Now that Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci have signed, and Pavel Zacha settled on a contract of his own, the Bruins’ roster is mostly in place.
There is the matter of David Pastrnak’s contract extension — no update, and seemingly no worries, were expressed on that front Wednesday by general manager Don Sweeney — and several young players could make a push for playing time, particularly while Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk finish rehabbing from offseason surgeries.
But largely, we know who the players will be. How they come together should be fascinating. A look at the position groups, with training camp about a month away:
Top six forwards
Marchand’s absence means more work for Taylor Hall, who could slot in next to Bergeron as the No. 1 left wing. Jake DeBrusk, ideally the re-energized version who finished last year, could resume his role as No. 1 right wing.
That would leave Zacha, who projects as a center in the post-Bergeron, post-Krejci era, as the No. 2 left wing with Krejci and Pastrnak. Of course, Hall-Krejci-Pastrnak is a line that has shown proof of concept (see: post-2021 trade deadline).
But the Bruins, and Zacha, are hopeful he can express his offense skating with better, more established linemates than he had in New Jersey. Starting him on a line with a player he grew up appreciating (Krejci) and one he grew up playing with (Pastrnak) seems like a way to get him going.
Zacha, who signed a one-year deal ($3.5 million), is hoping to earn a long-term deal.
“He has all the talent to take advantage of a situational opportunity,” said Sweeney. “We do believe there’s a higher offensive ceiling there as a good two-way player.”
Bottom six forwards
Zacha also could be a quality No. 3 left wing, or center if they’re trying to build that part of his game. For now, pencil in Trent Frederic, who is hopeful for a reset after losing his way last year. Is he an agitator with offensive upside? Is he a two-way, middle-six forward with edge? The Bruins believe he’s more than he has shown.
“There’s no way he’s just a fourth-line player for us,” Sweeney said.
Charlie Coyle resumes his role as No. 3 center, with Craig Smith on the right. This seems like a spot where Fabian Lysell or Jack Studnicka could push. Sweeney didn’t discount the possibility that Lysell could make the team, comparing him to Pastrnak as a rookie — perhaps too slight now, but dynamic enough to make the Bruins consider him.
“We don’t need to rush things with any of our young players,” Sweeney said. “Put them in an opportunity, allow them to see if they can succeed.”
The fourth-line mix is likely to include Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, Marc McLaughlin, Oskar Steen, Johnny Beecher, and Chris Wagner. Sweeney noted that Jakub Lauko, who has had a few injury-plagued seasons, is also part of that group.
It will be tough sledding early on without McAvoy, one of the game’s best all-around defensemen, and skilled puck-mover Grzelcyk. Hampus Lindholm is the No. 1 option, but the Bruins are hoping that bounce-back years for Brandon Carlo and Jakub Zboril begin in October, not the second half.
“Our forward group is deep and we’re going to have a real competitive camp for some spots,” Sweeney said. “The back end we’re going to have to weather, and have guys that are going to come in and get some opportunity.”
Krejci will be happy to get first-unit power-play time early, with Marchand and McAvoy out. New coach Jim Montgomery (and assistant John Gruden, who will likely help run that unit) could play Krejci at the point to spell McAvoy, or in Marchand’s spot on the right half-wall. Lindholm and Zacha could factor into those spots; getting them touches would boost their offensive games.
Other spots seem more clear-cut: Hall as a net-front man, Bergeron in the bumper, and Pastrnak in the left circle.
The Bruins also could showcase Mike Reilly, who could be trade bait if they’re over the cap when Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyk come off long-term injured reserve in November/December.
As they continue to optimize Bergeron’s minutes, expect the Bruins to lean more on Coyle and Nosek on the penalty kill.
Fairly straightforward: Montgomery is hoping his fellow Maine Black Bear Jeremy Swayman continues his rise, and Linus Ullmark plays like a top-20 goalie in the 1B role.
“I feel good about our goaltending and [a] situation that those guys should be much more comfortable in knowing that they have to, you know, sort of be a backbone there while we go through the early parts,” Sweeney said.
The Bruins announced a host of changes in their hockey operations department, including replacements for skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold.
John McLean, Tom Ford, and David Breen will replace Brandvold, who joined Jay Pandolfo’s staff at Boston University. McLean, the head coach of Malden Catholic and a Boston College graduate, co-founded Dynamic Skating with Brandvold and Ford in 2010. Ford, a UMass Lowell assistant, and Breen, director of player development at Bentley, arrived from college staffs.
Sweeney said the expanded department will be able to “tap in with our Providence guys on a really more regular basis, which [Brandvold] had been pulled away a little bit,” and make more use of video in their skating and skill development.
Among other notable promotions: Jamie Langenbrunner was promoted from director of player development to assistant general manager, focusing on player personnel; former NHL tough guy Dennis Bonvie is now director of pro scouting; and Taunton’s Ryan Nadeau, who joined the Bruins 20 years ago as a media relations assistant, was promoted to director of amateur scouting.
The Bruins also added to their medical and rehab team, bringing back Scott Waugh, who was the team’s physical therapist from 1998-2016, as manager of player rehabilitation.
A projected opening-night lineup
Taylor Hall–Patrice Bergeron–Jake DeBrusk
Pavel Zacha–David Krejci–David Pastrnak
Trent Frederic–Charlie Coyle–Craig Smith
Nick Foligno–Thomas Nosek–Marc McLaughlin
Hampus Lindholm–Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort–Jakub Zboril
Mike Reilly–Connor Clifton
Scratches: Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka, Fabian Lysell