With training camp well under way and the exhibition schedule set to begin tomorrow against the Washington Capitals, the Boston Bruins have some interesting decisions to make.
We’ll likely see Major Junior players returned to their CHL squads early as their exhibition schedule is under way. Brett Harrison will head back to the Oshawa Generals while Ryan Mast will head to the Sarnia Sting. It’s believed Fabian Lysell will head to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL at some point, but the 2021 first round pick will remain for a portion of the Bruins exhibition schedule.
The Bruins long list of NCAA players are not at camp as it would affect their NCAA eligibility. That goes for Andre Gasseau and Mason Langenbrunner, teammates with the Fargo Force and Philip Svedebeck of the Dubuque Fighting Saints who is looking at Division 1 Schools for next season. All three play in the USHL and their seasons began this week.
American Hockey League camps open up in a week’s time and the Bruins have a lot of players at camp that will head back to Providence for their camp to begin and those cuts from the main camp should begin to happen in the week ahead.
So, what does that mean for the big club and it’s opening day roster?
Let’s start in goal where there are no questions. Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman will be your starters. I don’t think there is even a debate about that.
On defense, there also aren’t many questions. General Manager Don Sweeney likes to carry eight defensemen and will likely do so again this season. The depth has some questions so you can rest assured that Jack Ahcan, Brady Lyle, Urho Vaakanainen, Nick Wolff and Victor Berglund (currently injured) will return to Providence since they don’t require waivers.
Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo will most likely find themselves as the opening night second pair as they formed some chemistry last season. Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk are analytics darlings who will see some time together, but offseason signing Derek Forbort will also get some time with McAvoy – depending on opponent and game situation. Connor Clifton is locked in as the third pair right side defender.
That leaves three defensemen vying for the seventh and eighth spot: John Moore, Jakub Zboril and another of Sweeney’s signings in the offseason, Tyler Lewington. One might think that Lewington has an advantage in the event that they want a lefty and a righty on standby in case of injury or illness, but both Grzelcyk and Moore can fill in on the right in a pinch. One of the three will be hitting the waiver wire and my guess is it’s one of Moore or Lewington with the likeliest being Lewington.
Up front there are questions and plenty of them.
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak will once again form one of the top lines in hockey. Taylor Hall will anchor the second line and likely be joined by last season’s linemate Craig Smith. And why not? They had some chemistry. Like it or not, Charlie Coyle will get first crack at centering the line but let’s not exclude Erik Haula from getting looks there at some point should that line fail to produce. In the meantime, Haula looks to begin the season centering Jake DeBrusk on his left and Nick Foligno on his right. If given the time to form some chemistry, I feel that line could exploit some weaker opposition lines and defensive pairings.
That leaves the fourth line. Trent Frederic, Thomas Nosek, Curtis Lazar, Chris Wagner, Anton Blidh, and Karson Kuhlman are all looking for spots. The latter two are destined for Providence and they too will be on the waiver wire and one of the remaining four will be the thirteenth forward.
But what about Jack Studnicka and Jesper Froden? Through camp so far, Studnicka has been getting looks centering Hall and Smith on the second line while Coyle is recovering. And Froden has had some time with Bergeron and Marchand. Both are getting strong looks as they have impressed at times so far. Could both possibly crack the opening night lineup and who would they replace?
It’s unlikely the Bruins would attempt to send Frederic to Providence as he would require waivers and the Bruins would not want to risk him being claimed after investing the development time and money on the former first round pick. It’s also unlikely to be Nosek after Sweeney signed him in the offseason to a two-year $3.5 million contract. That leaves Lazar and Wagner as the two likeliest in the event Studnicka and Froden prove worthy.
The other option is for Sweeney to carry fourteen forwards and seven defensemen, and risk placing Moore or Zboril on waivers. But that would stray from what he normally does.
Here’s a look at my projected lineup and the cap implications.