What The Bruins Forward Lines Could Look Like In The 2020 Playoffs

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

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

I think we all need hockey back in our lives ASAP. Thankfully the return is getting closer and closer by the day. But as hockey comes back, a lot of questions come back as well. The Bruins, especially after a pretty busy trade deadline, have one of the deepest and most interesting forward cores in the league. With such a competitive group and only a limited number of spots, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Bs forwards lines shake up. Here’s my best guess at what we see. 

1st Line: Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

It’s going to be reeeeally fun to see these guys dominate again. Obviously if the rest of the lines stall and aren’t able to generate offense, we’d likely see Pasta on the 2nd line to spread the wealth a bit, but there just isn’t a better line in hockey. To have a line that sports an 100 point player, Selke winner, and now Rocket Richard winner is something no other line in the league can do. 

Over the past three years, the trio has combined for 312 goals and 726 points in 625 games. Their success has been unparalleled by the rest of the league and man, I haven’t even started to talk about what they do in the playoffs. Obviously Marchand and Bergeron have a cup to their name and with the way Pastrnak has played in the postseason, I don’t think he’s too far behind. And for all of the advanced analytics guys, how does a combined 56.1 corsi sound? There’s not much more to say about the excellence of the three, so I’ll just move onto the more interesting lines of the Bruins. 

2nd Line: Jake Debrusk – David Krejci – Ondrej Kase

(Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports Images)

The age old question. Who the hell is playing on David Krejci’s wing? Well I think the Bruins may have found that answer in Ondrej Kase. The young Czech native does a lot well, but the most important thing for him (and the Bruins) is that he puts up points AT EVEN STRENGTH. Two seasons ago, Kase potted 20 goals and 38 points in 66 games and guess what, 19 even strength goals, 35 even strength points and five game winners. The next year he scored just one PP goal out of his 11 in total and didn’t score a single goal this season with a man up. If Kase can stay healthy, I think Krejci may have a permanent resident to his right. 

The other two members on the 2nd line aren’t too much of a surprise in David Krejci and Jake Debrusk. The veteran and the young winger have built some solid chemistry over the past couple years, and while they’ve been a bit streaky at times, when the two are on their game, it’s a major asset for the Bruins 2nd line. 

Everybody knows how lights out playoff David Krejci is. He’s led the league in playoff scoring twice, including in the Bruins’ cup victory in 2011. When intensity is at its peak, Krejci always seems to step to the plate and his winger Debrusk has started to follow in his footsteps. We saw Debrusk’s flair for the dramatic in the playoffs of his rookie year. He lit it up against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, scoring five goals (including this beauty) and seven points in seven games. 

3rd Line: Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork

(Photo Credit: Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports Images)

Outside of Charlie Coyle slotting in at 3C, the bottom six is basically all up for grabs. The Bruins and coach Bruce Cassidy have a lot of options. They could go young and fast, they could go with a more defensive outlook, they could try and out-muscle, or (like I have) a mix of all three: grit, size and speed. 

Nick Ritchie is a big dude. At 6’2, 234 pounds, the former Duck knows how to throw his body around. He averages over 200 hits a season and we saw pretty quickly that he knows how to drop the mitts. The winger has a surprisingly good set of hands in tight, and is not forgein to dishing out some A+ passes. Ritchie spent a lot of minutes in Anaheim centered by Ryan Getzlaf, and his new center in Charlie Coyle, has a lot of similarities to Getzlaf. He’s a big, strong center, just maybe with a bit more hair.

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Last year’s acquisition of Charlie Coyle may have been the best move Don Sweeney has made in his tenure as GM of the Bruins. After a slow start to his career in Boston, the Boston University product was a major part of the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals. With Coyle anchoring the 3rd line, it gave Cassidy the option to simply roll four lines. On a line that was money all playoffs, Coyle put up nine goals and 16 points to go along with great 200 foot play. 

