der Eishockeyzuchauer strikes again! This time with a look at the Providence Bruins as he works his way through the new Atlantic Division of the Eastern AHL. If you missed them, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton can be found here. Hershey here. Followed by Hartford and Bridgeport.
Last season, the Providence Bruins finished sixth overall in the 15-team Eastern Conference with 91 points but were knocked out of the Calder Cup playoffs by the Hartford Wolf Pack after a grueling first round series that went the maximum five games. While the P-Bruins still figure to be formidable, particularly on defense, it does appear as if the Rhode Island club will not be quite as strong as it was during the 2014/15 campaign. Specifically, depth and professional experience at forward could be a real pitfall for Providence.
.After this summer’s departure of last season’s backup Niklas Svedberg, the 25-year-old Swede who has signed with Russian club Salavat Yulayev Ufa, the Boston Bruins actually have just one goaltender (Finnish workhorse Tuukka Rask) on their official NHL roster at the present time. It could very well be that Boston have no plans to sign a new goaltender but, rather, will promote one of the two netminders who featured regularly for the Providence Bruins in the AHL last season. Malcolm Subban (6’2″ 200 lbs), the 1st round pick (# 24 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2012 NHL Draft, had good numbers for the P-Bruins (35 ga, 2.44 avg, .921 svpct) and also made his formal NHL debut as a second-year professional last term..(Yes, Malcolm is the younger sibling of the Montreal Canadiens’ hotshot defenseman P. K. Subban).Jeremy Smith, the 26-year-old veteran who was the 2nd round pick (# 54 overall) of the Nashville Predators at the 2007 NHL Draft, had an excellent campaign for the P-Bruins last term (39 ga, 2.05 avg, .933 svpct) but has never appeared in an NHL game in his six full seasons as a pro. Aside from the fact that Smith has far more professional experience (205 career games in the AHL, 2.39 avg, .917 svpct) than Subban at this point in time, the economics of the situation also favor the native of Dearborn, Michigan, as well. Simply put, Smith has a two-way contract which calls for a salary of $ 600,00 to be paid for NHL service whereas Subban’s current deal would pay the 21-year-old Canadian at the rate of $ 832,500 for NHL service..Moreover, Smith would collect a salary of $ 150,000 for AHL service while Subban would be paid at the rate of $ 70,000 per season if he played in Providence. The bottom line is that it would cost the Boston Bruins a total of $ 982,500 in salary if Subban was the second-string NHL goalie and Smith was in the AHL with Providence this year. On the other hand, it would only set Boston back $ 670,000 if Smith was the backup in Beantown while Subban suited up with the P-Bruins and that would be a savings of more than three hundred thousand dollars!.One possible key to the organization’s goaltending situation at the NHL level could very well be the development of rookie Zane McIntryre, the 6th round pick (# 165 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2010 NHL Draft, during training camp. As a junior last season, the 23-year-old native of Thief River Falls, Minnesota, led the University of North Dakota to yet another semifinal appearance at the annual NCAA tournament and won the Mike Richter Award as the best goaltender in all of college hockey. McIntyre (6’2″ 205 lbs). McIntyre, who was also named as one of the finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award given to the very best collegiate player in all the land, is said to be “a dexterous and athletic goalie with strong puck handling skills.”.The Boston Bruins also have Matt Ginn, the undrafted rookie from the College of the Holy Cross, under contract to the organization. At the tail end of last season, the 24-year-old Canadian made seven appearances in the East Coast Hockey League on behalf of the Florida Everblades (2.12 avg, .932 svpct); Ginn is all but guaranteed to be seeing action in the ECHL again this time around, too..Last season, the Providence defense conceded just 185 goals in 76 games (2.43 avg), a total which tied for sixth in the entire 30-team American Hockey League. The P-Bruins return three regular defenders (all of whom have good size) from last season’s crew plus another sturdy blueliner who was premium draft choice and spent a significant amount of time in the NHL with the parent Boston Bruins last term. Furthermore, the Rhode Island club have acquired the free agent who was the second-highest scoring defenseman in the whole AHL last season..At this point in time, conventional wisdom says the Boston Bruins will keep the following seven defensemen — Chara, Seidenberg, Krug, McQuaid, Irwin, Miller and Zach Trotman (6’3″ 220 lbs), the 25-year-old from Lake Superior State University who played in 40 AHL games (2 go, 13 pts, 27 pen, – 9 def rat) for the P-Bruins last season..If he doesn’t stick with the Boston Bruins coming out of training camp, Joe Morrow (6’1″ 205 lbs) will log a lot of minutes in the AHL for Providence. The first round pick (# 23 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2011 NHL Draft, who has good speed in addition to a big slapshot, is rather active physically but is also more than capable of contributing points on offense, as well. Morrow, who was acquired in the blockbuster deal that saw Tyler Seguin ship out to Dallas, skated in 15 NHL games (1 go, 0 as, 4 pen, + 3 def rat) for the Bruins and appeared in 33 AHL games (3 go, 12 pts, 14 pen, + 4 def rat) for Providence last season..Expected to be the proverbial quarterback on the blue line for the P-Bruins is free agent signee Colin Miller (6’0″ 195 lbs), the 5th round pick (# 151 overall) of the Los Angeles Kings at the 2010 NHL Draft; the 22-year-old defenseman had monster numbers (70 ga, 19 go, 52 pts, 82 pen, + 11 def rat) for the Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs last season..Tommy Cross (6’3″ 210 lbs), the 25-year-old out of Boston College who was the 2nd round pick (# 35 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2007 NHL Draft, appeared in 54 AHL games (4 go, 22 pts, 85 pen, + 5 def rat) for the P-Bruins last season. Chris Casto (6’3″ 210 lbs), the undrafted 23-year-old out of the University of Minnesota – Duluth, skated in 62 AHL games (1 go, 12 pts, 35 pen, + 17 def rat) and posted an impressive plus/minus rating for Providence during the 2014/15 campaign. Chris Breen (6’7″ 225 lbs), the undrafted 26-year-old with the long reach, suited up in 52 AHL games (2 go, 10 pts, 33 pen, + 8 def rat) for the baby Bruins last term..Perhaps the most interesting prospect is Swedish import Linus Arnesson (6’1″ 187 lbs), the 2nd round pick (# 60 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2013 NHL Draft. The 20-year-old did appear in 11 AHL games (1 go, 4 pts, 6 pen, + 3 def rat) for Providence last spring but did not participate in the Calder Cup playoffs after finishing a domesite season for elite league outfit IF Djurgarden Stockholm (41 ga, 0 go, 5 pts, 28 pen, – 10 def rat). Arnesson, who was teammates with Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg for Sweden at the annual IIHF World Junior Championships in both 2013 and 2014, has good mobility but prefers to concentrate on playing a conservative, defensive-type game..Max Iafrate (6’2″ 220 lbs), the undrafted 21-year-old who competed in the Ontario Hockey League as an overage player last season, could make the AHL roster based on his size and willingness to play an aggressive, hitting game; it is interesting to note that Iafrate’s father, Al, appeared in 799 NHL games over the course of a 14-year career which included a short stint with the Boston Bruins..At the moment, the official website of the Boston Bruins lists the following 14 forwards on their NHL roster — Bergeron, Eriksson, Marchand, Krejci, Hayes, Beleskey, Kelly, Pastrnak, Spooner, Talbot, Connolly, Griffith, Rinaldo and Joonas Kemppainen, the undrafted 27-year-old rookie who arrives via Finnish club Karpat Oulu after showing well for Suomi (8 ga, 3 go, 9 pts) at the 2015 IIHF World Championships this past spring..A trio of those players — right wings Seth Griffith (39 ga, 12 go, 31 pts), and David Pastrnak (25 ga, 11 go, 28 pts) as well as center Ryan Spooner (34 ga, 8 go, 26 pts) — all spent considerable time with the Providence Bruins in the AHL last season..The one and only “major” free agent signing this summer was Brandon DeFazio (6’1″ 215 lbs), the undrafted 26-year-old right wing out of Clarkson University who had a career year in the AHL for the Utica Comets (75 ga, 21 go, 43 pts, 92 pen, + 4 def rat) last season. As a fourth-year professional, DeFazio also made his formal NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks (2 ga, 0 go, 0 pts) last term, as well. DeFazio is most likely first line material with Providence this season..The P-Bruins will probably return their leading scorer from the past two seasons in the person of Alexander Khokhlachev, the 2nd round pick (# 40 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2011 NHL Draft. The 21-year-old Russian center had 43 points (15 go, 28 pen, – 2 def rat) in 61 AHL games for Providence and also appeared in three NHL games (0 go, 0 as, 0 pen, – 2 def rat) for Boston last term. Khokhlachev, who is not the fastest of all players, will be looking to recapture his form from his rookie season when the Moscow native had 57 points (21 go, 28 pen, + 11 def rat) in 65 AHL games during the 2013/14 campaign..Also returning should be Brian Ferlin (6’2″ 210 lbs), the 23-year-old right wing out of Cornell University who was the 4th round pick (# 121 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2011 NHL Draft; as a rookie pro last season, Ferlin had 20 points (11 go, 40 pen, – 9 def rat) in 53 AHL games for Providence and also skated in seven NHL games (0 go, 1 as, 0 pen, 0 def rat) for Boston, as well..Zach Phillips (6’1″ 198 lbs), the 1st round pick (# 28 overall) of the Minnesota Wild at the 2011 NHL Draft, is, perhaps, the P-Bruins’ most enigmatic player. The 22-year-old center, acquired by the Boston Bruins in a minor league trade early last March, has been plagued by questions about his skating, defensive ability and work ethic in all three of his professional campaigns. Last season, the underachieving Phillips had 26 points (10 go, 14 pen, – 18 def rat) in a combined 65 AHL games for both the Iowa Wild and Providence...Ben Sexton (5’11” 182 lbs), the 24-year-old out of Clarkson University who was the 7th round pick (# 206 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2009 NHL Draft, will also compete for time at center as a second-year pro this season; after fracturing his ankle in the pre-season last October, the unlucky Sexton appeared in only 35 AHL games (3 go, 12 pts, 57 pen, + 6 def rat) during the regular season but did skate in all five Calder Cup playoff games for the P-Bruins. All throughout his collegiate career, always much more of an assist man than an actual goal-scorer..Providence will be hoping for more goals from Tyler Randell (6’1″ 195 lbs), the 6th round pick (# 176 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2009 NHL Draft. In his third full season as a professional last term, the 24-year-old right wing enjoyed a career year by skating in 79 AHL games (11 go, 20 pts, 120 pen, + 4 def rat) for Providence. Boston was sufficiently impressed to reward Randell this summer with a new contract that will pay $ 100,000 for AHL service..The only other experienced professional player at forward for the Providence Bruins at the moment is Anthony Camara (6’0″ 195 lbs), the 3rd round pick (# 81 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2011 NHL Draft who really seemed to take a step backwards in his second season as a professional. As a rookie for the P-Bruins two years ago, the 21-year-old left wing had modest numbers (58 ga, 9 go, 22 pts, 50 pen, + 2 def rat) but last season production really plummeted (59 ga, 3 go, 8 pts, 32 pen, -3 def rat). This is probably Camara’s last chance to get things kick started with the Boston organization and if the native of Toronto is not careful, he could very well find himself skating for the Gwinnett Gladiators in the ECHL..The Providence Bruins could very well have as many as six first-year professionals on the roster at forward this season..Anton Blidh (6’0″ 200 lbs), the 6th round pick (# 180 overall) of the Boston Bruins at the 2013 NHL Draft, is, perhaps, the most intriguing. The 20-year-old winger is known to be an aggressive, agitating type who plays with a lot of grit at both ends of the ice. As a teenager last season, Blidh skated for powerful HC Vastra Frolunda Gothenburg (48 ga, 5 go, 0 as, 26 pen, – 11 def rat) in the domestic elite league and also represented Sweden (7 ga, 1 go, 3 pts) at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships..Colton Hargrove (6’2″ 215 lbs), the 23-year-old left wing from Western Michigan University who was the 7th round pick (# 205 overall) of the Boston Bruins, is a big, physical forward who grinds it out and has a hard shot while Noel Acciari (5’11” 195 lbs), the undrafted 23-year-old center who was a significant part of the Providence College side which surprisingly emerged as NCAA national champions title last spring, was named the Best Defensive Forward in the crack Hockey East conference last season..Austin Czarnik (5’9″ 160 lbs), the undrafted 22-year-old center from the University of Miami (Ohio), is undersized but always showed himself to be a talented playmaker during his college career and appeared in three AHL games (0 go, 0 as, 4 pen, 0 def rat) for the P-Bruins last spring. Frank Vatrano (5’10” 215 lbs), the undrafted 21-year-old left wing who bolted the University of Massachusetts – Amherst after scoring 18 goals in 36 NCAA games in his first full season for the Minutemen, skated in five AHL games (1 go, 0 as, 0 pen, – 1 def rat) for Providence last spring. Colby Cave (6’1″ 198 lbs), the undrafted 20-year center who had more than 33 goals in each of his last two seasons for the Swift Current Broncos in the western canadian juniors, suited up once for the P-Bruins at the tail end of last season..Justin Hickman (6’3″ 218 lbs), the undrafted 21-year-old who spent last season in the western canadian juniors as an overage player, is coming off shoulder surgery but did participate in the Boston Bruins’ development camp this summer; Hickman is the rugged sort who could win an AHL job this fall simply based on his ability to play some hard hockey...It would not be surprising one bit to see the Boston Bruins bring in a few more veteran forwards for their AHL farm club as training camp unfolds.