Grading The Bruins 2020 Postseason

( Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe via Getty Images )

By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards

As kids begin this most unprecedented school year, what better time than now to do a Bruins postseason report card. After a disappointing second round exit, you can begin to see some of the reasons the Bruins became underachievers after the pandemic break. 

This is the type of report card my dad would have not been pleased with thirty years ago. In fact, I may not have taken the bus home that day. But, there is always room for improvement…next year.

Forwards

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Patrice Bergeron – B

The Bruins #1 center has always been a consistent player over the years. It is hard to criticize him and the last few years Bergeron has actually gotten better with age. However, this postseason may have been a precursor for things to come. Bergeron looked slow at times and was not as good on the faceoff dot against Tampa Bay as he has been his entire career. Patrice finished the thirteen game postseason at 2-6-8 with a +2, and provided some offense and a game-winning overtime goal against Carolina. Bergy did stay in the “B” range by not having a 5 on 5 goal scored against him in the 10 real playoff games. Patrice Bergeron was pretty good, but not his usual self at times.

Brad Marchand – A-

Marchand was the best Bruin throughout the postseason. The Bruins left winger was 7-5-12 in thirteen games and scored on twenty-five percent of his shots.  Marchand was the one Bruin who brought it every night. Brad does not get a straight A because he only took twenty-eight shots in thirteen games. And I hate when Marchand tries a low percentage one-on-one move inside the blue line and turns it over. 

David Pastrnak – C+ 

David Pastrnak was fighting injury from the start. Pastrnak obviously had a groin injury or potential sports hernia. Pasta had very little burst when skating and struggled to set his feet for his signature one-timer on his goal in Game 5 against Tampa. Pasta is the Bruins best goal scorer and finished at 3-7-10 in 10 games, but did miss games due to protocol issues, which probably did not help. Only one even strength goal and a -3 will not cut it.

David Krejci – C

Well, here’s the good: 4-8-12 in thirteen games and a big goal to tie Game 5 late against Tampa. Here’s the bad: A -5 and only twenty-three shots for the Bruins second line center. Krejci does not shoot enough anyway, but the Bruins really needed him to be more assertive. Defensively, his lack of speed is really becoming an issue. The Krejci line was hemmed in the zone quite a bit against a faster team. Krejci gets a C, only because he was nearly a point per game player in these playoffs.

Ondrej Kase – F

This is probably harsh, but I am not a an Ondrej Kase fan.  I can see why teams see his potential because Kase seems to look the part and have all the tools. But, in the end, Kase shows why he was a 7th round pick. The mid season pickup just can not finish and David Krejci needs a finisher. Kase also missed Phase 3 due to protocol and posted a 0-4-4 in eleven games. It was just not good enough for a guy who was brought over for a package that included a first round pick.

Jake DeBrusk – C-

I am going to be hard on Jake here. The second line left winger did score four goals. Just when it looks like DeBrusk may never score again, he will score a couple and get you falling back in love with him. But DeBrusk was a -3 and is not getting enough chances. Jake was trying to get to the front of the net more, but the team needs a guy who can get deflections and rebound goals. Bruce Cassidy mentioned the need for it from his team going forward. 

Charlie Coyle – B

Charlie has been a great pickup for the Bruins and is a very good third line center. Coyle was 3-2-5 in thirteen games, but did have a -4 overall. I am going to blame some of that on the cast of linemate characters Coyle has been given. The Weymouth, Mass. native is also one of the better puck possession guys on the team. 

Sean Kuraly – C-

I will be honest and say that if I didn’t have the stats, I would have given Kuraly a B- or so. But Kuraly was a -4 and had just a goal and two assists.  He was also injured and missed three games overall. Kuraly is at his best when he cycles and possesses the puck. The third liner showed flashes of doing that in the playoffs, but it wasn’t enough. Sean Kuraly is probably best as a fourth liner and was put on the third line often.

Anders Bjork – D-

I am beginning to lump Bjork into the group of AHL lifers that the Bruins have rolled out over the years. I didn’t give Bjork an F because he is a younger player, but the former Notre Dame star needs to show something more or the Bruins need to move on from Bjork in a trade. He was 0-1-1 and took three minor penalties in one game. Blah.

Chris Wagner – C

Chris Wagner is a good fourth line player. Wags plays with some sandpaper, a little bit of skill and is reliable. The Walpole native was not great in these playoffs (-5). Wagner did have two goals and thirty-four hits. Wagner also had an injury issue that took him out of the lineup later in the second round.

