Providence Bruins 2020/21 Roster Predictions – Part #1 The Forwards

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

In part one of my American Hockey League Providence Bruins 2020/21 roster predictions, I’ll provide an opinion of what an upcoming regular season lineup could look like in a Head Coach Jay Leach system. I’m keeping in mind that the offseason has yet to be determined. Not knowing what’s to happen in free agency is a bit tricky, so please take my thoughts with a grain of salt and bare with me.

On paper, the potential roster of the National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins top minor-pro affiliate is certainly intriguing throughout with recent youth additions and league advancement with player promotions. In the first article in this mini-series, I’d like to focus on the 12 forwards that I believe will provide the most offensive punch in the upcoming season whenever when the AHL gets back up and running.

Below are three scenarios of line combinations that I came up with as an idea of how things can fluctuate with promotions to the NHL and departures of last season’s roster. At the minor-pro levels of hockey, having backup plans is never more important when thinking of middle depth competitiveness and sustainability.

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Scenario #1 – What if Jack Studnicka Gets Promoted?

As someone who’s followed Jack Studnicka’s hockey career since being selected in the second round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, I do feel his time is coming quickly concerning advanced placement. I’m confident in the Bruins staff that if the NHL is a potential destination next season, he’ll be placed in a position to not only succeed but also continue to develop. He needs to be playing consistently, and if his role is a 13th or 14th forward, I think that role as a revolving forward would be a detriment to said development. Below is my lineup if Jack makes the Boston club out training camp for the upcoming season.

#24 Hughes – #7 Frederic – #20 Kuhlman

#13 Lauko – #29 Steen – #28 Carey

#16 Gaunce – #11 Asselin – #9 Senyshyn

#45 Koppanen – #27 Woods – Voyer

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There are two areas of the third line that I’d like to mention as potential departures. We don’t know if the Bruins and forward Brendan Gaunce are going to agree on another deal to place him back in the AHL when he could seek a better path for NHL work in free agency. The other is the idea of bringing back Zach Senyshyn, who I strongly agree they should but will be exposed to the waiver process if his services are needed in Providence if he doesn’t make the team out of camp.

If Gaunce and Senyshyn don’t make returns to the Providence lineup next season, this is where that backup plan comes into play. When talking about the right-wing position possibly vacated by the former 2015 first-round pick Senyshyn, I think of a player like Robert Lantosi who can fill that position seamlessly. The 5′-11″ 185-pound Lantosi is currently in the final year of his one-year AHL only contract and posted 11-20-31 numbers in 50 games in his first season of North American Pro Hockey.

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Now moving onto the Gaunce departure theory. If the 26-year-old chooses to leave for better pastures, I believe a solid replacement would be former Brown University forward and left shooting left-winger Tommy Marchin. The 6′-2″ 216-pound Michigan native played his first professional season since leaving the Ivy League has played with Providence a total of 12 games in two seasons posting 2-0-2 numbers. Marchin played his first full pro season this year with the Bruins “AA” minor-pro ECHL affiliate the Atlanta Gladiators. In 49 games for the Glads, he posted impressive 27-21-28 numbers and looks like he could fill the bottom six if a left-wing position is available. Marchin is currently on an expiring AHL only contract, but I mention him as a solid backup option if he’s retained.

Sticking with the third line in this scenario is the mention up the middle with Samuel Asselin. The 21-year-old left shooting center currently has one-year remaining on his AHL only contract. In 53 games with the ECHL Atlanta club, this season, the 5′-9″ 185-pound forward did very posting 26-26-52 numbers in his first year of professional hockey after leaving the QMJHL a year prior. Asselin will be a reliable option with the upshift if Studnicka finds a roster spot with Boston.

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Another thing to consider here and wanted to mention something before moving on, but the Karson Kuhlman contract negotiations should be interesting as an RFA this offseason. Obviously, an upshift would occur if he made the NHL roster or didn’t want to return to the Boston organization with the progressive bottleneck in Providence. I believe the Bruins are going to re-sign Karson to keep him in the fold, but is he legitimately going to stay with the limited path upward? Kuhlman has tremendous upside for a shifty, speedy forward, but (Hate Saying This!) he might have better NHL success elsewhere. Maybe even getting a deal worked out with Minnesota for a fourth-round draft pick from the Minnesota Wild to return him to the state he was born.

Scenario #2 – What If Studnicka Remains In Providence For Further Development?

As mentioned, I’m a massive fan of Studnicka and what he’s done thus far as a developing asset with the Bruins organization and hope he secures a roster spot in the NHL next season first and foremost. What if he doesn’t make the final cuts out of the NHL Bruins training camp whenever that may be and needs to be sent down to Providence to continue working on an already highly skilled set of attributes? Here’s what a potential AHL Bruins lineup could look like with a Captain Jack return to Rhode Island.

#13 Lauko – #23 Studnicka – #20 Kuhlman

#24 Hughes – #7 Frederic – #28 Carey

#16 Gaunce – #29 Steen – #9 Senyshyn

#45 Koppanen – #27 Woods – Voyer

To me, this is a solid lineup above and one that, in my opinion, has unfinished business. Due to the Covid-19 shutdown, the Providence team played well in the early parts of the season and really turned it up with a 12-game winning streak marching up the Atlantic and Eastern Conference. Who knows what would’ve come for this team in 2019-20 Providence club this year, but it was certainly fun to watch, and a long Calder Cup run was absolutely possible. The only change I’d make from the lineup obviously if Jack returns is the addition of a new Providence player that the AHL club signed earlier this spring.

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Voyer signed a two-year AHL only contract in April of 2020 and will be entering his first full season of minor-pro hockey after posting decent numbers in the QMJHL with the Sherbrooke Phoenix. The Sherbrooke, Quebec native posted 44-44-88 numbers in 63 games for the Phoenix franchise, which was a career-high. Sherbrooke is the second team Voyer has played for in his QMJHL career. The rugged 6′-2″ 192-pound right-winger started his Canadian Hockey League career with the Rimouski Oceanic, where he appeared in 158 games and contributed 22-35-57 numbers. His offensive production would almost double when he was moved to his hometown. Voyer Would play the past two seasons with the Sherbrooke club and posted 73-73-146 totals in 131 Phoenix games.

