A Bruins’ Depth Dissection


Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                                           Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

Much has been made in recent weeks about the Bruins’ supposed depth issues, and how they need to be addressed at the trade deadline. However, I believe that there is, in fact, a roster jam, the likes of which are quite difficult to manage. So, let’s figure this out.

The NHLers:

This group all belong in the NHL and have spent no time in the AHL this season. They are on 1-way contracts and are not waiver-exempt OR are on entry level contracts, and made the team out of training camp, but have yet to set foot in the AHL this season. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that their spot in the lineup cannot be touched.

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk David Krejci Ryan Spooner
Tim Schaller Riley Nash David Backes
Noel Acciari

The Fringe:


Danton Heinen – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Boston

Anders Bjork – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently on IR

Sean Kuraly – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Boston

Peter Cehlarik – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence

Frank Vatrano – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Boston

Austin Czarnik – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence

Kenny Agostino –NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Providence

Jordan Szwarz – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, Currently in Providence

Matt Beleskey – NHL Contract, Modified No-Trade Clause, Currently buried in Providence

Bruins Senators Hockey

Photo Credit: Fred Chartrand

According to the table above, there are four forward spots on this roster that are relatively in flux. Two of those are easy. Danton Heinen is 4th in team scoring and should be receiving legitimate Calder Trophy consideration. He’s on the team, no question. Sean Kuraly has been part of the best 4th line the Bruins have had since the famed Merlot Line with himself, Schaller, and Acciari. I don’t foresee him going anywhere. That then leaves two forward spots for the remaining 7 guys that have played in the NHL this season. I don’t see Beleskey being recalled anytime soon, especially with the injury trouble he’s run into down in Providence. Unfortunately, that contract has the appearance of a sunk cost right now. Agostino has already been up and down this season and has cleared waivers every time. Although he has been good for the Baby B’s, he hasn’t done nearly enough while with the big club to indicate that he should be the next guy up. The same can be said for Jordan Szwarz, who I have never been tremendously thrilled with at the pro level. Just like that, we’ve pared the list down to four guys and two spots to be filled.

Frank Vatrano, Jonathan Bernier

Photo Credit: Mark J. Temill

These two spots are not going to be regulars at the NHL level, and that’s important to understand. Of the four remaining, Cehlarik and Bjork are still on their entry-level contracts – this means they are waiver exempt and will be for the remainder of their contracts. Austin Czarnik can spend literally a single day more on an NHL roster before he becomes waiver eligible – indeed, he was recalled specifically for the games he played in his most recent stint and promptly sent back to Providence immediately afterward so as to prolong his waiver-exempt status. Frank Vatrano is the only one who isn’t waiver exempt – because he likely would be claimed the second he gets placed on waivers, he gets the nod despite being underneath Bjork and Cehlarik in the pecking order. I don’t think Vatrano fits as a 4th liner, and he isn’t consistent enough to play in the Top 6. Unfortunately, this pigeonholes him to the point where it would be beneficial for Boston to explore what the trade market looks like for him. It’s always preferable to get an asset in return for a player rather than simply losing them on waivers. So, Vatrano is (currently) the 13th forward.


Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty/USA Today Sports

Much like Vatrano doesn’t fit as a 4th liner, I don’t think it behooves the Bruins to stick Anders Bjork in the bottom six and to give him zero powerplay time. In Providence, he can gain some confidence, and be a go-to guy. Unfortunately, Heinen has become what they thought Bjork would be much more quickly that Bjork has been able to. He has also had a few injury issues. He should spend the rest of the year in Providence unless multiple Top 6 forwards end up unable to play or injured.

Cehlarik is a little more nuanced. Based on this analysis, he would be the 14th forward, but I prefer to have him playing on a regular basis, not sitting in the press box every 3 out 4 games. He also has had a lot of poor injury luck throughout his career, so I’d like to see him get through a full season healthy before he makes the jump full time.

