The Bruins have been in camp for just over a week, and 20 hopefuls have already been sent packing. But there are still 34 players remaining in camp, and nearly as many storylines that bear monitoring.
With the bulk of last year's Stanley Cup-winning roster returning, there aren't many jobs available this preseason. But the dearth of opportunities has only served to ratchet up the competition. And with less than a week to go before the final exhibition game against the Islanders in Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday, there are plenty of players still worthy of watching closely.
Here's a look at the 10 most intriguing players remaining in the Bruins' training camp:
Matt Bartkowski – The one spot that is clearly up for grabs in this camp is the seventh defenseman. Steven Kampfer came into the year with the inside track, but he's being pushed hard by Colby Cohen, David Warsofsky and especially Bartkowski. Bartkowski actually outlasted Kampfer in camp last year, and could do it against this season. The spare blueliner isn't a role to be underestimated either. Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid started the past two seasons as the seventh defenseman and finished the year as key regulars in the top six. This year's No. 7 will get opportunities to contribute as well.
Zach McKelvie – McKelvie is the other defenseman still in camp. He's an extreme long shot to make the club this year, but his showing has been maybe the most impressive of the preseason considering his circumstances. McKelvie hadn't played competitive hockey in the last two years while completing his military service after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy, but his superior skating ability hasn't shown much rust and he's getting an extended look in camp. "I think he's done a fabulous job for a guy that hadn't played in a couple of years," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're kind of monitoring his progression here as we go along."
Jordan Caron – With Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight returned to their junior teams, Caron is the last of the highly-touted kids still in contention for a spot up front. With a full pro season under his belt, including 23 games with the big club last year, Caron came into camp in a better position to make a run at a job in Boston. But while Caron may be the most NHL-ready of the young forwards right now, he still has a deep corps of veterans to contend with to avoid another trip down to Providence.
Chris Clark – Clark is one of the veterans battling with Caron for a spot up front. Clark came to camp without a contract, hoping to win a spot on a tryout. The Bruins have had several players earn deals in camp in recent years, with Glen Metropolit in 2007, Guillaume Lefebvre in 2009 and Brian McGrattan in 2010 all getting contracts. Lefebvre and McGrattan ended up spending most of their time in the Bruins organization in Providence, but Clark has the experience and ability to be more of a factor in a bottom-six role if he can stay healthy after several injury-plagued seasons.
Nathan Horton -- Horton's job isn't in jeopardy as there's no doubting his abilities after a solid inaugural season in Boston and a breakout playoff performance. The issue with Horton is his health. He's yet to play a game in the preseason, though the Bruins insist they are just being cautious after Horton suffered a serious concussion in the Cup Final and also played through a separated shoulder in the postseason. Horton has been practicing throughout camp and is scheduled to play against the Canadiens in Halifax on Sunday. If he gets through that game with no problems, it will go a long way toward putting the minds of many Bruins fans at ease.
Benoit Pouliot — One of the few newcomers likely to break camp with the Bruins, the jury is still very much out on the former fourth overall pick now with his third team in less than two years. Talent isn't a question with Pouliot; it's a matter of consistently getting the most out of those abilities. Pouliot took a couple bad penalties in his preseason debut in Ottawa, but Julien remains optimistic that the reclamation project will work out here. "He's finding his way with the team and what I've liked about his game so far is he's gotten a little better every game he's played," Julien said. "So that's going to be the interesting part, to see how he fares by the end of camp. I know that his skill level is there. I know that his skating is there. I know that his size is there. It's about putting that package together."
Rich Peverley – In his first camp with Boston, Peverley took full advantage of getting the first shot at replacing Mark Recchi on the second line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Peverley clicked immediately with that pair in Friday's 6-3 win over the Islanders, with that line figuring into four of the goals. The Bruins will likely still explore other options, particularly Tyler Seguin, but Peverley could be a perfect fit with his defensive ability allowing Julien to continue to use that unit as a shutdown line and his speed making it even more dangerous offensively.
Zach Hamill – This may be the last chance for the eighth overall pick of the 2007 draft to make a run at a spot with the big club in Boston. Hamill has struggled throughout most of his first three pro seasons and will be hard pressed to move back up the depth chart to challenge for a spot out of camp this year. But Hamill has shown some talent in the handful of games he's played in Boston the last couple years, and could still contribute at some point this year if injuries strike and he leaves a positive impression in camp.
Lane MacDermid – This third-year pro has been arguably the most pleasant surprise of camp. MacDermid is known mostly for his toughness, though his overall play has improved dramatically in his first two seasons in Providence. He's shown that progress in this camp, scoring goals in both the Black and White scrimmage in Providence and the preseason opener in Ottawa. The Bruins probably don't have room for him on the fourth line right now, but he has a future in the NHL and could see time in Boston this year if Shawn Thornton is sidelined.
Jamie Arniel — One player flying under the radar who could surprise by sticking around longer than expected is Arniel. He got a taste of NHL action last year in the regular season and experienced the Cup run up close as one the Black Aces. Arniel doesn't do any one thing spectacularly, but he is solid in all facets of the game and could contribute in a bottom-six role at some point in the near future.