For the second straight season, some Boston Bruins prospects will head to Buffalo to participate in the 2022 Prospects Challenge from Sept. 15-19, ahead of training camp later this month. There are some prospects on the list that can use the extra practice and game situation as they look to crack first-year coach Jim Montgomery’s opening night roster.
There are some prospects that will be playing that have spent some time in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Providence Bruins, while some of the Black and Gold’s top prospects will also be part of the team heading to Western New York to join the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New Jersey Devils. Here is a look at some of the prospects to keep an eye on during the round-robin challenge.
Lysell and Beecher Get Early Auditions
When training camp begins, all eyes are going to be on top prospect Fabian Lysell and the Bruins will get an early look at the 2021 first-round pick. Coming off an impressive 2022 rescheduled World Junior Championships in Edmonton where he had two goals and four assists in seven tournament games, helping Sweden win the Bronze Medal. There is no doubt that Lysell has a ready-now NHL skill set and he impressed nightly with the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (WHL) last season with 22 goals and 40 regular assists, before four playoff goals and 17 assists in 12 games.
It’s not a question of whether or not Lysell makes his pro debut this year, it’s just a matter of where. If he makes the roster in Boston, he will have to compete with Craig Smith for a top-nine spot, or does Montgomery keep him in the NHL as a fourth-line forward, or send him down to Providence to begin the season getting top-six AHL minutes? Regardless of where he ends up, these five days in Buffalo are going to get him ready for camp and be a little more seasoned than he normally would be.
Johnny Beecher signed last season after his University of Michigan team lost in the NCAA Frozen Four at the TD Garden to the University of Denver in the semifinals. After signing, the 30th overall pick in the 2019 Entry Draft had three goals and five points in nine games for Providence, after six goals and 15 points his junior season at Michigan. He can play in all situations and is strong at the face-off dot. It’s not out of the question that Lysell and Beecher could get some 5-on-5 time together in Buffalo. With the need for future centers, Beecher’s development is important for the future of the franchise.
Other Prospects to Keep an Eye On
Another intriguing name on the roster is Georgii Merkulov, who signed as an undrafted free agent following a strong freshman season at Ohio State in 2021-22. He finished with 20 goals and 14 assists in his only collegiate season for the Buckeyes, before finishing with a goal and four assists in eight AHL games in Providence. The 21-year-old left-shot has an opportunity to see if his college game can translate to the pros, something that the Bruins are hoping can happen.
Jakub Lauko, who has spent the last three seasons with Providence, will look to make an impression after struggling with three goals and 16 points last season, while Marc McLaughlin will also be participating. Like Merkulov, McLaughlin signed as an undrafted free agent following his senior season at Boston College last spring and quickly made his way to the NHL. In 11 games, he had three goals, getting bottom-six minutes. With Curtis Lazar leaving in free agency this summer, there is going to be a battle in camp for the fourth line and McLaughlin should be in the mix, along with Lauko.
The Bruins 2022 Draft class will be represented as well. Second-round pick and center Matthew Poitras, a fifth-round pick, defensemen Frederic Brunet, a sixth-round pick, goaltender, Reid Dyck, and seventh-round pick and defensemen Jackson Edward will look to make their first impressions as members of the Bruins.
Overall, the Prospects Challenge is the unofficial start to the NHL season, but it also gives Boston a look at what they might have not only this season, but in the future. Lysell, Beecher, McLaughlin, and more can use this as an opportunity to give Montgomery a look at what they can do before training camp.
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.