Forward Reesignments & Unfortunate Departures

Pavel Shen – A fast forward who just completed year one of his first season of North American hockey as the first Russian drafted out of the Boston organization since the selection of Alexander Khokhlachev in 2011. Shen had a decent AHL rookie season, but I believe he’d benefit from a full season in the ECHL with Atlanta next season. The 6′-1″ 183-pound forward has two more seasons remaining in his entry-level deal and continues to be a work in progress. He was demoted to the ECHL after being outplayed in the Providence forward rotation last season and believe he should at least start with the Gladiators for the upcoming 2020/21 campaign.

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Brett Ritchie – This is an interesting scenario with Brett’s future with the Boston Bruins organization. Ritchie is a hard worker and certainly wants to work hard to get back to the NHL. With that being said, I don’t see an option with both sides agreeing on more time in the minors for him. I can see either he gets moved for a late-round draft pick, or the Bruins flat out walk away from his future services or cap space he could be asking for if retained. His salary should go in every effort to re-sign NHL players like Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, and Matt Grzelcyk, to name a few. The potential $81.5 flat cap just has me see the Boston club moving on from him.

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Ryan Fitzgerald – This one is going to kill me moving forward because I believe Ryan is a dependable middle-depth professional, but the road has certainly been tough trying to get to the NHL. Fitzy is an unrestricted free agent during this offseason, and with four bottom-six forwards already at the NHL level contracted for another year, I find it hard to believe he’d come back to play in the AHL. Honestly, the kid has busted his ass but keeps getting overpassed for looks, and like I’ve said so many times, he might be better off leaving for better opportunities. Ryans had some bad luck with injuries throughout his entry-level contract and the one-year extension he signed last summer. I actually thought Fitzgerald would’ve been a perfect low cap hit promotion before the Mayor Chris Wagner signed long-term. Regardless of my opinion, if Fitzy does, in fact, leave the Bruins organization, I hope nothing but the best for him.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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Bruins Depth Players That Deserve Contract Extensions

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney certainly has his hands full when it comes to restricted and unrestricted free agents whenever the “official” National Hockey Leagues offseason happens. Boston’s future sustainability depends on whether or not contracts go well or not with potential re-signings of current NHLer’s like Anders Bjork (RFA Arbitration Eligible), Zdeno Chara (UFA), Jake DeBrusk (RFA), Matt Grzelcyk (RFA), Torey Krug (UFA), Kevan Miller (UFA), and Joakim Nordstrom (UFA).

To me, out of the players mentioned above, the priorities have to come down to Bjork, DeBrusk, Krug, and Grzelcyk to be extended for either short-term bridge or longer-term contracts. Regardless of work that has to be done at the NHL level to stay competitive and compliant with a potential flat salary cap at $81.5 for two to three seasons, it’s not going to be easy. With a rumored $18 million in cap space preparing for the upcoming 2020/21 campaign, I have a feeling the organization, along with some players, might have stalled talks leading up to 11th-hour panic decisions.

Not all offseason negotiations during the upcoming offseason are going to be hair pulling or check your blood pressure stressful moments. For example, take a look at the excellent CapFreindly.com website and scroll down to players coming off entry-level contract deals that could easily accept qualifying offers and one or two-year two-way extensions. Below are my thoughts of what players I’d like to see the Boston organization keep in the fold when it comes to development and having that “break glass” in case of emergency availability close by for another year or two.

Brendan Gaunce

( Photo Credit: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images )

One of the Providence Bruins bright spots last season and his first with the NHL Bruins organization. Gaunce agreed to a one-year, two-way contract on July 1st, 2019, after spending four seasons in the Vancouver Canucks organization. Brendan was a solid middle-depth signing that brought a lot to the Providence Bruins line when talking about an aggressive style game and offensive capabilities.

Starting the 2019-20 AHL regular season with Providence on the right foot going 3-1-4 in his first five games, he hit a bit of a speed bump to his fast start on the back-to-back weekend trip north of the border. When the Rhode Island club traveled to Laval, Quebec, to play the affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, Gaunce would suffer a severe head injury. Laval forward, Michael McCarron hit Brendan with a center ice blindsided hit, which led to the then 25-year-old concussed and gruesome facial lacerations.

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Gaunce, who’s an absolute warrior at 6′-2″ and 217-pounds, only needed 22 days to get healthy enough to return to the ice with extra facial protection, of course. Brendan got back in the lineup and immediately produced offensively like the injury never happened. His return to the AHL Bruins lineup, he contributed 1-1-2 numbers in a 4-1 road victory against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and would continue the year as a valued asset to Providence Head Coach Jay Leach up and down the roster.

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As a veteran forward in the developmental ranks, Brendan never went more than four games without a point, and in fact, his offensive production kicked it up a notch in the send half of the 2019-20 campaign. Starting with an assist on February 9th, 2020, in a 2-1 overtime loss to Sound Tigers, Brendan went the next ten games (27 Days) riding a career-high scoring streak where he posted 7-7-14 in that timeframe. With the cancelation of remaining games and Calder Cup Playoffs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Gaunce finished the 2019-20 regular-season with 18-19-37 numbers in 52 games. Brendan was everything the Bruins expected as a minor-pro system addition and a go-to if an emergency recall was needed. In one game with Boston last season, he contributed an assist in his first NHL game since he was with Vancouver, where he appeared in three in the 2018-19 season.

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If I were the general manager of the NHL Bruins and if Gaunce would accept an extension to stay within the organization, he’d undoubtedly be a low-risk, high-reward signing. Either a one-year deal or a two-year stay, I can see Gaunce coming back and possibly having a better year than the previous shortened season. He has tremendous leadership skills, along with offensive ability. He could definitely be a candidate if retained for the next Providence Bruins captaincy if current team leader Paul Carey departs after next season.

Karson Kuhlman

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A sneakingly good signing from the skillful eyes of the Boston Bruins scouting staff, Kuhlman’s addition has added a significant amount of speed and talent to the forward depth of this organization. The 5′-11″ 185-pound versatile forward has been a useful plug-and-play no matter where the soon to be 25-year-old has been asked to play. Karson is a tremendously hard worker and never gives up, which is a driving force the B’s should seriously consider bringing back for extended development.

