The Providence Bruins have put up at least 91 points in the regular season for six straight years.
Despite the departure of some impact players, they have a reasonable chance to make it seven in a row this season, which opens on Friday night in Hartford.
Up front, Providence will miss Austin Czarnik, a top five player in the AHL last season, and Kenny Agostino. On the blueline, they’ll no longer be able to send Tommy Cross, captain for the last three seasons, over the boards in key situations. All three signed free-agent deals elsewhere over the summer.
However, all is not lost. There is still good talent on the roster, a nice mix of excellent prospects and good veterans.
“We should have depth. We should all be able to skate. We’ll look to play a 60-minute game with pace and be a tough team to play against. Other teams are going to have to roll four lines to keep up with the way that we want to play,’’ said second-year head coach Jay Leach.
Here’s how the team looks:
The departure of the top two scorers from last season in the dynamic Czarnik and Agostino leaves a sizable hole. They combined for 122 points last season.
“We obviously have to fill some scoring depth that we had last year. We’re going to have to do that by committee. We’ve got the ability to roll four lines, straight through. They’re all going to be able to skate and pursue,’’ Leach said.
The P-Bruins are strong up the middle. In Jordan Szwarz, Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic and Colby Cave, they have one of the better groups of centers in the Eastern Conference.
On the wing, Peter Cehlarik has NHL talent and if he can stay healthy could be primed for a big year after being one of Boston’s final cuts this week. Ryan Fitzgerald will look to build on a 21-goal rookie season.
“The proof is in the pudding, as they say. If the scoreboard says four or five, we’ll be a happy team. If it says two or one, we’ll be a frustrated group. We will have effort. We’ve got high-quality people who know how to bring the effort,’’ said Leach.
Veterans Chris Breen and Cody Goloubef will lead the way for second-year pros Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton and Emil Johanson and super-sized Harvard alumnus Wiley Sherman, a rookie.
The addition of top prospect Urho Vaakanainen from Boston appears likely at some point. After a good camp with Boston, he’s a player to watch in his first season in North America.
“We played four rookie defenseman last year for the majority of the year. Now going into the second year, hopefully we’ve got some growth,’’ said Leach. “They all can skate. They compete and hopefully with a year under their belt they’ll be more poised in certain scenarios that you need to be as a defenseman.’’
Manning the net will be Zane McIntyre, starting his fourth season in Providence, and youngster Dan Vladar.
“It’s a scenario in which both of them are going to push each other. Vladdie put his time in in Atlanta last season. It was a good experience for him. He’s come into camp this year and obviously done well in the exhibition games and the rookie tournament, so I’m sure he’s feeling pretty good about himself,’’ said Leach.
“Zano performed well at camp, too. He had a terrific first (preseason) game against Washington. He has solid numbers thoughout his career, so we’re in a situation right now that looks good in that they are both pushing each other. There’s plenty of games to go around, so they’ll both get their opportunities.’’
Development in a winning environment will continue to be the mantra in Providence. It’s paid off in recent years as the team has played entertaining hockey and players such as Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Matt Grzelcyk, Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly have graduated to the big club.
Scoring could be a challenge, but this year’s team will be a hard-working, well-coached group under Leach and his staff. There will be the usual callups and injuries to deal with.
Look for Providence to be solidly in the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division. Lehigh Valley and Bridgeport, which added future AHL Hall of Famer Chris Bourque, among others, look like the class of the division, but the P-Bruins should be right in the thick of it behind those two.
Published at Thu, 04 Oct 2018 23:51:48 +0000