PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Providence Bruins look to bounce back from a disappointing end to their 2017-18 campaign beginning Friday, October 5th, 2018. Their journey begins on the road against the Hartford Wolf Pack in Hartford, C.T. With a slew of young talent and a limited number of roster spots in Boston, Providence is likely to play host to many rookies and young players, such as Ryan Donato and Urho Vaakanainen, either from opening puck drop or during the season, to further hone their skills in hopes of making the leap to Boston.
Potential graduates from the Providence squad include Peter Cehlarik and Trent Frederic. Cehlarik has bided his time since joining Providence in 2016-17. He has earned two call-ups since then, once in his inaugural season and once the past season, playing 17 with the big club. While his stat line does not leap off the page, Cehlarik has excellent chemistry with David Krejci and David Pastrnak at the NHL level. Cehlarik likely would have earned a longer look last year, but an injury during a West Coast road trip cut his audition short.
Former University of Wisconsin-Madison Badger Frederic only joined Providence for a handful of games after the conclusion of the NCAA season this past spring. Since turning pro, however, he has assembled a strong body of work. With Wisconsin, he was almost a point-per-game player in his final season, with 32 points in 36 games. Frederic then joined the Boston Bruins in Buffalo for their fourth-annual preseason Prospects Challenge. After a quiet first game, Frederic began asserting his presence on the score sheet – and also with responsible play – accruing 5 goals and 3 assists in 16 games, and announced his arrival with a fight in his first game.
During the Bruins preseason, Frederic continued his exceptional play. In the race for the Bruins’ vacant 3C role, he competed against Jack Studnicka and fellow Providence Bruin Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson. Frederic continued to prove his reliability and size were best suited for an audition at the NHL level. With both Studnicka and Forsbacka-Karlsson being assigned to Juniors and Providence respectively, Frederic looks to be the heir apparent.
Nuts and Bolts:
Division/Conference Finish: 4th in the Atlantic/6th in the East
Playoff Finish (if applicable): Eliminated in the first round by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in four games
Record vs. Division: 32-22-2-2
Record vs. Conference: 45-26-3-2
Goals For Per Game: 3.09, 12th overall
Goals Against Per Game: 2.46, 3rd overall
Power Play: 16.71%, 53 goals on 317 chances, 20th in the AHL.
Penalty Kill: 83.1%, allowing 50 goals on 296 attempts, 14th in the AHL.
Statistics generated courtesy of theahl.com
The goaltending duo of Zane McIntyre and Dan Vladar needs to carry Providence deep in the playoffs. With the addition of Vladar from ECHL affiliate Atlanta Gladiators, the Providence Bruins project to possess the best 1A/1B goaltending tandem they’ve had in recent history. McIntyre has carried himself well, despite some shaky play early in games last year. Vladar should provide McIntyre with a competitive spark to better the latter’s play while continuing to build his own goaltending resume.
Prospects Donato and Anders Bjork may spend a few games in Providence tuning up their game. Boston bench boss Bruce Cassidy was none too pleased with Donato’s performance in the final preseason game against Philadelphia, saying,
“We have some second year guys that are struggling with [puck management and respect for the game] right now… We have some guys who have played last season for us that need to be reminded that’s a good building block but…you want to continue to establish yourself as a true NHL’er and I think a few of our guys need to be reminded of the details of why they were successful last year.”
Bjork may only return to the Providence Bruins for conditioning if his first few games of the regular season are rough.
Second year professionals Zach Senyshyn, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon look to improve on their body of work from last year. The trio at times spent portions of last season battling injuries, and a long, healthy 2018-19 season would boost their resume in the watchful eyes of the Boston Bruins brass. Of the three, Zboril looks most improved, demonstrating poise and a better grasp of the pace of play demanded by the professional game.
Coach Jay Leach Speak:
“If we play the right way, go north, and skate, and take care of pucks, and we attack, it’s hard to play against us. If we don’t, it’s hard to play against [the opponent].”
On the Boston Bruins 2017 first round pick, and possible Providence Bruins blueliner, Urho Vaakanainen,
“He’s smooth! He’s really, really smooth, and he definitely—in my opinion—rises to the occasion in regards to playing the game. I did like him, did a lot of good things out there…We’ll work on some things, but it’s a different game over [in Europe] as compared to here on a smaller ice surface. Overall, smooth, fun to watch.”
On Trent Frederic (during a game in Buffalo during the Prospects challenge),
“He’s trying to make plays at the blue line—and I’ve gone back and forth on all of this for a while—we want him to make plays. He’ll get to a point where he makes the right play. We’re not just going to tell him not to scoop up pucks and follow them along: there were a few [mistakes] at the blue line he’d like to have back, and he’ll learn to take care of pucks.”
The Providence Bruins are stacked with talent from the Boston prospect pipeline. Jesse Gabrielle has returned from his loan to the Regina Pats of the WHL, and all NCAA additions from the end of last year will have a full season to grow and develop at the professional level. These include Karson Kuhlman, Wiley Sherman, and Cameron Hughes. As previously mentioned, Dan Vladar has ascended to the crease in Providence. He brings an impressive resume during his brief call-ups, and if he plays to his potential, will be primed for more starts than teammate Zane McIntyre.
Gone but Not Forgotten:
This past offseason, Providence lost first-ballot All-Star Austin Czarnik to a lucrative contract with the Calgary Flames. Czarnik ended the season third overall in league scoring, with 25 goals, 44 assists, and a respectable +/- of 18.
Trent Frederic and Peter Cehlarik need no introduction but will be missed as they make their case for roster spots in Boston.
St. Louis Blues system goaltender Jordan Binnington has been returned to his parent club. Last year, Binnington earned a spot in the AHL All-Star game with his brilliant performance as McIntyre’s backup. Despite usually seeing only one of three weekend games, Binnington lost just 9 of 29 contests. His 2.05 goals against average and .926 save percentage was the second-best set of goaltending statistics in the entire AHL. His performances will be missed, including a streak of 10 games where he posted a 9-0-1 record. The netminder posed to challenge for the starting role with the San Antonio Rampage.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
This team is deep, and built for a long run of playoff hockey in April. McIntyre and Vladar need to play to expectations. An influx of youth and some new veteran leadership in to form of Mark McNeill, Cody Goloboeuf, and Mark Fayne will combine to form a team that is dangerous to play against.
What do you think? Let us know how you think the Providence Bruins will do.