With the dog days of the NHL offseason now upon us, we’re going to spend the next couple of weeks taking a deeper dive at a number of players on the Bruins’ roster (or on the cusp of a roster spot) who could make a major impact on the club’s hopes of putting together another Cup run.
Here are our previous breakdowns of B’s players this summer:
Next up, let’s take a look at one of the key cogs in Boston’s bottom-six in Sean Kuraly:
Player: Sean Kuraly
Age: 26 (turns 27 on January 20)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2 / 213 pounds
2018-19 Stats: 71 games played – 8 goals, 21 assists, 13:46 ATOI
SEASON IN REVIEW
It didn’t take very long after inking a new three-year, $3.825-million deal for Sean Kuraly to start fielding questions about his place in the Bruins' lineup.
After a promising first full season in the NHL in which he tallied 14 points and logged major minutes on the PK while operating on the fourth line, Kuraly figured to be one of the leading in-house candidates to fill in the vacancy left by Riley Nash as Boston’s third-line pivot.
“I figured there would be questions, and I’m going to give it my best shot,” Kuraly said of fighting for a promotion out of camp. “I’m preparing like I do every single year to play my best hockey, and I look at it like, that’s the first thing that has to happen. So, I’m going to try to play my best hockey and bring as much as I can to the team, and where I’m put in the lineup or where they put me is going to be based off how I play, and how I play is up to me.
“I just want to do the best I can, and whatever position they put me in, I’ll try and make the best of it and do the absolute best I can. My goal is to help the team as much I can, obviously, like any other player. If that means playing third line, then that’s what that means, and if it means playing fourth line, then that’s where I’ll be. Really, that’s what my outlook is.”
By the time October rolled around and other younger candidates like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic came up short in vying for an NHL roster spot, Kuraly had emerged victorious in the training-camp competition, opening the season as the third-line center alongside wingers in David Backes and Ryan Donato.
It did not last very long, however, with the trio only logging three games and 11 minutes of 5v5 TOI together before Kuraly was once again primarily relegated to a fourth-line role.
And while his place on Boston’s depth chart largely remained the same as the season progressed, Kuraly’s role on the club continued to grow — with the speedy forward becoming the linchpin on a fourth-line corps also featuring Chris Wagner, Noel Acciari and Joakim Nordstrom.
Along with setting a new career-high with eight goals and 21 points over 71 games, Kuraly also averaged 1:18 of shorthanded TOI (including 2:01 during the postseason - tops among B’s forwards) while using his speed and size to generate a “one-man cycle”, as tabbed by Bruce Cassidy.
Sean Kuraly - a "one-man cycle," as described by Bruce Cassidy. pic.twitter.com/HtwflxYoNV
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 30, 2019
Kuraly’s ability to both carry the puck up the ice and beat opposing skaters to the biscuit during a forechecking sequence allowed Boston’s fourth line to serve as one of Cassidy’s most trusted groups when it came to matchups — with Kuraly’s crew often earning shifts against top-six forward trios.
Add in a few of the clutch goals that we’ve become used to seeing from Kuraly — including a game-winning strike at the 2019 Winter Classic, a goal in a Game 7 victory over the Maple Leafs and the deciding goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against St. Louis — and the 2018-19 campaign was another major step in the right direction for the dynamic forward.
While more minutes will likely be prescribed for one of Cassidy’s most trusted forwards in the bottom-six in 2019-20, could another crack at the third line also be in the cards for Kuraly? Let’s take a look: