Report: Krug Asking For Six-Year, $49M Deal From The Bruins

Krug

( Photo Credit: Patrick Smith / Getty Images )

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

There has been a great deal of speculation about the status of Torey Krug and the contract negotiations between his camp and the Bruins. Krug has said he would like to remain in Boston and Don Sweeney has categorized the talks as “cordial”. On Saturday, reporter Shawn Hutcheon threw a little gasoline on the fire with this tweet:

Right off the bat, I want to say that I am a huge Krug fan. My son is an undersized defenseman as well, so I have always had a soft spot for players like that. Krug started off as an undrafted college free agent and through hard work transformed himself into one of the top offensive D-men in the NHL over the last five years or so.

Krug became a regular in the 2013-14 season and from that time to the present, he’s 8th in the NHL for scoring by defensemen. The names in front of him: Hedman, Karlsson, Burns, Carlson, Josi, Yandle, Barrie, are regarded as some of the best D in the game. The majority of them are also paid that way. Erik Karlsson tops the list at $11.5m, with perennial Norris contender Drew Doughty coming in at $11m. Roman Josi and PK Subban are next at $9m, with five players at or around the $8m mark (Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Brent Burns, Jacob Trouba, Thomas Chabot, and John Carlson).

A defenseman that many consider the closest comparable to Krug, Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon, just signed a seven-year deal worth $7.575m per this past offseason. Spurgeon does not provide the offense that Krug does, but plays more minutes and is generally considered to be better in the defensive zone.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room when it comes to Krug, his defense. While everyone acknowledges that he is one of the best offensive catalysts in the NHL, Krug is not in the same category as guys like Josi and John Carlson when it comes to his two-way game. As important as the offense is from the back end these days, many fans (and some GM’s) don’t seem to think it’s prudent to pay a defenseman a huge contract unless they can contribute at both ends of the ice.Carlo and Krug ( Photo Credit: Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald )[/caption]

Even with all that, I just can’t see the Bruins giving him $8m plus over six or seven years on a new deal. I’m not saying that sum is not fair, given what other defensemen have signed for, or that it is not “market value”. However, that’s not the way that Boston has done business for a number of years. A lot of players talk about taking a “hometown” discount, but members of the Bruins have put their money where their mouths are when it came time to negotiate their deals. Last year during the playoffs, in an interview with SI’s Alex Prewitt, Brad Marchand was quoted as saying,

“If you want to try to make every dollar you can, unfortunately, that’s not going to be with this group.”

Pastrnak, Marchand all took less than what they could have demanded based on performance. This past summer young veterans Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo took very team-friendly deals in comparison to some of their peers, in what appeared to be moves designed on keeping this group of guys together. A lot of credit has gone to Don Sweeney for the recent signings and while he does deserve some praise, these deals would not have been possible without the players buying in and legitimately wanting to be in Boston, surrounded by guys that feel the same way.

In recent days Krug has talked about balancing being paid fairly while playing for a winning team. However, he also said, “The Bruins are going to do whatever they need to do and their situation.”

When I look at the way the Bruins have approached these contracts in the past and what other players have done, unfortunately, I only see this going one of two ways. Either Krug follows the examples set by so many other players in the room and takes less than market value to stay. Or, the Bruins try to make another strong run at the Cup and let Krug walk this summer. The question that remains for Krug and Boston is what qualifies as “taking less to stay”? My guess would be a number around $6.75m for six years. If Krug cannot live with that, I believe his days as a Bruin are numbered.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 167 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 20 Preview

PROBRU7

(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week 20 of the AHL season has arrived. The Providence Bruins skate into it 26-18-3-3 (58 points) and 4-3-2-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. The Providence club is coming off a tough week that saw them lose to Bridgeport 4-2, before losing to the same Sound Tigers’ club 2-1 in overtime. Our boys in black and gold have three games this weekend that they must win to maintain a playoff position.

The hockey action starts on Friday, February 14, 2020, when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins come to town to take on the Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The action continues on Sunday, February 16, 2020, when the Laval Rocket invades Providence, Rhode Island, to take on Bruins at the Dunk. The hockey fun wraps up on Monday, February 17, 2020, when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers come back town to take on the Providence club at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Friday, February 14, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (HOME)

The Friday matchup marks the third of six these two teams will have this season. In the first meeting, the Bruins won 6-0. They got goals from Tommy Marchin (2), Pavel Shen, Robert Lantosi, Jack Studnicka, and Peter Cehlarik. Goalie Max Lagace was superb in net, stopping all 38 shots fired his way. The second game saw the Bruins get shutout 1-0. Dan Vladar stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins skate into the contest 25-18-3-5 (58 points) and 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fifth in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Providence Bruins have had some success against the Pittsburgh affiliate over the past five years, going 13-7-3-3. This includes 7-1-1-3 in Providence.

This could be an opportunity for the Providence Bruins power-play to gain some momentum. The Penguins have taken 202 penalties in 51 games. That means they are giving up 3.98 penalties a game. They’ve also given up 37 goals out of those 199 penalty kill opportunities. That’s 81.7%, which is good for eighth in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. This seems like the perfect storm for the Providence club to gain confidence on the power-play.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is also excellent when they get an early lead and keep it. They are 12-2-1-1 when leading after the first period and 13-0-1-1 when they are leading after the second period. It should be a close game between these two division foes. This is a game the Providence Bruins need to win to maintain their playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Sunday, February 16, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Laval Rocket (HOME)

The Sunday matchup is the fourth and final of four meetings between the two clubs. The Providence club lost the first meeting 5-4 in a shootout. They got goals from Peter Cehlarik (2), Paul Carey, and Brendan Gaunce. Goalie Max Lagace was less than stellar in net, turning away 14 of the 18 shots he faced.

Our boys in black and gold didn’t fare much better in the second meeting, losing 3-2. They got goals from Ryan Fitzgerald and Alex Petrovic. Goalie Max Lagace was better in net, stopping 27 of 30 shots fired his way. The most recent battle saw the Bruins fall 3-2 in a shootout. Peter Cehlarik and Paul Carey would score for Providence. Kyle Keyser would stop 25 of 27 shots he faced.

The Montreal affiliate is 23-20-5-2 (50 points) and 3-4-2-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fifth in the North Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. Despite this, the Bruins have had trouble with Laval in the past. They’ve gone 2-2-0-3, including 1-1-0-1 at the Dunk. Even with the rough luck, I still believe our boys in black and gold should win this matchup.

Team defense and goaltending will be the two keys for Providence against Laval. The Laval club is giving up 3.12 goals a game. Their offense is scoring 2.92 goals a game. This means the Montreal Affiliate is giving up more goals than they’re scoring. Laval’s current goalies are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Cayden Primeau is having an excellent first season so far, going 12-7-3 with a 2.71 GAA and a save percentage of .899%. Keith Kinkaid is 3-7-2 with a 3.42 GAA and a save percentage of .877%.