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He might be undersized and young, but he’s displayed a significant number of leadership qualities thus far in his young hockey career. Before coming to the Bruins as a free agent the Minnesota USA, native wore letters in three of his four seasons playing NCAA Division 1 hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He might not light up the AHL or NHL scoreboard with point production consistency, but he adds a decent element of speed when inserted at either level. Most coaches will say that it’s not all about getting marks on the scoresheet on a nightly basis, but did that player do something that most didn’t notice to make an impact during the contest. Kuhlman’s uncanny skillset on the forecheck has been a valued asset no matter what level he’s played in.

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As many NHL Bruins fans have seen at the highest level in the world, Kuhlman has done pretty much everything Boston Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has asked of him. In his limited time with Boston, he’s appeared in 36 games contributing 4-7-11 numbers playing in 11 contests in 2018-19 and another 25 in 2019-20. Karson was never a massive point producer at any level of developmental hockey and in fact, his best pro season with Providence was in the 2018-19 campaign where he notched 12-18-30 totals in 58 games played along with an impressive +23 on the year.

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Kuhlman’s speed and upside are certainly worthy of a contract extension and believe Cassidy has high respect for his work ethic, which might have serious consideration keeping him in the fold. Replacements are going to be needed with future roster departures at the NHL level, so why not take a low-risk contract with Kuhlman? I’d say a $1.5 million two-year, two-way contract extension allows the Bruins accessibility to capture lightning in a bottle and promote quickly if Karson kicks up his offensive production at the AHL level.

Zach Senyshyn

( Photo Credit: ProvidenceBruins.com / @AHLBruins )

To many Bruins fans, the mention of Boston prospect Zach Senyshyn brings up trying times and a bit of a reach at the NHL Entry Draft table back in the summer of 2015. Regardless of what Zach has done in the B’s organization, he’s consistently being labeled as a “draft bust” and a huge mistake. There’s no doubt, better-talented players, and ones that have risen to the NHL sooner rather than later were passed over in the first round. This certainly wasn’t B’s General Manager Don Sweeney and scouting staff’s most beautiful moment, but what was done is done and have to move on.

I know I’m going to be in the minority here with my opinion, but I believe Senyshyn has provided an excellent service to the Bruins organization. He’s another player that hasn’t exactly blown anyone to the moon with the stats since leaving the 2015 Draft Podium at the, but his work ethic and aggressiveness to be better has been second to none. Providence Head Coach Jay Leach has used Zach up and down the B’s lineup to act like a sponge and learn all aspects of the game. His game with and without the puck attributes has been something both sides have been working on since his arrival to the AHL.

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Before turning pro, he spent three seasons with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds starting his Canadian Hockey League career as a fourth-liner in his rookie year tallying 26 goals on a deep Soo club, to follow up the next two years with the Greyhounds posting two 40 goal seasons (45 & 42) before turning pro in 2017-18. In his OHL career, all with the Hounds he posted 114-63-177 numbers and so far in his AHL career he’s contributed 33-33-66 numbers in 174 games.

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Senyshyn is currently in the last year of his entry-level contract, and his speed and offensive skillset continue to be a work-in-progress and believe he’ll be re-signed during the offseason. The tricky part of a deal with a player like Zach is if he’s in fact extended, he’ll have to go through the waiver process if he doesn’t make the NHL team out of training camp. I’m not sure how much the Bruins would want to invest when it comes to money and term for a younger player that one might not have a spot at the NHL level, and number two a player who most likely won’t survive the 24-hour waiver process he’d have to go through returning to the AHL.

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If Senyshyn’s re-signed and able to squeak through waivers much like the path that former Bruins prospect Peter Cehlarik did, I can see the Boston organization offering Zach a $1.8 million contract. I believe a two-year, two-way deal will be beneficial and, with the term, can see him securing an NHL roster spot by the end of a two-year extension. His speed and stride is something that you can’t just walk away from. Senyshyn’s ability to create space quickly away from opponents with or without the puck is something I’d certainly like to keep around. He could even be a solid third-line or even second winger in the future if everything works out, of course, but I commend the path that the Bruins have gone with the now 23-year-old 6′-1″ 196-pound forward.

Jakub Zboril

( Photo Credit: David Kirouac / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images )

Much like Senyshyn above, this wasn’t Boston’s finest hour when they went to the NHL Draft podium three times mid-first round in 2015. Zboril is another player that has absorbed the pro level of hockey with a seeming grain of salt and no rush mentality. Jakub has all the characters of being a lower pairing defenseman right now, but his path to the highest level in the world has taken a lot longer than most want to fathom.

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As a later developing pro, Zboril, by far, had his best season this year before the Covid-19 pandemic halted life as we know it. Call it a contract year scenario, but I noticed something special in the final year of his entry-level contract that brings me to this mention of the B’s bringing him back. More of a stay-at-home defenseman, Zboril does have some offensive capabilities as he ended his third season in Providence, tying an AHL career-high of 19 points he posted for three consecutive years.

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Zboril is a player that is always learning something new no matter what level of developmental hockey. In a defensive-minded Jay Leach system, Jakub can adapt to the three defensive pairings no matter where slotted. His aggressive style and defensive prowess this season has gotten tremendous attention not only from me but other media members in Providence who also spend a great deal in the press box evaluating talent. Jakub isn’t a perfect defensive player and does have moments where I shake my head, but his ability to get back in the play and recover from a mistake is commendable. Accountability is at the highest of his game attributes and is not one to pass the blame when an error in judgment is made on or off the puck.

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If I was to give an extension to Jakub, I’d go another year or two with him with potential departures at the NHL level in the future. Zdeno Chara is always a candidate when talking about a roster spot if and when he retires. John Moore and his roster spot are still up for conversation and which young player can come in and cover for the declining blueliner. Or how about the upcoming Seattle Expansion draft, and if a current Bruins player on defense is appealing to the newest NHL franchise, who’s set to draft an initial lineup next summer? Zboril is a player that can easily slot into an NHL lineup with space availability, of course, and will be a backup plan for the foreseeable future if he’s retained. When it comes to a dollar value, I will look at the $1.5-$2 million range for Jakub’s extended services.

Also, keeping in mind any future negotiations with Zboril will also be heavily considered when thinking about his waiver priority. If retained for further services, he’d need to pass through waivers to be placed in Providence, and with the current situation ahead of him when it comes to NHL contracts, that’ll likely be the destination. Personally, I hope the B’s do whatever it takes to keep him around as an ace in the hole but would also hate to lose him and not seeing his full NHL potential.