And then that leaves Anders Bjork. He’s got skill, he’s got speed, he’s got high hockey IQ and he finally began to put it all together this season. After a couple injury riddled years bouncing between the NHL and AHL, the Notre Dame grad finally found some consistency to his game. He’s looked stronger, more confident with the puck and most importantly, has been able to drive a play by himself. His 19 points in 58 games aren’t going to blow you away, but he’s got all the little things down, the points will start to come. 

4th Line: Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Karson Kuhlman

(Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Aside from Sean Kuraly, the usual members of the 4th line have not had the same success as they had last season. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom have been far from bad, but they haven’t been as effective. So instead of the veteran Wagner on this line, I think Karson Kuhlman should get the nod. My reasoning? Speed. The entire league is going to have fresh legs, so having a guy who’s as tenacious as it gets on the forecheck with wheels is going to be key. We saw what Kuhlman can bring to the table in a handful of the regular season and playoff games and, he never looked out of place. In the playoffs, the waterbug ripped a goal (which was unreal) and had two assists in eight games. 

Like I said before, I think Kuraly is a shoo-in for a spot in the lineup when the Bruins return. He’s been as clutch as you can get when the playoffs begin. We saw it against Ottawa, we saw it against Toronto (a lot) and into the finals against St. Louis. He’s got a lot of skill for a bottom-six forward and has the perfect mix of size and speed. 

Stanley Cup winner Joakim Nordstrom (yeah, he won a cup) was awesome in the playoffs last season. After we curiously saw the speedster to the left of David Krejci a few times in the regular season, Nordstrom took off as a fourth-liner. He just works incredibly hard, winning puck battles and cutting off passing and shooting lanes. In 23 postseason games, the Swede had three goals, eight points and was second among Bruins forwards in blocked shots. 

As for the rest, we’ll certainly see Chris Wagner and Par Lindholm as defensive, able bodies. But I also think we get to take a look at some prospects from the AHL in the playoffs, you can take a look at who I think will have a shot here

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

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

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

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

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

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

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Scenario #1 – What if Jack Studnicka Gets Promoted?

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

#24 Hughes – #7 Frederic – #20 Kuhlman

#13 Lauko – #29 Steen – #28 Carey

#16 Gaunce – #11 Asselin – #9 Senyshyn

#45 Koppanen – #27 Woods – Voyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#13 Lauko – #23 Studnicka – #20 Kuhlman

#24 Hughes – #7 Frederic – #28 Carey

#16 Gaunce – #29 Steen – #9 Senyshyn

#45 Koppanen – #27 Woods – Voyer

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

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

Forward Reesignments & Unfortunate Departures

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

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

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

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

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

Bruins’ NCAA Prospects

( Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin|USA TODAY Sports )

By James Slater | Follow Me On Twitter @WhatsJamesBruin


With the 30th pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft the Boston Bruins selected forward John Beecher from the USDP (United Stated Development Program). Beecher, a University of Michigan commit at the time, is just one of many prospects the Bruins selected recently who decided to take their hockey careers through the NCAA. He is also one of the focus points in this article, but more on that later. 

Though the Bruins have had clear success drafting in other areas of the world, see Bruins recent success with Czech players. Still it’s safe to say the original 6 hockey club enjoys drafting prospects who are taking a route that gives a bit more time before contracts need to be handed out.

While there are many of these players throughout the organization, both in the NHL and the AHL (Charlie McAvoy, Trent Frederic etc), the focus here is on the  prospects who will eventually be returning to college for another season. So, just who are these higher-learners? (please note players are listed alphabetically by last name) 

Jack Becker

( Photo Credit: Michigan Athletics / mgoblue.com )

Jack Becker – not to be confused with University of Michigan teammate John Beecher – was selected in the 7th round of the infamous 2015 entry draft. The 22 year old from Dellwood, Minnesota will be returning to the University of Michigan for his senior year, with the hopes of making a big leap. 

This past season Becker saw a minor drop off in total points posting 8-4-12 through 32 games, though he did tie his NCAA career high in goals. Still the 6’3” 190lbs right winger will be looking to prove himself as a consistent scorer before he makes the pro leap. According to NESN’s Logan Mullen, Becker knows his main areas  of improvement are his skating ability and filling out that 6’3” frame. If he can make himself a bit less lanky and add power behind the bulk he’s looking for, it could change his game just enough to see the points start racking up. His senior year could prove to be one of the most significant seasons in his young career.   

