Boston Bruins Midseason Grades: Forwards

By: Patrick Donnelly

Since we have just passed by the halfway mark of the Bruins’ season, it seems appropriate to look back on and evaluate the performances of each player currently on the Bruins’ NHL roster. In this article, the Bruins’ forwards will be graded.

Last season the Bruins had a plethora of scoring depth and sat among the top of the lead in goals per game (although that fizzled out right away in the second round of the playoffs). However, this season brings a different story; the Bruins have struggled to find scoring from all but five forwards (they currently sit ranked 17th in goals for per game). Sophomore slumps happening all at the same time don’t help either.

Patrice Bergeron: A

The perfect player, Bergeron does it all for the Bruins, and his 16 game absence was felt in all areas of the game, especially goal scoring. To this point of the year Bergeron has scored 14 goals and 38 points through 28 games and is on pace for a career year with a projected 33 goals and 90 points in just 66 games.

Noal Acciari: C-

Acciari isn’t known for his offense, and it’s not what makes him effective. However, the 27-year-old’s offensive production has been nonexistent; he only has 3 points (1G, 2A) in 37 games. Aside from the offense, Acciari is known for being a physical presence who is effective on the forecheck and brings a fiery edge on each shift, but he just hasn’t done that on a consistent basis this season. Hopefully, the Providence College product can get on track.

David Backes: C

As expensive as a third liner as Backes is, he’s never going to live up to his contract, and I don’t think anyone expects him to at this point in his career. Based off his role on the team, Backes has done okay (he’s also looked half decent as second line right wing lately). The 34-year-old had a very slow start, but he’s picked it up lately over his last 10 games or so. He still only has four goals, eight assists, and 12 points in 36 games, so not ideal.

Colby Cave: B-

For a fourth liner, Cave has done alright for himself in the NHL. Since getting called up, he has one goal and four assists for five points in 20 games. Cave led Providence in points before being called up, but he hasn’t capitalized on his chances with the big club like he was able to do in the AHL. The 24-year-old also didn’t exactly excel in the limelight when he was thrust onto the first line when Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson didn’t make the most of his opportunity. When he plays in the role he’s best-suited for, the fourth line, Cave looks pretty good; it just doesn’t translate if he moves up the lineup.

Jake DeBrusk: B+

DeBrusk had a slow start (three goals and three points in October) to his sophomore campaign after his rookie performance resulted in lofty expectations. The 22-year-old picked it up in November with seven goals and nine points before taking a Danton Heinen slap shot to the back of the head from point-blank range. As a result, DeBrusk went cold for the beginning of December and had to miss some games too. Since he’s returned, the winger has been hot and is now on pace for 29 goals; he’ll be a key part of this team’s success moving forward.

David Pastrnak: A+

Pastrnak has far and away been the Bruins’ best player this season. The 22-year-old currently has 25 goals (10th in the league), 27 assists, and 52 points in 44 games this season (14th in the league). He is on pace for 47 goals and 97 points. Pastrnak has developed into a player that can be trusted in all three zones of the ice in all situations, but he is prone to some giveaways at times, a result of how much he has the puck on his stick.

Ryan Donato: C+

After stepping in from Harvard last season, Donato made an immediate impact for this team, which led to pretty big expectations coming into this season. The 22-year-old can certainly be better, but he hasn’t been horrible either. He is still a one dimensional player, but has been better since his stint in Providence. With six goals and nine points, Donato is on pace for 14 goals and 21 points, and there’s still plenty of room to grow, especially in the other two zones of the ice. Also, man what a shot this kid has.

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson: C-

Like Donato, JFK can certainly be better, but he hasn’t been awful. He also hasn’t been as bad as some have made him out to be. Of course, he absolutely can produce more and capitalize on more of his chances. The 22-year-old needs to be more assertive and aggressive, but like David Krejci, he plays a relaxed, cerebral style; he just needs to find the balance, especially considering his role. It also didn’t help that the BU alum couldn’t take advantage of his opportunity between Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. However, he plays a real solid 200-foot game and still has plenty of upside.

Danton Heinen: D+

Heinen has been having a sophomore slump for the ages. After a 47-point, 16-goal campaign last season, Heinen has struggled to muster just five goals and seven assists for twelve points through 42 games, and the 23-year-old is only on pace for 10 goals and 23 points. He’s had plenty of chances, but has failed to capitalize on them while the droughts have stretched for longer than what is ideal. It also doesn’t help that the University of Denver product’s confidence is absolutely shot; he’ll just have to find away to get things on track.

David Krejci: B

Krejci has been one of the most consistent forwards this season, health and production-wise. Through 45 games, the 32-year-old has nine goals and 26 assists for 35 points,  and is on pace for 64 points. Obviously, you’d like him to shoot more and, subsequently, score more goals; however, his ability to make plays and be Jake DeBrusk’s set-up man, even with the revolving door on his right side, is unmatched.

Sean Kuraly: B

Kuraly has been much better as of late with nine points since his nose got broken, including four in the month of January. This all coincides with his move to wing as well; since then, Kuraly has been much more effective compared to how he started the season: Kuraly failed to take advantage of his opportunity after winning the third line job by default coming out of training camp and was pedestrian for a bit.

Brad Marchand: A-

Marchand had an interesting start to his season. The 30-year-old was racking up assists like nobody’s business, but the Bruins count on him for goals. Since, he has been much more like the Brad Marchand everyone is used to around here. All in all, Marchand has 16 goals, 31 assists, and 47 points in 44 games, and is on pace for 29 goals and 87 points as of right now. As Larry David once said, “pretty pretty pretty good.”

Joakim Nordstrom: B

Nordstrom is making his $1-million cap hit look really good right now, although he did suffer a fractured fibula in the Winter Classic and will be out for about another week or so. However, when he was healthy and in the lineup, Nordstrom was a vital component to the penalty kill and his ability to slot up and down the lineup was important as well, especially given the amount of injuries the Bruins have gone through. It would be nice to see some more offense (5G, 2A, 7P in 37 games), but he hasn’t built his reputation on that to this point in his career.

Chris Wagner: B+

Wagner has been a welcomed addition to the fourth line and has silenced many critics. The Walpole, MA, native brings a heavy, fast-paced game whenever he is on the ice, racking up 144 hits, good enough for tied-seventh in the league. Wagner has also been able to answer the bell when called up, all the while chipping in some offense, too (5G, 4A, 9P).

As we move deeper into the second half of the regular season, the Bruins are going to need the first line to continue its torrid pace in addition to continued contributions from up and down the lineup. Although the offensive production from guys not named Bergeron, Pastrnak, Marchand, DeBrusk, or Krejci has been better of late, it has been very suspect overall on the season. Don’t be surprised to see management make a move or a few to aid this group with the scoring woes that can ail it at times.

Author: Patrick Donnelly

Patrick is a freshman studying journalism at Boston University’s College of Communication. A graduate of Malden Catholic High School (’18). Patrick is a huge Boston sports fan and avid golfer, his favorite teams and athletes include, the Boston Bruins, the New England Patriots, Rory McIlroy, and Tiger Woods. Co-host of the podcast, Beantown Banter, at WTBU Sports. Covers the PGA, NHL, and Boston Bruins in columns and is a Women's Hockey beat writer for WTBU Sports. Formerly co-hosted podcasts and wrote for the blogs, 617 Sportsnet, Beantown Sportshub, and Game Time Sports Network. He aims to one day be a sports-talk radio host in Boston. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @PatDonn12.

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