There probably won’t be many surprises with the Boston Bruins’ forward group when the puck officially drops on the 2021-22 season next month.
But understanding and appropriately assessing the Bruins’ current situation up front goes beyond the 12 forwards who will dress Oct. 16 against Dallas. So, let’s take a step back and look at where the Bruins stand at forward from an organizational standpoint.
For the purpose of this exercise, we’re only going to roll with players who are on an NHL contract.
The Lineup Regulars
Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Taylor Hall, Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, Jake DeBrusk, Erik Haula, Nick Foligno
You know all of these names so there’s not much to share here. As the top two lines go, so too will the Bruins.
The DeBrusk-Haula-Foligno third line the Bruins have messed around with to start camp is fascinating, and if they jell well,Boston could have a potent top nine.
The Lineup Bubble Players
Tomas Nosek, Chris Wagner, Trent Frederic, Curtis Lazar
Three of these four figure to make up the fourth line, with the odd man out serving as the 13th forward. That’s unless one of the NHL-ready prospects, like Jack Studnicka, pushes someone out.
This is a useful group, though. Nosek and Wagner have deep playoff experience, while Lazar showed promising flashes with Boston last season. Frederic flamed out at the end of 2021, but at times in his rookie season proved why he was a first-round pick. A jump this season could really shake up the look of this group.
The NHL-Ready Prospects
Jack Studnicka, Karson Kuhlman, Oskar Steen, Anton Blidh, Zach Senyshyn, Steven Fogarty, Cameron Hughes, Jesper Froden
Kuhlman and Blidh are more or less graduating from prospect territory, while Fogarty only goes into this group because he’s on an NHL contract but technically a non-NHL roster forward. Studnicka has the highest ceiling of all these players, but you know what you’re getting from Kuhlman and Blidh at the NHL level.
Hughes is an interesting one to watch, as he has really blossomed in Providence and shown he could be a depth forward with the varsity. The logjam hurts someone like him most, as he’d be on many NHL rosters as a fourth liner or 13th forward.
You can read more about Froden here, but he also has a ton of upside entering his first North American season.
Steen still has refining left in his game, but was a major bright spot in the 2021 regular season final against the Washington Capitals.
Senyshyn has had so much bad luck, and it really feels like all he needs is an extended look with Boston. Of course, he has to earn that, but he shouldn’t be written off yet.
Curtis Hall, Fabian Lysell, Matt Filipe, Samuel Asselin, Jakub Lauko, Joona Koppanen
You know all about Lysell at this point, but the 2021 first-round pick will spend this season in the WHL to start.
Hall and Lauko have the chance to push themselves into the NHL-ready category with strong starts in Providence, and Asselin isn’t far from reaching that level either. Filipe needs more baking in the minors, but the local kid who went to Northeastern and signed with the Bruins after going undrafted is easy to root for.
Koppanen took some time to get acclimated to the AHL, which forced him to spend some time in the ECHL. He is a huge kid though, and with some filling out and time in Rhode Island, he could be an impactful bottom six forward down the road.