John Beecher

( Photo Credit: Daryl Marshke / Michigan Athletics )

Unlike many of the others mentioned in this article there is actually a chance Beecher does not return to college to play. Instead he could exploit a loophole that allows him to play in the CHL this upcoming season. This could be especially enticing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as the NCAA may take a much longer time to start their season. But with Beecher having just completed a freshman year where he came out of the gates hot with 4 points in his first 5 games he may decide to stick around and see where the Wolverines can take his development.

Though Beecher did not keep up the .80 points per game pace for the rest of the season, the Elmira, NY native did finish tied for second in goals for the Wolverines with 9. His point total through 31 games was 9-7-16. The 6’3” 210lbs center was also second on the team in PIMs, after having served a one game suspension for headbutting during a game on February 1st.  

Probably the most disappointing part of the year for Beecher was his performance in the World Junior Championship U20 tournament, where he played for team USA. Beecher had 0 points and was -3 through 5 games. Though in the World Junior Summer Showcase Beecher did have much more success.

At his worst Beecher is a dynamic skating, tenacious player who doesn’t mind getting physical when the points aren’t flowing in. But at his ceiling, Beecher is a new-age power forward with blazing speed to match his size and strength. If he can make even remote progress in his development, he could prove to be too much to contain for the younger players of the NCAA or CHL. 

Curtis Hall

( Photo Credit: Yale University / yalebulldogs.com )

Sticking to the power forward theme with their NCAA draft picks the Bruins selected Curits Hall in the 4th round of the 2018 draft. Hall, a 6’3” 200lbs right shot center, was considered a long shot to make the USA World Junior U20 team but did. While on the team he contributed 1 goal in 5 games with a +2 rating.

Hall also enjoyed career highs in goals, assist, total points, PIMS and +/- with Yale this past season. Though he only had his freshman year stats to beat, Hall clearly made the sophomore jump, leading Yale in both goals and points, scoring 17-10-27 through 28 games played. Hall’s tremendous leap, scoring more than double his previous 11 points, was met with some well deserved accolades. Not only was Hall a Hobey Baker Award Nominee, but according to his Yale Hockey bio, the Ohio born power forward ended the season with Second Team All Sec and Second Team All Ivy League honors AND led the NCAA’s division 1 in game winning goals. In any sport, clutch is never a bad skill to have. 

Hall’s ceiling may not be as high as the dynamic skating, and WJC-20 teammate, John Beecher, but he’s a big strong kid who gets to the front of the net. As most hockey fans know, and as Hall’s points attest, the front of the net is where the goals are scored. Hall’s skill may not be as flashy as a lot of high end prospects but he is self described as “hard working” and has a great two-way style that Boston fans love to see.  As his game develops, Bruins fans can hope he starts drawing comparisons to the likes of Charlie Coyle or maybe even a less high end Ryan Getzlaf. 

Dustyn McFaul

( Photo Credit: Clarkson Athletics / clarksonathletics.com )

In 2018 two rounds after selecting Curtis Hall, the Bruins selected defenseman Dustyn McFaul, a Waterdown Ontario native, 181st overall. After spending the 2018-2019 in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, McFaul enrolled in Clarkson University. Mcfaul, a 19 year old during his entire Freshman year, went 1-6-7 through 31 games with a +7 rating. One goal may not scream “offensive-defenseman!” and though McFaul’s point totals thus far have attested to his stay-at-home nature, he has compared himself to the two-way style of Chicago’s Brent Seabrook.  Taking a closer look at his loan freshman year goal, we can see there is some serious skill to back up that two-way play style. 

In case you’re wondering, not many defensemen find themselves below the opposing team’s goal to even attempt a wrap around. But once the puck hit McFaul’s stick in stride, there was little anyone could do to stop him. The left shot D-man stands at a decent size of 6’2 185lbs and clearly has a motor on him. He too will be looking to make a significant sophomore leap. But if his development keeps up, he could find himself competing for spots at the next few development camps. 

