A theme throughout Bruins camp has been seizing the opportunity.
Three rookies had a chance to earn regular playing time, and while none of Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, or Jack Studnicka will be on the opening night roster, plenty of others have taken the chance.
The Bruins will still bring in one of the youngest rosters in the league.
“I think what they have to do is worry about themselves and not worry about the noise around it,” Bruins president Cam Neely said. “They have to look at their own games, and I hope they’ve set goals for themselves on where they need to improve.”
Urho Vaakanainen stands out as a 19-year-old who has the very real possibility of playing in Washington following Torey Krug’s injury.
It took a massive effort in camp to get to that point, but the Finnish blueliner earned his way past the recent round of cuts.
“I’ve always been myself, I know what I’m capable of,” said Vaakanainen. “It was a big goal for me to play in the NHL this season. Of course it’s a little surprising that I made it during camp. Of course it’s surprising. But I think that’s what I tried to do all camp and it was my goal the last few years.”
Sean Kuraly is the heir apparent to the third line center position. He was injured in camp, but his performance on Saturday night along with a few good practices has the team confident he’s ready for a bigger role.
“We didn’t get a ton of time, but I feel caught up,” he said. “I feel fresh…. Practicing with my linemates and the rest of the team, I feel good.”
Maybe no better example of taking advantage of what they can do is Anders Bjork.
After coming out like a house on fire to begin his NHL career, Bjork struggled a bit midway through the year before getting hurt.
He didn’t get into a preseason game until Saturday, and it didn’t look like there would be space for him.
His performance may have forced their hand.
“A skillset us young guys need to learn is playing with different players,” he said. “Feeling comfortable on different lines. Especially during the season with injuries, it changes all the time. It’s important to be ready.”
Unlike some of the rookies with a lack of NHL experience, Bjork has a bit of a history to fall back on last season, and he’s used the knowledge to his advantage.
“I’ve learned how much it takes to be a consistent NHL player,” he said. “It takes a lot. Watching the older guys, seeing their example, they don’t take days off.”
Bjork’s presence could also push the other wingers, Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen, who struggled a bit in the preseason finale.
Overall, Donato had a strong camp, but had his learning moments. His pure ability will guide him, but starting the season on the team compared to being dropped in the middle of a playoff race is a new experience to take in.
“It’s very different,” said Donato. “You get to know the guys a lot better. Last year a lot of the guys were very nice to be, but it was right next to playoffs and everybody had to focus and not really worry about the new guy, making sure he feels comfortable. This year guys are really good about reaching out and making sure everyone feels welcomed.”
Joakim Nordstrom doesn’t fit the mold of the young guys, but he’s taken a position on the fourth line despite missing much of camp.
His performance on Saturday night showed the Bruins he’s ready to be plugged into the lineup, especially with Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner.
“We started the practice the day before, and that was our first practice together,” he said. “But we talk as much as possible on the ice and try to communicate in a few situations, so it feels like that’s helped.”
With so much talent knocking on the door, the lineup the Bruins show on Wednesday might not be what is on the ice late in the season.
It’s all about which players make the most of the chance they get.
“I don’t think you can show up, and say okay, play hard and work hard,” said Neely about the young players. “I think you have to focus on, ‘where do I need to improve, and how am I going to improve’ and work from there.”