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.

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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.

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Bruins, Bjork Agree To Terms On Extension

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(Photo: Brian Fluharty / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced today that the team has agreed to terms with forward Anders Bjork on a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Boston through the end of the 2022-23 season. The deal carries a cap hit of $1.6 million per season.

In 58 regular season games this year, a career-high, Bjork posted nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points to go along with a plus-5 rating, also career-highs. The 23-year-old has 14-20-34 totals in 108 games through his first three seasons in the National Hockey League.In 29 American Hockey League contests with Providence, the Mequon, WI, native has six goals and 16 helpers for 22 points.

Prior to becoming a Bruin, the 6-foot, 190-pound winger served as an assistant captain during his junior season at the University of Notre Dame, recording 21-31-52 numbers. During his three years with the Fighting Irish, Bjork registered 40 goals and 69 assists for 109 points in 115 games.

Boston selected left-shot forward with the 146th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. With the deal, the Bruins and Bjork will also avoid a potential arbitration hearing this offseason as Bjork was slated to become an unrestricted free agent.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below on 7-26-20! 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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Options For The Bruins If Torey Krug Doesn’t Re-Sign

Torey Krug #47 of the Boston Bruins
(Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Bruins are going to have a biiiiig decision this offseason when dealing with upcoming UFA Torey Krug. Now that there’s a flat cap for the next couple years, Don Sweeney and co will have their work cut out for them. Personally, I think the Bs need to resign Krug, his departure would leave a big hole at the left side and on the powerplay. But what if, for whatever reason, Torey Krug and the Bruins don’t find common ground and he walks? I’ll go through a couple options that the Bruins can do. 

Cap Projections

The Bruins are projected to have a tad under $18 million in cap space. They have options on what kind of contracts to give to guys like Jake Debrusk and Matt Grzelcyk; they may choose to save cap now and sign their younger players to bridge-like deals or choose to give out longer deals. With a Krug contract likely taking up around  $6.5-7 million in cap per season, the Bruins would have around $11 million to work with to sign Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, Anders Bjork, Jake Debrusk and Joakim Nordstrom (who is likely gone). It will be a hard task regardless of what Sweeney decides to do. 

Option 1: Fix the problem internally

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If Krug says goodbye to Boston, there will certainly be a missing presence at defense. But one thing’s for sure, the Bruins have a plethora of guys in Providence and Boston ready to fill the void. One player that would have a far bigger role with Krug’s departure would be Matt Grzelcyk. He would likely take over powerplay duties and with the success he’s had when featured on the 1st PP unit, I don’t think the Bruins will be too upset. 

Chara will likely be around again next year, leaving one more spot on the left side. The contenders for that spot would be: Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen, John Moore and Jeremy Lauzon, with the latter two able to play the right side as well. Zboril is an interesting case. In most other organizations, he’d likely be an everyday NHLer right now,  but with the Bruins depth at the back end, he’s spent most of his professional career in Providence. He’s eligible to be claimed on waivers starting next year, so it’s a sink or swim situation for the Czechman. 

(Photo Credit: Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports)

Urho Vaakanainen is still just 21-years-old and has loads of potential. He’d certainly be up to the task of becoming an everyday dman but if it doesn’t seem like he’s ready, the Bs can still send him to Providence to eat a ton of icetime up. Jeremy Lauzon has been really good since getting called up to Boston. The big, physical defenseman has played both sides and has been a solid presence to have on the bottom pair. I can’t see him not retaining some sort of role on the blue line next year. And finally John Moore, who has always been a good bottom pairing guy for the Bs. With the low cap, Moore’s days in Boston may be numbered, but if he stays a Bruin, he’ll be a solid, mobile dman for them. 

If the Bruins decide to go in house with their team next year, that would allow them to sign guys like Jake Debrusk and Matt Grzelyck to longer term deals rather than bridge deals. Instead of giving them contracts around 2×4.5 and 2×2.5 respectively, they could look to go for deals around 6×6 and 5×4 to set up the team in a better long term position. 

Option 2: Fix the defense internally, use the money to acquire another forward. 

