The Boston Bruins began the on-ice sessions of training camp Thursday and on paper, the Bruins roster doesn’t appear to have too many openings. Players like forward Jakub Lauko and defenseman Urho Vaakanainen appear to be on their last chances to crack the NHL roster out of camp. The problem for Lauko is that the team has a logjam of forwards but he will be given every chance to make it. The same can be said for Vaakanainen, but the emergence of another defenseman could block his advancement again. Here are two players that could get in the way of Lauko and Vaakanainen, and be on the roster when the Bruins open their 2021-22 regular season against the Dallas Stars on October 16.
Jesper Froden – The undrafted, 27-year-old rookie right wing opened a ton of eyeballs at the recent Buffalo Sabres Rookie Challenge last weekend when he lit the lamp four times in two games and is now a sleeper pick here to crack the NHL roster for the Bruins.
“He was something to watch there but I wasn’t surprised,” an NHL amateur scout who was in attendance told BHN on Friday. “Not to get ahead of ourselves but when all is said and done, this could be a feather in the hat of [Bruins European Scouting Coordinator] P.J. Axelsson. Potentially a sneaky good signing.”
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Froden was never drafted but at age 27, he could become one of those late bloomers.
“Look, how many kids slip through the cracks and never get drafted,” the scout pointed out. “At 27, it’s too late for him to find his niche over here and help the Bruins and I was really impressed. I think his age and maturity could actually give him an edge to be honest.
After scoring 22 goals to go with 18 assists in 52 games for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League last season, Froden was signed to a one-year contract with an $842,500 NHL cap hit.
“The Bruins are very pleased to be adding Jesper to our organization,” Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney said when the Bruins signed Froden back in June. “We have tracked Jesper’s growth in the SHL where he has proven to be highly productive, competitive, and a smart, two-way player. Jesper is very excited to join a competitive team with the opportunity to compete for a roster spot.”
Froden has been skating in David Pastrnak’s spot on the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand through the first couple days of training camp, and impressively hasn’t looked out of place at all.
Say this for Jesper Froden, from a speed, skill & hockey IQ standpoint he does not look out of place playing RW with Bergeron and Marchand during drills. He’s having a good camp coming out of Sweden
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) September 24, 2021
As mentioned above, Vaakanainen will be given another chance to realize his first-round potential and prove his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame can handle the rigors of the NHL, but if the last three years are any indication, that may finally happen somewhere else.
“They’ve been shopping this kid for the last three seasons,” and NHL pro scout told BHN recently. “That’s probably one of the worst-kept secrets out there amongst scouts.”
So even if the 2017 first-round pick somehow makes the team out of camp, that may just increase his trade value and the Bruins could eventually use him to fill another void in their lineup (Tomas Hertl anyone?)
Enter the undrafted Brady Lyle who was one of the prizes of the undrafted free agent market back in the spring of 2020. The Boston Bruins swooped in and grabbed the right-shot defenseman who absolutely lit up the OHL during the 2019-20 season with 22 goals and 43 assists in 65 games with the Owen Sound Attack (OHL). The 6-foot-3, 212-pound, 22-year-old, slick-moving defenseman was signed to an AHL contract in April, 2020 and had seven goals and seven assists in 25 games with the Providence Bruins last season. In June, the Boston Bruins signed him to a two-year contract with an $800,000 NHL cap hit.
“I can tell you that the Bruins brass absolutely love this kid,” another NHL scout told BHN recently. “I know we wanted him bad and I can see this kid making an impact in Boston soon.”