Bruins Stock Report: Who’s up, who’s down after preseason

WEEI Sports Radio
WEEI Sports Radio

The Bruins wrapped up their six-game preseason schedule Wednesday night with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Capitals. They now have a rather odd 10-day break before they open the regular season against the Stars on Oct. 16.

So with some time to reflect, let’s take a look at which Bruins saw their stocks rise and fall during the preseason. We came up with 10 players who helped their cause and five whose stock took a hit.

You’ll notice that the Bruins’ best offensive players -- Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall -- appear on neither list. That is because their stocks were already very high going into the preseason, and nothing has happened to change that.

Stock Up

Charlie McAvoy
OK, so this would seem to go against what I just said about star players. But McAvoy’s stock actually did go up this preseason for one key reason: He is now a fixture on the lethal top power-play unit. McAvoy took over that role last postseason after playing on the second unit for much of the regular season, and he has held onto it and in fact tightened his grip on it throughout training camp and preseason. He looks comfortable and confident there, and he has been distributing the puck well to the likes of Marchand, Pastrnak, Bergeron and Hall. McAvoy finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting last season despite not yet having elite offensive numbers. Those numbers should jump this season if he’s playing consistently on this power-play unit, and his awards-voting numbers and next contract numbers should follow suit.

Jeremy Swayman
If there were any questions about whether Swayman could pick up where he left off in his impressive 10-game sample as a rookie last year, he helped answer them this preseason. Swayman was excellent in two and a half games, stopping 68 of the 73 shots he faced for a .932 save percentage. He made several great saves on breakaways and point-blank chances. Just as he did last year, he looked calm when things got chaotic around him. Linus Ullmark is the veteran and higher earner in this goalie tandem, but Swayman should be the opening night starter. Whether he actually will be remains to be seen.

Charlie Coyle
Coyle only played one preseason game as he spent most of the preseason working his way back from offseason knee surgery, but he looked pretty damn good Wednesday night. He scored a goal by crashing the net for a rebound, registered an assist with a great transition pass to Craig Smith, and generally looked confident and assertive all night. There’s been more than a little bit of clamoring for Jack Studnicka to get the No. 2 center job instead of Coyle, but Coyle quieted some of that talk on Wednesday and showed exactly what you needed to see to believe he can bounce back from last season and hold his own on the second line.

Jack Studnicka
Speaking of Studnicka, he did everything the Bruins could have asked of him this offseason and preseason. The 22-year-old center got stronger by putting on 15 pounds of good weight, something that translated to him holding up better against NHL physicality. He fit in well between Hall and Smith in Coyle’s absence and helped create and drive offense, finishing with a team-high 16 shots on goal in the preseason and tying for the team-high with four points on two goals and two assists. It still appears Studnicka will most likely start the season in Providence simply because there aren’t enough roster spots in Boston, but he has certainly done his part to make that a tough decision for the team. It won’t take much in the way of injury or poor performance for him to get called up.

Jake DeBrusk
Really, there was nowhere else for DeBrusk’s stock to go after a brutal 2020-21 season. That said, the 24-year-old left wing has looked legitimately good this preseason. He’s been working hard and attacking with the puck, and he scored two rebound goals by going to the net. He is also apparently now a shootout expert based on preseason results there. DeBrusk seems to have good chemistry with new linemates Erik Haula and Nick Foligno, and there’s reason to believe a real bounce-back season could be on the way.

Erik Haula
As with the Bruins’ other new additions, this could vary depending on what you previously thought of the player. Haula’s production had dropped off considerably since a 55-point season in 2017-18, but this preseason we saw glimpses of what Haula can bring that could help the new-look third line be an upgrade over what the Bruins had there last year. He’s fast and he can make things happen with the puck on his stick. He’ll kill penalties and play on the Bruins’ second power-play unit. He appears to complement his new linemates well, especially DeBrusk, as the two can get off to the races quickly. Haula finished the preseason tied with Studnicka and Marchand with a team-high four points in three games.

John Moore
It’s easy to forget about Moore or write him off given all his injuries and the bad contract, but he looked good this preseason. The veteran defenseman is healthy now, he’s moving well, and he should have a roster spot to start the season barring some sort of late surprise. He has played mostly on the right side, his off side, and could be the D in the best position to challenge Connor Clifton for playing time. The Bruins know as well as any team that their seventh and eighth defensemen are going to have to play at some point, and Moore can still be a contributor in that kind of role even if he’s not going to be in the top six when everyone’s healthy.