Joakim Nordstrom – D-

Someone should do a DNA check to see if Kase and Joakim Nordstrom are brothers. It seemed that Nordstrom could have had six goals in the postseason. The only thing keeping him from an “F” is his fifty-five hits. Nordy was a -6 and is a free agent. Good luck with your future endeavors, Joakim Nordstrom.

Karson Kuhlman – D

Karson Kuhlman has terrific speed. There was one play when Kuhlman burst down the left side and cut across the net for a great chance. Kuhlman needs to do more of that in order to separate him from other players on the roster. In five games, Kuhlman was a -2 with eleven shots. Kuhlman showed some flashes, but not enough of them.

Par Lindholm – F

How can you play seventy-five minutes of hockey and get five shots on net?  A -2 in six games, I am not sure what Lindholm brings to the table. Lindholm only had SEVEN hits as a fourth liner. Yuck.

Nick Ritchie – Expelled

In eight games, Ritchie had six shots. The mid-season acquisition, that sent Danton Heinen to Anaheim, started the playoffs skating around aimlessly. Then he tried to be an enforcer, which resulted in a five minute major. Ritchie does not get a grade. Nick Ritchie has been asked to leave.

Jack Studnicka – Incomplete

Jack Studnicka is an intriguing player.  The rookie forward did not get on the scoresheet in five games, but Studnicka seemed to be around the action a lot when the winger was out there. Studnicka was noticeable. Jack certainly is skilled and, although he will not be an overly physical type of player, the Bruins need him to be a productive top six forward, preferably top three next season.

Defensemen

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images )

Charlie McAvoy – B+

Charlie McAvoy got better as the postseason went on. McAvoy is the new top defenseman, in case you have not noticed. McAvoy logs a ton of minutes, is a real bulldog, and started to assert himself more offensively too. The former BU star can really rush the puck. The one downfall was his a -6 rating, or this would have been an “A”. Charlie is the cornerstone for a long time and he’s only twenty-years old.

Brandon Carlo – B+

Brandon Carlo will not overwhelm you with great stats, however he is a pretty solid defenseman. Carlo had some rust after entering the bubble.  With his style, it is hard to take a layoff and then return to form. But Carlo got better as the postseason went on and had an Even plus-minus rating on a team with a lot of minus players.

Zdeno Chara – D

Ugh. It pains me to do this. Zdeno Chara was slow and not as strong with his stick or on his skates. Nikita Kucherov knocked him down, which says a lot.  The Captain was a -4, but Chara did have twenty-one blocked shots. Chara’s strength is still his long stick on the penalty kill. In his old age, Chara does hold the puck too long and had trouble clearing the zone all postseason long.

Matt Grzelcyk – C+

I like Matt Grzelcyk’s game. The former BU star has good speed and excellent skating ability. I think Gryz will add more offense if given the opportunity. The Charlestown, Mass native was solid in the postseason and made good decisions with the puck for the most part. The restricted free agent was a bright spot and in line for a raise.

Connor Clifton – B

Connor Clifton was really good for much of the postseason. Clifton plays with a little edge and personality. Connor had thirty-three hits and was a presence physically. Clifton and Grzyelcyk should signs of becoming a good third pair on defense. “Cliffy Hockey” even chipped in a goal and was only a -1. 

Jeremy Lauzon – C-

Jeremy Lauzon played six games and was a -3. Lauzon did have nineteen hits and may have a future as a third pair defenseman. But, next season is a big one for the 2015 draft pick. Can Jeremy Lauzon be an NHL defenseman or not?

John Moore – Incomplete

John Moore played one head-scratching game. Moore was inserted into the lineup for Clifton and was a -1 in 15 minutes of ice time. It was a weird lineup change considering Clifton was playing well.

Goalies

 ( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports )

Tuukka Rask – C-

Before he opted out, Tuukka Rask was 1-3 with a 2.57 GAA and .904 save percentage. The Bruins netminder was good at times and not so engaged other times. It will be interesting to see if Rask returns next season, especially if the season begins in a bubble.

Jaroslav Halak – C-

It was a challenging position for Jaroslav Halak when Rask left abruptly.  You can add to the fact that there was a back-to-back scenario on the schedule, which resulted in Halak being pulled. However, Halak really battled and almost stole Game 5. The backup goalie let in too many soft ones, though. Losing Rask really hurt.

