BRIGHTON, Mass – When the Bruins convene for Media Day on Tuesday morning, the NHL roster should be finalized for the league’s 3 p.m. deadline, and the group should have a decidedly young look to it. There’s not only 21-year-old Brandon Carlo and 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy on the back end, but there should also be a couple of very young faces in key spots up front with Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk expected to make the final Boston roster.
It’s a good thing that Bruce Cassidy honed his teaching skills at the AHL level during his long stint coaching Providence, and is comfortable showing the patience and understanding needed to get the most out of young players in an unforgiving league. The Bruins coach clearly has a bead on that skill set where perhaps his predecessor did not with younger players chafing under the formerly rigid, conservative system in place.
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“They need to be comfortable, and not crapping their pants wondering what’s going on around them with 20,000 people in the building. What’s coach going to say? What’s my center iceman going to say that’s going to be a Hall of Famer?” said Cassidy, of his mantra for the younger B’s charges. “Whatever. They’ve got to play. They’ve got to be themselves and they’ve got to play. That’s the message that I think the coach has to find a way to get across. You’ve also got to bear in mind that there will be some butterflies for them.”
It looks like Cassidy is going to have to make that speech for a number of rookies and second-year players with Danton Heinen, Peter Cehlarik and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson all announced as late Monday afternoon cuts. That leaves the Bruins with 26 players in camp (15 forwards, nine defensemen and two goalies) and the need to cut at least three bodies from the current group before they ready to host the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
So what will the Bruins do to pare down to at least the 23-player maximum for the NHL’s regular season roster?
The easiest choice seems to be on the back end where Rob O’Gara and Emil Johansson should be headed to Providence in the next couple of days. O’Gara has solid in camp, but he really struggled when paired with Brandon Carlo on the road in Philadelphia during last week’s preseason action. Couple that with Matt Grzelcyk getting nearly all the reps with Adam McQuaid while boasting a similar set of skills to the injured Torey Krug, and it would appear the pride of Charlestown is going to crack the roster at least until Krug is healthy.
It would appear, at least to start, that Postma will serve in the 7th defenseman role, and provide the Bruins with an experienced, offensively adept D-man option when they need to dip into their back reserves.
Cassidy and the Bruins already made their choice between the pipes after placing Malcolm Subban on waivers, and it will be the tested tandem of Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin to start the season. Given the way the Bruins schedule will roll out this season, it might be almost two weeks before the Bruins need their backup goaltender to enter the mix anyway.
The real challenge is up front where the Bruins will either go with 13 or 14 forwards to start the season after many of those players had strong training camp efforts. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner, David Backes, Matt Beleskey and Riley Nash are locks to make the NHL roster. It would appear that Anders Bjork has done enough to start the season at right wing alongside Bergeron and Marchand, and Jake DeBrusk will at least get the first look at left wing alongside Krejci and Pastrnak are skating with them for nearly all of camp.
It would have been better if DeBrusk could have shown a little more offensive finish in his chances with Krejci and Pastrnak during the preseason, but he does enough power forward-like things to help that line if he doesn’t start scoring immediately.
“I think I showed a lot of what I can do. There’s always room for improvement. It is just the preseason, but I showed some good qualities that I have. I do think there’s more [to my game] and that I can do better,” said DeBrusk. “The offense will come. Playing with two players like [Krejci and Pastrnak] or even I’m not, I’m looking to get on the board as early as possible and do anything I can to help the team. Growing up and going through my hockey career, I’ve always been a goal-scorer.”
That leaves three or four spots for a group that includes Sean Kuraly, Frank Vatrano, Noel Acciari, Tim Schaller and Austin Czarnik after Teddy Purcell was released from his camp tryout on Monday morning. Czarnik has been missing from practice for the last couple of days with an illness that seems to be lingering, so perhaps the diminutive center starts the season on the injured list. Truth be told, Czarnik probably deserves an NHL spot more than Vatrano does after the Springfield, Mass. native had a very average training camp, but the Bruins may not want to make the sharp-shooting winger available on the waiver wire.
Provided Czarnik is eligible to be placed on injured reserve to start the season, here is the likely roster that we’ll see the Bruins submit to the NHL on Tuesday afternoon with a very competitive group of 14 forwards:
Forwards (14): Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner, David Backes, Riley Nash, Matt Beleskey, Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly, Frank Vatrano, Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller.
Defenseman (7): Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Adam McQuaid and Paul Postma.
Goalies (2): Tuukka Rask, Anton Khudobin.
Injured reserve: Torey Krug, Austin Czarnik.