AHL Bruins Offseason Departures Could Open Doors For Current ECHL Talent

( Photo Credit: AJC.com )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

As many of you know, the ECHL canceled the remainder of the 2019-20 regular-season and Kelly Cup Playoffs in mid-March well before the higher American Hockey League followed suit in mid-May with their remaining season and postseason cancelations. The Covid-19 pandemic has put a chokehold on many sports in North America for the past few months. It continues to wreak havoc on them returning anytime soon, with the number of athletes testing positive lately.

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Regardless of the coronavirus battle, which legitimately was the end of minor-pro hockey for the foreseeable future, players were showcasing their skills in the ECHL for jobs at a higher level. Take, for instance, the Boston Bruins “AA” minor-pro affiliate Atlanta Gladiators. Before everything came to a screeching halt, the Gladiators went from being near the bottom of the South Division to postseason hopefuls. Although the 2019-20 efforts of the Atlanta club were due to a team getting healthy and coming together, three players stood out to me and should be considered for re-signing and possible placement in the AHL next season.

With contract negotiations coming up with forwards Ryan Fitzgerald (UFA), Brendan Gaunce (RFA), Robert Lantosi (AHL Only Contract), Brett Ritchie (RFA), and even possibly Zach Senyshyn (RFA), a few options to play elsewhere might open up with the current Bruins depth. If some of these players I mentioned above choose to find another path for regular work at the National Hockey League level, here’s a few suggestions below of players that could be reliable replacements. Another huge advantage to my upcoming player mentions is the fact that both Boston and Providence organizations have had the “eye test” from scouts close by and could continue to serve a purpose in the middle depth of the organization already with decent resumes.

Samuel Asselin

( Photo Credit: Gwinnett Daily Post / Taylor Trebotte / Atlanta Gladiators )

I thought Samuel had a fantastic 2019-20 regular-season campaign that had him going up and down Interstate I-95 a few times from Atlanta to Rhode Island. Spending a majority of time during his first year of professional hockey with the Gladiators, the skilled, speedy forward posted 26-26-52 numbers in 53 games and was one of a few of the go-to’s all season when the Glads needed a strong offensive spark.

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For those who need a little catching up, Asselin signed a two-year AHL only contract in early June of last year and went through the rigors of NHL Bruins Development Camp in late June, Rookie Camp, and Prospects Challenge games in Buffalo, NY. last fall. The talented centerman spent time on the NHL Bruins training camp roster unable to survive the first cuts. Samuel would report to the AHLBruins 2019 training camp down in Rhode Island, ultimately getting sent to Atlanta who’s season started in mid-October. Before the Providence Bruins came calling for Asselin’s services he ended his QMJHL career (82-118-200 in 247 GP) leading the “Q” with 48 goals during the 2018-19 season after a trade from Acadie-Bathurst Titan where he won a 2018 Memorial Cup to lighting it up with goals for the Halifax Mooseheads the following season.

If by any chance, unrestricted free agent Ryan Fitzgerald is unfortunately lost in free agency to create a better NHL career path for himself, I could see a player like Asselin taking over Fitzy’s roster spot and possibly his role on the bottom six for Head Coach Jay Leach. Asselin not only possesses speed and a great pair of hands but also a grit factor and not afraid to get in the dirty areas along the boards and around the crease to create offensive opportunities. Asselin has one more year under his AHL contract. With his hard work in Atlanta, this past season deserves a chance over giving the job to a journeyman veteran that the Providence organization seems to find with decent overall success.

Samuel got into five AHL games as a first-year pro, and I thought he played well in the areas of the lineup where Providence Head Coach Jay Leach shuffled him around. Asselin spent the later have of November with the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL Bruins and in those five games posted three assists which got him his first pro points and ended his first pro point streak which continues if and when he gets into another game next season.

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Scott Conway

( Photo Credit: Gwinnett Daily Post / Taylor Trebotte / Atlanta Gladiators )

Conway is an interesting story that has his hockey career beginning in England as a young man and a country who’s global interest in the sport was and continues to trend upward in popularity. Scott’s father Kevin Conway had a successful OHL career (129-139-268 in 175GP) in the early 1980s but only got as high in North American professional hockey as the International Hockey League, which at the time was lower than the AHL. Father Kevin’s hockey success would kick it up a notch when he went overseas to play in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. The elder Conway played in leagues abroad, such as the BD1 (522-430-952 in 152GP), the BHL (372-363-735 in 208GP), BISL (60-63-123 in 125GP, and finally the EPIHL where he posted 186 points in 85 games.