Dan Vladar – Incomplete

I am giving Dan Vladar an incomplete. The rookie was obviously over his head when he was inserted into Game 3 of the second round. To make matters worse, his teammates allowed the skilled Brayden Point to walk in alone from the red line. It just wasn’t a great spot for Vladar. The coaches did not do him any favors. However, management did by signing him to a three-year extension.

Coach

I am a big Bruce Cassidy fan. I love his honesty and willingness to take responsibility. This was not a great postseason for the Bruins head coach. Losing Rask did not help and he also had a banged-up David Pastrnak. His lineup changes, however, were odd, and he was unwilling to break up the top line for much of the postseason. When Cassidy finally did, the team played well in the elimination game. It just was not Cassidy’s best effort. However, it was an unprecedented situation and the team just never seemed to get back to their game that won them the President’s Trophy before the break. My question, though, is: If you used the round-robin portion as a preseason of sorts, why rest players mid-series? But, I am willing to chalk this up to “nobody’s perfect.”

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 193 that we recorded below! 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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The Bruins Window- Is It Still Open A Crack?

( Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe via Getty Images )

By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards

And just like that, another Boston Bruins season ended with disappointment. On March 12, 2020, the Bruins were the best team in the NHL and looking to avenge a heartbreaking Game 7 loss at home to St. Louis to end the 2019 campaign. The mission was to win another Stanley Cup for their aging group of stars. They wanted one more Cup for Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Zdeno Chara. They had won in 2011, but a lot of players win one. Winning another would stamp their legacies in Bruins lore.  The drive was there to win.  

Then the pandemic happened….

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The league would go on a nearly five-month hiatus. Not a great layoff for older, creaky joints. The league set a restart date for August 1st.  But, the schedule and structure of the return did not favor the Bruins…at all. The league allowed the top four teams in each conference to fight for the number one seed. Some teams saw a great opportunity while the Bruins did not know the value of competing for a top seed with no home-ice advantage. Well, unless you are passionate about the last change. So the Bruins treated it like a preseason schedule and lost all three games. So now, the Bruins were the fourth seed after winning the President’s Trophy as the league’s best team in an abbreviated season.

Many would say that this contributed to their earlier than expected exit from the playoffs, but somehow it feels more than that. During the hiatus, the Tampa Bay Lightning became the better team and it showed as it took just five games to defeat the defending Eastern Conference champions and the pre-pandemic top team in the league. The Bruins won game one, but that was their best effort in the series. Without their Vezina candidate goalie Tuukka Rask, who opted out after playing just the first two games against Carolina in round one, it became a daunting task to beat the Lightning with their backup goalie. It all caught up to them in a 7-1 loss in Game three.  The team fought until the end, but the Lightning were faster, stronger, and more talented.

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So, now what?

The core of veterans, who have carried this team for a decade, are nearing the end of their careers. Bergeron is 35-years-old, Krejci 34-years-old, and Chara will be 44-years of age next season. Even Brad Marchand is an aging veteran at 32. Then there’s Rask. He is an elite goalie, and the argument could be made that he is the best goalie in Bruin’s history. But, he opted out of the bubble, has one year left on his contract, and next season could begin in a bubble scenario again. He has also mentioned retirement thoughts in the past.  Can he come back, and will his teammates be able to depend on him? Valid questions.

My thought is that Rask will not forgo $7 million in his last year of the deal.  He will be the goalie next season. The backup, Jaroslav Halak, also has a year left and proved, for the most part, to be a capable option if Rask does not return.  Any chance the Bruins have of being contenders again next season depending on the availability (and desire) of Tuukka Rask. There will not be an option out there to match his ability. Say what you will about him, but he is a tremendous netminder, who can steal you games.

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Now comes the status of the captain, Zdeno Chara. I am such a Chara fan. He helped this franchise become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender when he signed with the Bruins in July of 2006. Since then, he has been the face of the franchise, a pillar of strength. Watching him go through the handshake line at the end of the Tampa Bay series was difficult because you wondered if that was his last handshake line. Will he come back? I would be open to bringing him back for a farewell tour season. A season in front of his beloved fans, hopefully. I usually despise when teams make sentimental moves with players. It is a business. Do what is best for the franchise.  But Z is an exception. But I do have some stipulations. I would sign him back if he accepted being a 3rd pair defenseman and open to an occasional healthy scratch to preserve him. If he took another team-friendly deal ($2-2.5 million) and could be a strong penalty killer, then I would consider it.  Other than that, it would be hard to give him top pair minutes for another season. My prediction is that he comes back for one more year.

