The Bruins are giving Matt Poitras every test available to them to see if the slick-passing 19-year-old is ready for a National Hockey League season.
The latest? He was in the B’s lineup in the second half of a back-to-back coupled with a plum assignment in what would be a top six centerman role. After playing in Monday’s game in Philadelphia, picking up a helper in the B’s only goal of the game, Poitras was set to get right back at it on Tuesday at the Garden against the Washington Capitals, this time playing on a line with Brad Marchand and Trent Frederic.
It seems like Poitras has at the very least earned a longer look-see. While the preseason is winding down and opening night is just a week away, coach Jim Montgomery said that the nine-game window in the regular season teams are allowed to test out players who aren’t eligible for the AHL like Poitras could be helpful, though he didn’t definitely say that’s the way the club is going.
Poitras certainly seems to have the talent to at least one day to play in the NHL, but Montgomery said that’s not the only consideration when keeping a teenager.
“We’ve seen the capabilities of what he can do, his creativity and the growth of his game,” said Montgomery. “The other component is the physical aspect of it. It’s a man’s league, compared to the junior league. He’s used to playing against people who are within two years of his age, so that’s the component, balancing those two to see first what’s the benefit for him as far as his confidence and him being able to be someone who can help the Bruins. Then also if he went back, how much more confident would he grow. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but he’s done so well so far. That’s why we’re going him these opportunities, so that he’s in the picture.”
Poitras’ left wing for the night has been duly impressed by the kid, comparing him at one point to Toronto Maple Leaf star Mitch Marner with the way he’s smart on both sides of the puck and has great vision and poise with the puck.
“He’s a smart player,” said Marchand. “He definitely has had a really good camp so far. I played with him the other night and he sees the ice very well. He’s competitive, he’s not scared to go in the corners and to go in the tough areas. He’s definitely shown a lot of promise. He’s definitely had a great camp so far, but he’s got to keep it going. It’s going to be tough on him tonight, having a back-to-back with travel. It’s not going to be easy. Hopefully we can help him out, dig some pucks out for him and make it a little easier. But those are things you need to show you can do at the next, be consistent, even though you played a game the night before or you traveled or whatever. But he’s a great little player and he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”
Having often played three games in three nights with his junior team in Guelph, Poitras wasn’t overly concerned with a fatigue factor heading into Tuesday’s game. And getting a few good games under his belt has given him a little bit of momentum as he tries to win a job.
“I feel pretty good on the ice, a lot more confident now that I’ve been here a lot longer and gotten to be on the ice with these better players more. So I’m just building a comfort level and being confident with the puck on the ice,” said Poitras.
While he’s listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, his lack of heft has not kept him from fighting for pucks along the boards – and winning his share of them.
“For me, my games always been based around winning 50-50 battles, so I’ve never been scared to go in a corner with a bigger guy and I feel like I do a good job of coming out with the puck for the most part,” said Poitras. “I think just being able to do that it keeps plays alive in the offensive zone, which is where I want to play. It’s more fun down there.”
Poitras said he’s still learning the Bruins’ defensive system and that it’s much different from the aggressive one he played in Guelph. But, in one aspect, he has already proven to be a student of the game. In last Friday’s shootout loss to the Flyers, he won just five of 16 faceoffs. But in the return match on Monday ,he captured eight of 11.
“I just had to bear down a bit more,” said Poitras. “The first game against Philly, I think maybe I wasn’t prepared or I hadn’t taken that many draws. So before the game game on Monday, I took a few more draws and the second time around going against some of the same guys, I knew some of their tendencies and I tried to change up what I’m doing. And I win a couple draws.”
While much about his game is precocious, he couldn’t hide the fact that he’s still very much a kid when Marchand’s Marner comparison was brought up to him.
“That’s pretty cool. It’s a good compliment,” said Poitras, grinning ear-to-ear. “Yeah, that’s cool.”…
Montgomery did not give a glowing assessment on Fabian Lysell, the B’s first round pick two years ago.
“I think Lysell’s had moments where he’s been good, and he’s had moments where he’s struggled,” said Montgomery. “He’s drafted to be a skilled offensive player and, in order to be a skilled, offensive player, you’ve got to produce. And we haven’t seen the production yet.”
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