- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is confident the organization’s development system is ready to make significant contributions for the salary-cap challenged team in 2014-2015.
Before the free-agent period opened Tuesday, Chiarelli had said he would not go full force into the market. Instead, he believes the organization’s prospects are ready to make an impact for the Bruins.
The way the roster looks right now, Chiarelli said there will be four or five players competing for two forward spots. Those players include: Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner, Justin Florek, Bobby Robins and Alexander Khokhlachev.
Bruins coach Claude Julien would have to tweak his lineup to accommodate those two spots, depending on which players prove their worth during training camp. Fraser, who made an impact during his brief stints with the Bruins last season, can play either wing and is ready for the opportunity.
“I think it’s exciting that they’re leaning towards presenting that opportunity to some players, because as a player that’s all you want, you want a spot there that’s open that could be yours,” Fraser said in a phone interview. “For myself, I’ve got to take what I learned from this past season, in the American League and in the NHL, and you’ve got to put it to good use and you’ve got to learn from that experience and rely on that experience and let everything else take over.”
Fraser arrived in Boston as part of a seven-player trade that sent Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow. Hampered by injury, Fraser was limited to 44 regular-season games with the Providence Bruins of the AHL. He registered 20 goals and 10 assists for 30 points for the P-Bruins. During the Calder Cup playoffs, he had three goals and two assists for five points in five games before he was recalled to Boston and played four games for the Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Obviously, the whole experience was pretty invaluable for my development as a player and development in this organization,” Fraser said. “I think anytime you can get your feet wet in the NHL, whether it’s the regular season or the playoffs you gain that experience and you get a little more comfortable with the guys and how stuff is done. When camp rolls around in September you’re not so nervous and you can be yourself, on and off the ice, and you can relax when you’re out there and you’re not gripping your stick so tight because you know you’ve done this before and it’s just another day out there. Overall, it made me feel just a little more comfortable on the ice, knowing that I can play and keep up and do the things I need to do to stay there.”
Fraser suffered a displaced fracture in his right foot while playing for the P-Bruins in Game 1 of their Calder Cup playoff series against the Springfield Falcons. He finished that five-game series and then played four games for the Bruins with the injury. He said at the time he would rather cut off his foot than be taken out of the lineup.
Fraser had surgery a week after the season ended and he’ll continue to rehab this summer. He returned to Boston last week for an examination and the healing process is progressing well. He expects to be 100 percent for the start of training camp in September.
“They said everything was looking good and everything was ahead of schedule,” explained Fraser.
He’s working closely with the team’s training and medical staff to make sure it heals properly. Currently, he’s working on his upper body while his foot heals for another month and he’s scheduled to start skating in early August.
“I want to make sure it’s 100 percent and that I’m not taking steps back in the summer, so I can make sure I don’t have any more problems with it,” he said.
After the surgery, he returned home to Red Deer, Alberta and was finally able to reflect on his first season in the Bruins’ organization. The biggest moment of the season came when he scored the game-winning goal at 1:19 of overtime to help the Bruins to a 1-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series on May 8 at Bell Centre in Montreal.
“Obviously scoring that goal, words can’t describe it,” he said. “Coming home and seeing how much support you have that you didn’t even know about and that’s kind of when it sinks in. Two weeks after being home, you see your friends and people come out of the woodwork and talk to you and things like that. After a few weeks it sank in and you realize what you accomplished, but at the same time I would imagine when Lucic goes home, or Bergy goes home they get that all the time and that’s because they’ve done it game in and game out, season in and season out. For me, it was one game but it gave me a taste of what kind of player I wanted to be in this league.”
Fraser has the opportunity to make an impact for the Bruins in 2014-2015 and beyond and he’s ready for the challenge.