Ok, Torey Krug. You’re next. Krug has been a good player and a tremendous power-play defenseman. He is undersized, but still plays the game with some sandpaper and is fearless against bigger opponents. He is an unrestricted free agent now, and the team has expressed an interest in retaining him. But there have also been rumblings that he is not necessarily willing to take a “hometown discount” such as David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand. His market value could be set at between $7 and $8 million per year. The Bruins have done a great job to this point of getting great value deals. I do not see them paying Krug top pairing money. His performance in the playoffs was not very good. He was on the ice for seven five-on-five opponent goals, the most on the team. He was pushed around by some more massive players on the Lightning and is 30 years old. At his size, the wear and tear has already begun to take its toll. 

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The Detroit Red Wings may be the wild card here. Krug is from Michigan, and the Red Wings are the worst team in hockey looking to improve their roster quickly. Krug would be a tremendous asset to them, especially on the power play. But again, a six or seven-year deal north of $7 million a year is a lot of investment on a small, 30-year-old defenseman. If the market has lowered since his playoff performance and his dollar amount becomes closer to $6 million a year, then the Bruins may get a warm and fuzzy feeling for him and sign him. That would be a big mistake. As the years go on, they will be dying to get out from under his contract. My guess is that Krug signs elsewhere, and the Bruins look to sign another defenseman with more size. The real ballsy move for them would have been to trade him after the 2019 season when his value was higher. But the team chose to take another run at the Cup with Krug.

The other question marks are restricted free agents Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk. DeBrusk has shown an ability to score goals, albeit in bunches at times.  He has also had some great playoff moments. The Bruins are thin beyond the top line on scoring wingers. Based on his stats, DeBrusk may be at the $4-$5 million range per year. He is still very young and has the promise to improve even more. But consistency is needed from him. I think the Bruins try to sign him to a similar deal that Charlie McAvoy received.  Grzelcyk is an excellent little player. He seems to make the right plays and is a terrific skater. He is a poor man’s Torey Krug, who might be able to play some power play and show more offensively. He is a Charlestown kid. Look for him to sign on with a Brandon Carlo type deal, I would assume. Maybe $3 million per year for 3-4 years.  

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dealThis is a crucial offseason, and Bruins fans are going to see what direction the team is going. Two glaring needs are scoring right-wing and a top-pair defenseman. Someone needs to play with Charlie McAvoy.  And someone needs to help David Krejci in the last year of his contract. The Bruins have about $15-16 million in cap space before the signings of DeBrusk and Grzelcyk. Let’s say those signings take $8-9 million. Now you have about $7 million to use to fill these needs. Those two needs could EACH take that amount. So Don Sweeney will need to be savvy in this move. A trade may be necessary to improve the roster. I am just not sure you can create enough space with the players who would be available. You might see them trade Ondrej Kase, who has not shown much scoring touch. Beyond that, there are not a lot of higher-priced players they would be willing to trade.  Could they make a deal with DeBrusk? That is an intriguing idea. Maybe they deal him and allocate that money to a more consistent player.

The more I think about it, I see the Bruins going with mostly the same roster for one more year minus Krug. I guess the x-factor could be 21-year-old Jack Studnicka, who showed flashes in the short time he played in the postseason. I would like to see Bruce Cassidy start next season with a hard look at Studnicka on the top line with Marchand and Bergeron and put Pastrnak with Krejci and DeBrusk. Then you could use some of the remaining money to sign a good, gritty third liner for Charlie Coyle’s line and an excellent defenseman to replace Krug and possibly Chara.

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Another tough ending to a promising season. But this may be the most exciting offseason in a long time. What the Bruins do this season could determine just how good this team will be over the next decade.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! 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!!

Rumor: AHL Bruins Head Coach Leach Is Being Heavily Considered For NHL Assistant Job

( Photo Credit: Times Union )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Per a source close to the National Hockey Leagues Pittsburgh Penguins organization, current American Hockey League Head Coach for the Providence Bruins, Jay Leach is is being heavily considered to join the Pens coaching staff. The Penguins didn’t renew contracts to three members of the coaching staff setting off a worldwide search for the next group to join the Pittsburgh staff.

