Boston Bruins

Apr 19, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Tomas Nosek (92) controls the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

  • Jim Montgomery wanted competition. And, boy, is he getting it.

    Through a week of training camp and just two preseason games, the Bruins have something fierce brewing throughout their bottom-six forward group. Given the overall stability of this organization over the last four years (at least), this year’s battle for minutes feels like something out of an NFL camp.

    And when it comes to this battle, you’re talking about seven (maybe eight) spots between 11 skaters. (It honestly may be even more than 11, for all we know.) But sticking with the 11 known names that currently seem to be legitimately in the mix for roster spots between now and Opening Night, just how should Montgomery and Sweeney configure their bottom two lines and spare forward(s)?

  • Johnny Beecher

    VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: John Beecher poses for a portrait after being selected thirtieth overall by the Boston Bruins during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)

    VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: John Beecher poses for a portrait after being selected 30th overall by the Boston Bruins during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena. (Kevin Light/Getty Images)

    Relatively fresh out of college (he left the University of Michigan at the end of his 2021-22 season), 2019 first-round pick Johnny Beecher looks ahead of schedule in terms of being NHL-ready. He’s already looking like a capable faceoff option, and appears to have a bit more offensive pop than what was shown at Michigan. But, with waivers not an issue and the B’s wanting to expand his game, it probably makes the most sense for Beecher to begin his year in Providence logging top-six minutes.

  • Charlie Coyle

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 23: Charlie Coyle #13 of the Boston Bruins reacts after scoring a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 23, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Maple Leafs 5-1. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 23: Charlie Coyle #13 of the Boston Bruins reacts after scoring a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 23, 2019. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Not gonna waste too much time on this one for obvious reasons. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Coyle, who put up 16 goals and 44 points in 82 games last season, is going to be your third-line center. It’s just a question of who his linemates are going to be — particularly on the left side — out of the gate this year.

  • A.J. Greer

    Sep 24, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Bruins left wing A.J. Greer (10) and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Hayden Hodgson (42) fight during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 24, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Bruins left wing A.J. Greer (10) and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Hayden Hodgson (42) fight during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. (Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

    It’s just two games, but it appears that unheralded Day 1 signing A.J. Greer has hit the point where an NHL job is his to lose. I mean, Montgomery outright admitted after Tuesday’s two-goal performance over the Rangers that the 6-foot-3 Greer would be in Boston’s lineup if the season started tomorrow.

    “What I like is we see a young man that’s looking to make the starting lineup,” Montgomery said. “He’s doing everything he can to impress. He’s fighting. He’s hitting. He’s shooting. He gets energy in the building. He gets energy on our bench. So he’s doing a lot of good things.”

    There’s an element of Greer’s game that’s just so enticing for the Bruins.

    He’s basically another player who can bring some energy and drag the Bruins into the fight. They can always use more of those presences — Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy are perhaps their two best players on that front, and they’re both injured and too important to be asked to do that every single night from a physicality and penalty standpoint — and Greer is looking like a player who is beginning to find his offensive touch after a point-per-game year in the AHL.

    Greer, who was signed to a two-year deal worth $762,500 per season, is waiver-eligible, and would absolutely get scooped up based on what he’s done this preseason. Personally, I’d pencil him in for a spot on this roster.

  • Nick Foligno

    Sep 24, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Troy Grosenick (29) makes a save against Boston Bruins left wing Nick Foligno (17) during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 24, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Flyers goaltender Troy Grosenick (29) makes a save against Boston Bruins left wing Nick Foligno (17) during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. (Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

    This is a tough one.

    Gritty forward Nick Foligno, signed to a two-year deal worth $3.8 million per season back in 2021, knows he had a nightmarish first year in Boston. But the Bruins gave him a vote of confidence when they opted not to buy out the final year of his contract or trade him this past offseason, and Montgomery noted that the Bruins are going to rely on Foligno to be a tone-setting presence on their third or fourth line.

    Just based on all of that, it sounds like he’s in their plans for 2022-23. He’s also an insanely well-liked veteran teammate, and it was captain Patrice Bergeron who wanted to bring Foligno to town when he hit free agency.

