If one thing has been made clear by the Boston Bruins’ brass this summer, it’s that the team is willing to gamble on their youth next season. Before free agency opened up on July 1, Boston’s tactics for upgrading their roster was uncertain.
Prior to free agency, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney made it clear that he was willing to stay quiet while other clubs spent, noting Boston’s youth depth as a reason to be “patient.”
“I’m in a patient mode,” said Sweeney prior to free agency, per the Boston Herald. “We’ve positioned ourselves with the strength of our prospects and have a commitment to our prospects and we feel excited about that.”
However, at the same time, the Bruins were being linked to a number of players on the market, and there was the possibility that Sweeney’s openness about Boston’s commitment to youth may have been more of a tactical move than a practical one.
But, two weeks later, it’s clear that Sweeney’s message was straightforward – the Bruins stayed quiet at the start of free agency, and have remained in the dark since then, with the exception of some small roster changes.
That begs the question – are the Bruins going to sit out for the remainder of the offseason? Unsurprisingly, the B’s have been linked to a few big names on the market. Matt Duchene rumors, for example, are becoming an everyday distraction for fans who are eager for change.
Report: Bruins among 5 teams shooting for Matt Duchene trade https://t.co/IjINj8AIhY
— WEEIprovidence (@1037WEEIFM) July 14, 2017
However, a trade for Duchene, or any big name on the market, seems less likely with every day. Avs GM Joe Sakic seems to want youth in exchange for the center, and the Bruins aren’t willing to budge (nor should they).
So, if the Bruins are going to remain quiet on the trade front as well, then how do they stack up against their divisional foes next season? Well, that’s up to their youth.
B’s Youth Have Mixed Experience
Assuming that the Bruins stick to their game plan this summer, they’ll head into the 2017-18 season with a very young roster. That being said, the youngsters that will suit up in black and gold have a various levels of experience under their belt.
Defensively, Brandon Carlo has the most experience out of their youth blue-liners – his play this season was vital to the Bruins’ success. After Carlo, Charlie McAvoy’s six games of playoff experience puts him second on the totem pole, despite the fact that he’s yet to make his regular season debut.
To close out the defense, 20-year-old Jakub Zboril, who will fight for a spot on the roster, has yet to play a game with the Bruins organization – he spent last season in the QMJHL.
Up front, the Bruins have a ton of young forwards who will fight for a roster spot next season. Anders Bjork and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson should both make the Bruins roster out of camp, despite the fact that they were both playing at the college level last season (Forsbacka Karlsson did make one appearance with the Bruins).
Behind them, Peter Cehlarik, Jake Debrusk, Danton Heinen and Zach Senyshyn will all contend for a spot throughout the course of the year. Of that group, Cehlarik has the most experience, with 11 NHL games under his belt. Behind him, Heinen has suited up for eight NHL games, while Debrusk and Senyshyn have been limited to AHL experience (Senyshyn has yet to play in an AHL regular season game).
And while we’re talking youth, 21-year-old David Pastrnak can join the conversation, although there’s no concern about his position on the roster for next season.
The point is, the Bruins have a lot of youth with a wide range of experience – from David Pastrnak, who has proven to be a top scorer in the NHL, to Debrusk and Senyshyn, who have just started transitioning into the organization.
B’s Need Good Showing from Youth
With so many young names competing for roster spots, it makes sense that Boston’s success will largely depend on the play of their youngsters. The good news is, several young players have noticeably high ceilings – Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and Anders Bjork are three names that stand-out as guys who could establish themselves as top-four regulars in their positions.
However, on the flip side of that, the Bruins will be relying on a lot of guys who will be breaking into the league, and that could prove to be problematic. Adjusting to the NHL is understandably difficult – it’s tough to transition into the best hockey league the planet has to offer.
But, with the amount of youth the Bruins have, they should be okay. The B’s obviously have more young players than they do available roster spots, which means there’ll be a constant source of internal competition throughout the season. If one guy struggles, there’s someone waiting right behind him to replace him, and that’s a good thing.
At the end of the day, the Bruins don’t need every one of their youngsters to have breakout NHL seasons. The B’s have a solid core to lead the charge – Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara haven’t gone anywhere. But, they’ll need a couple of youngsters who can become comfortable enough to be reliable, not stellar, at the NHL level, and Boston’s youth group is certainly capable of doing that.
The Bruins have the fresh tools that they need to compete, it’s just a matter of how many can pull their weight.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!