Dan Vladar

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Probably the biggest re-signing for the Boston Bruins staff out of any mentioned above when it comes to middle depth sustainability in the crease. With one more year of NHL starter Tuukka Rask remaining in his contract and the recent extension to backup Jaroslav Halak, the NHL level is covered when it comes to netminding duties. This provides an adequate amount of time for further development of 2015 third-round selection Dan Vladar and recently signed to entry-level contract Jeremy Swayman out of his junior year at the University of Maine.

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Vladar, who’s in his last year of his ELC, really took a stranglehold in his development during the 2019-20 regular-season campaign. After a slow start to the soon to be 23-year-old Czech Republic native, he encountered an injury In the seasons first cross border roadie in Laval, Quebec which left him with a high ankle sprain. Dan’s season record began with the 0-1-1 record giving up six goals in three games, so there’s no real-time for an injury to happen, but in the end, it was, in fact, beneficial, to say the least.

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During Vladar’s recovery, which lasted a whole 45 days before he returned from his ankle sprain also was a student of the game during that duration when help from above came down lending professional advice. NHL Bruins Goaltending Coach Bob Essensa and assistant Mike Dunham took advantage of the young goaltenders “downtime” while rehabilitating for countless hours of video sessions breaking down his game while minimizing his crease movements. As a 6′-5″ 185-pound athletic netminder, Essensa and Dunham broke down his game with technology to teach the big Czech netminder a new way of manning the crease and using his size to his benefit.

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When Vladar returned to the ice after his lengthy injury, he absolutely put on a show blanking the 2018-19 Calder Cup Champion Charlotte Checkers 4-0 with 36 saves and first star honors. After Dan’s No-No on December 1st, 2019, at the Bojangles Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, he would go onto post a regular-season record of 14-7-1 with a stingy and league-leading 1.79 goals-against-average and .936 save percentage. He also ended the 2019-20 regular-season campaign with three shutouts.

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Before the coronavirus shut everything down, Vladar was on his way to having his best career year between the pipes. I know it’s a small sample size of his potential, but in my opinion, with the tutelage of Essensa and Dunham and how he came back strong and determined has me believe he will definitely be re-signed. With the stretch of games from the start of December to mid-March, Vladar was clearly the best goaltender in that duration and started turning heads when thinking about future NHL placement. Extending Vladar for two more years not only locks him up for another full AHL season and audition, but it also makes him a serious candidate when considering future options with Halak and Rask and expiring contracts.

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A two-year, two-way contract worth around $2 million is certainly not out of the realm for keeping a netminder like Vladar around. Also, keep in mind that my guess on what Vladar and others mentioned when talking about a contract is the dollar value and what the particular player will earn at the Level if lucky enough to spend time at the highest level in the world. When spending time in the AHL, obviously, that number goes down to a range of $70K to $150K depending on the two-way contract structure, and bonuses entailed.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

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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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Bruins European Prospects That Are Set To Start Regular Seasons This Fall

( Photo Credit: John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe Via Getty Images )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

While the National Hockey League remains on pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic and awaiting the final word from Health Officials to proceed with the 2020 summer Stanley Cup Playoff 24-team Tournament, other hockey leagues worldwide are setting their 2020/21 regular-season schedules. The Boston Bruins have four prospects that are under contract and set to get back to work in their respected European Leagues. The Swedish Allsvenskan, the Finnish SM-Liiga, and Swedish Hockey Leagues 2020/21 regular-season campaigns prepare to get back on the ice this fall as their countries seem to have acceptable numbers for team play and possibly without fans in attendance.

Below are a few Boston prospects that could return to Europe after the upcoming and unscheduled training camps prior to the 20/21 regular-season start. With the uncertainty of hockey at the professional leagues in North America at this point and what the NHL Bruins already have in the system, the mentioned players underneath may benefit greatly with staying exactly where they are. Now I’m not saying these players mentioned are terrible prospects and don’t have the potential of cracking an American Hockey League or ECHL roster, but to me, it’s almost a guaranteed start of an overseas campaign without the day-to-day changes we’re going through here in North America. If you look at the pipeline and seemingly bottleneck it just makes sense to have these players mentioned stew a bit longer in their respective countries’ professional leagues another year.

Swedish Hockey League

Linus Arnesson

( Photo Credit: Alchetron.com )

Linus is set to return to playing as the SHL is set to kick off in mid-September Drafted in the second round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey with Boston’s 60th overall selection. More of a defensive-minded shutdown guy in the SHL with a few pro teams in his native Sweden, Arnesson, a 25-year-old left-shooting blueliner has had a solid career playing overseas but when called upon in higher world leagues the 6’1″ 198-pound defenseman seemingly struggled in the smaller North American rinks.

Linus did spend a significant amount of time with the NHL Bruins top minor-pro affiliate the Providence Bruins appearing in 79 games and posting 1-9-10 numbers in that timeframe. I believe his inconsistencies at the AHL level had both sides seeing a benefit in his forward development by sending back overseas. Since leaving Providence after two full seasons and 69 games the Stockholm, Sweden native has played for two SHL clubs since appearing in 93 games for the Orebro HK club posting 5-10-15 numbers to having his SHL career year offensively with a new team with the Farjestads BK Karlstad club where he dressed for 52 games posting 6-7-13 numbers.

Arnesson is still Boston Bruins property although he remains unsigned. Not being an expert on this player but seeing a few of his games (via web Stream) year by year and his point production slowly rising he still has a ton of potential to come back to Providence. Then again we have to also consider that Linus is comfortable playing in his home country and might continue to accept qualifying offers to wade out his decision to fully turn pro as the B’s have his rights for two more seasons. His pro contract in Sweden, on the other hand, is valid for the upcoming 2020/21 season so he could re-sign to stay in Sweden or come back to Providence if space is available. If he did, in fact, come back to North America he’d be out of the NHL entry-level window being 25-year-old where a players one-year eligibility for an ELC runs out at 24-years of age.

Scouting Report:

DobberProspects.com website writer Chris Mazza had this to say about Arnesson below and the full article can be read HERE.

