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.

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!!

Boston Bruins Prospect Season Review: Urho Vaakanainen

holyvaak

(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim A Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Next up on my prospect season review is a guy who is one of the best prospects in the Boston Bruins’ system. That player is Urho Vaakanainen. Coming into the season, there was a lot of hype surrounding the young defenseman from Finland. Despite the injury, he had a fantastic first season with Providence and even got a call-up to Boston as an injury replacement. With the successful 2018-2019 season, many people expected Vaakanainen to take a giant leap forward in 2019-2020. Though the young Finnish player didn’t have the season he or others may have wanted, it was still an overall good season for the young defenseman.

It didn’t take long for Vaakanainen to get on the scoresheet in 2019-2020. In the third game of the season, he dished out two assists for his first two points of the season (stats courtesy of the AHL). In the middle of November, the young defenseman had a mini five-game call-up to Boston. Even though he played well for the big club, he didn’t register a point during his time in Boston. When he returned to Providence, Vaakaninen seemed to have newfound confidence from his stint in the NHL. He dominated for a six-game stretch that saw him net four goals and while dishing out four assists for eight total points (stats courtesy of the AHL). After that offensive outburst, he would only score four more points in his last 33 games (stats courtesy of the AHL).

Overall in 54 games played, Vaakanainen netted five goals while dishing out nine assists for 14 total points (stats courtesy of EliteProspects). The young defenseman’s point per game total went down from .50 in his first season, to .27 (stats courtesy of EliteProspects). Vaakanainen’s strong suit is his defensive ability. He has the skills to be an elite stay-at-home defenseman. Even in a year that left him wanting more, he showed that he has a high hockey IQ, he skates well, has poise when carrying the puck, and is elite defensively. He also proved that he can shut down a rush play, and played well on the penalty kill. His offensive ability is what needs the most work. Vaakanainen has a hard shot, but it can be erratic at times. He did shoot more this season than last, which is good for his development. The young defenseman also proved to have good vision on the ice, to go along with his passing ability.

Urho Vaakanainen is one of my favorite prospects that the Boston Bruins have in their system. The team’s young core defensemen are very good at the NHL level. I see Vaakanainen eventually being a guy that is added to that core. I think he can be a top-four defender for the Bruins very soon. I believe his offensive game will eventually round out pretty well. He’s shown flashes of offensive brilliance, it’s all about finding that consistency. The defensive future of the Boston Bruins is very bright. They’ve always been a team that appreciates good defense, and I see that continuing. Vaakanainen will be a guy that we are happy to have in black and gold for many years to come. I hope everyone is staying safe. Feel free to send any comments or questions on Twitter. As always, GO, Bs, GO!

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 185 that we recorded below on 7-19-20! 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!

Five Players You Forgot Played For The Bruins: Part Three

(Photo Credit: Boston | archive.boston.com)

By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter @andrewlindrothh

It’s always fun to look back at Bruins’ history and notice players you had no idea played for the team. Sometimes, you recognize that name and suddenly remember the short time they did have with the Bruins. Regardless, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at some players you probably forgot played with the Bruins. You can view part one and part two of this series here.

Dominic Moore

(Photo Credit: Metro US | metro.us)

Dominic Moore had more than a cup of coffee with the Bruins and even played all 82 games during the 2016-2017 season. Although Moore was on the Bruins in recent years, he is a name that you forget wore a Bruins uniform at some point during his career. During the 2016-2017 season with Boston, the forward produced 11 goals and 25 points.

Moore began his National Hockey League journey in 2003-2004 with the New York Rangers when he appeared in his first five contests. He became quite the journeyman in the league, suiting up with ten different teams during his 13-year tenure in the NHL. After his deal expired with the Bruins in 2017, Moore played his final year in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, suiting up for 50 games and producing 12 points. After his NHL career, Moore signed a contract with ZSC (Swiss) as a free agent in 2019.

Throughout his 13-year career in the NHL, Moore suited up for 897 games while contributing 106-176-282 numbers. He also won the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2013-2014.

Colton Orr

(Photo Credit: Getty Images | gettyimages.com)

One of the most feared enforcers, Colton Orr, started his career in the NHL with the Boston Bruins after signing as a free agent in 2001. He split his time between the Providence Bruins and Boston, but mostly spent his time with Providence, amassing 543 PIM in 126 games during that time. He got his first piece of National Hockey League action when he made his debut in 2003-2004, but only went on to play just one game with Boston that season. He played just 20 games with the Bruins in 2005 before being claimed on waivers by the New York Rangers.

