Jack Ahcan: I think this is going to be the year of the big leap for 5-foot-8 defenseman Jack Ahcan. His confidence both with and without the puck seems to be a pro-career high, and the opportunities to lead Providence’s backend will be there in 2022-23. The Bruins can also shuttle Ahcan back and forth between Boston and Providence without waivers, so that’s a definite plus.
Brandon Carlo: The Bruins are not going to put Carlo and Lindholm on the same pairing. Another way of reading that: The Bruins want Carlo to take charge and drive his own pairing. Finding Carlo’s perfect left-side partner to bring that out of him, however, remains a work in progress.
Connor Clifton: Whether or not Clifton begins the year in action or in the press box as the team’s No. 7 defenseman may very well depend on what happens with Anton Stralman.
Derek Forbort: The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Forbort is going to find himself in the middle of that battle for minutes on the left side at some point, but his penalty-killing status as the left-side rock provides him with some serious job security. The man simply eats pucks for fun.
Matt Grzelcyk: The good news is that Matt Grzelcyk is ahead of schedule in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. And though Grzelcyk remains in a non-contact sweater, he’s started to rejoin his teammates at practice, and has really ramped up his on-ice shooting. All good signs.
Hampus Lindholm: Acquired from Anaheim and immediately given a gigantic bag of money, the Bruins have high hopes for Hampus Lindholm’s first full season in a Bruins uniform. There’s still a bit of a discovery period here, too, as the Bruins are tinkering with Lindholm’s involvement in the power play, and whether or not that’s something he can lead while Grzelcyk and McAvoy recovery from their surgeries.
Charlie McAvoy: Another high-impact player on the mend, the Bruins are expected to get their Norris-contending defenseman back in action in late November or early December.
Mike Reilly: Is Mike Reilly playing for a job elsewhere? It feels like a valid question with a crowded defense corps, with Reilly too good (and expensive) an asset to sit as a healthy scratch, and with the Bruins almost certainly needing to make a cap-clearing move at some point in 2022-23.
Dan Renouf: OK, I’ll admit, I definitely didn’t have Dan Renouf as the last Providence-bound defenseman standing when camp began. But, hey, credit to him after outlasting Victor Berglund, Connor Carrick, Kai Wissmann, and Nick Wolff to still be standing here on Oct. 5. The 6-foot-2, left-shooting Renouf has three assists in 23 NHL games between Colorado and Detroit since 2016.
Anton Stralman: In camp on a tryout, it’s looking more and more likely that the Bruins are going to sign Anton Stralman to a contract. They’ve spent countless practice days with the 36-year-old skating with Lindholm on what would essentially be the B’s top pairing out of the gate, and Stralman has survived two rounds of cuts. Unless Stralman himself decides that it’s not worth it, he seems likely to join the club.
Jakub Zboril: The Bruins have called Jakub Zboril a ‘top five player’ in this year’s camp. Limited to just 10 games last year, there’s a lot of hype and hope riding on the 2015 first-round pick finally figuring out what he needs to do to become an impact defenseman at this level. Thus far, he’s looked the part.