March 2020 – Arnesson’s calling card is his strong defensive play. He has good lateral mobility which allows him to hold the zone offensively and defend well off the rush. At 25 years old, he has played 79 total AHL games in Providence with minimal offensive production. He has spent the majority of his hockey career in Sweden, including the last three years in the SHL. He doesn’t hold much fantasy value offensively, but can contribute with ice time, plus/minus and blocked shots if he were to return to North America. The Bruins hold Arnesson’s NHL rights until the 2022 off-season.

Swedish Hockey League

Emil Johansson

( Photo Credit: Zimbio )

Drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Emil has had an interesting path to professional hockey that’s seen a few twists and turns. Predominately rising up the HV71 program from the Allsvenskan, SuperElit, and now SHL, the 24-year-old stay-at-home defenseman plays an impactful yet comfortable game throughout his international play.

Emil is far from a draft bust for a late round selection but has taken a lot longer to develop seemingly being passed over by higher ranked Boston Bruins depth blueliners. Regardless of his decline in the prospect depth charts, the 6′-0″ 1295-pound left-shooting defenseman continues to be an ace in the hole and may get another chance at North American hockey very soon. Although Johansson’s first North American tour which lasted two seasons from 2017-18 to the 2018-19 wasn’t such a great success appearing in 118 games posting 5-15-20 numbers, it was better for both sides to go back to Sweden to continue to work on his attributes.

As we’ve seen with prospects from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, some younger players need more seasoning in the lower leagues around the world. I believe when first-year Bruins European Scout and former NHL’er with Boston PJ Axelsson had the goods on Emil he saw something special that remains to be a Boston asset no matter where he plays worldwide. With upward movement of Boston defensive prospects upward to the NHL, Emil is a solid option to fill a roster spot in Providence if needed.

As a 24-year-old he remains unsigned but can be locked up on a one-year entry-level during this offseason. Anytime after his 24-years of age, the entry-level window closes but can still sign a standard two-way contract thereafter or a one-year AHL only contract which is highly unlikely. Emil Has one more full year under contract via the HV71 team and is free to return to the AHL if he chooses after. A two-way contract could inside Emil to return but if he’s offered an AHL only deal he might stay put in Europe.

SM-Liiga – Finnish League

Matias Mantykivi

( Photo Credit: SaiPa.fi )

Mantykivi was selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and is currently under contract playing in his native Finland. The now 18-year-old Matias has been rising through the SaiPa developmental system landing his first full campaign in the Finnish Professional Liiga League where he appeared in 42 games posting 3-3-6 numbers. His best season to date playing in the SaiPa system was in the 2018-19 regular season where he notched 12-24-36 totals in 34 games in the lower U20 SM-sarja league. Later that year after his commitment was over for the year, Mantykivi got into six games in the Liiga league before getting full pro time this season.

The 5′-11″ 161-pound center has the tools and speed to be an effective pro in leagues over in North America but as a young man has plenty of time to work on this attributes and muscle mass. As mentioned above, these European prospect such as Arnesson and Johansson have got a taste of what it’s like to play in the AHL but didn’t exactly blow the minds of Bruins management and scouts to stay so it’s hard to see Mantyviki’s projection to smaller ice overseas.

Fifth-year Boston Bruins Finnish Scout Erkki Rajamaki had to see something special about Matias to convince Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and staff to take a late-round gamble on him. Mantykivi is a speedy forward with some North American upside but he’s yet to prove that in the smaller rinks. It’s not traditional, but maybe the smaller ice surface could spark better reaction times and creativity to make a player like Matias be that late-round gem who others had no idea his potential capabilities. All is a roll of the dice or a spin of the wheel when it comes to selecting younger talent and where they end up in the future and plans of an NHL organization. Mantykivi is under contract with his Liiga SaiPa team for the 2020/21 season so Erikki and others such as cross border Scout PJ Axelsson can collaborate further projecting where he fits in the NHL Bruins organization.

Scouting Report:

Former DobberProspects.com website writer Lassi Alanen now working for EliteProspects.com as a Finnish Scout had this to say about the Boston Bruins prospect below in his article about Mantykivi that can be read in full HERE.

June 2019 – Mäntykivi was SaiPa’s U20 team’s top forward this season, putting up 36 points in 34 regular-season games. He was loaned to Mestis team Ketterä in January and played in a decent role with the team that eventually won the championship.

Mäntykivi is a skilled playmaker who played center at the U20 level and on the wing in Mestis. He has very good hands and is able to dangle in tight spaces. Mäntykivi has very good vision and he is able to utilize his passing skills and stick-handling to create offense for himself and his linemates. He is also dangerous as a passer on the power play. His stride is pretty heavy and he doesn’t have very good speed. If he can work on his skating, he could be a player because Mäntykivi certainly has some upside. 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Bruins Hockey Is Back…..Slowly But Surely!

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson / AP )

By: Maria From Watertown | Follow Me On Twitter @mariaofh2otown

With many teams returning to their home practice facilities beginning on Monday, June 8, this marks a significant step in preparing for the resumption of the 2019-2020 hockey season.  Like many Boston Bruins fans, I have been starving to see the Black and Gold back on the ice.  Bring on playoff hockey in July and August, baby! 

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The return to business for the Boston Bruins, however, may not be what they expected or anticipated, largely due to the modified playoff format announced by the NHL on May 26th.  The format itself was put together by the Return to Play Committee, which consisted of front office personnel from the NHL and the NHLPA, along with five league players, none of which were members of the Boston Bruins.

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Under the “modified” format, the Bruins will be one of four teams that will participate in a round-robin tournament to determine playoff seeding for the top four Eastern Conference teams.  During a conventional hockey season, the President’s Trophy winner would automatically be the number one seed to begin the playoffs.  The good news is our Boston Bruins are the 2019-2020 President’s Trophy winner.  The bad news is they will not be rewarded for being the best team in the league as a result of this unique season.

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The Bruins were well on their way to securing the number one seed before the 2019-2020 season came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During a recent interview, Bruins Team President, Cam Neely, expressed his disappointment with the tournament format.  Of course, Cam and the team are disappointed – what team wouldn’t be disappointed when you’ve worked hard all season to be the number one team in the league only to be told that your efforts are basically not going to be taken into consideration. 

