If you're a Bruins fan and supporter who believes that the team needs to add skill and upside to the defense position, then a trio of Ontario-based defenders are worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses: Brandon Archibald, Stephen Silas and Julian Melchiori.
Archibald, who plays for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, is a Michigander with a big frame (6-3, 205) who projects as a solid shutdown defender when he fills out. He's mobile and smart, and has been a dependable player on the blue line this season. He's not a fighter, but has shown a willingness to drop the gloves when challenged and has proven to be more than capable of holding his own. He may not have a big offensive upside, but he's a character player with the strong hockey skills to be a solid second-round projection right now.
I talked to a scout recently about him and this is what he said: "He's a young guy who's playing a big role on his team. He makes a good first pass and has a big (point) shot. I like him."
Silas is a two-way defenseman on the OHL's Belleville Bulls who doesn't have a lot of size (6-0, 180), but has been a consistent, steady presence for that club. He did participate in the CHL Top Prospects Game and while he didn't stand out, was solid.
"He's a smart puck mover," the scout said of Silas. "He's a calm guy with the puck who makes the right decisions. He's pretty good in his own end even if he isn't the biggest guy. He looks like a steady No. 4 defender (at the NHL level) if he keeps progressing."
Finally, Melchiori may be the most intriguing of the three.
At 6-3, 185, the late '91 birthdate has a lot of filling out to do, but is a superb skater playing for the Newmarket Hurricanes on the Ontario Jr. A circuit. He turned down a chance to play for the OHL's Oshawa Generals in favor of accepting a scholarship to UMass-Lowell (2010-11), and at last check, he's still committed to going the NCAA route.
"He's a very nice skater who is an offensive presence for his team," the scout said. "He's gotten way better as the year has gone on, and anytime you have a 6-3 guy who can move like he can, he's going to attract some attention."
Here's what Red Line Report had to say about Melchiori in their November issue, after he participated in the World Jr. A Challenge Tournament as a member of Team Canada East: "Tall, lanky defenseman is thin as a rail, but has surprisingly quick feet and acceleration...He's raw as hell, but has a nice frame to fill out and some pretty good tools."
All three are generating some buzz in scouting circles for their solid play and are probably worth following even though we're still smack dab in the middle of winter.