Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MA - MAY 12: Charlie Coyle #13 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period with teammates David Pastrnak #88, Brad Marchand #63 and Craig Smith #12 in Game Six of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the TD Garden on May 12, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

  • Boy, things have changed since the last time we tried to hammer out a depth chart.

    Luckily for Don Sweeney and the Bruins, those changes have certainly been for the better. The Bruins have reinforced their center depth with the return of the one-two punch they’ve relied on for over a decade, and they made some notable depth additions to balance out some injury concerns.

    It should be enough to keep the Bruins in contention — or make the playoffs, at the very least — for another year, and there’s plenty of directions to go in when it comes to roster building.

    So, with training camp just weeks away, let’s take a look at where the B’s stand, position by position.

  • Centers

    Aug 19, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) and center Patrice Bergeron (37) celebrate the 2-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes following game five of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Bruins centers David Krejci (46) and Patrice Bergeron (37) celebrate the victory against the Hurricanes at 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)

    The big news for the Bruins is obviously that both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci will be back atop the center depth chart for the Bruins in 2022-23.

    Bergeron’s return comes after the B’s captain simply ‘needed time’ to assess his playing future, and it started to feel like a return was coming once Bergeron underwent an elbow procedure shortly after the season ended. The recovery timeline of the procedure put Bergeron on pace to be ready for training camp, and it truthfully didn’t make a lot of sense for Bergeron to spend his summer in a sling if he didn’t have any plan to return to the Bruins.

    Krejci, meanwhile, will make a return to the best league in the world following a year away with his hometown HC Olomouc of the Czech League. The idea of reunion had been in Krejci’s mind early in 2022, but the logistics of a move never timed up for the sides to make it happen in-season. It became the No. 1 priority for Krejci once the offseason truly got underway though, with Krejci telling his representative that he wanted to be back in Boston and to simply make it happen.

    These returns — as well as the decision to trade Erik Haula — will keep Charlie Coyle slotted into his familiar third-line center spot, while Tomas Nosek is the Bruins’ projected fourth-line center.

    This will be an interesting camp for natural center Jack Studnicka, too, as the 2017 second-round pick is officially out of minor-league options, and will be subject to waivers should he fail to make the team out of training camp.

    The Bruins will also have some additional depth at the position following the offseason signing of Vinni Lettieri and jump to the pros from 2019 first-round pick Johnny Beecher.

    Current center depth chart for Bruins

    1. Patrice Bergeron

    2. David Krejci

    3. Charlie Coyle 

    4. Tomas Nosek

    5. Jack Studnicka

    6. Vinni Lettieri

    7. Johnny Beecher

    Something to note, of course, is that the Bruins have multiple natural centers on their roster who will likely begin the year on the wing in search of a full-time role given the crowded nature of this position. That group includes notables such as Pavel Zacha, Trent Frederic, Marc McLaughlin, as well as AHLers such as Georgii Merkulov and Joona Koppanen.

  • Left wings

    May 12, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) attempts a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    May 12, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) attempts a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Arguably Boston’s deepest spot in the lineup (especially if the B’s move Jake DeBrusk back to his natural left wing spot opposed to his current right wing status), the left wing position is still headlined by Brad Marchand.

    The B’s top scorer last year, Marchand has been an elite scoring threat in the league for the last half-decade plus, with 506 points in 420 games since 2016, trailing only Patrick Kane (517), Leon Draisaitl (556), and Connor McDavid (649) for the most points in the league over that span. But the Bruins will find themselves without Marchand available until late November after the 34-year-old underwent double hip surgery in May.

    And to be clear, it’s never a good time to lose your most complete, all-world winger, but Marchand’s absence will allow Jim Montgomery to tinker and figure out exactly what he has with a few B’s skaters.

    Devil-turned-Bruin Pavel Zacha is an especially interesting case in this respect after the 2015 first-round pick put up a career-high 17 goals in 2021 and tallied a career-high 36 points this past season. The Bruins still aren’t sure where exactly Zacha projects long term (the Devils drafted him as a center), but left wing will provide Zacha his best chance to contribute (and in a major role) out of the gate. The Bruins could try to put Zacha to Bergeron’s left and see what happens, or they could link him up with Krejci and David Pastrnak to form a Czech’ing line.

