BRIGHTON, Mass – With it getting down to crunch time for the Bruins opening night roster and the final version due into the league offices by Tuesday afternoon, Frank Vatrano might just be in jeopardy of not making the cut.
- DeBrusk looking to show some finish to lock down NHL job
- Malcolm Subban back on B's prospect radar
- Stronger, feistier Spooner making his mark
- Who gets the final roster spots?
Vatrano, 23, entered training camp at an important early crossroads in his career coming off two NHL seasons where he showed flashes of scoring, but never really put it all together for an extended stretch.
"I think my overall game needs to be better. I need to be a complete, 200-foot player and I think I just need to bring consistency night in and night out," said Vatrano in the first few days of camp. "Obviously your 'A' game needs to be there more consistently, but you also need to bring your 'B' game if the 'A' isn't there. This is my third year, so I feel a lot more comfortable being here having relationships with the guys and with the coaching staff."
It remains to be seen if that comfort level is a good thing or a bad thing for Vatrano, who still has quite a bit to prove in the NHL.
Last season, Vatrano finished with 10 goals and 18 points in 44 games, along with a minus-3 rating, and played all six playoff games against the Ottawa Senators. This fall, however, both Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk have made strong pushes for NHL roster spots and by all accounts, Vatrano has been pretty average in the competition for a third-line spot.
Unfortunately for him, he’s competing with Matt Beleskey, Tim Schaller, Noel Acciari, Teddy Purcell, Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly for the three final forward spots and that means somebody expected to be on the big club is probably going to fall short. Kenny Agostino was placed on waivers on Friday afternoon, so it would appear that he won’t be on the NHL roster to start things off after an injury-plagued camp.
It would be easier for it to be Vatrano because he doesn’t have to pass through waivers at this point in his young NHL career and because the Bruins are expected to put an emphasis on penalty-kill candidates given the mass number of face-off/slashing penalties in the preseason.
That all spells possible trouble for Vatrano as a sometimes power-play performer, but definitely not a guy who's been used extensively on the PK unit in his pro career. Instead, it might give bigger, grittier players Schaller and Kuraly a better chance of securing those final few roster spots and leave Vatrano excluded from a Bruins roster where he was thought to be a lock entering camp.
Clearly, Bruce Cassidy wasn’t happy with the middling effort after a 5-1 exhibition loss to the Flyers on Thursday night in Philadelphia and signaled a warning shot to camp participants currently on the bubble.
“We weren’t competitive enough. The first period, we put ourselves in a tough spot, we took four penalties. A couple, I wasn’t sure what they were, but they’re tough to kill. We were playing against a good team,” said Cassidy. “We were on the road and then you get a couple of disallowed goals, it just seems like we were chasing the game the whole night. If that’s going to happen, you need your guys here pushing for jobs to give you energy to get you back in it. That didn’t happen either, at least not enough.
“I don’t know if there was a lot of [positive developments], to be perfectly honest. I’ll watch it again to see the things we did well. They were better than us. Like I said, the start didn’t help. These types of games during exhibition when you’re traveling the same day, you want to get off to a decent start to stay energized. We didn’t do enough to do that and we put ourselves in a bad spot.”
It remains to be seen if it’s too late for bubble guys like Vatrano to secure jobs with big performances in the preseason finale Saturday night against the Blackhawks, but the fact the Massachusetts native is in that position at all is a bad sign for the way his preseason has rolled out.