The Bruins on Thursday held one practice session rather than the usual two, trimming their roster to 25 opening-night hopefuls.
Among the cuts: rookie right wing Marc McLaughlin, who showed his responsible, attack-minded game in camp. The move had little to do with his play; the 23-year-old from Billerica and Boston College could be assigned to Providence without going through waivers.
Coach Jim Montgomery said McLaughlin, who led the Bruins in scoring (2-2—4) in his four-game preseason stint, “had a great camp,” and he can focus on physicality and details in the AHL.
“His offensive production, his tenacity on pucks, his ability to score, all that has shown through,” Montgomery said. “He’s going to be a big part of our future.”
The Bruins have to cut two more players before next Wednesday’s season opener in Washington, but for now, Jakub Lauko remains with the varsity. On Thursday, the 22-year-old was skating right wing on a fourth line with Trent Frederic (LW) and Tomas Nosek (C).
Lauko, entering his fourth year as a pro, has impressed Montgomery with his speed and his ability to put opponents on their heels off the rush.
“He goes to hard areas, which draws penalties, which gains momentum, creates rebound chances,” said Montgomery, who was eager to see what Lauko could do, either on the third or fourth line, in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Devils.
Another youngster who survived the cuts: Jack Studnicka.
In Wednesday’s preseason win over the Rangers, Studnicka bounced up after taking a couple hard hits, one from Vincent “The Prius” Trocheck (who seems to relish playing against the Bruins) and the other from Sammy Blais. He matched up mostly against Trocheck, a rugged No. 2 center, and was assertive.
“He’s earned the right to continue to be here,” said Montgomery, adding that while Studnicka can increase his spatial awareness to protect himself, he likes his toughness and offensive ability.
“If he’s on the fourth line, he’s not a fourth-line, heavy, physical player,” Montgomery said. “We just want him first on pucks and to be able to protect himself and protect pucks.”
Studnicka said he felt good after practice, calling the Trocheck play “a good hockey hit” and noting that he tried (unsucessfully) to return the favor.
“I took a couple bumps last night, but getting to those areas, I’m fine with that. I got right back up,” said Studnicka, who is listed at 6 feet 1 inch and 187 pounds. “If that’s my matchup, big strong guys like that, I’m just going to have to be ready. I’m a pretty strong kid.
“I certainly have potential. Wherever I’m slotted in, it’s fine. I know my game’s going to continue to grow. Hopefully I’ll step into roles that maybe people didn’t expect me to. I’m just trying to grow so many [aspects]: faceoffs, physicality, the defensive zone, things to grow around the offensive side. I’m a firm believer that the offense will come.”
Studnicka and hit-everything Chris Wagner, both of whom would have to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL, were in no-contact jerseys at Thursday’s practice. They skated on an extra line with Taylor Hall.
Montgomery didn’t have an injury update on Hall, who was said to be “week to week” after an upper-body injury last Saturday against Philadelphia, or Matt Grzelcyk (offseason shoulder surgery). The latter is ahead of schedule, the coach said.
“He’s going to go into a regular jersey pretty quick,” Montgomery said.
In addition to McLaughlin, top prospects Fabian Lysell and John Beecher, along with defenseman Jack Ahcan and goalie Kyle Keyser, were assigned to Providence.
“Lysell and Beecher are tremendous young hockey players,” Montgomery said, noting that Wednesday was their first look at an NHL-caliber opponent.
To his coach’s eye, the 19-year-old Lysell is “a tremendous talent” and a “competitor” who will “help the Bruins for a long time.” He needs to learn how to be a consistent pro, Montgomery said.
Netminder Keith Kinkaid, forwards Joona Koppanen and Vinni Lettieri, and defenseman Dan Renouf were waived in order to be sent to Providence.
Montgomery was taking a look at Nick Foligno at No. 1 left wing, riding with Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk. The all-Czechia line of Pavel Zacha, David Krejci, and David Pastrnak was back together after lighting up the Rangers Wednesday in a 5-4 win.
Does Montgomery see any reason Zacha-Krejci-Pastrnak wouldn’t be a unit for Game 1?
“Not right now,” he said. “Us coaches have short-term memories. Saturday might change everything.”
Linus Ullmark will start the preseason finale in goal. It would be his second preseason start, equaling Jeremy Swayman. Montgomery chuckled when asked if he had decided on an opening-night starter: “I haven’t even thought about that one.”
He added that the goalie workload could look like last year, when both Swayman and Ullmark played in 41 games, starting 39.
A.J. Greer was at No. 3 left wing Thursday, with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith. Montgomery said he wanted to have a look at how Greer looked with Coyle. Same goes for the Frederic-Nosek pair.
The defense pairs (Hampus Lindholm-Brandon Carlo, Mike Reilly-Jakub Zboril, Derek Forbort-Connor Clifton) looked like what Montgomery could roll out on opening night.
Grzelcyk and the still-unsigned Anton Stralman were an extra pair.
It sounds like Stralman, the 15-year veteran here on a professional tryout, will be offered a contract.
Montgomery praised the 36-year-old for his poised, astute puck movement and smart decisions.
“He made a play in the third [Wednesday] where he got the puck at the offensive blue line, standing still, and he made a little dink pass to the slot,” Montgomery said. “I think it was [to] Lauko, Lauko goes around, and we’re in the zone for another 20 seconds. We’re playing with the lead, it’s 5-4 at the time.
“To have that kind of poise and game management, to make that play and know you have the time, his risk/reward is high.”
It surely didn’t hurt that Stralman blew up Blais shortly after the Ranger dropped Studnicka with a clean check. Teammates and coaches notice that kind of thing.