Fill In The Blanks: Bruins 2011-12 Roster Version

 

It's July 20th. Pending the signing of Brad Marchand - which the feisty winger admitted at Monday night's DVD premiere is an inevitability, albeit knowing nothing about the discussions - it's safe to say that the Bruins are done making moves this offseason. That brings their transaction total to five - signing Benoit Pouliot and Marchand, trading for Joe Corvo, bringing Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight on board and extending Adam McQuaid

Peter Chiarelli's attention will now turn to re-upping David Krejci and Tuukka Rask, which means that we've reached the point of the summer where it's time to turn our attention to what Claude Julien's going to do to ready his team for the year ahead. 

The following names are likely non-roster training camp invitees, but nothing's yet set in stone:

Goaltenders

Defense
Forwards
Along with current roster players, if all those names receive invitations, that means that when camp opens, the Bruins will have five goaltenders, 14 defensemen and 24 forwards (hat would be a serious reduction from last year's six goalies, 19 D and 32 forwards, but the Bruins are also at a point where they know the talent that they have in the system). There will surely be a few more additions that will bump those numbers up a bit, but unless somebody spectacular shows up, they won't last long and likely won't cause much of a stir. 

The ones that do will still have their work cut out for them in order to make it through all the cuts. Taking a look at the Stanley Cup Final Game 3 roster (because we obviously have to include Nathan Horton), there isn't much room for anyone to worm their way in:

Nathan Horton - David Krejci - Milan Lucic
Mark Recchi - Patrice Bergeron - Brad Marchand

Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid

Tuukka Rask

With Steven Kampfer waiting in the wings to take over Kaberle's role - and Joe Corvo to assume it in the interim - the defense corps is pretty firmed up without anyone having laced up a skate. It's not as sure as the goaltending tandem, but it's a pretty sure thing. 

While the Bruins have high hopes for Pouliot, they also expect a much stronger year from Tyler Seguin - and there's no reason that they shouldn't get it. Julien will probably try to keep the explosive forward on a wing while he develops a stronger defensive presence - and Felger will no doubt rail against him for that abomination of a coaching decision - but there's little reason to believe that Seguin couldn't center the third line (regardless of who's on it). Still, the thought of he and Marchand on the wings with Bergeron would surely give opposing coaches and second-pairing defensemen nightmares, and it would be a lot of fun to watch, to boot. 

Seguin's making the team, there's no doubt about that. Pouliot, it's safe to imagine, will as well, though it's as yet difficult to discern just how much of what kind of role he'll play. Because of Boston's familiarity with Seguin, it's fair to imagine that they'll give him a shot where he wants to play, whether it be second-line wing or third-line center. Pouliot right now projects as a third-line winger, though that could be in Providence as easily as in Boston, considering the Bruins' deep, talented pockets at that position. 

The biggest road bumps that either Seguin or Pouliot will encounter en route to finding their roles aren't big road bumps. They stand five feet, ten inches and five feet, eleven inches and measure 175 and 202 pounds, respectively. And their names, everyone knows now, are Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight. 

That the Bruins are reported to have signed the two young, talented centermen to entry-level deals (they haven't announced it yet) says something of what the Boston brass thought of their performance at development camp earlier in July. It also says that Seguin and Pouliot - two naturally talented forwards who, albeit in short time, have spent spurts in the press box during their careers - should be on notice.

Knight and Spooner don't take time off. They don't take workouts off. They - especially Knight, who suffers from Diabetes - don't take their nutrition for granted. And from what anyone's seen of them on the ice, they certainly don't take shifts off.

I've suggested before that one of the two will make the team, especially with the Bruins having cap room to carry extra players and because neither will be 20 by December 31st, 2011, meaning that they can't play in Providence, per the NHL-CHL agreement. 

Since Jordan Caron is eligible to play at any level, he becomes expendable, at least as far as our opening-night lineup is concerned. There's no reason that Caron can't watch the game from up top, or go to Providence where he could probably get more regular minutes, especially on the power play, where it stands to reason that the Bruins would like him to develop his net-front presence. Because neither Knight nor Spooner can make the I-95 switch, they either have to make the team or head back to the OHL.

Of course, there's the option of having one or both of them around for the first nine games of the year, and at that point, if they're deemed to not be NHL-ready, the Bruins can send them back to the OHL without it costing them a year of their ELC. If, in the small sample size that training camp, rookie games, preseason and those first nine NHL tilts provide, one or both of them appear ready, the Bruins can keep them around, even if it means having them watch a lot of games from the press box.

Of course, it's not likely the Bruins would just let talent like that languish on the ninth floor with the chocolate chip cookies, flat ginger ale and root beer that tastes (and looks, ironically enough) like tonic water. But that puts Chiarelli and Co. in a bit of a dilemma: neither Knight nor Spooner are going to improve too immensely in another season of OHL play - they've already had their jumps (last year) and any progress they show at this point isn't likely to raise their ceilings any - and it's not even likely that Knight could benefit from the extra time to put on weight, whereas Spooner could at least use that. 

Caron, Spooner and Knight will all be battling for a chance to crack the roster and make a statement in the NHL this season. Caron may actually benefit most from the competition in camp - last year, he was presumed to be making the team, because Joe Colborne wasn't ready and there wasn't anyone else close to his level of play, save for Seguin, who was a shoo-in. But if seeing Jared Knight in a few camps has convinced anybody of anything, it's his desire and willingness to work for what he wants, and more importantly to stop at nothing until he gets there. Spooner's not much different, but it's obvious that he could use some time to put on some muscle if he's going to be battling against NHL second-liners in a couple of seasons. 

The disclaimer in all of this is one that we've heard a lot about the Bruins in the past 12-plus months: it's not a bad problem to have. 

And it's not. But that doesn't make it any less interesting. And with opening night now just 76 days away, it's one that's going to start getting some attention.

Considering everything, who do you think makes the opening night roster?
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