( Photo Credit: Tessa McAndrews / Providence Bruins )

By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter / X @BlackAndGold277

The American Hockey League Providence Bruins were in Utica, New York, last night as the season-long seven-game road trip continued with game five at the Adirondack Bank Center against the Utica Comets. The top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey League, Boston Bruins beat the Comets 5-2 for Providence’s second consecutive victory on the road.

With last night’s road victory, the Providence Bruins improved to a 16-12-2-2 regular season record and 36 points. Also, with last night’s 5-2 win, the B’s moved from fourth to second in the Atlantic Division, tied with the Springfield Thunderbirds, a team the Bruins play the next two games of this road trip. Division-leading Hershey Bears, who are an absolute wagon this season, lead the way with a season record of 26-6-0 and 52 points, a 16-point gap between first and second place in the Atlantic.

While Providence starting goaltender Michael DiPietro was outstanding in last night’s win over Utica, stopping 37 of 39 Comets shots for his eighth victory, Bruins prospect Fabian Lysell stole the show. The former 2021 first-round selection got the game’s first goal last night in the first period and would later get his second of the game in the final period. Lysell also had an assist on veteran forward Jesper Boqvist’s first goal of the game to quickly start the second period. Boqvist, who also played very well in this game, notched his second goal against Utica in the third period with under a minute to go, earning his fourth multi-point game of the 2023-24 season.

The 20-year-old Lysell has seemingly gotten the message from Providence Head Coach Ryan Mougenel, who said the former first-rounder needed to “buy in” and learn the team game, or he won’t play for Jim Montgomery. Fabian’s stats were decent when Mougenel commented on his progression this season. It’s the individual effort trying to go through a whole line of opposing players to either get knocked off the puck or be pressured in all directions, creating a turnover the other way.

While it took a little time for Lysell to absorb the Mougenel evaluation comments, Fabian has been playing a much better all-around game as the season-long road trip continues. The Gothenburg, Sweden native is now on a three-game point streak with 2-3-5 in that timeframe, and 9-12-22 numbers in 28 games played this season. Last year, Lysell posted 14-23-37 totals in 2022-23, so with 40 games remaining, he could have a career season offensively.

If Lysell consistently gains traction in his development and point-producing efforts, he’ll get consideration for his first NHL games, much like fellow forward prospect Georgii Merkulov. The undrafted and former Ohio State Buckeyes forward Merkulov will be in the NHL Bruins lineup tonight, playing in his first career game against the visiting New Jersey Devils.

While I think a Lysell call-up will happen if he continues to play well down in AHL Providence, that opportunity could be later in the second half of the 2023-34 season. Fabian could also be a heavy favorite for NHL duties next season, earning a spot out of next fall’s training camp as the youth movement continues, and Lysell, with two years remaining on his current entry-level contract for a cap-friendly full-time advancement.

The Providence Bruins are back at it tonight as this seven-game road trip continues. This evening, the B’s are in Springfield, Massachusetts, to face the Springfield Thunderbirds at the MassMutual Center as the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL Bruins look to make it three-straight wins as Providence gets closer to returning home after being away from the Amica Mutual Pavillion since December 17th, 2023, when they lost to the visiting Syracuse Crunch by the score of 4-1. Providence returns home on Sunday afternoon on January 7th, 2024, when the Bruins face the Thunderbirds for the third straight game.