To compare, the Bruins are giving up 2.68 goals a game. They’re also scoring 3.08 goals a game. This means our boys in black and gold are scoring .40 more goals a game than they’re giving up. Veteran goalie Max Lagace has had an excellent start, going 17-7-3 with a 2.48 GAA and a .916% save percentage with two shutouts. Dan Vladar has gone 7-7-1 with a 1.90 GAA and a .932% save percentage. This is another game Providence must win.

Monday, February 17, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (HOME)

The Monday match up will mark the 9th of 12 that these two teams will have this season. The first game saw the Bruins shutout the Sound Tigers 4-0, getting goals from Peter Cehlarik, Cameron Hughes, Robert Lantosi, and Ryan Fitzgerald. Goalie Max Lagace was excellent in net topping all 30 shots fired his way.

In the second meeting, the Providence club would win 4-1, getting goals from Joona Koppanen, Brendan Gaunce, Alex Petrovic, and Jack Studnicka. Netminder Max Lagace was fantastic in net stopping 31 of 32 shots fired his way. The most third meeting saw the Bruins lose 2-0. Goaltender Max Lagace was up to the task in net stopping 33 of 35 shots fired his way.

The fourth battle saw the Bruins win 5-0. Brendan Gaunce (2), Ryan Fitzgerald, Trent Frederic, and Jack Studnicka had goals. Max Lagace stopped all 17 shots fired his way. The fifth meeting saw the Bruins fall 2-1. Pavel Shen scored the Bruins lone goal. Dan Vladar would stop 24 of 26 shots he faced.

The sixth battle saw the Bruins win 3-1. Brett Ritchie (2), and Trent Frederic had goals. Max Lagace stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced. The seventh matchup saw the Bruins lose 4-2. Jack Studnicka and Brendan Woods had the Bruins’ goals. Max Lagace stopped seven of 10 shots he faced. Dan Vladar stopped all 14 shots he faced. The most recent battle saw the Bruins lose 2-1 in overtime. Zach Senyshyn scored the Bruins lone goal. Dan Vladar stopped 25 of 27 shots fired his way.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers provide a favorable matchup for the Providence club. The Bridgeport club comes into the weekend 18-27-4-1 (41 points) and 5-5 in their last 10 games. This is good for eighth in the Atlantic Division and 16th in the Eastern Conference.  Furthermore, the Bruins are 25-19-7-3 against the Islanders’ affiliate over the past five seasons.

The biggest key to Bruins’ victory in these two games is taking an early lead and keeping it. The Sound Tigers are 2-14-2 when trailing after one and 1-19-2 when trailing after two. To add insult to injury, the Bridgeport club in 50 games has only scored 110 goals while giving up 159. Not only is this a horrendous -49 goal differential, but they’re only scoring 2.20 goals a game while giving up 3.18. They are giving up a full goal more than they are scoring. This isn’t a winning formula.

To compare, the Providence Bruins are 14-0 when leading after one period and 21-0 when leading after two periods. They’ve also scored 154 goals while giving up only 134 in 50 games. That means, not only do they have a +20 goal differential, but they are scoring 3.08 goals a game while only giving up 2.68. These are games that Providence must win. Bridgeport is not a good club at all.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Hot

Jack Studnicka: Jack Studnicka has been mentioned a lot this season. With good reason. The young forward is one of the top prospects in the Bruins’ system. He’s having an excellent first full professional season. In 48 games, he’s netted 18 goals while dishing out 18 assists for 36 total points. This includes netting four goals and dishing out six assists for 10 total points in his last eight games. Let’s hope Studnicka keeps his stellar play up.

Oskar Steen: Oskar Steen is a guy that had a lot of excitement surrounding him coming into the year. The young forward had an excellent season in Sweden last year. He was looking to build on that in Providence. Though he started out slow, in 48 games, he’s netted six goals and dished out 10 assists for 16 total points. This includes netting two goals and dishing out three assists for five total points in his last seven games. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Not

Robert Lantosi: Robert Lantosi is another player in his first season with Providence. He came to the Bruins after spending the beginning of his career in his home country of Slovakia. In 42 games, he’s netting 10 goals while dishing out 17 assists for 27 total points. Despite those numbers, he’s only dished out two assists for two total points in his last six games. I have faith that this is nothing more than a minor bump in the road for Lantosi.

Paul Carey: The Bruins’ Captain has been excellent overall this season. In 49 games, he’s netted 17 goals while dishing out 15 assists for 32 total points. Despite this, he’s dished out two assists for two total points in his last seven games. The former Boston College Eagle will hopefully break out of this cold streak soon.

My Players To Watch This Weekend

Up Front

Zach Senyshyn: Zach Senyshyn has been the cause of many different arguments amongst Bruins’ fans. The young forward was playing well though points didn’t seem to indicate that. He was called up to Boston and then injured once in Boston. This was unfortunate because he was playing well with the big club. Since returning from injury, he’s played really well. In 30 games this season, he’s netted four goals while dishing out four assists for eight total points. Look for him this weekend.

On The Blue Line

Cooper Zech: Cooper Zech is another player in his first full season with Providence. The young defenseman was someone I was extremely excited about. Though he started out slow, the Ferris State University Alum has played well recently. In 35 games, he’s netted one goal while dishing out 10 assists for 11 total points. Look for him to have a big weekend.

In Net

Dan Vladar: Dan Vladar is having an excellent season for Providence. The young netminder started off slow before getting injured. Since returning from injury, he’s played on another level. He’s 7-7-1 on the year with a 1.90 GAA and a .932 save percentage. Look for him this weekend.

The Providence Bruins coming off a tough weekend where they lost two games against the worst team in the AHL. They are barely clinging to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They will need to win all three games this weekend to build a cushion between them and the teams below them. The Providence club is better than each team they are playing. They will need to assert their dominance this weekend and come away with six points. Feel free to send me any questions or comments on Twitter. As always, GO, Bs, GO!

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Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 18 Preview

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(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week 18 of the AHL season has arrived. The Providence Bruins skate into it 25-16-2-3 (55 points) and 5-3-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for third in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Providence club is coming off a week that saw them net three of four possible points. They would beat Lehigh Valley 4-3 before falling to Hershey in a shootout 3-2. Our boys in black and gold come out of the All-Star break with two games on the road.

The hockey action starts on Friday, January 31, 2020, when the Providence Bruins invade Binghamton, New York, to take on the Binghamton Devils at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. The action wraps on Saturday, February 1, 2020, when the Providence Bruins make their way to Syracuse, New York, to take on the Syracuse Crunch at the Upstate Medical University Arena at Onondaga County War Memorial.

Friday, January 31, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Binghamton Devils (AWAY)

The Friday night matchup marks the second and final of two that these two teams will have this season. In the first meeting, the Bruins would win 6-2. Paul Carey (2), Joona Koppanen (2), Cooper Zech, and Peter Cehlarik had goals. Max Lagace would stop 21 of the 23 shots he faced in net.

