The Boston Bruins have long been badly in need of younger players to develop and bust through to challenge for spots at the NHL roster.
Jack Studnicka has not been able to do it this season while admittedly not exactly getting a decent stretch to show what he can do after an impressive training camp. But Oskar Steen has done more with fewer chances while getting less fanfare to this point than Studnicka and did it again in last weekend’s matinee win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
The 23-year-old Steen picked up a primary assist and had two shots on net in 10:33 of ice time in the win over Detroit, and now has three helpers in four games along with a plus-2 rating while getting less than 10 minutes of ice time per game.
Pair that with Steen’s extremely productive AHL season where he’s posted 10 goals and 20 points in 16 games along with a plus-10 rating, and the former sixth round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft is earning a long look in Boston.
Steen was sent down to Providence with the Boston Bruins off the ice on Monday, but he remains part of the taxi squad with Curtis Lazar banged up after Saturday’s home win over the Sabres. It feels like it’s going to take somebody traded or placed on waivers, or a long-term injury, for Steen to become a permanent fixture in the Boston lineup, but it’s about time Boston Bruins management made that happen with a drafted-and-developed player earning his way.
“What’s happened is [that] he’s come up and played well,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Steen. “So, yeah, we’ve got a decision to make when it comes to him. You’ve got these depth [players] in our lineup, contract situations, roster issues, so [it] becomes a little bit of asset management as well. I mean, he doesn’t need waivers. It happens to certain guys in the league and throughout the league at times.
“Eventually you push your way through where you won’t get taken out and then you adjust your roster, right? So that happens to a lot of different teams. [Sunday] happened to be a situation [where] Kuhlman goes on COVID [list], and Lazar finished the game Saturday, but was a little banged up [and] he could have played if we really needed him to, but we got a fresh guy that’s playing well in Providence [with] young legs, back-to-back, and he takes advantage of it. Those are good decisions when guys push their way up. A little bit of youth in the lineup does every team well at times.”
Certainly, it feels like the head coach is looking for more youth injected into the Boston Bruins lineup, so this is an upper management item at this point. The Bruins are looking for more secondary scoring and that’s an area where a talented player like Steen could really help the fourth line with plays like this skilled setup to Tomas Nosek.
Tomas Nosek joins in on the fun.
5-1 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/YYeRReUMq3
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 2, 2022
Bruins GM Don Sweeney has long said that the B’s are an organization that will make room for a young player that’s earned his spot, and the skilled, sandpaper Steen is quickly turning into that kind of ascending player.
Are the Boston Bruins really afraid of losing depth players like Karson Kuhlman or Anton Blidh to waivers? They really shouldn’t be at this point as they are good organizational depth options for the bottom-6, but neither one of those players has the kind of upside Steen has already shown in his first few pro seasons.
Nobody is saying Steen is going to turn into a Brad Marchand-level player, but he has the same kind of skill/grit combination in a 5-foot-9 frame that teams like the Boston Bruins have always traditionally valued to a large degree. The Boston Bruins are screaming out for more players like that at the NHL level even as they’re coming off back-to-back wins where some season-long questions were at least temporarily answered.
But a good, healthy NHL organization finds ways to make spots for young players that have earned it and Oskar Steen is quickly becoming a guy in that category.