Quinn Olson

( Photo Credit: UMD Bulldogs Athletics / umdbulldogs.com )

After John Beecher was selected as the Bruins 1st round pick in 2019, Quinn Olson became the Bruins next forward selected. Taking the 5’11” 170lbs left wing in the 3rd round. Olson had just come off a decent 2018-2019 season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League going 20-46-66 with 75 PIMs in 54 games. For his freshman season, Olson played for the UMD Bulldogs and had a decent rookie showing, 7-8-15 in 31 games. 

(Olson’s goal is within the first 30 seconds)

Olson is often referred to as a hardworking player and has made significant jumps each year. Bruins fans should be familiar with hardworking UMD products, as Karson Kuhlman has made his presence known all throughout Boston. If Olson can continue his end of improving each year, his sophomore campaign at UMD should turn some heads.  While there is certainly no way to know what Olson’s future holds, wouldn’t it be something to see the Bruins have another feisty left wing come up the pipes? In a world still aching for sports, dreaming will have to suffice for now.

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

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

Bruins Depth Players That Deserve Contract Extensions

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

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

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

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

Brendan Gaunce

( Photo Credit: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images )

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

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

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

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

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

Karson Kuhlman

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

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

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

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

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

Zach Senyshyn

( Photo Credit: ProvidenceBruins.com / @AHLBruins )

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

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

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

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

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

Jakub Zboril

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Vladar

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report: Boston Bruins Sign Undrafted NCAA Defenseman Ahcan

( Photo Credit: Dan and Margaret Hickling | uscho.photoshelter.com )

By: Will Montanez | Follow me on Twitter @Willfro3

The Bruins have reportedly come to terms on an entry-level contract with Jack Ahcan. The deal would most likely be for two years, consistent with similar college UFA’s. Ahcan, a five-foot eight-inch, left-shot defenseman, was playing for St. Cloud State University prior to the school’s cessation of on-campus and sports activity due to the spread of SARS-CoV-2. He had led the Huskies as team captain through 33 games during the 2019-2020 season, his senior year.

Ahcan has logged seven goals to compliment 18 assists from the Huskies’ back-end. His point total is good for third on the roster and first among his peers along the blue-line. Through his four years at St. Cloud State, Ahcan accumulated 21 goals, 103 points and a plus 13 rating in 144 games. He became the third defenseman in team history to earn 100 or more points and has set a record for blue-liners with 82 assists. Aside from his offensive production, Ahcan has proven to be a key piece to the Huskies indicated by his reputation in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

 

The Minnesota native has received numerous awards for his efforts in the NCHC including being named Defensive Player of the Week three times and earning a spot on the All-NCHC Second Team in both 2018 and 2019 as well as the 2016-2017 All-NCHC Rookie Team. He was also a part of the United States World Junior Championship Team that won Gold in 2017 as a teammate to current B’s star Charlie McAvoy.  His efforts on the ice and intangibles off of it have not gone unnoticed among NHL teams.

Although undrafted, Ahcan has been invited to several teams’ development camps in order for scouts to gain a closer look at the player and to give him a glimpse of what it takes to be a professional athlete. He participated in camps with the Los Angeles Kings in 2017, Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018 and the Colorado Avalanche in 2019, but was either not offered a deal or elected not to sign in each of those years. His offensive mindset and vision, skating ability and no-quit attitude have frequently been highlighted as his key traits.

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Ahcan’s listed height and weight put him in the category of “diminutive;” a four-letter word in the NHL that helps to explain why teams have passed on him in drafts and have played coy on offering contract opportunities to the collegiate senior. Even in the modern NHL, size is considered a factor and most certainly for the defense as they often are expected to bring an in-your-face, physical element to dissuade some of the most highly skilled players in the world from treading on those dangerous areas inside the house. In spite of his size, Ahcan’s strengths of excellent vision, skating, and leadership qualities are typical of a Bruins college UFA signing.

