As things stand now, the Boston Bruins have limited roster spots that will be available for the 2022-23 season. The Black and Gold have most of their roster spots from within the current makeup of the team and a cap team with very little space to add from the outside. There will be, however, some roster spots up for grabs with Brad Marchand, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy expected to be out until November recovering from offseason surgeries.
With three big key parts of the Bruins lineup out, it opens the possibility for some prospects to crack the roster out of training camp. Jack Studnicka, Jack Ahcan, Fabian Lysell, and Oskar Steen are candidates that could be considered front runners to earn a roster spot, but there are three other prospects that could find themselves wearing the Spoked-B in mid-October in the season opener against the Washington Capitals.
Last season, the Bruins signed Marc McLaughlin to a two-year entry-level contract following his senior season at Boston College in March. The Boston native had 40 goals and 76 points in 130 career games over four seasons with the Eagles. It did not take long for him to find himself a spot in the NHL.
The 6-foot-0 and 198-pound McLaughlin scored his first career NHL goal in his first career game on March 31 in an 8-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. He took a pass from Trent Frederic on a 2-on-1 and buried a shot under the crossbar. He would play in 10 more games for former coach Bruce Cassidy and finished with three goals. McLaughlin carries an $883,750 cap hit in Boston, but the speedy center could carve himself a role on the fourth line as Frederic did in 2020-21, but he has the potential to have a little more offensive upside than Frederic did that year.
During his time with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), Jakub Lauko has played in the shadows of Studnicka, Steen, and others, but the 23-year-old when healthy has been quietly developing his game. A left-shot center that also plays well on the wing, Lauko has 13 goals and 31 assists over the last three seasons with the P-Bruins.
Lauko has a strong skill set and the 77th overall pick of the 2018 Entry Draft has been improving his two-way game in Providence. He’s not going to bust into the top-six of the lineup, but depending on what happens with the bottom-six, mainly the fourth-line, he could be a jolt of energy that new coach Jim Montgomery could put into the lineup. Of all the positions on the upcoming roster, the fourth-line will have the opportunity to bring in some young players and Lauko could fight for one of the spots.
Don Sweeney’s very first selection as general manager (GM) of the Bruins was in the 2015 Draft and Jakub Zboril was the first of three consecutive first-round picks at No. 13. His development has not been as fast as Boston would have liked. Still, it appeared he was turning a corner last season before a season-ending knee injury in December against the Nashville Predators cut his season short. He hopes to be ready when training camp starts to fight for a spot on the roster.
“I’m thinking I did it once, so I’m going to be ready to do it again next year. It’s NHL, it’s Boston Bruins, it’s always a battle for a spot every training camp. I’m going to be ready to compete for my spot.”Jakub Zboril (from ‘Confident Jakub Zboril should have a spot on Bruins defense but must stay healthy,’ Boston Globe, July 28, 2022)
Yes, the Bruins are overloaded with left-shot defensemen even with Grzelcyk recovering from offseason surgery and expected to miss the beginning of the season, but it feels like a trade or two involving someone from that group is coming before training camp in late September. Mike Reilly and Derek Forbort would be the logical choices to move, but Zboril should be in the running for a spot to begin the season. He made the roster in the 56-game shortened season in 2020-21 with Kevan Miller and played well in 44 games before injuries cut his season short. Zboril signed a two-year, $2.275 million contract in May and the Bruins committing to him should give him confidence going into training camp to win a roster spot as part of a second or third pairing.
Roster spots are going to be limited to begin the season, but there are some prospects who could make some noise and earn a roster spot. The big names of Studnicka, Steen, Lysell, and Ahcan are obvious choices, but don’t be surprised to see any of these three players taking the ice on opening night against the Capitals.