Washington Capitals v Boston Bruins

Photo Credit: Steve Babineau


Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Kevan Miller


The Fringe:

Matt Grzelcyk – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Boston

Adam McQuaid – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, 2 years remaining, Currently in Boston

Paul Postma – NHL Contract, Waiver Eligible, 1 year remaining, Currently in Boston

Rob O’Gara – Entry Level Contract, Waiver Exempt, Currently in Providence


Photo Credit: John Wilcox/Boston Herald

Now, there are only 4 d-men who have seen the light of day this year who I feel are battling for position on the roster. Matt Grzelcyk has spent the least amount of time at the NHL level, yet he has been far and away the best of the group. He has done more than enough to force the Bruins to keep him not only in the NHL for the duration of the season but in the lineup on a night to night basis. That makes him the 6th defenseman. McQuaid isn’t going anywhere on this roster despite my hesitation with such decisions, so that makes 7.

Now, if you’ve been keeping count, that leaves a single roster spot available between Paul Postma, Rob O’Gara, Austin Czarnik, and Peter Cehlarik. Cehlarik and O’Gara are waiver exempt – they have a place in Providence, so that’s where they will be. Czarnik retains his waiver exempt status as long as he remains in Providence, so unless something changes drastically, I doubt we see any more of him this season apart from the occasional emergency loan recall (which allows for a recall for a brief period of time without having to pass through waivers in either direction). Now, I cannot confirm nor deny that Paul Postma still exists, but he appears to be that 21st skater on this roster, as he would likely be lost if placed on waivers. So, the three scratches would be (in an ideal world) McQuaid, Postma, and Vatrano.


Hopefully, this has cleared this up for anyone confused to why there seems to be quite a bit of roster shuffling as of late. I also hope that people can see that the Bruins do not and SHOULD not have to add anything at the trade deadline. They have plenty of depth as it is.


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BFR1 – Game 35 – Bruins’ Holiday Magic

BFR1 - Game 35 Pic

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                                   Twitter: @pucknerdhockey

Heck of a way to come back after the holiday break! Riley Nash went off, there were plenty of shenanigans, and we got confirmation once again that the Ottawa Senators are devolving into a tire fire. PuckNerd brings back the BFR to discuss all this and more.

BFR1 – Game 21 – Cranberry Sauce

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                     Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

The Bruins push their win streak to 4 in a row, they go with a wonky lineup, Khudobin and DeBrusk are on fire, and I gained about 20 pounds just from Thanksgiving. These things and more in a very thankful edition of BFR!

Bruins Grzelcyk Gaining Confidence

( Above Photo Credit:   NHL .com )

By: Mark Allred             Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

I know Boston Bruins prospect defenseman, Matt Grzelcyk hasn’t had a ton of time in the National Hockey League only appearing in five career games over the span of two seasons, but I’ve seen an improvement everytime he steps on the ice and a determination to stay there. Regardless of how he gets to play in the organization he’s fondly followed as a child growing up close by in Charlestown, Massachusetts and being close to the B’s team over the years with his father John, a member of the Bull Gang, the 23-year-old is getting solid looks and making the best of it on and off the stat sheet.

The 5′-9″ 174-pound defenseman appeared in two games last season with zero points and this season the former Boston University Terrier standout is showing exactly what he can do in front of the Bruins Brass watching high above and fans alike that haven’t had the opportunity to see him play at the collegiate ranks or his time professionally with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League.  While playing at BU the 2012 third-round selection posted 26-69-95 numbers in his four years of service and joined the pro ranks in Providence in 2016-17 to contribute 6-26-32 totals but to start the 2017-18 AHL season he only has four assists in 14 games. Last night was undoubtedly his best moment in all the years of hockey to this day with his first ever NHL goal on National television and a moment to reflect with his father who’s been there along the way.



The 10-7-4 Boston Bruins return to the ice tomorrow night at the TD Garden when the visiting  Edmonton Oilers come to town. The B’s are currently in the third position in the Atlantic Division with 24 points and could close the seven-point gap in between them and the second place Toronto Maple Leafs. Leading the way in the Atlantic is this seasons powerhouse Tampa Bay lightning with 34 points and will be the Bruins opponent in the final game of the month (11/29/17) to end this three-game homestand.

