Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk has been compared to Torey Krug. Now he gets a chance to replace him. Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Ever since Matt Grzelcyk was promoted to the NHL for good in November 2017, there has been an undercurrent of sentiment by many that he would one day replace Torey Krug.

It didn’t matter that the two players had considerable differences, many saw the similar size – or lack thereof – in the two players and figured Grzelcyk would easily slip into that role with Krug signing with St. Louis in the offseason.

Well, it’s time to see if that theory holds up.

Camp only started Monday, but Grzelcyk has already taken Krug’s old spot on the second defense pairing with Brandon Carlo and it’s expected that he’ll get the first crack at playing up high in Krug’s former slot on the first power-play unit.

As for Grzelcyk’s pairing with Carlo, Coach Bruce Cassidy said that things could easily change, but that it would be the least disruptive of any possible partner for Carlo, who’ll see a good chunk of five-on-five and penalty-kill time.

“If you’re going to compare him to anyone on our team over the years, it’s probably Torey Krug,” said Cassidy after Tuesday’s workouts. “The element for what he brings for Brandon hasn’t changed a ton in terms of he’ll help Brandon transition pucks. Brandon’s a bigger body that’s grown into more of a shutdown guy that can take care of the front of the net, he gets a little more physical every year and complements that type of player. We don’t think there should be much of a drop-off there in terms of how the pair functions.

“We know Grizz can play with Charlie (McAvoy), it’s an easy switch. We know he can play with Kevan Miller. … We know we have that in our back pocket if we have to make a switch. But right now for Brandon’s sake, we like that pair.”

Both Krug and Grzelcyk are undersized at 5-foot-9, but there are differences. Krug was a natural offensive player, especially on the power play, as soon as he was brought up from Providence in 2013. But getting his defensive zone game up to a top-four standard was a long climb. A bit more stout than the slim Grzelcyk, Krug plays with a chip on his shoulder. For the most part, it’s worked out for him. But sometimes he bit off more than he could chew physically and it took him years to learn when to pick his battles.

Grzelcyk has never been under those illusions. Using a good stick and smarts to move the puck from danger areas, he could be a more effective defender in those even-strength situations, and will get more chances with Carlo to find out if he can step up to a top-four role.

He’s hoping his professional relationship with Carlo will be as fruitful as it was for Krug.

“Brandon’s a great player,” said Grzelcyk. “I think he takes a lot of pressure off you being his partner. He takes a lot of pride in closing plays off himself and that will allow me to grab pucks hopefully and get transition the other way, which is what we want to do. We want to play fast and he does that so well. It’s been a joy the last couple of years to get to play with him here and there but especially the last few days to get some chemistry with him.”

The departures of Krug and Zdeno Chara present an opportunity for players like Grzelcyk.

“Obviously we lost Z and Torey, some big shoes to fill. I think for myself personally, I just want to be more assertive and show that I’m capable of handling more minutes and more responsibility that comes my way,” said Grzelcyk. “I just tried to work hard this offseason to get bigger, faster, stronger, like always, but hopefully get used to playing more minutes and hopefully take care of my conditioning that way. We’ll see how it plays out, but I’m excited to get going.”

TUUKKA RASK: In his first video conference with media since leaving the NHL’s postseason bubble in Toronto, goalie Tuukka Rask explained why he left and reaffirmed his desire to remain in Boston for the rest of his playing career.

Rask confirmed earlier reports that his departure in August came as a result of a medical emergency regarding his daughter. Rask said he was informed of the issue, spoke to General Manager Don Sweeney and then left Toronto to return to Boston to be with his family.

“It was a tough decision to leave, but then again it wasn’t because I knew it was more important to be home at that time. But then you’re home knowing you could be there, should be playing hockey so it’s tough to watch the games,” Rask said after Wednesday’s training camp practice. “You’re caught in the middle. You’re brain is kind of spinning at that point, knowing you’re in the right place at home. Then again you should be there stopping pucks.”

The fan backlash that followed didn’t diminish his desire to remain with the only franchise he’s ever been part of in the NHL.

“I have no intention of playing anywhere but the Bruins. If I’m good enough to play, one, two, three more years then so be it,” he said. “That’s where my heads at.”

Rask will be a free agent after the 2021 season. He said he’s not ready to retire but doesn’t feel any urgency to get a contract extension completed.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.