(Photo Credit: Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

Matt Poitras hasn’t missed a beat after missing eight games with the Boston Bruins due to joining Team Canada for the 2024 World Junior Championship. After posting a line of 5-8-13 in 27 games before the team decided to send him to Gothenburg, Sweden, the 19-year-old rookie didn’t waste any time finding the stat sheet. Poitras earned two assists in a 7-3 stomping of the Tampa Bay Lightning in his first National Hockey League game back with the Bruins.

Following Canada’s loss to Czechia in the quarterfinals, Poitras’ absence was cut shorter than expected. To make room for him in the lineup, the Bruins assigned recent call-up Georgii Merkulov to Providence, recalling Jesper Boqvist to anchor the fourth line. This decision eliminated doubts about Poitras’ spot on Jim Montgomery’s depth chart, as he was slotted into the lineup between the likes of Trent Frederic and Danton Heinen on the third line ahead of Saturday’s game.

While representing Canada, Poitras posted 2-2-4 in five games in a solid showing for the Bruin. While Bruins fans expected him to lead his team in scoring, Macklin Celebrini stole the show with a line of 4-4-8. Poitras soaked in every last moment of what was his final year of eligibility for the tournament.

“It was definitely a dream come true,” said Poitras. “I’m really glad I got to go over there and represent my country. It wasn’t the best outcome, but still an awesome experience.”

After logging a few days of rest following his return, Poitras picked up right where he left off on Saturday. He collected two assists in just 11:01 of ice time and was a +2 in the win. Despite playing well, Montgomery elected to roll with his first two lines down the stretch of the game, with Tampa Bay enduring a short bench. With names such as Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov on the ice even more, Montgomery had no choice but to send his top two lines to match up with Tampa Bay’s best.

“I thought he was really good,” Montgomery said. “He looked fresh, he was making plays. I wish I could have got (his line) out there. They only had eleven forwards dressed, and they lost one (and) they were down to ten, so you want to make sure that you’re putting him in situations that he’s going to be able to have success.”

Poitras made the most of his opportunity. He picked up a secondary assist on Charlie McAvoy’s first-period go-ahead goal before another helper on Frederic’s tally 1:49 into the second frame. On Frederic’s goal, Poitras made a heads-up pass to a trailing Matt Grzelcyk entering the offensive zone. Grzelcyk’s shot was blocked, but Frederic was there to convert the rebound. Poitras took a big hit on the play but ultimately returned to action after being checked out on the Boston bench.

“The first couple shifts it was fast, and obviously the ice is smaller than what I was playing in over in Sweden so it was a bit of an adjustment the first couple shifts,” Poitras said after the win.

Poitras, who made a name for himself in the NHL because of his raw and explosive offensive skill, will look to support a Bruins cast as the team approaches the halfway mark of the 2023-24 season. However, the youngster encountered roadblocks amidst his first 27 games with Boston. Poor defensive play and increased turnovers landed him on the ninth floor of TD Garden as a healthy scratch in a clear message that his tenure as an NHL player wasn’t guaranteed. If Poitras can play a responsible 200-foot game, his offensive capabilities will do the rest–and he shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.