The NHL playoffs have now been officially approved by all parties, and we can slowly start getting excited about playoff hockey. With a few weeks still before games actually begin, and plenty of travel still to come, cautious optimism is in the air. Adding to that optimism is the release of the Bruins expanded playoff roster. Due to COVID and new league safety protocols, every team is being allowed to carry an expanded playoff roster. The Bruins will be bringing nineteen forwards, ten defensemen, and four goalies to Toronto. Most of these players you already know, but some have had very little NHL experience. So let's take this opportunity to learn some of the lesser-known names we could be seeing in a few weeks.
Bruins Expanded Playoff Roster
Many of the Bruins forwards are household names but here are a few we could brush up on. Let's kick things off with a player we have seen a few times the last few years: Anton Blidh. Blidh has had a few call ups with the Bruins, but has primarily been an AHL player. While shoulder surgery sidelined him for most of the year, he was able to get back in action before the season pause. For his career Blidh has played in 267 AHL games with a stat line of 43-38-81. Not the most prolific scorer, but Blidh was made for playoff hockey. His size and strength are what teams want at this point in the season. And he does possess some scoring touch around the net. With the versatility to play either wing and a propensity for physicality, it's pretty easy to see why he made the cut.
Next on our list is Paul Carey, the oldest of the Bruins Black Aces drafted way back in 2007. Since his arrival with the Providence Carey has been a key veteran leader. Carey has also played in 100 NHL games, scoring eight goals and eight assists for sixteen points. This season Paul played in 60 AHL games, scoring twenty-two goals and seventeen assists for thirty-nine points. His AHL career has seen him suit up for 406 games, with a stat line of 128-153-281. Another versatile forward who can play center or wing, Carey provides this group with some added veteran leadership. Carey also brings decent hands to the bottom six if he's called upon.
From the oldest to one of the youngest, Trent Frederic will also be joining the Bruins. A 2016 first-round pick, Frederic is a left-shot center who brings size and loads of toughness. In 17 career NHL games Trent has yet to score a point, but he did have a pretty good AHL season. In 59 games Frederic had a stat line of 8-24-32 to go with a whopping 148 penalty minutes. Like I said loads of toughness. Frederic is considered by many to have a good chance at cracking the Bruins’ lineup next season. A solid playoff performance could go a long way to solidifying his potential spot on the team
Probably the most polarizing player on this list is Zach Senyshyn. The last of the Bruins’ 2015 first-round picks, Senyshyn has had the bad luck of having several stars drafted after him. He has shown some flashes in very limited NHL action, with three points in six games. However, Senyshyn has not been able to carry over his scoring touch to the AHL. In 174 AHL games, Zach has a stat line of 33-33-66. Even this season, in 42 games Senyshyn only scored seven goals with nine assists for sixteen points. If an injury does happen and Senyshyn is called on he needs to play well or it could be his last opportunity in the Bruins organization.
The final forward making it onto the roster is Jack "the Stud" Studnicka. One of the most exciting Bruins prospects, Studnicka had a great first AHL season. Playing in sixty games, Studnicka was able to put up a stat line of 23-26-49. Jack is viewed by many as the future of the center position for the Bruins. While that might be high praise and a lot of expectations, Studnicka has risen to them. A solid playoff performance could make him a lock for the Bruins roster next season. With offensive skill to spare Studnicka could play anywhere in the lineup if an injury or two happen.
The list of defensemen is much shorter because we have seen almost all of the ten of these defenders regularly over the last few seasons. One we have not seen enough of is Urho Vaakanainen. The 2017 first-round pick is a left-shot defenseman who brings a solid two-way game. While Urho has played in five NHL games he has yet to get his first NHL point. In 84 career AHL games Urho has been able to show some offensive skill, scoring nine goals with nineteen assists for twenty-eight points. With so many talented young defensemen on the Bruins roster, Vaakanainen can't waste an opportunity if he is given one. More than likely heading back to the AHL next season, an impressive showing could make that decision a little harder on Bruins’ management.
The other defenseman on the list is Jakub Zboril. The first of the Bruins first-round picks in 2015, Zboril was being compared to Keith Yandle by some scouts but has yet to live up to those expectations. While Zboril hasn't been bad, he has struggled to translate his offensive touch from juniors to the AHL. This season Zboril played in 58 AHL games with a 3-16-19 stat line. For his career, Jakub has played in 182 AHL games only scoring eleven goals and forty-six assists for fifty-seven points. At the end of his contract, an opportunity in these playoffs could make or break his future with the team.
The Bruins will be adding two more goalies to the league-best tandem of Rask and Halak. First on the list is Max Legace. Unlike the other Bruins AHL goalies, Legace does have some NHL experience. In 17 career NHL games Max has a 3.92 goals against and a .868 save percentage. Not good numbers, but that experience is something that could help him if called on. For his AHL career Max has played in 150 games with a 2.79 goals against and a .908 save percentage.
Next on the list is AHL sensation Dan Vladar. This season Vladar had some injury problems, but when healthy he played in 25 AHL games with a 1.79 goals against and a .936 save percentage. An impressive year by any standards, and it has elevated Vladar to possibly being the Bruins next number one goalie after Rask. For his career in the AHL Vladar has played in 68 games with a 2.35 goals against and a .916 save percentage. With both Rask and Halak under contract for next season, Vladar won't be joining the Bruins next season. However, if Dan is called on a solid performance would lock up his starting role for Providence next season.
The Bruins expanded playoff roster has a great mix of skill and some added toughness. While many of these players hopefully won't be called on, they need to be ready. This could be the last chance for some to prove they belong with this organization, either making the jump to the NHL next season or showing they still have the potential to grow into the players we hoped they would be. With players still able to opt-out, and more news to come around the sports world, keep checking back to stay up to date. As always stay safe out there and LET’S GO BRUINS!!!
Featured image courtesy of the official Bruins Instagram.