The only member of the coaching staff that remained was former Bruins player and Boston Head Coach Mike Sullivan, a Marshfield, Massachusetts native. Former Pens assistants Jacque Martin, Mark Recchi, and Sergei Gonchar were with the Pittsburgh club during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Toronto bubble on expiring contracts. Once the Penguins were eliminated earlier this month, Pens General Manager Jim Rutherford Cleaned house stating below in an article seen HERE that changes were indeed necessary.

“We are in the process of conducting a review of our organization because we have underperformed in the playoffs the last few years,” Rutherford said. “We just thought we needed to change the dynamic of our coaching staff. We have very high standards here in Pittsburgh, and we want to continue competing for Stanley Cups. The message to our fans is that ‘We are not rebuilding, we’re re-tooling.'”

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I’m hearing Providence Head Coach Leach is currently mulling the idea of taking the job as his role within the Bruins organization is heavily weighing on him. Jay enjoys being a part of the B’s, but this might be a solid chance to get his feet wet in the best professional league in the world with advanced bench boss consideration either in Pittsburgh or elsewhere. Leach was also heavily considered for the New Jersey coaching Vacancy with the firing of John Hynes, who wasn’t unemployed for long snatching a job in Nashville.

There are interesting ties to why Leach is heavily favored for the Penguin’s assistant job as he and current Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Sullivan both worked together for the NHL Pens top minor-pro affiliate the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. After the Pens went in another direction with their AHL affiliate behind the bench, Leach joined the AHL Providence team in August of 2014. Starting as an assistant and then promoted to head coach with the promotion of former AHL Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy when he left the Rhode Island franchise to assist then NHL Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien.

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In his time as Head Coach in Providence, Leach has done a fantastic job teaching Bruins prospects and middle-depth players ready for the rigors of emergency recalls and potentially steady future NHL work. In three seasons coaching the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL’s Boston Bruins, Leach has compiled an impressive regular-season record of 121-71-14-8 in 214 games dating back to 2017-18 when he took over as head coach.

Leach has been one of those coaches who has done the right thing when it comes to passing knowledge down to the younger players as seen in the annual development camps which he’s been running for the past three years. His players would absolutely run through a wall for Jay as he’s a coach that gets results on a night by night basis regardless of wins and losses. He’s a defensive-minded coach that preaches accountability from each one of his players as he knows they’ll make mistakes but it’s how that player recovers and makes an impact in the game afterward.

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If in fact, Leach packs up for better opportunities, he’ll leave a lasting impression on current Providence Bruins players and ones that have graduated to the NHL. Every year Jay was behind the bench for the AHL Bruins you could see constant improvements with the way they practiced during the week, weekend game-day preparation, and year-by-year AHL regular-season records. Before this Covid-19 Pandemic shut down the remainder of the 2019-20 regular-season and Calder Cup Playoffs, Jay and his club were having the best campaign in his tenure with a record of 38-18-3-3.

This past season the Rhode Island club really turned on the jets in the second half to be one of the hottest AHL teams coming down the stretch and were poised to make a run for the franchises second league championship. Providence finished the 2019-20 season at the top of the AHL’s Atlantic Division by one point over the second-place Hershey Bears (82 Points) and also led the Eastern Conference by the same margin.

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Here’s another interesting scenario that could happen with a move like this for Jay Leach and his possible desire to reach the top of the NHL coaching pinnacle. I’m hearing former Pittsburgh Assistant Coach Mark Recchi might be offered and player development role for the Penguins organization. If he decides not to accept the Pens offer, would he consider becoming the new Providence Bruins head coach and work with current AHL B’s assistants Trent Whitfield and Ryan Mougenel?

Obviously, he’d have NHL assistant coaching opportunities around the league presented to him, but I think it would be cool to see him work up to the NHL Bruins, a team he won a Stanley Cup with almost a decade ago. If the NHL Bruins do not want to entertain bringing back current assistant coaches in the near future, you’d have someone behind the bench that some core players are very familiar with and could be a catalyst for future success.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 190 that we recorded below! 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 Sign Lantosi To Entry-Level Contract

( Photo Credit: ISM – Sports Management )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The Boston Bruins announced today that the club has signed Slovak forward Robert Lantosi to a one-year, entry-level contract worth aa reportedly $750K at the NHL level. The 24-year-old right winger played in 50 games last season with the Providence Bruins posting 11-20-31 numbers.

