By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With the plans and dates set, the NHL is back.
For the league-best Boston Bruins, the fun will begin on Aug. 2 when the team plays in their first of three round-robin tournament games to determine their postseason seeding. It will be start of the B’s quest to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup one year after losing it since the 2009 Penguins, and will come under incredibly unusual circumstances.
Before that happens, however, the Bruins must decide on the roster (with a maximum of 31 players) that they’ll bring to Toronto for the start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And they finally have exactly that, with their training camp roster revealed on Saturday night, and with their first skate scheduled for Monday morning at Brighton’s Warrior Ice Arena.
Patrice Bergeron: Boston’s first line center, Bergeron recorded 56 points in 61 games between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. This line will be looking for some serious revenge after going out with an injured whimper last postseason.
Anders Bjork: From the start of his season through Jan. 13, Bjork totaled seven goals, 14 points, and 51 shots on goal in 39 games. But Bjork dipped from there, scoring just two goals and five points in 19 games. Bjork was also scratched in four of the team’s final five games before the pandemic. He’ll have to fight his way back into Cassidy’s rotation.
Anton Blidh: A fourth-line energy piece, Blidh totaled 20 hits and five blocks in seven games with Boston.
Paul Carey: The 31-year-old Carey totaled 22 goals and 39 points as the P-Bruins’ captain in 2019-20, and has eight goals and eight assists in 100 career NHL games. A Boston, Mass. native, it wasn’t hard to bring Carey back to Warrior.
Charlie Coyle: The Black and Gold’s third-line rock, Coyle totaled 16 goals and 37 points in 70 games prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that cancelled the remainder of the regular season. Coyle was arguably the B’s best weapon last postseason, with nine goals (seven of which coming at even strength) and 16 points in 24 games.
Jake DeBrusk: A pending restricted free agent, Jake DeBrusk will look to return to the ice and rediscover his scoring touch, as he scored just three goals over the final 18 games of the regular season. Cassidy had at times been critical of the lack of production with DeBrusk and David Krejci on Boston’s second this season, and even moved DeBrusk down to Coyle’s line.
Trent Frederic: Another boost from Providence, the 2016 first-round pick totaled eight goals and 32 points in 59 games on the farm this year along with an AHL-leading 148 penalty minutes as the league’s top brawler. Frederic has appeared in 10 NHL games in his career, with zero points, 20 shots, and 26 hits with 9:03 of average time on ice.
Ondrej Kase: Acquired from Anaheim in exchange for David Backes, a first-round pick, and defensive prospect Axel Andersson, Kase seems like the first guy thrown in there as the right-side fix for David Krejci’s line. The Czech winger had one assist and nine shots on goal in his six-game run with Boston prior to the Mar. 12 pause.
David Krejci: The 34-year-old Krejci scored 13 goals and totaled 43 points in 61 appearances this season.
Sean Kuraly: The high-motor Kuraly spent his season bouncing around the Boston bottom six, but set career-highs in assists (17), points (23), and hits (145) during his 69-game run. Kuraly has eight goals and 16 points in 36 career postseason games. Three of those eight goals, by the way, have been game-winning tallies. Big Goals Only.
Karson Kuhlman: The 24-year-old scored one goal and six points in his 25-game run with the B’s this season, and appeared in eight postseason contests for the Bruins last spring, scoring a goal (in the Stanley Cup Final) and two points. Having experience with the line, Kuhlman is a potential dark horse RW-2 option for the Bruins should injuries strike.
Par Lindholm: The left-shot fourth-line forward had three goals and three assists in 40 games this season. He becomes your fourth-line center if the Bruins want to make Kuraly a permanent fixture with Coyle on the B’s third line.
Brad Marchand: Finishing the regular season with the sixth-most points in the NHL (87 in 70 games), Marchand has become the go-to playmaker on his line with Bergeron and Pastrnak. He doesn’t mind the role, but I’m sure the Bruins would like to see him take a few more shots this postseason given his ability to absolutely ruin lives with that top-shelf look.
Joakim Nordstrom: Given his defensive-zone and penalty-killing prowess (especially when it comes to shot blocking), Nordstrom likely begins the restart as one of Boston’s 12 forwards. But the Swedish forward will have some serious competition for his ice-time. You saw that during the tail end of the B’s regular season, as Blidh’s return sent Nordstrom to the press box as the B’s healthy scratches on a few occasions.
David Pastrnak: The co-winner of the 2019-20 Rocket Richard Trophy, a healthy Pastrnak will look to return to form as a playoff monster in 2020, as a re-broken thumb limited him to ‘just’ 19 points in 24 postseason games last spring. (He had 20 points in 12 games during Boston’s 2018 postseason run.)
Nick Ritchie: The B’s other deadline add — acquired in a deadline day swap for Danton Heinen — Ritchie has spent quarantine on his family’s horse farm in Ontario. A big-bodied wing, Ritchie scored his first (and only) goal and assist in just his second game with the Bruins, and returns with 23 hits in seven games with Boston.
Zach Senyshyn: The Bruins were beginning to see some of Senyshyn’s potential before a lower-body injury derailed his game and returned him down to Providence earlier this season. He’ll have to leapfrog about five guys to get back into action this postseason, you’d think, but the NHL sample to date is passable. Senyshyn has a 33-33-66 line in 174 career AHL games.
