For the first time in 15 seasons, the Boston Bruins will not have David Krejci at center after he decided to continue his career in his home country of the Czech Republic to be closer to his family. The loss of Krejci up the middle is going to be tough for the Bruins to replace as they enter the 2021-22 season.
After first-line center and captain Patrice Bergeron, there are questions as to who will be the centers on the final three lines. Continuing looking into the Bruins depth charts for the upcoming season, we now take a look at their depth at center.
No doubt as to who the first-line center is for the Bruins. Entering his second season as captain of the Black and Gold, Bergeron leads one of the most talented first lines in the league with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as his two wings. How good has Bergeron been for Boston as he gets ready to enter year 18 in Boston? Last season, he was nominated for the Selke Trophy for the 10th consecutive season (he finished second in the voting to Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers) and is tied with former Montreal Canadian Bob Gainey with four trophies. Even at 36 years old, he is still one of the best two-way centers in the NHL.
Bergeron plays in all situations and with Marchand, they make for one of the best penalty-killing duos as they combined for seven shorthanded goals in 2020-21. Late in the game, it’s no secret who coach Bruce Cassidy is going to send on the ice to win a key faceoff.
With Krejci leaving, Coyle is the favorite to take over his former assistant captain’s spot between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith on the second line. The 2020-21 season was a tough one for the Boston native who played the season with an injury, which greatly affected his production. In 51 games, he had six goals and 10 assists, mainly on the third line.
Following last season, Coyle underwent knee surgery and is expected to be ready when training camp begins later this month. After being acquired from the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline in February of 2019, he had a strong postseason with nine goals and seven assists in 24 games as the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final before losing in seven games to the St. Louis Blues. In 2019-20, Coyle had 16 goals and 21 assists and Boston is hoping he can return to his form from two seasons ago, which earned him a six-year, $31.5 million contract extension.
Going into training camp, Studnicka might be the biggest wild card for the Bruins. One of the top prospects in the organization, he began last season as a right wing for depth when Pastrnak missed the beginning of the season recovering from offseason surgery. He struggled before getting injured, but he did return at the end of February to play well at center when Boston was hit with injuries down the middle.
It would not surprise anyone if Studnicka earns a roster spot out of training camp, but the 53rd overall pick in the 2017 draft will have his work cut out for him against some of the veterans ahead of him. This is the best opportunity he has at getting a center spot out of camp in his tenure with the Black and Gold.
Needing to overhaul the bottom-six forwards this summer, general manager Don Sweeney did so when he signed three veterans, including Haula. Entering his ninth NHL season, Boston will be his fifth NHL team after signing a two-year, $4.75 million free-agent contract. Last season with the Nashville Predators after signing a one-year deal, he had nine goals and 12 assists in 51 games.
The Bruins are hoping to get a bottom-six forward that gives them stability and any production would be a plus, but they also know they are getting a player who has been battling injuries during his career. He has been consistent the last four seasons at the faceoff dot winning an average of 54.7-percent (%) of his draws and if he can continue that in Boston, it would be a welcomed sight.
In his second season as GM in 2016, Sweeney surprised a lot of people when he selected Frederic in the first round, 29th overall. After two seasons at the University of Wisconsin and two with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), Frederic made it to the NHL on a regular basis last season playing in 42 regular-season games. He saw a majority of his time at left wing.
An energetic and tough 23-year-old at 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds, Frederic, who was slated to become a restricted free agent this summer, signed a two-year contract in June that carries a $1.05 million yearly cap hit. He will be in the mix for training camp for a spot on the bottom-six and it’s not out of the question that he could end up as the fourth-line center.
After the top three, there are many different directions that Bruins could decide to go and Lazar is one of them. Acquired as part of the Hall trade last April with the Buffalo Sabres, he was put on the fourth line and he gave it a jolt with Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly. Selected 17th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2013 Entry Draft, Lazar has one year left on his contract and is nice bottom-six depth to have.
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Two other veteran free agents that Boston signed this season, Tomas Nosek and Nick Foligno, could slide into the middle on an emergency basis if needed. There is no doubt that with Krejci leaving this summer and some of the additions Sweeney made in free agency that the center battles in training camp will be worth keeping an eye on.
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.