Charlie Coyle: 'I've got to earn' Bruins' No. 2 center role for 2021-22 season

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Coyle: 'I've got to earn' Bruins' No. 2 center role originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

David Krejci's departure from the Boston Bruins has opened a large hole in the top-six forward group.

All of a sudden the Bruins need a No. 2 center, and despite being quite active in NHL free agency this offseason, none of the players Boston acquired are ideal candidates for that role.

All indications are that third-line center Charlie Coyle will be the first forward to get a crack at winning the job Krejci held for about a decade. 

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He's not going into training camp assuming the job is already his, though.

“It’s an opportunity, right?” Coyle said Wednesday on "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" as part of the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon. “We have a lot of guys who can play that role, so it’s going to create that inner competition with us, which will make us a better team.

"That’s not my position right now, I’ve got to earn it. That's my job going in -- I’ve got to be the best player I can. So, that’s my goal, is to get healthy, first off, and two, get my game going and be the best it can be. That’s a big role for our team, and I want to be a part in that.”

Coyle has the size (6-foot-3 and 220 pounds) and two-way skill set to be a solid No. 2 center. He also has enough offensive skill for the role.

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His scoring stats were disappointing last season -- 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 51 games -- but he was hampered physically throughout the season and underwent offseason knee surgery to address the issue. Some of his most common linemates, Jake DeBrusk and Nick Ritchie, also were inconsistent offensively for large portions of the season.

Assuming that Coyle is healthy, having better linemates like wingers Taylor Hall and Craig Smith should help improve the veteran center's offensive output.

Coyle isn't the only option for the No. 2 center job, though. Two of Boston's free agent additions, Nick Foligno and Erik Haula, could see time in that spot if Coyle doesn't win it or if injuries become a factor. Young center Jack Studnicka will compete for ice time down the middle throughout training camp and the preseason, too.

The ideal scenario, however, is Coyle excelling in the No. 2 center role and allowing the Bruins to focus their attention on acquiring a much-needed top-four defenseman before the trade deadline.