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Instead of the money being allocated to longer deals for Gryz and Debrusk, the Bruins could use the hypothetical $7 million from Krug and go out and sign a big time forward. There’s a solid crop of UFAs to hit the open market that would look great wearing the spoked-B. I’m not too sure the Bruins have the real estate to pull off a big signing like Taylor Hall, but there are plenty of B+ players the Bruins could go after. 

There are a couple of forwards (who can play both wings) coming out of Florida who would fit very well to the side of David Krejci. Those two names being Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. Hoffman has spent his entire career in the Atlantic division and hasn’t scored under 22 goals and 56 points since the 2014-15 season (where he had 27 goals and 48 points). He’s a creative player a lot of skill and a great release. With a playmaker like Krejci and speedy winger like Jake Debrusk, it would be hard to think of him not putting up 30 goals and 60 points. 

Dadonov is another skilled winger and is coming off of a big 70 point season. He’s been a great possession player since returning to the NHL, averaging a 52.5 Corsi% in three seasons. Something that may get overlooked are the players Dadonov had success with in Florida. He’s used to a center that likes to slow the game down (Alexsander Barkov) and playing with a similar player in Krejci could prove to be beneficial for both players.

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 28: Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) makes a save on Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli (73) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings on October 28, 2016, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Kings defeated the Bruins 2-1 (OT). (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

And then there’s a player who’s been linked to Boston for years, Tyler Toffoli. He’s always been a player who can play anywhere in the top nine, and always performs in the playoffs. After watching him succeed in Vancouver this year, there’s clearly not an issue of fitting a new system. I’d think Toffoli would be a bit cheaper than the previous two options, and money is everything these days.

Guys like Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Alex Galchenyuk and Derick Brassard are some others the Bruins could choose to buy low on. Granlund had many great seasons in Minnesota but hasn’t looked the same in Nashville. Haula erupted in Vegas but hasn’t been quite as good after his gruesome injury last year. Galchenyuk has all the talent in the world and I would be really interested how he’d fare in a system like the Bruins, with leaders like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. Brassard could slot in a lot of places and with his playoff track record, could be really solid. To end this off, just take a look at this hypothetical disguuuusting lineup.

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Debrusk – Krejci – Hoffman/Dadonov/Toffoli

Bjork – Coyle – Kase

Ritchie – Kuraly – Wagner

Option 3: Sign a replacement defenseman

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

The market for defensemen isn’t flowing with crazy talent, but there are a lot of solid pieces in free agency. If the Bs can’t sign Krug, they likely wouldn’t be able to go after Tyson Barrie either. He’d probably have a cap hit a bit under Krug’s, but with how good the Bruin’s right side is, wouldn’t make much sense regardless of his cap hit. But there are two targets that would likely come in at a decent cap number if they hit the open market.

Those two are a pair of Calgary Flames dmen by the names of Erik Gustafsson and T.J. Brodie.  Gustafsson had an excellent 2018 campaign. He broke out with a 60 point season and actually had more even strength assists than Krug. After a down season this year, it would certainly be more of a gamble but I can’t see his cap hit getting too high. A one-two year deal around $4 million could be a good, prove it contract for both sides. 

T.J. Brodie has had a couple really solid years in a row. He’s averaged over 30 points, a +20 rating and right around a 54.2% Corsi, despite not having a big role in the Flames powerplay. He’s more reliable than Gustafsson and if Grzelcyk or McAvoy can take over powerplay duties from Krug, the Bs would still have a great defensive core. 

Obviously trades can also happen. If the Bruins sign a forward, they could trade one of their middle-six guys, maybe for a defenseman, maybe for a draft pick, who knows. But at the end of the day, Krug or no Krug, the Bruins will still be a competitive team next year. I just hope he’s a part of their success. 

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!

