By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins already have their group of internal options for the open spots on their NHL roster. It’s Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman, Peter Cehlarik, and Jack Studnicka. The opportunities for these kids may be few and far between, too, with Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie signed as free agents earlier this summer.
But Swedish forward Oskar Steen, who was without question Boston’s best forward in their preseason-opening overtime loss to the Devils on Monday night, might have the tools to make things interesting.
A 2016 sixth-round pick, the 21-year-old Steen shined as an all-situation player at the Prudential Center on Monday, finishing his night with one goal on four shots in 17:12 of time on ice. And when the Bruins were in need of a goal, it was the Steen who appeared to be the most aggressive B’s skater, nearly scoring after forcing a turnover early in the third period. There was an element of speed and surprise with Steen’s game, too, as the 5-foot-9 forward was able to turn nothing into something for that aforementioned goal, working through three Jersey defenders before beating Cory Schneider with a snapshot.
“He kind of separated in the neutral zone. He took the ice in front of him and then attacked,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of the Steen strike. “He’s a good example: His first go in North America — at least at the NHL level – a little bit tentative early on. You’ve got to kind of prod them to just play hockey and get them to forget about who they’re playing against.
“I think he did a lot more of that as the game went on.”
Perhaps Steen’s success in his preseason debut isn’t all that shocking. This is a prospect who’s played pro hockey in Sweden for the last four years, and comes to Boston after a breakout season with Farjestads BK Karlstad of the Swedish League last season, featuring 17 goals and 37 points in 46 games. But there’s a lot to like when it comes to potentially finding another midseason weapon should the Bruins find themselves in need of some additional right-side, middle-six scoring pop.
Now there are some obvious things for Steen to work on (he was on the ice for Jack Hughes’ power-play goal and seemed to simply lose track of the 2019 No. 1 overall pick), but it’s a debut that might warrant an extended look — and with some NHL-level talents — throughout the remainder of the Black and Gold’s preseason slate.
Here are some other takeaways from a 4-3 overtime loss at The Rock…
UV-58 gets heavy minutes in preseason debut
Excluding established veteran depth pieces like Alex Petrovic (with the Bruins on a professional tryout) and Steven Kampfer, Urho Vaakanainen took to the ice as the most NHL-ready defenseman in the Black and Gold’s prospect-heavy lineup on Monday. So perhaps it’s not surprise that the 2017 first-round pick ended the night with a team-leading 24:52 of time on ice.
But it could also be a sign of what’s to come for Vaakanainen and the Bruins this season.
The Bruins are going to open the year up with both Kevan Miller (knee) on Johnny Moore (shoulder) on the shelf. Zdeno Chara, who is recovering from offseason elbow and jaw surgeries, hopes to be ready to go on Opening Night. And even with Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy officially back in the fold on new deals, there’s a potential opening for Vaakanainen.
Bruins rookie goaltender Kyle Keyser stands out as No. 1 star
We can talk about Steen and Vaakanainen, but it was really Kyle Keyser who stole the show for the Bruins. An undrafted free agent signed out of the OHL, Keyser stopped all 17 shots thrown his way, and looked damn impressive doing it.
A victim of chaos in front of his net throughout his showing, Keyser tracked the puck extremely well, denied second-chance opportunities, and really appeared to be dialed in. His best stop came on a shorthanded breakaway on Miles Wood.
Keyser is essentially competing with Daniel Vladar for the 1B job in Providence with Maxime Lagace, and is certainly off to the better start if we go off Monday alone, with Vladar struggling in a 9-of-13 effort in relief of Keyser.
Jack Hughes is going to be an awful lot of fun to watch
The Bruins got a good look at 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes on Monday night. And man, oh man, is he gonna be something for the Devils. Like all these young guns coming up, Hughes’ skating game is just a delight, and his hands make everything look so effortless out there. Consider their core, and some of their other moves — the Devils also added P.K. Subban via trade with Nashville and signed Wayne Simmonds — and New Jersey should have a playoff-contending team this season.