The 2021-22 season has finally begun. It seems like it was much longer than a few short months ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning won their second Stanley Cup in a row, but thankfully, the wait is finally over.
As always, with the start of a new season, there are plenty of things to be optimistic and excited for. A few weeks ago, Scott Roche wrote about his 5 Bold Predictions for the 2021-22 Season. These are my five wishes for the season, and should be attainable for this team. Last season though, only two out of my five wishes ended up coming true, so hopefully this year I’ll be a little more on the mark.
1. Jack Studnicka gets NHL Ice Time
22-year-old Jack Studnicka was one of the most exciting players to watch during the preseason. He was one of the final cuts made to the roster ahead of the first day of the regular season, and it makes sense why he was sent back down to Providence. It is better for him to be playing top-six minutes in the American Hockey League (AHL) than being a healthy scratch or playing on the wing in the bottom six in Boston.
Studnicka is the best forward prospect the Bruins have had in the last four years. If you look at their current forwards, only Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Jake DeBrusk were drafted and developed by the team’s system. Many of their recent forwards have not panned out, which is why they should be cautious with Studnicka’s development and why there is so much interest from the fan base to see him make the roster.
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Last season he played 20 games in the NHL, and made few waves when on the ice. It is almost certain that Studnicka will get a look in Boston at some point this season, given the nature of hockey and how common injuries are, but hopefully this time he will get substantial minutes and a bigger role. If he is truly the future of the Bruins’ depth at center, then he needs to play more than 10 minutes a game out on the wing.
2. Brad Marchand Reaches 100 Point Mark
Even if you are not a fan of Brad Marchand, it is hard to deny that he is a great hockey story. A guy taken in the fifth round who was undersized and started his NHL career playing mainly in the bottom six continuously worked on his game and became one of the top wings in the NHL. He hit 100 points flat in the 2018-19 season, and was on track to hit a hundred points in both 2019-20 and 2020-21 if they were full, 82 game seasons.
It is entirely in the realm of possibility for Marchand to hit that mark again in 2021-22, and it is also important that he does. The Bruins are built on having a truly elite first line to make up for depth scoring issues. With the departure of David Krejci this offseason, and all the current question marks, it will once again be on him, Bergeron, and Pastrnak to help push this team forward.
Another 100-point season will go a long way to cement Marchand’s legacy. Yes, he has been a pest for his whole career, but you cannot deny the elite playing skills that have come on in the second half of his career. It will be hard for history to remember him as only a pest if he has multiple 100-point seasons under his belt.
3. Brandon Carlo Has a Great Season and Makes USA Olympic Roster
This is probably the biggest longshot on this list. Brandon Carlo, and stay at home defensemen, have been consistently overlooked in the league. Mobile, offensive defensemen are important too, but team’s still need to have guys that do a good job shutting down their own zone.
Carlo has become essential to the Bruins in recent years, and the team was really hit hard with his injuries this past Spring. But things are looking up for the 24-year-old. He signed a six-year extension in July, and he and his fiance welcomed the birth of their daughter in September. Just as we’ve seen negative off-ice things have a negative effect on the ice, it also goes the opposite way with positive things. After a great preseason, hopefully that momentum turns into an extremely positive regular season.
One of Carlo’s goals for the season is literally scoring more goals. If he develops a bit more of an offensive talent while maintaining his great defensive skills, he might just play himself into a roster spot for Team USA in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. I had him down as a long shot when I evaluated Bruins who could play on Olympic rosters in September, but it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility for him. We’ve seen guys have a tremendous start to the regular season and earn themselves an Olympic spot by the time it rolls around in February.
If Carlo does make an Olympic roster, it will be well earned. This will be a big season for him and his leadership will be relied on more than ever.
4. Charlie McAvoy is a Norris Trophy Finalist
Last season, I wished for Charlie McAvoy to finish in the top five for Norris Trophy voting. This year, I’m going one step further and saying he should be a finalist. Arguably, he should have been a finalist last year, so expectations are definitely high going into 2021-22.
We’ve come to expect great things from McAvoy since his arrival in Boston in the 2017-18 season. Last season, he blossomed in an expanded, de-facto number one role after the departures of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. It would be great to see him continue to improve offensively and reach double digits in goals this season; his career high is seven. But otherwise, he really doesn’t have to do too much more than what he has already done to get a look for the Norris Trophy.
Bring on Saturday
It’s a little weird that while the season started Tuesday, Oct. 12, the Bruins have to wait until Saturday, Oct. 16 to play their first game of the season. While many teams around the league have already taken the ice for the regular season, the team must wait a little bit longer.
Despite the wait, excitement is still high for the Bruins to return to the ice for the 2021-22 season. Make sure to stay tuned with The Hockey Writers all season for your Bruins content.
I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Screenwriting at Boston University. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.