Bruins roster update: Bjork is in, DeBrusk needs to impress in final preseason game


Bruins roster update: Bjork is in, DeBrusk needs to impress in final preseason game

BRIGHTON, Mass – With the days numbering just a few until final NHL rosters are due into the league offices on Tuesday, Bruce Cassidy has an idea of where he’s going with most of his roster headed into Saturday night’s preseason finale in Chicago.

With the caveat that nothing is concrete until the final list is submitted on Tuesday afternoon, it’s just about an automatic that Anders Bjork has won the top-six, right-wing job alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Anton Khudobin will be the backup goaltender provided he gets through Saturday’s start without any issues and it looks as if Sean Kuraly has won a job to start the season after a solid training camp.


Jake DeBrusk isn’t quite in the same “lead-pipe lock” status that fellow rookie Bjork is for Thursday's opening night roster, but it looks like the 20-year-old former first-round pick will make the cut if he can show a little offense against the Blackhawks in his final exhibition tune-up.

“Bjork seems like he’s going to be a fit. We’ve played him with [Bergeron] and [Marchand], but he can play the other side. So he could flip and play the other side with Krejci and Pastrnak as well. We haven’t looked at that much, but it could happen,” said Cassidy. “But we like where his game is at right now. DeBrusk, we’re going to keep in there and we’re looking for a few more things out of his game. We like it as well, but we think that Bjork is the furthest ahead of all the young guys.

“We like where Kuraly’s game has been as far as what he brings: Energy and the ability to turn pucks over. It has really turned into a lot of offense, but we believe that it will over time as he continues to play like that. We’re looking at him as a wing tonight rather than center, and he may be a guy that moves around. I’ve liked Danton Heinen’s game. We haven’t talked about him as much, but we want to get another look at him with [Ryan] Spooner as more of a skill guy. There’s no concrete decision on the sixth defensemen yet, and I think [Anton Khudobin] is ready to go as the backup. That’s where I have him. Bjork looks like he’ll start in the lineup, and then we have some spots to fill in down below [among the forwards]. The game matters tonight more for that area.”

DeBrusk came close to scoring in his last preseason game before it was wiped away due to goaltender interference, and Cassidy wants to see the young left winger play at the higher pace he knows he’s capable of when he’s pushing forward.

“[We’d like to see] a little finish around the net. That would be good for [DeBrusk’s] confidence. When you’re playing up in the lineup [in a top-six spot] that will be talked about if you can’t finish,” said Cassidy. “Be a little more proactive skating. There are times when he really pops out of the pile and off he goes skating. He’s shown spurts of that, but let’s see that all the time.

“Coming down the wing let’s not pull up with the puck, but let’s continue to attack and make your plays with your feet moving. He’s a good skater, and if he’s going to make our team it’s going to be because he adds foot speed. That’s what we want out of that younger group, and that’s what they’ve been advertised as.”

Clearly, there are still jobs up for grabs among the bottom-six with Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Frank Vatrano, Danton Heinen, Teddy Purcell, Tim Schaller and Kuraly all in Saturday night’s lineup, and likewise Matt Grzelcyk, Robbie O’Gara and Paul Postma all competing for a fill-in spot while Krug sits out with a fractured jaw.

So, it should be a competitive effort from a group of hungry Bruins on Saturday night in their final dress rehearsal prior to opening night and several players keenly aware that NHL employment might hinge on the final impression they leave with the coaching staff. 

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Joakim Nordstrom

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Joakim Nordstrom

It’s still a little unclear exactly what role Joakim Nordstrom is going to play with the Bruins after signing a free agent contract with the B’s on July 1, but the 26-year-old Swedish winger will play somewhere in the bottom-6 for the Black and Gold this upcoming season. He’s not a high profile offensive player or somebody that’s going to blow anybody away with his hockey skills, but Nordstrom will bring plenty to the table in terms of intangibles and things that are needed to win hockey games. The best case scenario is that Nordstrom turns into another Riley Nash, a largely unheralded free agent signing that turned into a pretty good performer for the Black and Gold.

What Happened Last Year: The 26-year-old Nordstrom had just two goals and seven points in 75 games for the Hurricanes last season, but was a staple as a bottom-six forward that killed penalties and played a checking role. Nordstrom was a minus player on a non-playoff team and really had minimal offensive production, so he wasn’t exactly headed into free agency on a high note. But as mentioned above, nobody was signing the Swedish forward to a contract thinking he’s going to turn into a top-6 sniper in Boston or anywhere else. Instead the Bruins needed some penalty killing help with guys like Riley Nash and Tim Schaller moving on, and Nordstrom certainly did that kind of thing for the Canes last season.


