Predicting Bruins 2022-23 Opening Night Roster

Entering the 2022-23 season there was not much roster turnover for the Boston Bruins this summer. There are, however, going to be some names missing from the opening night roster against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 12. It’s going to leave some big holes in first-year coach Jim Montgomery’s lineup.

Despite knowing well ahead of time that Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk are not going to be available, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney has Boston as a cap team, which was a big reason for their quiet summer. With very few moves and three holes on the roster to fill, it’s time to take a shot a predicting the opening night lineup against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 12.

Projected Opening Night Lineup

There are going to be some camp battles to fill out the roster, mainly with the bottom-six forwards, but there will be some mixing and matching along the way.

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Pavel ZachaPatrice BergeronJake DeBrusk
Taylor HallDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Trent FredericCharlie CoyleCraig Smith
Tomas NosekJack StudnickaNick Foligno
Left DefenseRight DefenseGoaltenders
Hampus LindholmBrandon CarloJeremy Swayman
Derek ForbortConnor CliftonLinus Ullmark
Mike ReillyJakub Zboril

Certainly getting their top two centers back is going to help, but can the Bruins survive the first two months minus Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyk?

Bruins Forwards

Marchand leaves a giant hole on the first line left wing, while also weakening the left wing depth as a whole. With that said, Montgomery has tipped his hand at what the top-six might look like with newly acquired Pavel Zacha sliding up to the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk. This gives Zacha an opportunity to play with a play-maker as talented as Bergeron and it’s a move that could get the former sixth overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft going offensively with a fresh start in Boston, while Montgomery hopes DeBrusk picks up where he left off last season on the top line in terms of production.

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The second line will have a different, but familiar look to it. Erik Haula was sent to the New Jersey Devils in a trade that acquired Zacha, which opened the center spot after Haula put together a strong second half of the season between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak. This season, David Krejci returns after leaving following the 2020-21 season to play one season in his home country of the Czech Republic. Two years ago after the Bruins acquired Hall from the Buffalo Sabres, Hall, Krejci, and Craig Smith formed a much-needed secondary scoring lineup behind the top line. This season, the second line of Hall, Krejci, and Pastrnak could be one of the top second lines in the league. Krejci has been waiting and wanting to play with his Pastrnak and will now get his chance.

The bottom six will have a familiar look to it with the third line. Last season Trent Frederic,  Charlie Coyle, and Smith formed the line in the second half of the season, and in some games, they were the difference maker. Sometimes it looked like Frederic was starting to put together his game in the NHL, but every time he seemed to have one step forward, he would take two steps back. Coyle struggled as the second-line center early in the season, but played much better when he was dropped down to the third line, a spot where he seems more comfortable. This is a big upcoming season for Smith who has not produced as much as the Bruins would have hoped he would have in his first seasons and will be playing on the third final and year of his contract.

Related: Bruins Need Frederic to Make a Leap in 2022-23 Season

Things get interesting with the fourth line where Montgomery is hoping that Nick Foligno becomes a spark and leader of the bottom-six with some energy shifts. Tomas Nosek will return to the fourth line, but the thinking here is that Jack Studnicka gets a shot as the center with Nosek and Foligno as his wings. Studnicka has been knocking on the door of a full-time NHL spot and if it’s not this season, then when?

Bruins Defensemen

This is the group that is taking the biggest hit at the beginning with McAvoy and Grzelcyk both out until November at the earliest. Last season when Sweeney acquired Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline, it was a move to help with a Stanley Cup playoff run, but now it’s an even bigger move. He will suit up on the top pairing with Brandon Carlo to make an interesting pairing, to say the least. Lindholm will be more of the offensive defensemen, while Carlo will be a stay-at-home blueliner.

Hampus Lindholm Boston Bruins
Hampus Lindholm, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The bottom two pairings will most likely go through a lot of mixing and matching early in the season. The thinking here is Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton will be the second pair, while Mike Reilly playing the left side on the third pairing with Jakub Zboril sliding to the right side, his off-side, something that he has done in the past. When Grzelcyk returns, then Sweeney will have some decisions to make as there is an abundance of left-shot defensemen and eventually, someone will have to be traded.

Bruins Goaltending

Unless there is an injury, there’s no doubt that Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark will be the tandem between the pipes. Last season Swayman had a solid first full season in the NHL, while Ullmark overcame a slow start in Boston to post 26 wins.

Jeremy Swayman Boston Bruins
Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Don’t be surprised at some point if Swayman ends up playing in more games and slowly taking over the reins long-term. Splitting time like they did last season is not out of the question for Montgomery, but there is no doubt that Swayman’s first full season in the league was not too bright for him, and putting a good defense in front of Ullmark showed that it was a good signing considering his time with the Buffalo Sabres that was marked by injuries and spotty play.

Related: Bruins Goaltending Will Be Crucial Early in 2022-23

In the overall big picture, there is not much of a change from the team that skated off the ice last May after their Game 7 first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The big changes are the absences of Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyk, and how the Bruins play without their first-line left wing and two of their top-four defensemen will go a long way before they return to be telling if they are going to be a postseason team or one last run with a veteran core ends without a playoff berth.

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