Peter Chiarelli said Thursday that there are four forward spots open this training camp, though he wouldn’t specify which. In reality, there’s uncertainty in more places than that on Boston’s forward lines.
Jarome Iginla’s old spot on David Krejci‘s line is the only top-six position up for grabs. On the bottom two lines, however, Carl Soderberg centering the third line looks to be the only certainty. A gaggle of forwards are competing for the wing spots, while the fourth line is one big question mark with numerous potential answers.
That’s where Alexander Khokhlachev comes in.
Gregory Campbell has centered the fourth line for the last four seasons, but that may change. The Bruins have a pair of NHL centers knocking on the NHL‘s door, and the team has considered moving Campbell to wing if either one wins the fourth-line center.
One of those player is Ryan Spooner. The other is Khokhlachev, who was chosen in the second round in 2011, a year after Spooner. Both players stand at 5-foot-11, but Khokhlachev is thicker, having bulked up to 189 pounds this offseason (Spooner is listed at 181 pounds).
Spooner has more AHL experience, but Khokhlachev hopes that after putting up 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 65 games last season in his first full campaign with Providence, he’s ready for the NHL.
There are two questions with the left-shooting 21-year-old. One is whether he could play wing if need be ‘ he did at points of a 26-game stint in the KHL during the lockout ‘ and the other is whether he would make sense as a fourth-liner at either position.
“Sure, why not? I’m not just a skill guy,” Khokhlachev said Thursday. “For sure, I like to score goals and get points and help my team win, but if this year they put me on the fourth line and want me [play a different role], I’m still a young guy and I develop my game pretty much every day, so I don’t care where they put me. It doesn’t matter for me. I will be happy.”
Campbell is out with a mid-core injury to begin training camp, so the Bruins will be able to get longer looks at Khokhlachev and Spooner, something that Chiarelli sees as a silver lining to having players missing.
“Those guys both tested well and ran well, and they both had real good seasons last year,” Chiarelli said of Spooner and Khokhlachev. “You’ll probably see some of the guys higher up on the depth chart for centers, and you might see them on the wing at some point.”
Khokhlachev said he didn’t do anything differently this offseason to prepare for being a wing, but he’s more than willing to play the position if that’s the opportunity given to him. His priority is being in the NHL.
“It doesn’t matter where they put me. Coaches, management, they know better,” he said. “For now, I don’t really care. I just want to make the team. Wherever they put me, I’ll be happy with that and enjoy it.”