Winners and losers so far in Bruins camp

Winners and losers so far in Bruins camp
September 20, 2013, 4:00 pm
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With three exhibition games in the books and more training camp cuts expected soon to release players that don’t have a chance of cracking the NHL roster, it seems like a natural time to take stock of the winners and losers at Bruins training camp. Some virtually unknown players have risen to the forefront based on their performances in camp sessions and the preseason games, and others have disappointed after arriving with high hopes.

Clearly things are a little more tilted to the negative after many players performed dreadfully in a Thursday night 8-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden, and Claude Julien said he had a better idea of who is going to be able to hack it when the NHL regular season bullets start flying in October.

“I think you got a pretty good idea of who can play against teams like that, and guys that aren’t quite ready yet,” said Claude Julien following Thursday’s defeat. “At the same time I didn’t think we played extremely well tonight. We were far from that.

“Our execution certainly wasn’t the way it has been the first two games. It was a rough night for us tonight and goals kept mounting up. Eventually you kind of get pushed out of the game.”

With that in mind, here are some names that impressed or depressed during camp thus far with a number of roster spots on the line:

*Jordan Caron – The 22-year-old former first round pick has seemingly had countless chances to establish himself over the last three seasons, and has a decent 11 goals and 25 points in 88 career games. But his stock went down last season amid injuries and some uninspired play in Providence during the NHL lockout, and it was surprising to see that he wasn’t one of the first players to show up for Bruins captain’s practices in August. He was viewed as a top contender for a third line role, but he’s been largely invisible during training camp. In the Thursday night loss, he was part of a brutal line change that led to a Henrik Zetterberg goal and then took a boneheaded boarding call that led to three Detroit goals in the third period. There are fewer and fewer signs of the guy that had seven goals and 15 points in a half NHL season two years ago, and he may not even make the B’s roster at all if his play doesn’t improve drastically.

Nick Johnson – The 27-year-old is the anti-Caron. He arrived with virtually no expectations despite plenty of NHL experience with the Wild, Penguins and Coyotes, and has been excellent while posting three goals in two games. The best part of the Johnson body of work in camp is that his goals are coming from hustle and being in the proper place at the right time, and he’s taken a very mature approach to winning a job in training camp despite no history with the team. The goal he scored by dangling around Pavel Datsyuk before roofing a backhander also showed he’s got the ability to score a goal or two in a third line role if he somehow made the Bruins out of camp.

Carl Soderberg – The 27-year-old Swede has been an enigma in training camp. He showed up in great shape, impressed during the camp practices and had his good moments while working on the power play in Monday night’s Montreal win. But he also took a couple of undisciplined penalties against the Habs, and has looked a tad slow while trying to work as a center thus far. It’s a good bet the Bruins will be moving him to wing before pairing him with Chris Kelly, and there his size and strength should be an asset while slowing the game down for him. He’s been inconsistent, but he appears to still have the inside track on one of the third line winger spots.

Matt Bartkowski – The Bruins already know what the speedy Bartkowski can do after watching him really begin to grasp the NHL game at the end of last season, and he’s continued that improvement in training camp. His play to wheel around the outer point with the puck before finding Jarome Iginla for a goal on Thursday night was one of the real highlights for Boston, and he’s shown no fear in carrying the puck up the ice with the kind of speed that will aid the B’s transition game greatly. He also was among a defensemen group that got torched by the Red Wings skill players, so that’s something that needs to be worked on. But it would appear that Torey Krug has already locked up a spot among the top six, and if camp ended today Bartkowski would be the choice for the sixth defensemen over Dougie Hamilton.

Jarome Iginla – Three goals in two games, and as strong as advertised on the puck along with the right winger one timer ability the Bruins have craved for years. Iggy will make a world of difference on the B’s PP after averaging 12 PP goals a year for the last 12 seasons prior to the lockout shortened season. Nathan who?

Chad Johnson – The first goal allowed was as ugly as it gets for a goalie trying to win a job, and the three goals allowed on eight shots makes for an unsightly stat line next to his name. But the 27-year-old will get his big chance when he plays the full game against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, and he has to be hoping his defense shows a lot more than they did in allowing eight goals. Another clunker of a performance could really open the door for Niklas Svedberg to be Tuukka Rask’s backup after he impressed in Tuesday’s shootout win over the Capitals.

Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser – The two young forwards have experienced intriguingly different training camps. Smith came to Boston with a reputation for shying away from the dirty work on the ice, but he’s shown enough grit and heady play to put himself in the conversation for the third line wing vacancy. He did some good things against the Caps, and looked very good jumping on the fore-check with Justin Florek at points throughout his game. Fraser has made some of Boston’s best goalies look like house league hosers with his NHL caliber shot from the slot and face-off circles. But he hasn’t been able to get free to release any of those shots during the exhibition games, and his quick fight with Jakob Kindl on Thursday night was the only time I’ve noticed him in his two exhibition games. Fraser looks headed to Providence, but Smith is another solid performance or two away from locking up a roster spot for himself.

Ryan Spooner – He collected the assist on Nick Johnson’s goal Thursday night with a slick pass from the corner, and has been operating with an extra gear during both of his appearances in the preseason. Spooner still has some work to do in the face-off circle and in the defensive zone, but he’s ready to create offense at the NHL level. It’s just a shame he’s been looked at for the center position as he’s stuck behind David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, and he’s probably not the best fit for a job on the third line. If it were based purely on preseason performance, though, the Bruins would find a spot for him on their opening night roster. Unfortunately that isn’t always the way it works in these camp competition situations.