The Boston Bruins find themselves in a weird spot when it comes to the right side of their defense.
The group is obviously headlined by Norris contender Charlie McAvoy, and has strong support with the 6-foot-5 and recently re-signed Brandon Carlo as its second-pairing rock. But third-pairing banger Kevan Miller’s body fought harder than most before it finally tapped out and said no more. That was before depth defender Steven Kampfer, on his second tour of duty with the Bruins organization, jumped to the KHL. And before Jeremy Lauzon, who bounced between the left and right side without a noticeable dip in his play, left for Seattle as the first pick (technically speaking, anyway) in Seattle Kraken history.
It’s a grouping desperate for some extra help — especially extra help with youth, upside, and a bit of unknown on their side — behind third-pairing heir apparent Connor Clifton and potential NHL fill-in Tyler Lewington.
…Oh, hello, Brady Lyle.
If you’re wondering if you missed an NHL draft or two, you didn’t. Lyle went undrafted. And in case you’re wondering if you missed some new prospect ranking, you didn’t. Lyle’s probably not cracking it. Skating in a development camp with his fourth different organization, with stops in Ottawa, Arizona, and Anaheim before Boston, the biggest difference with Lyle’s summertime work this time around comes with the 22-year-old finally seeing a path for himself.
“When the opportunity came for me to sign my first contract with Providence, I knew that Boston really relied heavily on their farm system,” Lyle, who first joined the Bruins on an AHL-only deal signed shortly into the COVID-19 pandemic, noted. “They like to develop their players, they have guys on the big club that have came up through Providence [and] started on AHL deals.
“When I was going through the process, [John Ferguson Jr.] really reiterated that to me and showed me that there was a path and if I took advantage of it and made the most of my opportunities that I could follow that same path that other guys had before me. So that was kind of the big appeal and made my decision pretty easy.”
And jumping to the pro ranks after an OHL career with 49 goals and 175 points in 295 games between Owen Sound and North Bay, it was the ability to create from what the backend was what first put the 6-foot, 202-pounder on their radar.
“His offensive talent was what caught our eye in the Ontario League,” Jamie Langenbrunner said. “He was a bit of a… I’ll call it a rogue player. He ran around a little bit, a little bit of structure was missing [and] that would give you a little bit of concerns. But his offensive instincts and his desire to make things happen was definitely what caught our eye.”
Those instincts stuck with Lyle upon his jump to The A, with seven goals and 14 points in a 25-game run with the P-Bruins, and it took Lyle just those 25 games in Providence and less than 13 months to turn that AHL-only deal into an NHL contract.
That’s come with NHL preparation, too.
In addition to his development camp work, Lyle has been part of the group skating with Brad Marchand at Warrior Ice Arena this summer. He’s also been part of the group working with Bruins skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold. When he’s not there, he’s been with Jack Studnicka, who has drawn rave reviews from some after bulking up this summer.
For Lyle, that process started in Providence, with on-ice learning from AHL veterans like Tommy Cross and Josiah Didier, and with off-ice help from Paul Carey on things like renting an apartment and living on your own.
And with the wake-up call that comes with suiting up under the watch of a pro staff.
“I mean, I definitely learned a lot this year,” Lyle admitted. “The coaching staff in Providence was great with me the whole time. I think they’re some of the best in the business. I learned a ton of stuff that I never even heard of before walking in, and I’ve played for a long time. You kind of think that you know a lot and then boom, the first week in Providence, I’m hearing stuff I’ve never heard before and realizing some more technical terms and stuff like that.”
“I think for me, the biggest surprise is how quickly those things came into his game in Providence; credit to the staff down there with working with them and credit to Brady for embracing it,” said Langenbrunner. “And I think he continued to push forward. I think we’ve seen it now this summer and his desire to be a player and in pushing forward again, he’s been here all summer working hard, getting his body into better shape and getting stronger and continuing to work on his skills.”
The emphasis should be on “skills.”
There’s likely not a defenseman that projects to be a contributor the way Lyle does and on a relatively accelerated timeline that provides another, more-than-your-average defensive option to a Boston defense that’s seemingly always going about 10 deep, whether it’s in-season or in the postseason. There’s an element of luck to that, of course, whether that’s related to the aforementioned skill-set or the Bruins’ seemingly undying need for another right-shot defender to emerge on the scene.
But that only further clears a path for Lyle to essentially prove that he can be the Bruins’ next Connor Clifton or Miller as a wild card on the ice and on the NHL depth chart with an up-tempo style and work ethic that refuses to be denied the opportunity that eluded him on draft night and through multiple development camps.
“He’s taken a big step and we look forward to him continuing that there in Providence,” said Langenbrunner.
Providence, as Langenbrunner revealed, for now. But with a definite path to break through to the NHL in front of him.
“I want to do everything I can to be in Boston and put myself in a position where I’m ready to take that next step,” said Lyle. “But for the most part, I’m focused on being in the best shape, cleaning up some of my skating, and getting better every day.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.