Boston Bruins 3rd Line Battle

Chris Kelly
Chris Kelly (Icon SMI)

This has certainly been a busy off season for the Boston Bruins organization with the departures of Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, Anton Khudobin, and Jaromir Jagr. With the additions of Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson, the Bruins now have one of the most well rounded top two forward lines in the NHL heading in to next season along with a very experienced fourth line.

The 3rd line however continues to be a quandary for the organization. The 2012-13 campaign was a difficult season for this line, which saw Chris Kelly and Peverley struggle for any kind of  offensive or defensive consistency, while being paired with a slew of different players, such as Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo, Jordan Caron, Jagr, Seguin, and Daniel Paille. The Bruins will look to stabilize the third line in the 2013-14 season so it can better compliment the scoring of the top two lines.

According to the Boston Herald, general manager Peter Chiarelli states that Chris Kelly may not necessarily continue to play center and may move to left wing in favor of Soderberg taking over as the 3rd line center. Barring any major surprises, September’s training camp will be a competition for multiple prospects and borderline players to earn there way on to the only spot still available on the team: the 3rd line right wing.

And just who are these players competing for that spot you ask?

Providence Bruins Forwards:

 Jordan Caron (Photo courtesy of Sarah Connors)
Jordan Caron (Photo courtesy of Sarah Connors)

Jordan Caron, who recently took a significant cut in salary in his new contract has high expectations to show up in this year’s training camp and make the third line after taking a step back the last couple of seasons. He made the team out of training camp in 2010  only to be sent down to Providence two months later and has since been moving back and forth between the AHL and NHL.

Most notably, Chris Bourque beat him to the third line slot last year after another disappointing training camp. He eventually was called up later in the season when Bourque was demoted, but he had little success. His new contract seems to have “this is your last chance to prove yourself” written all over it. Caron must improve his offensive finish which he did not improve on all that much last year in Providence. A consistent scoring touch would compliment his size and defensive awareness, making him a well rounded player.  Hopefully he can find his game this summer and be a force to be reckoned with this September.

The slightly younger and smaller Ryan Spooner has impressed the Bruins brass at previous training camps. He had an excellent first full season in Providence last year, leading the team’s offense with 17 goals and 40 assists. He’s an extremely creative play maker and was instrumental in leading Providence to the best record in the AHL.

Highlight Reel Rush by Spooner:

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If Spooner continues to round out the defensive side of his game and shows up to camp a bit heavier, he could be a favorite to make the team. Oddly enough, that would place 3 natural centers on the 3rd line.

 Craig Cunningham, a former teammate of Milan Lucic with the Vancouver Giants, has a shot at making the big club due to the great finish he has shown in the offensive zone in his first two seasons in Providence, scoring 25 goals and 21 assists last year. He is dangerous in the offensive zone due to his gritty approach to the game that makes him seem bigger than his actual 5-10 180 pound frame.

The very small (5’9, 173 pounds) and undrafted Carter Camper is a long shot to make the team. He led Providence in scoring his rookie season with 48 points and last year was only behind Spooner accruing 47 points. He did however lead the team in goals scored during last year’s playoffs and led the team’s offensive production as whole along with Chris Bourque. The only way he can make the team is to improve his elusiveness and speed or else he will be buried by NHL sized opponents.

Camper to Cunningham Goal:

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Although Jared Knight is indeed a very strong prospect, it is a long shot for him to reach Boston out of training camp after only playing 16 games with Providence last season due injuries.

New Depth Players Via Trade With The Dallas Stars:

Reilly Smith

Matt Fraser

Both Smith and Fraser are widely overlooked forwards, whom the Bruins received in “Seguin-Eriksson” deal.

Smith has had an up and down start to his career, bouncing between the AHL and NHL with the Dallas Stars organization. This is due to his inconsistent offensive production despite great natural scoring abilities. After being demoted to the AHL last season, he settled himself and scored 14 goals and 21 assists in 45 games with the Texas Stars. What’s more important though, is that many scouting reports focus on his rather one dimensional “offense only” style of play. Despite his excellent offensive upside, he will likely see time in Providence after training camp to hone his defending prowess within the Bruins defensive system, before getting a shot to play under Claude Julien in Boston.

Fraser is much more a prototypical Bruins player, in terms of his large 6’2, 204 lb frame and his physical approach to the game. He’s had the better goal scoring numbers for the Texas Stars, scoring 37 goals (55 points) in 73 games in 2011-12 and scoring 33 goals (46 points) in 62 games in 2012-13. Many scouting reports focus on Fraser’s lack of defensive awareness in his game, although not to the same extent as Smith. While Fraser, seems to fit the Bruins style physically speaking, he too will likely see time in Providence to round out his game.

