As is the case with most hockey trades, the Adam McQuaid trade had a ripple effect on the Bruins organization. For the big club, it clears cap space and solves the problem heading into camp of eight NHL-proven defenseman on the roster. Steven Kampfer returns to the organization where he began his professional career. Kampfer seems destined for Providence. Adding a veteran offensive defenseman is undoubtedly a good thing for the P-Bruins. However, the crowded blue line has shifted from Boston to Providence.
Returning Defensemen Bring Promise to Providence
As training camp begins, there battles for roster spots in Boston appear to be up front. Who will play third line center? Second line wing? How does it impact the rest of the roster? It’s on the blue line where the Providence picture is the clearest. There’s nine defensemen in the organization that are eligible and battling for a spot in Providence.
It’s important to note there isn’t just quantity, but quality candidates for the P-Bruins defensive corps. Providence looks to have one of the youngest blue lines in the AHL. These are players that may challenge for playing time in another organization, and could still make an appearance if injuries strike in Boston. Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, Emil Johanssen, and Connor Clifton are set to return to the P-Bruins.
Zboril appears set to log big minutes in Providence. The absence of Tommy Cross leaves a hole in many special teams situations. Veteran additions will help, but this is a big year for Zboril. While the McQuaid trade appears to solidify the seven defenseman that will play in Boston, it also creates a battle for next man up over the course of the season.
Zboril played with more confidence and was given more opportunities as his rookie season progressed. It coincided with him seemingly becoming more of a presence on the ice. After playing three seasons in the more offensive-minded Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, his on-ice development could be credited to adjusting to the more physical pro game. Zboril will have the opportunity to be a top-pairing defenseman in Providence.
Jeremy Lauzon is another left-shot defenseman entering his sophomore season. Although he also comes from the QMJHL, he’s shown little hesitation from the physical game. Lauzon tallied just one goal and seven assists in 52 games last season, but the 52 games played tells the story. Lauzon missed 22 games due to a concussion, an injury typically not associated with an easy transition upon returning. Although he rejoined the team at the end of the season, a full summer removed from the injury may allow him to become more of an impact player at the AHL level.
Newcomers Add Depth to P-Bruins Blue Line
Defense should be the strength of this Providence team. Along with the returnees, the addition of Kampfer and free-agent signing of Cody Goloubuf bring a combined 514 games of AHL experience. Kampfer is a smaller, offensive minded defenseman that could pair well with Zboril. Both veteran defenseman also bring NHL experience to the table, giving the P-Bruins depth that may be unmatched at the AHL level.
That’s six defenseman, but an outlook on the P-Bruins blue line situation wouldn’t be complete without Urho Vaakanainen. The talented Finnish prospect will get his introduction to the North American game. He may have the highest upside of any P-Bruins defenseman. Last season, as the youngest player on his team, Vaakanainen led his team’s defensemen in plus-minus. His development could truly separate this P-Bruins group from the rest.
Remarkably, there’s an eighth defenseman heading into camp that should be on the P-Bruins. To say Wiley Sherman presents an interesting case would be an understatement. Providence fans will notice of all 6-foot-6, roughly 200 pounds of Sherman when he’s on the ice. He appeared in two games last season after his final year at Harvard. Sherman will be a fun project to watch. If he improves his skating and mobility, with his size the Bruins have a legitimate prospect on their hands.
It’s a crowded blue line heading into into training camp in Providence, but it’s a nice problem to have. Not forgotten by Bruins fans is Olivier Galipeau, the Montreal native who shunned his hometown Canadiens’ development camp to sign with the Bruins, is there honestly a better way to endear yourself to Bruins fans? Galipeau adds more depth and could be stashed in the ECHL this season due to the numbers game, but comes billed as a shutdown defenseman when given the opportunity.
Sure, the blue line is crowded for the P-Bruins headed into camp. However, the P-Bruins have quantity and quality. With the big club the big club leaving the door open for young players at forward, the P-Bruins have the opportunity to have a solid group of nine defenseman to draw from. The back end is where most successful teams are built and it should be a fun yer n Providence.
A life-long follower of the game of hockey. Communications experience with the AHL’S Portland Pirates, and a former coach at the college club level. Covering the Providence Bruins and prospects.