Welcome to Beantown. The Boston is the 2nd stop on our 30 Teams in 30 Days tour.
Seth Griffith - London Knights
I thought Griffith had a good year. A lot of the outlined weak points in his game took a step forward this year. While he's still not a speed demon, I felt like his acceleration and top gear improved and gave him greater separation ability. This was particularly important for capitalizing on scoring chances by beating defenders to the net or to loose pucks. I also thought his overall game took a step forward and that he played with more conviction, more consistently. He was more engaged in battles away from the puck and had more fire to his game. He still has a bit of a tendency to float for a breakout pass, but he did make a greater effort on the backcheck and was generally more involved in his own end. On top of these improvements, Griffith was still one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. He's got a pro-ready shot which he requires little space to get off. He also has great hockey sense with and without the puck. He's the type of guy you can put with anyone and he'll find a way to create offense. Of any graduating player in the league, I think I'm most curious to see how Griffith adapts to the AHL. In a lot of ways, he's a similar player to Tyler Toffoli who had a terrific rookie AHL season. Being able to play with guys like Ryan Spooner (if he's not in the NHL) and Alex Khokhlachev will help him get scoring chances. I'm a believer of his NHL potential.
Once he returned from the KHL, Khokhlachev was an absolute force this year. The numbers he put up in a small time frame were ridiculous (and pro-rate to a +110 point season). Despite playing in only 29 games, he finished 4th in scoring on the Spits. His point per game average was right up there with Galchenyuk, Strome, Scheifele, and Trocheck. Khokhlachev is a pure offensive catalyst. He can put up points in a lot of different ways. He's a skilled player off the rush and is able to beat defenders one on one. He's certainly most effective when he's looking to take the puck to the net, a skill he's very adept at despite being undersized. But he's also very effective in creating offense below the hash marks. He has the vision to create plays for linemates from behind the net and is able to slow the game down. I think he's going to need to continue to get stronger and quicker for the pro game, which was evident during his small stint with Providence (AHL) at the end of the season. But he's got great potential as a top 6 forward at the NHL level.
Despite the criticism he received at the U-20's this year, Subban is a terrific goaltending prospect who had a great year in the OHL. Did he improve greatly from his draft season? Not really. But that's not saying much because he was already a terrific goaltender then. The size/agility combination is a dream for goaltending coaches. He moves so effortlessly in his crease and is able to track the play exceptionally well. Because of this, he makes a lot of 2nd and 3rd saves that he has no business making. I'm not goalie expert, but I think the technical side of his approach still needs refinement. He can still be beat on bad angle shots occasionally. I think he'll also need to improve his glove hand. But with proper coaching, he has the natural skill set to develop into a quality NHL netminder. If Svedberg is the Bruins back-up to Rask next year (Chad Johnson appears to be his competition), then Subban should get his share of starts in Providence. If I'm being perfectly honest, I could see him struggling a bit to start off before really rectifying himself. He's a prospect that the Bruins will have to be patient with. Thankfully with Rask and Svedberg, they have that luxury.
Camara was one of the most improved players in the OHL this past year. From 16 goals in 2011-2012 to 36 in 2012-2013. There were a lot of reasons for that, that I'll try to outline. Firstly, he transformed himself from primarily a dump and chase kind of guy, to someone who could carry the puck and work off the rush. His confidence in handling the puck increased exponentially, as he consistently looked to create chances by driving to the net and found a lot of success doing it. Secondly, he looked quicker and stronger this year. He was quicker to loose pucks and to open lanes, and was harder to contain in front of the net. Thirdly, his shot and his confidence in using it also increased. He didn't hesitate to shoot and was able to improve the quickness of his release. Of course, even though he improved offensively, he remained one of the most feared open ice hitters in the OHL, as well as one of it's most physical forwards. He's positioned himself quite well to make an impact on a checking line in the NHL. I'd probably temper expectations offensively for his first year, especially given Providence's depth at the forward position. But he'll likely make a quick impact in other ways. Of course, I'm sure Bruins fans are most concerned about him making an impact in the suspension column. He definitely has some to learn and will have to find a way to adapt his physical brand of hockey to the new set of rules in place to protect players. If he played ten years ago, we wouldn't be having this discussion (think Raffi Torres), but he'll have to find a way to play hard without crossing the line. Flyers prospect Zac Rinaldo was a worse offender than Camara during his OHL days and I think he's done a pretty decent job, (save a couple suspensions) during his three year pro career, of avoiding major issues. Camara can do the same.
An interesting pick to say the least. Dempsey hasn't shown much of anything during his OHL career thus far. This isn't the same as the Cody Payne pick up last year. Even if Payne's offensive numbers (at the time) were nothing to scoff at, he was a very physical and hard working forward who flashed offensive potential when given a larger role on a deep club. Dempsey is a big kid who, at times this year, looked lost and out of place on a Greyhounds club that could have given him the chance to play a more integral role should his play have dictated it. Physical at times, but invisible at others. He did battle some injuries/ailments this year (ankle and pneumonia), so there's no doubt that, that would have affected him. And he's a former high draft pick in the OHL. While I doI think there were other potential power forwards in the OHL (Stephen Harper and Greg Betzold) who deserved this selection more, it's way too early to give up on Dempsey as a prospect. The Hounds are likely losing a lot of offensive talent next year (Cousins, Alderson, Broll, Schumacher) so he'll get his chance to step in and make a difference and show people he deserved be drafted.