The Boston Bruins don’t want to call it a youth movement, but no one can argue the wave of youth that rolled into town in training camp, challenged for roster spots, and left the team brass with some difficult decisions.
When the tide rolled back out, 26-year-old fourth line grinder A.J. Greer was lost to the Calgary Flames via waivers on Wednesday; potential fourth line center 31-year-old Patrick Brown cleared, and he and rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei were assigned to the Providence Bruins. Rookies Matt Poitras and John Beecher, as well as 23-year-old Jakub Lauko, were on the 2023-24 Bruins centennial season roster.
Lohrei’s assignment was no reflection of his performance, though, and as reported here earlier on Monday, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney did at least explore the NHL trade market to potentially give the 22-year-old promising prospect an extended look to start the season, while also potentially clearing salary cap space.
Mason [Lohrei] has made our decisions really difficult,” Sweeney said on Monday morning before ultimately assigning Lohrei to Providence.
“Again, put him in similar situations with [Matthew] Poitras and playing them up and down the lineup and in situations that again, on the back end, you’re not going to hide; you’re going to get exposed, if anything. He’s logged a lot of minutes. We continue to work on his habits without the puck. I think everybody starts to see the talent and the vision that he has the creativity and the confidence to be able to execute offensively, whether that’s from his own goalline or the offensive blue line.”
Sweeney also touched on the sudden overall burst of skilled and gritty youth on the Bruins roster and how it was essentially pushing players like Greer and Brown to waivers and/or the Providence Bruins.
“I don’t think we’ve ever tried to just take one particular path,” Sweeney replied when asked if a youth movement had finally arrived for the Bruins. “When a player has been able to help us, we’ve tried to incorporate them. We talked about this the other night; Cam [Neely] and I were talking about going way back with David Pastrnak. He’s having a pretty good year in the American Hockey League, he went to the World Juniors, he came back and played his ninth game and scored two goals against Philadelphia. Lo and behold, he’s in our lineup for the rest of the year and has become a tremendous player. Call it arguably a top 10 player in the National Hockey League.
You never know the timelines; you just try and support the development process. Whether that’s through the draft, or through college free agency, or whatever players or trades are brought in and try and cultivate through a winning environment. And when kids are ready, players are ready. Give them the opportunity that they take advantage of it. That’s on them, you know, they’ve earned it.”
Training camp and preseason darling and rookie center sensation Matt Poitras has essentially had a spot on the 2023-24 Bruins roster since late Thursday night after he scored the game-winner with his third goal of the preseason in a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers. That left arguably the biggest surprise of training camp, John Beecher, and his status as one of the biggest question marks left.
With the acquisition of Milan Lucic in the offseason and the emergence of Beecher, the writing seemed on the wall for Greer and the Boston Bruins. After being put on waivers for the purpose of assignment on Sunday, it was no surprise he was claimed by the Calgary Flames on Monday.
Calgary claims A.J. Greer off waivers from Boston.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 9, 2023
While Greer still showed that grit, pride, and willingness to stick up for his teammates like he did last preseason to earn a spot, he wasn’t pulling the recently re-acquired Lucic off that fourth line, no matter what. But he still showed enough to draw interest on waivers, and a Flames team looking to find a spark and create a new identity not surprisingly took a flier on Greer.
As for Brown, Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery has praised him a lot over the past week, and there was a strong sense around the team that maybe he would push Beecher back to Providence. Beecher just kept getting better, though, and that’s why he will likely be centering the fourth line between Lucic and another young Bruin on the rise in Lauko.
Here’s what the opening night should look like on Wednesday when the Bruins host 2023 top pick overall Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN, 98.5 The Sports Hub):
James van Riemsdyk-Pavel Zacha-David Pastrnak
Brad Marchand-Charlie Coyle-Jake DeBrusk
Trent Frederic-Matt Poitras-Morgan Geekie
Milan Lucic-John Beecher-Jakub Lauko
Extra: Danton Heinen (Note: as of 6:45 when this was published, Heinen had not officially been signed, but all signs pointed towards that on Monday)
Matt Grzelcyk-Charlie McAvoy
Hampus Lindholm-Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort-Kevin Shattenkirk
Extra: Ian Mitchell