Five under-the-radar players at Bruins training camp
The Bruins are getting most of their cast of characters back from last season’s group that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. That’s good news considering how far the Black and Gold went into last spring’s postseason despite an aging core group of players. But there will also be some new faces and roster openings for a surprise or two if players emerge in training camp, which begins Thursday at Warrior Ice Arena. Here’s a look at five under-the-radar names to keep an eye on with camp set to get going and hockey season finally back after three months off the ice:
The one and only PTO (Professional Tryout) in Bruins training camp, Petrovic is the exact kind of player who could help get the B’s over the hump early in the season with a lot of expected absences on the back end. Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo remain unsigned and Kevan Miller and John Moore are both banged up at the start of training camp. Even Zdeno Chara is still licking some wounds at the open of B’s training camp. Petrovic brings a 6-foot-4, 216-pound body and right-handed shot that’s logged 263 games at the NHL level. He’s not going to be a big offensive contributor given that he’s never surpassed two goals or 17 points in an NHL season, but he can give the Bruins reliable minutes in a bottom-6 role while everybody else gets back on line.
The top prospect in the Bruins organization among their forwards, the 20-year-old Studnicka is finally ready to truly compete for an NHL job. Studnicka is coming off 36 goals and 83 points in his final year of junior hockey and has ideal size at 6-foot-2 even if he still has to pack on some muscle and strength on his frame. It will be interesting to see how Studnicka is deployed during camp. Will they take a look at him on the wing given his goal-scoring and offensive abilities, or will they groom him to be a possible third-line center candidate who could allow them to move Charlie Coyle to the wing? Either way Studnicka is probably going to need a year of seasoning at the AHL level in Providence, but things could change if he shows that he’s already ready for primetime.
The 2017 first-round pick played in the NHL last season, but it was an inauspicious debut as he was knocked out of commission with a concussion just a couple games into his stint with the Black and Gold in October. Still, the 20-year-old eventually came back to star for Team Finland at the World Junior tournament before finishing out the season for the Providence Bruins at the AHL level. He can skate, defend, move the puck and seems to just be scratching the surface of what he can do offensively at the pro level. He’s another player who could probably stand a little more seasoning in the minor leagues given how much injuries derailed him last year, but injuries and early-season circumstances could thrust him into an NHL spot early. If Vaakanainen has a training camp similar to last season, then that could become a reality again this fall.
The 19-year-old Bruins prospect is another player who's probably not ready for NHL duty, but could make it interesting if he really flashes in camp with so many openings among their forward group. Lauko flashed his speed, tenacity and offensive skills last fall during training camp before injuries knocked him out of commission and then put together a solid junior season with 21 goals and 41 points in 44 games. Then Lauko really flourished in the playoffs with six goals and 13 points in 19 playoff games on the way to the Memorial Cup. Given that Lauko is a left shot and still a bit inexperienced in the North American game, it’s probably a long shot that he would be end up making the NHL roster at the end of camp. But there’s no denying he looks like the real deal as a 2018 third-round pick and he will get opportunities to open eyes over the next month. The Bruins could use a player with his explosive ability in their top-6, but he simply may not be ready yet.
The Bruins hit on a modest investment into a Swedish player last season with Joakim Nordstrom and they’re looking to do the same with 27-year-old Par Lindholm this year. He split time between the Maple Leafs and Jets last season after being signed as a free agent out of Sweden, and signed with the Bruins as an under-the-radar free agent on July 1. The one goal and 12 points in 65 games last season don’t scream out “big factor” with Lindholm, but yet again it was the same case with Nordstrom after a quiet previous season in Carolina. Lindholm could be a glue guy given his versatility and two-way play and it will be interesting to see how he fits in during training camp.