BOSTON — Matt Irwin was an under-the-radar signing for the Bruins over the summer, and he could end up playing a third-pairing role on the team’s blue line this upcoming season.
“I’m looking to play every game,” Irwin said after Saturday’s training camp practice at TD Garden. “That’s my goal. I think I can bring a lot to this team. There’s competition and there’s opportunity. I’m looking to be in the lineup every night and help this team win.”
The 27-year-old defenseman has played three seasons in the NHL, all with the San Jose Sharks. He’s on a one-year deal with Boston and hoping to prove himself deserving of a spot on the team’s opening-night roster.
Irwin is more of an offensive-minded player, and he’s a good skater and has demonstrated an ability to survey the oncoming forecheck and jump start the transition game.
“They want the D-men jumping up in the rush, create some offense,” Irwin said. “That said, we have to take care of our own zone. My strength is a good first pass out of the zone, get it into a forward’s hands, let them do their job. Get pucks through from the point, create first, second and third opportunities at the net.”
Irwin was a slightly above-average possession driver in San Jose last season — the Sharks controlled 51.5 percent of 5-on-5 shot attempts when he was on the ice. San Jose also had a plus-38 differential in scoring chances with Irwin on the ice. His positive impact on puck possession is even more impressive when you consider two of his three most common defense partners were Scott Hannan and Matt Tennyson, both of whom had an even-strength Corsi below 48 percent.
Overall, Irwin contributes in several areas at the level of a top-four defenseman, as shown in his HERO chart from Own the Puck.
If Irwin provides some scoring depth (he tallied 19 points in 53 games last season) and drives possession, it’s possible he could become a valuable member of a blue line that needs to, as a unit, replace a top-pairing defenseman in Dougie Hamilton.
The risk for the Bruins is a small one, too. Irwin’s salary cap hit is just $800,000.
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images