Fabian Lysell
The Bruins’ 2021 first-round pick has already been sent to the WHL, where he’ll play for the Vancouver Giants this season. But what he showed in Boston in both training camp and a pair of preseason games is that adapting to the North American rink and physicality isn’t going to be some massive long-term project. Lysell looked good, with his speed and skill jumping out at you. He attacked NHL defenders without hesitation and repeatedly got inside to scoring areas. He probably would have been able to hold his own in the AHL this season, but facing players his own age in the WHL and playing big minutes in all situations will be good for him.

Jesper Froden
Obviously the Bruins knew what kind of player they were signing when they inked the 27-year-old winger to a contract this summer. Unless you watch a lot of Swedish hockey, the rest of us probably didn’t, as Froden has never played a season in North America until now. Froden will start the season in Providence, where some more adjustment time will be good for him. But his strong preseason and professional experience has put him in a position to be one of the Bruins’ first call-ups at forward, and coach Bruce Cassidy said he can see Froden helping at the NHL level this season. He’s a smart two-way player with some offensive skill, and he can play either wing. It’s not hard to envision Froden on the third or fourth line in the event of injury or someone struggling.

Brady Lyle
The Bruins are short on right-shot defensemen after McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Connor Clifton. Either Moore or Jakub Zboril can slide over, but if the Bruins are looking for another righty at some point a little later in the season, Lyle could be next up. Cassidy has said Lyle isn’t quite NHL-ready yet, but that he may be closer than initially anticipated after a strong camp and preseason. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020, Lyle is a 6-foot-3 skilled puck-mover with a great shot. The defensive side of his game is where some work is still needed, but the Bruins have seen improvement there. They’re also impressed by the fact that he stuck around Boston this offseason and did a lot of work with Brad Marchand.

Stock Down

Linus Ullmark
Perhaps no Bruin's stock took a bigger hit this preseason than their big free-agent goalie signing. Ullmark gave up too many rebounds and was too leaky in his two and a half preseason games. He got beat five-hole a couple times and committed a brutal turnover in overtime that literally handed the Rangers a win. He ultimately gave up 10 goals on 62 shots for a dismal .839 save percentage. All that said, it’s worth taking a deep breath here. Ullmark is a good goalie. His surface-level numbers and his underlying numbers were very good on a very bad Buffalo team last year. He’s going to play better than he has so far in a Bruins uniform. But for now, his stock is definitely down, especially when compared to Swayman.

Trent Frederic
Frederic will likely still start the season as the fourth-line left wing, but he hasn’t exactly taken the job and run away with it the way the Bruins were hoping he would. He’s been ineffective with the puck, he’s committed too many turnovers, and he’s looked slow at times. In five preseason games, he was on the ice for five even-strength goals against and zero for. Cassidy has been critical of his pace and lack of strength on the puck. Frederic said he feels like he’s been practicing well, but that it wasn’t translating to games. He knows he needs to bring more to the table than hitting and fighting. He’ll continue to get an opportunity to show he can do that, but at some point the Bruins may make a change if they aren’t seeing it.

Curtis Lazar
Lazar hasn’t struggled as much as Frederic, but he also hasn’t exactly put the fourth-line right-wing job on lockdown. He committed a couple costly turnovers himself, and he hasn’t looked as effective or as annoying on the forecheck and down low in the offensive zone as he did when he first arrived from Buffalo at last year’s trade deadline. Perhaps he was more comfortable playing center last year than he is playing wing now, but his clearer path to regular playing time right now is on the wing. The Bruins are looking to get more offensive-zone time and some more pop from their fourth line this year. New addition Tomas Nosek seems capable of bringing that, but he’s going to need more help from his wings than he’s gotten in the preseason. Lazar left the Bruins' final preseason game with an injury and there has been no update on his status as of Friday morning. ( UPDATE: Cassidy said Friday that Lazar is "week-to-week" with an upper-body injury.)

Chris Wagner
Despite the first-choice fourth line struggling this preseason, Wagner got few opportunities with them, spending more time in a sort of fifth-line role than as part of any sort of fourth-line rotation. It appears he’s still the 13th forward at best, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a younger player pass him at some point. Wagner wasn’t necessarily bad this preseason, but it seems like he wasn’t able to push his way through a door that was at least cracked open.

Urho Vaakanainen
The Bruins’ 2017 first-round pick doesn’t really seem to be climbing the organizational depth chart, and may have even dropped a spot or two. He was inconsistent in his two preseason games, making too many poor decisions with the puck and reacting a little too late on a pair of goals against. We keep waiting to see Vaakanainen make a real jump and real push for a regular NHL roster spot, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Jack Ahcan has arguably moved ahead of him on the D depth chart, and Lyle could be there too. It’s worth noting that Vaakanainen has been dealing with an upper-body injury recently that cost him an opportunity to play in Boston’s fifth preseason game.

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