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Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has implemented a system of fast neutral- and defensive- zone play that emphases protecting the slot and crease while aggressively pressuring attackers when outside of that zone to regain control of the puck to transition play quickly into the other end of the rink. General Manager Don Sweeney has done his best to acquire players to develop that will fit that mentality in the draft and in free agency. The team has additionally made his character a key consideration for prospective players and those leadership qualities have influenced signing decisions on other players like Karson Kuhlman in 2018 and Nick Wolf earlier in March 2020. Ahcan’s on-ice successes are indicative of his ability to conform to all of those requirements, both in two-way, decisive play and team-building intangibles.

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Regardless of what happens for the rest of the NHL’s regular- and playoff- seasons, Ahcan will have an opportunity to join a defensive-corps that will be in flux on the left flank in the fall of 2020. He will face stiff competition from the B’s current prospects and will most likely see duty in Providence for the Bruins’ AHL affiliate. If the season is restarted when normalcy has returned to the US and the world, he may get an opportunity to join the Providence Bruins on run for the playoffs and the Calder Cup this calendar year. Regardless of when he’s able to don a black and gold sweater for either team, Bruins’ management and fans should be happy they were able to secure a quality prospect for essentially nothing as they hope that he can develop into an impact player at the highest level.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 171 that we recorded below on 3-23-20! 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!!

How The Trade Deadline Affects The Bruins Offseason Plans

Dallas Stars v Boston Bruins

( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

It’s been a few days since the trade deadline and I still don’t quite know how to feel about it all. There’s no questioning if the Bruins improved, they did, but many (including myself) am still asking if Don Sweeney and co did enough for this season, but that’s not the point of this article. Regardless of what the Bruins did to affect the team for this year, the trades made certainly helped the team for years to come.

The Trades

To Boston: Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase

To Anaheim: Danton Heinen, David Backes ($1.5 mill retained), Axel Andersson, 2020 1st round pick
Nick Ritchie

( Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa )

No Rentals

 

Unlike years in the past where we saw the Bruins’ management go after rentals like Marcus Johansson, Rick Nash (oof) and Lee Stepniak (even bigger oof), the Bruins acquired players with term. They saw how well it worked with last year’s acquisition of Charlie Coyle and looked to continue that success of grabbing players that won’t be gone at the season’s end. 

Both Ritchie and Kase have extra years on their contract and even more years of team control due to their RFA status. The duo are both young and have plenty of room to grow on their already solid NHL careers. Nick Ritchie is a hard-nosed player that fits the style of play the Bruins love. The former 10th overall pick is still young at 24 years-old and with his recent play (three goals and three assists in his last four game) has a chance to trump his career-high in goals of 14. 

If healthy, Ondrej Kase has a real chance to be a game-changer for the black and gold. Two seasons ago, the Czech Republic native hit the 20 goal mark in 66 games. The following season was unfortunately cut short due to injury, but Kase was well on his way to hit career highs in both points and goals with 11 goals and 20 points in 30 games. Now playing on a far better Bruins squad, we’d hope to see the improved play on his part.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues

( Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports )

Offseason Plans

The Bruins have a lot on their plate this offseason. Powerplay QB Torey Krug is an upcoming UFA and will certainly get paid whether he stays or goes. Matt Grzelcyk, Jake Debrusk, Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman are among the slew of RFAs that will get a considerable bump in salary. There’s no guarantee if Zdeno Chara will call it quits after this season, but if he doesn’t, that’s another contract to add to the books. Fellow Slovakian and backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been huge for the Bruins over the past couple years and it would be a tough loss if the Bs weren’t able to resign him. 

