By Joe Chrzanowski | Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19
We are only “Eddie Shore” days (two for our younger fans) away from the start of the 2019-20 NHL regular season, so it’s time to make some big predictions for the year to come. I will be sure to remind everyone on a daily basis if any of these things do happen…and deny I ever said any of the stuff I am wrong about.
Charlie Coyle Will Sign An Extension With the Bruins
When the Bruins first traded for Coyle, I was cautiously optimistic. He filled a definite need for the team, had another year on his deal, and I had soured on Ryan Donato as a prospect when it became apparent he did not know where his own end of the ice was. Even though Coyle was playing well after the deal, he wasn’t putting up a ton of points and Donato went on a little mini-tear for the Wild. It was probably best for my sanity that Coyle lit it up during the playoffs and centered the Bruins most consistent line with Heinen and Johansson. It’s funny, I don’t seem to be hearing as much about that deal from Minny fans? Odd?
I’m not sure if anybody is aware of this, but Charlie Coyle is a local kid that was born and raised in Weymouth (lol). He appears to be relishing playing for the home town team (unlike some others before him). Because of this local connection and Don Sweeney’s mystical GM powers, I see Coyle signing a team-friendly extension with the Bruins with a term of five or six years and an AAV of around $5.25-5.50 million. When Krejci’s deal is up, Coyle will transition into the 2C role, with Studnicka sliding into the 3C spot. Remember, you heard it here first.
Matt Grzelcyk Will Be McAvoy’s D Partner Before The Season Ends
I know that it’s only preseason, but to these eyes, Chara looks a bit slower than he was last year. This could be due to lingering injury or he could be just pacing himself, but he definitely looks like he lost another step. I watched him get burned on a couple of plays last week versus Philly because of his lack of foot speed. Before anyone’s head explodes, I am not saying that Chara does not still have a valuable place on the team. What I AM saying is that the team and the player would be best served if he slotted in on the third pair. This would likely give Z more favorable matchups against bigger and slower Bottom Six players, while at the same time preserving him for a much-needed role on the penalty kill.
Someone is going to have to step up and play the left-side with Charlie McAvoy on the first pair. Enter Charlestown’s own, Matt Grzelcyk. The two were paired together at Boston University when Grizz was a senior and McAvoy was a freshman. They were great together that season and have looked good as a tandem during a few preseason games. They would not be the biggest defense pair in the league, but they would definitely be one of the most nimble. I could see the opposing forecheck being shredded with 48 and 73 as a duo again. When this happens in December, you will want to buy me a Christmas present. I am letting you know now…I am not too proud to accept cash.
Danton Heinen Will Have 60+ Points In 2019-20
Danton Heinen is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Boston Bruins. No matter how many different roles he fills, how many little things he does well, or how much the advanced stats point to his stellar play, the guy just can’t seem to get any respect from the average B’s fan. That is going to change this season in a big way, largely due to my daily letters and emails sent to Cassidy pleading with him to leave Heinen on one line for more than three consecutive shifts. While I am kidding (as far as you know), I am of the opinion that bouncing Heinen around from line to line is the primary reason for his lack of offensive consistency. As a rookie, he was somehow able to produce 47 points while playing with a variety of teammates. I suspect this was largely due to the veteran guys he was playing with (Nash, Schaller, Backes, etc.). This past season, Cassidy relied on Heinen to be the defensive conscience of several line combinations that included rookies Ryan Donato, Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Trent Frederic. I believe this led to a much more defensive mindset from Heinen that greatly affected his scoring.
This year, if everyone stays relatively healthy, I expect Heinen to ride shotgun with Coyle for the majority of the season. I would have preferred Bjork play on the opposite wing, but it looks like it will be Backes, at least to start the season. If 42 can play the way he did in his last preseason game, it should help both Coyle and Heinen put up very solid numbers. The other thing I am banking on is that Heinen gets a little more time on the 2nd power-play unit this year than he did previously. This will give him about a ten-point boost, push him over the 60 point plateau, and allow Heinen to take over the title of the “best value contract in hockey” at a paltry $2.8 million per.
Tuukka Rask Will Win the Vezina
Tuukka Rask is a lightning rod for Boston fans. People seem to either love him or hate him, and there does not appear to be a lot of middle ground. His regular-season stats last year (27 wins, 2.48 GAA, .912 Save %) were well below his career numbers, but in the playoffs Rask really shined. He played in 24 games, had a GAA of 2.02 and ridiculous Save % of .934. Boston fans have not seen those kinds of numbers since 2012-14 when Rask led the B’s to the Finals in 2013 and won the Vezina the following season in 2014.
The most impressive thing for me was his demeanor, which went well beyond the great numbers he put up. I have never seen Rask as calm as he was during the 2019 playoff run and it appears to have carried over into preseason. When he is playing like that, it has a soothing effect on the entire team. They play with more confidence and take more offensive chances knowing Tuukka has their backs. History is going to repeat itself this season with Rask taking home the Vezina the year after reaching the Finals and losing. The only difference is that the 2019-20 team will (fingers crossed) go much further than the 2013-14 squad did.
Oskar Steen Will Outscore Every Bruins Draft Pick Since 2016 (Career)
This particular bold prediction will take some time to come to fruition, but what’re a few more seasons when I have had a man-crush on Oskar Steen since I first saw him doing the “rope drill” at Bruins Development Camp several years ago? I watched his career in the SHL with great interest and was very disappointed in his production during his first two seasons playing for Farjestads. He was not yet 20 years of age and playing on a good veteran team, so I should have expected a limited role to begin with I suppose. That changed in 2018-19, with Steen receiving a much larger role with the team. He took the opportunity and ran with it, finishing the season with 17g/20a and 49 PIM’s in 47 games. This was good for 10th in the SHL for scoring overall, but 1st for players 25 and under in the league.
After the SHL season ended, Steen signed his ELC with Boston in May and made plans to play in North America for the first time. Despite his relatively small stature (5’9″), Steen is a very solid 187 pounds. His low center of gravity, speed, and a bit of a nasty disposition should serve him well on the smaller ice surfaces. I believe he has the type of game that can translate even better in the NHL than it did in the SHL. Throughout the Prospects Challenge and the preseason games, he was easily one of the best players on the ice. If NHL roster spots were handed out based solely on merit, rather than age and waiver status, Steen would have been in Dallas on Thursday night. Given that he is new to the North American pro game, it should not hinder Steen’s development to play in Providence for a few months. I expect him to tear it up down there and make his NHL debut sometime after January 1st. He will be a regular in Boston next year at the latest, and you can take that to the bank.
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