All this week, the Bruins Daily staff will hand out their midyear grades for the 2023-24 Boston Bruins.
Today in Part 1, we’re assessing this year’s crop of Bruins forwards. Check back late in the week for Part 2 as we examine Boston’s defense and goaltending.
Through the first 49 games, the Bruins have exceeded early expectations in their first year without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. While they could still use some improvements at the trade deadline, they’ve positioned themselves well for a second half run as they carry a 31-9-9 mark entering their bye week.
As the All-Star break continues, we’ll take a look at how the Bruins’ forward core fared up until this point. We begin our assessments with the captain himself.
Brad Marchand (49 GP, 24-23-47)
At the ripe age of 35, Marchand has not slowed down. Marchand’s transition to captain has been seamless, and his production is back on a near point-per-game pace after a slight dip last season.
Recently, Marchand racked up a slew of milestones: recording his 11th straight 20-goal season and moving into fifth place on the team’s all-time points and goals list. With a whole other half of the season remaining, Marchand, who is four games shy of 1,000 for his career, remains on pace to reach the 40-goal mark for the first time in his 14-year tenure.
Charlie Coyle (49 GP, 18-24-42)
After a failed attempt to integrate into the Bruins’ top six at the beginning of the 2021-22 season to replace David Krejci, it seemed Charlie Coyle’s role as a third-line center was set in stone. Like a handful of his teammates this season, however, Coyle has proven the doubters wrong.
Coyle remains on track to set new career highs in every offensive category while also outdoing Patrice Bergeron’s production last season. Given his reliability on the penalty kill and the faceoff dot, Boston’s current first-line center should also receive Selke Votes at the end of the year.
David Pastrnak (49 GP, 33-39-72)
After setting career highs in 2022-23, as well as inking the largest contract in Bruins history, Pastrnak’s game has continued to grow. Tasked with a heightened leadership role after the retirements of Bergeron and Krejci, Pastrnak continued to improve his playmaking ability and further developed his physical game.
The four-time all-star is again on track to reach the 50-goal mark and set a new career high in points, as he is on pace for 120. Expect the Bruins’ superstar winger to receive major consideration for the Hart Trophy for the second year in a row.
James van Riemsdyk (45 GP, 8-23-31)
Through the first half of the season, the van Riemsdyk signing continues to serve as one of the league’s better off-season bargains. The veteran winger remained productive with multiple linemates as he moved throughout Boston’s middle six.
JVR has worked well as the primary netfront man on the league’s second-ranked power play. Van Riemsdyk’s heavy play and knack for greasy goals will continue to prove valuable for Boston down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Pavel Zacha (45 GP, 10-20-30)
After a solid first year in Boston, Zacha encountered a bit of an up-and-down season after returning to his natural center position. Nonetheless, Zacha fill the void left in the middle of the ice by Bergeron and Krejci.
Zacha has proven himself to be a solid top-six center, although his production has dipped since the start of the season. The Czech center has just two goals in his last 23 games but has five points over his last six contests. Despite his streaky production, Zacha is still on pace to nearly match his career-high numbers of last season.
Trent Frederic (49 GP, 14-15-29)
Frederic has continued to develop this season, continually refining his scoring touch. Amid his continued offensive emergence, the fourth-year winger has remained a steady physical presence in middle-six duty. The 2016 first-round selection is once again on pace to set new career highs in goals and assists after doing so last season.
Matt Poitras (33 GP, 5-10-15)
When looking at the expectations from the beginning of training camp, Poitras has exceeded them with flying colors. The grind of the NHL rookie experience might have taken a toll on Poitras as of late, as he carries a 12-game goal drought and hasn’t recorded a point in his last five contests.
The all-star break should benefit Poitras, who was held out of Saturday’s victory against the Flyers because of injury. The rookie center will have time to rest, recover and prepare for the sprint to the finish of the season.
Danton Heinen (41 GP, 9-9-18)
Like van Riemsdyk, Heinen has proven to be one of the league’s best off-season bargains. After being held out of much of the beginning of the season, Heinen served as Boston’s Swiss Army Knife, playing in multiple roles at both wings throughout the lineup.
The versatile Heinen continues to produce offensively while maintaining a steady 200-foot game.
Jakub Lauko (36 GP, 2-4-6)
Boston’s fourth line lacks much of an identity. What identity it does have belongs to Jakub Lauko.
With his feet constantly moving, Lauko can cause chaos on the forecheck and draw penalties. He has also been chipping in offensively lately.
Lauko’s energy on the fourth line could be complemented at the trade deadline, which would give Boston enough pieces to have a better fourth line come playoff time.
Morgan Geekie (43 GP, 8-15-23)
Much like Heinen, Geekie has remained productive despite continually moving around Boston’s lineup. At times, Geekie developed chemistry with Pastrnak as a first-line center, while in other instances, he served as a fourth-line winger.
Geekie has also received looks on Boston’s top power-play unit and is putting up career-high offensive numbers thus far. Much like Erik Haula in 2021-22, Geekie emerged as a potential top-six supplement after having a bottom-six expectation placed on him.
Oskar Steen (30 GP, 1-0-1)
Steen has played well enough to appear in 30 games this season, mainly in a fourth-line role. If the Bruins can maximize the potential of the fourth line and solidify their lineup come playoff time, Steen may not factor in as a long-term fit. The Swedish winger has done a solid enough job for now, though.
Johnny Beecher (39 GP, 5-2-7)
Beecher started the season very strong, earning an opening night roster spot out of training camp. Much like Poitras, Beecher’s effectiveness started to drop off amid the rigors of an 82-game season.
Now back with Providence, Beecher will try to build his game back up to the NHL. An injury down the stretch may present Beecher with another chance back up with the big club. At least for now, though, Beecher is on the wrong side of I-95.
Jake DeBrusk (47 GP, 12-13-25)
After an offensively stagnant start to the season for DeBrusk, the pending UFA returned to his reliable scoring ways. DeBrusk is on pace to hit the 20-goal marker and maintained a productive 200-foot game he took pride in during his season-opening drought.
With his value back up, a decision may await Don Sweeney on whether to extend DeBrusk or move him at the trade deadline.
(Incompletes: Patrick Brown, Georgii Merkulov and Jesper Boqvist)
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