The Bruins will open training camp secure in the knowledge they’ll have a lot of good NHL players.
Though we’re still waiting to see who will hold down the No. 2 center spot, the top nine forwards look strong. They should have at least six good defensemen, with some flexibility in pairings. They have the makings of a quality goalie tandem.
The six exhibition games may tell us more about the players on the fringe, and those whose NHL careers are a few years away. Those players are in focus here.
These players have fewer than 60 NHL games on their résumés and are considered prospects based on reviews of game film, live viewings, past performance, interviews with hockey personnel and other sources, statistics, and analytics:
Jack Studnicka, C/RW: Listed at 6 feet 1 inch and 171 pounds, he says he put on 15 pounds this offseason. Looks the part. Once camp drills start, Bruins would love to see signs that the 2017 second-round pick (53rd overall), who has 22 NHL games under his belt in two pro seasons, is capable of holding down a top-six center spot (recall, if you dare, that Patrice Bergeron is 36). Entry-level deal expires next summer. This season, is he better served as a spare part in Boston or an all-situations guy in Providence?
Trent Frederic, C/LW: Club wants to keep him at center, but he’s got a tough battle with fellow left-shot centers Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek sure to make the roster. Bruins protected him from the Seattle expansion draft (most other players on this list were exempt) and handed him a two-year, $2.1 million contract extension. St. Louisian could push right-shooting Curtis Lazar to fourth-line wing, or Chris Wagner out of the lineup.
Jakub Lauko, LW: Third-round pick (77th overall) from 2018 is feisty and fast with some offensive upside. Will be a key player in Providence if he doesn’t win a fourth-line job. Should be an NHL regular in two to three years.
Oskar Steen, C/RW: Small, stocky, and competitive. May not have enough offensive oomph to play center at 5-9 but could earn spot starts as a winger. Is exempt from waivers.
Jesper Froden, RW: Swedish veteran (age 27) can deliver pace on the right side. Showed intelligent two-way game and nose for the net in the Buffalo rookie tournament (four goals in two games). Looks like a better version of Karson Kuhlman, more touch with the puck and around the net. Waivers-exempt.
Anton Blidh, LW: A bit slower and heavier than Lauko, with less panache but more thump. Unlike Lauko, would have to pass through waivers.
Karson Kuhlman, RW: Plug-and-play fourth-liner. Quality substitute who can play 10 minutes a night, and sit for long stretches, sans issues.
Zach Senyshyn, RW: Bruins re-signed him for one year at the league minimum. Has not broken through. May get a better shot in another system.
Cameron Hughes, LW/RW: Slightly built (5-11, 160) and soon to be 25, looks like an AHLer.
Fabian Lysell, RW: Several years away but will get a taste of the preseason. Electric skater and playmaker. Should be a point producer for WHL Vancouver this season.
Jakub Zboril, LD: Performed well enough in 42 games last season (0-9—9) to earn a few All-Rookie votes but more veteran help on the left side (Derek Forbort, a healthy John Moore) means a job is not yet his. Was not taken in Seattle expansion draft.
Urho Vaakanainen, LD: Development of first-round pick (18th overall, 2017) appears to have stalled since 2018 arrival in North America. Not much “wow” to his game. Unless he defends harder and creates more offensively, may be a top-four fixture in Providence.
Jack Ahcan, LD: He’s even smaller than his listed 5-8, 184 pounds. That makes him a tricky evaluation for the Bruins. Does he look so dynamic because he’s so small, or is he just dynamic? Either the next Torey Krug or a future AHL All-Star.
Brady Lyle, RD: Struggled in Buffalo rookie tournament but will likely calm down. His size (6-3, 215) and shot could help the Bruins, who are light on right-side depth.
Nick Wolff, LD: Has to improve puck play to be an NHLer. Big (6-5, 230) penalty-killer type.
Kyle Keyser: Big year for 22-year-old, who earned a Bruins contract out of the Buffalo rookie tournament in 2017. Can he beat out AHL veteran Troy Grosenick for the majority of starts in Providence? Yet to play a full AHL season. Has a steep climb to full-time work in Boston with Jeremy Swayman’s emergence and Linus Ullmark’s four-year deal. Entry-level contract expires next summer.