Bruins season preview: Zacha, Coyle must step up


Making the cut

Because of the retirements of Bergeron and Krejci, there will be several spots open at forward during training camp. As a result, players like Morgan Geekie, Patrick Brown and Jesper Boqvist will have the chance to solidify roles with their new team, and prospects such as Fabian Lysell, Jakub Lauko and Matthew Poitras will have the chance to earn a spot.

Most intriguing addition

Geekie took a step forward in his second season with the Seattle Kraken in 2022-23, finishing with 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) and a plus-14 rating while averaging 10:27 of ice time in 69 games. The 25-year-old signed a two-year contract with Boston on July 1, and the Bruins are hoping that an expanded role could result in expanded production from Geekie. He could slot in at third-line center behind Zacha and Coyle.

Biggest potential surprise

Georgii Merkulov had an excellent first professional season with Providence of the American Hockey League in 2022-23, getting 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists) in 67 games. The 22-year-old forward has enticing offensive skill, something honed in Providence last season, but he still has a lot of learning to do in the defensive zone. Still, the Bruins are going to be looking for more offense this season, so Merkulov winning the third-line center job out of camp would be an interesting development.

Ready to contribute

Lauko has shown NHL potential, and this could be his season to break out seeing as how seemingly every spot in the bottom six is up for grabs. Lauko, who had seven points (four goals, three assists) in 23 NHL games last season, can be a pest (in a good way), brings some speed, and can put the puck in the net, all of which could add up to a regular lineup spot.

Fantasy sleeper

Pavel Zacha, C (fantasy average draft position: 165.2) — He is expected to be the first- or second-line center for the Bruins following the retirements of Bergeron and Krejci this offseason. Zacha set NHL career highs in goals (21), assists (36), points (57) and plus/minus (plus-26) last season, and if he sees more time on the power play (he averaged 1:43 per game in 2022-23) and plays alongside elite right wing David Pastrnak, he could be a fantasy steal. — Anna Dua

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