    Trent Frederic is another player to watch. The Bruins have pushed back on the idea that Frederic will never be anything more than a fourth-line agitator type, and Marchand’s injury should give him a chance to once again stick in a third-line role with Charlie Coyle. The 2016 first-round pick put up a career-high eight goals and 18 points in 60 games last season, but struggled with his own confidence and knowing exactly what he’s supposed to be for this team. That’s one thing Montgomery needs to make clear to Frederic out of the gate this season.

    Down the depth chart, the Bruins brought ex-Boston University forward A.J. Greer in on a one-way contract. A 6-foot-3 left wing, Greer scored 22 goals and 52 points in 53 games with the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League this past season, and added one goal and one assist in nine NHL appearances with New Jersey. Greer is essentially your replacement for Anton Blidh, but the B’s wonder if there’s a higher ceiling there.

    Another name to watch: Georgii Merkulov. A college free agent signing out of Ohio State University, the Bruins love Merkulov’s skillset after the Russian-born forward tallied a team-leading 20 goals and 34 points in 36 games for the Buckeyes, and added one goal and five points in an eight-game run with the P-Bruins. The defensive game is something that Merkulov will need to work on in Providence, but this kid has some legit offensive talent.

    Current left wing depth chart for Bruins

    1. Brad Marchand (injured, expected to be out until late Nov.)

    2. Taylor Hall

    3. Pavel Zacha

    4. Trent Frederic

    5. Nick Foligno

    6. A.J. Greer

    7. Georgii Merkulov

    8. Joona Koppanen

    As noted, DeBrusk is a potential factor in this grouping as well, as he can shift from right to left whenever needed. Some deeper AHL options at left wing: Jakub Lauko and Matt Filipe.

  • Right wings

    May 14, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period in game seven of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    May 14, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Jake DeBrusk (74) celebrates his goal against the Hurricanes in Game 7 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. (James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

    The right wing position is still very much The David Pastrnak Show for the Bruins.

    A 40-time lamp lighter in 2021-22, Pastrnak’s 181 goals over the last five years are the fifth-most in all of hockey, and has set up the pending unrestricted free agent for a massive payday. It feels safe to assume that Pastrnak will be reunited with David Krejci on Boston’s second line, and that his power-play bomb will remain the go-to weapon on the Black and Gold’s man advantage.

    But the Bruins do have some support for No. 88.

    Let’s just assume that Jake DeBrusk, who moved from left to right wing midway through last season, stays in that spot when the Bruins are fully healthy. Because honestly, I’m not sure what other viable option they have there. A strong fit with Bergeron and Marchand, DeBrusk scored a team-high 16 goals once promoted to top-line right wing to close out the regular season, and added two goals and four points in seven playoff games. Speaking at the end of the year, DeBrusk seemed legitimately happy that he proved he could play his off wing. Oh, and he officially rescinded the trade request that he made in the summer of 2021.

    The B’s will have to hope 2022-23 comes with a bounce back from Craig Smith, too, as the shoot-first wing went without a goal in his final 13 games of the regular season before going full triple donuts (0-0-0) for all of the team’s seven-game series with the Hurricanes. It was clear that Smith dealt with an injury in the season, but the 32-year-old noted that he was fully healthy for the B’s playoff series. They’ll need more from him next season.

    On the fourth line, it may come down to a three-way battle for minutes between Marc McLaughlin, Oskar Steen, and Chris Wagner. Worth noting that Steen, who had a strong start but ultimately faded out of frame in his NHL run last season, is now eligible for waivers, so shuttling him down to Providence isn’t without risk. Wagner has experience with that, as he was waived out of training camp and didn’t appear in an NHL game until Game 82 and three playoff tilts. McLaughlin is the only player of the three who can be sent to Providence without waivers.

    Current right wing depth chart for Bruins

    1. David Pastrnak

    2. Jake DeBrusk

    3. Craig Smith

    4. Chris Wagner

    5. Oskar Steen

    6. Marc McLaughlin

    7. Fabian Lysell

    You might see 2021 first-round Fabian Lysell listed as the bottom option here and wonder just what the hell I’m thinking. The kid’s electric. There’s no way he’s the seventh-best option on the depth chart, right? RIGHT!

    But here’s the thing: Nobody knows what’s next for Lysell just yet. He could return to Vancouver for another WHL season, or he could turn pro and play in either Boston or Providence. My initial reading of the proverbial tea leaves here: The Bruins are going to bring Lysell to camp and have him start the season in Providence, and watch with a close eye as he tries to push his way into an NHL gig by mid year. If this pathway sounds evenly remotely familiar to you, it’s because it’s exactly what the Bruins did with Pastrnak back in 2014-15.

