Bruins training camp: Four young players who could make the NHL roster originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins need to do a better job drafting younger players, developing them and giving them a real opportunity to showcase their talents at the NHL level.
A failure in recent years to accomplish these objectives has forced the team to plug roster holes, especially in the bottom-six, via free agency and the trade market. That’s not sustainable.
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Bruins training camp began earlier this week. There are several prospects and young players pushing for a roster spot, including a couple of recent first-round picks.
Which of these players have the best chance of making the Opening Night squad? Let’s take a look at four of them.
Fabian Lysell, RW
Lysell is the Bruins’ top prospect after a strong 2021-22 season for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants during which he tallied 62 points (22 goals, 40 assists) in 53 games. He also posted 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 12 WHL playoff games, helping the Giants pull off a historic first-round upset.
The 2021 first-round pick is most likely to play in the NHL or AHL next season. He’ll be given every opportunity to earn an NHL roster spot in camp and the preseason. Lysell has an exciting blend of speed, offensive skill, playmaking ability and competitiveness. He makes something out of nothing when he has the puck on his stick.
The Bruins are going to begin the regular season without three players — left wing Brad Marchand and defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk — who play a key role in driving offense. Lysell’s game-changing offensive talent will be needed early on.
Johnny Beecher, C
Beecher was Boston’s first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. He did not meet expectations, at least offensively (39 points in 81 games), during his three years playing for the University of Michigan. Although in Beecher’s defense, an injury-plagued sophomore season and playing in a checking role as a junior hurt his scoring output. He also was playing on a star-studded Wolverines team, so top-six opportunities were not the easiest to earn.
Beecher still has promising upside at a skilled center with good size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and an improving shot. He got his first taste of pro action last season, playing nine games and tallying five points (three goals, two assists) for the AHL’s Providence Bruins.
Beecher can play center or on the wing, but his natural and most comfortable position is down the middle. He’s absolutely a candidate for the fourth line. Beecher, with his size, skill and speed, could become a power forward at the NHL level.
Marc McLaughlin, C
McLaughlin is another fourth-line candidate who could add much-needed offensive skill and speed to that group. He went from Boston College to the NHL last season, appearing in 11 games for Boston and scoring three goals over that span. He also played one regular season game and two playoff games for Providence.
McLaughlin is someone who can play on the third or fourth line, and at center or on the wing. This level of versatility is valuable.
A little experience in the AHL would be good for McLaughlin, but at 6-foot and 200 pounds, plus four years of experience at Boston College, he’s ready for another extended look in the NHL.
Jack Studnicka, C
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It might be now or never for Studnicka. He cannot go back to the AHL without passing waivers, and it’s no guarantee he would make it through without another team claiming him.
Studnicka has attempted to break through and become an NHL regular in recent years but has failed to carve out a consistent role. He has played 37 games with the Bruins since making his debut in 2019-20. He has posted seven points (one goal, six assists). He tallied zero goals and three assists in 15 games at the NHL level last season.
The 2017 second-round draft pick has enough offensive talent to be an NHL player. Whether he can be a reliable player in the defensive zone is the real debate. In fairness to Studnicka, the Bruins have never given him a long leash in the NHL. Allowing him a fair and extended opportunity to make his mark in Boston would help both sides determine if this partnership is going to work long term.
The Bruins could definitely use more of an offensive punch on their fourth line, and Studnicka could provide that. He’s done it in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, where he’s tallied 91 points in 112 games over the past three seasons. It’s time for him to bring that consistency to the next level.