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OHL Prospect Anthony Camara

Previously seen as merely a depth hard-nosed forward, Camara jumped from a career high in scoring of 19 points in 2012 to scoring 36 goals and 24 assists (60 points) last season for the Barrie Colts. Obviously there is a significant difference between junior hockey and professional hockey, so a player of his caliber to make the jump straight to the NHL would truly be a long shot. If his sudden offensive development continues in to training camp and he combines it with his physical grinding style of play, he could be a huge surprise at training camp.

Daniel Paille Promotion

The last possible scenario for the 3rd line would be the promotion of Daniel Paille from the 4th line to the 3rd line, which he already did during the Stanley Cup Final following the Gregory Campbell injury. He fit in on the line very well and scored the game winning goal in game 2 of the final. It can easily be forgotten that he had a number of seasons with the Sabres where he put up 35 and 27 points. If he is routinely placed in a more offensively oriented role beyond the 4th line, he could possibly regain some of that offensive finish.

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However, if Paille is promoted, that would likely leave all of the prospects discussed in this post so far in Providence, as the Bruins would not want to inhibit their development by giving them 4th line duty. Would that mean Providence Bruins tough guy Bobby Robins gets a potential shot at playing on Boston’s fourth line alongside Shawn Thornton and Campbell? Possibly. It would be a gutsy move.

If I was forced to pick who is most likely to fill that final 3rd line slot now, I would pick Jordan Caron, but with Craig Cunningham getting a shot at stealing the job from Caron if he has a strong camp. Although Spooner had better offensive numbers than both of them last season, he would benefit from another year in Providence. Plus, placing 3 natural centers on one line might not be the best idea.

In any case, the Boston Bruins obviously have many options for filling the final available forward slot on the 3rd line. Having this many players battling over a single spot on the team will only raise the intensity of training camp to another level this September.


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9 thoughts on “Boston Bruins 3rd Line Battle”

  1. Certainly I have no intention of breaking up the bottom two forward lines. I’ve just heard that Carl Soderberg won’t play center and Ryan Spooner won’t play wing. I just think Reilly Smith is à much better player than Jordan Caron and would fit in with Daniel Paille and either Chris Kelly or Greg Campbell as center. Then your left would be Carl Soderberg and Kelly or Campbell center and if you prefer to have Shawn Thornton as right wing with Campbell and Paille fine. You still have to find à winger for Kelly and Soderberg and they need à with better wheels than Caron. The goes toward speed and we lost alot of speed in Seguin and Peverley. It would be nice if Caron stepped up but I ask myself, you and everybody? When or is there any sort of indication that he’s closer now? He’s not a good skater, he’s not scoring, he’s not even hitting. At least Fraser can shoot the puck both accurate and hard and Smith showed more upside and is speedy and work hard and he can score, already has improved more in shorter time than Caron. I never said Camara and Lindblad would make the Big team. In fact I just said who could come to training camp and surprise people. Some guys believe Jared Knight with some 10-12 pro games will challenge for à spot. I hope he does but it ain’t likely. It’s more likely Nick Johnson can play. I like your articles and this site very much and I don’t come here to offend anybody but see an awful lot of hockey all over the world. U can count one hand games I missed by Boston the last 15 years and very seldom miss P-Bruins games. I watch junior college minor and elite hockey from US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Chech Republic. Have done so since I bought the first parabol so I do know à few things about hockey prospects and like you, Eric, I can tell we almost have identical backgrounds, having played the game for many years and I went to lawschool took my degree you took degrees in psychology and business. That’s cool. Looking forward to new articles about the Bruins and can’t wait for the season to start with the rookie camp. Take care! Tobi

    • Hi Tobi! This is Eric. Just so you know, it was not me who responded to you. I agree with some of your points and some of the points made by the person who responded to you. I do see Smith and Fraser having much greater offensive upside than Caron and Cunningham. The only issues i foresee for them is their defensive game, which is a major focus of Julien and of the Bruins organization as a whole… sometimes almost TOO much in my opinion… but you can’t argue with the results. This dynamic sometimes prevents talented offensive players like a Fraser and Smith from making team over a player that is deemed safer defensively. If they show up and show they can fit in to the system, they most certainly could make the team. It’ll be a fun training camp to watch. Cheers!

