Position battle outlook: Bruins first line right wing
Throughout the week, we’ll be looking at the Bruins’ top position battles for the 2014-15 season. Today, in part one, we’ll look at the vacant spot at right wing on the Bruins first line. Stay tuned tomorrow as we outlook the third line.
In the previous four seasons, there wasn’t much debate about who would skate along with David Krejci and Milan Lucic on the Bruins’ first line. Upon his arrival from the Florida Panthers, Nathan Horton took that spot and provided the Bruins first line with a scoring touch, which included his magical performance in the 2011 postseason. After Horton left for Columbus, the B’s signed Jarome Iginla to a one-year deal and the 30-goal scorer provided another key cog to that unit.
This year, however, the Bruins will have to fill Iginla’s void as he is off to Colorado. The early favorite to fill Iginla’s void is Loui Eriksson, but there are some other candidates that head coach Claude Julien will keep an eye on before their regular season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers on October 8th.
With that in mind, here are the list of candidates for the Bruins’ first line right wing vacancy.
If Vegas sports books had an odds on favorite for the void, then Loui Eriksson’s line would be 2:1.
His numbers weren’t as flashy as Bruins fans would’ve hoped after coming to Boston in the Tyler Seguin trade. The Swede missed 21 games due to his concussion battles and tallied just 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) during the 2013-14 season.
Once Eriksson shook off the cobwebs, he was a different player and developed great chemistry with fellow countryman Carl Soderberg on the third line. The ex-Star tallied eight points in his final 10 games of the regular season, and in the playoffs, his line was arguably one of the best units.
Because of his strong finish to the season, Eriksson has to be the favorite. But there’s always a chance that Julien might go in a different direction, especially if he doesn’t want to breakup the Eriksson-Soderberg duo.
Speaking of Soderberg, the third year forward is poised for bigger and better things after a strong finish last year. Things really turned around for Soderberg when he was moved from wing to center, and at least for the time being, it seems that he’ll stay at that spot on the third line.
There are a couple of interesting dilemma’s to keeping Soderberg at center, though. For one, the Bruins have a surplus of players at the position. Moreover, with Ryan Spooner and Alex Khoklachev waiting in the wings (both centers), Julien could try to maximize Soderberg’s potential with first line minutes and move him back to wing. I can’t see that happening in the immediate future, but the option is there.
There’s no denying that the Black and Gold have high hopes for this year’s first round pick, and skating along with his idol (Krejci) would be a dream come true for Pastrnak. For now, he’s battling for a spot on the opening night roster, but ask this question again down the road and you might have a different answer.
First thing’s first, Peter Chiarelli will have to move some pieces around in order to get Smith, one of two RFAs left unsigned, a new contract. When he does, expect Smith to stay with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the second line. At the same time, they could reunite Eriksson with Bergeron and Marchand – the second line unit from the beginning of last year – which means Smith could get a “promotion” with Krejci and Lucic.
The first line right wing battle is Eriksson’s to lose. But the other names listed above could be useful if Eriksson gets injured or his production drops significantly during the 2014-15 season.