    But the emergence of Greer has added another body to the left wing mix, and the team’s obvious commitment to 2016 first-round pick Trent Frederic has put Foligno in a bit of an odd spot. Just think about it: Do the cash-strapped Bruins really want to have a $3.8 million healthy scratch on the roster, and doesn’t scratching a well-liked veteran just seem like a potentially rough starting point for Montgomery’s first year running the B’s room?

  • Trent Frederic

    Trent Frederic #11 of the Boston Bruins in the first period at Crypto.com Arena on February 28, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    LOS ANGELES, FEBRUARY 28, 2022: Trent Frederic #11 of the Boston Bruins in the first period at Crypto.com Arena on February 28, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    One (mostly) unspoken objective for Montgomery in his first year with the Bruins: Maximizing and unlocking Trent Frederic in a way that ex-Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy could not. Or, at the very least, help Frederic get get through the consistency and essentially knowing-his-role issues he admitted dealing with in 2021-22.

    There was a point in time (the start of the 2021 season to be more exact) when the Bruins reaped the rewards of Frederic being a penalty-drawing, in-your-face nuisance. But the Bruins hit a point where they wanted Frederic to dial it back (pretty sure his run-in with Alex Ovechkin was the start) and focus on being a hockey player. That focus led to some career-highs on Boston’s third line with eight goals and 18 points, but it always felt like the Bruins needed more of the ‘old Frederic’ to come through for that line to fully take flight.

    Setting clear parameters of the lines Frederic can and cannot cross (and not changing them on a moment’s notice or to the point where there’s doubt in his head) will be key for Montgomery, of course. But Montgomery also appears intent on trying to drag more offense out of Frederic as a net-front threat.

    “His hand-eye coordination is incredible,” Montgomery, who noted Frederic’s past as a standout quarterback and baseball player during his prep school days in St. Louis, said. “There’s a lot of skill in an athlete there that could do a lot of good things. At the net front, that’s an area where we’re hoping he can dominate on retrievals, deflections, and also attacking the goal line.”

    The desire to maximize that should lead Frederic back to the left wing of Coyle and Smith. And that’s a line that was mostly good to the Bruins in 2021-22, with a 171-to-143 edge in shots, as well as a 17-to-8 scoring advantage, in over 328 minutes of five-on-five play together.

  • Marc McLaughlin

    Apr 14, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Marc McLaughlin (26) reacts after scoring a goal during the first period against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 14, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Marc McLaughlin (26) reacts after scoring a goal during the first period against the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    A late-season addition following a strong career at Boston College, Marc McLaughlin’s jump to the pro game has come with more positives than negatives. In action for 11 games with the Big B’s to close out the year, McLaughlin got a taste of life as both a center and a wing, and put up three goals and 15 hits over the course of that run. McLaughlin then had an excellent development camp, and has looked solid in training camp.

    Known as strong two-way threat in Hockey East, McLaughlin could seemingly slide into a fourth-line role without an issue in 2022-23, but the Bruins can still sneak the Billerica, Mass. native down to Providence without waivers, which will likely work ‘against’ him in terms of making the Bruins’ initial roster.

  • Tomas Nosek

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 02: Tomas Nosek #92 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the New York Rangers preseason game at TD Garden on October 02, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 02: Tomas Nosek #92 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the New York Rangers at TD Garden on October 02, 2021. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Veteran bottom-six center Tomas Nosek did not have a strong preseason debut. In fact, it was downright bad, and against an almost all minor-league Flyer lineup. And similar to Foligno, Nosek has since been skating with linemates more likely to play in the AHL in 2022-23. At a certain point, that starts to matter. Especially when you’re on the hook for $1.75 million like Nosek is this season.

    But there is one thing that gives me pause when it comes to the idea of the Bruins simply cutting bait, saving some pennies, and waiving Nosek down to the minors. And that’s his handedness and role.

    A left-shooting center on a team of mostly righty centers, getting rid of Nosek would leave Trent Frederic and Pavel Zacha as the proverbial next lefties up on the faceoff depth chart. Though both are natural centers, neither player has particularly thrived at the dot in their career.

    There’s also Nosek’s familiarity with the penalty kill.

    The 30-year-old was Boston’s most-deployed penalty-killing forward last year with 135:30 (1:48 per game), and had some relatively strong underlying numbers. One of 114 forwards to play at least 100 shorthanded minutes, Nosek ranked 19th in shots against per 60, 28th in goals against per 60, 27th in expected goals against per 60, and 40th in high-danger chances against per 60.