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Younger Scott did play his youth hockey overseas. Still, his game would take a significant step higher in his development when he came to North America and participated in tier 1 leagues such as the NAHL (18-36-54 in 57GP), the USHL (33-35-68 in 57GP) and upward to the NCAA Division 1. Scott would commit to Penn State University for the 2014-15 season and appeared in 34 games posting 10-16-26 numbers. He’d be dismissed from Penn State after leading all rookies on the team in scoring for violating team rules. The following season after the Nittnay Lion’s departure, Conway, who was eligible for the BCHL, would go onto and play on the powerful Penticton Vees team. The 6′-0″ 185-pound forward would seemingly turn things around and become an assistant captain for the Vees club and posted 56-60-116 numbers in 56 games during the 2015-6 season.

The Boston and Providence organizations would benefit significantly from his proximity in the New England area when it comes to scouting as Scott was accepted to attend Providence College and go onto a decent three-year NCAA career. In 119 games with the Friars Club, he posted 40-35-75 numbers before signing a one-year AHL contract with the Providence team. Starting his pro career in ECHL Atlanta, Conway would go onto have a good year with the Gladiators contributing 17-16-33 numbers in 39 games as a first-year professional. After starting his pro career on a five-game point streak (7-0-7) with the Gladiators from mid-October to the end of the month, Scott would get called up to Providence. While with the Rhode Island team, Conway would spend November 2019 with Providence (11 Games), contributing 3-1-4 totals. Scott would get two other recalls to the AHL on separate occasions earning just one assist.

With the cancelations of the AHL and ECHL seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 25-year-old Conway is set to be a free agent. With some priority contracts to take care of during the AHL Providence offseason, Scott would be a solid backup plan in case players like Brendan Gaunce, or another Center/left-wing isn’t retained.

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Tommy Marchin

( Photo Credit: Gwinnett Daily Post / Dale Zanine / Atlanta Gladiators )

Marchin is another player who’s currently in the last year of his contract with the conclusion of the AHL and ECHL remaining regular-season games and respected postseasons. Tommy is a product of the USDP program participating in the U-17 & U-18 teams during the 2012-13 campaign. After playing Tier 1 hockey in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars in 2013-14 (6-12-18 in 52GP) and Muskegon Lumberjacks the season after (23-23-46 in 56GP), the 6′-2″ 216-pound left-winger left the United States midland for the East Coast.

The Michigan native packed his bags after a successful two years in the USHL for the bright lights of Division 1 NCAA Men’s hockey action in the smallest state in the Union, Rhode Island. Marchin committed and successfully played in the ECAC’s Ivy League with Brown University, where he appeared in 115 games, contributing 40-36-76 career numbers while captaining his Senior season before turning pro in 2018-19. Being practically across the street from the Dunkin” Donuts Center in downtown Providence, the AHL team didn’t have to travel far to scout the developing 24-year-old potential low-risk forward.

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After having zero points in seven games after his NCAA commitment was through with the 2018-19 Brown season, the rugged forward got into his first cup of coffee at the pro level earning zero points. The following season (2019-20) in his second game of a recall from Atlanta, Marchin notched his first two and currently only AHL goals. So far, in 12 career games with Providence, he has 2-0–2 totals, but his full minor-pro rookie season with the Gladiators was a pleasant surprise for the ECHL greenhorn.

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Before the Coronavirus put a wrench in the gears of professional sports in mid-March, Marchin appeared in 49 games for the NHL’s “AA” minor-pro affiliate of the Boston Bruins. He was another offensive threat, such as Asselin mentioned above. With Tommy’s size and speed as a power forward for the Gladiators, he posted 21-27-48 numbers and another rugged player not afraid to use the body in or out of the dirty areas and is known for finishing his checks with bone-crunching force.

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The NHL Bruins have also called upon Marchin to participate in the 2018 Development Camp held at the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts. I thought he did well in the four-day camp sessions and was eager to absorb instructions as a player older than most attendees. To me, I think it would be worth another one-year AHL only deal for Marchin to increase his development but also the means to keep a close eye on him under the Boston regime. Like I said with Conway above, this idea could be just another reliable backup if negotiations with depth players go array.

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