Other Bruins Preview Articles:
- Center Depth Questions
- Defense Preview
- Goaltending Depth Lacks NHL Experience
- College Prospects to Watch
- 3 Burning Questions for 2021-22
Going into the 2021-22 season, there are questions surrounding different positions on the Boston Bruins. One of the positions where there are not a lot of questions is with their left and right wings. There are no questions as to who the top two wingers are on both sides and after that, it is just a matter of mixing and matching for coach Bruce Cassidy.
In a continuing preview series looking at the depth for the Bruins positions ahead of training camp later this month, let’s take a look at their left and right wings.
After a flurry of free-agent signings, the Bruins have more depth at left wing than they did at the end of the 2020-21 season.
Over the last five seasons, Marchand has become one of the top point-producing left wings in the NHL. Last season in 53 games, he had 29 goals and 40 assists, which was more than enough to lead the Black and Gold with 69 points. In 2018-19, he had a career-high 64 assists, then in the 70-game shortened 2019-20 season, he had 59. Over the last six seasons, he has had at least 28 goals in each season, including a career-high 39 in 2016-17.
Playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak to form one of the top lines in the league, the 33-year-old Marchand is valuable in all situations for the Bruins. He is their top penalty-killing forward with Bergeron and the duo combined for seven shorthanded goals in last season. He is also a key member of the first power play unit that is usually ranked in the top 10.
Earlier in his career, his on-ice antics would find Marchand in trouble and facing suspensions. As he has got older, he has had fewer antics and Boston is benefitting from that greatly as his production continues to increase.
At the trade deadline in April, general manager Don Sweeney needed to add some secondary scoring and he was able to do it when he acquired Hall and Curtis Lazar from the Buffalo Sabres for forward Anders Bjork and a draft pick. In 16 games in Boston, Hall had eight goals and six assists, which gave the Bruins two producing lines late in the season and into the postseason.
A former Hart Trophy winner in 2017-18 with the New Jersey Devils, Hall still is one of the top left wings in the league at 29 years old. When the season ended in June following a second-round playoff loss to the New York Islanders, Hall expressed his desire to wanting to stay in Boston as free agency approached. In July, Hall agreed to a four-year, $24 million contract to remain with the Bruins. Playing for his fourth team in three years, Sweeney and Cassidy are hoping to get the 2017-18 version of Hall in 2021-22.
Things can’t get much worse for DeBrusk this season than the one he sputtered through last season, can it? The Bruins sure hope not. After scoring a career-high 27 goals in 2018-19, then 19 in 2019-20, the 24-year-old had just five goals and nine assists in 41 games last season. He missed time because of COVID-19 and was a healthy scratch by Cassidy on multiple occasions including the playoffs, but the Edmonton, Alberta native was never able to find any consistency.
It would not have surprised anyone if the Bruins traded DeBrusk this offseason with one year and $3.675 million remaining on the two-year deal he signed in November of 2021. Instead, they held onto him hoping to get a bounce-back season from the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft. The Boston front office made it known they were going to begin the season with DeBrusk after they did not extend a qualifying offer to Nick Ritchie, who became a restricted free agent and signed with division rival Toronto Maple Leafs. There are going to be a lot of eyes on DeBrusk this season.
When you get down to the bottom six, it’s anyone’s guess as to which direction that Cassidy decides to go. DeBrusk is the natural option for the third line, but would it surprise anyone if he slides down to the fourth line? If he does, one of the trio of free-agent signings Sweeney had on July 28 could fill the void. Erik Haula and Nick Foligno are left-shot forwards that will most likely find themselves on the third line, while Nosek could find himself here.
If he does, there’s no shame in slotting on the fourth line, considering what’s ahead of him in the top-six. There will be a battle with DeBrusk in training camp for the third line spot, but Nosek is versatile where he can play in the middle as well. In 38 games with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020-21, he had eight goals and 10 assists, which is production the Bruins would gladly take from him.
Another versatile player, the 29th overall pick in the 2016 draft is a natural center, but last season in his first full season in the NHL, he found himself mainly on the left wing. As is common with bottom-six forwards, being able to play multiple positions gives coaches flexibility.
A restricted free agent, the Bruins signed Frederic to a two-year contract with a cap hit of $1.05 million in June and then protected him in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. A fan favorite, this is a big season in terms of solidifying a roster spot for the 23-year-old.
I don’t need to remind anyone of the three consecutive first-round picks in the 2015 Entry Draft, but here we go. The third and final pick that day at No. 15, Senyshyn has played in just 14 NHL games, eight last season, with one goal. In four seasons with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), he has 40 goals, but you have to wonder if he’s ever going to make it with the Bruins or end up moving on at some point to another team.
The Bruins have options with veterans and young players with their right wings.
One of the league’s young gifted goal scorers, Pastrnak has benefitted from playing on the first line with Marchand and Bergeron. Last May, he became the third-fastest active player to score 200 goals before the age of 25. The other two? Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not bad company.
Despite missing the beginning of the 2020-21 season recovering from offseason surgery, he still scored 20 goals in 48 games during the 56-game season. It’s hard to believe, but this will be Pasternak’s eighth season and his best might still be coming.
Following the 2020 Toronto playoff bubble, it was clear heading into free agency that the Bruins needed to add secondary scoring, and general manager Don Sweeney was able to land Smith. On the second day of free agency, Smith and the Bruins agreed to a three-year, $9 million contract.
Smith was a 20-goal scorer in five of his nine seasons with the Nashville Predators before coming to Boston. In his first season with the Black and Gold, he scored 13 goals with 19 assists and the Bruins are hoping he can be at least a 20-goal scorer this season. Playing with Hall and whoever ends up in the middle will give him a chance to reach that feat.
One of Boston’s top prospects, Studnicka made the roster at the beginning of last season as a right wing, mainly as depth while Pastrnak recovered from surgery. The Bruins have been waiting for the 22-year-old to find a permanent spot on the roster and a strong camp might do that for the 53rd overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft.
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His natural position is a center and he will have a chance to work his way into the middle in the preseason, but the door could still be open for a wing slot. It is a long shot and the Bruins might want him to get time at center with Providence, but you never know what a strong camp might do for a young player.
Talk about having some ups and downs during a career. Mainly a fourth-line winger, he provides the Bruins with energy, can kill penalties if needed and he’s even been a healthy scratch. A Boston native who has a career plus/minus of minus-14, he will begin his fourth season as a Bruin, and anything he gives in terms of production or a presence on the ice they will take.
Over the last three seasons, Kuhlman has played in 56 regular-season games for the Bruins and when he has played, he has been a steady player that has given the Black and Gold some productive shifts. He has six goals and seven assists during his time in Boston, and don’t be surprised if the former University of Minnesota-Duluth standout finds himself this season wearing the Spoked-B at some point.
There is a lot of hype surrounding the Bruins first-round selection in July’s draft at No. 21, so much so that he signed his entry-level contract in August. He was named to the Bruins Prospects Challenge roster for Sept. 18-19 in Buffalo, which is a good way to get his feet wet in his career. He is expected to be at training camp and even though it’s a very long shot that he makes the roster or even plays a game in Boston, his development is worth watching.
After the top-four wings, the Bruins are hoping for more production from the bottom-four than they got in 2021-22. Just like last season, there will be times where a winger plays his off-wing to do what’s best for the team. On paper, they are better than they were last season with some of the free-agent signings and they hope it translates to success on the ice.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.