The 6’3, 222-pound forward played for the New York Rangers from 2005-2009, suiting up in 224 games while producing 11 points and 522 PIM. After his time in New York, Orr signed to the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2009. He continued to play for the Maple Leafs for the remainder of his career while making occasional visits to their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, until 2015. Orr played 232 games for the Maple Leafs while contributing 13 points and amassing 637 PIM.

Throughout his 11-year career in the NHL, Orr posted 12-12-24 numbers with 1,186 PIM. Although no longer actively playing, Orr has taken the role of a coach. In 2019, he was named head coach of the Connecticut Whale in the National Women’s Hockey League.

Dave Andreychuk

(Photo Credit: Twitter/Boston Bruins | Twitter.com/bruinsnhl)

As weird as it is, Dave Andreychuk wore the Spoked-B at some point in his career. He spent a short time with the Bruins during the 1999-2000 season after signing as a free agent. During that time, he played 63 games with the Bruins. He posted 19-14-33 numbers before being traded to the Colorado Avalanche with Raymond Bourque in a blockbuster trade, sending Brian Rolston, Martin Greiner, Samuel Pahlsson, and a 1st round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft to the Bruins.

Andreychuk had a phenomenal career in the NHL that I could not sum up in one paragraph, but I remember him fondly while growing up in Tampa, FL, especially when he won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. He played for six different teams throughout his career and currently holds the record for most power-play goals in the NHL (274).

Throughout his 23-year career in the NHL, Andreychuk played in 1,639 games while contributing an astounding 640-698-1,338 numbers with 1,121 PIM. He became a Stanley Cup Champion before the end of his career and was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2017.

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Sergei Gonchar

(Photo Credit: Unleash The Fury | unleashthefury.weebly.com)

Sergei Gonchar is a name you don’t often see in Bruins’ history, but he is an alumnus through the 15 games he played for the Boston Bruins. The defenseman was traded to the Bruins by the Washington Capitals before the trade deadline in 2004. Gonchar collected four goals and nine points with the Bruins before joining the Pittsburgh Penguins the next season.

Gonchar began his NHL career with the Washington capitals and played with the team from 1994-2004 before being traded to Boston. After his time in Boston quickly expired, he went on to play for Pittsburgh from 2005-2010, suiting up for 322 games, contributing 54-205-259 numbers, and winning the Stanley Cup with the team in 2009. From 2010-2015, Gonchar went on to play for the Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars, and then finished his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens.

Throughout his 20-year NHL career, Gonchar appeared in 1,301 games while posting 220-591-811 numbers and 981 PIM. After retiring from his playing career, he became an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 and is still serving as one of their assistant coaches.

Brett Connolly

(Photo Credit: Puck Prose | puckprose.com)

Brett Connolly suited up for the Bruins in recent years, first appearing in five games in 2015 after being traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Connolly continued his journey in Boston for most of the 2015-2016 season, suiting up in 71 games and producing 9-16-25 numbers. After his season in Boston, the forward hit the free-agent market in 2016 and was immediately picked up by the Washington Capitals.

Connolly began his NHL career playing for Tampa Bay from 2011-2015, appearing in 134 games and posting 18-14-32 numbers. After playing in Boston, Connolly signed with Washington as a free agent and played for the team from 2016-2019, suiting up for 217 games, contributing 52-44-96 numbers, and winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. After his time in Washington expired, Connolly signed the Florida Panthers as a free agent in 2019 and is ready to help his team for a playoff run starting August 1st. Throughout his nine-year NHL career so far, Connolly has played in 496 games and contributed 98-90-188 numbers.

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!

BNG Hockey Talk Ep. 4 With Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast YouTuber Cameron Young

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By Cameron Young | Follow me on Twitter @cmoney008

In my recent addition to my YouTube channel, I start part one of a two-part series where I build an All-Time Boston Bruins lineup. In this upload, I discuss the forwards along with three honorable mentions that just miss out on roster spots. Check it out below and please subscribe to my YouTube Channel and click the notifications bell to be updated when a new sports-related video is published.

