(Photo Credit: Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

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

It’s been a long five months for Boston Bruins youngster Matthew Poitras. The 20-year-old forward took Boston by storm in camp last season, earning a roster spot and posting 15 points in his first 33 NHL games. That’s until a shoulder injury ended his season, undergoing surgery in February that sidelined him indefinitely.

“I’ve been trying to take it day by day, but you kind of see that light at the end of the tunnel and now here I am, almost five months,” Poitras said following the first day of development camp on Monday. “It’s been a long five months. My whole life has basically been playing hockey. Having that taken away from me for however long, it’s been weird.”

Since resuming full activities on the ice and in the gym about a month ago, Poitras hit the ice on Monday feeling good and utilizing his right shoulder in a full range of motion. While he doesn’t want to rush his return, the skillful forward is eager to get back to a regular schedule.

“It’s just nice to be back here and get on the ice and get some reps in,” he said. “I’ve wanted to be here for this week to get some skates in and get back to normal.”

Poitras may be just 20 years of age, but he was a veteran on the ice at Warrior Arena on Monday, suiting up for his third development camp. He joined the likes of newly selected first-rounder Dean Letourneau, who Poitras is rooming with for the time being.

“I can try and lead and make sure our standards are being held up,” Poitras said of leading the younger players. “Just trying to be there for everybody.”

And Poitras looked like he hadn’t missed a day by the looks of his performance in the various skating drills that took place on day one. Visibly faster, quicker, and more NHL-ready than any other player in the forward group of camp, Poitras certainly looks the part to return to the Bruins as a primary contributor, likely in a middle-six role.

But more importantly, Poitras is bigger, and he’s stronger. He told reporters he’s put on eight to nine pounds in the gym, increasing his body fat by roughly three percent to make him more durable on an NHL ice sheet. As a young player in the league, he was often a target for big hits from other team’s bruisers.

“I came into camp last year definitely undersized,” he admitted. “There were some bigger guys that maybe I couldn’t hold my own against as much. So this year it’s just going in a little bigger and a little stronger and choosing my spots a bit more. Sometimes I would take some big hits that aren’t necessary.

“I feel a bit stronger. Even though I put on a bit of body fat, I feel like I just got stronger overall. I think I’m still moving at the same speed out there, maybe a bit faster. Corners and one-on-one battles is a big focus.”

Along with beefing up his stature, Poitras also hopes to become better at the faceoff dot. In 33 games last season, he posted a 43.7% clip at the dot, which is far from the 50% range that most of the league’s finest craftsman live in. To remain a center on Jim Montgomery’s lineup, Poitras will surely need to raise that mark.

“I wasn’t too great on the dot last year,” said Poitras. “So if I want to be a center, I need to use these next couple months to work on that and work on winning face-offs.”

As the depth chart is currently constructed, it can be assumed that Poitras would fall on the third line between Trent Frederic and Morgan Geekie, a trio with a lot of speed and offensive skill. But with free agency in full swing, nothing will be set in stone until Montgomery’s opening night roster.