With Boston Bruins Camp Set To Open This Week, ESPN New Hampshire’s Bruins Reporter Mike Grinnell Looks In Depth At Some Positional Battles.
With the Boston Bruins set to open training camp this Thursday at the TD Garden, over the next few days I am going to be posting some things to keep an eye out for in camp. After an off season that saw Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton, Reilly Smith, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille depart. While Matt Beleskey and Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes were brought in, the Bruins are a much different team headed into this season, compared to years past.
Training camp is a place where jobs are won, so I am going to break down some of the positional battles that could be taking place at camp this year.
First Line Wing
First and foremost, replacing the first line left wing, Milan Lucic. Lucic and Krejci have been running mates for as long as Bruins fans can remember. Krejci, who was limited to 47 games last season with a hip injury, says, “it’s going to be a little weird” playing without his former line mate. A change was needed, respectfully, and in came Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes, both who of whom, will contend to play alongside Krejci on the first line. Beleskey a left-winger signed this offseason for 3.8M over 5 years had a breakout season in Anaheim last year. Scoring 22 goals and 32 points in 65 games. Beleskey’s real coming out party was in the playoffs, where in 16 games, he scored 8 goals. Hayes, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Reilly Smith also had a breakout year tallying 19 goals and 35 points in 72 games played. I also believe Brett Connolly will be in the running for the first line. After his season being cut short due to a broken hand last year, I think the former 5th overall pick is going to have a breakout year playing alongside David Krejci, if given the opportunity. David Pastrnak is another name I think you will see get some time playing along side 46, but Pastrnak is best alongside center Ryan Spooner, where the two lit it up last season, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.”
Defense was a major problem last year with the Bruins. Poor play from veterans Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid and injuries to Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton left the Bruins with a very inconsistent group of defensemen. Acquired in the Milan Lucic trade, new GM Don Sweeney tried to address the inconsistency on defense by acquiring Colin Miller, formally of the Manchester Monarchs, a Los Angeles Kings AHL Affiliate (Now ECHL). Miller won both the hardest shot and fastest skater competitions at the AHL all-star game. So expect Miller to compete for the 6th defensemen spot. Who will he be competing against? Matt Irwin. The Bruins signed Irwin to a one-year, 800K contract for this upcoming season. Irwin spent last season in San Jose, where he tallied 19 points in 53 games. Down the stretch of last season, with Dougie Hamilton being hurt, Zach Trotman did a good job at filling his place the 25 year old played in 25 games with the team last season, posting a -2 +/-. Lastly, I expect Kevin Miller to compete for the spot, and if it wasn’t for injuries that plagued Miller the past two season, I believe it wouldn’t even be a competition. If Miller can stay healthy, I believe he will win the 6th and final defensemen position.
With the departure of Niklas Svedberg to the KHL, the Bruins are in need of someone to backup Tuukka Rask. Not that Svedberg did much of that anyway last season. Rask played a career high 70 games last season and had a save percentage of .922 with 2.30 GAA. At times last season, Rask looked tired and fatigued, the Bruins need to address their backup goalie need in order to take some of the pressure of their franchise goalie. The Bruins have brought Jonas Gustavsson in on a personal-tryout. Keep an eye out for the former Detroit backup to take the backup position from one of the prospects. Speaking of the prospects, Malcolm Subban, the most notorious of the bunch, is more then likely going to start the year in Providence, after a tough outing in St. Louis last season, I don’t think the confidence is to high on Subban, just yet. Also expect former Hobey Baker Finalest Zane McIntyre to start the year in Providence. At the ages of 23 (McIntyre) and 21 (Subban) the goalie completion is going to be fun to watch, in a few years. Lastly, keep an eye out of Jeremy Smith. The former 2nd round pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2007 draft could make a serious push for the backup goalie job.
After a very interesting offseason, expect a very interesting camp here in Boston this September.