This season marks a new era for the Boston Bruins, one of youth, speed and skill at every position. With that said, let’s look ahead and forecast the production one should expect from each member of the black and gold throughout an abbreviated 56-game 2021 campaign.
Unfortunately, unlike Biff in “Back to the Future Part II”, I don’t have the luxury of owning a sports almanac cheat sheet to aid me in these predictions. Instead, I’ll have to rely on my evaluation skills and gut instincts.
Now, while I have a fairly certain idea of what an opening night lineup may look like, even without the services of David Pastrnak, I really have no way of knowing exactly how many games some may play over others due to healthy scratch, illness or injury.
So for the purposes of this exercise, we're not going to predict who may miss time due to injury (other than Pastrnak missing the first couple weeks), and will assume the big names on the roster play just about every game, while guys lower on the depth chart may be in and out a bit.
Without further ado.
Brad Marchand - 19 Goals, 45 Assists, 64 Points
Well over a point per game the last four seasons, Marchand has firmly established himself as one of the top left wings and agitators in the NHL.
Marchand should be back to full health following offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia that had him playing at “80%”.
If you combine Marchand’s health, skill-set, line chemistry, and use in all situations, he should once again light it up at over a point per game pace.
David Pastrnak - 28 Goals, 30 Assists, 58 Points
There’s little doubt that if Pastrnak had a full slate of games, he would lead the Bruins in points. He would also find himself in the running for a consecutive Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer as well as an Art Ross Trophy as the league’s individual point leader.
Unfortunately, missing at least the first few weeks of an already shortened season will likely put an end to those hopes in 2021. That won’t prevent Pasta from still scoring over a point per game in the time he is on the ice.
There’s the possibility of a slow start when he does get back into game action, but I suspect he’ll heat up quickly if there is.
Patrice Bergeron - 22 Goals, 24 Assists, 46 Points
Mr. Selke. Saint Patrice. Captain. Call him what you will, but I’ll refer to him as consistent.
Since the 2003-2004 season, Patrice Bergeron has been one the best two-way players in the NHL, and will go down as one of the greatest of a generation at both ends of the ice.
Personally, I feel there was a three to four season stretch from 2008-2012 where Bergeron’s offensive game wasn’t what it is now. Concussion issues and a defensive minded head coach had much to do with that.
Under Bruce Cassidy, Bergeron has once again found his underrated offensive touch, all while remaining as responsible as ever defensively. He may be 35, but he plays much younger than that. Expect another Selke caliber season from the 20th captain of the Boston Bruins.
David Krejci - 14 Goals, 25 Assists, 39 Points
David Krejci, or “French Fries” as Tyler Seguin once referred to him as, has been in search of the perfect linemates since losing Nathan Horton in the summer of 2013, then Milan Lucic a few years later.
Speed has never been Krejci’s game, but when it comes to vision and controlling the pace of play, he is a true talent. Lucic and Horton used to provide time and space for Krejci to play-make, and really complemented his game well.
After years of rotating wingers, Krejci now finds speed and skill on his wings instead of power and size. I believe DeBrusk and Kase’s speed will complement Krejci in a totally different, yet effective way.
Charlie Coyle - 16 Goals, 22 Assists, 38 Points
No disrespect to Ryan Donato, but talk about a steal. The Bruins snagged a big, strong, two-way forward in that trade.
Now, I’m taking a risk on this prediction since I have Coyle scoring almost the same amount of points he had last year but in 14 fewer games. However, he could have had close to 30 goals last year with the amount of chances he had.
Combine Coyle’s scoring chance frequency with top unit power play time and new linemate Craig Smith, and I expect an increase in points per game for the pride of Weymouth.
Jake DeBrusk - 18 Goals, 16 Assists, 34 Points
JD 74 can be as streaky as rolling down a window after a car wash. He’d be the first to admit that. He’d also be the first to admit that consistency is going to be key for him going forward with the Bruins, especially if he wants to cash in after his two-year bridge deal.
DeBrusk and Krejci have built some decent chemistry over the last few seasons and now have had a chance to create some with Kase this offseason. Scoring 34 points in 56 games would be a great step forward in the consistency department for the speedy winger.
Ondrej Kase - 12 Goals, 20 Assists, 32 Points
Ondrej Kase was all Swedish, no Finnish in his brief time with the Bruins last season. I’m just kidding, by the way, he’s Czech in case you were wondering.
Nonetheless, Kase will play a key role in the B’s top six forward group and power play units. He has the speed to match DeBrusk, and creativity to think like Krejci that will enable him to be successful. Kase will eventually find the back of the net, but I anticipate him collecting more assists.
Charlie McAvoy - 6 Goals, 24 Assists, 30 points
No disrespect to Zdeno Chara, he is a future Hall of Famer, but when it comes to raw talent, Charlie McAvoy is the most skilled, all-around defenseman to wear a Bruins sweater since Ray Bourque.
He’s led the Bruins in ice time the last few seasons and is only scratching the surface of what he can be. Make no mistake about it, this is McAvoy’s blue line and he’ll be playing in all situations.