      • Oh, my bad. Truly sorry, Eric. Thank you very much for your very nice and classy response. Like I said I really enjoy your knowledge and your articles and also the work by your colleagues at THW. This was very classy by you and a painful mistake by me. Take care. Tobi

  2. I do Think that the Dallas pair of Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser will outduel Jordan Caron, Jared Knight, Carter Camper and especially Craig Cunningham. The players that will surprice in training camp and fight for spots at forwards will imo be: 1-Reilly Smith, 2-Matt Fraser, 3-Ryan Spooner, 4-Matt Lindblad, 5-Tony Camara and 6-Justin Florek. On defence Chara, Hamilton, Seidenberg, Boychuk, Bartkowski, McQuaid and Krug as 7th D. Surprise could be Joe Morrow. In goal I Think Chad Johnson will be the perfect backup to Tuukka Rask. Niklas Svedberg and Malcolm Subban to Providence. Lines as follows: Lucic-Krejci-Iginla—–Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson—–Smith-Spooner/Kelly-Paille—–Fraser-Campbell-Soderberg—13th forward Shawn Thornton
    But nice article

    • I’m sorry, but I feel like you made your post with no real knowledge of the prospects you speak of, or the dynamics of the Bruins.

      Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser both need to improve on their defensive game…a lot. And with CJ as coach, they aren’t like to make it to the big team straight out of training camp.

      Ryan Spooner has a decent chance. He has shown a lot of promise. However, from a coaching standpoint, he would benefit A LOT from another year in Providence, and would have the chance to show them if the numbers he put up last year were legitimate, or just a fluke (Which happens in the AHL)

      Lindblad has played 4 AHL games. There isn’t a chance of him making the team, in my honest opinion. Decently promising prospect, but a (basically) straight from college prospect? I think not.

      Camara has shown a lot of motivation. I think he has a chance. But not over Caron(Who basically got his “This is your shot” check already), Spooner, or a few other guys.

      Florek showed upsides to his game, but not NHL readiness in the least.

      As for your lines, the first two are a given. Lucic-Krejci-Iginla, Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson. But as you get to the third line, you’re starting to lose me. Smith-Spooner/Kelly-Paille? What if it’s Spooner that makes the club? Kelly doesn’t play? Or Kelly bumps to left wing and Smith goes to AHL? Why not have a guy that showed up and played well in the Stanley Cup on your third line? Soderberg is your future 3rd line center, is he not? It’s already been stated that Kelly won’t necessarily stay at center, and may move to left wing to let Soderberg get his shot at his natural position.

      And you think with all of their chemistry, CJ will completely blow up the Merlot line? Not a chance. Also, with Thornton as your 13th forward, your lineup is missing a true enforcer. With teams bulking up BECAUSE OF THE BRUINS, we are not going to go into a single game without an enforcer. Unless, of course, it’s a game against a team like Tampa Bay, or the Panthers.

      You’re just out of your mind! The lines are more likely to look like this:

      Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson (Which will be AWESOME!)

      You have to remember, this team just made an amazing run at the cup, and came close to winning it. WITH OUR BEST PLAYERS INJURED!

      We’ve done enough blowing up of the team this offseason (Seguin trade, unavoidable loss of Horton, Acquisition of Iginla). We don’t need to go and completely blow up the bottom two lines while we’re at it.

      • Just can’t stand Caron. He’ll get his shot, but I doubt he sticks. I think Claude really likes Spooner, and he’s good on the kill (we lost Peverley). Wouldn’t surprise me to see Soderberg – Spooner – Kelly on the third line. No way do they break up Merlot. Camara’s got a lot to prove yet. One good year in the OHL doesn’t make him Lucic, but Looch had a similar trajectory. If Spooner doesn’t stick, I think Fraser gets a shot on his off wing with Soderberg in the middle and Kelly on the right. Should be fun to watch all these kids fight for it! And on D too – Bartkowski, Krug and Hamilton all fighting for two spots. Only a month away!

      • Going to have to agree with Bo. The Merlot line stays intact and we all know what the top two lines are.
        The 3rd line will be Kelly/Soder and someone else. With a bunch of possibles I am greatly anticipating who Claude goes with.

        With both Kelly and Soder good skaters, puck handlers and strong players do they do with a bigger muscle guy or go with a faster scorer type to give the line even more speed.

        I think Dougie and Krug start off the season on D with Bart waiting in the wings but I really like the way the 3 youngsters skate, move the puck and shoot.

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