( Above Photo Credit: CSNNE .com )
By: Mark Allred Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
Last season the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins surprised many in the Calder Cup Playoffs as a fourth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference after posting a 43-23-6-4 2016-17 regular season record and won the first two rounds against teams that have burdened them in recent postseason play. Beating the powerful Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins who were the best team in the regular season with 107 points in the first round best-of-five series was an accomplishment in itself but set the tone for a second round matchup against the Hershey Bears who in the past haven’t been pushovers when it comes to the “second season” of play.
Going the seven-game distance against the Bears and winning the series 4-3 might’ve taken too much out of the team when they played the Syracuse Crunch in the Conference Finals as the B’s looked fatigued losing the best-of-seven tilt 4-1 ending the Baby B’s run to a Calder Cup Final, a feat the organization last saw when they won the Calder Cup in 1998-99.
A third round appearance and exit for this Providence team last year was nothing to be down about as the top minor-pro affiliate of the Boston Bruins have been the beneficiary of recent NHL Draft picks to restock the developmental depths to be ready and help rebuild a winner in Boston. The efforts of Bruins prospects such as Peter Cehlarik, Austin Czarnik, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Zane McIntyre, and Rob O’Gara, this upcoming class of AHL ready and finally eligible prospects could be the additions to set the bar higher with Calder Cup expectations in 2018.
( Above Photo Credit: NHL .com / Syracuse Crunch )
Now at this point in the middle of August, it’s hard to put the pieces exactly together to see what the 2017-18 Baby B’s roster is going to look like, but after messing around with a few scenarios, I came up with what I’d like to see in my opinion and which players could add early chemistry with potential NHL linemates as they look to transition to the highest level in the world in the next few seasons.
Below are my AHL Bruins line projections and personal matchup favorites. Because the AHL operates mainly on a weekend schedule, with up to three straight games, the names that are listed underneath each line are extra players that can be inserted as a maintenance or rest day, so players don’t get worn out playing consecutive games.
Legend: Green/Two-Way Contract Red/Entry-Level Contract Blue/AHL Contact
Jake DeBrusk Austin Czarnik Zach Senyshyn
Jesse Gabrielle Danton Heinen Ryan Fitzgerald
Joona Koppanen Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson Peter Cehlarik
Anton Blidh Sean Kuraly Justin Hickman
Colton Hargrove Colby Cave
Rob O’Gara Jakub Zboril
Matt Grzelcyk Jeremy Lauzon
Tommy Cross Emil Johansson
Chris Breen Connor Clifton
Now, of course, it remains to be seen if this academic above will actually work out because of the scenarios to be had with players like highly touted prospect Anders Bjork and recently signed free-agent Kenny Agostino as both will presumably start with the NHL Bruins when the puck drops in October. When taking a look at the NHL roster, there are a few spots where developing youth can be inserted if you’re willing to gamble with sitting players currently under NHL contracts. General Manager Don Sweeney has preached many times if you’re the better player, you’re going to get the opportunity. So, let’s see if he lives up to his words as this NHL Bruins coaching staff is set to start a complete year for the first time so we might see an aggressive cycle of younger players coming through when it comes to player demotions or unfortunate injuries. The Bruins new coaching staff have certainly seen their fair share of players down in Providence, and that could be a great catalyst for comfort when adding a young player to the lineup, unlike the trust issues with inexperience from former bench bosses of the past.
No matter what happens out of camp which is set to start on Thursday, September 7, 2017, with Rookie Camp and Main Camp scheduled to begin a week later on Thursday, September 14, 2017, from the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts, it’s going to be interesting to see who works hard and proves they want it while showcasing for the Bruins Brass.. These events are open to the public. Exact start times for these events should be released from Boston Bruins.com or by following their official Twitter account @NHLBruins.