Jack Studnicka: Scoring a team-leading 23 goals and 49 points in 60 games with Providence this year (and an assist in his two-game NHL cameo), Studnicka consistently wowed P-Bruins head coach Jay Leach. Given the hype that’s followed him, it almost wouldn’t shock me to see the Bruins seriously consider throwing him into action for one of these round-robin games.
Chris Wagner: The Walpole, Mass. native recorded 10 points and 192 hits in 67 games this season.
Notable omissions: No major surprises here at all, but the list of players who suited up in NHL games in 2019-20 but were not invited back to Boston includes Peter Ceharlik, Brendan Gaunce, Cameron Hughes, and Brett Ritchie.
Brandon Carlo: The 6-foot-5 Carlo was tied for third on the team in ice-time (20:29 per game), and set career-highs in assists (15) and points (19) during the regular season. Carlo was also one of just 12 NHL defensemen to log at least 200 minutes on the penalty kill, and was one of the league’s best shot-suppresssors while down a man, on the ice for just 50.01 shots per 60 minutes of shorthanded time on ice (third-best among that group).
Zdeno Chara: Will four months off help or hurt Boston’s 43-year-old captain? Not sure. But Chara has been one of the most active skaters in Phase 2 workouts, leading the small-group skates on a near-daily basis.
Connor Clifton: Cliffy Hockey is an interesting name to watch in this restart. One of the biggest surprises of last season, 2019-20 was a much different story for Clifton, as he struggled to play with the three-zone swagger that made him a fixture a year ago, and then battled an injury that kept him out of action for two months. But this pause may have been just the thing Clifton needed to reset and then get back after it with a style that can leave the opposition spinning.
Matt Grzelcyk: It was a year of highs across the board for Grzelcyk in 2019-20, as the 5-foot-9 defenseman set single-season bests in goals (four), assists (17), points (21), power-play points (seven), and games (68). He’s from Charlestown, y’know.
Torey Krug: Neither side hopes this to be the case, but this could very well be Torey Krug’s swan song with the Bruins. One of the top power-play quarterbacks in the game, Krug scored nine goals and 49 points during the regular season, and has been the sixth-highest scoring defender over the last five seasons, with 256 points in 363 games.
Jeremy Lauzon: A left-shot defender capable of playing the right side without any noticeable issues, Lauzon has tallied one goal and an assist in 19 games with the Big B’s this year, but logged the sixth-most shorthanded time on ice (19:43) on the team from Feb. 15 through the pause. The Bruins were clearly happy with what he was giving them as their left-side penalty-killing D behind Chara, and he’s probably the current leader in the clubhouse to be Boston’s No. 6 defenseman.
Charlie McAvoy: After witch doctors cursed his sticks for over 50 games, you were beginning to see McAvoy’s offensive game surge prior to the league’s pause, with five goals and 15 points over his final 17 games of the season.
John Moore: A healthy scratch in all but five of Boston’s final 20 regular season games, Moore is likely the first defenseman to be thrown in the mix should the Bruins need to make an in-series switch.
Urho Vaakanainen: The Bruins saw a five-game sample of the Finnish defenseman in 2019-20, and it was pretty much as advertised. Nothing flashy, efficient, and defensive-minded. But on the farm, Vaakanainen showed a bit more offensive flair. “He’s always gonna have that defensive aspect to his game, always gonna be competitive,” Leach said of Vaakanainen. “But the offensive stuff is starting to come bit more naturally to him and that’s just fine with us.”
Jakub Zboril: The 2015 first-round pick totaled 19 points for the third straight AHL season, and his plus-20 rating was the best of his three-year AHL career, and was the 11th-best in the AHL.
Notable omissions: Steven Kampfer became the first (and maybe only) Bruin to opt out of the restart. Citing family health concerns (both Kampfer’s wife and child have heart defects), the 31-year-old, who was No. 9 on Boston’s defensive depth chart, has decided to stay home. Kevan Miller, who missed the entire season, is still recovering from yet another knee operation.
Jaroslav Halak: The 35-year-old Halak posted an 18-6-6 record with three shutouts and an .919 save percentage for a B’s tandem that captured the organization’s first Jennings Trophy since 2008-09.
Max Lagace: In a platoon role, Lagace posted a 22-7-3 record with a .919 save percentage and 2.37 goals against average this season. Lagace has appeared in 17 career NHL games (all with the Vegas Golden Knights).
Tuukka Rask: A likely Vezina finalist for 2019-20, Rask was one of the league’s top goaltenders in the regular season, with a league-best .941 save percentage and .876 high-danger save percentage at five-on-five. Rask also posted the league’s top GSAA (goals saved about average) at all-situation play, at 22.56. But as everybody knows, Rask still in search of his first Stanley Cup championship as a starter.
Dan Vladar: Darth Vladar will come to Boston on the heels of posting the AHL’s best save percentage (.936) and goals against average (1.79) in 25 appearances for the P-Bruins in 2019-20.
Notable omissions: After an injury-plagued season between the ECHL and AHL, goaltender Kyle Keyser is not being called back to Boston. 2020 Hobey Baker finalist Jeremy Swayman, meanwhile, is not eligible to play due to his signing date.