Training camp has begun for the Boston Bruins, who are transitioning after a shocking first-round exit from the playoffs ended a historic 2022-23 season, and longtime centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retired. There are mixed predictions on what type of team the Bruins will be during the upcoming season. There is still a good core led by new captain Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and David Pastrnak. The Bruins also return the top goalie tandem in the NHL. There is still a lot to be excited about in Boston. But what is in the pipeline as the first preseason game approaches on September 24?
Here is an update on the top five prospects in the Bruins system and their chances of making the NHL roster this year. For a few years, the Bruins have had one of the lowest-rated prospect pools in the league. There is still a long way to go, but some young players in the organization have made strides and could be inching closer to contributing to the parent club soon.
The former Ohio State University product has climbed the ladder and become arguably the Bruins’ top prospect. During the Prospect Challenge in Buffalo, Mason Lohrei struggled to find his game and got caught up in trying to do too much at times. But the offensive skill is there. On day one of camp, Lohrei was paired on defense with Brandon Carlo, which could become a pairing of the future for the Bruins. The 6-foot-4 defenseman might need a little more time in the American Hockey League, but fans should keep an eye on his development in the preseason.
Fabian Lysell’s dazzling speed and offensive prowess were on full display during the Prospect Challenge. The young Swedish forward consistently created scoring opportunities and demonstrated excellent puck-handling skills. The former first-round pick is a play driver and has high-end skill with the puck and a good shot. Defensively and physicality are the two areas where Lysell will have to continue to improve. The first day of training camp saw Lysell playing right wing on a line with Marchand and Charlie Coyle.
The former Ohio State center had a great first professional season with Providence in 2022-23 with 24 goals and 31 assists in 67 games and is a viable option for Boston at the center position, which is much needed. Georgii Merkulov’s development depends on his willingness to play a 200-foot game and shore up his defensive responsibilities. Providence coach Ryan Mougenel is high on Merkulov and says this about the soon-to-be 23-year-old “he needs a ‘why’ all the time. He’s super inquisitive. The ‘why’ with Merk was we want to be in & out of our D zone. We want your energy for offense. There’s a certain way of selling it and a certain way to buy in, and he bought in.”
Merkulov opened camp by playing on a line with Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk.
Matthew Poitras is another center who has developed his game quickly since being drafted in the second round of the 2022 NHL Draft. The playmaking center had a terrific 2022-23 season with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League with 79 assists. Early in training camp, Bruins Head Coach Jim Montgomery called Poitras a “high-end thinker” and added that he often likes to place younger players alongside veterans during camp to “kind of show them the Bruins way.” So the 19-year-old saw time on Thursday with 61-goal scorer David Pastrnak. Poitras will either return to Guelph or possibly make the Bruins roster out of camp.
The 20-year-old goal scorer tallied three goals in the Prospect Challenge and continues to show a knack for putting the puck in the net. Last season, Harrison split time with Oshawa and Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League and totaled 34 goals and 35 assists in 57 games. The former third-round pick was impressive around the net and along the walls in the prospect tournament and will get an opportunity to show what he can do in the preseason with Boston. The center played wing with Poitras and showed some chemistry in Buffalo.
The Bruins will need some of their young talent to advance to the NHL game soon, and a couple of players could potentially see some action at some point this season. There isn’t a lot of high-end depth in the prospect pool, but the top five are young players to watch in the next couple of weeks.