The departure of Torey Krug will allot more opportunity for McAvoy, as well as Grzelcyk, to quarterback one of their two power play units.
McAvoy is the total package, and at only 23 years of age will soon be recognized, league wide, as one of the game's best defensemen.
Craig Smith - 13 Goals, 15 Assists, 28 Points
The new guy! If you aren’t familiar with Craig Smith, you will at the very least admire his work ethic. He is an absolute honey badger who gets in on the forecheck, crashes the net and shoots the puck a ton. He and Charlie Coyle will work really well together five on five. Expect Smith to get time on the second power play unit as well.
Matt Grzelcyk - 3 Goals, 18 Assists, 21 Points
The smooth skating defenseman from Charlestown. Matt Grzelcyk is living the dream of every kid who ever grew up playing hockey in New England.
A former captain at Boston University, and now a top four defenseman for the Boston Bruins. Way to go, Gryz.
It seems Grzelcyk’s skating ability and offensive creativity will earn him the first crack at replacing Torey Krug as quarterback on the top power play unit.
If he can strive in this role alongside elite scorers David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, Grzelcyk should be able to rack up a fair amount of assists on the power play.
Jack Studnicka - 7 Goals, 12 Assists, 19 Points
Studnicka’s size, speed and skill is apparent when watching him. He’s creative, and moves well without the puck. Projected to eventually be a top two center for the Bruins, he’ll begin his career this season at wing.
His point projection will depend on what line the coaching staff decides to put him with for the majority of the season. He is penciled in to fill in for Pastrnak on the top line to start, but may find himself in a fourth line role after that.
In fact, once Pasta does return, there will be heavy competition between Studnicka, Bjork, Frederic, Kuhlman and Ritchie all season for third and fourth line positioning.
Studnicka’s opportunity to play and score consistently will most likely come through taking Nick Ritchie’s spot on the third line. In fact, by the time playoffs roll around, I believe he will.
There will be a few healthy scratches along the way, but all in all, Studnicka should prove himself to be a mainstay and give Bruins fans much to cheer about.
Nick Ritchie - 6 Goals, 11 Assists, 17 Points
The scapegoat of last season’s playoffs, Nick Ritchie didn’t make a great first impression on Bruins fans. I understand why, I do. What I will say, though, is that fans witnessed the absolute worst of Ritchie.
He is capable of much more than what he showed last year. At his best, he’s a power forward with decent hands that can go to the net and finish scoring chances. He was rather decent at doing so in Anaheim, playing alongside Ondrej Kase.
What you’ll get is somewhere between his floor and ceiling. I have a feeling that when all is said and done, Bruins fans won’t have as bad of a taste in their mouth when thinking of Nick Ritchie as they have all offseason. Then again, maybe they will.
There will be nights where Ritchie leaves much to be desired and could lead to a demotion of lines and even a few games on the 9th floor.
Anders Bjork - 5 Goals, 11 Assists, 16 Points
There is a lot at stake for Anders Bjork this season. He’s yet to live up to the hype he had when leaving Notre Dame as a Hobey Baker nominee for top college hockey player in the country. Bjork has NHL speed and skill, but has had trouble finding his scoring touch.
Since he’s not particularly physical or defensive, he has to be a scorer. Until that consistently happens, Bjork may have a tough time finding a consistent role in the lineup.
Much like Studnicka, Bjork will most likely have to bounce Ritchie from the third line to create an appropriate role in the offense. Unfortunately for Bjork, Studnicka seems to be the younger difference maker more primed to take Ritchie’s spot.
This means Bjork will aim to be a speedy, forechecking fourth liner for the Bruins.
Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman and Ritchie will also get looks on the fourth line with Kuraly and Wagner.
Still, if Bjork can find himself in the lineup consistently, he should be able to prove his worth in a now or never campaign.
Sean Kuraly - 6 Goals, 10 Assists, 16 Points
Known more for his checking role and endless amount of energy, Kuraly has the talent to be a third liner on many NHL rosters, but on a hopeful Cup contender, he’s right where he should be. Expect around six “Kuraly-Leaps” from the Miami Ohio alum.
Brandon Carlo - 2 Goals, 12 Assists, 14 Points
Brandon Carlo has excelled in his role as a shutdown defenseman for the Bruins over the last four seasons. At 6’5’’, the Bruins challenged Carlo to incorporate a little more “nasty” into his game last season. This season, he may be encouraged to think a little more offensively when appropriate.
Carlo skates well for a player of his height, and if he times it right, jumping into the rush will create options and passing lanes when entering the offensive zone. Being paired with Matt Grzelcyk will do well to round out Carlo’s game.
Chris Wagner - 4 Goals, 9 Assists, 13 Points
While the Mayor of Walpole shows flashes of offensive finish and ability, Chris Wagner will once again be expected to be a thorn in the side of opponents and provide heavy forechecking and net front presence.
