Boston Bruins Preview (2021-22) – Forwards Part II

What will the bottom-six forward group look like this year?

Thanks for returning for the third installment in my Bruins preview for the 2021-22 NHL roster. This piece focuses on the bottom-six forward group. The bottom-six forwards have been a weakness in the past few years for the Bruins, but hopefully, with a few new additions to the roster, the Bruins can add depth scoring down the lineup. Below are my projections for the Bruins’ third and fourth line forwards.

Jake DeBrusk (LW)

Expected Statistics: (15G, 20A, 35pts)

 

Jake DeBrusk has been one of the most streaky players on the Bruins over the past few years. Part of the infamous 2015 draft that saw the Bruins organization pass on Thomas Chabot, Kyle Connor, and Mat Barzal for three lesser-known prospects in the first round, Jake DeBrusk has had some difficulty escaping the pressure that such an impressive draft class placed on him. Though he has been the most successful of the three first-round selections from 2015, the past two years have not treated the 24-year-old kindly. Last year was perhaps the toughest for DeBrusk, who struggled to bury goals at a consistent rate, tallying just five in his 41 appearances. After the trade for Taylor Hall, DeBrusk was pushed further down the depth chart, and he remains a constant target of trade rumors due to his lackluster performances recently. If he does stay with the Bruins for the entirety of the 2021-22 season, he will have to fight to remain in the lineup and to produce regularly to win back the trust of the coaching staff. 

Erik Haula (LW/C)

Expected Statistics: (15G, 15A, 30pts)

 

Haula has bounced around the league throughout his career, playing for four different teams over the last three years, which makes projecting his play this season difficult. Haula’s best season was with the Vegas Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18, where he scored 29 goals and 55 points. However, Haula has yet to match those totals. In fact, he has not scored more than 22 points in a season since. Haula will be joining a Bruins team with a great deal of offensive talent, so it’s certainly possible that his offense could be revived, but I wouldn’t expect another 30 goals from Haula either. 

 

Nick Foligno (LW/C/RW)

Expected Statistics: (10G, 20A, 30pts)

 

The longtime Columbus Blue Jackets captain stunned many when he waived his no-movement clause in April so that he could join the Toronto Maple Leafs via trade. It was less surprising, after the Leafs’ first-round exit, that he opted not to re-sign with either his former club or his new Canadian one. Instead, the veteran forward signed a 2-year, $7,600,000 contract with the Bruins, where he could fit in nicely in a third-line role. One of the most interesting aspects of the Foligno signing is his versatility as a player; he can play either wing or the center position. The 33-year-old should not be expected to be a leading scorer on the team, but rather a checking forward and a defensively responsible presence with enough offensive capability to keep him on the roster. 

 

Tomas Nosek (LW/C)

Expected Statistics: (10G, 15A, 25pts)

 

Nosek was claimed in the 2017 expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights, where he was given his first chance for full-time NHL duty. Nosek became an integral part of the Golden Knight’s bottom-six forward group as an effective penalty killer and role player, and on the team’s historic run to the Stanley Cup Final, he scored six points in 17 games. Nosek’s offensive production won’t be eye-popping, but he will produce in a bottom-six role and has the playoff experience to possibly help push this talented group over the edge to another championship. 

 

 

Trent Frederic (C/LW)

Expected Statistics: (10G, 10A, 20pts)

 

Frederic instantly endeared himself with Bruins fans when he fought Brandon Tanev in his first game in the NHL. Last year, the 23-year-old cemented his reputation as a pest and a fighter, dropping the gloves with the likes of Brendan Lemieux and Tom Wilson. Though Bruins fans and management have a soft spot for the player, Frederic will need to improve his play at both ends of the ice if he wants to earn a full-time spot on the roster. Frederic, a natural center, should factor into the franchise’s future plans, especially at the center position, which will be lacking after the departure of Bergeron in the coming seasons. 

Chris Wagner (RW)

Expected Statistics: (8G, 12A, 20pts)

 

Wagner, a native of Walpole, MA, has been with the Bruins for three years now, though his offensive effectiveness has waned since his arrival. One of the B’s biggest weaknesses last year was depth, particularly in the bottom-six forward group. Wagner and company simply weren’t producing the secondary offense that the team needed them to, especially in the playoffs. The hope is that Wagner can bounce back and produce more consistently with new linemates. If he can’t, it’s possible that the Bruins will release him to free agency next August or give the ice time to one of the other younger players who are fighting for a spot in the lineup. 

 

Healthy Scratches: Karson Kuhlman, Anton Blidh, Jack Studnicka

 

I believe that these three players will be healthy scratches at the start of the season, but that could certainly change as the season progresses. Kuhlman has provided speed and energy to the Bruins in recent years, although he hasn’t always had the hands or finishing ability to carve out a spot in the forward group. Blidh plays a similarly high-octane style, but hasn’t been able to find a role on the team either. I believe that both players will see time this season, most likely when injury befalls the team. 

 

Studnicka finds himself in a curious position. At 22, he has the physical maturity to play in the NHL, but has only played 22 games in his two outings with the big club. With the Providence Bruins of the AHL, he has played well, but his offensive statistics haven’t jumped off the page either. The Bruins’ top prospect needs to show that he can join the lineup full-time, but I don’t expect the franchise to hand him a spot in the lineup if he doesn’t earn it, whether that be in training camp, preseason, or beyond that. While it’s still possible he could find a role in the lineup, I don’t see it happening right now with the depth the Bruins have been able to acquire through free agency. That said, I’ll be keeping an eye on his development this season and I’m sure the organization will be too.

 

Thanks for reading these first three installments and check out the fourth, which will cover the defense and goaltending situation for the Bruins this season. If you haven’t read all four pieces yet, here are the other three: