Saturday officially marked the end of Bruin’s training camp as the black gold took the ice for two final sessions at Warrior Ice Arena. Here are ten takeaways from the entire week of practice:
Poitras Makes a Push
I want to make something abundantly clear: Matthew Poitras was the best rookie at training camp. The 2022 2nd-round pick posted 16 goals, 79 assists, and 95 points in the OHL last season, proving he could continue his success against higher-caliber talent. Poitras centered David Pastrnak all week and showed off his skills as a passer and playmaker, creating chances for teammates in tight spaces and setting up goals across all three days.
His competitiveness and ability to win pucks along the boards impressed me the most. He took multiple shifts against much larger and more mobile defenders and could still win battles along the boards and through checks. Poitras can’t play in Providence this season due to a loophole in the CHL to AHL eligibility rules (explained nicely here by BNG’s own Mike Sullivan).
I’d still say it’s unlikely he makes the team out of camp simply because of how the roster has been constructed this offseason, but he’s shown all week that he has the potential to be a top-six center of the future.
Zacha Ready for Bigger Role
Pavel Zacha is poised to take on a first-line center role, with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron retiring this offseason. All week, Zacha stood out as one of the best players in camp and one of the leaders of this team. The former Devil displayed confidence and presence whenever he was on the ice, making dynamic plays with the puck and dominating both offensive and defensive shifts.
I’d love him to replace Bergeron in the bumper spot on the first power play. He showed off his impressive shot and proved last season that he can wire pucks from all over the zone. I expect another 50-60-point season from him.
Beecher at 4C
John Beecher came into camp knowing he was competing with Patrick Brown for the role of fourth-line center. The 6’3″ center proved that he has the size and speed to take over the role. He was strong on pucks all week, used his frame to win battles, and excelled below both goal lines.
I’d like to see him be a bit more confident with the puck on his stick. He had trouble with his handle in front of the net and wasn’t as confident as a player his size should be. I think he’ll win the job from Brown, but there may be some growing pains along the way.
Potential Line Combos
Although we didn’t see any complete three-player pairs that one would expect on opening night, we got a glimpse of who might be playing together to start the season. If I were to project line combinations for opening night, they would look like this:
PTOs Play a Role
Don Sweeney and the Bruins brass took advantage of the limited cap space situation this offseason, bringing in Danton Heinen and Alex Chiasson on professional tryouts. I would be shocked if Heinen didn’t make the team at this point. He was excellent in camp skating alongside Debrusk and Merkulov, showing poise with the puck, a smooth transition and in-zone offensive game, and an increased willingness to use his shot.
Chiasson is a little bit tougher to gauge. Make no mistake, he had a great week and earned himself a promotion to skate alongside Zacha and van Riemsdyk on Saturday. He was one of the more physical players in camp on the forecheck and displayed his scoring touch in and around the net. It’s going to be a numbers game at the bottom of the roster, but if I were a betting man, I’d say he makes the team.
Confidence in Merkulov
Last year’s breakout prospect had a strong camp. He skated next to Debrusk each session and improved with every day. The Russian-born center was able to use his speed and soft hands to make plays in tight spaces and showcased a more responsible approach to the defensive side of his game. He’ll start the season in Providence, but I expect him to make at least one or two cameos in Boston this season.
Lysell not Ready
The Bruins’ most exciting prospect had an up-and-down week at training camp. The speed and explosiveness are obvious, but his decision-making gives me pause. Too often, he tries to play hero puck and generate offense completely on his own. When he played with Marchand and Coyle, he looked a bit pedestrian and was overmatched physically.
I believe in Lysell and think he has the speed and skill to be an elite NHL winger. I just think he needs a bit more seasoning before making the full-time jump to the NHL.
Lohrei Skates with Carlo
Boston’s other top prospect, Mason Lohrei, had a solid week skating with veteran defenseman Brandon Carlo. After a tough weekend at the prospect challenge, Lohrei simplified his game in his own end and made smarter plays on the breakout. He moves so well on the blueline and has such strong strides that I can’t help but get excited about his future.
Like Lysell, I think Lohrei would benefit from starting the season in Providence and getting used to the speed of the pro game. But of the two, I think Lohrei is closer to NHL readiness and could earn himself a roster spot midway through the season.
- Mark McLaughlin may again be a victim of a numbers crunch, but he deserves a spot on this team. He competes hard, makes smart plays, and is ready for the NHL.
- Jakub Lauko may be the fastest skater on the team, assuming Lysell doesn’t make it. I’d like to see him get a look with Frederic and Geekie.
- Speaking of Geekie, he’s super strong on the puck. He and Frederic showed great chemistry on offense and should be a nightmare forechecking line for opposing defensemen.
- Trevor Kuntar is going to have a big year in Providence.
- Brett Harrison and Frederic Brunet held there own all week, and I’m excited to see what they can do in Providence.
- Watch out for Anthony Richard this preseason. He skated with Geekie and Frederic, and at some points, he looked like the best player on the line.