Third line center Carl Soderberg (also known as Loui 2 due to his connection with Swedish linemate Loui Eriksson) has been informed that he will not be returning to the Bruins next season, per his agent, JP Harris. Projected to be one of the top centers on the market, Soderberg will be receiving plenty of calls. The Swedish project will earn far more than the Bruins will be able to pay him, due to Boston’s mismanagement of the salary cap. One of the few bright spots offensively, Soderberg finished third on the Bruins in points. A versatile two-way forward, Soderberg takes care of business defensively with smart instincts and creative playmaking on the offensive end.
So how will the Bruins replace Soderberg? Ryan Spooner provided a nice offensive burst in his 29 games with the team, supplying 18 points. In all likelihood, he will slide into Soderberg’s spot on the third line. Chris Kelly played the wing on the third line last year, and he could presumably step back into his role as center. Over the course of his career, Kelly has played most of his games in the middle of the ice.
Could Khokhlachev Contend?
If Kelly doesn’t move back to center, the spot for the fourth line is up for grabs. The Bruins don’t have much wiggle room financially, which could force their hand. New general manager Don Sweeney likely will not spend the limited resources that the team has on a player that isn’t a primary focus. In house option Alexander Khokhlachev has the opportunity to seize the opening and cement himself as a regular in Boston.
The 21-year-old Russian only has appeared in four career games at the NHL level, barely even wetting his feet to the fast paced, hard hitting senior league. Khokhlachev lit up the scoreboard with the Providence Bruins, tallying 100 points in 126 games spanning the past two campaigns. With hands that are softer than a baby’s bottom, Khokhlachev has the potential to be an offensive wizard in the future. Very dynamic in the offensive zone, he could use work defensively and get bigger so that he can win battles against larger opponents. The Bruins struggles throughout large portions of the year to put the puck in the back of the net, and Khokhlachev’s natural skill would help the Bruins generate scoring opportunities.
Traditionally, the Bruins’ fourth line has been made up of grinders. Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton have manned the checking line for years, providing a spark with big hits while remaining solid defensively. Now, all three will don different colored jerseys next season. With these three gone (although Thornton played in Florida this past season), the Bruins will shift from a physical fourth line to one that potentially possesses more potent offensive prowess. If Khokhlachev is in the middle, the fourth line could help support the offense by providing scoring chances.
Everywhere that he has played, Khoklachev has impressed. This past season, Khokhlachev was named an American Hockey League All-Star. During the 2013-2014 playoff run, Khokhlachev led the AHL in playoff goals. Everywhere he has played, he has kept the scoreboard operator busy. He averaged 0.71 points per game in the U-20 World Junior Championships and 2.71 during the U-17 World Hockey Championships. As an 18 year old, Khokhlachev held his own in the KHL, totaling seven points for Spartak Moskva in 26 games. It’s safe to say he tore up the Ontario Hockey League, boasting a career average 1.27 points per game with the Windsor Spitfires. As impressive as he has been over the course of his career in different leagues, Khokhlachev’s time is now to make the jump to the best league in the world, the National Hockey League.
Cam Kerry is on Twitter, and he would volunteer to be the fourth line center on the Bruins.