When Jarome Iginla left town, he took 30 goals and a third of the most productive line for the 2013 Bruins with him. Now that the free agency bonanza has cooled off, it would seem that, barring a blockbuster deal, the Bruins will have to replace that scoring from within. I wanted to take a look at the current roster to see just where some of those extra points might come from.
It was a rough first year in Boston for Eriksson in many ways. He suffered through a number of nagging injuries ranging from multiple concussions (one of which caused him to spend the night in a Buffalo hospital), to an infected cut on his heel courtesy of one of Sochi's top of the line luxury hot tubs. He had difficulty getting ice time even when he was healthy, partially due to his demotion to the third line. Overall he scored only ten goals over the course of the year; his lowest total since his rookie campaign in the 06-07 season.
Consider this a second chance to make a first impression. With Iginla taking his talents to the south Rockies, Eriksson is now penciled into the lineup next to David Krejci and Milan Lucic on one of the B's top two lines (I consider them 1 and 1A). As a left handed shot playing right wing, his job this year will often be to fire quick shots at the net on the rush, allowing Lucic to gobble up rebounds as he comes crashing in from the other side. Combined with good health, the added ice time and increase in offensive zone face-offs that comes with his promotion could lead to a substantial increase in goals. For a player who has not yet turned 29 and who scored 25+ goals for four years in a row before the lockout shortened 2012 campaign, a bounce back type of season would not be a surprise.
Most would say that Soderberg had an excellent rookie year after he tallied 16 goals and 32 assists while scrapping for minutes on Boston's third line. But it could have been even better. After his first 42 games (he played 72 total), Soderberg had only 6 goals. Only when he developed a nice chemistry with Loui Eriksson late in the year did his big numbers finally come.
Some might say that he could be in line for regression with Eriksson moving to greener pastures, and a lack of chemistry with his new line mate is certainly possible. But the Soderberg that I saw near the end of last season looked like a confident and dynamic player who seems like he will only get better as he becomes more familiar with the Bruins system and with the NHL itself. If an injury occurs or if one of the players on the top two lines struggles, Soderberg could be the man first in line for a promotion. If that happens, 25+ goals could be in the cards for the silky smooth Swede.
A bit of a wild card going into training camp, Spooner could provide a real spark to the Bruins offense if things fall correctly. Though he makes an odd fit next to potential third liners Soderberg and Chris Kelly (All three are left handed shots and natural centers), it will likely be where he'll have to make his mark if he wants to contribute this year. Still only 22 years old, Spooner was unable to light the lamp in 23 games last season (though he did manage to get 11 assists). However, this is a player who scored 17 goals and averaged nearly a point per game for Providence in 2012 (he had similar production whenever he was there in 2013), and who has an offensive pedigree that few prospects can match.
Spooner's biggest problem may be that he has no perfect place to fit in the Boston lineup as it's currently constructed. If he's the caliber of prospect that the Bruins are hoping for though, it won't matter. Talent will win out, and if he manages to take the next step in evolving his game to the pro level, the coaches will find a way to get him on the ice.
Before being slowed down by injuries last year, he had four straight seasons with 30+ goals at two different levels of the minors. He'll be unlikely to match that lofty production in the pros, but with his hard nosed and physical style of play he could become a staple in the Boston lineup as a deflection and rebound snatching specialist.
It's been a bit of a struggle for Dougie to fully gain the trust of the Boston coaches, but entering his third year in the league, the 21 year-old has the talent to develop into a premier all-around defenseman. Whether it's through injuries, or through his own improved play, Hamilton could see a big bump in offensive zone face-offs this year.
He had a great rookie season with 16 goals and 40 points overall, but you could tell at times that he was still just getting used to the NHL game. Still only 23 years old, the diminutive defenseman with elite puck handling skills and a killer shot could find another gear as he gets more comfortable among the big boys.