Oskar Steen was having a good time.
The Bruins’ winger was bumped up to a top line at Saturday’s Group A practice, plunked on the right side with center Charlie Coyle and Brad Marchand. Needless to say, Steen enjoyed himself.
“It was fun. Two great players and it’s easier to play with good players, so it makes me better, too,” he said.
Steen has spent most of the last three campaigns with Providence, earning cameos in Boston the last three seasons totaling 26 games, including a three-game call-up last season. Now, with vacancies available, he has his sights set on a permanent role with the varsity.
“Of course. There are some big opportunities this year,” he said. “A lot of players left, so yeah, I want to be the guy that steps into the lineup this year.”
Given his age (25) and the amount of time in the AHL, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery was asked if he senses any urgency from Steen.
“I would say his play has shown some urgency. I think he’s very comfortable, too, as far as camp is [concerned],” said Montgomery. “Everybody that was here in camp last year, they kind of know the drills and routine. They’re a little more used to me. So, I think that we’ve had a camp that’s been very good so far in the early going, just because a lot of people are just familiar with it.”
Steen said he concentrated on getting quicker and stronger with his off-ice work in preparation for camp, and it has already paid dividends.
“I’ve got more experiences here and I feel more comfortable, so I’m just trying to do my best here every day and don’t think too much and just do my job,” said Steen, a sixth-round selection in 2016.
Steen scored one goal in three games with Boston last year, but more importantly left an impression on Montgomery with his spirited play.
“It was good to get some games in front of Monty,” said Steen, a native of Karlstad, Sweden. “[The staff] liked my games, the three games I played. [They said] I was playing with a lot of pace, getting pucks to the net, and getting my shot off.”
🎥 Oskar Steen on skating with Marchand and Coyle: "I'm working hard out there and trying to do my best every minute...and hopefully get into the lineup this year...two great players. It's easier to play with good players. So, it just makes me better too.”#NHLBruins | @rapid7 pic.twitter.com/D91asyRPqj— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 23, 2023
At 5 feet, 9 inches and 200 pounds, Steen has a low center of gravity and is strong on his skates. He can park himself down low and take some punishment without getting thrown off his game.
“He’s very heavy and … it’s more important that you are heavy to play against than you are high,” said Montgomery. “Like when people talk about players being physical, I would take a 5-9, 195-pound player over a 6-3, 195-pound player. They’re going to be heavier. I’m talking about heaviness.”
Montgomery has mentioned a few times during the preseason that he believes the Bruins need to be a more physical team.
“What we’re looking to improve as a team, we want to be physical in front. He’s been physical. When [Steen] is on top of his game, that’s what he’s doing,” said the coach. “He’s getting to the hard areas, driving the hard areas, making it hard on other teams to have time and space.”
Bussi gets nod in net for opener
Montgomery said Brandon Bussi will get the start in net for Sunday’s preseason opener against the Rangers. The plan is for Bussi to go the whole way, and he’ll be backed up by Kyle Keyser.
The rest of the game-day roster will be:
Forwards: John Beecher, Patrick Brown, Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic, Morgan Geekie, A.J. Greer, Brett Harrison, Fabian Lysell, Jayson Megna, Matt Poitras, Anthony Richard, and James van Riemsdyk.
Defense: Mike Callahan, Ian Mitchell, Alec Regula, Reilly Walsh, Parker Wotherspoon, and Jakub Zboril.
Prepping for game action
After two days of 90-plus minute practices, Saturday’s sessions were about half that time as the club has games Sunday and Tuesday … Another notable line change was Greer riding with Poitras and David Pastrnak. Jesper Boqvist had been with Poitras and Pastrnak Thursday and Friday. Montgomery said the line changes were more about getting looks than it was about anyone’s performances. “It’s more just to move guys around, see different combinations,” he said. “I just wanted to see some different looks and give guys opportunities.” … Birthday boy Mike Callahan of the Franklin, Mass., Callahans led the post-practice stretch after Group A … Marc McLaughlin of the Billerica, Mass., McLaughlins led the stretch for Group B … There was lots of power-play emphasis, including some 4-on-3 work … The first weekend practice of camp brought the fans out. The stands at Warrior Arena were crowded, with Pastrnak jerseys the clear leader in the clubhouse.