The Binghamton Devils have had a rough season. The New Jersey affiliate skates into the game 20-19-4 (44 points) and 8-2 in their last 10 games. This is good for seventh in the North Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Not only have the Devils had a bad year, but they’re also facing a Providence club that has their number over the past five seasons. Our boys in black and gold are 14-5-1-1 against the Binghamton club during that time, including 8-2 on the road.

Binghamton’s defense has really let them down this season. This is why the Binghamton club is at the bottom of the conference this season. The New Jersey affiliate has surrendered 141 goals in 43 games this year. That means they’re giving up a terrible 3.27 goals a game. In comparison, the Providence Bruins have let in 123 goals in 46 games this season. That’s a stingy 2.67 goals a game given up.

If that isn’t bad enough for the Devils, their offense isn’t great either. They’ve scored 126 goals in 43 games. That means they’re scoring 2.93 goals a game. They also have a goal differential of -15. The Bruins, on the other hand, have scored 144 goals in 46 games. That means they’re scoring 3.13 goals a game. The Providence club has a goal differential of +21. This is a game the Bruins should absolutely win.

Saturday, February 1, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Syracuse Crunch (AWAY)

The Saturday matchup will mark the second and final of two meetings the two teams will have. In the first meeting, the Bruins would fall 4-1. Trent Frederic would score the Providence club’s lone goal. Old friend Gemel Smith would score three for Syracuse. Dan Vladar would stop 20 of the 22 shots fired his way.

The Lightning affiliate skate into the matchup 20-19-3-3 (46 points) and 3-4-1-2 in their last 10 games. That’s good for sixth in the North Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The two clubs haven’t played each other much over the past five seasons. Providence holds a 3-4 record, including 1-2 on the road.

This has the makings of being a trap game for Providence. Even though the Syracuse club is out of a playoff spot, they’ve been a good team for the last few years. Special teams are keeping the Tampa Bay affiliate afloat. On the power play, they’ve scored 42 goals in 195 opportunities. That’s 21.5%, which is good for second in the North Division and third in the Eastern Conference. Their Penalty kill is also strong. They’ve given up 34 goals in 195 opportunities. That’s a stifling 82.6%, which is good for second in the North Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference.

The Providence Bruins’ penalty kill is also stellar. They’ve given up 32 goals in 196 opportunities. That’s 83.7%, which is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  The Providence club also has a league-leading 14 shorthanded goals. The power play, on the other hand, is not good. They’ve scored 26 goals in 166 opportunities. That’s 15.7%, which is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Hot

Peter Cehlarik: Peter Cehlarik has been great so far this season for Providence. In 37 games, he’s netted 13 goals while dishing out 15 assists for 28 total points. This includes netting four goals and dishing out two assists for six total points in his last eight games. The 13 goals on the year eclipse his total from last season. Let’s hope the veteran forward can keep up his offensive game.

Trent Frederic: Trent Frederic has had an excellent season for Providence. In 43 games this season, he’s netted six goals while dishing out 19 assists for 25 total points. This includes netting two goals and dishing out six assists for eight total points in his last eight games. The 25 points on the year also match his total from last season. The former University of Wisconsin Badger has really rounded his entire game out this season. He’s playing well in every zone. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Not

Alex Petrovic: Alex Petrovic has had a good season overall, but has been struggling a bit as of late. In 39 games this season, he’s netted two goals while dishing out 17 assists for 19 total points. This includes dishing out two assists for two total points in his last 16 games. This is the veteran defenseman’s first season in Providence. Let’s hope the former Florida Panther can turn on his offensive game soon.

Jakub Zboril: Jakub Zboril has had an up and down season for Providence. In 42 games, he’s netted two goals while dishing out 10 assists for 12 total points. This includes not registering a point in his last six games. When in the QMJHL, Zboril had offensive upside scoring at .65 points per game (28-66-94 in 144 games). That hasn’t translated much in the AHL. The young defenseman is scoring at .30 points per game (10-40-50 in 166 games). Let’s hope that changes soon.

My Players To Watch This Weekend

Up Front

Jack Studnicka: Jack Studnicka is arguably the top prospect in the Boston Bruins’ system. The young center has had an excellent first full professional season. In 44 games this season, he’s netted 14 goals while dishing out 16 assists for 30 total points. He also has five shorthanded goals on the season. Studnicka is coming off an excellent display at the All-Star game. Look for him to continue that confidence into the second half of the year.

On The Blue Line

Cooper Zech: Cooper Zech is a guy that came to Providence as college free agent after his freshman season at Ferris State. Coming into this season, I was really excited about his ability as a player. After a slow start in his first full professional season, he’s played well as of late. In 31 games, he’s netted one goal and dished out eight assists for nine total points. The young defenseman has a lot of offensive ability, look for him this weekend.

In Net

Dan Vladar: Dan Vladar has had an excellent season for Providence. The young netminder suffered an injury early in the year and has been a wall since returning. He’s 7-6 on the year with a 1.94 GAA and a .932 save percentage. Look for him to have a great weekend.

The Providence Bruins come out of the All-Star break third in the Atlantic Division. Three points ahead of rival Springfield, and four points ahead of Charlotte. They are currently riding a five-game point streak as they make a push for the playoffs. Only eight points separate a total of six teams battling for four playoff spots. It should be an exciting second half of the year. Feel free to send me any questions or comments on Twitter. As always, GO, Bs, GO!

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!

Who Is Bruins’ Defenseman, Cooper Zech?

( Photo Credit: Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald )

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

NHL teams employ a variety of prospects. Team scouts are responsible for researching and assessing prospects throughout the world to determine a player’s draft position. Prospects who are highly scouted and considered the best of the best are selected at high draft positions. Others, however, endure more work in making an NHL roster because they are not drafted. These players are considered undrafted free agents (“UDFA”). Boston Bruins’ prospect Cooper Zech falls into this category.

The life of an undrafted free agent is predicated on calls from NHL teams looking to expand their rosters. A typical UDFA will play four years of college hockey or junior hockey in America or Canada. They’ll wait for tryout invitations after their eligible draft year(s) to show teams what they may have missed. A variety of reasons will affect a player’s draft position: progression of their development, strength, or size. The latter is the leading reason why most players go undrafted.

Most notable free agents who have been told they were too small for the NHL include Martin St. Louis, Adam Oates, Connor Sheary, and current Bruins player, Torey Krug. Oates and St. Louis have been inducted into the NHL’s Hall of Fame. St. Louis polished off his career with a Stanley Cup win in 2004, Sheary has two Stanley Cup rings with Pittsburgh, and Krug is eyeing a large payday next off-season. Cooper Zech’s initial pre-draft impression wasn’t any different. He had consistently been told his 5’9, 170-pound stature was too small for an NHL defenseman. Thankfully, that didn’t stop the left-handed shot defenseman from pursuing his dreams.