Why It’s Still Important For The Bruins To Win The Stanley Cup

(Photo Credit: Jim Michaud MediaNews Group/Boston Herald | Bostonherald.com)

By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter @andrewlindrothh

The 2019-2020 season will go down in the history books as one of the most unfortunate things to happen to a hockey season. The Bruins were sitting at first in the league and were only a dozen games away from the regular season concluding, and the playoffs starting. Everything was halted back in mid-March, and players are just now skating for the first time since. But now, the Bruins have the opportunity to finish what they started with the next phase of the Return-To-Play Plan now underway.

With the current season in the state it is in, there is no doubt there will be an “aestrik” associated with whoever wins the Stanley Cup this year, but for the Bruins, there are too many reasons why they need to finish the job and win the Stanley Cup.

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Redemption

One of the apparent reasons is redemption for last year’s disappointing finish in the Stanley Cup Finals. Since that moment, the Bruins could either use that as motivation or tear down their morale, and the answer is evident with the Bruins sitting first in the league before the season was postponed. With the roster almost identical to last season’s, there is no doubt the Bruins can make another deep playoff run, and this time claiming the Stanley Cup.

New additions like Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie, Jeremy Lauzon, and Anders Bjork could help the Bruins in many ways, just like 2019 trade deadline acquisitions Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson stepped up significantly in last year’s playoffs. One of the Bruins’ most significant success factors was their player depth and their “next man up” mentality. The Black Aces for the Bruins this season will be one of the most reliable units they have had in years with emerging players like Jack Studnicka, Trent Fredric, Jakub Zboril, Dan Vladar, and the list goes on.

Between Providence’s highly talented players and the Bruins new acquisitions, they have addressed their team’s needs following the Stanley Cup Finals loss to the St.Louis Blues, and I believe they have a better chance than they did last year.

Veteran Core

Bruins fans know it’s coming, and it’s a harsh reality to face. Bostons’ core players such as; David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask are on borrowed time with the team due to age and contracts expiring. Being part of the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship roster, they have the veteran experience and what it takes to guide the Bruins for a deep playoff run.

These core players have been the foundation of how this team has been built over the past decade. It is also important to note that players like Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk could play in their final playoff run with the Bruins if they end up not agreeing to terms during the offseason. With many unknowns and ‘what-ifs’ for the Bruins, it’s entirely possible the roster may change up quite a bit over the next year or two.

As much as this playoff run may not seem worth it for several reasons, if the NHL does continue to move forward with the games as planned, there is no doubt the Bruins need to use their core players to their advantage as much as possible. There is nothing more those players want than one more Stanley Cup victory with the Boston Bruins.

(Photo Credit: AP Photo | John Locher)

The Stanley Cup

The last time I checked, this is the Stanley Cup playoffs and not a COVID-19 tournament; therefore, all players will be playing each game with pride to reach the ultimate goal, capturing the Cup. I fully expect a highly competitive environment, even with no fans in the stadium, and it will start with teams setting the tone in their play-in/exhibition games.

Let’s also keep in mind the living environment for the players being in “the bubble.” Separate hotel rooms, restrictions for going out in public, not being able to see your family for most of the playoff run, etc. For the players, the cycle will be; eat, hockey, sleep, repeat until they claim the ultimate championship sports have to offer. I’m sure it’ll be a similar feeling for fans, especially after being deprived of the last dozen games of the regular season and an exciting playoffs.

Many will argue that winning the Stanley Cup this year will mean nothing because it will be tagged with an “aestrik” because of the unfortunate circumstances. To be fair, I don’t remember this attitude when playing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013 after the play lock-out cut the NHL regular season in half. And I don’t know of any fan who will find themselves complaining if the Bruins were to win it all this year.

If anything, reaching the Stanley Cup will be harder than ever given strict circumstances throughout the process and 24 teams now being in the playoff picture. It will be no cakewalk, but the Bruins were first place in the league by eight points before the season was canceled. It is the Bruins’ year for the Stanley Cup.

(Photo Credit: Boston Hockey Now | bostonhockeynow.com)

July 30th is when the magic will begin to unfold, with the Bruins squaring off in an exhibition game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Following that will begin play-in series and round-robin games with the Bruins playing the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins need their fans more than ever now to cheer them on from home in hopes of a second Stanley Cup victory in nine years.

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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!

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!

