Whether any of the Bruins’ prospects make the leap to the NHL level out of training camp is anyone’s guess. But a trio of future B’s made a good impression on Boston’s preseason opener against the New York Rangers on Sunday.
Matthew Poitras (a goal and an assist), Johnny Beecher (one goal) and Brandon Bussi (29 saves) stood out against a late-arriving Blueshirts squad at TD Garden.
“It’s nice to see the players coming up that are going to be a big part of our future,” head coach Jim Montgomery said. “Bussi was tremendous, Poitras had a good game, and Beecher did a lot of good things out there besides the goal.”
The Bruins will have Monday off before returning to the ice on Tuesday for another pair of sessions in Brighton before their next exhibition in Buffalo the same evening. In the meantime, here’s what we learned from Boston’s 3-0 win during Sunday’s glorified scrimmage.
Poitras draws top-line assignment with DeBrusk and van Riemsdyk
The first year without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci presents its share of challenges. Among them include restocking the prospect pool at center after years of struggling to provide future depth in the later years of Bergeron’s and Krejci’s tenure.
But the Bruins see something in Matthew Poitras. The 2022 second-round selection rose up Boston’s pipeline ranks following his impressive 95-point campaign for Guelph (OHL) in 2022-23.
Montgomery and the coaching staff assigned Poitras with a handful of Boston’s top-six veterans over the first few days of camp, including David Pastrnak. On Sunday, Poitras drew a top-line assignment centering a pair of veteran power forwards in Jake DeBrusk and James van Riemsdyk.
The 19-year-old made a solid impression, showcasing his shooting and passing touch en route to a two-point performance.
The young centerman notched Boston’s first preseason goal on its opening power play attempt, sniping a snap shot past two-time Cup-winning netminder Jonathan Quick 7:20 in.
“They really helped me with my confidence level going into the game,” Poitras said of DeBrusk and van Riemsdyk.
Perhaps the Bruins see enough potential in Poitras to keep him in Boston to start the season. As an entry-level slide candidate, they could even return him to juniors before Poitras reaches the 10-game threshold.
But given the rigorous physicality at the highest level of pro hockey, the Bruins could wait on bringing Poitras aboard until he fully grows into his body. But for now, they’ll continue to evaluate his performances and work with him to round out his skillset in the coming days.
“It’s a big challenge because it’s a man’s league out there. And he didn’t see the NHL tonight,” Montgomery said of Poitras’ chances. “It’s a really good start, but that’s what he needs to do, right? He’s played a really good game. He’s going to get another game, and if he keeps playing [well], he’ll continue to get rewarded.”
Bussi provided a highlight for his NHL preseason debut
The Bruins the undrafted free agent following his superb three-year stint at Western Michigan.
With the logjam in net down in Providence, Bussi spent four games at Boston’s ECHL affiliate in Maine. But eventually, Bussi broke through the Baby B’s ranks and secured a spot within the Providence rotation, playing in 32 games and sporting a .924 save percentage and 2.40 goals against average.
Bussi ascended to the top of Boston’s prospectus goaltending ranks a year ago. And albeit in a scrimmage-like environment, the 25-year-old didn’t disappoint in his first ever NHL tilt.
Bussi shined on Sunday after stopping all of New York’s 29 shots on net. He brought an unusually lively preseason crowd to its feet in the third after committing highway robbery on Jonny Brodzinski’s power play bid on the doorstep.
“Sometimes you have to compete and get a little luck,” Bussi said of his highlight reel save on Brodzinski. “I’m pretty fortunate that I made that save, and credit to the defense in front of me. It was a great effort tonight.”
The Bruins feel pretty fortunate to have Bussi in their pipeline.
Barring an injury or any other unforeseen development involving Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark, Bussi will serve as Providence’s go-to netminder in 2023-24. But Bussi will have more chances to showcase his potential over the next few weeks.
Beecher continues to stride toward bottom-six role
The Bergeron and Krejci departures aren’t the only notable roster turnovers within Boston’s forward bunch.
The Bruins will also have some competition within their bottom six, with the bottom two center spots up for grabs.
Morgan Geekie, a fourth-line staple with the Kraken for their first two years of existence, enters the season as an odds-on favorite to grab one of the two open spots down the middle. Beecher, a 2019 first-round selection, is another primary candidate for a bottom-six role.
Entering his second camp with more confidence, Beecher didn’t waste any time making his case. The former Michigan Wolverine notched a breakaway marker to give Boston a 3-0 lead.
“It’s a confidence booster,” Beecher said regarding his first goal of the preseason. “Everyone loves seeing the puck go in the back of the net. And I think it’s a big thing for me, to rely on my shot and all the training that I had this summer. So it was nice to get the first one out of the way.”
Of course, Beecher knows he can’t rely on his speed and shooting traits alone alone. He’ll need to work on his second efforts on puck pursuit and improve his physicality along the walls consistently to become a mainstay.
Beecher’s quickness stood out on Sunday. And his assertiveness in other areas, especially on faceoffs, provided him with another leg up as Boston’s competitive camp continues.
“He had a good game, and he needs to continue to show it throughout camp,” Montgomery said of Beecher. “As camp goes on, it gets harder, and the people who rise to the top are going to make it. It’s a really good start for several players tonight, and they have to keep building on it.”
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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