Entering the 2017-18 season, the Boston Bruins have a number of holes to fill. The majority of these can be found on the front end. While Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will continue to lead the charge, David Pastrnak bounced between the first and second lines throughout the 2016-17 campaign.
Meanwhile, David Krejci and David Backes took the reigns on Boston’s second line. Backes had an underwhelming season and some analysts question what his role will be next season while Krejci has been without a long-term linemate throughout his career in Boston.
The team’s Rookie Camp, which opens on Sept. 7, could resemble the soil used to fill the hole in the Bruins’ top-six.
General Manager Don Sweeney should also be looking to improve his third and fourth lines. The bottom-six is often a place to work prospects into the lineup to test their skills at the NHL level. Bruins fans can expect to see a lot of that this year.
After three thrilling seasons with Notre Dame, Anders Bjork signed an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins in May. His stellar 2016-17 campaign demonstrated to both Bjork and the Bruins that the Wisconsin-native was ready for the next chapter in his ice hockey career. He netted 21 goals en route to 52 points in 39 games with the Fighting Irish last season.
Bjork’s performance with the U.S. National Development and U-18 teams caught Boston’s eye between 2012 and 2014. He scored a total of 17 goals and 36 points during his time with USA Hockey. The Bruins drafted the left-shooting forward 146th overall in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Hockey fans in Boston have been eagerly awaiting Bjork’s leap to the NHL. Through 115 games with Notre Dame, the 21-year-old scored 40 goals while assisting 109 others, averaging just shy of 1.3 points-per-game. Even if these numbers drop, as can be expected, Bjork has proven that he has the skillset required to fill a top-six role.
Bjork impressed many at Boston’s Development Camp in July. He displayed his quick hands as he deked defensemen out of their skates to create opportunities in 1-on-1 scenarios. Beyond that, his shot was incredible. Even the sound of the puck ringing off the crossbar brought smiles to the faces of fans both in attendance and watching clips on Twitter.
In his first 144 games with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL, Jake DeBrusk scored 57 goals and assisted 63 others. His impressive performance caught the Bruins’ eye and he was selected 14th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft as a result.
They also caught the eye of the Red Deer Devils who traded for the Edmonton-native, allowing him to play in the Memorial Cup:
“…that’s exactly what I thought of when I was traded here, that I was going to get the chance to play in the Memorial Cup, and I was excited to be part of the deal and come to Red Deer. Since I’ve been here that’s all I’ve been thinking about…”
DeBrusk notched 12 goals and 27 assists in just 37 games with Red Deer. His quality numbers trickled into the WHL playoffs with eight goals and nine assists in 17 games.
The left-shooting forward hoped to crack Boston’s starting lineup entering of the 2016-17 campaign but instead laced up his skates in Providence, Rhode Island. In doing so, the 20-year-old began adjusting to the elevated pace of the game.
It was not until the second half of the season that DeBrusk caught fire, scoring 11 goals and assisting 17 others in a 31-game span. Providence continued to rely on the left winger in the postseason, cashing in on six goals and three assists in 17 appearances.
Entering the 2017-18 season, DeBrusk will once again take a crack at Boston’s roster. He will be pinned against not only Bjork but prospects like Austin Czarnik, Zach Senysyn, and even his linemate in Providence, Danton Heinen.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson stands a strong chance of making Boston’s starting lineup out of the gate this season. Having already been called up, the right-shooting center has one NHL game under his belt.
Forsbacka Karlsson started his young ice hockey career with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League (USHL). Through 110 games with the club, the Stockholm-native registered 26 goals and 60 assists.
With the 45th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins selected Forsbacka Karlsson. He began studying at Boston University and appeared in 39 games for the Terriers during the 2015-16 season. In that time, the second round draft pick scored 10 goals and doubled down for 20 assists.
During the 2016-17 season, Forsbacka Karlsson once again bore the red and white in 39 games with BU. He upped his game to produce 14 goals and 33 points throughout the campaign.
An attractive aspect of Karlsson’s game can be found in his team’s own zone. While he is no underdog in the face-off circle, his contribution defensively makes him a valuable player in any hockey league. This quality makes the Bruins’ bottom-six a probable home for the center this season and for seasons to come, even if he finds himself on the wing.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.