BRIGHTON, Mass – Jesse Gabrielle didn’t hesitate when asked what his goal was in his first full NHL training camp.
The former fourth-round pick said he’s in camp to win an NHL job with the Bruins right off the bat, so clearly, Gabrielle, 20, doesn’t lack for the confidence he’ll need to do it. He showed a little of the reason behind that swagger on Monday night when he scored one of the three B’s goals in Boston’s 3-2 preseason-opening win over the Montreal Canadiens in Quebec City.
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It was a big spot for Gabrielle, who was playing with Noel Acciari and Riley Nash in the kind of fourth line audition for NHL spots that hopefuls must flourish in during camp.
“They’re putting me in a really good spot to show that I can play at this level and hopefully earn a roster spot like I said. I’m just going to go out there and play hockey,” said Gabrielle. “People say I need to find the line and stuff, but [Brad Marchand] did too at this level. I just need to find where that line is and I think management is giving me good feedback on all that stuff.
“I know that I’m really good when I fore-check. When I’m the F1 and really just bearing down and getting in there and hitting people, getting to the net and scoring goals, I can only do that when I’m playing high energy and high pace. I just always want to be the first guy on the puck. [Coach Cassidy] likes guys that can skate, and that’s good for me because I can skate.”
It’s that offensive component combined with his energetic, agitating style that’s drawn comparisons to Marchand throughout his junior career and saw him total 75 goals for Prince George the past two seasons. It’s that same combination of attributes that could make him a dark-horse candidate for the fourth line if he can continue to make things happen each time he’s on the ice.
From the sound of it, Cassidy is already leaning in a certain direction for his energy line based on last season. Tim Schaller, Riley Nash and Noel Acciari all played significant roles for the Bruins last season and it looks like Sean Kuraly is going to enjoy the inside track for the 13th forward spot based on his strong showing in the NHL postseason.
Gabrielle understands the high volume of quality forwards in camp and the serious competition for the fourth line after the established group really found their vibe late in the season. There’s a pretty good chance Gabrielle begins his pro career at Providence, where he can learn the nuances of being an energy forward at the pro level and figure out where “the line” is before he begins earning an NHL reputation.
He’s not letting that stop him from putting his best skate forward, though, and standing as another in a large group of talented, young forwards showing in camp that they’re close to ready for the prime-time action.
“I think the fourth line role is a good starter for me, and I just play with pace and energy…that’s all I can do,” said Gabrielle. “Camp has gone well. I’m showing that I can play at this level, and hopefully, they see it too. There are a lot of good players here and a lot of guys that can play in the NHL, but only a certain number of spots.
“You’ve just got to try and separate yourself, and show that you can do things that maybe other guys can’t really do. But at the same time, these guys are all my teammates and brothers. They’ll still be my teammates even if I don’t end up starting in Boston. Right now, I’m just focusing on putting my best foot forward.”
Gabrielle is doing that early in camp, but he knows he must keep the pedal pinned to the floor if he’s to become a surprise member of the NHL roster little more than a month from now.