Cooper Zech started his unconventional road to the NHL with the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The NAHL is the only Tier II junior league sanctioned by USA Hockey, and acts as an alternative to the Tier I United States Hockey League (USHL). The USHL features young stars who have their sights set on an NHL roster and have been told by general managers they need more developmental time. These players are typically drafted, including current emerging star Bruins defenseman, Charlie McAvoy. Similar to the NHL draft, some players are not fortunate enough to play in the USHL, which creates an opportunity for the NAHL.

Zach Zech, Cooper’s older brother, played for the NAHL’s Odessa Jackalopes. With the help of his older brother, Cooper was given a try-out and the 17-year old Michigan native made his first junior hockey team in 2015.

Zech played two seasons in Odessa, notching 57 points. He left after 41 games in 2016-17 to play in the USHL with the Muskegon Lumberjacks for a 25-game stint. He moved on to a full season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild in the 2017-18 season. This particular season was huge for Zech’s development. He led all BCHL defenseman in points for the season (69 points) and playoffs (23 points). He was awarded BCHL’s Best Defensemen in 2018 and was an integral part of the Wild’s first BCHL championship.

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Following his admirable year with the Wild, Zech looked for an opportunity to sign with an NHL team. NHL teams hold development camps to evaluate their prospects before the season kicks off and allows teams to invite undrafted prospects for a tryout. Coaches and management evaluate what areas of the game each prospect needs to work on, and shares that with the player to help in their development process.

The Washington Capitals became the first NHL team to invite Zech to their development camp, months after his season in the BCHL ended. He attended the Capitals’ camp, where his skill was recognized. He took part in 3-on-3 tournaments and even signed some autographs.

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Unfortunately, like most UDFA’s who attend camps, he left Washington without a contract. He verbally committed to the Ferris State Bulldogs in the Western Conference Hockey Association (WCHA) for the 2018-19 season. He continued his torrid success at Ferris State, earning WCHA’s Rookie of the Year. He led all WCHA freshmen in points with 28 and became the first freshman to lead the Bulldogs in scoring since the 1987-88 season. His .78 points per game by a freshmen blue-liner led the entire nation.

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Zech’s remarkable pre-NHL journey did not go unnoticed. Following his season at Ferris State, the Boston Bruins offered him a two-year AHL contract. An AHL contract is a deal between the player and the AHL team, not the NHL club. The difference between Cooper and a player like Zach Senyshyn who’s on an NHL entry-level contract and can play in the AHL, meaning he’s not on an AHL contract. Therefore, if the Bruins ever want to call up Zech, they would have to sign him to an NHL deal.

Zech joined the Providence Bruins for 12 regular season and 4 playoff games in 2019. He racked up 6 points in these 16 games, two of which were scored in the playoffs. Most notably, Zech scored a game-tying goal, which was eerily similar to Krug’s goal against the Minnesota Wild in a comeback 5-4 OT victory on November 23, 2019. Zech has often been compared to Krug, not only for his size but for his offensive ability and power play prowess.

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He entered the 2019 off-season looking to make an impression at the Bruins development camp and pre-season games. In his NHL debut preseason game against Philadelphia, Zech registered five shots on goal, a hit and a block in 17:35 minutes of ice time. He also appeared on the Bruins power-play unit. The Bruins cut Zech during their training camp, sending him down to Providence for the year to continue his development. He hasn’t skipped a beat this season, racking up 6 points in 17 games, while also receiving the recognition he’s deserved by the Bruins’ media.

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The Bruins will have to wait to figure out what they truly have in Cooper Zech and if it can translate to the NHL. He has been compared to players like Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk, mostly due to size but also for his elusive defense and power playability. He has a knack for the net and has only once in his storied career registered a negative plus/minus season. He’s been a bright spot on the Providence Bruins roster and his coaches have noticed. Jay Leach, current Providence Bruins Head Coach, praised Zech during a brief post-game interview with The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa. “His ability to make something out of nothing was there. And as always, his ability to compete and be the hockey player was always there.”

The Bruins have a plethora of defensemen vying for a spot on the roster. They also need to figure out how to financially include Krug in their future plans. Once next season hits and Zech is at the end of his AHL contract, it would not be surprising if the Bruins offer Cooper his first NHL-entry deal.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 158 that we recorded on 12-15-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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

Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 11 Preview

 

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(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week 11 of the AHL season is here. The Providence Bruins are 16-9-1-2 (35 points) and 7-2-1 in the last 10 games. This is good for second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Providence club is coming off a week that saw them beat the Binghamton Devils 6-2 and the Utica Comets 3-2 in a shootout. They would then fall to the Hartford Wolf Pack 4-1 before falling to the Syracuse Crunch 4-1. This week sees the Bruins have a home and home with a familiar foe before traveling to Pennsylvania for a game.

The hockey action starts on Saturday, December 14, 2019, when the Providence Bruins invade Springfield, Massachusetts, to take on the Thunderbirds at the MassMutual Center. The Springfield Thunderbirds would return the favor on Sunday, December 15, 2019, when they take on the Bruins at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Finally, the week wraps up on Wednesday, December 18, 2019, when the Providence Bruins travel to Wilkes-Barre Township, Pennsylvania, to take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

Saturday, December 14, 2019 (AWAY) and Sunday, December 15, 2019 (HOME) Providence Bruins vs. Springfield Thunderbirds

The weekend home and home will be the third and fourth of 14 games these two teams will have this season. In the first meeting, the Bruins would fall 5-2, getting goals from Peter Cehlarik and Anders Bjork. Goalie Dan Vladar was subpar in net stopping 23 of the 28 shots fired his way. The second game saw the Bruins losing 5-4 in overtime while getting goals from Robert Lantosi, Joona Koppanen, Scott Conway, and Jack Studnicka. Netminder Max Lagace stopped 30 of the 35 shots fired his way.

The Springfield Thunderbirds come into the game 14-13 (28 points) and 4-6 in their last 10 games. This is good for fifth in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. Despite this, this is still a favorable matchup for the Providence Bruins. Over the past five seasons, the Bruins are 23-15-4 against the Panthers’ affiliate, including 11-7-3 in Springfield and 12-8-1 in Providence.

The Thunderbirds have been winning with excellent defense. They’ve only given up 72 goals in 27 games while scoring 80. This is a plus-eight goal differential. This also means they are only giving up 2.66 goals a game while scoring 2.96. The Springfield club is 4-2 when leading after the first period. They are also 8-1 when leading after two periods. On the flip side, they are 2-5 when trailing after one period. They are also 1-9 when trailing after two periods.

To give some perspective to those numbers, The Bruins have given up 75 goals in 28 games while scoring 93. That is a +18 goal differential. That means they are only giving up 2.67 goals a game while scoring 3.32. The Providence club is 9-0 when leading after one period and 12-0 when leading after two. However, they are 2-6-1-1 when trailing after the first period and 1-5-0-1 when trailing after two. These two teams are evenly matched and getting and sustaining an early lead, are imperative to winning.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AWAY)

The Wednesday matchup will mark the first of six the two teams will play. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins skate into the contest 13-9-3-1 (30 points) and 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. This is good for third in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Providence Bruins have had some success against the Pittsburgh affiliate over the past five years, going 12-6-3-3. However, they are only 5-5-2 in Wilkes-Barre Scranton during that time.

This could be an opportunity for the Providence Bruins power-play to gain some momentum. The Penguins have taken 110 penalties in 26 games. That means they are giving up 4.23 penalties a game. They’ve also given up 22 goals out of those 110 penalty kill opportunities. That’s 80%, which is good for seventh in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. This seems like the perfect storm for the Providence club to gain confidence on the power-play.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is also excellent when they get an early lead and keep it. They are 6-1-1 when leading after the first period and 7-0-1 when they are leading after the second period. It should be a close game between these two division foes. I expect the Providence club to come out on top in this one. It’s one of those games they need to win to assert themselves atop the Eastern Conference.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Hot

Cooper Zech: Cooper Zech is in his first full professional season with the Providence Bruins. The young defenseman came to the Bruins when he signed an AHL deal after an excellent freshman season at Ferris State University. It’s been an up and down season for Zech. In 18 games, he’s netted one goal and dished out five assists for six total points. However, in his last five games, the young defenseman has found the back of the net once while dishing four assists for five total points. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Ryan Fitzgerald: Ryan Fitzgerald has had a good season for the Providence Bruins thus far. In 28 games, he’s netted seven goals and dished out nine assists for 16 total points. The former Boston College Eagle has been even better over his past 12 games netting three goals while dishing out six assists for nine total points. The veteran forward has been a stabilizing force on offense. It’s needed due to players moving up and down from Providence and Boston because of injury. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

Not

Oskar Steen: Oskar Steen is also in his first professional season here in North America. The young forward has taken time adjusting to the smaller ice. In 28 games on the year, the Sweden native has netted three goals while dishing out seven assists for 10 total points. Despite this, Steen hasn’t registered a point in his last six games. Hopefully, he can adjust to the North American ice and shake off the rust soon.

Jeremy Lauzon: Jeremy Lauzon has had an up and down year for Providence. In 28 games this year, he has seven points, all assists. While the young defenseman has matched his point total from the last two seasons, he still hasn’t registered a point over his past six games. Let’s hope the former Rouyn-Noranda Husky can turn it around and get back on the scoresheet.

My Players To Watch This Weekend

Up Front

Paul Carey: The Providence Bruins Captain Paul Carey has had an excellent season. In 27 games, he’s scored 12 goals while dishing out 10 assists for 22 total points. He’s also provided leadership that a young team needs. With injuries and call-ups, the former NCAA Champion has been a big constant that the offense has needed. Watch for the Captain to have an excellent weekend.

On The Blue Line

Urho Vaakanainen: Urho Vaakanainen has had an up and down season for Providence. Initially, the young defenseman didn’t seem like himself on the ice. He was then called up to Boston because of injury and played really well for the big club. Since being reassigned to Providence, he’s been on another level. He’s playing well in all three zones and controlling the overall play when he’s on the ice. In 24 games this year, Vaakanainen has netted four goals while dishing out six assists for 10 total points. Look for him this weekend.

In Net

Dan Vladar: Since coming back from injury, Dan Vladar has been excellent for Providence. On the year he is 3-2 with a 1.84 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Look for him to continue his hot play this weekend.

The Providence Bruins are in a good position this holiday season. The Providence club sits comfortably in a playoff seed. This is what you expect from a team looking to compete for a championship. Let’s hope they can keep up their play over the weekend. These are three games that they should be able to win. Feel free to send me any questions or comments on Twitter. As always, GO, Bs, GO!

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Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 5 Preview

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(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson| Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week five of the AHL season is here, and the Providence Bruins are 6-3-0-2 (14 points). This is good for second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Our boys in black and gold are coming off a rough week in which they lost 3-2 to Laval in a shootout. The Providence club would then fall to Belleville 4-3, before finally beating Rochester 4-3. The spoked P packs their bags and heads out on the road for both games this weekend. Let’s hope that it is a fruitful road trip for our boys.

The weekend action kicks off on Friday, November 1, 2019, when the Providence Bruins invade Utica, New York, to take on the Utica Comets at the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The weekend wraps up on Saturday, November 2, 2019, when the Providence Bruins make their way down to Hershey, Pennsylvania, to take on the Hershey Bears at the Giant Center. It should be an exciting weekend of hockey that you do not want to miss.

Friday, November 1, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Utica Comets (AWAY)

The Providence Bruins kick off their weekend against the Utica Comets in a Friday night matchup. It will be the first of two meetings the two clubs will have this season. Over the past five seasons, this has been a favorable matchup for the Providence club going 7-5, including 4-2 at Utica. Despite the record, this game may not be so easy. The Utica club enters the matchup 8-0 (16 points). This is good for first in the North Division and second in the Eastern Conference.

Utica has been doing it with a good offense and suffocating defense. The Vancouver affiliate has scored 39 goals in eight games. That’s an eye-popping 4.87 goals a game, which is by far the best in the Eastern Conference. That’s not all, the Comets have only given up 14 goals in their first seven games. That means they’re only giving up 1.75 goals a game.

To compare, the Providence Bruins have scored 36 goals in 11 games, which is 3.27 scored a game. Our boys in black and gold have given up 30 goals in 11 games. This is 2.72 goals given up a game. It’ll be a tough matchup, and the Providence club will need to be on their game if they want to come out with a win.

Saturday, November 2, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Hershey Bears (AWAY)

The weekend ends with a matchup at the Hershey Bears. It’s the second of six meetings the two clubs will have this season. In the first showdown, the Bruins came out on top 2-1 in overtime. They got goals from Ryan Fitzgerald and Brendan Gaunce. Netminder Dan Vladar was superb in net stopping 21 of 22 shots he faced.

The Hershey Bears come into the game 4-3-1-1 (10 points). This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference. Providence has had success against the Washington affiliate going 15-8-1-1 over the five seasons. This includes 6-6-1 at Hershey. Whichever team can grab an early lead and hold onto it will likely win this game.

The Providence Bruins are 4-0 when winning after the first period. When up after two, they are also 4-0. The Providence club is 1-3-0-1 when trailing after one period. When down after two periods, they are 0-1-0-1. The Hershey Bears are 1-0 when leading after one. When leading after the second, they are 2-0. The Hershey club is 1-1-1-1 when down after one. They are 0-3-0-1, when down after two. Expect the Bruins to win if they can grab that early lead.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Hot

Ryan Fitzgerald: Ryan Fitzgerald has had a great start to his season. In 11 games this season, he has netted four goals and dished out three assists for seven total points. The former Boston College Eagle has also registered a point in four of his last six games, which includes three goals and two assists for five points. With Anders Bjork being called up to Boston, Fitzgerald has picked up the slack on offense.

Trent Frederic: Trent Frederic finally finds himself in the hot category for the first time this season. In 11 games this season, he doesn’t have a goal but has dished out five assists for five total points. All five points have come in his past six games. The former Wisconsin Badger has picked up his game since the start of the season. Let’s hope the young center can keep up his play.

Not

Jeremy Lauzon: Jeremy Lauzon has had a rough start to the year. He’s playing decent enough defense but offensively hasn’t been great. In 11 games, he doesn’t have a goal and dished out three assists for three total points. The former Rouyn-Noranda Husky only has one point in his last five games. The Bruins hope the young defenseman can get out of his cold streak.

Cooper Zech: Cooper Zech jumped onto the scene last season after his freshman year at Ferris State University. The young defenseman signed an AHL contract and looked really good in limited time. That really hasn’t translated much this season. In seven games, he hasn’t scored a goal and dished out one assist for one total point. Let’s hope he can put the slow start behind him.

My Players To Watch This Weekend

Up Front

Jakub Lauko: Jakub Lauko came to Providence after having an excellent season with Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL last season. The young forward has had some growing pains, but overall looked good this season. He’s netted three goals and doesn’t have an assist for three total points in 11 games this year. I expect him to continue to develop and have an excellent season.

On The Blue Line

Alex Petrovic: Alex Petrovic has been excellent this season for Providence. In 11 games, he’s netted one goal and dished out nine assists for 10 total points. This includes one goal and six assists for seven points in his last six games. The veteran defenseman has done this all while playing good defense. Look for him to keep up his hot season.

In Net

Kyle Keyser: Kyle Keyser has played pretty well since being called up from Atlanta. In three games, he’s 1-1-1 with a 2.58 GAA and a .910 save percentage. The young netminder was called up because of injury, but he may stay in Providence if he continues this play. Look for him this weekend. He’s arguably the most talented goalie in the system.

Despite the rough week, the Providence Bruins have had a successful start to the season. Though they face some tough competition this weekend, I still think that they could come out on top in both games. This team has me excited. I think they could end up being one of the best Providence teams we’ve seen in a very long time. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. As always, GO, Bs, GO!

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Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 1 Preview

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(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Welcome everyone to the first preview of the Providence Bruins season. I hope you’re as excited as I am to get this year started. Just to quickly recap last season, the Providence Bruins ended up 38-27-8-3 (87 points) which was good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. They would go on to lose in the first round of playoffs to the eventual Calder Cup Champion Charlotte Checkers in four games. This season looks to be even better with Providence’s loaded roster.

The season kicks off on Saturday, October 5th, 2019 when the Providence Bruins head down to invade the PPL Center to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Bruins continue their tour of the Keystone State when they head to Hershey, Pennsylvania to take on the Hershey Bears at the Giant Center on Sunday, October 6th, 2019. It should be an exciting first weekend of divisional matchups that you do not want to miss.

Saturday, October 5, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AWAY)

The Providence Bruins start off the regular season on the road playing against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The matchup marks the first of what will be six games against the divisional foe this season. Last year, our boys in black and gold were 3-3 against the Flyers’ affiliate. Despite the record, all of the games were close as both teams had a similar style of play.

Historically, the Providence club has had trouble with Lehigh Valley going 9-13-2 over the past five seasons including 4-7-1 on the road. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were 39-30-4-3 (85 Points) which was good for fifth in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference. Despite being eighth in the conference, they missed the playoffs because the top four teams in each division go on to the postseason.

Special teams are going to play a big part in this game. Last season both teams had exceptional penalty kill at 85% for Providence and 85.1% for Lehigh Valley. On the flipside, both had mediocre power play with 18.8% for the Phantoms and 17.7% for the Bruins. The Flyers’ affiliate is sure to come out strong for their home opener, but with the loaded roster for our boys in black and gold, I expect Providence to get the two points.

Sunday, October 6, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Hershey Bears (AWAY)

The Pennsylvania road trip continues as the Providence Bruins take on the Hershey Bears. This too will be the first of six meetings the two teams will have this season. Last season, the spoked P was 4-2 against the Capitals’ affiliate and they’ve had good success against them in recent years. Over the past five seasons, the Boston affiliate has a 15-8-2-1 record against Hershey including 5-6-2 on the road.

Last season, the Hershey Bears were 43-25-4-4 (94 Points) which was good for third in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. They would go on to beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in five games in round one of the playoffs and go on to lose to Charlotte in round two getting swept in four games.

Special teams are also going to play a big part in this game. As I stated earlier the Bruins had an excellent penalty kill at 85% last season. The Bears, on the other hand, had a rather pedestrian 79.6% penalty kill. With four of the six games, last season decided by just one goal and two of them going to overtime this is something that will play a major role in the matchup’s outcome. I expect the game to be close, but coming out with a win is certainly doable for the Providence club.

Players to Watch This Weekend

Up Front

Jack Studnicka: Studnicka is arguably the best prospect the Boston Bruins have in their system. The young center starts his first full season with Providence and it should be an exciting one. He did get a taste of the AHL last year playing in the team’s four playoff games netting a goal and dishing out an assist for two total points. The forward group is sure to be loaded for the spoked P and I expect big things from Studnicka. Look for him to have a big first weekend of the season.

On the Blue Line

Cooper Zech: Like Studnicka, Zech is starting his first full season with Providence. After signing an AHL contract last March, he played in 12 games with the spoked P he didn’t find the back of the net himself, but he did dish out four assists for four total points. In the team’s four playing games he would net two goals without dishing an assist for two total points. Zech also managed to net two goals in the team’s final preseason game. The young defenseman is offensive-minded, and I expect him to have a big weekend.

In Net

Kyle Keyser: Kyle Keyser comes to Providence after having an excellent season and playoffs with the Oshawa Generals in the OHL. This will be the young netminder’s first full professional season as well. The 20-year-old was excellent for the Boston Bruins in the preseason and played really well in Providence’s last preseason game. It’s pretty clear that he’s the best goalie prospect the team has, and if given the chance to play in the AHL he will be awesome.

It’s an exciting time when hockey returns to our lives. This season should be a thrilling one for the Providence Bruins. They are loaded with many of the system’s top prospects. I expect them to make the playoffs again this year, and at least make it passed the first round. This season has all the makings of being something special and I cannot wait to bring you coverage of this team. Also, for any of you interested in prospects, I will be doing a prospect podcast with the Black N’ Gold founder Mark Allred. You can find any podcast updates on Twitter @BNGProspectsPod. I hope everyone enjoys the first weekend of the season and as always GO, Bs, GO!

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Bruins Announce First Training Camp Cuts

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(Photo: Angela Spagna)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced the first round of cuts from Boston’s training camp this afternoon. Axel Andersson and Wiley Sherman have been assigned to Providence while Cooper Zech, Samuel Asselin, Chris Breen, Alexey Solovyev, and Brendan Woods will report to Providence training camp. Andersson and Sherman were “assigned” to the P-Bruins since they are on NHL entry-level contracts compared to the others, who are all on AHL deals.

The 21-year-old Andersson was selected by Boston with the 57th-overall pick in the second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and will likely play his first season in North America this year, whether he skates with Providence or with Moncton of the QMJHL remains to be seen. However, returning overseas is also still an option for the Swedish defenseman.

Sherman was drafted by the Bruins in the fifth round of the 2013 entry draft (150th-overall). The Harvard product inked his ELC in the spring of 2018 and played his first full professional season last year, posting  2-3-5 totals with Providence as well as a minus-seven rating. The 6-foot-7 defenseman 33 total points (seven goals and 26 assists) in 137 NCAA contests.

Asselin (21) signed with Providence after a standout year with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL where he totaled 48 goals and 38 assists for 86 points in 68 games. Breen has been a mainstay on the Providence blue-line over the last five seasons, donning an “A” during each of the last four campaigns. During his tenure with the P-Bruins, the 30-year-old has 49 total regular season points as well as seven playoff points.

The Bruins won the bidding war for Zech, signing him to an AHL deal after the 20-year-old registered 8-20-28 numbers in 36 NCAA games during his first season with Ferris State. After joining the P-Bruins at the tail-end the season, the defenseman notched four assists in 12 games before tallying two goals in four playoff contests.

Woods, selected in the fifth round in 2012 by Carolina (129th-overall), has been a career AHL-er, posting 85 points in 262 regular season games between the Charlotte Checkers and the Utica Comets. The 27-year-old forward has seven penalty minutes in seven NHL games. Solvyev spent the last four years at Bentley University, where he recorded 46 points in 109 career NCAA games. The 25-year-old Russian is un-drafted.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 146 that we recorded on 9-22-19 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 2019 Prospects Challenge Recap

Bruins rookie camp

( Photo Credit: Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald )

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

For the fifth year in a row, the Bruins sent a team to participate in the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo. This year’s edition split it right down the middle, finishing with a 1-1-1 record after three games versus prospects from the Penguins, Sabres and Devils organizations. I would like to say that it was a good opportunity for fans of the team to become more familiar with some of their prospects. Unfortunately, that was not the case, unless you were lucky enough to actually attend the Challenge in person.

That’s because the Bruins organization did not see fit to televise or stream any of the games. The Penguins and Sabres streamed the games locally, but most in the Boston area were unable to watch. Fortunately, the Devils broadcast the Monday game on YouTube, and it’s still available for your viewing pleasure. It would be great if the Bruins decided to remedy this situation going forward, but that’s a discussion for another day. On to the actual games.

On Friday afternoon the Bruins took on the Penguins, and the good guys managed to come out on top, 4-3. The game did not start off very well for the Bruins, with the team falling behind 2-0 after goals by Sam Miletic and Pittsburgh first-round pick, Samuel Poulin. Boston bounced back on goals from draft picks Jakub Lauko, and Jack Studnicka and camp invite Scott Conway. The Pens tied it on a score by Nathan Legaré late in the second period. Anders Bjork came to the rescue for the Bruins, scoring the game-winner on the PP with just two seconds left in regulation. It was a good showing for Bjork, who had an assist to go along with his goal. Jack Studnicka also had a score and a helper.

The second game was Saturday evening against the host Buffalo Sabres. The final score was the same as Friday, 4-3, but the hometown boys came out on the short end, despite a great offensive effort by C/W Oskar Steen. Buffalo opened the scoring on a goal by Rasmus Asplund. Steen tied it midway through the second period on a feed from diminutive camp invite Dante Hannoun before the Sabres scored three goals in less than four minutes. Two of the goals came from center Matej Pekar, a fourth-round pick in 2018. The Bruins closed the gap in the third period on two power-play goals, from Steen and QMJHL free agent signing Samuel Asselin. They had a number of good chances to tie the game in the last minute or so with goalie Dan Vladar pulled for the extra attacker. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the equalizer by 2014 draftee Jonas Johansson.

The final game was a breakfast tilt with an unusual 9:30am start time Monday morning against the New Jersey Devils prospects, including first overall pick, Jack Hughes. The Bruins dropped this one in OT, but I felt they were the better team for the majority of the game, particularly at even strength. Both regulation goals by NJ were scored on the PP. The Devils tallied the first goal of the game while on a 5 on 3 PP. I would term the calls that led to the two-man advantage as “generous.” The score came by Nathan Bastian off a tic-tac-toe passing play that goalie Kyle Keyser had no chance at.

The Bruins tied the game with less than 30 seconds to go in the first period on a Dante Hannoun goal (assisted by first pair d-men Urho Vaakanainen and Axel Andersson). Scott Conway put the Bruins ahead 2-1 midway through the second period. That was it for the regulation scoring until 8 seconds remained in the contest. NJ was on the PP (thanks to another iffy penalty call) and had the goaltender pulled when former Merrimack forward Ludvig Larsson tied the game. Larsson scored again, ending it two minutes into the OT, even though Boston had the better of the play and chances.

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the play of Jack Hughes. It’s very early in his pro career, but I have to say, I wasn’t overly impressed. He’s a very good skater, extremely quick, but appeared to be forcing a lot of plays. He fanned on a wide-open chance that would have been the go-ahead goal in the third period. Then in the OT, he failed to make a pass on a great 2 on 1 opportunity. I have no doubt that Hughes is going to be a fantastic player in the league, but I can’t help but think he would have been better off playing in college for at least a year like older brother Quinn. He was overshadowed, at least in this one game, by forwards Jesper Boqvist (36th overall 2017) and Mikhail Maltsev (102nd in 2016) who both played extremely well.

As much fun as it is to watch hockey again, that’s not really the point of these prospect games. With Training Camp starting today, the idea was to get these kids some playing time before training camp and to allow the staff to see if they think any of them can make the jump to the NHL. In the case of the camp invites, the teams want to see if there are any players they should bring on board. I will be basing my observations primarily on the game against NJ. I watched the game Saturday night versus Buffalo as well, but the quality of the stream I found left a little to be desired.

There were no huge surprises, in my opinion, but a few players made good impressions. I’m going to preface everything that comes after this by reminding people that it was only a prospect tournament. Players that performed well aren’t necessarily going to be superstars, and ones that did poorly are not necessarily busts. My colleagues at Black N Gold Hockey are doing a fine job giving in-depth looks at these prospects. There is no need to rehash that, but let’s take a quick look at how some of those prospects acquitted themselves.

 

Forwards:

Most of the kids up front that impressed at the Challenge were the names you would expect. Studnicka (1g/2a in 3gp) and Steen (2g/1a in 3gp) each had three points to lead the team, while Bjork had two points (1g/1a in 2gp). Lauko only had one goal in three games, but played well and showed his speed. Bjork (in the little I saw of him) was moving well and looked strong, which was to be expected given the experience advantage he has over the other prospects. There were few unheralded kids that I thought played well also. Scott Conway and Tommy Marchin, who both have AHL deals in place with PRO for the 2019-20 season were solid. Conway, who played his college hockey at Providence had two goals in his two games. Marchin, a Brown University product was held off the scoresheet, but every time he had the puck, he seemed to make the smart play, even if it was a just a cross-corner dump-in.

The player that surprised me the most this past weekend was an undersized wing, Dante Hannoun. He played his junior hockey for Prince Albert in the generally rugged WHL, and it showed. Despite being only 5’6″, and 165 pounds, he was fearless, taking hits and delivering some to much larger opponents. Hannoun was very quick, displayed a strong base, and was able to protect the puck well. He collected a goal and an assist in his two games and did not look out of place. He has not officially signed a deal yet, but based on comments from Bruins management, it appears that he will be somewhere in the system (possibly Atlanta).

On the flip side, a couple of kids that didn’t really stand out, in my opinion, were Robert Lantosi and Pavel Shen. Lantosi is a 23-year-old right shot wing who averaged more than a point per game in the highest Slovakian league last year. Shen, the Bruins 7th Round pick in 2018 looked a step slow. He was significantly better in the WJC’s this year for Russia, playing against his peers. It could just be that both Lantosi and Shen need time to get acclimated to the smaller ice surfaces and style of play in North America

Defense:

The prospect that stood out on the back end was definitely Cooper Zech. He had two assists in three games, but it was his skating and “escapability” that impressed me the most. He is calm with the puck, makes good decisions, and on the rare occasion when he doesn’t, he’s able to skate his way out of trouble. I think he is going to have a great rookie year in PRO and I’m looking forward to catching as many games as possible. Next up was Urho Vaakaneinen. He started off slow but seemed to get progressively better. Monday was his best game by far. He was very efficient on the defensive side and led several rushes into the offensive zone as well. He’s not flashy, but he moves extremely well and is very efficient.

It’s going to be tough for him to crack the NHL roster, but I believe he’s definitely the first man up in case of injury. Another guy I was really looking forward to seeing was 2018 2nd rounder, Axel Andersson. He only played in Monday’s game and looked a little tentative. The skill is there, and you can see flashes, but I think he just needs to be a little more consistent, which should come in time. Wiley Sherman was decent, but not really noticeable one way or another (which is not always a bad thing for a defenseman). Unfortunately, none of the camp invites on the blue line did much. On the positive side, as long as the contracts get done, the Bruins appear to have plenty of depth on defense at both the NHL and AHL levels.

That’s going to put a wrap on the 2019 Prospects Challenge. There was some good and some bad, but we will get a much better idea about what some of these kids are capable of over the next week or so as they hit the ice with the big boys at Bruins Training Camp. I’m not sure I see any of the guys from the Challenge roster breaking camp with the NHL team, but only time will tell.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 144 that we recorded on 9-8-19 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 Link To Our YouTube Channel!

Providence Bruins Player Profile: Cooper Zech

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(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Cooper Zech is a name you might not recognize, and that’s because he is someone who wasn’t drafted by the Boston Bruins. In fact, he was not drafted at all. In March of 2019, the young defenseman signed a two-year AHL contract with the Providence Bruins after finishing his freshman season at Ferris State University. Zech is an undersized puck-moving defenseman from Michigan. The Bruins’ recent history with a player that fits that same mold is pretty good. So, let’s get into what Zech did before coming to Providence, and what the Bruins saw in him.

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(Photo Courtesy of Odessa Jackalopes)

Cooper Zech spent the 2015-16 season with the Odessa Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).  In 51 games with the Jackalopes Zech netted eight goals while dishing out 17 assists for 25 total points and plus/minus rating of 0. It was not a bad first season in the NAHL where Zech’s offensive ability was really on display. The Michigan native would go on to earn NAHL All-Rookie First Team and NAHL All-South Division Rookie Team honors.

The young defenseman would go on to play the 2016-17 season with the Odessa again, and in 41 games found the back of the net three times and dished out 29 assists for 32 total points and a plus/minus rating of +9. Zech would also play a part of that season in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with Muskegon Lumberjacks. In 25 games with the Lumberjacks Zech would dish out four assists for four total points, and plus/minus rating of -6. It was another solid year of development for Cooper.

Zech would go on to play the 2017-18 season in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) with the Wenatchee Wild, and he would have a stellar season. In 58 games with the Wild, the Michigan native would net 11 goals and dish out 58 assists for 69 total points. He would also play in 20 playoff games for Wenatchee netting four goals and dishing out 19 assists for 23 total points en route to leading the Wild to the BCHL Championship. Cooper would also be a BCHL First Team All-Star, he would also lead the league in assists, lead defenseman in assists, lead defenseman in points, and be named the league’s top defenseman. Zech really shined during this season and was able to prove what he could do.

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(Photo Courtesy of Western Collegiate Hockey Association)

Cooper Zech would spend the 2018-19 season playing in his freshman season at Ferris State University for the Bulldogs. The young defenseman would make his presence felt early and often. In 36 games with the Bulldogs, he would net eight goals and dish out 20 assists for 28 total points and a plus/minus of +3. It would be the first time since 1987-88 a freshman led Ferris State in scoring. The excellent year earned Zech some accolades. He would win the NCAA Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Rookie of the Year and would also be named to the NCAA WCHA First All-Star Team and NCAA WCHA All-Rookie Team.

After his collegiate season ended, Zech had multiple offers from AHL teams. Ultimately he would choose to sign with Providence and was able to get into 12 regular-season games for the AHL club in 2018-19. In those 12 games, he would dish out four assists for four total points while playing very good defense. The Michigan native would also play in the team’s four playoff games netting two goals for two total points. In his short time playing for Providence, Zech looked really good on the ice. He looked comfortable in each zone, and he looked comfortable both with and without the puck. The game didn’t seem too fast for him, which can happen for players coming into the AHL for the first time.

Going into this season, I believe we can expect big things from Cooper Zech. Despite only being 5’9, he plays without fear. He is quick on his feet and can play with or without the puck, though he’s more comfortable with it. Not only do I think he can be a very good hockey player, but the Bruins have also had success signing guys to AHL deals and developing them. Connor Clifton is a good example of that just this past season. Zech’s game is a lot like Torey Krug, and I believe he will be a player to watch this season in Providence. To me, he’s one of their most intriguing players heading into 2019-2020. As we get closer to the start of the season, remember the name, Cooper Zech. You could be hearing it a lot. As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to send them to me on Twitter. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and Go, Bs, Go!

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