Questions To Be Answered This Season: The one question about Nordstrom is just how good he can be over the next couple of seasons for the Bruins. If Nordstrom can get back to the 10 goals and 24 points that he posted for the Hurricanes a couple of years ago, then the Bruins will be getting a real steal for the money they’re paying him. But another season like last year, where he posts two goals in 70-plus games, will be a really average all-around season that could arguably be topped by players that the B’s already have in their minor league system. So the real question is whether Nordstrom can get back to his level from a couple of seasons ago while arguably surrounded by better talent in Boston than he had anytime recently in Carolina. There’s also simply the question of where Nordstrom is going to play given he’s versatile between positions and there doesn’t seem to be a pre-ordained spots for him up front.  

In Their Words: “I think my biggest asset as a player is my skating. I know the Bruins want to play fast, so that is, obviously, something I can help with. Then, just on special teams, the last couple years, I played a lot of PK, so that’s obviously something that I wanted to bring to the table, as well. I don’t want to limit myself to just be a special-teams guy, so hopefully I can take my game to the next level here with the Bruins.” –Joakim Nordstrom, on what kind of role he’s going to play for the Bruins now that he’s signed in Boston.

Overall Outlook: Nordstrom actually sounds a little bit like a former Swedish Bruins forward in P.J. Axelsson with skating and penalty killing as staples of his game, and he’d really settled into a supporting role with Carolina over the last few seasons. It remains to be seen just how competitive it’s going to be between veterans and young players for some of the bottom-6 roles with the Black and Gold this upcoming season, but Nordstrom is going to bring versatility, smarts and a strong skating game to the table in a combination that’s often difficult to beat. It should also be good for a guy like Nordstrom where the Bruins, an already strong offensive force, aren’t going to be looking for big numbers out of the veteran Swede.


Countdown to Bruins training camp: Noel Acciari

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Noel Acciari

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Noel Acciari.

Noel Acciari has always been known for throwing around his 5-foot-10, 208-pound body with reckless abandon and never backing down from a hit no matter how big the guy he’s tracking down. Those are great traits for a fourth-line center/winger that managed to get a full NHL season under his belt as part of a young B’s fourth line that had some great moments this past year. Acciari certainly has a lot going for him: Physicality, a local boy done good story as a Rhode Island kid and even a little offensive fire that adds to his value as an energy line forward.  


What Happened Last Year: The 26-year-old Acciari made a nice step forward in his first full season with the Bruins as he suited up for 60 games, cracked double-digits with 10 goals scored and continued to play a heavy, punishing game when he was in the lineup. Acciari plays hard all the time and plays with a fearless tenacity, and those kinds of qualities rub off on the rest of the fourth line when he’s out there running around and making hits. Unfortunately, playing that way also leads to injuries and last season was no different as Acciari missed time after blocking a shot, absorbed a concussion and played through a sports hernia injury that required surgery following the season. It’s probably unfair to say that Acciari is injury prone, but injuries are just the cost of doing business with the way the former Providence College standout plays.  

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The biggest question with Acciari is if he can stay healthy enough to remain effective in his role with the Bruins. By all accounts Acciari had a very good season providing energy, physical oomph and even kicking in 10 goals while scrapping for offense around the front of the net. He’s dogged, fearless and the kind of player that will help a team win hockey games. But that style of play leads to injuries and time missed, and Acciari needs to find a way to stick in the lineup and finish up strong if he wants to remain an integral part of what the B’s are doing. Given that he’s shown some offensive spark and plays with true fire in his belly, the Bruins will certainly be patient with the aches and pains that go along with Acciari doing his job. But if Acciari truly wants to be a part of the core Bruins group, he’s also going to need to be a reliable, constant presence in the everyday lineup.   

In Their Words: “We’ve got a lot of confidence from this past season, and like I said, that can build up until next year, and get better from there, and make a deeper run next year. We want to continue what we did this past year and get even better, so it’s going to be a good hard summer, and work hard, and kind of have that bad taste in our mouth where we got knocked out this year. Let’s not have that again next year.” – Noel Acciari, on the mentality that he and his B’s teammates are looking for headed into next season. 

Overall Outlook: Acciari has earned his reputation as a tough competitor and a punishingly physical player, and he continues to hone the offensive production as a fourth-line player. It’s to his credit that he even got a bit of a look as the third -line center when Riley Nash went down with injury, and speaks to how the Rhode Island kid continues to up his game. That being said, it feels like Acciari is really in his sweet spot as a hard-hitting fourth-line winger that plays with energy and physicality. It all comes down to remaining as healthy as he can within his reckless playing style, and showing that he can stay in one piece at the NHL level while playing the way he does. Other than the occasional run-in with injuries, Acciari brings everybody anybody could want in a fourth-line energy winger.