    The Black and Gold penalty kill has also gone through some relatively significant personnel departures, with three of their top eight penalty-killing forwards from a year ago (Anton Blidh, Erik Haula, and Curtis Lazar) no longer with the club, and Brad Marchand expected to miss two months. I’m just not sure the Bruins would want to remove yet another killer from that mix if they can help it.

    (The B’s penalty kill finished last year as the ninth-best shorthanded unit in the NHL, by the way.)

  • Craig Smith

    Dec 11, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Boston Bruins right wing Craig Smith (12) against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 11, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Boston Bruins right wing Craig Smith (12) against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

    Similar to Coyle, not going to waste too much time analyzing this one. In the third and final year of his current contract, Smith is making the Bruins, and will be to the right of Coyle on Boston’s third line. So instead, here’s a stat about Smith’s 2021-22 that may surprise you: His 16 five-on-five goals last year were actually fourth-most among all Boston shooters, and was tied for the 64th-most in the entire NHL.

  • Oskar Steen

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 28: Oskar Steen #62 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on September 28, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 28: Oskar Steen #62 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on September 28, 2021 in New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Lost in the success of both A.J. Greer and Jack Studnicka on Tuesday was Oskar Steen’s arrival to the camp battle with a game-tying shorthanded marker in the third period of the winning effort.

    It was Steen’s first real, noticeable impact through two appearances this preseason, and gave a brief glimpse into what he could bring in a potential fourth-line role for the Bruins in 2022-23. With Curtis Lazar out of town, the Bruins are going to need a high-energy, high-motor winger who can contribute at both five-on-five and on the kill to emerge from this year’s roster.

    If Steen can build off that shorthanded tally between now and the final game of the preseason, risking losing him to the waiver wire is something that the B’s may look to avoid.

  • Jack Studnicka

    Mar 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Jack Studnicka (23) during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Jack Studnicka (23) during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    Borrowing a line from Mac & Bill, Jack Studnicka is taking things day by day. The 23-year-old forward knows that this camp will either end with him making the Bruins or hitting the waiver wire. He’s also made it known that his preference is to stick with the Bruins, the team that drafted him with a second-round pick back in 2017.

    But the Bruins made it known to Studnicka that a spot can’t be gifted to him. Not with a competition this fierce, anyway. And after a mild performance last Saturday in Philly, Jim Montgomery took time to talk to Studnicka and remind him of the opportunity in front of him, and what the Bruins needed moving forward.

    The message from Montgomery was direct without being too harsh: For Studnicka to make it on this roster, he needed to play with a bit more grease. “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable” was the basic gist it of it. And Studnicka responded to that messaging in the best way possible: with a pair of primary helpers.

    “I took it to heart,” Studnicka said of his chat with Montgomery between the Philly and New York tilts. “You can only make one first impression, so I made sure my second impression was good.”

  • Chris Wagner

    Mar 3, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins right wing Chris Wagner (14) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 3, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins right wing Chris Wagner (14) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

    Walpole, Mass. native Chris Wagner is playing like someone who has no interest in returning to the minors. One of Boston’s noticeable thumpers throughout camp — both in camp and in his lone game action of the preseason to date (a game-high eight hits and a penalty drawn) — Wagner’s efforts have not been lost on Montgomery.

    “His details are high end,” Montgomery said of Wagner earlier this week. “He’s someone, as a coach, that you trust because he executes really well. Especially in that fourth-line role.”

    Montgomery even acknowledged that Wagner, who appeared in just one NHL game last year but finished the season on the Bruins’ playoff roster, is in the mix for that role or as the team’s extra forward. That ‘clean slate’ is all Wagner wanted after what was an obviously trying year down in the minors.

    “It’s more of a, ‘What do I have to lose?’ kind of thing,” Wagner said. “I’m proud of myself that I was able to come back and play in the playoffs and play decent, too. I still think I can play in this league.”

    If that doesn’t work out, however, Wagner will go right back to work for that next chance with the Big B’s.

    “As opposed to what?” Wagner said when asked if he could deal with another year in the minors. “It’s my job to show up.”