Jimmy Hayes could play the left or right side depending on whether the B’s can sign Jimmy Vesey. (Kim Klement/USA Today)
The Bruins have made their pitch for Jimmy Vesey. Now they and seven other teams will wait as the player goes about whittling down his list.
While Boston is not the slam-dunk that many assume it is, the Bruins should at least have some confidence in their chances following a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Vesey on Wednesday. They were Vesey’s last meeting, so as long as they didn’t Ari Gold it, they could have positioned themselves to be freshest in Vesey’s mind as the North Reading native goes about choosing his team. A source who was in the meetings said the Bruins did a “great job.”
So what happens if the Bruins land Vesey, and what happens if they don’t? Netting the Hobey Baker winner would add to something of a crowded left wing group, but it would position the B’s to help their right wing problem by moving someone like Frank Vatrano to the right side.
Outside of a potential Vesey addition, the biggest question with the Bruins’ lines is where to play David Backes. The former Blues captain spent most of his time with St. Louis as a center, but Boston’s depth chart lacks solid options at right wing after the departure of Loui Eriksson.
At least for now, the preference here is to play Backes as a right wing. This is partially because handing him the third-line center job would essentially be a punishment for Ryan Spooner, a young player who does not deserve for his job to be taken away after a mostly solid first full NHL season. Spooner put up 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists) over his first 51 games last season before a second-half slump (11 points in his final 29 games), though he was nagged by a lower-body injury down the stretch. The team should give Spooner the chance to continue to develop into a responsible center, especially since he’ll be due for a new contract after the coming season.
Regardless of his primary position, Backes figures to move around a bit. Assuming he starts off as a right wing, here’s a guess at line configurations for the Bruins, with or without Vesey.
Obviously, the lineup is a little trickier to project if Vesey is not in the mix. These projections have Danton Heinen making the leap to the NHL in his first year as a pro, but the B’s also have forward Austin Czarnik pushing for an NHL job after a strong year in the AHL (61 points in 68 games), Tyler Randell in the mix as a fourth-line right wing option and Seth Griffith still looking to carve out a full-time NHL gig.