The Bruins had about $17 million in projected cap space for next year before the deals. With the subtraction of Heinen and Backes’ combined $7.3 million and addition of Kase and Ritchie’s and additions of roughly $4.1 million, it gives the Bruins an extra $3.2 million worth of cap space to work with. If we loosely project what the Bruins UFA and RFAs we get contracts that look like this:

Torey Krug – 7.25m

Zdeno Chara – 1.5m

Jaroslav Halak – 3m

Joakim Nordstrom – 1.5m

Kevan Miller – Honestly no idea with all of his injuries, I think he’s a goner regardless. 1m

Jake Debrusk – This one really depends if it’s long-term or a bridge, I’d say 4-5m

Matt Grzelyck – 3m

Anders Bjork – 1.5m

Karson Kuhlman – 1m

Adding all these together gives the Bruins a rough estimate of $24 million worth of contracts to give. With Nordstrom and Miller likely gone, a number of $21.5 million seems doable with the amount of cap space the Bruins are projected to have. with that number likely increasing as the cap continues to grow. With the now over $20 million in space with that number likely increasing as the cap continues to grow, it seems more likely the Bruins will be able to keep most of the gang together. If the Bs fail to win the ultimate prize this season, Don Sweeney has set this Bruins team up for the future.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 168 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!!

Karson Kuhlman’s Position On The Bruins

(Photo Credit: AP Photo / Winslow Townson)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

When Don Sweeney took over as General Manager of the Boston Bruins, one item on his to-do list was to send his scouts to a relatively untapped market.  Historically, American college hockey took a backseat to leagues like Canada’s Ontario Hockey League, Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, and Sweden’s Elite Swedish League.  Draft-eligible players found themselves forgoing college hockey and playing in these leagues because that’s where the competition was.  Over the last seven or eight years, though, American college hockey has attracted more stars, and NHL teams have noticed.

Don Sweeney played at Harvard University from 1984-1988.  He is familiar with the talent in the college hockey system, which explains his vested interest.  Some of his recent draft picks have even come from Boston University, University of Denver, and the University of Wisconsin.  Moreover, he’s made sure his scouts are also looking for players who weren’t drafted in June and invite them to training camp.  One player in particular who fits this situation is Karson Kuhlman.

The Esko, Minnesota native played his college hockey 20 minutes northeast of his hometown at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  Karson was awarded captain his senior year and posted a modest 80 points and an impressive plus-47 rating in 166 games for the Bulldogs.  He and his teammates won the franchise’s second National Championship in 2017-18.  Karson was named MVP of the Frozen Four and scored a goal and an assist in the title game.  Kuhlman’s style of play fits the Bruins style perfectly.  He is a smaller center, with great hands, a lethal shot, and the ability to lead on and off the ice.

Unfortunately, Kuhlman was not drafted during his eligibility year in 2014.  He was invited to two training camps by the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens.  Neither team saw enough to sign him.  Thankfully, his hometown roots made him a rememberable name to another Minnesota Native with Bruin ties.  Jamie Langenbrunner, former NHL right-winger, and current Bruins player development coach, knew Kuhlman before the NHL teams caught on.  Langenbrunner has long been impressed by Kuhlman’s “attention to detail. He’s a kid that plays a pro-style game in the way he positions himself, uses his body, gets pucks out on walls.

The Bruins invited Kuhlman to their 2017 development camp to see what Langenbrunner had advocated.  He left the Bruins without a deal, but they kept a keen eye on him.  Following his senior year, the Bruins signed Kuhlman to a 2-year, $1.5M contract, and he reported directly to Providence.  He would only play in three games, notching two assists for the baby Bruins.  The following year, he played through the end of January for the Bruins’ AHL farm team and received the call up to the Boston Bruins when one of their star players injured himself.

David Pastrnak slipped on ice in the Boston streets and injured his thumb.  This created an empty roster spot, which Kuhlman was called to fill.  He joined the Bruins on their west coast road trip and lit the lamp in his second career NHL game.

He would play in nine more regular-season games and made the playoff roster.  He played through game one of the Columbus series and was eventually scratched for the veteran David Backes.  Kuhlman would watch the Bruins from the ninth floor until game six of the Stanley Cup finals.  Similar to his time in Minnesota, Kuhlman shined on the team’s biggest stage.

Both the Stanley Cup goal and the NCAA Championship goal featured Kuhlman’s lethal shot.  He has immense power and accuracy from most areas of the offensive zone, and both goals are evidence of that.  His willingness to shoot the puck in any spot of the offensive zone will pay dividends for his style of play in the long run.

