The Boston Bruins top prospect for a few years now, goaltender Tuukka Rask is expected to finally make good on that potential this season. The Bruins allowed Manny Fernandez to leave via free agency and only signed second-tier veteran Dany Sabourin as an insurance policy with the intention that Rask will become a full-time NHLer in 2009-10.

Rask, who skated with a handful of potential Boston teammates yesterday and today at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass., played in 73 games — regular season and playoffs — at Providence (AHL) last season and pitched a shutout in his one-game NHL cameo.

“You can’t change your mindset,” said Rask about coming into camp with a job to play for. “It’s the same thing every year — just come here and try to earn your spot, no matter who’s behind you or who’s in front of you. It’s the same thing as the couple years before, just work your ass off.”

Offseason tidbit: Rask spent most of his summer back home in Finland catching up with old friends.

“You don’t get to see them much during the season,” he said.

Position battle: After answering the bell and leading the P-Bruins to the Eastern Conference finals last season, Rask should be ready to take the next step up to the NHL. Sabourin will be there to push him. If Rask really flourishes in camp and/or early in the regular season, he could even take some playing time away from Tim Thomas.

Projection: Still just 22, Rask could still get some grooming in the AHL early in the season if the Bruins determine it’d be better for him to play rather than watch Thomas carry the load. But I think being around the NHL team full-time will be best for his development, so I’d expect him to make the club as the No. 2 and get somewhere between 28 to 32 starts. With the right amount of support from the Bruins’ defense, Rask should be an upgrade on Fernandez’s performance (at least from last season’s second half).