Torey Krug’s Bruin Future Based On Current Cap Projections

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(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara / USA Today Sports)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The NHL is starting up its normal operations as we get closer to a renewed playoff start.  The NHL held their draft lottery this past week, which of course, had some fireworks, and it also announced the potential cap situation for the upcoming year.

A “flat salary cap” means the cap in which teams must keep their total salaried players under will not change year over year.  This creates a lot of headaches for organizations because historically, the cap tends to increase year over year.  General managers will forecast the players they can keep or let go based on the future cap numbers.  It is a “hard” cap, which means teams cannot exceed the amount and pay a luxury tax like Major League Baseball.

The salary cap is calculated based on a percentage of the league’s revenue from the previous season.  As the NHL’s revenue increases year over year, the salary cap will usually follow suit.  This suspended season has essentially been deemed incomplete; therefore, the NHL has decided to keep the salary cap a flat number year over year.

Boston Bruins General Manager, Don Sweeney, cannot be thrilled by the news considering he has a few key cogs who are playing in their final contract years.  The following NHL roster players require a new contract this offseason: Torey Krug (UFA), Kevin Miller (UFA), Zdeno Chara (UFA), Joakim Nordstrom (UFA), Anders Bjork (RFA), Jake DeBrusk (RFA), Karson Kuhlman (RFA), and Matt Grzelcyk (RFA).

Unrestricted free agents are allowed to meet and sign with any team in the NHL of their choosing, meaning there is a real risk they could be wearing a different uniform next season.  The Bruins will likely let Nordstrom and Miller walk in the offseason, ending their times as Boston Bruins.

Nordstrom has been a helpful piece of the Bruins’ fourth-line and penalty kill, however, the Bruins have more than enough players to fill his void.  Kevan Miller has unfortunately been plagued by the injury bug and has been on the Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) since November 2019.  Retirement is a real possibility for Miller, and the Bruins probably will not offer him a new deal if he decides to keep playing.

Zdeno Chara is a 43-year old defenseman in a league that has become faster as the years’ progress.  He re-signed for another year in March 2019 for a $2M cap hit.  Depending on how the playoffs go this year, Chara could call it quits.  Though, it is also possible that he continues to defy the odds and play into his 44th year.  If he wants to extend his career, the Bruins would need to make some more hard decisions.

As it stands today, the Bruins have $19.5M in cap space with a flat cap of $81.5M, as seen above.  Torey Krug has reached the 50-point plateau since 2016 and is one point shy in this shortened season.  He has been the Bruins’ best first powerplay unit quarterback with his creative passing and incredible vision.  He can open up space, even with his 5’9 frame, and creates any type of scoring opportunity.

He anchors the second-line defense pairing with Brandon Carlo.  The two defensemen complement each other’s strengths quite well.  Carlo is an underrated defenseman who typically shuts down the opposition’s best and gives Krug the space to use his quick speed and vision.  Last year in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, Krug and Carlo (with the help of their offensive line) shut down the Canes’ best player in Sebastian Aho.

This next stat may surprise hockey fans: Torey Krug ranks sixth among NHL defenseman in points in the last five seasons.  He’s amassed 256 points in five seasons, sitting only 28 total points behind Nashville’s Roman Josi.  Some wouldn’t classify Krug has elite company and therefore wouldn’t predict he’ll command top dollar.  His statistics and gameplay would say otherwise.  If Sweeney were to allow Krug to seek other teams’ offers, he would command north of $7.5M per year.

Back in March, another Black N Gold Hockey writer gave his take on a Krug report that Krug is seeking about $8M per year.  This price point for Krug is about the general consensus starting point amongst NHL execs and players throughout the league.  Roman Josi, the player who sits above Krug in points over the past five years, signed an 8-year, $72.4M deal, which equates to a $9M per year cap hit.  Josi plays a much different game than Krug.  Josi has anchored the Predators’ top defensive pairing for the past five years and has averaged 25 minutes since his rookie year in 2011.  He currently leads his entire team in points with 65.  John Carlson (Washington Capitals defenseman) sits fourth in points in the last five years and carries an $8M cap hit per year.  Carlson currently has 75 points and is the front-runner for the Norris Trophy.

