This is the second of a three-part series examining the Boston Bruins depth chart. We began by looking at the goaltending and if you missed that, you can find that here.
Today, we will take a look at the Bruins blueliners. While there are injuries to start the season on the back end, I am ignoring that for now. This is meant to look at the depth of the organization. And it would appear at first glance, that the Bruins have too many NHL defencemen under contract, but hey, those injuries, right?
Charlie McAvoy is a true number one defenceman in the NHL who can impact the game at both ends of the ice. Of course, he is out with an injury to begin the year and that’s a huge blow to the team. He’s going to have to get his game up to speed immediately and he’s going to have to play a bigger role in the offensive part of his game.
Hampus Lindholm is a bona-fide number two defenceman and on some teams, he would be a number one. With the injuries affecting the blueline, Lindholm is going to be counted on to produce some offence from the blueline while playing a huge shutdown role. At the same time, he will be counted upon to ice some large minutes on the backend.
Brandon Carlo has had some moments in his NHL career where he has shown he can be a solid, shutdown number three defender. The problem is we didn’t see enough of that from Carlo last season. Some blame his concussion history; some say he just isn’t good enough to be a number three. Whatever side you’re on, Carlo needs to return to the form we saw earlier in his career.
Matt Grzelcyk will also begin the season on the shelf after offseason surgery. Grzelcyk gets a lot of criticism from fans mainly because of his size but I do believe that he will fit into new Head Coach Jim Montgomery’s plans and he could just excel under him. Grzelcyk’s skating and puck moving abilities are just what the coach wants from the back end.
Jakub Zboril may be a surprise at number five because his season ended after ten games because of surgery a year ago, but the 2015 first round draft pick appeared to turn the corner. His recovery is going as planned and if he can get to where he was early last season, it will be a bonus for the Bruins as he, like Grzelcyk will fit into Montgomery’s plans with his ability to skate and move the puck.
Derek Forbort may also be a surprise in this spot, but I am a firm believer that your defencemen have to be able to play on one of the two specialty teams. Forbort was a key cog on the Bruins penalty kill a season ago, but how will he fit in with Montgomery’s plans? Of all the blueliners, he is the least fleet of foot defender and he is better in zone defence then on a man-on-man defence. Many questions here.
Connor Clifton is a fan favorite the way he plays the game and granted; many would have him higher on this list. Clifton is solid for stretches and for other stretches he is just “meh”. I just don’t think he has been consistent enough to be an 82-game player throughout his career. Injuries mean he will get a shot opening night, but he’s going to have to be more consistent with McAvoy and Grzelcyk out to hold onto the 6 spot.
Mike Reilly is the poster child for fan complaints and some of it deserving. Obviously with the injuries on the back end, he will get an opportunity. And he might fit in well under Montgomery. But the question is: who do you take out in favor of him?
Jack Ahcan recently signed a one-year two-way extension and the injuries to the blueline may mean the 25-year-old may get a chance at a regular spot. He is another defender who fits well in the system Montgomery wants to use. I have often said that when healthy, the Bruins would never ice Grzelcyk and Ahcan at the same time, so this may be an interesting debut to keep an eye on.
Connor Carrick signed with the Bruins as a UFA on free agent frenzy. We know the Bruins love depth on the blueline and the signing of Carrick, who has 241 games of NHL experience, places him ninth on the depth chart. He is sure to start the season in Providence but if things go south early in Boston, he could get a callup to fit in on the right side.
Kai Wissmann was a free agent signing by General Manager Don Sweeney who brings with him 6 seasons of professional hockey in the DEL. Because of his waiver exemption, Wissmann is likely to begin the season with the Providence Bruins but if things start to falter in Boston or more injuries occur, don’t be surprised to see Wissmann get a callup. It will be between Wissmann and Carrick to see who gets the first callup for the right side.
Mike Callahan is a defender the Bruins went out and traded his rights for and then signed him to a contract. He will require some AHL seasoning in Providence and if the Bruins need to call him up to the big club, that means their defence is depleted at the NHL level.
Mason Lohrei is the Bruins top prospect on the blueline and you can make a legitimate argument that he is their top prospect period. Once he signs an NHL contract, he will shoot up this list but for now, the lack of a contract drops him on the depth chart. Eventually, a Lindholm-Lohrei left side will give the Bruins a one-two punch that few teams can match. For now, players with deals in place are higher on the depth chart.
Ryan Mast was drafted at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and recently signed his entry level contract. Because of the NHL/CHL agreement, Mast is not eligible to play in the AHL this upcoming season and will return to the Sarnia Sting in the OHL. And because he signed as an 18/19-year-old, his contract will slide – unless he plays in 10 NHL games.
Victor Berglund has been hampered by injuries in the past and that has slowed his development. At this point, I don’t see much more then an AHL blueliner
Nick Wolff See Berglund, minus the injuries.
Dustyn McFaul is entering his fourth and final season with Clarkson University and the Bruins will retain his rights until August 15, 2023. McFaul never developed his offensive game like some of us thought but his shutdown came has come along. Interesting to see what the Bruins decide here.
Frederic Brunet was the Bruins fifth round pick at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and will return to the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL. The Bruins retain his rights until June 1, 2024
Jackson Edward was the Bruins seventh round pick at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and will return to the London Knights of the OHL.
Ty Gallagher showed enough in his first year with Boston University that fans should keep an eye in him going forward. The Bruins selected Gallagher in the seventh round at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. They hold his rights until August 15, 2025.
Mason Langenbrunner will begin his first season with Harvard after a fine showing with the Fargo Force of the USHL. The Bruins selected Langenbrunner in the fifth round at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and hold his rights through August 15, 2025.
The Bruins have a plethora of defencemen on AHL only contracts as well. They include Josiah Didier, Grant Gabrielle, J.D. Greenway, Jacob Wilson and Fedor Gordeev. At this point, Didier is a career AHL’er while Gabrielle, Greenway and Wilson look to earn NHL contracts in the future. Tougher call on Gordeev. He had a good season in the ECHL last season, but nothing to suggest NHL potential.
Follow me on Twitter @dominictiano