These days, the NHL values young, powerful, high scoring players like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, and Auston Matthews. The Boston Bruins are not a team known for young talent after the ill-advised trades of Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin, and Dougie Hamilton that left them with an effective, but aging squad. This all began to change when David Pastrnak punched his ticket to the NHL and has been a force to be reckoned with ever since. After the preseason the Bruins have been having, it seems the young talent is vastly abundant and management will have a hard time making cuts for the opening day roster. Let’s take a look at the prospects making a big impact and ferociously competing for a spot.
- Anders Bjork
Bjork made a quick impact, notching a goal, his first pro goal, in the Bruins 3-2 wins over Boston’s archrival the Montreal Canadiens. Throughout training camp, he skated on a line with star center Patrice Bergeron and Boston’s highest-scoring winger Brad Marchand and Bjork has been cherishing the time spent with the veterans saying, “One of the biggest things is consistency through every drill and every shift in the game. You see how intense they are and how much they want to win every puck battle. That’s the biggest thing.” While he was not on a line with Bergeron and Marchand for the game against the Canadiens (the veterans did not make their debut until the game against the Philadelphia Flyers), Bjork showcased his talent and showed management, the team, and fans why he deserves a roster spot this season.
- Jake DeBrusk
DeBrusk had a challenge ahead of him coming into camp in the form of playing on a line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. The former is one of Boston’s most experienced centers and an alternate captain while Pastrnak was a superstar last season, scoring 34 goals and accruing 70 points. It’s hard playing with two of the best plays on a team, but DeBrusk made the best of it and gave it his all, save for a few instances to “appease his linemates” according to nhl.com. After the game against the Red Wings, DeBrusk told interviewers he “was kind of laughing at myself after. I was like ‘Yeah, those are just some things I’m going to have to learn.’ And I thought that I learned as it went on [Tuesday night].” While his play needs some fine tuning, head coach Bruce Cassidy was happy with his effort and said the forward was “trying to attack the net, did a couple of times, made some plays… He’s really pushing it, understanding that – I mean put yourself in his skates. You show up and you’re playing on the left side of [David] Krejci and Pasta [David Pastrnak], I think you’d give it your all too, and I think you want that opportunity.” Roster cuts began on Thursday and DeBrusk managed to avoid it, and considering Cassidy said “I think he’s fit in nicely” it’s fair to say Bruins fans may be seeing quite a bit of DeBrusk this season.
After being the American Hockey League’s MVP last season with a 24-goal, 83-point effort for the Chicago Wolves, it was clear Agostino has incredible offensive ability and a good indicator of why general manager Don Sweeney signed the winger over the summer to vie for a spot on the roster.
Agostino made a good case for himself after burying the game-winning goal against the Flyers in overtime Thursday night, assisting on the tying goal by Paul Postma, and tallying four shots on goal. After the game, Agostino commented on his goal saying “Whenever you are able to produce, it gives you some confidence.” While the forward is still feeling “some rust in my game,” He’s focusing on moving forward and “taking some positive steps” to “clean up some areas away from the puck.” Overall, he had a stellar performance and management will have a hard time cutting him considering the slots open for the wing position coming into the season.
- Jesse Gabrielle
When Jesse Gabrielle is mentioned to Bruins fans, the best comparison is to Brad Marchand. Much like the winger who is known for getting under the skin of other teams, Gabrielle is a fast, offensive forward. Despite having a goal and four shots through his two preseason games, the arguably most memorable moment of Gabrielle’s debut was his physicality and the lesson he had to learn. The tenacious forward had a borderline dirty hit during the game against the Flyers during the first period, and during the third period, his temper got the best of him and he took a game misconduct penalty after arguing with a referee. Cassidy noted that Gabrielle is “a guy who walks on the edge, and I thought played a very good hockey game tonight.”
As for finally getting to play with his idol and his take on the situation, Gabrielle said of Marchand “I just try to be a sponge around him. When you can watch him play and experience it and have him on the bench… I went up to him after the game and talked to him about it and [he] said, ‘You just got to find that line.’ He said, ‘You’re going to get caught sometime and you just got to learn from it.’” If he can keep the temper in check and not cross the line like he did against the Flyers, then he could be another Marchand-like asset to the Bruins’ squad.
- Ryan Fitzgerald
Much like his father Tom did in the 2005-2006 season, Ryan Fitzgerald donned the spoked-B at TD Garden for this first time this preseason. The Massachusetts native fired a wrist shot off a feed from Jakub Zboril, fresh off of his first pro season, and gave Boston a 1-0 lead over the Red Wings. Fitzgerald said of the goal that “It was definitely nice to get that first one. It was a result from a lot of great plays from great players. I was fortunate to bury [it].” Bruins fan and Fitzgerald can agree that getting that first goal over with and showing what he can do in the future for the organization “felt great.”
After playing for the Bruins in eight games last season when Boston was ravaged by injuries, Heinen is a top candidate to claim a roster spot and his performance thus far has only bolstered that expectation. Along with doubling Boston’s lead over the Red Wings, Cassidy explained how he adds versatility to the young prospect pool: “He can move around the lineup, play both wings…just the battle level for him last year was an education. I think he’s taken that to heart and you see it out there.” With some real NHL experience under his belt and high praise from the head coach, it’s likely Heinen will be seeing a lot of time in Boston, if not a permanent spot for the 2017-2018 season.
After a few rough season with injuries, bad trades, and players not living up to expectations, it appears the Bruins have gathered a group of young talent that can keep their guns loaded for years to come. The future is very bright for the Boston Bruins and their prospects.