If the Bruins were to sign Krug to a fair market value deal, Krug would likely play for the Bruins for the next six to seven years for $8M per year.  Don Sweeney has been scarred signing players for longer than six years, and $8M might be too costly for Sweeney, given his other free agents.

If the Bruins adhere to his fair market value, the $8M per year cap hit will give the Bruins only $11.4M next year to sign the plethora of players whose contracts are ending.  Sweeney would once again have to work his magic and play with the roster to free up more cap space.  John Moore is the most likely starting point.  He has a $2.75M cap hit through the 2022-2023 season.  The Bruins would seek a mid-round draft choice for Moore to increase their cap space total to $14.2M.

Most fans in any sport hope their beloved hometown heroes take “team-friendly” deals.  This means the player will sign for less than what they’d command on the open market.  Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak all took team-friendly deals when their respective contracts were signed.  The three forwards are on the Bruins books for a combined $19.6M, which is basically the Bruins’ cap space next year.  Krug is on record saying he would be open to a team-friendly deal.

A team-friendly deal for the Bruins would be somewhere in the ballpark of 6 years and $7M per year.  Anything lower would be a bit disrespectful considering Krug already carries a $5.25M cap hit.  Trading Moore is still on the table and a likely scenario, regardless of the deal Krug signs.  With the emergence of Jeremy Lauzon and a few of their recent prospect signings, the Bruins could find a different home for restricted free agent, Matt Grzelcyk.

Restricted free agents are still under their teams’ control, but can be offer-sheeted elsewhere.  An offer sheet is a contract that a new team can offer a restricted free agent. If an offer sheet is signed by the player, the originating team has the option of matching that offer or receiving compensation from the team in the form of draft picks.  However, NHL executives have been reluctant to offer sheet other teams’ prospects in fear theirs will be targeted.  The Bruins could be open to finding a trade partner for Grzelcyk and allow another team first dibs at signing the RFA.  The move would enable Sweeney to turn his attention to fewer RFA’s and still keeping the roster competitive.

Don Sweeney has been awarded General Manager of the Year in the past for his incredible perseverance in leading the Bruins to consecutive successful years.  Sweeney will undoubtedly need to continue that work ethic and cap management to sign Krug and the rest of his impending free agents and keep the roster looking similar.  The Bruins do not need a massive shakeup in roster makeup; however, they can’t allow certain players to wear another team’s jersey.  Krug is the number one priority this offseason, and Bruins fans hope he’ll be a Bruin for life.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! 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!

What Could the Bruins’ Power Play Look Like Next Year If Krug Leaves?

( Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports )

By: Lydia Murray | Follow Me on Twitter @lydia_murray12

As I’m sure most of you reading this know, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Krug is one of the top power-play quarterbacks in the NHL, and he’s improved greatly at both ends of the ice at even strength in recent years as well. He’s also become a good leader on and off the ice. Contrary to what some still think, Krug is an extremely important player to the Bruins, and losing him will create a huge hole on the back end that won’t be easily filled.

Thankfully, both the team and Krug want him to stay, so hopefully, he does. But an agreement hasn’t been reached yet, and it’s still possible one never will be. I don’t think that’ll be the case, but since it’s possible, we should start thinking about what things could look like without Krug. So, I decided to take a look at what the first power-play unit could look like next year should Krug depart.

Current PP Structure

Before I get too far into this, I thought it’d be good to provide a refresher of the way the Bruins structure their first power-play unit. The Bruins use four forwards and one defenseman on their PP in the 1-3-1 format. Krug is the point man, Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak are the attackers (bumper, right half-wall, and left elbow, respectively), and DeBrusk is the net-front presence.

This is the typical structure of it, but the true beauty of the Bruins PP is how fluid it is. You’ll often see Marchand (or even Pastrnak) switching positions with Krug, or Pastrnak switching with DeBrusk, among many other switches. While they may technically have an assigned spot, they rarely stay in it the whole time, and it’s a big reason why the Bruins’ PP is as successful as it is. Krug is a big reason why they are able to do this because, as an offensive-minded defenseman, he is very comfortable jumping up in the offensive zone, as evidenced by his point totals.

