The NHL Expansion Draft has come and gone and the Boston Bruins, predictably, were stripped of another defenseman, leaving the already thin blue line corps needing reinforcements.
Jeremy Lauzon, a promising prospect who rose through the Bruins ranks before his breakout season a year ago, is now a member of Seattle’s inaugural roster.
The loss is a big one for Boston, as Lauzon was a top-four defenseman and a fixture on the Bruins’ penalty kill.
After losing Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug to free agency last offseason, Boston is starting to thin out on the back end.
The Bruins certainly tried to address the loss of Lauzon as free agency opened, re-signing Mike Reilly and adding Derek Forbort.
Here’s how Boston’s defense currently shapes up:
Matt Grzelcyk - Charlie McAvoy
Derek Forbort - Brandon Carlo
Mike Reilly - Connor Clifton
The Bruins likely still need another piece in this defense corps if they have a legitimate shot at contending for a Cup, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say this is how things look on Opening Night.
In any season, you’re going to need a few defensemen to step up here and there in the event of injuries; with Lauzon’s departure (and the departure of fill-in guys like Jarred Tinordi and Steven Kampfer), the Bruins are looking a little thin.
If you assume that’s your top six, the Bruins will be looking to carry at least one spare defenseman when the season begins (just in case of a day-of-game injury or something like that).
Depth could be a problem
Boston has a few promising prospects on defense that have gotten their feet wet at the NHL level. The question is: are they ready to jump in the deep end if/when called upon?
Jakub Zboril seems to be the de-facto #7 at this point, but it’s fair to say that his spot in the press box/”first man in” role isn’t set in stone.
Behind Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen leads the pack of internal candidates to start the 2021-22 season on the Bruins roster. The first-round pick has spent a few years developing at the AHL level and saw action last year during a shortened NHL and AHL season.
Another back-end option is Jack Ahcan. The former St. Cloud State standout signed with Boston in March of 2020 and took less than a year to make his NHL debut. While his development has been relatively fast, he lacks true size for an NHL defenseman.
Size isn’t an issue for Nick Wolff. Another college product, Wolff too signed with Boston in 2020 and played briefly in Europe before returning for the AHL season in Providence. The 6-foot-5, left-shooting defenseman may need a little more time to develop before making the leap to the NHL level.
The Bruins could also elect to dip into what remains of the free agent pool to bring in a more steady, “ready if needed” veteran, kind of like what they had in the Kampfer/Tinordi types, or in guys like Shane Hnidy in the past.
Ultimately, however, the loss of Lauzon (and the retirement of Kevan Miller too) gives the Bruins fewer options on the back end.
We know a fill-in defenseman will be needed at some point this season. Will anyone step up?