    Other players capable of playing right wing for the Bruins: Nick Foligno, Jack Studnicka, and Vinni Lettieri.

  • Left-side defensemen

    Mar 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm (27) gets ready for a face off during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm (27) gets ready for a face off during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    What a difference a year makes for the Bruins.

    After entering last year with a rotating, by-committee to the left side of their defense corps, the Bruins have found their bonafide top left-side defender with last March’s trade-and-sign for Hampus Lindholm. In action for 10 post-deadline games with the Bruins last year, Lindholm put up five assists and a plus-10 rating, and formed a legitimate super pairing with Charlie McAvoy. It’ll be interesting to see how Montgomery chooses to utilize Lindholm in 2022-23, and particularly if he likes the look of a Lindholm-McAvoy monster pairing, or if he’d prefer Lindholm to drive his own pairing.

    But no matter where Lindholm lands, there’s little doubt that he’s the B’s top option on the left.

    Behind Lindholm, the Bruins will hope for bounce-back years from Matt Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly. Both players are currently on the mend, with Grzelcyk recovering from an offseason shoulder surgery (the 5-foot-9 Grzelcyk played with the ailment from late January on) and Reilly recovering from an ankle procedure. Reilly is ahead of Grzelcyk in terms of a recovery, with the 29-year-old Reilly expected to be ready for training camp while Grzelcyk’s timeline sets up for a Black Friday-ish return.

    Derek Forbort is expected to remain as the club’s third-pairing shot-blocking extraordinaire (and shoulder the bulk of the team’s shorthanded work from the left side), while Jakub Zboril will look to pick up from where he left off when he tore his ACL in December last year.

    This is a pretty loaded group for the Bruins, all things considered, and the only addition to it came with the signing of AHL veteran Dan Renouf.

    A 6-foot-3 defenseman, Renouf appeared in four games with Detroit last year, and has appeared in 23 career NHL games with the Wings and Avalanche, with three assists and 27 hits over that sample. In the minors, Renouf put up three goals and 14 points, along with a plus-14 rating, in 63 games with Grand Rapids this past season, and comes to the organization with 342 games of AHL experience.

    Current left-side defensive depth chart for Bruins

    1. Hampus Lindholm

    2. Matt Grzelcyk (injured, expected to be out until late Nov.)

    3. Derek Forbort

    4. Mike Reilly (injured, expected to be ready for training camp)

    5. Jakub Zboril

    6. Jack Ahcan

    7. Dan Renouf

    8. Nick Wolff

  • Right-side defensemen

    Nov 26, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo (25) gets set for a face-off during the second period against the New York Rangers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 26, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo (25) gets set for a face-off during the second period against the New York Rangers at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    Similar to David Pastrnak at right wing, the right side of the B’s defense is Charlie McAvoyland. He does it all for this defense, and it’s played out to some serious consideration for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. But the Bruins will have to stay above water without McAvoy for about two months to open up 2022-23, as McAvoy is recovering from an offseason shoulder surgery.

    That, at least for the time being, will make Brandon Carlo the right side’s top dog. On the board with six goals (tying a career-high) and 15 points last year, the focus of Carlo’s game will always come in the defensive zone, where his stick and 6-foot-5 frame needs to stand tall to give the Bruins what they need. But whether it’s been through bad luck or poor usage (or perhaps even some bad fits with his left-side partner), there’s been a bit of a multi-year regression from Carlo.

    Getting Carlo back to where he was in 2019 or so has to be among Montgomery’s top priorities in 2022.

    The Bruins also made two additions at the position this offseason with the signing of depth defenders Connor Carrick and Kai Wissman.

    The 28-year-old Carrick is coming to Boston after a year with the Kraken organization. Carrick spent the entire year in the AHL, however, and tallied 10 goals and 32 points in 59 games with the Checkers.The 5-foot-11, 194-pound defenseman has appeared in 247 career NHL games with the Capitals, Maple Leafs, Stars and Devils, and has totaled 13 goals and 49 points.

    Wissman, meanwhile, reports to Boston after playing for the Eisbären Berlin (Germany) last year. In the DEL, the 6-foot-4 defender recorded four goals and 20 points, along with a plus-31 rating, in 55 games played. Wissman, who actually hails from the same town as ex-Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, also put up two goals and seven points in eight games at the 2022 World Championships.