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One of the catch-phrases that seem to be uttered time and time again as the NHL playoffs approach is …” just get in and anything can happen.”  I would argue that the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs might be more challenging than in past seasons due to the unique circumstances playoff teams will be addressing and dealing with on a game-to-game basis.  There is also a bit of a silver lining throughout what has been a relatively miserable 2020 to date in that the National Hockey League has a golden opportunity to showcase its sport, along with the toughness and resiliency of the athletes that will be participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In my humble opinion, it should make no difference what playoff seed the Bruins are as long as they get in and show the hockey world that they are the best team in the league.  Sometimes being the number one seed is not all it is cracked up to be – just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 182 that we recorded below on 6-7-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Flat NHL Salary Cap Could Have Current Bruins Departing This Offseason

( Photo Credit: Darcy Finley / NHLI Via Getty Images )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The Covid-19 virus has put a close to the remaining National Hockey League games in the 2019-20 regular season and prompted the forward movement of a 24-team Stanley Cup playoff format. With a loss of the 181 games that the league was supposed to complete before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the financial burden is probably going to be felt for the next two to three years. The return to play idea for the NHL is not only good for the league and players but also a way to recover lost revenue. I believe if the remaining regular-season games and playoffs in 2020 were canceled altogether, that financial burden could be felt even further.

All NHL teams are going to be affected with the potential of the $81.5 million league-mandated salary cap not rising for the foreseeable future, especially the teams that spend up to the ceiling every year. The Boston Bruins are one of those teams that have a lot on their plate when it comes to contract negotiations whenever the upcoming offseason happens. Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney already knocked one negotiation off the list with a one-year contract extension with backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak, but with an estimated $18 million to spend next season, his job is far from done.

Bruins players such as Anders Bjork (RFA), Jake DeBrusk (RFA), Matt Grzelcyk (RFA), Zdeno Chara (UFA), and more notably Torey Krug (UFA), are going to eat up a majority of that remaining cap space. This could hinder the Boston club with minimal funds available for further roster movement. With the above players mentioned needing new deals, this could be an opportunity to shed some funds to address future needs. The names I’ve listed below are just ideas that may save a few bucks with not entertaining returns to the Bruins organization and even using buy-out scenarios. These potential moves could also be for roster spots of developing players with the Providence Bruins that are about to cross the threshold of NHL careers at cap-friendly salary numbers.

Par Lindholm UFA After 20/21 Season

( Photo Credit: Nic Antaya For The Boston GlobeVia Getty Images )

Lindholm has been a serviceable member of the Bruins organization, but his role on the team as a revolving 12th or 13th forward has me thinking it’s time for a change. In 40 games with the Boston club in 2019-20, the 28-year-old forward posted 3-3-6 numbers and has career totals of 4-15-19 in 105 NHL games. Par has one more year full season under contract, but even though his $850K isn’t a huge issue, he could be placed on waivers or bought out to free up a roster spot. If the Bruins were to entertain a buy-out option, per the Cap-Friendly.com website, the team would owe him $283K for the next two seasons.

Kevan Miller UFA

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Miller who’s been with the Bruins organization since the 2011-12 season starting his professional career in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins is currently in his final year of a four-year contract. Kevan’s been a warrior throughout his time in Black & Gold but injuries and setbacks trying to get healthy have me thinking the 32-year-old’s time in Boston might’ve come to an end. With the salary cap not going up, any dollar value he could garner should be used for a healthy younger asset and relieve the bottleneck of developing blueliners rising from the AHL. With the Bruins cap problems, Miller might have a better opportunity elsewhere in the NHL with roster availabilities to continue the veteran’s career.

Joakim Nordstrom UFA

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Nordstrom has been another serviceable player for the Bruins organization, but when a team is up against it, and roster availability is needed, this might be the last time we see the 28-year-old Swedish native. An effective penalty killer and a player Head Coach Cassidy could rely on up and down the lineup will be tough to walk away from, but when thinking about the future sustainability of the team, moves like this have to be considered. Nordstrom is currently in the last year of his two-year contract, which paid him $1 million per season. To save money and a roster spot, I could see the B’s looking to Providence to fill his position with a developing member of the club and cheaper dollar value.

Brett Ritchie RFA

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images )

Although the Ritchie project didn’t exactly work out for him and the Boston organization he is an RFA that was sent down to the Providence Bruins midseason to find his game pre-covid-19 regular-season pause. Even though Ritchie was sent down to the AHL, a majority of his NHL salary followed along with it and remained on the NHL Bruins salary cap. To save money I don’t believe a return to the B’s is a good idea moving forward. He’s a 26-year-old forward and is arbitration-eligible which is a scary thought when thinking about saving money. In my opinion, it would be beneficial for both sides to walk away making him available to seek work in the NHL elsewhere because I don’t believe he’d entertain future contract negotiations to report back to the AHL next season.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 181 that we recorded below on 5-30-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Could New Hampshire Be A Future Home For A Bruins Affiliate?

( Photo Credit: Mikes Tickets )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Per RinksideRhodeIsland.com writer Mark Divver, Manchester, New Hampshire continues to produce rumors with the return of professional hockey. Commonly known in the Northeastern part of the United States as ManchVegas, the largest city in the state initially had a firm grip in the hockey community when the American Hockey Leagues Manchester Monarchs team was there from 2001 to 2015.

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The Monarchs were a minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey Leagues Los Angeles Kings before packing up operations from the New England area after a successful tenure. The Monarchs would change their name to the current Ontario Reign, which was the King’s ECHL “AA” affiliation, and headed to the Golden State to house their top prospects closer to the NHL organization. The cities of Manchester, NH, and Ontario, CA, would swap minor-pro affiliations, thus keeping the Monarchs team name but representing a lower hockey league in the development scheme.

After the departure of the AHL franchise, the ECHL Monarchs would continue to play four seasons in the Queen City totaling a record of 156-102-14 in 288 games. The Monarchs club did make the Kelly Cup Playoffs for all four years in the Granite State in that timeframe but dwindling season ticket numbers and individual gameday gate numbers the franchise folded at the end of the 2018-19 campaign. So for a whole hockey season including this Covid-19 Pandemic, the SNHU Arena owned by Southern New Hampshire University has laid dormant for on-ice events when it comes to the pro level.

