By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26
On Tuesday, August 16th, Jimmy Murphy from BostonHockeyNow.com reported that the Boston Bruins are exploring the trade market with third-line right wing Craig Smith. With Boston’s recent signings of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, the Bruins are $2.4 million over the salary cap. To get below the cap ceiling ($82.5 million), Boston may have to move Craig Smith.
If Craig Smith gets dealt before the start of the 2022-23 season, here are three options within the Bruins system that could fill the third-line right wing position in no particular order:
Oskar Steen, who signed a two-year, one-way contract extension with Boston back in April, is a player that makes a lot of sense to add into the fold of the Bruins’ bottom six. The Swedish forward spent most of last season with the Providence Bruins in the AHL as he played 49 games and recorded 15 goals and 20 assists. Despite standing at 5-foot-9, Steen proved one of Providence’s biggest offensive threats with his deceptive shot and shifty skating ability.
Due to his strong season in the AHL, Steen got the chance to play a portion of last season in the NHL with Boston. In Steen’s 20 games with the Bruins, he recorded two goals and three assists. While his numbers weren’t necessarily extraordinary, he had a noticeable jump and seemed confident with the puck. Much like Craig Smith, Steen is an aggressive forechecker who uses his smaller frame to get leverage on defenders and win puck battles in the offensive zone, which could fit nicely on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha.
Jack Studnicka has been a polarizing figure over the last couple of seasons amongst Bruins fans. Studnicka has received multiple chances to earn a spot on the Bruins lineup, but he has yet to seize the opportunity to secure a full-time roster spot. The 23-year-old forward recently signed a two-year extension with the Bruins. The contract is a two-way deal for the entirety of the 2022-23 season and then becomes a one-way deal for the following season.
Like his linemate with the Providence Bruins, Oskar Steen, Studnicka spent most of last season in the AHL with Providence, playing 41 games, and finished with ten goals and 25 assists. Studnicka was also called up multiple times last season as he played 15 NHL games with Boston and tallied three assists. He has shown promise throughout his time in juniors and the AHL, but he hasn’t shown enough consistency to make the jump to the NHL.
In previous years, former Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy kept a tight leash on Studnicka and, perhaps, didn’t give the young forward enough opportunity to play meaningful minutes. On the other hand, Boston’s new head coach Jim Montgomery has been known to be a player’s coach and may give Studnicka a higher chance of succeeding this next season in a bottom-six role.
The Bruins 2021 first-round draft pick (#21), Fabian Lysell, is coming off an impressive performance at the World Junior Championships as team Sweden won the bronze medal and defeated Czechia 3-1 last Saturday. Lysell debatably was Sweden’s best forward, collecting two goals and four assists in seven games. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler praised the 19-year-old in his post-tournament notebook as he stated, “(Lysell) looked like the fastest player in the tournament.”
“Hard to trap on the perimeter because of how slippery he is losing guys with cut-backs.” Wheeler wrote. “Getting to pucks constantly. Keeping sequences alive. So fun to watch carry the puck up ice. Weaves around defenders so effortlessly. Fearless/confident.” While Lysell’s performance was impressive at the World Juniors, he still has a lot to work on in his game. Lysell is listed at 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, and needs to continue to develop his strength before he becomes a full-time NHLer.
Despite the uncertainty of whether Lysell is ready to play in the NHL, Bruins’ General Manager Don Sweeney admitted that Lysell might have a chance to capture a roster spot at some point next season. “There’s always a chance a young player could make the team,” Sweeney said in a press conference back in early August. “I referenced David Pastrnak a number of years ago, spent some time in Providence, came back from the World Juniors, and came in and played. He played well and it was hard to keep him off (the roster). Whether he’s physically able to play at that level? Fabian will be the exact same way.”