Realistic 2013-14 Expectations for Boston Bruins Rookies
With training camp in full swing, the Boston Bruins' coaching staff has kept a keen eye on a number of rookies who could become impact players this season.
Rookies Torey Krug, Ryan Spooner, Matt Fraser and Niklas Svedberg will get to strut their stuff in the preseason as they each compete for a roster spot.
All four youngsters flashed NHL-caliber talent at times last season. So how might they fare given regular opporunities in Boston?
Here are realistic expectations for the Bruins' potential rookies:
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Torey Krug showed the entire world his upside in the postseason. A veteran of just three regular-season NHL games, he lit up the New York Rangers in his first playoff series.
The former Michigan State captain beat Henrik Lundqvist four times in five games, helping the Bruins cruise to a 4-1 series victory and becoming an instant folk hero in the process.
Now it is time to see if the tiny defenseman can handle the grind of an 82-game slate.
The energetic 22-year-old promises to add a ton of zip to the Bruins' blue line, and he should see plenty of power play work. In camp, Krug has worked with Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla on what could be a formidable PP unit.
With fellow youngsters Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski fighting for ice time in Boston's veteran-packed defensive corps, Krug will have a hard time cracking the top four.
With Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk guaranteed major minutes, Krug will have to wow coaches in camp to match his postseason ice time.
He'll likely slot into Boston's third pair along with Adam McQuaid. McQuaid's size should complement Krug well. A spot in the bottom two usually comes with roughly 15 minutes of action per game. Krug might see closer to 17 minutes if he becomes a power-play mainstay.
Krug will focus primarily on developing his already solid defensive game this season, so don't expect huge numbers. His point total will depend on Boston's success with the man-advantage. His presence should improve the Bruins' special teams significantly, so he will be something of an offensive force.
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Ryan Spooner earned the top ranking in B/R's recent Bruins Prospect Rankings, and he deserves an NHL job. Unfortunately the Bruins simply may not have room for him right now.
All four centers from Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup winning team are still in town, freezing out all challengers.
The traffic jam at center ice partially impacted the Bruins decision to trade natural centers Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas in July and it will likely force Swedish import Carl Soderberg to play on the wing.
Spooner led all AHL rookies in points last season with 57, and he has future top-six forward written all over him.
A highly intelligent playmaker, Spooner might be ready to break out in Boston. However, he'll likely have to move to right wing to get a chance this fall. He is a prime candidate for Peverley's vacated spot on the third line, but his relative lack of strength may put him at a disadvantage compared to more physical wingers.
Spooner will probably begin the season in Providence, where he should be an elite offensive weapon. If injury strikes, he will top the list of potential reinforcements.
Another year to mature should only benefit the 21-year-old when he finally does get a full-time NHL gig.
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Matt Fraser is quietly making a bid for an opening night roster spot, and he could make the biggest impact of any Bruins rookie given the chance.
One of four players acquired from Dallas in the Tyler Seguin trade, Fraser is a high-scoring, hard-hitting winger. The classic Bruins-style forward has the most immediate upside of any candidate for the open third-line spot.
The AHL's top goal scorer of the last two seasons is a much more gifted offensive player than camp competitors Jordan Caron and Reilly Smith. Fraser's size and grit should help him compare favorably to Ryan Spooner as well.
Though he is not the favorite to land the job, Fraser has looked good skating with Carl Soderberg and Craig Cunningham at training camp.
According to BostonBruins.com's Caryn Switaj, coach Claude Julien described him as a "high-end, skilled" forward.
Though Fraser can play both wings, he is more comfortable on the left. Consequently, his NHL hopes will get a major boost if Julien decides to move Carl Soderberg to center and Chris Kelly to the right wing.
Fraser will provide much-needed depth scoring if he makes the big club, potentially lighting the lamp 12-20 times over the course of the season.
If he is assigned to Providence, he would inevitably challenge for the AHL scoring title once again while working to develop his two-way game.
Niklas Svedberg was awarded the "Baz" Bastien award as the AHL's most outstanding goaltender last season, suggesting that he is ready for a bigger challenge.
In his first season in North America, the Swede led the P-Bruins to the top of the AHL standings with a 37-8-2 record. His play dropped off a bit in the Calder Cup playoffs, but he proved his postseason nerve by leading Brynäs IF to the Swedish championship in 2012.
2013 Boston backup Anton Khudobin opted to sign with Carolina this summer leaving a vacancy behind Tuukka Rask in Boston.
Svedberg is positioned to take that spot this fall. However, cap concerns could give the job to the cheaper Chad Johnson. The 27-year-old Johnson put up inferior AHL numbers last season, but he is a 40 percent cheaper alternative, according to CapGeek.
If the Bruins decide that the cap differential is immaterial, Svedberg should get the nod.
An NHL job would mean roughly 15-20 starts for the 23-year-old. The unproven rookie probably won't match Khudobin's very strong .920 save-percentage or 2.32 goals-against average from last season, but 10-13 wins would be a solid target for the young goalie, given the well established team in front of him.