    Current right-side defensive depth chart for Bruins

    1. Charlie McAvoy (injured, expected to be out until late Nov.)

    2. Brandon Carlo

    3. Connor Clifton 

    4. Connor Carrick

    5. Victor Berglund 

    6. Kai Wissman

    You might as well include left-shooting defenseman Jakub Zboril with this group, to be honest, as Zboril put in his best work in 2021-22 playing on the right side. He will be the first asked to play his off side when it inevitably comes up in 2022-23.

  • Goaltenders

    Mar 21, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Boston Bruins goaltenders Linus Ullmark (35) and Jeremy Swayman (1) celebrate the victory over the Montreal Canadiens in overtime at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 21, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Boston Bruins goaltenders Linus Ullmark (35) and Jeremy Swayman (1) celebrate the victory over the Montreal Canadiens in overtime at the Bell Centre. (Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports)

    This position is about as rock solid as it gets — at least when it comes to expected roles for the entire grouping — for Montgomery and the Bruins.

    It will once again be a one-two punch of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark in net for the Big B’s. It’s a strong starting point, as at least one guy was rolling for the team throughout the 82-game grind of the season. (That’s something we don’t talk about nearly enough when it comes to the Bruins staying afloat during some troubling times a year ago.)

    Swayman is coming off a rookie year headlined by 23 wins, a .914 save percentage, and a 2.41 goals against average in 41 games (39 starts). Swayman also started the final five games of the Black and Gold’s playoff series against the Hurricanes, and was Team USA’s starter at the World Championship.

    Ullmark, meanwhile, will enter the second year of a four-year, $20 million deal on the heels of a Year 1 in Boston that included wins in 26 of his 38 decisions and a .917 save percentage.

    In the minors, Keith Kinkaid will take over for Troy Grosenick as the organization’s No. 3 goaltender. A true veteran journeyman, Kinkaid put up a 20-14-2 record and .904 save percentage in 37 appearances for AHL Hartford last year, and made one NHL appearance.

    The 33-year-old Kinkaid has appeared in 167 NHL games since 2013 between the Devils, Canadiens, and Rangers, and has posted a 69-58-21 record and .905 save percentage over that stretch.

    He’ll be backed up by Kyle Keyser. In action for a career-high 33 games with the P-Bruins last year, the 23-year-old Keyser posted an 11-14-7 record and .908 save percentage, and has 15 wins and a .906 save percentage in 44 career AHL games over the last three seasons.

    At the No. 5 position on the goaltending depth chart, it’s Brandon Bussi.

    Signed out of Western Michigan University last spring, Bussi recorded three wins and posted a .920 save percentage in five games with the P-Bruins to close out his 2021-22. It’s expected that he’ll be the No. 1 goaltender with ECHL Maine out of the gate this season.

    Current goaltending depth chart for Bruins

    1. Jeremy Swayman

    2. Linus Ullmark

    3. Keith Kinkaid

    4. Kyle Keyser

    5. Brandon Bussi

  • Coaching staff

    Oct 23, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery yells to his team during the game against the Los Angeles Kings at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 23, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery yells to his team during the game against the Los Angeles Kings at the American Airlines Center. (Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports)

    Perhaps the biggest change of all will come behind the bench, with Jim Montgomery set to take over for Bruce Cassidy after Cassidy posted a 245-108-46 in his six seasons on the job in Boston.

    An assistant on Craig Berube’s staff for the last two seasons, Montgomery’s coached a Blues power play that was the second-best unit in the league during his time in town, with only the Oiler man advantage (led by Connor McDavid) converting at a better rate. Prior to his time in St. Louis, Montgomery served as the head coach of the Stars, and compiled a 61-43-10 record in Dallas before he was fired in Dec. 2019 due to “unprofessional conduct.” It was later revealed that Montgomery struggled with alcohol abuse, and the Quebec-born coach entered a rehabilitation program.

    The Bruins also added John Gruden (no, not that John Gruden) as an assistant coach to run the Black and Gold’s defense. Gruden comes to the Bruins after spending the previous four seasons as an assistant coach for the New York Islanders.

    Beyond that, the Bruins have kept their assistants from 2021-22 on the staff, with assistant coaches Chris Kelly and Joe Sacco, along with goaltending coach Bob Essensa, all returning for 2022-23.