With no news and day-to-day status of recently injured B’s defenseman Torey Krug and his return to the lineup, the past two games against the New Jersey Devils where Matt got his first pro point and yesterday afternoon when as mentioned above scored his first career NHL goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s hard not to consider the fast blueliner with great on-ice vision to stick with the team until Krug makes his way back.


Bruins Announce Transactions Before Avalanche Matinee

(Boston, MA, 05/20/15). Press conference where the Boston Bruins introduced Don Sweeney (left) as the new Bruins General Manager. Bruins President Cam Neely is at right. Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Staff photo by Ted Fitzgerald

By: Mark Allred             Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The Boston Bruins announced today that the club has made some significant transactions before this afternoon’s 1pm matchup at the TD Garden against the Colorado Avalanche.




After today’s game against the Avalanche, the Bruins travel to Colorado to end the home-and-home series but also start the first road trip of the 2017-18 season with stops in Arizona on Saturday night against the Coyotes and end the road trip in Las Vegas to play the Golden Knights for the first time in history at T-Mobile Arena in Nevada.

BFR1 – Game 1 – The Kids Are Alright

By: Spencer Fascetta                                                     Twitter: @PuckNerdHockey

From the guy who brings you crazy hockey math videos and articles comes a complete and utter ripoff of Steve Dangle’s highly successful LFR series. Copying someone is the greatest form of flattery Steve. Anyhoo, the Bruins won their season opener… Let me take you through the highs and lows!


Boston Bruins 2017 Prospect Challenge Wrapup

( Above Photo Credit:   NHL . com )

By: Bob Mand             Follow Me On Twitter @HockeyMand

The Boston Bruins’ rookie squad eviscerated their New Jersey Devils’ counterparts 9 to 3 to close out the 2017 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo Monday afternoon. Danton Heinen tallied a hat-trick, and the team’s top forwards poured goals into the New Jersey cage, putting the finishing touches on a solid experience for the boys in Black and Gold, who, even though they failed to come out victorious, still wound up as runners-up in the three-day tourney.

But what were these three ever so slightly above scrimmage-level tilts worth? Well, they revealed several key points about the rooks as they readied themselves for training camp.

The Boston Bruins Prospect Corps is Deep with a Dozen or More Players with NHL-level Upside.

After Charlie McAvoy, the standard hockey fan might find themselves hard-pressed to name a single Boston prospect. But we learned at the 2017 Prospect Challenge that the Bruins possess a wide range of talent with at least a half-dozen forwards and nearly the same number of defensemen possessing probable NHL-level upside.

This was most clearly evinced up front, where the Bruins rolled extremely deep in the Challenge. From Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson to Jack Studnicka, the Would-B’s brought some dynamic performances and steadying play – aside from a period in each of the first two games.

Heinen was clearly the best-rounded forward, albeit one of the most experienced. Jake DeBrusk was one of the more dynamic skaters at both ends of the ice and owns the requisite toughness, athletics, and skill to make the jump to the next level. Anders Bjork was exceedingly solid on the defensive side of the puck, and not too shabby offensively. I think, despite the wishes of some, Forsbacka-Karlsson, Zach Senyshyn, and Jessie Gabrielle could benefit from one or more years in the minors/juniors yet.

Of others I have not mentioned: Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Oskar Steen, Rob O’Gara – all could use additional seasoning in the minors/overseas… and guys like Trent Frederic, Ryan Donato, Urho Vaakanainen were not present at the showcase.

The Best Bruins Defensive Prospect after McAvoy and Urho Vaakanainen is…

( Above Photo Credit:  NHL .com )

… Matt Grzelcyk. Though not possessing the top-tier upside of those frequently mentioned above him, the Charlestown native is clearly ready to contribute at least at a part-time level with the big club. He makes smart plays with and without the puck, he possesses a strong skating game, and while he may not have desirable size, he leverages his low center of gravity to his advantage.

