Training camp has officially begun, and the Boston Bruins’ first game of the preseason will be on Saturday, Sept. 24 against the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia, followed by a game at home against the New York Rangers on Tuesday, Sept. 27. There are a few storylines to pay attention to as preseason gets underway, from the new head coach Jim Montgomery and the return of David Krejci to the absence of Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk to start the season due to injuries.
But none of those stories will really be a factor in the first few preseason games. Instead, the focus will be on the players competing for the few open spots on the Bruins’ roster. There are a few interesting battles, and the upcoming preseason games will be an opportunity to see how those play out. Some players will need to prove themselves out of the gate if they want to stick around and be in consideration for a roster spot.
John Beecher was the Bruins’ first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 21-year-old played for the University of Michigan in the NCAA for three years before signing his entry-level contract this past spring. He then played nine games for the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), registering three goals and five points.
Beecher has high expectations for himself and wants to play in the NHL this season. However, he has not been in the conversation as a legitimate contender for a roster spot, but he had some impressive moments during the rookie showcase. He’ll need a truly impressive preseason to stay with the club, making him someone to watch in these upcoming games.
Most likely, Beecher will start the season in Providence, but fans should start getting used to seeing him in the Spoked B. If he can put together a good start in the AHL, he could very well earn a call-up at some point in 2022-23.
Without McAvoy and Grzelcyk to start the season, the Bruins are looking at a very, very thin blue line. Outside of Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo, I wouldn’t say anyone’s spots are a complete guarantee. The veterans, Derek Forbort, Mike Reilly, and Connor Clifton, have all had up and down moments throughout their careers in Boston, and Jakub Zboril had season-ending surgery in December.
If a rookie really steps up and makes an impression in training camp and the preseason, they could beat out a veteran for a spot, especially someone like Reilly, who could garner some trade interest if they have a viable rookie to take his spot. Michael Callahan, a local kid who was signed out of Providence College this spring, is worth keeping an eye on.
In the recent rookie showcase, he was one of the few defensemen who impressed. He is not necessarily going to be the biggest point-getter – he hovered around 10-15 points per season in Providence outside of one season when he had 28 points in 34 games – but he can be responsible at both ends of the ice. These first few preseason games will be a good opportunity to see if he can continue that success.
At the end of the day, the Bruins really just need players who can hold down the fort until McAvoy and Grzelcyk return. If he can do that cheaply and management can address areas of concern by trading one of their veterans, I don’t see why they shouldn’t consider it.
This will be a very telling season for Oskar Steen. The 24-year-old has been on the cusp of NHL-ready for the past few seasons and after some pretty good stretches of play in Boston last season, the Bruins should consider him for one of the final roster spots.
The competition is stiff for the final few spots on offense, and a number of young players are gunning for them (Beecher, Jack Studnicka, Fabian Lysell, Marc McLaughlin, Steen). Steen comes in with the most NHL experience of the group and will be one to watch throughout the early preseason games to see if he has an edge over any of the others.
Given the Bruins’ cap situation, they may also need to clear out someone like Craig Smith sooner rather than later. Even if he doesn’t make the opening night roster, keep an eye on Steen because he will almost certainly make an appearance in Boston at some point this season.
Bruins Season Begins
With the start of the preseason today, fans will have the opportunity to see how much players have developed this offseason. There are opportunities for those trying to become full-time NHLers over the next few weeks, and each game will give them a chance to make their case.
The Bruins have many decisions to make before they open the 2022-23 season on Oct. 12 against the Washington Capitals. The projected opening night roster is just that, a projection. There is some exciting hockey to watch in the upcoming days and weeks.
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I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Screenwriting at Boston University. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.