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Teenager Matt Poitras is making a play to fill some of the Bruins’ needs at center

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Matt Poitras, shown during Bruins development camp in June, had 79 assists in the OHL last year with Guelph, where he'll return if he can't find a place on the Boston roster.Ken McGagh for The Boston Globe

Matt Poitras took a deep breath when asked what it was like practicing on a line with David Pastrnak.

“He’s soooo good,” said Poitras, the Bruins’ second-round pick (54th overall) in 2022 and one of the organization’s top center prospects.

Jim Montgomery plunked Poitras, 19, between Pastrnak and Jesper Boqvist in an attempt to establish some comfort and find some chemistry.

After shaking off some initial butterflies, Poitras looked at ease, dangling and dishing to his veteran linemates.

“It was pretty cool,” said Poitras. “He’s one of the best players in the world. Any time you can skate with a guy like that, you’ve got to try and raise your compete and level of play.


“I was a little nervous to play on a line in practice with a player of that caliber, but it was really cool.”

Pastrnak, who is in the market for a new center after David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron retired, made an effort to put Poitras at ease.

“He’s a super nice guy,” said Poitras. “He came up to me and made me feel comfortable. Obviously skating with a guy like that, as a young guy, I felt a little nervous. He said, ‘Don’t be nervous, just play and have a good practice.’ ”

It was logical that Montgomery created the line. The 5-foot-11-inch, 179-pound Poitras has obvious speed, soft hands, and his slick moves allow him to avoid and roll off hits.

“He’s a high-end thinker,” Montgomery said. “He’s shown the ability to make a lot of plays. He had [79] assists in the OHL last year, almost 1½ a game. He’s a playmaking center and we just wanted to see what he could do with a proven goal scorer. That’s the thinking. Just wanted to see if there’s chemistry.”

Following a successful weekend at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, Poitras is continuing his push for a roster spot in Boston. Because he’s a teenager, Poitras isn’t eligible to play in the American Hockey League this year, so he’ll be sent back to his junior team in Guelph if he doesn’t snag a place.


“The goal for me is to just try and make the Bruins,” he said. “It would be a dream come true for me to play in the NHL. But I just want to put my best foot forward and try and make it as difficult as possible for them to send me back to juniors.”

The Bruins always seem to have a few players pop at camp and earn their way onto the varsity roster. Poitras has thrust himself to the head of that class.

“That was the first message that I talked to the group today about,” general manager Don Sweeney said earlier in the week. “Training camp is the ultimate opportunity for every player in that room, whether you’re on a [professional tryout] or whether you’re an established player.

“You make hard decisions in this business. We want players. Jakub Lauko is a great example from last year and A.J. Greer is another good example from last year. They just made sure that the decision was really hard on us and rightfully so. They played well. And everybody in that room should realize that they can be next.”

Merkulov turning heads

Another young player to watch is Georgii Merkulov, who popped at center Friday on a line with veteran wingers Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen.


“I like the way he rebounded today,” said Montgomery. “He was very evident. He was on top of pucks and thought his pace of play was a lot better today and I think that line in particular was pretty dominant up there with how many goals they scored.”

Numbers game

The players switched to traditional color practice jerseys with no names or numbers after most wore all whites with names and numbers Thursday. That made it hard to track every player, particularly the newcomers. “Sorry,” said Montgomery with a smile. “[The numbers] screwed up my practice Thursday ... So I told the equipment guys, and they were like, ‘Well good, we’ll just go with colors.’ I didn’t know it affected you [reporters].” . . . There was definitely an uptick in physicality during both sessions. That will likely ratchet up another notch Saturday, with the first exhibition game on tap at 5 p.m. Sunday vs. the Rangers at TD Garden. Montgomery said no more than eight veterans will suit up for the opener.

Jim McBride can be reached at Follow him @globejimmcbride.