Bruins Notebook: Getting to know the team’s newest centers
Knowing that David Krejci could (and would) be out the door to return to his native Czech Republic, the Bruins aimed for center depth on the first day of free agency and ultimately landed on Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek.
All things considered, these weren’t the most glamorous moves.
Haula put up a solid nine goals and 21 points in 51 games with the Predators in 2021, while Nosek posted a career-high eight goals and 18 points in 38 games for the Golden Knights. Their combined 39 points still trailed Krejci’s 2021 total by a solid five points, so, no, this wasn’t the Bruins outright replacing Krejci’s production with a pair of more affordable options.
But they’re two players the Bruins hope can bring some much-needed value all the same.
In the case of Nosek, the Bruins are getting a 6-foot-2, 205-pound pivot who plays with a high pace despite his size, has wing-center versatility, and has drawn rave reviews from the man who coached him last.
“I didn’t know a lot [about Nosek] other than what Pete DeBoer told me in Vegas,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But I can share the fact that he loved him as a player and a person and thought he’d really help any team he was on. That’s great to hear. We use that definition ‘hockey player’ but he seems like that guy. When his name is called, he’s going to go out and play and help the team win. I thought his numbers were very under-the-radar good last year.”
“I got a chance to play on the third line last year and get more ice time, which helped me produce more, I think,” Nosek, who averaged a career-best 13:00 per night last year, said. “Before that, most of my ice time was [on the] penalty kill. Last year, I got more chances to play five-on-five and I was glad that [DeBoer] trusted me and I think I paid him back with the production.”
Watching Nosek, the speed and skill can jump off the page a bit, especially when you realize that their goal is to have him center the fourth line. But it’s also been a treat for his projected linemates, Trent Frederic and Curtis Lazar, so far.
“You can see he’s a big guy who moves well, really creates space for Freddy and myself,” Lazar said after Saturday’s skate. “I feel like we’re building that chemistry and I feel like today was our best skate yet.”
Haula, meanwhile, has found himself in a third-line center spot as the Bruins try to build some chemistry between he and winger Jake DeBrusk. Haula is another one whose speed and ability to make quick moves from in tight can jump off the page if you’re sleeping on him, and it’s easy to see how that could be a good fit with someone like DeBrusk. Haula also has past success on his side, as he scored a career-high 29 goals and 55 points for the Golden Knights during the 2017-18 season.
But this jump to Boston has also left him cramming to get up to speed like he’s back at the University of Minnesota.
“Being new, you have to pay attention a little bit more in the beginning, get those systems down as quickly as possible,” Haula said. “That’s very important. You want to sit kind of front row and pay attention and listen and try to soak everything in. The quicker you learn, the better you’ll do on the ice, and the better you’ll look. It’s important to learn quick. Just really try to learn quick as well. I feel like everything’s straightforward and communication is great, so it’s been easy.”
But perhaps the 30-year-old Haula is better than most at that following a wild journey that’s seen him skate with four different organizations over the last three years, with that aforementioned Nashville run being his most recent stop.
“That’s always been the goal — settling in,” Haula admitted. “I’ve been bouncing around a little bit. Whatever the reason has been, it’s been different reasons, but I’m here as a Boston Bruin and I’m here to stay.”
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.