Wagner needs to make sure that he brings the energy game in and game out, because there will be a lot of depth players fighting for ice time. Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic, Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman, Par Lindholm and Greg McKegg will be battling all year to be in the lineup. There will be constant game time decisions, and Wagner will have to do his part to keep his spot on that fourth line.
Karson Kuhlman - 4 Goals, 8 Assists, 12 Points
I’m a fan of Karson Kuhlman’s game. He skates like a bull in a china shop, and never quits on a play.
The question is if he’ll eventually lose opportunity to younger, bigger players. He could bring a lot to a Cup-contending fourth line with his speed and ability to get in on the forecheck.
It will come down to the numbers game for Kuhlman and if the coaching staff feels he can bring more to the table than an alternative player on any given night.
Trent Frederic - 3 Goals, 6 Assists, 9 Points
The time is now for Trent Frederic to show what he can do. Bruins fans may remember Frederic’s NHL debut a few seasons ago versus the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden. He was engaged physically and brought a sold out crowd to their feet after getting five for fighting against Brandon Tanev.
If I’m Nick Ritchie or Chris Wagner, I’m looking over my shoulder at Trent Frederic because he’s younger and has more offensive upside to his game.
This is why this season will be so interesting. Jobs will be won and lost as the season goes on.
Still, the amount of players battling for ice time will limit Frederic’s game total, not to say he can’t earn a full time role by playoffs.
Jakub Zboril - 2 Goals, 7 Assists, 9 Points
Rather than focusing on the 2015 Draft where the Bruins could have selected a handful of now proven NHL stars instead of Zboril and Senyshyn who have yet to make an impact, I’ll focus on the fact that Zboril does possess a lot of skill and is still only 23 years old.
With that said, it’s up to him now to finally break through and make the team. Trust me, the Bruins want him to make the team just as badly. If he doesn’t make the team, he’ll never help them on the ice and he’ll certainly have no value in the trade market should they ever admit defeat and try to move him.
He’ll probably be asked to sit out a few games and learn from the press box at times, but should be able to lock down a top six d-role alongside Kevan Miller. This will be a telling year for Jakub Zboril.
Jeremy Lauzon - 3 Goals, 5 Assists, 8 Points
Any Bruins fan that took a close look at Lauzon last season would agree that he’s a big body who can skate well and doesn’t shy away from physicality. It remains to be seen just how effective he can be offensively from the blue line, however, I think it’s safe to say the Bruins anticipate Lauzon to play big, nasty and defensively sound.
Kevan Miller - 2 Goals, 6 Assists, 8 Points
Any concern that a year and a half off from injury would create rust for Kevan Miller has been lessened this past week with all the praise coming out of Bruins training camp regarding Miller’s timing and conditioning.
Game action will be the real indicator if the league has passed Miller by or not. I doubt it.
Miller is a beast and an incredibly hard worker, so if anyone can whip themselves back into game shape quickly, it’s him. I think it’s important for the Bruins to get him back.
He’s tough as nails, protects his teammates and provides important leadership on the blue line, especially with Zdeno Chara now in Washington.
I still believe his presence was sorely missed in the finals against St. Louis.
Connor Clifton - 2 Goals, 5 Assists, 7 Points
Cliffy Hockey is an exciting and energetic defenseman who isn’t afraid to throw his body around. Offensively, however, he’ll never really be a big point producer from the back end. Can he chip in? Sure. He’s probably a few seasons away from reaching his offensive ceiling patrolling the blue line.
Though only 25, Clifton will have to concede playing time to some of the younger defensemen ready to help the big club.
Urho Vaakanainen - 1 Goal, 6 Assists, 7 Points
The young, promising, Finnish defenseman will turn some heads if he earns the opportunity to play consistently.
He’s a smart, composed, puck-moving defenseman that I could see on a top pair with Charlie McAvoy in the not too far off future.
Vaakanainen was one of the best players at the World Juniors tournament a few years back and had a setback with the Bruins following a concussion in a game in Ottawa. If Vaakanainen is able to get his confidence to where it should be, he will be a fixture on the Bruins blue line for years to come.
As for this year, he’ll have to really outplay those around him to earn full time duties. The time is now for Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril, whereas Vaakanainen is still a few years younger.
Par Lindholm - 2 Goals, 3 Assists, 5 Points
Lindholm works hard, is reliable defensively and strong in the faceoff circle. However, he’s a fourth liner on an average NHL roster and extra depth on a contender in case someone gets injured or gets healthy scratched as a kick in the rear.
John Moore - 1 Goal, 3 Assists, 4 Points
John Moore is a fine defensemen, and skates well. Unfortunately for him, there are too many young players that the Bruins want to give opportunity to, and rightfully so. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the Bruins didn’t sign him to a 5-year, $13.75 Million contract in 2018 before playing one shift for them. Good call there Sweeney ..
Younger defensemen will falter at times and injuries will occur to give Moore enough games to help impact the team. Unfortunately for Moore, if all other defenders are healthy and playing well, he’s not likely to dress.