The 24-year old was set to make a lasting impact on the Bruins second line at the beginning of the 2019 regular season.  He formed great chemistry with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci right off the bat.  The Bruins and its fanbase were hopeful they found the top-six winger they’d been longing for.  He was averaging nearly 13 minutes a game through the first eight games in October until he suffered an unfortunate injury.

It wouldn’t be until January 3, 2020, that Kuhlman would return to the ice.  He was sent to Providence for a conditioning stint to get his legs back and up to game speed.  Once again, Kuhlman didn’t skip a beat and notched three points in four games, one of which was an impressive score.

The Bruins finally called up Kuhlman on January 16, 2020, against the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he set up two Bruin goals.  Karson’s call up is also interesting timing.  The Bruins had just sent down Brett Ritchie and are still looking for the top-six winger that’s plagued them for years.  Kuhlman’s skill is undeniable, but is he the answer for Krejci’s wing?

That is still to be determined.  He has yet to play a full season as a top-six forward.  He certainly fits the mold of what the Bruins search for in players.  He’s versatile, leads by example, and plays on both ends of the ice.  He even throws his body around quite well for a sub-6-foot forward. Karson has already earned the trust of his coaches and the organization, which could yield significant benefits in the future.

Even if he doesn’t answer the Bruins hole on the second line, he would fit nicely with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle on the third line.  That line combination would be a high-speed, hard-hitting, skillful third unit to counter the league’s top counterparts.  Karson is a mainstay on this Bruins roster, and time will tell what line is best for him and the franchise.

Check out this weeks Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 163 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 Place Forward David Backes on Waivers

David Backes

PHOTO CREDITS: (nbcsports.ca)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

As per numerous reports on social media, including from The Athletic’s Joe McDonald (@JoeyMacHockey on Twitter) and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC on Twitter), the Boston Bruins have placed forward David Backes for assignment to the Providence Bruins.

David Backes, 35, has played in 16 games this season for the Bruins, scoring one goal and two assists for three points and a -2 rating. Backes has not played a game since Boston’s 5-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets on January 9th where he skated for eleven shifts totalling 8:35 of ice-time. He has not scored a point since December 5th against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Boston signed the Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA native to a five-year, $30,000,000 contract ($6 million AAV) on the opening day of free agency back in the 2016 off-season. Prior to the signing, Backes had been the captain of the St. Louis Blues, totalling 727 career regular-season games with the Blues, scoring 206-254-460 numbers in that span. It was a tough move for him to make, but he felt he had a better shot to hoist the Stanley Cup if he signs with the Bruins.

Since the signing, Backes has not turned out to be what Boston expected. In 217 regular-season games for the Black and Gold, Backes scored 29-55-94 numbers along with 12 points in 39 playoff games dating back to the 2016-17 campaign. Backes scored two goals and three assists during Boston’s 2019 Stanley Cup Finals run as well.

The move to send Backes down is an interesting one, considering the move to put Brett Ritchie on waivers earlier in the week (he cleared). With players such as Karson Kuhlman and even Anton Blidh pushing for more consistent spots on the roster, older veterans like Backes simply don’t have the space on the team anymore. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy re-iterated that in a much simpler way.

The likelihood of Backes getting claimed by one of the other 31 NHL franchises is slim, but there is a benefit to him going to the Providence Bruins as well. As Bruins Network (@BruinsNetwork on Twitter) stated, if the 35-year-old clears waivers, the Bruins will free up $1 million in salary. With the trade deadline looming around the corner, every dollar counts and Backes’ $6 million cap hit right now is a lot to continue paying if he continues to be in the press box.