This all must sound ludicrous with former high draft picks Zboril and Lauzon ahead of him on most lists, but those guys, despite their upside, look to be ways off yet. Grzelcyk is five seasons removed from his draft year (2012) and displayed the kind of productivity and steadying presence one might expect from a 23-year-old.

With a glaring hole on the third-pairing’s left-D (if the Bruins decided not to flip one of their righties around to their off-side) Matt Grzelcyk might enjoy a puncher’s chance of a spot on Boston’s opening-night roster if preseason goes as planned.

The Biggest Challenge facing the Boston Bruins prospects is…

Emotional balance… steadiness. Some might say ‘defense, ’ and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but in my estimation, their defensive struggles throughout the tourney were a symptom of being caught up in emotion, not necessarily from a lack of skill or intellect or positioning. The Bruins’ defense broke down the most on man-disadvantage situations – situations that they found themselves in all too often because of silly penalties or frustration. It’s something all young prospects have to deal with, but there were more breakdowns in ‘personal’ control with the B’s youngsters than their counterparts on the other squads. They were forcing plays this way and that. Very infrequently one could note a Bruins’ skater’s patience. Is this truly endemic? Time will tell.

That said, the team did come back from deficits of 2-0, 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 during the first two games of the tourney and bull-rushed the opposition in game three. So perhaps this isn’t a flaw so much as the effect of playing with an excess of emotion. If their capabilities – to will themselves to outstanding starts and thunderous resolve in chasing the front-runners – exhibit something deeper in the Bruins player selection during the Don Sweeney Era? It’s something to consider.

Five Bruins Prospects *Will* Make a Run at Roster Spots

I don’t think the five best Bruins’ rookies will make the best dashes towards the Spoked-B come October, but five of some level will.

Charlie McAvoy – This is the obvious one, isn’t it? McAvoy is all but labeled for a spot in the Bruins’ top four blueliners. Only an abysmal camp would shuffle him into the pressbox, let alone down I-95 to Providence.

Danton Heinen – Pretty simply the top forward for Boston during the prospect tournament. Heinen has NHL experience under his belt and the wisdom that comes with being years older than most of his rookie competition. Potentially, there exists a spot open in the Bruins top-six on Krejci’s left wing… and while I see Heinen as only a fringe top-sixer in his prime, he’s got the stuff to get there this year, leapfrogging the veteran competition and warding-off other rookie assaults.

Jake Debrusk – Not quite as polished as Heinen but possessing more upside, Debrusk might not be in the skill/readiness sweet-spot that the former occupies, but with a great Training Camp, his scoring line skillset should shine through and displace others in his path en route to Krejci’s right wing.

Matt Grzelcyk – The hole on Boston’s left side is the biggest reason the ready-now Grzelcyk could get the call up right away. He might benefit from a second year with the P-Bruins, honing his defensive skills… but the Bruins might not have time for that, should the righty-righty pairing of Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid prove unsuccessful.

Anders Bjork – The right-winger seems tailor-made for a spot next to Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand should David Pastrnak slot down the line or remain ‘unavailable’ through camp. A good skater who’s defensively responsible with good offensive instincts – he might be (and here’s wishful thinking) the Marian Hossa the line never had (equipment allergies aside). Ready to make the jump now, he could easily find his way in, even if Pastrnak remains, thanks to his bottom-six palatable two-way game.

Providence Signee Connor Clifton Will Collect an NHL Contract

I’ve been raving about Clifton’s game ever since Day One of the Prospects Challenge. He skates smoothly, is smart and cool under pressure defensively and plays the game with the kind of reckless abandon that’s becoming rarer and rarer in the modern NHL. Given his size and toolkit, he reminds me of a smaller Johnny Boychuk with a less-imposing shot. If his defensive game is as refined as I saw it to be during the Challenge and if he can improve his outlet passing, I could definitely see him breaking into an NHL squad somewhere down the road. It’s on Boston to scoop him up while they have the opportunity – and before other teams catch wind of his regenerated potential after a middling senior year at Quinnipiac University.