Take a dive into a Boston Bruins fans rabbit hole online lately, and there’s a constant cry for the offensively starved Bruins to give prospect Georgii Merkulov a shot in the show.
Per Mark Allred of BNG Productions on Thursday, the fans’ wishes were about to be granted:
— Mark Allred (@BlackAndGold277) December 28, 2023
On Friday morning, the Boston Bruins confirmed that Merkulov had indeed been called up to the NHL, and later in the morning, the Russian prospect was skating on the team’s third line between James van Riemsdyk and Trent Frederic.
Following practice on Thursday, Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery discussed the positive scouting reports he’s been getting on Merkulov from Providence Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel.
“The most promising things we’re hearing is how quickly he’s closing in the D-zone and how his 200-foot game has really upticked,” Montgomery replied. “And it’s not surprising that you hear about someone’s 200-foot game getting better, and he’s second in the league in scoring. Like, yesterday, we had seven odd-man rushes, and five of them came from good defense. Good defense leads to offense.”
The 23-year-old, 5-foot-11, 176-pound forward, who was a 2022 undrafted NCAA free agent signing by the Boston Bruins, has been ripping it up for the Providence Bruins. He has ten goals and eight assists in his last 12 games and as of Thursday night, was fourth in the AHL scoring this season with 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) in 31 games. That’s following a rookie season in which the Ryazan, Russia native, had 24 goals and 31 assists in 67 games. That was following his one season playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes with 20 goals and 14 assists in 36 games.
The Boston Bruins are averaging 3.09 goals per game through 33 games this season but have only scored over three goals 12 times this season, with the 4-1 win over the Sabres on Wednesday being the latest. Prior to that, the Bruins were outscored 14-7 in their previous four games.
While the Bruins bench boss seemed impressed, he did point out that Merkulov’s recent play isn’t the only thing that will dictate a call-up to the big club.
“I think it’s just when opportunity creates itself,” Montgomery said. “Sometimes it’s injury, sometimes it’s your play — you’re just playing well and the team’s not doing well. It’s always different circumstances as to when guys get the opportunity to get called up.”
Boston Bruins rookie center Matt Poitras will likely be gone at the World Junior Championship in Sweden until at least Jan. 3, more likely Jan. 5, for the Gold medal game. The Bruins have 3-4 games before that. It seems the Bruins are about to use that time to get a look at Merkulov.