Judging by the Bruins’ offseason thus far, this upcoming season will not include a youth movement similar to what happened last year on defense.
Free agency saw Boston bring in veterans Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek, Derek Forbort, and Linus Ullmark, to go along with the re-signings of Taylor Hall, Brandon Carlo and Mike Reilly. These additions and re-signings have seemingly left very little room in the Bruins’ line-up on opening night for prospects in the system to break through.
That being said, the Bruins have yet to begin training camp, and inevitable injuries still make it possible that the Bruins will look to Providence for young replacements at some point.
If, by some chance, a spot in the lineup opens up, the question then becomes who gets the call up?
Let’s take a look at the most likely candidates.
If there is one player likely to find himself with the Bruins in October (even if it’s initially watching from the press box), it’s Studnicka.
Arguably the B’s best prospect, Studnicka did play in 20 games last season, but he only managed a goal an two assists during that time. Despite struggling offensively, Studnicka showed flashes of the skill he possesses last season, and has apparently added some serious muscle in the off-season to better suit him in the NHL.
With David Krejci’s departure, the Bruins now have a very big hole to fill on their 2nd line and their 2nd power play unit. Although it looks like Charlie Coyle will start in Krejci’s former role, there’s no guarantee he’ll keep that spot, especially if he plays the way he did last season.
Studnicka is certainly a longshot to play 2C, but stranger things have happened.
Studnicka could also be in the running to play center on the 4th line as well, if Cassidy is looking to employ a more skilled checking line in 2021-2022.
There’s also the possibility he could slide to the wing as well on the 3rd or 4th line.
After a tough, injury-filled 2019-2020 season, Lauko’s first full season in the AHL helped him move up the depth chart, and could land him a spot on the Bruins sooner rather than later.
Lauko is an excellent skater with tremendous offensive awareness and whose defensive game is also rounding into form. In 23 AHL games last season, Lauko recorded 5 goals and added 14 assists.
Although the Bruins have seemingly filled up their bottom 6 forward spots, if the Bruins trade a guy like Jake DeBrusk or if someone like Erik Haula struggles to find his game in Boston, the door could open for the young Czech winger.
Since being drafted by Boston in 2015, articles just like this one have speculated on the future of Senyshyn. If Senyshyn doesn’t find a spot in Boston this year, this could be the last year anyone on this site writes about him.
Every year, Senyshyn seems to be making strides towards becoming an NHL player...but he hasn’t been able to break through.
Granted, Senyshyn has been decent in his call-ups to the Bruins, but each of the last two years, he’s gotten injured before he can get comfortable with his new surroundings and teammates. Senyshyn recorded 7 goals and 6 assists in 18 games last year for the P-Bruins and does have the speed and offensive abilities to be an asset for the Bruins.
However, much like most of the players in this article, the Bruins would have to suffer several injuries to their forwards (knock on wood) for Senyshyn to get an extended chance in the NHL next season.
Speaking of players whose time with the Bruins seems to be running out, Vaakanainen needs to take his game to the next level in 2021-2022,or his window in Boston may close.
When drafted, Vaakanainen was much hyped for his smooth skating, puck-moving abilities, and smarts with the puck. He looked like he’d become a top-pairing defenseman someday. Yes, Vaakanainen is still only 22 years old, but his first few seasons in North America (mostly with the P-Bruins) have not lived up to the hype.
Offensively, Vaakanainen has put up 31 points in 95 games with the Providence Bruins and just 2 assists in 16 NHL contests. At this point, Vaakanainen’s offensive game, much like other parts of his play, has lacked to the assertiveness to strive in the NHL.
Part of this may be a result of him not being physically strong enough at this point in his career: at 6’1” and 185 pounds, Vaakanainen has struggled in the dirty areas in his own zone.
One thing to consider about Vaakanainen before writing him off, however, is that he has been unlucky with injuries early in his career, which may be slowing his development. A concussion sidelined Vaakanainen for numerous games in his rookie year, followed by upper-body injuries in year two.
Given that he was drafted 18th overall in 2017, he still has the potential to be more of the player the Bruins thought they drafted.
With the possibility of injuries and the Bruins’ depth at defense being quite thin going into the 2021-22 season, it is very likely that we will see Vaakanainen in a Bruins uniform this season.
If the name Brady Lyle is new to you, expect to hear a lot more about the undrafted 22 year old in the very near future, especially the the Bruins’ defense falters this season.After signing an AHL-only contract with the Providence Bruins last season, his standout play in 25 games led the Bruins to quickly sign him to an entry-level deal in April.
In his first season in Providence, Lyle recorded 7 goals (2nd among all AHL defenders) and 7 assists.Lyle has the potential to bring some good size (6’3” 213 lbs), offensive talent, and a defensive game that has improved by leaps and bounds in the AHL. In addition, of all the players who were invited to this year’s development camp, Lyle was one of the standouts for most observers.
Of course, Lyle will probably have to wait his turn next season, as players like Connor Clifton, Jakub Zboril, Jack Achan, and Vaakanainen will probably get their shot with Boston before Lyle does.
A list of possible prospects to make an impact in Boston this year wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Bruins’ first-round pick this year, Fabian Lysell.
The very fast and very skilled 18 year old signed an ELC with the Bruins just 17 days after being drafted and is expected to be at training camp this fall.
Although Lysell making the team out of camp seems very unlikely, many experts are predicting he could take the fast track to the NHL, just like a young David Pastrnak once did. If you recall, Pastrnak also signed an ELC as an 18 year old and would play just 25 games with the P-Bruins before making his jump to the NHL.
To expect Lysell to be anything like Pastrnak might be a bit of a reach; however, the Bruins’ bottom six isn’t really the most gifted offensive group, so bringing up an ultra-talented kid to inject some scoring into the lineup isn’t out of the question.
Many eyes will be on Lysell in training camp and in Providence, as the Bruins are desperately in need of Grade A prospects in their system.
Some additional AHL Bruins that could spend some time with big squad this upcoming season are Achan, Oskar Steen, Cameron Hughes, Samuel Asselin, and goaltender Kyle Keyser.
In addition, newly acquired J.D. Greenway could end up in Boston in the near future if the Bruins decide they need a bit more muscle and meanness in their lineup.
Despite the off-season additions, without Krejci this year, the Bruins may be a worse team than last season.
For Boston to be successful this season, they could really use a breakout season from a current roster member (like Frederic), a bounce-back year (Coyle or DeBrusk), or a big surprise from one of the prospects listed above.
Which youngster is most likely to make an impact in Boston this season?
This poll is closed