It’s no secret that guys like Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand still form the all-important nucleus of the Bruins. However, for Boston to become more of a factor in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference this season (not to mention throughout the NHL in general), they’ll need a slew of younger guys to take on bigger roles than perhaps those outside the organization would expect from them right away. Any bandwagon B’s fan could rattle off the names of David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy as albeit obvious answers to this hopefully successful equation but let’s dive a little bit deeper than that.
The individual story of training camp and the preseason for the Bruins was rookie left wing Anders Bjork. He might not even have his picture yet on the roster posted by Boston’s official team website (seriously?) but the former Notre Dame star (a 5th round pick of the B’s in 2014 who chose to forgo his senior season in South Bend) is ticketed to be on the first forward line with Bergeron and Marchand. No pressure, right? Thus far, he has looked anything but out-of-place with two of the better two-way forwards in the world. There are always peaks and valleys for rookies coming into the NHL but this speedy left-handed shot appears to be mature beyond his years (he turned 21 in August) both on and off the ice.
Defenseman Rob O’Gara is another college hockey product (Yale) that used his year in Providence last season with the AHL affiliate to hone his craft and better prepare himself to make the Opening Night roster for this season. So far so good as the tall (6-foot-4) left-handed shot has asserted himself from Day 1 and while he might be an extra defenseman to begin things on Thursday vs. Nashville, it’s easy to see him cracking the lineup when the inevitable injuries occur (most likely to Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid as per usual) or when poor play dictates that it’s time for Cassidy to make a change. He is a physical and fundamentally sound player that surprise (cliché alert) is very smart since you know, he went to an Ivy League school and all.
Finally, Zane McIntyre will start the season in Providence as their No. 1 goalie (where he ended last year) but that is likely only a temporary spot since Boston’s backup goaltender situation is still as muddled as the Charles River on a rainy day. Malcolm Subban was put on waivers on Monday after getting one last chance to impress the Bruins’ front office who wasted a first-round pick on him way back in 2012 while Anton Khudobin reluctantly regained his No. 2 spot behind Tuukka Rask but truth be told, it took him until the final preseason game in Chicago to firmly secure that role. As we all know from the last few seasons, Rask eventually gets worn down and the B’s have to be smarter about giving him some breaks now and then before he makes nearly every start down the stretch. Of course, that all hinges on Cassidy being able to trust the backup which is where I think McIntyre will play a serious role before the weather has gotten nice again in the spring.