Karson Kuhlman, right, seems to have the inside track to win the right wing spot on David Krejci’s line for the Boston Bruins. Matt Slocum/Associated Press

CHICAGO — Karson Kuhlman has been an interesting prospect for the Boston Bruins ever since signing as a free agent out of Minnesota-Duluth. He skates well, he’s strong on the puck and possesses a strong hockey IQ, and the details of his game are pretty solid. He gets pucks in, gets pucks out, he goes to the net. He was viewed as a solid bottom-six forward.

That image is evolving. While it might be a stretch to say the right wing spot on David Krejci’s line is Kuhlman’s to lose, it certainly seems he has an inside track.

“There was definitely a game in Columbus last year, and he and (Krejci) and (Jake) DeBrusk made some plays. Columbus was playing well at the time, so it wasn’t one of those nights where you caught a team at the wrong time. So right away, there was good competition, so we started keeping an eye on him a little more,” Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy said last week. “When he did come up (from Providence), we thought he’d be a more of a bottom of the lineup, responsible, checking type of guy, maybe chip in some offense. But he brought a little more than we thought. He’s got a good release. We saw that in the playoffs. One he happened to score on (in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals) against St. Louis.

“But early on in Toronto, he had a couple of good looks and he forced (Frederik) Andersen to make good saves. We started thinking, ‘Well, maybe he’s got a better shot than maybe we’d seen in training.’ And then you talk to (Krejci) … he’s been around a long time and he’s had a lot of wingers. He gives us some feedback as well. He said (Kuhlman) gets to the right spots, and he’s looking to make plays at the right time. Some of it’s your own eyes, some of it’s trusting the guys that are on the ice that are playing with him.”

One unknown in the mix for the spot next to Krejci is Brett Ritchie, signed to a one-year contract in the offseason. A determination has to be made whether he’s the 16-goal player he was three years ago in Dallas or more of the single-digit guy he was the past two seasons there. And then there are options we’ve seen before: David Backes, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle. But while the competition is still open, Cassidy was very at ease with the idea of Kuhlman being the opening night second-line right winger.

“We know we have Kuhlman, who can play,” Cassidy said. “I don’t think he’s going to drop off. He may flat line, I don’t know, but I don’t think he’s going to get worse. To me, he’s too good of a person, and his career dictates, from college to Providence (of the American Hockey League) to here, that he’ll keep working on his craft and get more comfortable.”

Kuhlman believes he’s tapping a reserve of skill that exists in all NHL players.

“I think everybody here at this level at some point was a skill guy and got points, and I was right in that category,” Kuhlman said. “At college, I had to change my game, adapt a little bit to help the team out wherever I could. And that’s exactly what I have to do here. I always work on my offensive game, and I know it’s an area that I can keep improving on. I know it’ll help the team if I can put some more pucks in the net.”

Does he believe he can be a top-six winger in this league?

“That’s the goal, obviously,” Kuhlman said. “I come to work every day, and I just want to get better than the day before. Looking at right now, it’s just about improving myself and hopefully learning a lot along the way. It’s pretty easy with these guys like (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron). They’re a couple of the top-end players in the world. I just try to pull things from their game and add them to mine.”

While he hasn’t yet gotten a chance to play with Krejci and DeBrusk in a preseason game, he enjoyed his time there last season.

“It was awesome,” Kuhlman said. “Those are two top-end players, skill-wise, and their hockey IQs are through the roof. It makes my job pretty easy … get up and down the ice, win pucks, get to the net and hopefully contribute offensively when I can.”

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