Bjork, DeBrusk getting early looks in big spots at Bruins camp

Bjork, DeBrusk getting early looks in big spots at Bruins camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – As expected, the talented kid forwards are going to get long looks up front in training camp for the Bruins. 

Anders Bjork was skating at right wing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in the first on-ice session of camp at Warrior Ice Arena and similarly, Jake DeBrusk was at left wing along with David Krejci and Danton Heinen in the second session on Friday.


It’s expected that Heinen will be moved around in favor of David Pastrnak on Saturday when the newly signed Czech right winger reports to camp. That means both young forward prospects, Bjork and DeBrusk, are going to get extended looks in top-six spots and get the best chance to win those jobs that are up for grabs at this point.

As far as Bjork goes, the Bruins hope the speedy, smart and skilled winger can pick up right where he left off at Notre Dame after posting 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games last season for the Fighting Irish. Certainly, things looked good on the first day of camp with the Bruins comfortable putting a talented youngster in something of an ideal spot skating with two of the best hockey players in the world.  

“[Bjork] has got a history of scoring at the collegiate level,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s got pace to his game. Those are two things right off the bat [he has going for him]. We’re hoping he can keep his identity as a player with what he’s developed so far in his young career, and do the things he needs to do to be successful.

“Those two guys can certainly pick you up when you struggle or even play defensively. You’ve seen it over the years with Tyler Seguin and David Pastrnak have grown as young players, so yes there’s that advantage, and that’s why we’re able to even try this, because of the ability of those two to make such good defensive reads.”

It will be equally interesting to see what DeBrusk can do with Krejci as the two players attempt to build some chemistry after having never really played together before. DeBrusk is coming off a 19-goal season with the Providence Bruins, where he got better as the season went along, and plans on taking full advantage of the opportunity he’s being given at NHL camp.

“Obviously it’s just the first day of camp, but it’s cool to be out there next to [Krejci] for some of those drills,” said DeBrusk, the middle pick of the three consecutive first-round picks the Bruins made in 2015. “Any player would like to be in that spot and I know there are a lot of players fighting for it. I’m there right now and I want to do anything I can to stay there. I’m just want to get better acquainted with him, begin to read off him and get used to playing with a player like that who is a top-six centerman [in the NHL].”

Similarly, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson begins camp centering Frank Vatrano and David Backes in an audition of sorts for the third-line center role, and Charlie McAvoy was paired on the first day with Kevan Miller in a defensemen combination that we could absolutely see on opening night. It could be a very young lineup indeed for the Black and Gold if all these young talents show that they’re ready in the next three weeks of camp. 

Improving Grzelcyk setting up a healthy competition with Krug


Improving Grzelcyk setting up a healthy competition with Krug

BOSTON – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is fond of saying that internal competition brings out the best in everybody on a hockey club, and he’s lived that credo with the way he’s handled the goaltending situation this season.

Cassidy is also seeing that competition paying dividends with the defensemen group now that Matt Grzelcyk is hitting his stride at the NHL level, giving Torey Krug a push as a similarly skilled, left shot, puck-moving defenseman. Krug finished with a couple of assists and a plus-1 rating in 17:55 of ice time in a strong game in the 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday night, and Grzelcyk was solid in his 16:47 of ice time as well with an active five shot attempts.

The 23-year-old Grzelcyk is building his comfort level at the NHL level, and has been pretty good with three points and a plus-5 rating in nine games while avoiding any major mistakes with puck management or D-zone play.


There may be some adjustments for Krug based on Grzelcyk being eligible to play in most of the same situations that No. 47 would regularly hop over the boards for in the past, but Cassidy sees that as something that could ultimately benefit the Bruins.

“I think it will in the long run [it will be a benefit]. [Krug] may lose a shift or two, which will annoy him. Any player with pride will [be annoyed],” said Cassidy. “But once that part is [done] – you digest that and say, well, I don’t want to lose any more shifts, [you say] ‘What do I have to do to earn the coaches trust or get those shifts back.’ Because he has our trust, but earn [the right to] be the first guy over the boards every time in situations. He’s going to push himself, and he should. That’s what we want. And then hopefully we get to a nice balance where we don’t have to overuse one guy in every situation.

“We want Torey to be our 1A in those situations. Charlie [McAvoy] is pushing him too, and now you have Griz [Matt Grzelcyk], so we have three different [offensive] guys. It’s only going to make us better, and I’ll tell you why. Because those guys – we have guys that aren’t pouting there because of that either. There’s a difference between being annoyed and having pride, or having a guy that pouts and shuts it down. We don’t have that. I’m fortunate as a coach that they can wrap their heads around it eventually and just want to outplay the next guy, yet still be happy for his success. It’s a nice problem and you are seeing some of it now bubble up.”

There have been long stretches with the Bruins over the last couple of seasons where Krug was the lone offensive defenseman choice when they needed plays to be made, and it factored into the 5-foot-9 D-man topping 21 minutes of ice time in each of the last two seasons. Krug is down a little averaging 20:33 of ice time per game this season, but he’s under 20 minutes (19:33, to be exact) per game during the month of December coinciding with the arrival of Grzelcyk.

It makes for challenges on the penalty kill when the Bruins have only one real left shot D-man in Chara that’s a defensive stalwart, and it’s too small of a sample size to say that Grzelcyk will keep playing this consistently over the long haul. There’s also the fact that Adam McQuaid will be returning to the mix sooner rather than later, and that will force the Bruins into different configurations at some point down the road.

But for now they’ve got a pretty good thing going with their mix of young and old, puck movers and stay-at-home shutdown guys, and that’s reflected in the healthy, friendly competition going on between Krug and Grzelcyk right now.   


Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play


Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while getting in the holiday spirit listening to “Merry Christmas, Baby” from Bruce Springsteen, my favorite holiday song even though I’m not really a Springsteen guy.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t give this Brad Marchand play a second thought as far as supplementary discipline goes. He was whacked with a five minute interference major, which I thought was excessive in the first place, there were no injuries and it ended a contentious shift between Marchand and John Tavares. Let’s not go crazy with the suspensions and hearings, shall we? Let’s keep a little bit of the fun, violence and mayhem in the game, and leave it with what the officials called on the ice at the time. Good call by the Department of Player Safety to leave this one alone despite Marchand’s longtime customer status, and to leave alone the weird head-butting call on David Backes as well.  

David Pastrnak has officially made it in Boston with a profile in the Improper Bostonian. I never knew that Pasta was an amateur artist, or that he now has a Porsche after the new contract. Not too shabby.

The Florida Panthers need a goaltender with Roberto Luongo down and out, and former Bruins goalie farmhand Mike Hutchinson is one of the lead possibilities to help the Panthers out according to recent speculation from many, including Pro Hockey Talk.

The Golden Knights are in the weeds again with another tweet attempting to be funny that angered the Nashville Predators media corps. Was it ill-advised and poorly executed? Certainly if it was taken seriously as something that was meant to be funny, and that is always a potential pitfall when trying to be funny and edgy on twitter. But it’s a little much to think this was going to be damaging to anybody in particular. At least the Golden Knights were adult enough to apologize that they were in the wrong, as opposed to milquetoast Montreal radio personality Connor McKenna, who tried to pull a similar lame stunt with the Bruins media a few years ago.

More thoughts on the body of work that Matthew Tkachuk is putting together this season along with other assorted hockey things in The Athletic notebook.

For something completely different: You’ve got to love the response by some athletes down in Tennessee to a video posted on social media of a sweet little kid getting bullied. This is the way to take a negative and turn it into a positive.