The Boston Bruins have had their “AA” affiliation located in the Atlanta, Georgia area since August of 2015 after not agreeing to an extension with the then affiliated South Carolina Stingrays who the B’s shared with the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Atlanta has been a suitable place for a backup franchise to act as a feeder system for the above AHL’s Providence Bruins organization. From the 2015-16 regular season to the close of operations due to the Corona Virus the Atlanta Gladiators have a record of 153-161-23 in 349 games. The Gladiators were on a serious run trying to get out of the middle of the ECHL’s South Division for a 2019-20 Kelly Cup playoff better but that was cut short with what’s going on in the world today. Before the tremendous second-half play this season, the Gladiators only made it to the postseason once affiliated with the NHL Bruins getting swept in the first round to the powerful Florida Everblades.

As of right now with no sports going on and hockey seasons canceled at the lower levels, the ECHL one-year agreement is officially over between the Bruins and the Gladiators. As seen below, collegiate hockey and minor-pro hockey guru Mark Divver comes at us one more time with another interesting tweet the very next day sparking increased speculation about a possibility of the Bruins moving their “AA” affiliation closer much like what the LA Kings did in 2015 in a different league of course.

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With the information above from Divver’s source, it almost aligns the planets of bringing of things together that could happen shortly when talking about creating closer affiliations. One more season in Atlanta could be the time needed to facilitate an ECHL franchise move northward and one that might be attractive to Bruins fans thirsty for hockey. Things might’ve not been the best of times between the city of Manchester and former ECHL team ownership, but can you imagine the increased volume of attention if that “team” had ties to the NHL Boston Bruins about 80 miles away?

There’s long been a rumor that the now ECHL Worcester Railers were going to be the next “AA” affiliate of the Boston Bruins before a team ended up playing in the second-largest city in Massachusetts. Worcester Pro Hockey, LLC owner Cliff Rucker has a long relationship with the NHL Bruins, and it was almost certain the ECHL affiliation would leave Atlanta and head North. Another rumor about a Bruins affiliation in the city of Worcester that might’ve been the ole wrench in the gears of that idea was the NHL Bruins top minor-pro affiliation with the Providence Bruins. That particular rumor was the team from Rhode Island didn’t want to compete with another B’s affiliation so close, and it’s believed that there’s a 40-mile radius agreement between the NHL Organization and the club in Providence.

Outside of that “so-called” 40-mile boundary lay some other great locations besides mentioned above, Manchester, New Hampshire. Lowell, Massachusetts, is another attractive destination that housed the AHL for several NHL organizations in the past but hasn’t seen professional hockey in the last ten years. The University of Massachusetts-Lowell owns the multi-purpose facility, and even though this might be an attractive location, it would be hard to compete for ice time. College and minor-pro hockey predominately operate during the weekends, so scheduling home games around the UMass-Lowell River Hawks hockey team would somewhat de difficult.

Portland, Maine is another area that could be interesting although currently occupied at the Cross Insurance Arena by the Maine Mariners. The Maine club is affiliated with the NHL’s New York Rangers, so not sure if the Rangers organization would want to break a contract for another team to come in and set up operations. If an ECHL affiliate is needed closer to the Rangers AHL affiliation in Hartford, Connecticut, then the possibilities are endless for a Bruins minor-pro affiliation back in the state of Maine. The NHL Bruins and the old AHL Maine Mariners were under Bruins rule from 1986 to 1992 before moving south to Providence Rhode Island.

Of course, this is all speculation at this point, but I do see a team in the near future being located somewhere in New England to be the primary Providence Bruins feeder system. It just makes sense in my opinion.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 181 that we recorded below on 5-31-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Could Bruins Prospect Beecher Jump From The NCAA To The CHL?

( Photo Credit: Kevin Light/Getty Images )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The Covid-19 virus continues to be a thorn in the side of humanity but also in the sports world that many of us loved following on a daily basis before the pause. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel as numbers are dropping in North America, and some pro leagues such as the National Hockey League are looking to get back to work. The NHL has a 24-Team playoff format laid out to start in the next two months in an effort to return to the ice and award a 2020 Stanley Cup Champion. 

Leagues below the professional level are projected to not start their regular seasons on time because they don’t have the financial gain the best hockey league in the world has. Take, for instance, the scenario in the NCAA and the Canadian Hockey League made up of three different entities. The Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League are rumored to start in late October, but the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League may get started months later even as far as January per source. 

I was listening to the 31 Thoughts Podcast hosted by Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek a few weeks ago, and Mr. Marek brought up an interesting thought in when talking about the NCAA. Jeff pointed out that if the collegiate level of hockey has a late start with the continued virus concerns, some athletes may defect to the CHL for an opportunity to play sooner. Listen to the whole podcast and subscribe, of course, but if you’re looking for a timestamp for the start of the topic, it’s at the 33:30 below.

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Bringing this to a Boston Bruins related article, Marek mentioned 2018 first-round selection John Beecher and his loophole to possibly defect to the CHL. This might be a bit of a stretch after Beecher just finished his freshman year at Michigan with the Wolverines, but it’s a sneakingly good way to keep his development going and on time. I know some are thinking of waiting it out for the NCAA to get back on track and return to a Mel Pearson coached Michigan club.

I’m a huge fan of whatever decision Beecher, his agent, and Bruins organization see fit for his development moving forward, but the OHL might be an enticing landing spot with increased opportunity. Beecher was drafted by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the 2017 OHL Priority Draft but with all intentions of committing to Michigan. The benefitting factor by defecting is the increased games that the OHL plays compared to the mandated 34 in the NCAA. If he decides to cross the border into Canada, and in fact, join the Soo Greyhounds club, his games per season would almost double.

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Another thing that Jeff Marek brought up on the aforementioned 31 Thoughts Hockey Podcast was another highly profiled prospect in the Montreal Canadiens organization could do the same. Under the keen eye of former NHL’er and Head Coach Tony Granato of the Wisconsin Badgers is Cole Caufield, who had a tremendous 19-17-36 season in 36 games. Caufield, as Marek mentions in the podcast, was also selected in the OHL Priority Draft, but unlike Beecher in 2017, Cole was selected the following season (2018) by the same Greyhounds club.

