New coach Claude Julien certainly has some options with his forwards.
This team is exceptionally strong down the middle, boasting three top-flight centers. Veteran Marc Savard, who led the team in scoring last season with 96 points, leads the way. Youngsters Patrice Bergeron and Phil Kessel, the team’s first-round pick in 2006, are developing beautifully. Bergeron has 143 points in his last two seasons. Kessel, meanwhile, had 29 points in 70 games as a rookie, despite the fact that he was sidelined for awhile due to treatment for cancer.
Boston also has some pop on the wings with rugged forward Glen Murray and shifty vet Marco Sturm each topping the 20-goal mark last season. Brandon Bochenski, a mid-season acquisition, scored 11 goals in just 31 games with the Bruins and appears to be hitting his stride after some early career troubles. New addition Peter Schaefer also has the potential to reach 20 goals.
Julien loves to match lines and have a defensive presence among his forwards. P.J. Axelsson could easily become the key part of that checking unit, using his speed and skills to shutdown the opposing team’s top player.
Boston’s inability to generate much through special teams was one of the underlying problems in the 2006-07 campaign. Boston ranked No. 19 on the power play, converting just 17.2 percent of the time. The team also ranked No. 19 on the penalty kill.
But there is room for improvement – especially on the power play. Boston has four dangerous scorers in man-advantage situations. Bergeron topped the team with 14 power-play goals, but Murray, Sturm and Savard all reached double digits in power-play tallies.
On the penalty kill, the team should be better because of the influence of Julien. Last season, Julien’s Devils ranked fourth in the League with an 85.2 save percentage.
Up and Coming
David Krejci – This skilled Czech should be the next infusion of youth added to the Boston lineup. He posted 74 goals in 69 games with Providence last year and added 16 more in 13 postseason games. The 21-yeasr-old can play in all situations.
Zach Hamill – The Bruins’ first-round pick this past June, Hamill is a proven scorer who is especially deadly on the power play. Last season, Hamill led the WHL in scoring, netting 32 goals and 61 assists for Everett. He is likely at least a year away.
Carl Soderberg – An explosive scorer in Sweden – he scored 30 points in 31 games for Malmo last year – Soderberg missed half of the season after suffering a nasty eye injury. By all accounts, Soderberg is healthy and ready to contribute in North America this year. He was obtained in the trade that sent Hannu Toivonen to St. Louis.
Milan Lucic – Signed to an entry-level contract last month, Lucic has an outside shot at making the club this fall. A bruising left wing, who is willing and able to defend himself and teammates, has been progressing at a rapid rate. He scored 68 points for Vancouver (Western Hockey League) last season and was named MVP of the Memorial Cup as he led the Giants to the title. He also served as captain of Team Canada in the Super Series earlier this month.
Martins Karsums – The 21-year-old Latvian had an excellent first pro season, scoring 13 goals and 35 points for Providence in just 54 American Hockey League games last season. There are some concerns about his size (5-foot-10), but he is a versatile player that can also play a lower-line, energy role.
Peter Schaefer – Obtained this summer in a trade with Ottawa, Schaefer could be a solid second-line left wing in Boston’s new scheme. He has the wheels to keep up with Patrice Bergeron and capitalize upon the center’s play-making affinity. Two years ago, Schaeffer had a career-high 20 goals before limping home with 12 last year for Ottawa. If he can return to 2005-06 form, he will be a boon to a Boston offense that struggled for goals last season.