While there’s still some cutting down that will need to be done, the Boston Bruins’ postseason roster came into focus Saturday night.
With training camp set to begin Monday at Warrior Ice Arena, the Bruins announced the 33-man roster they’ll be working with in Brighton. As part of the NHL and NHLPA’s ratified return to play agreement, teams can bring 31 players to the hubs, with a maximum of 28 skaters and unlimited goalies. Players also cannot join their team midway through restart, meaning the guys that the Bruins bring to Toronto are locked in, and those that don’t make the cut won’t be called upon.
Boston’s list has 29 skaters and four goalies, so one skater is going to get cut.
Here’s the roster:
Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Anders Bjork, Anton Blidh, Paul Carey, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic, Ondrej Kase, David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Karson Kuhlman, Par Lindholm, Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom, David Pastrnak, Nick Ritchie, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Chris Wagner
Defensemen: Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara, Connor Clifton, Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug, Jeremy Lauzon, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril
Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Max Lagace, Tuukka Rask, Dan Vladar
So, no real surprises, right? The only shock was the omission of Steven Kampfer, but that was cleared up moments after the Bruins unveiled the roster, as the defensemen understandably announced he was opting out for the safety of his family, as his wife and son have a congenital heart defect.
Because of that, both Zboril and Vaakanainen will get an opportunity to compete for a roster spot. One of them would have been bumped for Kampfer had he decided to play.
Zboril and Vaakanainen are an interesting situation. Vaakanainen is the more highly touted prospect of the two and has more NHL experience, but Zboril was a more stable blueliner in Providence this past season, especially down the stretch. But the reality is either one of these guys getting into a game indicates a nuclear scenario unfolding. Two of John Moore, Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon will be scratched each game already, so Vaakanainen and Zboril presumably only get in if they thoroughly outplay the NHL-established trio, or there are heaps of injuries. Neither would be a good circumstance.
Say they carry all 10 defensemen, though, then a forward would have to go. The fringe guys would be Blidh, Carey, Frederic, Kuhlman, Senyshyn and Studnicka.
Blidh became a mainstay with the big club after returning from injury, serving mostly as an extra forward or fourth line option. He’s probably safe.
Carey hasn’t been able to do much in his opportunities with Boston, but he’s a veteran and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has been comfortable using him in a second-line role when he’s up. The guess here is he, too, is safe.
Frederic gives the Bruins a depth center option beyond Par Lindholm. He’s knocking on the door to becoming an NHL player and took big strides in the AHL this season, so he also is secure. Plus the edge he plays with could give the Bruins some physicality if needed — remember when it was rumored he was kept up for a game against the Capitals in case Washington started playing recklessly?
Kuhlman played in the Stanley Cup Final last season and has proven to be a stable player that Cassidy seems to like. We’d be floored if he doesn’t make it, even with how bumpy his season has been.
Senyshyn seems to be a potential odd man out. He looked really good on the third line in November with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork before an injury marred his call-up and sidelined him for a while. He’s making progress and could be a good player to have in Toronto in that he theoretically could slot in on any line, but, save for Carey, he probably offers the least upside of this group.
Studnicka arguably is the Bruins’ most high-ceiling forward prospect, but it’s debatable if that would justify keeping him on the roster now. He has some bulking up to do in order to hang around in the NHL game, but the hands are there and his 200-foot game seemed to improve in the minors this season. Just as easily as we could see him being left in Boston, we also could see him weaving his way into the lineup and making an impact. He also is a natural center that can play on the wing as well, so that versatility might be tantalizing for Cassidy and Co.
Now that all of that is covered, the early prediction here is Senyshyn gets left off and the Bruins roll with 18 forwards and 10 defensemen. While carrying nine defensemen might make the most sense, the Bruins will be fine scratching six forwards and four defensemen each game, instead of carrying the extra forward and leaving themselves thinner on defense.
All that said, Cassidy has a history of simply looking at who is playing the best, so predicting this all on paper doesn’t really matter right now. If Senyshyn shows out in camp and someone else doesn’t, you can bet Senyshyn will be on his way to Ontario.