Honorable Mentions: 2:03

  • RW4: 4:20
  • LW4: 4:58
  • C4: 5:31
  • RW3: 6:11
  • LW3: 7:00
  • C3: 8:00
  • RW2: 9:34
  • LW2: 10:32
  • C2: 11:38
  • RW1: 13:05
  • LW1: 13:55
  • C1:  15:09

Part two of this series will move on to mention the Bruins All-Time defensemen and goalies of the team. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @cmoney008 and please consider subscribing to the YouTube Channel HERE!

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!

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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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

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

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

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

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

Zach Senyshyn

( Photo Credit: ProvidenceBruins.com / @AHLBruins )

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

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

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

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

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

Jakub Zboril

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Vladar

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruins’ Top 5 Underrated Draft Picks Of The Decade

(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe | bostonglobe.com)

By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter @andrewlindrothh

Every year, one of the most significant events in the National Hockey League occurs; the Entry Level Draft. Draft picks play an incredibly important role in a General Manager’s Strategy to improve his hockey team. Some picks carry high expectations from the start, and others become well over-looked. The Boston Bruins are well known for having three straight 1st round draft picks in 2015 and only one so far being a full-time NHLer. But, they have had other selections even in later rounds that ended up becoming a hidden gem for the organization that nobody would’ve predicted right away, or at all.

Many of these young talents boast so much potential, and others fly right under the radar of discussion. Today, I will be diving deep in the debate on who I believe are the most underrated draft picks for the Bruins this past decade (2010-2019). Please note, these are in no particular order.

Jakub Lauko (F) 3rd Round, 77th Overall Pick – 2018 Draft

(Photo Credit: The Boston Globe | bostonglobe.com)

Jakub Lauko is a versatile forward that brings a lot of energy and momentum to his game. After being drafted, he reported to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and played for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) as an 18-year-old forward. The 6’0, 195-pound forward suited up for 44 games and posted 21-20-41 numbers with a whopping +34 rating from 2018-2019.

Lauko played a significant role for the Huskies (QMJHL) during their playoff run, contributing 6-7-13 numbers with a +10 rating in 19 games played, helping the team to win the President’s Cup in 2019. The Huskies went on to compete for the Canadian Hockey League’s championship, the Memorial Cup. They ended up winning the championship with Lauko taking home the CHL Ed Chynoweth Award for most points in the memorial cup (2-6-8 numbers in five games). With such an impressive rookie season, the Bruins decided to call him up to the Providence Bruins for further player development.

Most Bruins fans really caught a glimpse of Lauko’s work ethic and scoring potential during the 2019 NHL pre-season when he scored a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. Since then, the forward has spent little time with Providence for the 2019-2020 season due to suffering back to back concussion and knee injuries. Lauko had battled back and returned with Providence for some games before the unprecedented pandemic ended the American Hockey League (AHL) season. He finished his first AHL season with 5-4-9 numbers with a +3 rating in 22 games played.

I believe Lauko has a massive up-side to his potential; he has an incredible work ethic, scoring ability, and isn’t afraid to be a physical player either. In a few years, Lauko could develop to be a very reliable mid-six forward for the Bruins in the near future.

Jeremy Swayman (G) 4th Round, 111th Overall Pick – 2017 Draft

(Photo Credit: News Break | newsbreak.com)

Swayman was a 4th round gem for the Bruins and could be a starter/backup for the Bruins in the next season or two. The 6’3, 185-pound goaltender has spent the past few seasons with the University of Maine and has found tremendous success. Swayman was named to the NCAA (East) All-Rookie Team in 2017-2018 after finishing the season with 2.72 GAA and a .921% save percentage.

This past season, Swayman had his most stellar year yet, playing 34 games and contributing a 2.07 GAA and a whopping .939% save percentage, ultimately winning the Hobey Baker Award (player of the year). He also won the 2020 Walter Brown Award as a top American-Collegiate college hockey player in New England, NCAA Goaltender of the Year, NCAA Top Collegiate Goalie (Mike Ritcher Award), NCAA (Hockey East) Player of the Year, and NCAA (New England) Most Valuable Player. With Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak entering the final year of their contracts, Swayman could be looking to make a significant impact within the organization sooner rather than later.

Swayman decided to forgo his senior year at Maine and signed his entry-level contract with the Bruins. Maxime Legace and Daniel Vladar both have expiring deals, so I imagine Swayman will be playing with whomever Don Sweeney ends up re-signing in Providence. The quiet 4th round selection might end up being part of the long-term solution for the Bruins’ future goaltending.

