Marc McLaughlin passed the eye test throughout the preseason. But his quest for a season-opening spot on the fourth line came to a surprising end.
Even after displaying solid two-way production during his exhibition slate, the Bruins assigned McLaughlin to Providence as part of their latest round of cuts.
Perhaps the numbers game caught up to McLaughlin even as he outperformed vets like Chris Wagner, Tomas Nosek, Trent Frederic and Nick Foligno. And indeed, head coach Jim Montgomery foresees McLaughlin playing a significant role within the organization.
“He had a great camp. We’re really happy with his development,” Montgomery said following Thursday’s practice in Brighton. “There are certain areas of his game we really want him to focus on in Providence — details, physicality and stuff. His offensive production, his tenacity on pucks, and ability to score … all of that has shown through. He’s going to be a big part of our future. But we have great depth, so right now, it’s what we think is best for the Boston Bruins moving forward.”
McLaughlin will likely find himself in a top-nine role to start his AHL season. John Beecher and Fabian Lysell face similar assignments for their first trip down I-95.
From Lysell’s playmaking traits to Beecher and McLaughlin’s well-rounded skillsets, the trio showcased strides in their development throughout the preseason. They all find themselves as early favorites for a promotion to Boston if and when that time comes.
“Lysell and Beecher are tremendous young hockey players who will be really good Boston Bruins in the future,” Montgomery said.
Jack Ahcan and Kyle Keyser joined Beecher, McLaughlin and Lysell in the Baby B’s bound department. The Bruins also placed Keith Kinkaid, Joona Koppanen, Vinni Lettieri and Dan Renouf on waivers for the purpose of a Providence assignment.
Oscar Steen cleared waivers earlier in the week and will also report to Providence. But another younger forward in a similar situation hopes to avoid waivers entirely by camp’s end.
Jack Studnicka’s journey continues
The Bruins envisioned Studnicka as a potential top-six cog once David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron call it a career. For now, he’s fighting to remain in the organization and earn a spot on the fourth line come the Oct. 12 opener in Washington.
Studnicka didn’t factor into the scoresheet but still played a significant role in Boston’s 5-4 triumph. His strong forecheck early in the first pave the way for Jake DeBrusk’s marker — with McLaughlin earning a primary assist — in a de facto top-six assignment.
“He played really well,” Montgomery said of Studnicka’s latest preseason performance. “If you look at the way with how he played, he’s earned the right to continue to be here.”
Studnicka’s skillset doesn’t necessarily fit the fourth-line job description. He isn’t necessarily an energy guy, nor is he the most physical specimen.
The 2017 second-rounder experienced a pair of rough collisions Wednesday night. But he didn’t hesitate to retrieve pucks along the walls or help the Bruins in their transition game following contact.
In the long run, Montgomery hopes to help with Studnicka’s ability and positioning to absorb the NHL grind.
“He’s not a fourth-line, heavy, physical player. We just want him first on pucks and to be able to protect himself and to protect pucks to gain momentum and maybe add more offense in the fourth-line position. We just have to work with him on making him aware of not putting himself in such vulnerable positions to receive those type of hits. He took two hard [hits] last night, and I think that’s happened to him before in the past from what I heard from Sweens [Don Sweeney] and other coaches. And I think that’s part of his development.”
Studnicka skated with Chris Wagner and Taylor Hall on Thursday.
Hall returned to the ice wearing a yellow no-contact sweater after sustaining an upper-body injury in last Saturday’s tilt against the Flyers. His status for opening night remains uncertain. But another no-contact player from Thursday could appear in Boston’s lineup a little sooner than anticipated.
Matt Grzelcyk is “ahead of schedule.”
For the past few weeks, the Charlestown-born blue-liner joined Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy for a handful of rehab skates with team trainers. The encouraging news continued for Grzelcyk on Thursday as he paired with Anton Stralman in line rushes.
Grzelcyk’s timetable for returning was initially scheduled for mid-November. But the latest development has the former BU Terrier on the cusp of taking full contact, according to Montgomery.
“Grzelcyk is going to go into a regular jersey real quick, which is good,” Montgomery said. “He’s ahead of schedule.”
Grzelcyk’s impending return will eventually lead to tougher lineup choices and potential salary cap casualties. In fact, Grzelcyk’s partner from Thursday may hasten the Bruins’ decision-making process on and off the ice.
Is Stralman inching closer to a contract?
Sometimes, a little added experience in the locker room isn’t a bad thing. And like the Bruins, Anton Stralman endured his share of postseason bumps and bruises during his 15-year career.
None of the 32 teams decided to sign the 36-year-old in the off-season. But Stralman felt he had more to give and looked into several PTO offers before camp.
The Bruins took a flyer on Stralman to see what he could bring to a battle-tested but banged-up Boston blue line. The veteran Swede impressed from the get-go, showcasing his commitment and poise in crucial moments like his timely poke check on an extended Rangers offensive cycle in the closing moments against the Rangers.
“I just really loved his poise and his game management,” Montgomery said of Stralman. “Even [Wednesday], there were a couple of plays he made in the third where he got the puck at the offensive blue-line standing still, and he just made a little dink pass to the slot… We’re playing with the lead and it’s 5-4 at the time. To have that kind of poise in game management, in order to make that play you have to have the time. His risk vs. reward is high.”
Stralman saw a little time with Hampus Lindholm early in the preseason. He remained in a top pair role with Jakub Zboril against the Rangers.
Ideally, Stralman would suit himself well in a third-pairing role with a fully healthy lineup. Perhaps he’ll find himself there with Zboril in the long run.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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