BOSTON (CBS) — Had Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey chosen the Bruins instead of the New York Rangers at the end of his free agent tour, he would have been a prime candidate to skate on David Krejci’s left wing.
With training camp still a month away, we don’t know who either of Krejci’s wings will be this fall. Krejci continued the on-ice portion of his rehabilitation from April hip surgery by briefly taking part in an informal skate at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton.
“I’m not really disappointed with that guy,” Krejci said about Vesey. “Obviously I heard he’s a good player but he has to prove himself on the NHL level. I was more disappointed that we weren’t able to keep Loui [Eriksson]. It seemed like we had some good chemistry going. It was a tough time to see him go. But I get kind of used to seeing my guys, my favorite guys going away – Milan [Lucic] and Nathan [Horton], [Jarome Iginla]. So I’m going to have to just play my game and try to find chemistry with whoever’s going to be on my line.”
Krejci is holding out hope that his return from surgery, which was supposed to take five months, will include a stint with Team Czech Republic at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 next month. But he’s only been back on the ice for two weeks and he has yet to really go hard and work on skills and powerskating. It’s probably in the Bruins’ best interest that he skip the World Cup and focus on the NHL season, but maybe playing against the best players in the world would hasten Krejci’s return to form.
Krejci was hampered by the hip injury dating back to the preseason of 2014. Considering he still managed to produce 63 points in 72 games last season, a healthier Krejci might be ready – even at 30 – to be point-per-game player or better. He’s looking forward to being able to move better and not worry about aggravating the pesky hip injury.
“Well hopefully I’ll be the player I was last year the first half of the season until I got my shoulder injury for a few weeks,” said Krejci, who wouldn’t put a percentage on his current health but added that he’s been improving every day. “The year before I missed half of the season because of my hip and last year it was kind of a nagging injury the last year and a half. So it’s all gone.
“So I feel like I can be the player that I want to be,” he said.
Krejci has the ability to make his wings better. Horton was in a funk in Florida before he came to Boston and joined up with Krejci and Lucic. And Lucic has never played better in that NHL than when he was next to Krejci. Nonetheless, the Bruins are going to have to find some wings for Krejci. David Pastrnak has had chemistry with him in the past, but one can’t forget that Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron will need a new right wing as well.
Frank Vatrano, David Backes, Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey round out the list of possible candidates for Krejci wings — barring a surprise performance by a rookie in training camp or a trade. Whether he goes to the World Cup or stays home, Krejci’s not worried that with so many Bruins playing in the tournament (including Marchand, Bergeron and Backes) there won’t be a lot of time to forge chemistry before the season starts. He knows there will be at least a couple exhibition games with a full squad and chemistry typically happens right off the hop.
“I feel like chemistry is something that is either there or it’s not,” Krejci said. “You can’t really find it. It’s just there or not. For me, I just have to play my game, be the best player I can be and then if the other guys are going to do the same thing it’s just about if we find the chemistry or not. It’s either going to be there or not. We played with Pasta together, and you could see from game one that we think alike. With Loui it’s the same thing. So I guess you can see it from day one if it’s going to work or not.”
Krejci seems primed to have a big year if he can stay healthy. Vesey might’ve passed up the chance to play on Krejci’s line, but there will be plenty of Bruins lining up for that duty. And a healthy Krejci might be able to boost the production of a new couple wings just enough to make up for Eriksson’s departure.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.