Bruins Beat: Who Plays On The Third Line?
One of the biggest crutches for the Boston Bruins last season was the inconsistency of their third line. Chris Kelly went from scoring career highs in goals (20), points (39), and plus minus (+33) in 2012, but failed to come anywhere close to those numbers last season. Rich Peverley also struggled mightily last season and suffered a similar drop in his offensive production. Both of these players were valuable to the Bruins’ Cup run in 2011, but following an disappointing season from the two last season it was clear a change had to be made.
Kelly has far more value than his offensive outburst in 2012. His leadership, strong defensive play, and two-way acumen made him the logical choice to keep. So Peverley was traded along with Tyler Seguin as part of the Loui Eriksson deal, which also brought in prospects Matt Fraser and Reilly Smith who both have a chance to help out the B’s third line this season.
The Bruins are going to try and integrate some of their young talent into the NHL roster this year. Here are some of the options for the third line heading into this season.
Carl Soderberg: The hulking winger/center finally came to Boston after years of speculation that he would never come across the pond. It was an exciting and shocking revelation towards the end of last season. Unfortunately his impact was only minor as Coach Claude Julien thought it wise to limit his activity so that he adjust to the North American game properly. Soderberg only added 2 assists in a combined 8 games throughout the regular and post seasons for the B’s, but the potential is there for him to make a bigger impact this season. He has the size at 6’3″ and 200lbs. and he also possesses a great hockey IQ. I believe he has top 6 potential for the Bruins somewhere down the line, but for now I think he is a lock to start the season on the third line next to Chris Kelly at either the wing or center position.
Ryan Spooner: The Bruins made Spooner the 45th overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Spooner was a standout in the OHL with his stints with the Sarnia Sting, Kingston Frontenacs, and the Peterborough Petes, but it was his first pro season with the Providence Bruins that really helped establish himself as a potential offensive NHL talent. In his first pro season he scored 17 goals, 40 assists, and +14 in 59 games with the Providence Bruins. His excellent performance last year will certainly earn him a good long look at a potential NHL job this season. Big league action won’t be uncharted territory for the young forward as he enjoyed a 4 games stint with the big club last season. I am unsure as to whether or not he will make the team out of camp to start the season, but should an injury happen, it would be expected that he is the logical choice for the first call up.
Reilly Smith: Smith was acquired as part of the Tyler Seguin trade as one of the many prospects the Bruins acquired, along with the already mentioned Loui Eriksson. He has already gotten a fair share of NHL games under his belt because he spent 37 games with the Dallas Stars last season, where picked up 3 goals, 6 assists, and an even plus/minus rating. Smith is a shifty skater, but undersized. Aside from that though, he does have somewhat of an inside track in landing a possible job with the Bruins this upcoming season. Out of all the younger players the B’s will likely integrate into these roles; Smith has the most NHL games under his belt (other than Jordan Caron, but I have given up on him being a solid NHL citizen).
Matt Fraser: Fraser is someone whom I believe to be the darkhorse choice for one of the third line wing spots heading into the season. He has good size with a 6’1″, 200lb frame and an incredibly powerful shot. Fraser has scored 70 goals in the last two AHL seasons with the Texas Stars, and would be a welcome “shoot first” mentality to a team full of guys who look to dish the puck rather than fire it. He also possesses some level of grit to his game which should help him endear himself to the Bruins faithful, as well as his teammates and the coaching staff. Another possibility for Fraser is to play on the B’s fourth line while they promote Dan Paille to the third line. This would be another logical choice for the Bruins and could quite possibly be the course of action they take.
There are also a few other players that could make the team out of camp too. Jared Knight has the ability to play at the NHL level now, but injuries tarnished his debut season with the Providence Bruins last year. I believe he will start the year with the Baby B’s, but will certainly see some serious NHL action as soon as this upcoming season. Jordan Caron is also another option, but I have honestly given up hope that he will turn into anything more than a bottom six role player who is in and out of the lineup. Caron could have an NHL career ahead of him, but I doubt it is with Boston at this point.
You can also add Anthony Camara into the mix of players trying to make the cut, though if he did make the team it would be on the team’s fourth line likely moving Paille up in a move identical to the one I suggested for Fraser. Camara will likely start the year in Providence where I expect him to become a fan favorite. Speaking of fan favorites in Providence; Bobby Robbins earned himself a two-way contract in the offseason from the Bruins and could see a few games with the big club sprinkled throughout the season. Another option is Chris Bourque, but I believe the ship has sailed on that guy big time.
The Boston Bruins have a lot of options heading into the upcoming season. Having so many talented youngsters isn’t a bad problem to have when you are pressed up against the salary cap like the B’s are. I expect all of these players mentioned to get some looks throughout the season, but there are a few who are a cut above the rest like Soderberg, Spooner, Smith, and Fraser whom I expect to have the best shot at starting the season with Chris Kelly on Boston’s third line
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