Bruins preseason depth chart 2.0: Matt Poitras’ case as No. 2 center

In the first iteration of this exercise, Matt Poitras was nowhere to be seen on the Boston Bruins preseason depth chart. Things have changed.

The right-shot center has been the breakout prospect of training camp. The second-round pick from 2022 has regularly controlled the puck, extended offensive-zone time and stood tall against bigger, stronger and meaner NHL competitors.

In fact, Poitras has elbowed himself not just into the immediate NHL conversation, but as a top-two center.

First, some brake-pumping: Poitras has yet to play against a full NHL lineup. He is a 176-pound 19-year-old, two characteristics that do not work well in the same sentence. Whether he can consistently execute the defensive mandates of a Bruins center remains to be seen.

But there are unmistakable facts about the plucky center. He is courageous. He is clever. He competes. 

Most importantly: Poitras makes plays.

In that way, Poitras has some crossover with David Krejci. Like the ex-Bruin, Poitras is at his best handling the puck and setting up his teammates. In Monday’s 3-1 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, Poitras worked the left circle on the power play, Krejci’s old office. He logged a secondary PP assist on Morgan Geekie’s first-period goal.

At five-on-five, Poitras made the most of centering Jesper Boqvist and Marc McLaughlin, neither of whom popped offensively. Poitras finished with no shots and one assist in 16:39 of ice time. He won eight of 11 faceoffs.

“I thought he did an excellent job tonight,” coach Jim Montgomery told reporters in Philadelphia. “He shows a lot of poise with the puck. He makes plays. He makes intelligent support plays. He’s someone that built our team game tonight out there and made a lot of smart hockey plays.”

All offseason, following the retirements of Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins had Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle as their top two centers. So far, Zacha has not looked out of place riding on the No. 1 line with David Pastrnak. Same thing with Coyle, who had DeBrusk and Fabian Lysell as his wingmen against the Flyers.

But everybody acknowledges Coyle is optimized as the No. 3 center. Coyle can do his thing there: Play difficult five-on-five minutes, control the puck against lesser pairings, work the net front on the second power-play unit, kill penalties, and be available for endgame situations.

So where does that leave the No. 2 line? Perhaps with Poitras between Brad Marchand and DeBrusk.


Left wing Center Right wing

James van Riemsdyk

Pavel Zacha

David Pastrnak

Brad Marchand

Matt Poitras

Jake DeBrusk

Jesper Boqvist

Charlie Coyle

Trent Frederic

Milan Lucic

Morgan Geekie

Jakub Lauko

Danton Heinen

For Poitras to best express his playmaking skills, he needs to run with offensive-minded wingers. Marchand and DeBrusk qualify in that category. They are good at getting open and producing offense when they receive pucks. 

Coyle, meanwhile, has a history with Trent Frederic. Maybe the two could find some chemistry with Boqvist, who has more speed and skill than he showed against the Flyers.

This would push Geekie down the fourth line. That would serve the Bruins best. To this point, Geekie has yet to show the offensive elements required of a third-line center.

This is not to say Poitras is a lock. He can dress for nine NHL games this season before burning the first season of his entry-level contract. This would be a good audition for the Bruins to determine whether Poitras can withstand NHL wear and tear. He is not eligible to play for Providence. Poitras must return to Guelph of the OHL if he doesn’t stick with the varsity.

If the Bruins determine junior is the better landing spot for Poitras, they can go back to the original plan: Coyle as the No. 2 center, Geekie on the third line, maybe McLaughlin or Patrick Brown centering the fourth line. Danton Heinen, who is on a tryout agreement, has done enough to earn a contract as the extra forward because of his skating, hockey sense and versatility.

As for defense, Ian Mitchell is making his case to be the No. 7 defenseman over Jakub Zboril. Mitchell, acquired in the Taylor Hall trade, is an energetic and fearless right-shot defenseman who isn’t afraid to pinch down the walls. Mitchell does not have Zboril’s puck skills. But he is more physical and more trustworthy in defensive situations. 

Also, Kevin Shattenkirk is still learning the Bruins’ zone defense. Mitchell could push Shattenkirk as the right-shot defender on the No. 3 pairing.



Matt Grzelcyk

Charlie McAvoy

Hampus Lindholm

Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort

Kevin Shattenkirk

Ian Mitchell

In goal, everything is set with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman.

The Bruins have two more preseason tuneups remaining. Maybe Poitras will get a final look. So far, he’s passed every test.

(Photo: Fred Kfoury III / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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