One day after seeing stud prospect Charlie McAvoy suit up for his first practice with AHL Providence, Bruins management is expected Friday to meet with another BU Terrier, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, in hopes of signing him to a contract to start his pro career.
Word around the BU campus, whereForsbacka Karlsson this season turned in a line of 14-19—33 in 39 games, has been that the sophomore center planned to return to BU this fall for his junior season.
It will be up to Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, who this week convinced McAvoy to leave the Commonwealth Ave campus, to convince the Swedish-born center that it’s time to swap the NCAA for the NHL.
A smooth-skating, playmaking center, Forsbacka Karlsson scored 30 points during his freshman season after playing two years with Omaha in the USHL. The Bruins selected him in Round 2, No. 45 overall, in the 2015 amateur draft — the same draft in which they chose Brandon Carlo with the 37th overall pick.
Sweeney no doubt will point to Carlo’s effectiveness this season as evidence that Forsbacka Karlsson possibly could jump into the varsity rotation in 2017-18.
One large incentive for NHL clubs to sign college prospects early: if they remain in college for four seasons, draft picks can declare free agency in the August following their senior season.
Prized winger Jimmy Vesey followed that path last summer, graduating from Harvard in May, then telling the Nashville Predators, the club that drafted him, that he would become a free agent. The Rangers won a feverish round of bidding to acquire the the 2016 Hobey Baker winner.
Rask gets job done
Tuukka Rask, upright and taking fluids, made his second start in three days against the Stars and made 27 stops in the Bruins’ 2-0 victory at the Garden.
“He’s feeling good,” noted coach Bruce Cassidy, his club 14-7-0 since in his 21 games as interim coach prior to the match vs. the Stars. “I thought he was terrific on Tuesday [4-1 win over Nashville]. He had some heavy moments in terms of workload around the net, he was getting bumped . . . and he got through it fine, battled through it, feels healthy and good, so he’ll go in.”
Cassidy remained unsure how he’ll dole out the goaltending chores for the weekend, when the Bruins face the Panthers in a Saturday matinee at the Garden, followed by a 12:30 p.m. start in Chicago on Sunday.
“I have a tough time believing we won’t use both of them this weekend,” said Cassidy, referring to Rask and backup Anton Khudobin, the latter of whom has won four of his last five starts. “But I don’t want to paint myself in a corner. I just believe they will both see the crease this weekend.”
Cassidy did not dismiss the idea of having Rask skip the Florida game and fly to Chicago ahead of the team, likely after Friday’s workout. In theory, it would allow the 30-year-old tender added rest ahead of the Blackhawks matchup.
“I guess if that was his start, management would have to make that decision,’’ said Cassidy, the Bruins then needing to recall one of their AHL tenders. “On the flip side, if he’s not going to play [in Chicago], would we leave him behind? So there is always that part of it, too. I am sure those things will be open to discussion. If he is 100 percent healthy, I don’t know that you need to do either, but . . . there’s an idea, we’ll run it by the boss.”
Rask, now 35-20-4, still has a shot of setting a career high for wins. He posted a career-best 36 wins in 2013-14, and averaged a fraction under 33 victories in the two seasons leading to 2016-17. The Bruins have four games remaining in the regular season.
Liles shakes off rust
Veteran blue liner John-Michael Liles, in mothballs for nearly a month prior to suiting up Tuesday vs. the Predators, was back in the lineup with Dallas in town. He paired again with Kevan Miller.
“Nice to get back in the lineup and try to contribute,” said Liles, acquired at the 2015 trade deadline. “I thought for the most part it went well, having not played for a month or so . . . it’s never easy. It took me a couple of shifts to work the lactic acid out of my legs a little bit, then I felt pretty good after that.”
One key to an easy transition back into the mainstream, noted Liles, was a steady flow of communication with Miller. They two kept up the conversation through the night, on the ice during shifts and stops, and also on the bench.
“As long as you’re talking to each other on the ice, which Millsy and I have done pretty well, I think, just communicating in different situations, that makes it easier,” said Liles.”
Cassidy now has kept Colin Miller out of the lineup for two straight games. He noted earlier in the week that there is delicate balance for a coach when dealing with a young player. On one hand, noted Cassidy, he hopes time watching the game will help Miller. On the other hand, he doesn’t want Miller to lose his confidence.
“He’s young, but he’s not Brandon Carlo young,” said Cassidy, drawing a comparison between the 24-year-old Miller and the 20-year-old Carlo, now at the end of his first pro season. “He’s played pro for three or four years. It’s him understanding the consistency-every-night factor, and playing to his strengths, what we want out of him. Then balancing that with what [Liles] give us.”
Ideally, added Cassidy, a young player such as Miller fights through the moment and returns to the roster a better performer.
“But you also have to balance your lineup,”said Cassidy. “If you feel another veteran guy gives you the best shot to win tonight. Either way, I hope when Colin does come back to the lineup, he is better off for it, not worse off, that’s the plan. And in the meatime [Liles] gives us good solid minutes.”
Vatrano sits out
The only lineup change vs. Dallas: Frank Vatrano, who sustained a minor upper-body injury in Wednesday’s practice, was on the sidelines. Matt Beleskey took his place on the No. 3 line with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes.
Vatrano, who led the AHL last season with 36 goals, Tuesday night extended his scoreless streak to 14 games and squeezed off only one shot all night in eight minutes of ice time. He remained off skates Thursday morning.
“Bit of an upper-body issue,” said Cassidy. “Nothing serious. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow.”
Stars miss the party
The Stars were eliminated from playoff contention prior to arriving on Causeway Street. They’ve been led again on offense this season by ex-Bruin Tyler Seguin (70 ponts) and Jamie Benn (67 points). In his four seasons since being deported from Causeway Street, Seguin’s postseason line reads: seven games, 1-2—3. His stop here was his 300th regular-season game for the Stars, for whom he has tallied 304 points over four seasons . . . The Bruins wrap up the regular season a week from Saturday, with the Capitals in town for a 3 p.m. puck drop. If they hold on to a playoff spot, they’ll likely face the Capitals in Round 1.