By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26
As the Bruins’ season came to a close just over a couple of weeks ago, Boston’s management will have a busy offseason retooling and replenishing the Bruins’ roster and draft assets. As every season comes and goes, every team makes these roster adjustments to improve. In the Bruins’ case, they will be looking to adjust their roster through trades and hopefully experiment with a few players from the Providence Bruins roster.
Homegrown talent hasn’t come easy over the last couple of drafts for Boston. Boston has only had two of their previous eight first-round picks (Jake DeBrusk 2015, Charlie McAvoy 2016) make an impact on their roster since 2015. With time winding down on some of the Bruins’ aging players, they will need some of their younger players in their system to be ready to make the jump.
Boston did call up a couple of players throughout the 2021-22 season, such as Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka, and Jack Ahcan. The Bruins are hopeful that players like Steen, Studnicka, and Ahcan will start to show growth in their games next year and potentially make the full-time jump to the NHL in the 2022-23 season. Let’s take a deeper look into what players have a shot of earning a roster spot at some point next year.
During his 20 games on the Boston Bruins roster last season, Oskar Steen certainly turned some heads on the coaching staff with his overall strong play in the NHL. Steen recorded two goals and four assists with the Bruins, and when he wasn’t up in the big leagues, he was one of Providence’s leading scorers with 16 goals and 18 assists in 49 games. While his numbers weren’t groundbreaking in the NHL, his puck possession skills and effort away from the puck were evident.
With his impressive play in the NHL and AHL, the 24-year-old Swede signed a two-year, one-way extension with the Bruins in April. While Steen was shifted around the lineup with Boston, he’s best suited for bottom-six minutes at this stage of his career. Although, he thinks his ceiling is much higher than that.
“I think I can play top six,” Steen said when he started to make a name for himself during his call-up in early January. “I have nearly my whole life been an offensive player, so I just have to score more, and then (maybe) I can move up in the lineup. For me, the first step here is just to make the lineup, so that’s what I’m aiming for right now.”
Studnicka has been a polarizing figure over the last three seasons, as many have shared their differing opinions of whether or not he is capable of playing in the NHL. Through 41 games in the AHL this season, Studnicka scored ten goals and 25 assists and was one of Providence’s best offensive producers. While his numbers were solid in AHL, he tallied just three assists in 15 games in the NHL and found himself as a scratch before he was sent down to the minors at the tail end of the season.
The 23-year-old is a pass-first and versatile forward with good hockey sense, but he tends to be knocked off the puck by heavier opposing players. Just as Studnicka did last offseason, he needs to continue working on getting bigger and stronger for him to solidify a spot on the Boston Bruins roster.
Unlike over the past decade, the Bruins lack center depth with the loss of David Krejci returning to his home country in the Czech Republic and Patrice Bergeron’s uncertain future. This would leave Charlie Coyle to be their number one center, which draws significant concern for the Bruins heading into next season. If Bergeron does indeed retire, Boston may resort to giving Studnicka a chance at center in the bottom six.
Jack Ahcan could slide in and be a helpful offensive defenseman depending on what the Bruins do this offseason to address their D-core. Ahcan played in six NHL games last season and scored his first career goal versus the Chicago Blackhawks in March. He also led all Providence Bruins defensemen in scoring with six goals and 17 assists, including three of his goals on the power play.
Listed at 5’9″, Ahcan provides speed and quick puck movements like Matt Grzelcyk and former Bruin Torey Krug. With Matt Grzelcyk still signed until 2024, Boston doesn’t need another puck-moving defenseman that lacks size. Depending on what direction the Bruins organization decides to go with their D-core, Boston may look to trade a player like Grzelcyk to shake things up, potentially leaving an opportunity for a guy like Ahcan to slide into the lineup.
Ultimately, one of the main reasons the Bruins lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was due to the inconsistencies of the backend. Whether the Bruins decide to trade for a top-four defenseman, Ahcan would be a solid seventh defenseman entering the 2022-23 season.
Victor Berglund is a player that’s somewhat gone under the radar for the Bruins organization. Ever since Boston drafted him in the seventh round (#195) in 2017, Berglund has worked his way from playing for MODO Hockey (HockeyAllsevenskan) in Sweden to the AHL with the Providence Bruins and played a big role on the back end. Berglund recorded six goals and 12 assists in 46 games in his rookie year in the AHL. He and Ahcan ran the point on the power play for Providence, given their excellent mobility, hands, and puck-moving capabilities. Not only can Berglund run a power play, but his skating allows him to play in key matchups against the opposing team’s best players.
The 6’1″ right-shot defenseman has been promisingly moving in the right direction, but he still needs to clean up his defensive play. He’s still in the transition period from playing on smaller North American ice, which will take some time to adjust to. It’s unlikely that he’ll start next season on the Bruins roster, but there will presumably be injuries on the back end for Boston, which may lead to Berglund getting a shot in the lineup.
The Bruins’ former first-round pick (#30) in 2019, Johnny Beecher, has the tools to make the NHL eventually. Like Bruins center Charlie Coyle, his puck possession skills and balance distinguish him as a solid modern-day power forward. With slots opening up on the bottom six, Beecher has the potential to steal one of the roster spots, given his size (6’3″) and speed. While he may never become an elite first-line player, he has room for growth and could work his way up the lineup one day.
After finishing his junior year with the University of Michigan, the 21-year-old signed an ATO with the Boston Bruins, played nine games in the AHL, and tallied three goals and five assists. Eventually, he signed his entry-level deal on May 16th with Boston at three years and a $925K AAV. Beecher will start next season in the AHL to round out his game at the professional level, but as time passes, don’t be surprised if he finds his way later in the year to the NHL.
Given his first-round status (#21) and his high ceiling, Fabian Lysell has become a hot commodity in Boston. From Goteborg, Sweden, Lysell is a dynamic playmaker with blazing speed. He’s a talented 1-on-1 player with his ability to take defenders wide with his skating while also having the agility and stick handling to cut inside and beat defenders.
Lysell notched over a point-per-game in the WHL with 62 points in 53 games with the Vancouver Giants during the 2021-22 season. Even more impressively, Lysell was dominant during the WHL playoffs as he recorded 21 points in 12 playoff games. While there is obvious potential in Lysell, he’ll need some time to adjust to the professional level. Lysell is 19-years-old and has never played professionally in North America. While many Bruins fans may want to see Lysell jump into the NHL, Boston’s management wants to groom him before inserting him into the Bruins lineup.