We are officially a week into Bruins training camp and have seen two preseason games so far. Tonight we’ll get to enjoy another one against the Flyers at the TD Garden. Yet so far the Bruins have made just one cut by sending recent 6th round draft pick Cedric Pare back to his Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.
At this point it is safe to say that the left wing competition has become the biggest and most interesting battle as training camp unfolds. In my opinion, and I would assume that of every Bruins fan, Brad Marchand is the only obvious shoe-in to be in the opening night lineup on the left side. All the way down the lineup, from the second to the fourth line, it’s hard to tell who is going to be playing left wing.
So far in camp all the young players who are options on the left side have shown well. Anders Bjork has been practicing on the right side with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, but he shoots left handed, so naturally he could play the left side. Bjork scored a goal in the first preseason game against the Canadiens as well.
Jake DeBrusk has been on the left side with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. Although DeBrusk did not score against the Red Wings he received rave reviews from all media members. But with two weeks left of camp I do not think Jake DeBrusk is necessarily a guarantee yet to break camp with the big club.
DeBrusk and Bjork have been given the first opportunity to play top-6 roles and so far they have done nothing to lose that opportunity.
So for arguments sake let’s say DeBrusk breaks camp riding bitch with Krejci and Pastrnak. Who are the 3rd and 4th line left wings?
By my estimations there are four realistic players for those two spots. They are Frank Vatrano, Danton Heinen, Matt Beleskey, and Tim Schaller. Most likely three of these guys will break camp with the Bs. One of these guys will be the 13th forward.
Probably the guy who deserves a spot on the team the least but happens to cash the biggest checks will be the first person to make the team. And that would be Matt Beleskey. His skill set screams 4th line but so doesn’t Tim Schaller’s.
From seeing Beleskey play the past two years and Schaller play the past year I would have to say in the pure offensive skill department Schaller is the better player. One of these guys will be the 4th line left wing and the other will be the 13th forward.
So that means the 3rd line left wing would come down to Vatrano and Heinen.
Both of these players are able to be sent to Providence without having to clear waivers. However, Vatrano likely has the inside lane to grabbing the spot. He is experienced, a pure sniper, and looks to be trending a bit more toward being a 200 foot player the B’s hope he can be based off his performance against Detroit on Tuesday. But, I do not think he creates much for his linemates. Heinen probably has more all around skill than Vatrano, even with goal scoring ability and playmaking. But my guess here is Vatrano gets the first crack at the 3rd line left wing.
This is all a fluid situation though. One injury and all of these guys find themselves on the Bruins to start camp. Vatrano and Heinen can also both play the right side, so there is always that option. Would the Bruins be willing to trade Ryan Spooner and slide David Backes in as the 3rd line center being flanked by Vatrano and Heinen? It is going to be a tough call.
The decision is even harder since all the young players are playing well thus far and pushing for a spots. Maybe we will get more answers we need tonight as NESN carries their first preseason game.
I hope you’re all ready for a little Jack Edward’s. It’s been too long.
Follow us on Twitter @BostonPucks and let’s talk hockey.