Changes are coming to the Bruins’ roster.
Come Monday, general manager Don Sweeney and his staff will have the opportunity to sign players from other organizations when free agency begins at noon. Boston is expected to be in the market for right wingers and goaltenders, per Sweeney.
“We’ll be adding some players, for sure,” he said Friday at Warrior Ice Arena following an intrasquad scrimmage on the final day of development camp.
But Sweeney, who was recently honored as the league’s GM of the Year, stressed another source of personnel could come from within the organization.
Of the 34 prospects that attended the team’s three-day development camp, a handful will return for training camp in September. Forwards Jakob Lauko, Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka; defenseman Axel Andersson; and netminder Kyle Keyser headline the short list of those likely to be back. While none have NHL experience, both Studnicka and Keyser were selected to be part of the Black Aces during the Stanley Cup run.
“[Training] camp will be one for all the young players to be very keenly aware that we played over 100 games this year,” said Sweeney. “We’re going to be very careful with some of our guys. The opportunity is going to be there for several people to make an impression.”
Steen, the eldest of the bunch at 21, plans to stay in Boston for an additional five days. The Sweden native will continue his training with player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner and the coaching staff, as he prepares to compete for a spot on the roster.
What does he hope to work on between now and September? “Everything,” he said, from speed to puck management to strength.
“I think he’ll be a very effective player for us in Providence [to] start,” Langenbrunner said. “We’ll see how quickly he can get himself on the radar for [Bruce Cassidy] and the guys [in Boston].”
“I’m really looking forward to [training camp],” added Steen, who was selected 165th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. “It will be my first season out of my hometown, Karlstad, so it will be a big step for me. I will do my best to take a jersey here. I have to believe in myself.”
Steen primarily played center as a member of the Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League the past three seasons, but noted he’s comfortable on the wing — where he tries to be more aggressive. Both Sweeney and Langenbrunner have expressed confidence in his skills at either position, too. With the status of unrestricted free agents Marcus Johnasson and Noel Acciari uncertain, and the impact of veteran David Backes up for debate, there certainly could be an opening on the sides.
“I’m not saying Marcus is leaving or Noel is leaving, but there might be an opportunity,” Sweeney said. “There are several players that really should have their eyes wide-open and be able to take the next step.”
There, of course, will be competition.
Langenbrunner said Studnicka, who also plays center, reminded the coaches in his exit interview that he can also play wing. (Sweeney, however, called him “a natural center.”) Karson Kuhlman, fresh off his rookie season in which he played 11 regular-season and eight playoff games, also will be in contention. As will anybody who Sweeney brings in during free agency.
Depending on who comes and who goes, Steen and Studnicka may very well be the odd men out. But they’ll have about two months to prepare to give their best shot.
“I think part of the reason we moved the camp up is it gives the prospects a better chance to address some things,” said Langenbrunner.
Studnicka made his intention for the upcoming season clear: He wants to make the team.
“That’s my goal,” he said. “I think going into any camp, you’re in the wrong place if your goal isn’t to make the team. That’s my goal going into this year. That was my goal last year. That was my goal the year before. It should be everybody’s goal who comes to try to compete and play at a high level.”
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