By Mike Cratty Twitter: @Mike_Cratty
The Boston Bruins lineup has plenty of opportunities for change, mostly in the forward core. A fairly quiet offseason may end up being the proper course of action for this Bruins team, as they have pieces within the organization trying to burst onto the NHL scene or further their cases as legitimate NHLers.
This lineup isn’t set in stone, but it contains where I think players should be slotted into the lineup at this point.
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak (RFA)
Anders Bjork – David Krejci – David Backes
Peter Cehalrik* – Ryan Spooner – Jake DeBrusk
Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari
Forwards that will compete for ice time: Danton Heinen, Frank Vatrano, Austin Czarnik, Sean Kuraly, Zachary Senyshyn, and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson.
*Peter Cehlarik will be recovering from surgery to start the season.
Three spots are up-for-grabs in the top-six, first line right-wing and the second line wings. David Pastrnak is a lock for one of the right wing spots. There is a very slight possibility that David Backes gets a shot at third line center. But a top-six right wing spot is more likely based on last season. The third-line wing spots are up-for-grabs as well. Players that could end up playing on the third line are Danton Heinen, Frank Vatrano, Austin Czarnik, Sean Kuraly, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly, Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk, Zachary Senyshyn and David Backes. Long story short, there are a lot of players competing for ice time, especially on the second and third lines.
The third-line wing spots are up-for-grabs as well. Players that could end up playing on the third line are Danton Heinen, Frank Vatrano, Austin Czarnik, Sean Kuraly, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly, Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk, Zachary Senyshyn and David Backes. Long story short, there are a lot of players competing for ice time, especially on the second and third lines.
Spooner has looked better at the center position throughout his career, so making him the third-line center from the start makes the most sense.
It sounds as though Ryan Spooner may actually start the season as a Bruin.
Don Sweeney mentioned how he expects to see Ryan Spooner develop into a more productive two-way player:
Many people thought he wouldn’t before he avoided salary arbitration by signing a one-year/$2.825 million deal. This doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of Spooner being traded though. The quote above makes it sound like Don Sweeney wants to see Ryan Spooner get another shot.
As much as I’d love to see Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson in the lineup, I think Spooner gets first dibs, and if he slips, Forsbacka-Karlsson takes his place.
Although Spooner gets flack from some hockey fans, he is more established in the Bruins lineup. This is partly because JFK has played one regular season game as a Bruin, but the point still stands. JFK could play on the wing, but right now that just seems unlikely.
Frank Vatrano is a guy that could very well start the season outside of the lineup. With plenty of young left-handed players rising, he will really have to prove himself to earn the ice time, like Matt Beleskey, although Vatrano and Beleskey are very different players. Sean Kuraly is one of the left-handed forwards competing for ice time.
It seems like Sean Kuraly may be a perfect fit for the fourth line and he very much could be. Matt Beleskey will likely start in hopes for a bounce back season after tallying a career high in points two seasons ago. Riley Nash and Noel Acciari, on the other hand, seem to have solidified their positions on the fourth line.
Tim Schaller proved to be a solid bottom-six forward, so the 13th forward spot makes sense to start.
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Charlie McAvoy
Kevan Miller – Adam McQuaid
Defensemen that will compete for ice time: Rob O’Gara, Matt Grzelcyk.
The defensive core is made up of players who have already proven themselves to some degree. Where these defensemen will play is a toss up.
Zdeno Chara will hold down the first pair with Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo to start. Whoever of McAvoy and Carlo don’t end up with Chara will end up on the second pair with Torey Krug or Kevan Miller
Whoever of McAvoy and Carlo don’t end up with Chara will end up on the second pair with Torey Krug or Kevan Miller.
The third pair is a toss up, with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Paul Postma, Rob O’Gara and Matt Grzelcyk vouching for a spot. Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy could be included in that group of players, but it seems more plausible to play them in the top-four to help them develop. Both players have shown flashes that they can be top-four defensemen.
Goalies that will compete for ice time: Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban.
There isn’t much to say for the goaltenders. The one main storyline is the backup position because Tuukka Rask has the starter position locked up.
Anton Khudobin turned things around towards the end of last season. If he struggles like he did at times last season, he could be sent down again, or maybe even traded to a team looking for goaltender depth due to injury or necessity. If any of those things happen, Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban will get the next shot at the backup position.