There are so many avenues and logistics that have to be considered here about this topic but can you imagine an OHL Greyhounds team with the additions of Beecher and Caulfield with such mainstays as current Soo roster players who had five 25 goal scorers accompanied by six 50 point go-getters in the 2019-20 regular season campaign that had the Hounds appear in 64 games before the arrival of the Covid-19 virus. The Soo ended last season with a record of 29-31-3-1, and if the worlds line together to see this though, if both want to leave the NCAA, of course, they would be solid additions to a potential 2020-21 Greyhounds roster.

I’m not exactly an expert when it comes to the difference between the CHL and the NCAA, but when it comes to the games played a factor that always wins for me in the speed of development. If the Boston Bruins see a serious fit for Beecher in the next season or two, this aggressive approach might be beneficial to that avenue. Also, keeping in mind that as a 19-year-old, Beecher, even though drafted in the CHL would be eligible for the American Hockey League before the age of 20-year-old. 

Like I have mentioned several times before, this is a stretch, but it’s something to consider when thinking about the player and progression timeline. Most Boston Bruins prospect gurus have Beecher making an impact in the next two or three seasons regardless of this article topic, but a planned full 76 game year with the AHL’s Providence Bruins wouldn’t be out of the question and has to be accounted for.

Take B’s prospect Jack Studnicka who also plays up the middle, had a decent first-year pro season in the AHL, and looks to lock up a roster spot when the 2020-21 campaign officially starts. Patience has been key lately for Bruins management when inserting younger talent into the lineup but has also been smart to re-sign team members to give some of that mentioned youth more time in the minor-pro system.

Wolverines Head Coach Mel Pearson has put Beecher in areas to succeed with his versatility. Not sure if this is the idea from Bruins management passed down to the coaching staff of the NCAA club, but it creates a few options moving forward in the forever battle of planning ahead and prospect NHL timelines. Just think of the possibilities at the center positions in the next few seasons with the additions of Studnicka, Trent Frederic, and now Beecher awaiting in the midst. The Bruins have been unreal at identifying what’s needed at center and seemingly build around them, and there’s no doubt about that when you think of current members like Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle, and David Krejci. 

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 180 that we recorded below on 5-25-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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Boston Bruins Tuukka Rask’s Time To Shine

( Photo Credit: NHL.com / Boston Bruins / @NHLBruins )

By: Maria From Watertown  |  Follow Me On Twitter @mariaofh2otown

The NHL and the PA have presumably agreed to move forward with completing the 2019-2020 so that a 2020 Stanley Cup Champion can be crowned.  Obviously, a good number of logistics will need to be worked out, but the vote by the NHLPA is a significant step in the right direction.  For the Boston Bruins, the motivation should be fierce to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals again, if not to avenge the disappointing finish to the 2019 Cup Finals, but perhaps more importantly, to cement the legacy of a number of the core veteran players on the team, particularly Tuukka Rask. While Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand have seemingly secured their places in Boston Bruins history as members of a team that brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston after 39 years, Tuukka’s lasting legacy may hinge on whether he can “carry” the Bruins to a Stanley Cup before he hangs up his goalie skates.

Once Tuukka took over as the Bruins number one franchise goalie, fairly or unfairly, he became a lightning rod for criticism by Bruins fans.  Many held Tuukka responsible for the game 7 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Cup finals, as well as the two-minute meltdown in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against the Blackhawks and we all know how that ended. 

Adding fuel to this fire, Tuukka did not play in the Bruins final regular-season game on April 11, 2016, due to a stomach bug.  The Bruins ultimately lost that game, and it cost that team an opportunity for a playoff spot.

There is no arguing that Tuukka is an elite goalie in the NHL.  Tuukka currently leads the league with a 2.12 GAA; he is second in the league with a .929 SV%.  Tuukka’s career stats are noteworthy as well – 2.26 GGA and 9.22 SV%.  In 2019, Tuukka became the winningest goalie in Bruin’s history. 

Why let these statistics get in the way of those who consistently lay blame at the feet of Tuukka when the Bruins have faltered in big moments.  Last time I checked, there are always 5 skaters and a goalie out on the ice most of the time.

Much has been made over the years about the contract Tuukka signed in 2013 (8-year extension at $7 million per year), with fans and some in the media criticizing either the term, the money, or both.  Ask Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers fans how they feel about the contracts for their franchise goalies. 

Whether Tuukka hears this noise or not, the only way he will likely silence these critics and cement his legacy as a Boston Bruin is to lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship.  With only one year remaining on his current contract, the window is getting smaller.  If Tuukka can accomplish what to date has eluded him and become the franchise goalie who brings another Stanley Cup to Boston, he will most certainly be talked about in the same conversations as Tiny Thompson, Eddie Johnston, Gerry Cheevers, and Tim Thomas.  Legacy accomplished

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 179 that we recorded below on 5-17-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Bruins Alumni: Happy Birthday Eddie Panagabko

( Photo Credit: mrburnscollectorscorner.weebly.com )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Eddie Panagabko was born on May 17th, 1934, in Norquay, Saskatchewan, Canada and was a 5′-8″ 170-pound centerman. Per Hockey-Reference.com, he played three seasons of junior hockey in the SJHL with the Humboldt Indians. (65-66-131 in 100GP), before moving up to the International Hockey League, where he posted 25-35-60 numbers with the Grand Rapids Rockets in 60 games during the 1954-55 season.

As a 20-year-old Eddie signed a deal to play for the National Hockey League Boston Bruins but started his pro career in with the clubs American Hockey League affiliate the Hershey Bears. In Hershey, he played in 41 games in the 1955-56 campaign posting 16-25-41 numbers good enough to get the call to Boston in the same years for 28 games notching only three assists. Panagabko would get sent back down to Hershey to fulfill the remainder of his contract, only appearing in one more NHL game (zero points) for Boston in the 1956-57 season.

( Photo Credit: icehockey.fandom.com )

In 160 games played for the Hershey club (41G-58A-99P), Ed would finish his AHL career with the Providence Reds, who were a fly by night NHL Bruins affiliate in the early years. In three seasons with the Reds club, he contributed 40-89-129 numbers in 186 games giving him AHL career totals of 81-147-228 numbers in 346 games.

Panagabko would later head back to the West Coast of the United States, returning to the WHL making stops in Portland, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and San Diego. Ed passed away at the age of 44-years-old on January 18th,1979, and appeared in 29 career NHL games with three total assists.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 179 that we recorded below on 5-16-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!