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BRIGHTON, Mass. — The doorway was unfastened for Georgii Merkulov successful training camp. The Boston Bruins needed a pace-pushing center down Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle. A 24-goal, 55-point statement successful 67 games arsenic an AHL rookie pinch nan Providence Bruins successful 2022-23 earned Merkulov a bully look.
Merkulov closed nan doorway connected himself.
The second-year pro started training campy slowly. By nan clip he had cleared his throat, nan bosses had already shifted their eyes onto Matt Poitras. Based connected his play, nan 19-year-old had arrived pinch greater intentions than Merkulov.
On Oct. 4, Merkulov was assigned to nan Providence Bruins. He had not met nan situation of a camp-starting sprint.
“In nan summer, you don’t play for 4 months,” said Merkulov. “And successful training camp, it’s NHL players. So it’s hard.”
Thirty-one games of AHL groundwork person put Merkulov successful a amended position for NHL occurrence than he was astatine nan opening of camp. At nan clip of his Friday promotion, Merkulov was No. 4 successful AHL scoring: 14 goals and 30 points successful 31 games. He has been a move AHL halfway betwixt Jesper Boqvist and Justin Brazeau.
It is now up to him to find whether his first NHL callback will beryllium his last.
“We want to people more,” said coach Jim Montgomery. “But we don’t want to people much and sacrifice our squad defense. That connection has been made clear to Merk. The logic he sewage called up was because of his 200-foot game, not because he’s scoring well. On our team, we person guys that are paid a batch of money to people goals.”
The left-shot halfway was connected nan No. 3 statement betwixt James van Riemsdyk and Trent Frederic successful Friday’s practice. It is wherever he will make his NHL debut connected Saturday against nan New Jersey Devils.
“My dada told maine to play each crippled for illustration it was my past game,” Merkulov said. “Just bask it.”
The Bruins signed Merkulov arsenic an undrafted free supplier pursuing his freshman play astatine Ohio State. As Buckeyes successful 2021-22, Merkulov (team-leading 34 points) and Mason Lohrei (No. 2 pinch 29 points) were ever reasoning offensively.
“He’s different feline that makes guys amended retired there,” Lohrei said. “He’s sewage that expertise to make those small gaffe plays, skilled plays to find guys. Obviously he’s sewage that scoring touch. If you get it to him anyplace successful a bully scoring area, you cognize it’s sewage a chance to spell successful nan net.”
In theory, Merkulov’s strengths arsenic a playmaker and shooter should springiness nan Bruins immoderate violative popular little successful nan lineup. It would beryllium a invited summation pursuing Montgomery’s caller uncovering of a accordant top-six rotation: Morgan Geekie centering Zacha and David Pastrnak, Charlie Coyle betwixt Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk. A 3rd statement pinch violative beingness could spell a agelong measurement successful enhancing nan Bruins’ five-on-five game, which has produced only 64 goals (25th successful nan league).
“You want to put him successful a business wherever he’s going to play minutes,” said Montgomery. “You want to put him successful a business wherever he’s playing pinch violative players. I don’t deliberation it’s adjacent to bring a feline up and put him connected nan first statement either.”
The Bruins person immoderate clip to tinker astatine nan position. Poitras whitethorn not beryllium disposable until nan 2nd week of January, depending connected really acold Team Canada advances astatine nan World Junior Championship.
Zacha, who shifted to No. 1 near helping successful nan Bruins’ 4-1 triumph complete nan Buffalo Sabres connected Wednesday, is apt to enactment connected nan flank for now. Not only does this springiness Geekie much reps successful nan middle, it makes nan Bruins much muscular connected nan wings, which has been a season-long shortcoming.
Frederic was nan No. 3 halfway against nan Sabres. But he makes nan Bruins deeper astatine helping pinch Merkulov successful nan middle.
Merkulov, then, has earned what is apt to beryllium astatine slightest a five-game audition. The Bruins’ information of nan 23-year-old will statesman successful their end.
“The astir promising point we’re proceeding is really quickly he’s closing successful D-zone and really his 200-foot crippled has really upticked,” said Montgomery. “It’s not astonishing that you perceive astir someone’s 200-foot crippled getting amended and he’s (fourth) successful nan convention successful scoring. (Against Buffalo), we had 7 odd-man rushes. Five of them came from bully defense. Good defense leads to offense.”
(Photo: Fred Kfoury III / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)