Sam Asselin will center Jakub Lauko and Fabian Lysell against the Sabres on Saturday.
BUFFALO — Sam Asselin is writing a nice feel-good story for himself with the Bruins.
In 2019-20, as an undrafted center/left wing out of the QMJHL, Asselin honed his game in the ECHL, scoring 52 points in 53 games.
He moved up to Providence last season and continued to improve, posting a line of 8-8-16 in 25 games while playing on the power play and the penalty kill as well as in five-on-five.
Boston rewarded him over the summer with a two-year, two-way NHL contract and the 23-year-old from Montreal is raring to go.
“Start with training camp, start with rookie camp here and try to make the most out of it,’’ Asselin said after Friday’s practice at the HarborCenter.
“I just want to go step by step. There’s a lot of depth here in this organization. There’s a lot of players that can do what I want to do, so honestly I just want to have a really good camp. I hope I can get a game in up there in exhibition and show what I can do.’’
When the Bruins prospects face off against the Buffalo Sabres youngsters on Saturday afternoon, Asselin will center the top line with Jakub Lauko and Fabian Lysell on his wings.
He smiled as he talked about playing with the two flashy Euros.
“Lauks looks really, really good. It’s his third year. I know Lauks from junior. Never liked the guy in junior. He was fast, he was good, strong. He’s really strong for his height and his weight.
“I’m pretty pumped to play with him. We never had the chance to play together last year so it’s going to be a good combination tomorrow.
“Lysell is a little tiny, but you can see the skills and the hands that he has. It’s pretty nice to see that at 18 years old. I don’t remember myself doing all he does at 18.’’
Asselin is undersized at 5-9 and 180 pounds, but his stature hasn’t held him back.
He points to Eric Veilleux, who coached Asselin with the Halifax Mooseheads in his last year in junior and is now an assistant coach with the Syracuse Crunch, as playing a key role in his development.
“Honestly, he just showed me the right way. He gave me the green light to explode, I would say that. I was coming into Halifax after a great Memorial Cup in Bathurst. I was supposed to be the third center, just more of a defensive role, maybe, second power play, PK, good on faceoffs.
“Eric saw in me something else. He gave me the green light. I started scoring goals, which I never did before. He would do video with me, show me the right way to play,’’ said Asselin, who finished 10th in Q scoring that year with 48-38-86 in 69 games.
“Sometimes I was off in practice and I was 20 years old, a little older (than teammates). If I was off in practice he’d come to me and say, ‘You’re a leader, you can’t be off.’ He’s been a big part,’’ said Asselin.
Players like last year’s Providence captain, Paul Carey, also played an important role.
“P.C. last year, just how he is, the way he is, the way he acted. You looked at him and you want to be this guy. Players like that helped me a lot.’’
Asselin has a big supporter in Providence head coach Ryan Mougenel.
“I’m a guy that really roots for Sammy. The process that he’s gone through, he’s a guy that’s put his time in. I had a lot of conversations with him when he was playing in the ECHL,’’ he said.
“The one thing that’s always been very clear with Sammy is he wants to play in the NHL. He’s done everything he can to scratch and claw and get there. As a coach and somebody that is a part of it with him, you get goosebumps when he has success,’’ said Mougenel.
“These two games (in Buffalo) are big for Sammy in that he can start revving his engine and get ready for main camp. He obviously wants to start those conversations with the big club, that he can go and contribute.’’
Kyle Keyser spent most of last season in the ECHL before joining Providence when Jeremy Swayman was recalled.
Big opportunity for Keyser
Kyle Keyser was a free agent when he earned his ELC with the Bruins based in large part on his performance at the Prospect Challenge in 2017.
This is an important year for Keyser, who figures to be the starter on Saturday, after an injury-shortened rookie year and then the pandemic limiting him to 27 games last season.
“He’s going to have a great opportunity in front of him to earn his teammates’ trust. I think that’s a big thing with Kyle. He’s a teammate-first guy. He’s definitely putting in the work and he’s going to have to show up, that’s a big part of it,’’ said Mougenel.
“He’s another guy that’s full of life. Guys want to play hard in front of him. He’s got that part down, now we’ve just got to get him making that first save. I know he’s capable.’’
Wolff trims down
Second-year defenseman Nick Wolff looks thinner than last season, when he was listed at 229 pounds.
“The one thing with Wolfie is his body has slimmed down, which he needed to do. I think he was carrying a little bit of weight last year just because of how he plays. He’s another guy that has to keep getting better every day,’’ said Mougenel.
Developing his puck handling and decisions with the puck are things he needs to work on.
“He’s been celebrated for being hard. That’s obviously a huge part of his game, but to play for the Bruins and to play for the Providence Bruins, you have to have certain intangibles of skill. I think he’s embraced that.
“He has a lot of great qualities as a defenseman that we like. Last year was a great thing for him. There’s things in his game that are strong, like he became a very good penalty killer for us. He values a 200-foot clear. If you really watch and break down his game, he does a lot of really good things.
“On the offensive blue is something he has to get better at. It’s something that we talked about in development camp for our D. Listen, it might not be in your DNA, but you better start putting it in your DNA.
“You’ve got guys that are working extremely hard in the offensive end and if the puck comes up to you on the point, Butch Cassidy expects you to make that play and so does Brad (Marchand) and Bergy (Patrice Bergeron) and Pasta (David Pastrnak). If it’s not in your bag, you’d better put it in your bag.’’
Here’s how the lineup is expected to look on Saturday.
Quote of the day
Ryan Mougenel on tough guy Ian McKinnon:
“I want him to be in a place where I can put him on the ice and he feels comfortable and I feel comfortable. It was said best to me that toughness should be in the fact that he doesn’t have to fight all the time. That’s a part of the game that I want him to understand. I value him as a player first and fighting’s a tool in his toolbox.’’