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The 5′-11″ 185-pound forward had a successful playing career overseas in Sweden and most recently in his native Slovakia country before heading to start his North American professional career. During the 2018-19 season for the Slovak HK Nitra club Robert posted 20-38-58 numbers in 56 games. He was invited by the National Hockey League Boston Bruins to attend their 2019 development camp which is held annually at the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts. After a successful camp in late June of last year he was signed to a one-year American Hockey League contract with Providence.

Lantosi is an extremely fast winger and worked well no matter where in the lineup Providence Head Coach Jay Leach placed him. The right shot skilled forward was sixth in team scoring for the Providence club last season and was used once in awhile on the power play. He scored two goals from the left face-off circle much like the wheelhouse the NHL Bruins forward David Pastrnak shoots from on the man advantage.

The 2020-21 Providence Bruins team is shaping up to be a good one loaded with talent and having Lantosi coming back for another year was smart from Bruins management increasing the forward depth. He might not have lit the scoring sheet up with consistency but he did do many things to make an impact that coach Leach liked especially with special teams and using his speed for an effective forecheck. Another year in the AHL is just a confidence boost and I believe after completing his rookie year last season he’ll be more comfortable and possibly pass his season high of 31 points.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 188 that we recorded below on 8-2-20! 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!

Providence Bruins Could Get Back To Work In Early December 2020

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The American Hockey announced on Thursday, July 30th, 2020, that a revised 2020-21 regular season start date has been approved after the league’s annual Board of Governors meeting that was done via video conferencing call. Per the new AHL President and CEO Scott Howson, the league’s Return To Play Task Force and members of the Board of Governors are looking at a tentative date of December 4th, 2020, for all 31 organizations to get back to work.

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Howson mentions the league will continue to monitor the Covid-19 pandemic and work with its members to get players back on the ice in safe environments. Howson took over the President and CEO duties in mid-February after former league commissioner David Andrews stepped down after a successful 26-year career.

Now, it remains to be seen how all this is going to work with continued concerns due to the Covid-19 crisis. The National Hockey League can recoup financial losses with television deals regardless of ticket purchasing fans in the stands. The AHL, on the other hand, relies on ticket sales for sustainability, especially for the 12 of 31 franchisees who aren’t owned by their parent NHL organization.

It should be interesting to see how everything unfolds until the “projected” early December start time because a COVID vaccine has been heavily rumored from national health experts to be available at the end of 2020 and other opinions in the first few months of 2021. For a league that relies on fans in the stands, it remains to be seen how organizations can operate in empty arenas.

Below is a list of the members that are involved in the AHL’s Return To Play Task Force. The info below was copied and pasted from a previous AHL article on June 15th, 2020, and can be seen in its entirety HERE.


• David Andrews, Chairman
• Mark Chipman – Chairman and Governor, Winnipeg Jets
• Kyle Dubas – General Manager, Toronto Maple Leafs
• Ken Holland – General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, Edmonton Oilers
• David Poile – General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, Nashville Predators
• Don Sweeney – General Manager, Boston Bruins
• Steve Yzerman – Executive Vice President and General Manager, Detroit Red Wings
• Jeff Barrett – Chief Executive Officer, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
• Tera Black – Chief Operating Officer, Charlotte Checkers
• Jim Brooks – Co-Owner, Lehigh Valley Phantoms
• Todd Frederickson – President, Iowa Wild
• Mike Ostrowski – President and Chief Operating Officer, Cleveland Monsters
• Matt Savant – President, Business Operations, San Diego Gulls

The AHL’s 2020-21 schedule and details have yet to be determined, but if this is actually going to work for all moving forward, I’d expect a schedule release in late September or early October. Regardless this is a substantial update from a league that wants to get back to action and support the higher NHL clubs.

As an avid Providence Bruins fan and credentialed media member through the organization, I’m looking forward to seeing the team back on the ice regardless if I’m allowed in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island or not. If fans and media aren’t allowed in AHL arenas for at least the start if not the complete 2020-21 campaign, The new AHLTV could benefit significantly with increased streaming subscriptions of the home and away action across the league. AHLTV was introduced to hockey fans to start last season and has been a considerably better service than the Neulion company, who had previously had the streaming rights for years. AHLTV offers an outstanding service to see tomorrow’s stars today with affordable league viewing or just your favorite home team at home or on the road. To see AHLTV package deals or to get an idea of the affordable prices, please CLICK HERE.