Keep The Same Format

( Photo Credit: John Minchillo/Associated Press )

The easiest option if Krug departs is to keep the same format (four forwards, one defenseman, 1-3-1 set-up), and plug either McAvoy or Grzelcyk into Krug’s point spot. Both McAvoy and Grzelcyk have proven that they’re able to man the PP, as they run the second unit and sub in for Krug if he’s hurt. They aren’t as good as Krug, but they’re capable and will likely improve if given more time there. Unfortunately, though, if McAvoy or Grzelcyk was the point man, the PP would likely not be as fluid.

While both players are comfortable jumping up into the offensive rush, they aren’t quite as offensive-minded as Krug. So, I have my doubts that either of them would be comfortable rotating around as much as Krug does, or at least they wouldn’t be for a while. So, this style of PP would be less effective for the Bruins not only because Krug wouldn’t be there, but because it wouldn’t be as fluid and therefore it’d be just like everyone else’s, and so teams will be better prepared to defend it. So, Cassidy has reportedly been considering another option, one that no other team currently uses in the NHL.

Five Forward Unit

According to this article by Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic, if Krug leaves, Cassidy is considering a first PP unit made up of all forwards. Please note, much of what was said in that article I fully agree with, so I am not simply parroting what he said. I actually hold the same opinions that he does on this. Moving on, this PP structure has the potential to either be really good or really, really bad. The reason teams don’t do this is that obviously when they’re on the PP, they want to lower the chances of a shorthanded goal being scored.

Having a defenseman man the point (most of the time) does that. Anybody who watches a lot of hockey can tell you that defensemen are almost always far better at transitioning and skating backward than forwards are. Plus, they obviously know their defensive positioning angles better. If you stick a forward back there, it’s probable that opposing teams will take more chances shorthanded to know they aren’t as equipped to handle it. As a result, they’ll likely score more shorthanded goals, which is obviously not what you want.

However, this may not be the case with the Bruins, and I can see why Cassidy is at least considering it. The Bruins have several forwards who would be capable of manning the point and handling a shorthanded break should one happen.

( Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/Associated Press )

Krejci is the first player who comes to mind as a forward who would be good at quarterbacking the PP. He’s one of the smartest players on the team, so he would likely be fine with his positioning on a shorthanded chance. Also, because of his high hockey IQ, he’d be able to handle rotating with some of the others a lot, thus allowing them to keep the fluidity they have. That’d also make it so the point responsibilities wouldn’t all fall on him.

Plus, he’s a pass-first guy, making him perfect for manning the point on the first unit because he’ll have plenty of eager shooters to pass to. But, Krejci also has a great one-timer and isn’t afraid to use it, so if the opportunity presented itself, he could also rotate down one of the walls, particularly the left one. His ability to slow the game down is incredible as well, which is a skill that is very useful for the guy operating the point on the PP to have. In short, a five forward unit of Krejci, Pastrnak, Bergeron, Marchand, and DeBrusk has the potential to be lethal offensively as well as sound defensively.

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/Associated Press )

Another forward that could work well as the point man is Coyle. He’s a solid skater all around, and he has a good hockey IQ, so he’d probably be able to contain shorthanded chances fairly well. He probably wouldn’t be as likely to rotate all over the place, but I think he’d be capable of it, so it’d still be an option, just to a lesser extent probably. Coyle also has a nice shot, so if the best option was to shoot, he’d probably be able to get it through a fair amount of traffic. He’s also great at passing and setting others up, so regardless of what the best option was, he’d be able to handle it well. 

If the Bruins are going to go with this, they really need to pick a center to be the primary guy to man the point. They have other options that could work, but centers are often (but not always) better at skating backward and playing defensively than wingers are, and in the case of the Bruins, they have two great all-around centers (besides Bergeron) to choose from. Both Krejci and Coyle would likely be fine handling the point, although I’ll have to give the edge to Krejci, given his incredible vision and ability to slow the game down.

