The Bruins roster has gone through a few changes and it will lead to some movement of players on the lines. With Iginla and Thornton leaving in free agency and another trade or two likely to come there are spots that need to be filled. The question now is who is going to fill them and how productive are the new combinations going to be.
The Bruins first line lost a Hall of Fame player in Iginla and that is going to be hard to replace especially since he scored 30 goals and had 61 points. The majority of the task will fall on the shoulders of Loui Eriksson who struggled most of last year with injuries and finding chemistry on different lines. The good news is Eriksson is healthy and was a first line player on Dallas before being traded to the Bruins scoring 70+ points in his last three full seasons. So that leaves the first line with Milan Lucic as the left wing and David Krejci as the center. This line is going to be dangerous if they can all stay healthy especially with Krejci entering a contract year he could have the best season of his career in an effort to get a big payday next summer. Stat projection wise I see an increase across the board for the first line. First Lucic who 4 years ago scored 30 goals and 62 points but has yet to match either of those numbers. Unfortunately I don't see 30 goals but 26-27 but points wise he will have a career best season finishing with 66 points meaning the power forward will have 40 assists. Krejci who has been a consistent leader in team points over the past few years will continue that trend this season finishing with 20-25 goals and 50-55 assists so I see him finishing with a new career high in points at 76 points. Now the new member of the line Eriksson who is going to have a bounce back year finishing with 34 goals and 40 assists for 74 points.
The Bruins second line remains unchanged as soon as Reilly Smith is resigned. So that means the trio of left wing Marchand center Bergeron and right wing Smith will be playing great two way hockey once again this season. Projections for this line are a little more difficult since Smith had a breakout year and Marchand got off to such a slow start. Starting with the Little Ball of Hate Marchand will be looking to prove he belongs after a poor playoffs and a trade rumor filled off season. These motivators will lead to a 30 goal season with 31 assists for a career year across the board finishing with 61 points. Bergeron is coming off of a great season and a full camp with Smith and a motivated Marchand should keep his numbers improving. I don't see another 30 goal season but 26 seems like a accurate number to go with 42 assists for a total of 68 points and yet another Selke nomination. Smith is the wild card on this line because while he had a great season last year he also had some long slumps toward the end before finding his touch again in the playoffs. I see smith continuing to improve likely scoring 25 goals to go with 34 assists for 59 points. So this line like the first will see increased production mostly because they have a full offseason to work with each other and will know how to work best together.
Now the third line is probably the biggest mystery on the whole team will Kelly be traded and if so who will play left wing. Even if Kelly stays who is going to play right wing with Soderberg holding it all together at center. I'm going to assume Kelly is getting traded in order for Krug and Smith to be resigned because once Savard is put on LTIR that only frees up 4 million so we will need more cap space heading into the season. This trade will open the left wing spot for Ryan Spooner. Spooner has shown he is a talented passer with 11 assists in 23 NHL games last year and 35 in 49 AHL games scoring just under a point per game the past two seasons. So I don't see Spooner as a big goal scoring threat probably finishing the year with 13 goals but he will get plenty of assists il say 23 so that's a 36 point season. At center Carl Soderberg had a great season scoring 48 points in 73 games finding chemistry with countryman Loui Eriksson. Unfortunately Soderberg won't have that talent on his line this year but with his place on the power play he will still have plenty of scoring opportunities. I'm going to say 18 goals and 31 assists to put Carl at 49 points for the year. Now to the open right wing after a long training camp battle I see Matt Fraser winning the roster spot. With his 37 and 33 goals in his two AHL seasons before being traded to the Bruins Fraser brings some goal scoring talent to a third line in need of a scorer. Even last year in just 44 AHL games Fraser finished the year with 20 goals. With his goal scoring ability and the net front presence of Soderberg I'm going to go bold and say Fraser scores 20 goals and adds 14 assists for 34 points. With how the Bruins roll out all four lines seeing the whole third line over 30 points each should not be that surprising given the talent these rookies have and the talent that Soderberg has to form chemistry with anyone who is on his line.
The Bruins fourth line has been the energy line for years and I don't expect that to change, but I do see this line as having more scoring ability now that Thornton is gone. At left wing once again will be Daniel Paille the speedy winger has some scoring touch and I see him finishing the year with 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points which would be the most he has scored in a Bruins uniform. At center a change is coming and it is the addition of Alexander Khokhlachev. In the AHL last season Alex scored 57 points in 65 games proving he is ready to take the next step. Khokhlachev should score 9 goals and add 14 assists for 25 points. Now since the center spot has been occupied Gregory Campbell will be moved over to right wing. After taking some time to adjust to his new position Campbell should benefit from having a more offensively gifted center so I see him scoring 10 goals and adding 14 assists for a total of 24 points. This leaves the open thirteenth forward spot and that will go to Justin Florek with Caron being traded for a late round draft pick so we get something back for him.
This forward group is one of the most offensively gifted the Bruins have had in a few years. With Eriksson returning to his star form from Dallas after a full camp with his line mates and Smith now knowing what it takes to get through the trials of a full NHL season and looking to improve his consistency the top two lines look as formidable as ever. The bottom six now have hungry rookies looking to make their mark on the NHL and playing for their spot on the team with a good group of players in the AHL ready to take their place should they have a slow start or mid season slump. It is going to be an exciting year in Boston and I for one can not wait for the season to get underway. I will have an article detailing the defensive pairings and their stats coming up next so keep checking back to see how the defense might shake out with so many NHL ready defensemen on the team.