Before the AHL shut down the remainder of the 2019-20 regular season and Calder Cup Playoffs, the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL’s Boston Bruins started the season off in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Division and would abruptly end as one of the hottest teams in the league. The Providence club finished the season with a record of 38-18-3-3 in 62 games played and ended as the top team in the Atlantic and Eastern Conference.

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I thought for sure the club from Rhode Island had an excellent chance to make a run for their second Calder Cup Championship, by the way, they were playing in the second half of the season going on a 12-0-1 winning streak before the Covid-19 pandemic ruined the remaining regular-season games and long postseason run. Leading the way offensively was AHL rookie Jack Studnicka and AHL veteran Paul Carey. Studnicka had a fantastic season leading the team with 23-26-49 numbers in 60 games played along with AHL leading seven shorthanded goals. Carey, on the other hand, was a trustworthy leader as team captain posting 22-17-39 numbers also in 60 games played.

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The season story, in my opinion, has to go to how the Providence team played in goal last season. Newcomer and AHL veteran Max Lagace came to the Boston organization with something to prove and did very well, posting a regular-season record of 22-7-3 with a goals-against-average of 2.37 and save percentage of .920. Lagace’s’ partner in crime when it comes to crease duties was third-year pro and Boston Bruins prospect Dan Vladar who basically stole the show when he returned from a high ankle sprain on December 1st, 2019. Dan would go onto lead the AHL in goals-against-average with a stingy 1.79 and also league-leading .936 save percentage. Vladar had a regular-season record of 14-7-1 accompanied by three shutouts with one of those coming in his first game back after injury in early December 2019.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! 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!!

Providence Bruins Sign Sheppard To AHL Deal

( Photo Credit: Cliff Mander / Charlotte Checkers / gocheckers.com )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Per RinksideRhodeIsland.com writer Mark Divver, the Providence Bruins have signed defenseman Derek Sheppard formerly of the Charlotte Checkers. The top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins locked up the blueliner to a one-year American Hockey League contract.

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As you can see in Divver’s tweet above, Sheppard certainly doesn’t back away from the opposition and is always there to stick up for a teammate when liberties are taken. The Scarborough, Ontario, Canada native is listed at 6′-0″ and 216-pounds per the EliteProspects.com website and has bounced around the AHL and ECHL in the last two seasons as a professional hockey player. In 71 games played for the ECHL Florida Everblades, he posted 18-33-51 numbers and in the AHL with Charlotte contributed 2-3-5 totals in 36 games for the former minor-pro affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The 26-year-old Sheppard is an AHL Calder Cup Champion with his former Checkers team in 2018-19, and in that same year earned honors being selected to the ECHL All-Rookie Team and ECHL Second All-Star Team selection. It remains to be seen if Derek actually makes the Providence roster in the upcoming 2020-21 AHL regular season, or this could be a one-year insurance signing and place him with the NHL Bruins “AA” minor-pro affiliate in the state of Georgia with the Atlanta Gladiators.

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With defensemen Josiah Didier, Stevan Kampfer (If he survives the waiver process), Urho Vaakanainen, Cooper Zech returning to Providence next season, and if new additions like Brady Lyle, Nick Wolff, and Jack Ahcan, a player like Sheppard seems destined for Atlanta. Also, have to keep in mind Bruins 2015 first-round selection Jakub Zboril and whether or not he’s retained for further service in the B’s organization and where he’ll play. The signing of Sheppard could be as I mentioned above an insurance move in case Kampfer or Zboril are no longer under the umbrella of the Boston NHL team.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! 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 Prospect Has Options With NCAA Ivy League Season In Question

( Photo Credit: WEEI Sports / weei.com )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

On Friday, July 10th, 2020, the uscho.com website staff wrote up an article about the cancelation of the Ivy League fall sports and how that decision could impact the start of the 2020-21 ECAC hockey regular season. Rumors have the Ivy League Winter sports schedules starting in January, even as far as March 0f 2021.

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With potential late starts of upcoming sports seasons in the NCAA, hockey players may be the most fortunate with options to play elsewhere. I wrote an article in late May of this year about former 2018 first-round selection John Beecher possibly defecting from the University of Michigan. Beecher’s Canadian Hockey League rights belong to the Ontario Hockey League Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and if the Wolverines start late, that could be a destination for the 6′-3″ 210-pound versatile forward.

