BUFFALO – The Boston Bruins finished up at the Prospects Challenge with a 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday. Boston won two and lost one in the annual event.
The Bruins trailed 1-0 and 2-1, but first Johnny Beecher and then Georgii Merkulov evened the score. In the shootout, Merkulov made a slick move for a goal and Fabian Lysell buried a wrister. At the other end, Brandon Bussi (19 saves) stopped both Jersey shooters for his second win of the weekend.
Here are quick hits on three players who had good performances in the three games:
The 5-foot-11 winger was in the thick of the action in every game, whether he was scoring goals or pushing the buttons of opposing players.
Toporowski, 21, a free agent out of the WHL who signed an AHL deal with Providence, plays with a chip on his shoulder.
No one has to tell him to shoot, that’s for sure. He let bombs fly from all over the rink.
“He was as advertised from a shoot-first mentality,” GM Don Sweeney said before Monday’s game.
“The interior-ice play has been pretty consistent in (the first two games). Needs to continue for him because he can’t just be a one-trick pony in this league. Obviously he does shoot the puck past the goaltender with regularity at all the levels he’s played at despite his size. That will be a calling card for him.
“But I really like the feisty competitiveness, as I mentioned, getting to the interior ice. He’s a player that has put himself on our radar in getting into main camp and playing with established players as well. We’ll see how the details hold up.”
Boston’s first-rounder in 2019 scored a goal in all three games and led the team in scoring with 3-1-4.
His best performance was on Monday, when he was engaged from start to finish.
“That’s how he’s got to play. We all talk about his feet, his separation. He’s got to sometimes lean in on guys and he did that (Monday). He was excellent,” said coach Ryan Mougenel.
“The first two days he had some really strong flashes,” said Jamie Langenbrunner, director of player development and player personnel adviser.
“The obvious one is his speed, his ability to skate by defenders. The game winner in Game 1 was one of those where he almost looks like he glides by a defender to finish, then here again today he creates a chance and rips it off the post. (Monday) I’ve liked his engagement level better. He’s getting inside more, making it difficult on the other team by using his body more.
“That’s what we’re going to be stressing with him for however long it takes, to bring that every shift, that consistency in using his God-given talent of size and strength and skating ability all the time. It’ll be a process, we know that. He’s giving us more and more each day and that’s what we want,” he said.
Beecher should have plenty of juice heading into his first NHL training camp later this week.
“He’s buying in. He scored some goals, watched the puck go in the net. Hopefully that confidence that he should have translates to big camp,” said Mougenel.
Poitras, drafted in the second round in July, is listed at 5-foot-11, 173 pounds.
Off the ice, he could pass for a high school freshman. On the ice, though, he’s wise beyond his years.
Poitras put up only one assist, but he created chances for Toporowski, Lysell and Merkulov.
Asked what he liked about Poitras, Langenbrunner quickly answered, “His instincts.”
“I think he has a good feel for the game. You can see what he’s trying to create. Whether it’s worked every time in the execution yet, it’s about what you expect for a young kid in this tournament.
“He’s been good especially in small areas, where a lot of the pro game is played. It’s played in tight little areas. He has a good feel for it, a good stick, ability to handle defenders.”
In watching him with Guelph of the OHL last season, Langenbrunner noted “his ability to elevate in big games, in big moments, playoffs, and play in tough situations. Obviously, (the Prospects Challenge) isn’t that yet, but it’s a step for him and he’s been as advertised, what we expected.”
Poitras looks like a good prospect and it will be interesting to watch him progress as he matures.
“He’s got a lot of physical development left in him,” Langenbrunner said.