this season.
Matthew Poitras was selected in the second round of the 2022 NHL Draft from the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. The book on Poitras is excellent hockey sense and playmaking ability. The 54th overall pick also showed strong puck pursuit in the tournament. It remains to be seen where The Brooklin, Ontario native, will play this season, but his stock is steadily rising, and the Bruins might have a couple of good center-ice prospects in the mix.
On defense, the Bruins were missing 2020 second-round pick Mason Lohrei, who is recovering from injury and returning to Ohio State University for his sophomore season. In his absence, Michael Callahan stood out in the tournament. The former Providence College standout plays a defense-first style with a big body and sneaky good wrist shot that often finds the net. The 6-foot-2 defenseman was acquired last season from Arizona for a seventh-round pick and could provide some much-needed defensive depth to the Bruins after starting the season in Providence.
If you are a Bruins fan, there is a lot more to look forward to than maybe originally thought. Boston will need some of their young prospects to make an impact on the parent club within the next few years and the Prospects Challenge provided some good insight into what the Bruins might actually have in the pipeline.