The NHL season is just a few days away and the Boston Bruins are finalizing roster spots for the 2021 opener. With final cuts expected soon and line tinkering well underway, Boston has a lot of young faces looking to crack this year’s 25-man roster.
Which prospects are ready to make the jump?
The Bruins certainly have some holes to fill after a couple of free agent departures on the blue line (sigh) during the offseason as well as some promising young players at other positions.
Let’s get to know some of the faces you should see at the NHL level in the near future.
(Note: Players like Jeremy Lauzon and Jack Studnicka do not count in this list since they made the jump to the NHL last year.)
Boston looks set to finally get a return on their first-round investment from five (yes, five) years ago. Zboril was the first of Boston’s three-straight first-round selections in 2015, picked ahead of four All-Stars and current Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk.
Over the past few years, Zboril has developed into a solid defensive player, albeit gradually, and has been taking shifts on Boston’s third defensive pair alongside Kevin Miller during camp.
A physical presence with decent numbers, the 23-year-old is locked up for two more seasons on a low-money deal. With the AHL still not set to start for another month, Boston could look to try Zboril at the NHL level to start the season.
A forward with a high upside, Frederic hasn’t quite produced at the NHL level like the Bruins have hoped, albeit in cameo appearances.
Frederic has spent most of training camp on the fourth line.
David Pastrnak isn’t quite ready yet after offseason surgery, meaning the lines will be juggled for the start of the season. With players like Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka likely moving up the lines to start the year, space may have opened up for Frederic on the fourth line.
And who knows - if his point production continues to lag behind, maybe he can make up for it with his physicality, something Boston desperately needs.
The Bruins chose not to sign veteran defensemen Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug over the offseason, paving the way for the team’s hefty pipeline of blue line talent to move up the organizational ladder.
Vaakanainen has been close to cracking the NHL roster for a couple seasons, edged out by depth and experience above him.
The Bruins still have a lot of questions on the back end. Can Kevan Miller and John Moore stay healthy? Can younger players like Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon be consistent?
Vaakanainen could help slot in if Boston needs a depth piece, likely as a seventh or eighth defenseman who can produce.
The backup throughout the playoffs after Tuukka Rask opted out of the bubble, Vladar’s only NHL action came in a 29-minute postseason relief appearance against eventual champion Tampa Bay - talk about getting your feet wet.
Now, Vladar finds himself third on the team’s depth chart once again, but with a new three-year deal and the two veterans ahead of him in a contract year.
With the compressed schedule, it’s a virtual guarantee that one of Rask or Halak gets a knock or needs a few games off.
Since the NHL is employing taxi squads this season, Vladar could find himself as the next man up sooner rather than later.