So, What’s the Best Option?

All of this being said, I’m not sure we can say with much certainty which option would be better for the Bruins if Krug leaves. At first glance, it seems like they’d be better off just sticking to the usual 4F/1D, but at the same time, the 5F format could be really interesting. No other team uses it, so teams wouldn’t be as good at defending it. Plus, unlike some other teams, the Bruins have some solid options for forwards to run the point that would not only be good offensively but would be capable defensively as well.

So, in the unfortunate (and in my opinion unlikely) event that Krug leaves this offseason, I think we see Cassidy try the 5F configuration for at least a few games. He’s certainly not afraid of mixing things up and trying new things, and this could end up being really successful. If it goes well, he’ll keep it, and if not, it’ll be easy for them to revert back to the old format.

Or, it’s possible that he could practice both and have them as options, so depending on the opponent or how the PP is playing, they could switch it up. Regardless of what they do, though, the PP wouldn’t be the same without Krug. He’s a huge part of why it’s so successful, so no matter which option they choose, it probably won’t be as good as it is right now. But hopefully, they’ll be able to find a way to minimize the damage caused by Krug’s departure should it unfortunately happen.

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!

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!

Providence Bruins Announce Winners Of Team Awards

(Photo Credit: Providence Bruins | providencebruins.com)

By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter @andrewlindrothh

Every year the Providence Bruins (AHL) hosts their awards for their players who exemplified excellence and leadership throughout the season. If you followed Providence in any way this season, then you’ll recognize a few of these names and might have predicted who would win a particular award. Some players won more than one award and blew away people’s expectations. There is a good chance some of the players you see here today might crack the Bruins roster for the 2020-2021 campaign. Here are the winners of Providences’ awards!

Rookie of the Year Award – Jack Studnicka

(Photo Credit: Boston Globe | Bostonglobe.com)

The ‘Rookie of the Year’ Award presented by Cross Insurance goes to the one obvious choice, Jack Studnicka. Since graduating from juniors and getting the promotion to Providence, the 21-year-old forward has showcased his talents at the AHL level and even at the NHL level when called upon for two games where he also collected his first career NHL point.

Studnicka not only produced offensively 5-on-5 and on the power-play but was an absolute brute on the penalty-kill unit and led the AHL in shorthanded goals this season (seven). He also led Providence in goals, assists and points this season. He took the professional hockey world by storm this year, and I believe if anybody deserves a chance in the Boston Bruins lineup this upcoming season, it is Studnicka. Congratulations, Studnicka!

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Fan Favorite Award – Dan Vladar

(Photo Credit: National Hockey League | nhl.com)

The ‘Fan Favorite’ Award presented by Electrical Wholesalers goes to goaltender Dan Vladar. He has been apart of the organization since being drafted by the Bruins in the 3rd round of the 2015 NHL Draft. He has split his time between the Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL) and Providence since his career in the organization but had his most stellar campaign in 2019-2020.

The 6’0, 185-pound goalie led the AHL in goals-against average (GAA) with 1.79 and in save percentage with a whopping .939%. Vladar also set a career-high 14 wins at the AHL level while collecting three shutouts. He has seemed to find his game this past season. With Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask holding down the goalie tandem for 2020-2021, Vladar will be looking to spend another year in Providence, given he re-signs his soon-to-be expired contract after the NHL season. Congratulations, Vladar!

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Three Stars Award – Brendan Gaunce

(Photo Credit: Causeway Crowd | causewaycrowd.com)

The ‘Three Stars’ Award presented by AAA Insurance is an award for the player with the most ‘Three Stars’ nominations this season, and it goes to Brendan Gaunce. He led the team in first star, second star, and overall nominations this season. The 6’2, 207-pound forward was a spark plug for his team all season long and placed third in points with Providence (18-19-37 numbers). Gaunce has been very reliable for Providence, and when he was called up to the Bruins for a game and was able to produce a point.

