The Boston Bruins begin their training camp later this month, and there will be plenty of competition for ice time at nearly every position.
This internal competition should be good for the Bruins, especially since the team has failed to incorporate high-quality young talent into the NHL roster over the past few years.
There are plenty of veterans (and young players with several years of NHL experience) under the microscope entering the new campaign as well. With that in mind, here are five Bruins that have a lot to prove entering the new season.
2021-22 stats: 8 grams, 10 amps at 60 gallons
Frederick was underwhelmed in his 2016 first round pick. He’s a normal position but he mostly played on the wing with the Bruins due to the team’s depth in the middle. While he scored his highest in goals and assists last season, Bruins still need more offensive production if he is to stay in the squad for the long term. Frederick appeared in four first-round matches for the Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes and was goalless with no shots at the net.
Younger players and prospects like Fabian Lisel, Johnny Beecher, Mark McLaughlin and Georgie Merkuloff are all knocking on the door and will compete for ice time at the NHL level in training camp and pre-season.
Frederick has the potential to be a quality striker capable of providing much-needed depth of recording, setting a bodily tone in every turn and thrilling opponents. He has a classic front-end type skill set. What sometimes hinders it are stupid penalties and inconsistent registration.
Overall, the Bruins need more humiliation from Frederic if he’s going to become an important part of this team going forward. Reaching the 30 point mark next season would be a good goal for him.
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2021-22 stats: 16G, 20A at 64G
Smith scored 32 points in 54 games for the Bruins in 2020-21 – his first season with the team after signing as a free agent. He was less effective offensively last season, scoring 36 points in 74 games. Smith was upset throughout the year, particularly early in the campaign.
The Bruins need more scoring than Smith. He scored more than 20 goals five times for the Nashville Predators before joining the B team. Smith scored 0.9 goals in 60 minutes (all positions) last season, his lowest level since 2016-2017. The discrepancy was an issue for Smith, too, as he failed to score in any of his last 13 regular season games in Boston in 2021-22.
Smith was also impressed in the playoffs, scoring zero points in seven games against ‘Sugarcane’. He’s also scored two or fewer shots at the net in four of those seven games, including a Game 7 performance when he didn’t fire a single shot on target.
Furthermore, Smith has scored only one goal in his last 14 games since winning overtime in Game 3 of the 2021 first round series against the Washington Capitals.
Smith is entering the final season of his three-year contract with the B team. He has all the motivation needed for a back-to-back campaign in 2022-23.
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2021-22 stats: 4 grams, 13 amps at 70 gallons
The Bruins have five left-handers under contract at the NHL level. Maybe someone will need to trade it in to free up much needed salary cap space. Riley is a good candidate as a $3 million controllable veteran player.
But the Bruins will need him to start the season with Matt Grzelcyk not expected to be ready for Opening Night.
The 2021-22 season has been difficult for Riley. He failed to build on the positive momentum from his debut for the Bruins having gained it late in the 2020-21 season. Riley was a healthy scratcher a few times and didn’t deliver the kind of disc ability and offensive production that Boston really needed from their blue streak.
Riley scored 17 points (four goals and 13 assists) in 70 games last season. He scored 27 points (all assists) in 55 games between the Ottawa Senators and the Bruins the previous season.
Grzelcyk’s absence early in the season gives Riley a massive opportunity to showcase his talent, be a more consistent attacking driver and prove he deserves a place in the squad full-time – be it in Boston or elsewhere.
2021-22 stats: 10–26-2, 917 SV%, 2.45 GAA
It took a while for Olmark to find rhythm with the Bruins, which was to be expected after moving from the poor Sabers to an elite defensive club in Boston. To his credit, Olmark finished the season strong and outperformed Jeremy Swayman over the last two months.
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This excellent finish was a factor in Olmark getting his first game start in the playoffs. He started the first two games and lost eight goals as the B team fell into the 0-2 hole. Olmark didn’t play terribly in those two games – and the Bruins gave him no defensive service – but he still needed to do a lot better and save a set in time.
Game 2 was Ullmark’s last appearance this season as Swayman began the last five games of the series, including defeating Game 7 at Raleigh.
Olmark and Swayman both played 41 games in the regular season and their stats were pretty much the same. It is a tandem of 1A/1B entering the 2022-23 campaign. The ideal scenario for B is one of those guards who steps up and becomes the obvious first choice.
If Swayman becomes “the guy” next season, it’s fair to wonder what Olmark’s future in Boston will look like. He has a no-motion clause in his 2022-23 contract, Per CapFri Friendly, but that changes to an amended no-trade clause for the last two years of his deal. Olmark is making a lot of money to be a backup, but there is still a strong possibility that he will be #1 on the team over the next few years. He has to earn it, and Swayman will save a lot of competition.
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2021-22 stats: 23-14-3, .914 SV%, 2.41 GAA
Swayman becoming the No. 1 goalkeeper is the best-case scenario for Bruins. He’s talented, small, and less expensive than Olmark. He showed flashes of being a really good network manager, but consistency was an issue at times. Swayman was fantastic in February, taking a 5-1-1 lead with 0.960 saves en route to winning the league Beginner of the Month Award. He was on course to be a playoff starter, but, as mentioned above, he struggled hard in March and April and entered postseason as backup.
Swayman got his chance to shine in the playoffs and played well in the last five games of the Hurricanes series. He set a 3-2-0 record with a save ratio of 0.911 and 2.63 GAA.
Swayman enters the final year of his entry contract. A good season, during which he becomes the undisputed top goalkeeper on the team, can give him a contract Like what Jake Oettinger just signed With the Dallas Stars.
It’s hard to overstate the significance of the 2022-23 season for Swayman.