Sean Kuraly on competing for Boston Bruins’ 3rd-line center spot: ‘I want to play as high as I can in the lineup’
BOSTON — It can be easy to gauge Sean Kuraly’s potential as a NHL regular — at least at first glance.
A hard-nosed, two-way pivot with 152 hits and 15 points on his career resume, Kuraly fits the profile of a reliable fourth liner in today’s NHL — a role he excelled in last winter alongside Noel Acciari and Tim Schaller.
But the 25-year-old center doesn’t want to sell himself short as just a grinder in the pro ranks. It appears the Bruins don’t view him as such either — especially after inking Kuraly to a three-year deal back in July.
As seen during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kuraly showed a willingness to play up in the lineup when needed, occasionally centering Boston’s third line while tallying six points over 16 postseason tilts.
With Riley Nash departing for the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency, Kuraly very well could be in the mix for the vacant spot at third-line center — although most of attention has been diverted to younger, more skilled candidates like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic.
Does he have the wheels of a player like Studnicka or the finesse of a JFK? Probably not. But what Kuraly does offer the Bruins is versatility — something that the Black and Gold desperately need as they attempt to unscramble the logjam they have in the bottom six.
“Everybody keeps talking about that,” Kuraly said of the third-line center position. “I think these things just take care of themselves. I’m trying to give them the most options. Third line, fourth line. I don’t know if that’s as big of a deal as me just being the best player that I can be.
“Kind of saying I want to be the third line center would be tough to really do. I want to play as high as I can in the lineup, but I don’t want to peg myself in one place or another. Wherever I end up, it’s up to them at the end of the day.”
Kuraly’s odds of securing a spot higher up in the lineup seem to be an uphill battle, at least given the way Boston dispersed its roster during training camp.
Having already visited China with the organization, Kuraly did not have to travel with the team through its 10-day jaunt through the country, instead skating with a local camp crew featuring plenty of NHL regulars rehabbing from offseason ailments.
Meanwhile, the contingent of Forsbacka Karlsson, Studnicka and Frederic will all earn extended reps at center overseas — with each given a chance to showcase their skills with wingers such as David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk.
Still, Kuraly is not dwelling on the juggled rosters that the Bruins will have to sort through over the next 10 days.
“I think you try to approach it like any other training camp, really,” Kuraly said. “Just realize that it’s about getting yourself ready. The team’s going to be together here, it’s not going to be long. We’ll have time to be together and get some chemistry and feel each other out and play with different guys. I think we’re approaching it just like any other camp.”
The argument can be made that placing a player like Kuraly with more skilled wingers will lead to an uptake in production — something that Nash benefited from last season while often teaming up with Danton Heinen (47 points in 77 GP) and David Backes (33 points in 57 GP).
But Kuraly’s role in the lineup isn’t a simple black-and-white designation, at least in his eyes.
“I want to have as big an impact on a team that I can, but realize that there’s a spot for everyone,” Kuraly said. “We have a lot of great centers here. Just let (the team) use me in as many ways as possible and be as big of a resource tool as I can. Then wherever I get stuck, do that to the best of my ability. That’s really my focus.”