( Photo Credit: Heather Rose / Smoke & Honey Photography )
By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
While many Boston Bruins fans are scrambling their brains with what the 2018-19 National Hockey League roster could look like, I wanted to look at how the roster might shape up with the clubs top minor-pro American Hockey League affiliate. The AHL’s Providence Bruins team has seen some changes since the NHL’s free-agent frenzy happened on July 1st with significant additions and unfortunate departures. In the 2016-17 AHL campaign the Baby B’s were one of the best minor-pro franchise playing their best hockey in the second half of the season to end the year with a record of 43-23-6-4. That year the Providence club went all the way to the Calder Cup Playoff Conference Finals losing the best-of-seven third-round series 4-1 to the hands of the Syracuse Crunch.
The 2017-18 season for the Providence club brought a similar result to the season prior going 45-26-3-2 but failed to get out of the first round of the postseason being matched up to a Lehigh Valley Phantoms team that wanted it more and downed the B’s in the best-of-five series 3-1. The 2018-19 season is going to be yet another challenge for second-year Providence Head Coach Jay Leach as he prepares his lineup options over the offseason while wondering who the franchise will hire as assistant coach Spencer Carbery departed to be the next head coach of the Hershey Bears. Regardless of who joins coaches Jay Leach and Trent Whitfield behind the bench for the upcoming season, when I look at all the players that could with the Providence team next season, there’s an element of excitement as I’ve faithfully watched every AHL Bruins games for the last five years.
After the July 1st free agency the Providence club has moved on from six players from last season and three that remain unsigned. Players such as defenseman Sena Acolatse (Signed in DEL), forward Kenny Agostino (Signed with Montreal), goaltender Jordan Binnington (Returned from loan to St. Louis), Forward Austin Czarnik (Signed with Calgary), forward Justin Hickman (Signed in Norway), forward Adam Payerl (Signed in DEL). Players that remain unsigned and don’t look like a Providence return is in the future are players such as former Bruins 2012 draft seventh-round draft pick forward Colton Hargrove, Veteran forward, Josh Hennessy, and veteran forward Chris Porter. Longtime Providence defenseman and team Captain Tommy Cross was also passed over for an extension with the club and signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets shortly after the July 1st Free Agency Deadline.
New Providence Additions
With the departures mentioned above, new additions are needed to fill out the supporting cast of the upcoming Providence Bruins season. This year’s free agent signings that are seemingly headed to play in the State of Rhode Island are 28-year-old forward Martin Bakos, 25-year-old forward Mark McNeill, 28-year-old defenseman Cody Goloubef, and 22-year-old forward Karson Kuhlman. Players returning to the club after agreeing on contract extensions from the Bruins this summer are 23-year-old forward Anton Blidh, 23-year-old Colby Cave, and defenseman Connor Clifton.
The 2018-19 Providence Bruins Schedule
You can view the upcoming 2018-19 Providence Bruins season schedule by clicking HERE. Below is a breakdown of the season schedule when it comes to playing teams home and away. Next season will once again operate on a 76 game schedule that officially starts on the road in Hartford, Connecticut on Friday, October 5, 2018, and the regular season wraps up at the Dunkin” Donuts Center on Sunday, April 14, 2019.
Springfield Thunderbirds 14 Games (7H+7A)
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 12 Games (6H+6A)
Hartford WolfPack 10 Games (5H+5A)
Charlotte Checkers 8 Games (4H+4A)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 6 Games (3H+3A)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms 6 Games (3H+3A)
Hershey Bears 6 Games (3H+3A)
Laval Rocket 2 Games (1H+1A)
Rochester Americans 2 Games (1H+1A)
Belleville Senators 2 Games (1H+1A)
Utica Comets 2 Games (1H+1A)
Toronto Marlies 2 Games (1H+1A)
Binghamton Devils 2 Games (1H+1A)
Syracuse Crunch 2 Games (1H+1A)
I reached out to my co-host Josh Bemis to help out with our 2018-19 Providence Bruins roster projections, and he came up with his ideas below. Bemis is a key member of the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast as he joins me in our second-hour segment where we talk about all the Bruins prospects and give weekly updates during the regular season and playoffs. Josh also covers the AHL Bruins for thesinbin.net website which is a fantastic way to catch up on all minor-pro hockey news.
Bemis’s Roster Projections
Cehlarik – Frederic – Szwarz
Koppanen – Forsbacka-Karlsson – Bakos / Kuhlman
Gabrielle – Cave – Senyshyn
Blidh – Hughes – McNeil
Zboril – Goloubef
Lauzon – Clifton
Breen – Vaakanainen / Johansson
Below are my thoughts on the potential roster I see Providence Bruins Head Coach Jay Leach role out for his second year behind the B’s bench in 2018-19. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the amazing group of players in the developing depths of this Bruins organization.
Allred’s Roster Projections
Cehlarik – Forsbacks-Karlsson – Bakos / Szwarz
Koppanen – Frederic – Senyshyn
Gabrielle – Cave / Kuhlman – Fitzgerald
Blidh – Hughes – McNeil
Zboril – Clifton
Lauzon – Andersson /Johansson
Sherman / Vaakanainen – Goloubef / Breen
With both of our projections above, we’re just spitballing ideas and moving forward as a remains-to-be-seen-scenario. At this point in the offseason, Bruins management still has to figure where players are going to be during the upcoming season. Who knows if defenseman Vaakanainen is actually going to play which I believe he is but there’s also the option of continued development over in Europe.
The Europe option can also be said for 2018 second-round defensive selection Axel Andersson who was playing in Sweden for his Djurgardens IF J20 club. The 18-year-old Andersson also has an option in the Canadian Hockey League for the upcoming season if the Bruins see fit that he gets proper development on North American ice before joining the Providence Bruins for his first year of pro hockey.
The forward core mentioned in both of our predictions above could drastically change by this fall when the Bruins organization holds it’s annual Rookie camp starting on Thursday, September 6, 2018, and Bruins NHL Training Camp at the Warrior Ice Arena starting on Monday, September 10, 2018. All upcoming training camp events held at the Brighton, Massachusetts facility are all open to the public unless updated by both the Warrior Ice Arena or Bruins organization. Stay Tuned…………………….