Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, even Marc Savard, aren’t walking through that door, Boston Bruins fans!
However, by all accounts, 19-year-old rookie center Matt Poitras will be to start the season, and 22-year-old pivot John Beecher may be as well. While there is still a need for more high-end center depth to be coming up the ranks, have the Boston Bruins suddenly found part of the solution to their current and near-future dilemma up the middle?
After logging 16:39 of ice time and assisting on the lone goal for the Boston Bruins in a 3-1 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia on Monday night, the 2022 second round pick (54th overall) logged 18:27 and scored the game-tying goal in the third period in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night in Boston. Poitras, who racked up 79 assists and 95 points in 63 games for the Guelph Storm (OHL) last season, now has two goals and two assists in four NHL preseason games.
Of course, this is preseason, and the games will rachet up to a whole other level when the 2023-24 NHL regular season kicks off next week, but the kid from Brooklin, Ontario, whom Bruins captain Brad Marchand is already comparing to Toronto Maple Leafs star center Mitch Marner, has proven he belongs on the Bruins roster to start the season.
“You gotta think Poitras has made the team,” an NHL pro scout opined to Boston Hockey Now Tuesday night at TD Garden. “Honestly, I could see him in their Top 6. That’s how gifted and poised this kid is.”
More importantly, one of the main decision-makers on whether or not Poitras stays with the Bruins to start the season or goes back to the OHL was once again impressed and noted his perseverance following the game Tuesday.
“He played almost 17 minutes last night, and tonight he was over 18 minutes,” Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said of Poitras. “So back-to-back with what is uncommon travel that you wouldn’t really see in the regular season. Overall, he competed, right? What you like is that he lost some battles, then he comes back and wins battles. That was a big goal that he scored to tie it up, and he continues to show a lot of poise with the puck.”
Even the humble Poitras knows he’s proven he belongs.
“I don’t know … I think I’ve played pretty well,” Poitras said in his postgame scrum on Tuesday night. “I’ve done everything I can. I think I’ve made it pretty difficult on them.”
While the focus from the media and fans – and rightfully so – has been on Poitras, the Bruins’ 2019 first round pick (30th overall), John Beecher has quietly been building a case to start the season in Boston as well. The University of Michigan product logged 16:15 on Tuesday night and finished with an assist, one shot, four hits, and went 7-6 at the faceoff dot. He also showed some blazing speed coming through the neutral zone and the ability to push the play and carry a line.
“I thought he was really good,” Montgomery said of Beecher. “I thought he won a lot of battles and created offense. He got a lot of good offense from defense, which was something that was very encouraging to see. He played a really good hockey game.”
Montgomery was already on record as saying that the Bruins planned to ice their opening night roster against the New York Rangers in their preseason finale at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, and on Tuesday night, he reiterated that.
“I do think we’re going to get down to a group,” said Montgomery, noting how he was impressed with the efforts of all three kids. “There won’t be that many decisions left because we do want to get down to the group we’re going to have … who the people are who are going to comprise that group, I’m not that certain yet.”
Nothing will be certain until the final cuts are made, but Poitras and Beecher have no doubt proved they belong and also proven that maybe, at least for now, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was right to pass on trading more of his future for the likes of Elias Lindholm or Mark Scheifele this offseason.