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Anders Bjork (F) 5th Round, 146th Overall Pick – 2014 Draft

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

Bjork is a speedy and creative player that has the potential to be a mid-six forward for the Bruins, in my opinion. After being drafted, Bjork committed to the University of Notre Dame and played from 2014-2017 but surrendered his senior year to ink his entry-level deal with the Bruins. Bjork had his most impressive campaign during his last year with Notre Dame, contributing 21-31-52 numbers with a +17 rating in 39 games played. Since then, Bjork was one of the Bruins’ most promising rookies but became plagued with season-ending injuries from 2017-2019, limiting his ice-time with Providence and Boston.

Bjork was finally able to showcase his talent at the NHL level this season, to manage a full-time position in line-up throughout most of the 2019-2020 season, suiting up for 58 games and posting 9-19-19 numbers with a +5 rating. He began to become a healthy scratch for stretches near the end of the season due to inconsistencies, but the left-winger has shown to be a difference-maker at the NHL level.

I hope that the Bruins can come to terms with Bjork this upcoming off-season, and they choose to protect him during the 2021-2022 expansion draft as well. For a 5th round selection, Bjork was an absolute steal for the Bruins.

Trent Frederic (F) 1st Round, 29th Overall Pick – 2016 Draft

(Photo credit: ESPN | espn.com)

Even though Frederic is a 1st round selection, I believe he is an underrated pick that deserves a lot more credit, especially after a strong 2019-2020 campaign with the Providence Bruins. Frederic is a diverse player and can spark his team in a lot of different ways. The 6’2, 203-pound forward, provides a lot of physicality to the line-up and led the AHL in penalty minutes (148) during the 2019-2020 campaign. Although many Bruins fans know Fredric for his rookie game with the Bruins that involved a fight with Winnipeg Jets’ Brandon Tanev, he has the potential to be a strong two-way player through development with Providence.

Before the AHL season ended due to the unprecedented pandemic, Frederic suited up for 59 games and contributed 8-24-32 numbers with a +10 rating. Although the forward has been placed on the wing with the Bruins more often than as a center, either position he can play well as long as he is not shy, isn’t afraid to be physical and uses his large frame to his advantage.

Even though Frederic has played a total of 17 games at the NHL level without yet producing a point, he has improved substantially and could be looking to crack the bottom-six line-up for the Bruins in the next season or two. Frederic has one year remaining on his Entry-Level Contract and will use this upcoming season to prove himself worthy of this thriving organization.

Matthew Grzelcyk (D) 3rd Round, 85th Overall – 2012 Draft

(Photo credit: Bleacher Report | bleacherreport.com)

Although this underrated category is in no particular order, I can safely say that Matthew Grzelyck turned out to be one of the Bruins’ most underrated draft picks of this decade, in my opinion. Not only has Grzelyck cracked the line-up the past few seasons as a full-time NHLer, but the undersized defenseman proved much of the hockey world wrong.

After being drafted, the 5’9, 175-pound defender committed to Boston University and played from 2013-2016, appearing in a total of 87 games and contributing 23-67-89 numbers with an astounding +61 rating. He also scored the game-winning goal for Boston University to win the Beanpot Championship in 2015.

Bruins’ fans can be relentless in their opinions about Grzelcyk because of his physical stature and the fact that he doesn’t hit everything on site. Still, fans undermine his puck-moving and scoring abilities. If Krug chose not to re-sign with the Bruins this off-season, then Grzelyck would be one of the best options for the central power-play unit unless Bruce Cassidy decides to use five forwards. His skating ability also does not grow on trees by any means. When watching him play, he becomes elusive around other forwards pressuring him. He’s able to get out of tight space situations and break out the defensive zone without giving up the puck.

In the past three seasons, Grzelyck has appeared in 195 games and posted 10-44-54 numbers with a +45 rating while managing an average of 18:07 on-ice time. During the 2019 playoffs, Grzelyck produced four goals, eight points, and 17 blocks in 20 games. The defender is continually improving year after year, and with his contract expiring at the end of this season, the Bruins should focus on re-signing him.

Unfortunately, if Grzelyck were to re-sign for at least two more years, he would most likely become exposed during the 2021-2022 expansion draft. Grzelyck holds more value than most people perceive, and I believe he can become a franchise defenseman for the Bruins if he keeps up his production.

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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