Eyes on these five guys in Buffalo


Providence’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson beats Springfield’s Harri Sateri during an Oct. 7 game.

It’s been a couple of months since I wrote anything on Rinkside Rhode Island, but now the dog days are over and it’s time to get back at it, so here goes.

To kick off the new season, I’ll be in Buffalo this weekend at the Prospects Challenge. It was well worth the trip last year, when the Bruins brought a good group that included Charlie McAvoy, Danton Heinen, Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk, all of whom made an impact later on in Boston.

I’m on record as saying I don’t see a player moving up from Providence this season and being as effective in the NHL as any of those four were. Of course, I’ve been wrong a time or three, so we’ll see how things turn out.

Here are five players to keep an eye on in Buffalo:


All things considered, JFK had a solid rookie season in the AHL. It was interrupted midway through when he suffered a concussion when he hit his head on the ice after a collision with Hartford’s Brendan Smith.

I believe he is going to be a good player for Boston, but he didn’t do enough last season to convince me that he’s ready to step into the NHL just yet. He might be well served by spending a little more time in Providence.

For me, there were too many nights last season when he didn’t make enough of an offensive impact for a guy with his tools. He’s a setup man, not a sniper, but there were 16 games when he had zero shots on net and 15 more when he had only one.

That being said, a strong camp and his one year of experience may give him an edge on rookies Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka.


He’s an average skater but he gets around the ice well enough. He’s got good size, a dangerous shot and he can make a play. In addition to those attributes, he has a healthy helping of “fuck you’’ in his game.

Frederic spent the end of the season with Providence and played well. When I ran into Lehigh Valley coach Scott Gordon a couple weeks ago, he mentioned that Frederic impressed him.

It will be interesting in Buffalo to see if Frederic can pick up where he left off. I’m betting he can.

In my opinion, he’s not all that far from being ready for NHL duty. If he doesn’t make Boston’s opening night roster, I could see him spending, say, half a season with the P-Bruins and then moving up.


Studnicka also finished up in Providence in the spring and held his own. He was a standout in development camp and he’s saying all the right things about making the big club sooner rather than later.

He’s an excellent prospect but is he ready right now to skip the Providence rung on the development ladder and jump straight from the OHL to the NHL?

Barring a light’s out performance in the preseason, it seems to me Studnicka’s development would be best served this season by dominating with Oshawa and being a significant contributor for Canada’s World Junior team.


A year ago in Buffalo, Zboril played poorly in the opening game against the Penguins. To his credit, he stepped up afterwards and said so, then performed much better in the final two games.

He had the usual ups and downs as an AHL rookie last season, but finished on a positive note.

While Zboril has the tools to be an NHL defenseman, Jay Leach said more than once last season that he must continue to push his limits. We’ll see how the other Z does with that in his second pro season in Providence.


Saved the best for last. Obviously, he’s the only guy on my short list who is a virtual lock to be in the opening night lineup in Washington.

Building on his experience in the NHL regular season and playoffs, I’m looking for Donato to have a strong rookie season. I believe he has a legit chance to hit the 20-25 goal mark.

In talking to Bruce Cassidy recently about the Prospects Challenge, he remembered David Pastrnak and Filip Forsberg as being standouts when Boston took a team to Nashville for a rookie tourney a few years back, foreshadowing their emergence as big-time NHL players.

“If a young guy really steps up there, then there’s a pretty good chance he’ll do well with us,’’ Cassidy said.

Not to suggest that Donato is in the class of a Pasternak or a Forsberg, but it will be intriguing this weekend to see how he measures up against his peer group of top prospects for Buffalo, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

One thought on “Eyes on these five guys in Buffalo

  1. Pingback: Fresh Links: Young Guns. Mark Divver on Prospects Challenge. Wiley Sherman a young Hal Gill? Jakub Zboril tweaks his game. Zach Senyshyn a work in progress. Kyle Keyser road to NHL. Five questions for Bruins. WHo are camp invitees? About Shattuck-St.Mary

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