Another Boston Bruins prospect drafted with Beecher in 2018 and currently playing in the NCAA may follow that same path to the CHL if the Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in the United States. This could also be an opportunity for the player below to join a developing club closer to where he grew up.

Curtis Hall

( Photo Credit: Nina Lindberg / Yale Athletics )

Yale University forward Curtis Hall ended his second year of NCAA hockey, taking a huge step in his development. Before the Covid-19 pandemic shut the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign down, the 6′-3″ 196-pound center notched 17-10-27 numbers in 28 games for the Bulldogs. A lot better than his freshman year numbers of 5-6-11, he got after spending two full seasons in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms, where he had career 20-32-53 totals in 113 games.

In another uscho.com article this time written by staff member Mark Divver, Hall explained how much of a transition it was going from a rookie in the NCAA to playing a different role in his sophomore campaign. He also talked about how listening to his coaches was never more important while accepting new challenges.

“The players I was with, there’s something to learn from all of them. There’s a lot of skill on that team, so I had to play a different role than I have been here this year at Yale. I learned a lot from the coaches, as well. Overall, it was a great experience,’’ he said.

“I’ve had a good year from a goal standpoint. With Joe Snively leaving last year, he was a big goal-scorer for us, so we needed to fill that spot. Everybody’s doing their best to do that. The goals – it’s hard to say why – but they’ve been going in,’’ said Hall.

In my opinion, besides the 2015 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins have done a pretty good job stockpiling the prospect pool, and Hall’s addition to the organization fits important timelines concerning his arrival to professional hockey. Whether he rides his NCAA eligibility until he graduates from Yale or starts his pro career with the Bruins top minor-pro affiliate the Providence Bruins, the organization has faith in him no matter what. Again pulling from Divver’s USCHO article from above, AHL Bruins General Manager John Ferguson Jr. provided some insight of that mentioned faith in his quote below.

“Give credit to Curtis for wanting to make himself better and doing everything he needs to do to do that,’’ said John Ferguson Jr., Boston’s executive director of player personnel. “His attentiveness to details, to off-ice preparation, to a willingness to go hard to the dirty areas in straight lines and do something positive when he gets there, those are all great attributes.’’

Potential Ontario Hockey League Placement For Hall

Although the former fourth-round selection of the Boston Bruins chose to go the USHL route on his way to playing in the NCAA, he was also selected in the 10th round of the 2016 OHL Priority draft by the Flint Firebirds. With the growing Coronavirus concerns growing every day and the NCAA and ECAC protocols moving forward and delaying the upcoming season, he does have the option to seek to play elsewhere. Now assuming the Covid-19 numbers are declining in the state of Michigan, a move to the second American team in the CHL and closer to his birth state of Ohio could be an enticing thought.

When it comes to family influence, a move to the CHL may come with a little push back from family more notably by his father Mike Hall, who spent four seasons playing for the NCAA Bowling Green club from 1992-93 to the 1995-96 seasons. Father Mike was also born in Ontario, and I’m sure he’s well versed in what type of development the OHL is so, either way, the parental influence, and former player guidance will go a long way with the best interest of Curtis in mind. Father Mike played several seasons of minor pro hockey after leaving Bowling Green and even made a stop in Providence, Rhode Island, for 18 games contributing 3-5-8 numbers during the 2000-01 season.

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Before the pandemic canceled the remainder of the OHL season, the Firebirds were having their best campaign since joining the league in 2015-16 after taking over the defunct Plymouth Whalers franchise. After a 16-46-6 38 point season in 2018-19, Flint would go onto post a franchise record of 40-21-1-1 in 63 games played before Covid-19 ruined everything.

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Nobody really knows how the Firebirds are going to play next season. With 2020 draft hopeful Yevgeni Oksentyuk and Dallas Stars prospect Ty Dellandrea returning or not, it should be a decent year for a team seemingly on the uprise. Regardless of record, points, and league standings, this is still a sold place for Curtis to play if he, family, and Bruins organization see a solid fit for his development. I know this is pretty much a long-shot idea but with his rights belonging to OHL Flint, it’s certainly not out of the realm of exploring all options to keep his development going and on time like normal seasons instead of waiting for the next calendar year to get going and break start time consistency.

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Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 185 that we recorded below on 7-12-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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!

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!

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 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

( Photo Credit: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images )

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!