Gaunces’ contract expires at the end of the NHL season and will be a restricted free-agent (FA). I believe another one-year deal will get done, and they will be able to rely on Gaunce to help with the development of their younger prospects and serve as a depth piece for the Bruins. Congratulations, Gaunce!

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Leading Scorer Award – Jack Studnicka

(Photo Credit: Providence Bruins | providencebruins.com)

The ‘Leading Scorer’ Award presented by National Grid is awarded to Jack Studnicka. As mentioned above, Studnicka led Providence in goals (23), assists (26), and points (49) this season. Averaging 0.81 Pt/G with three power-play goals and seven shorthanded goals, there is no doubt Studnicka will be the offensive spark the Bruins have been looking for within their young pool of prospects.

If Studnicka doesn’t crack the Bruins lineup the next campaign, then expect for him to be putting up even more points than this past year with Providence. At this rate, he will be a point-per-game player at the AHL level and can produce 40-50 points within his rookie year in the NHL, in my opinion. The opportunities and possibilities are endless for this rising star. Congratulations, Studnicka!

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Plus/Minus Award – Josiah Didier

(Photo Credit: Providence Bruins | providencebruins.com)

The ‘Plus/Minus’ Award presented by RI Medical Imaging goes to the player who led the team in plus/minus, Josiah Didier. New defensive addition, Didier, has done a tremendous job of holding down the blue-line for Providence this season and has earned this reward for finishing with an impressive +32 rating. The 6’3, 207-pound defender has been consistent throughout his first campaign with Providence and is a solid depth piece for the Bruins blue-line.

Didier also re-signed with Providence on a two-year deal before the season ended and will be looking to repeat that same success in the next two seasons. Players like Didier exemplifies leadership in the locker room, and that presence alone can help take Providence to the next level, especially during the playoffs. Congratulations on your hard work, Didier!

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Hendricks Memorial Fan Appreciation Award – Paul Carey

(Photo Credit: The American Hockey League | theahl.com)

The Hendricks Memorial ‘Fan Appreciation’ Award goes to the player who shows exemplary leadership & on-ice performance, and this award goes to Providence captain, Paul Carey. There is no doubt, returning captain Carey deserves this award. He plays a significant role in molding and teaching the younger prospects in the organization and remains productive as a forward as well, finishing second on the team with points.

The 6’1, 196-pound forward appeared in 60 games this season while racking up 22 goals and 39 points with a +9 rating. Carey also played in 30 games with Providence in 2018-2019 and produced 33 points during that time. Carey serves as a leadership role for the young prospects as well as an offensive plug for Providence. The 31-year-old has one more year left on his contract and will most likely serve that time with Providence unless he is called upon by the Bruins. Congratulations, Carey!

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Best Defenseman Award- Josiah Didier

(Photo Credit: Providence Bruins | providencebruins.com)

The ‘Best Defenseman’ Award presented by Dunkin’ Donuts goes to Didier, who collects his second award. Along with being team-best in plus/minus, he also led the AHL in that same category. Didier played in 61 games this season and contributed 3-12-15 numbers with 79 PIM.

Didier will be a crucial piece to Providence, especially during the playoffs next season because of his experience after winning the Calder Cup with the Charlotte Checkers in 2018-2019. He collected four assists in 19 playoff games during that championship year. With his defensive skills, leadership, and physicality, he will be able to help Providence to their first Calder Cup Championship since 1999. Congratulations, Didier!

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Team MVP Award – Jack Studnicka

(Photo Credit: Boston Globe | bostonglobe.com)

The ‘Team MVP Award’ presented by Metlife is awarded to Jack Studnicka. The 21-year-old forward walks away with three team awards from the 2019-2020 campaign and rightfully so. In his first year in the AHL, he led his team in goals (23), assists (26) and points (49), while leading the entire league with shorthanded goals (7) and setting a new team record in that category.

If Studnicka remains healthy and performs well at camp this year, I expect him to be slotted into the Boston Bruins lineup almost immediately. I don’t think his rookie year was a fluke, and his hard-work ethic is going to reward him soon. There is no question Studnicka deserves this award. Congratulations, Studnicka!

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