NHL training camp kicks off Monday, and while the Boston Bruins are bringing in 29 skaters to camp, they’ll only be allowed to take 28 (and unlimited goalies) to Toronto for the league’s 2019-20 season restart.
Plenty of the choices are no-brainers, but the depth options remain very much up for debate.
Each week leading up to the start of play, we’ll do a roster projection, both in terms of who the Bruins will bring, as well as what the lineup might look like.
So with camp starting back up, here’s our first projection of the Bruins’ roster.
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–David Pastrnak
We’re not totally convinced Bruce Cassidy won’t throw things into a blender and maybe toss Ondrej Kase up here for Pastrnak. But at least for now, this line probably will be kept as is for obvious reasons.
Jake DeBrusk–David Krejci–Ondrej Kase
The middle six is where things get interesting. Cassidy rolled with a Nick Ritchie–Krejci–Kase line leading up to the pause, but it’s unclear how married he is to that trio.
The Bruins are a much better team when DeBrusk and Krejci are playing well together, and Kase finding his stride could make this unit pretty potent. Plus, Boston’s surplus of left-shot forwards means somebody is going to play on their off side in the lineup. Given DeBrusk’s clear aversion to playing on the right wing, we’ll operate as though Ritchie is the southpaw that rides shotgun with Charlie Coyle.
Sean Kuraly–Charlie Coyle–Nick Ritchie
While a Joakim Nordstrom–Kuraly–Chris Wagner fourth line seemed like a no-brainer, Kuraly getting an opportunity on the third line left wing, and thriving in that role, shakes things up a bit. Considering the way Anders Bjork was playing in the weeks leading up to the pause, it seems the left wing job is Kuraly’s to lose.
It’s also worth mentioning that putting Ritchie with Coyle and Kuraly, two guys that play with high energy and know how to drive a line, could bring out the best in the former Anaheim Duck.
Joakim Nordstrom–Par Lindholm–Chris Wagner
Lindholm had found a nice home for himself as the fourth-line pivot, and with Kuraly bumping up to the third line, Lindholm is a natural option. While this unit probably won’t create much in the way of offense (which fourth line does?), they could be deployed against any line in the league and handle themselves defensively.
Forward Healthy Scratches
Anders Bjork, Anton Blidh
Bjork fell out of favor with Cassidy leading up to the pause, largely due to the winger not playing with enough snarl. Who knows if he’ll be able to elevate in that area upon the return, but with camp opening, he should be considered a high-upside outsider.
Speaking of snarl, Blidh could find himself getting an opportunity in the bottom six if Cassidy determines the lineup needs more edge.
Karson Kuhlman, Trent Frederic, Jack Studnicka, Paul Carey, Zach Senyshyn
Any one of these five could slot into the Bruins’ lineup in a pinch and it shouldn’t be considered a catastrophe.
First defensive pairing
Zdeno Chara–Charlie McAvoy
Second defensive pairing
Torey Krug–Brandon Carlo
Third defensive pairing
Matt Grzelcyk–Jeremy Lauzon
Lauzon certainly proved in January and into February and March that he’s ready to be a full-time NHL player. Now, the caveat here is young players just breaking into the league full-time have a tendency to stumble out of the gate following the offseason, or, in this case, a fourth-month layoff. There’s enough competition at the blue line that Lauzon doesn’t have much wiggle room to start slow if he wants to be in the lineup on the first night of the round robin tournament.
John Moore, Connor Clifton
Either one of these two could get an opportunity with Grzelcyk should Lauzon slip in play at all. Cassidy seems to trust Moore and his responsible play over the high-risk, occasional high-reward (but oft-reckless) nature of Clifton.
Regardless, the Bruins are pretty loaded at the blue line.
Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril
With Steven Kampfer opting out, the decision of which defenseman to bring up pretty much was made for Don Sweeney and Co.
Vaakanainen might be the more high-upside prospect of the two, but Zboril played well in Providence this season, particularly down the stretch, and is likely a more steady option.
If you disagree with this you’re not allowed to talk about hockey ever again.
Maxime Lagace, Dan Vladar
Not exactly a surprise that these two were the ones who were called up. They manned the pipes in Providence pretty much all season.