For the latest breaking news, updates, and injury reports, make sure to check back on blackngoldhockey.com and follow on Twitter (@BlackNGoldPod). The Boston Bruins play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, January 19th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Puck drop is scheduled for 12:30pm EST.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 162 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 Post-Game Recap: Boston vs. Pittsburgh: 1/16/20

Image result for bruins penguins td garden

Photo Credit: Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: Boston Bruins

Away: Pittsburgh Penguins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Coyle – Bjork

Heinen – Lindholm – Kuhlman

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Moore

Goalies

Halak

Vladar

Pittsburgh’s Lineup

Forwards

McCann – Crosby – Simon

Kahun – Malkin – Rust

Galchenyuk – Agozzino – Hornqvist

Aston-Reese – Blueger – Tanev

Defense

Johnson – Letang

Pettersson – Marino

Riikola – Ruhwedel

Goalies

Jarry

Murray

Tuukka Rask was honored for playing in his 500th game back in October before things got underway. NESN showed an awesome congratulatory video made for him before the ceremony that took place on the TD Garden ice. Congratulations to Tuukka Rask on this incredible achievement.

First Period

Sidney Crosby made his presence felt with a goal just 24 seconds into the game. A mere 52 seconds later, Zach Aston-Reese went off for roughing in response to Charlie McAvoy’s hit on Brandon Tanev. The Bruins didn’t score on the power play, but the fast pace continued after a cross-check by John Marino on Chris Wagner that wasn’t received well.

Marino sat for two minutes as a result, giving the Bruins their second power play of the game just 3:23 into the game. While Tristan Jarry was kept busy early on, he kept the Bruins off the scoreboard on their first two power plays.

Minutes later, Chris Wagner and Kris Letang exchanged pleasantries, creating a 4-on-4 as a result as both of them went off for roughing. The extra open space on the ice didn’t lead to much, but Sean Kuraly got on the board for the fourth time this season shortly after the 4-on-4 ended. It was 1-1 with 9:57 remaining. Karson Kuhlman had the primary assist, marking his first point of the season. Charlie McAvoy had the secondary assist, his 17th of the season.

Kuhlman made his mark yet again on the scoresheet, sending a shot on net that Par Lindholm tipped past Tristan Jarry to make it 2-1 Bruins for his third goal of the season. Karson Kuhlman was buzzing early on in his first game back with the Bruins since October 19th following his injury recovery and a stint with the Providence Bruins.

Not too long after the goal, Patrice Bergeron went off for tripping, but the Penguins failed to convert on the man advantage and the Bruins held onto their lead. It was a wild first period and after a fast start from the Penguins, the Bruins didn’t shy away. The shots in the period were 12-10 in their favor as they went into the intermission.

Score: 2-1 Boston

Second Period

Wagner went to the box early on for tripping, just 1:39 into the period. Brad Marchand nearly gave the Bruins a two-goal lead in shorthanded fashion. Wagner remained in the mix after leaving the box, laying a huge hit on Tanev that caused some chaos as a result.

Anders Bjork went off for two minutes for slashing just around the halfway point of the period. Joakim Nordstrom blocked a shot Juuso Riikola and went off in some pain, but eventually made his way back and powered through the pain.

Speaking of the halfway point, the Bruins outshot the Penguins 5-1 up until that point in the second period. The Bjork penalty was killed, the third successful penalty kill of the night. Brad Marchand nearly extended the lead to two, but couldn’t bury it.

Things got chippy again late in the period, leading to Torey Krug and Patric Hornqvist having a tussle, with others getting involved. A 4-on-4 ensued thanks to roughing penalties going both ways with 3:52 remaining. No one scored on the 4-on-4, again. Chaos later came as a penalty was called, Bergeron made contact with the puck with his glove, the puck crossed the goal line, but the goal was called off after a review.

Krug and Hornqvist reconvened and dropped the gloves after exiting the penalty box  Marcus Pettersson went off for holding with 1:19 to go. Five minutes for fighting followed. In the final ten seconds, the Penguins found themselves on a 2-on-0 that led to Jaroslav Halak making four saves in rapid succession to preserve the lead. The shots were 12-10 in favor of the Bruins, yet again, bringing the total to 24-20. The craziness of the second period set the stage for fireworks in the third period.

Score: 2-1 Boston

Third Period

Bergeron extended the lead to two 3:19 into the period, marking his 20th goal of the season. He has now hit the 20-goal mark in a season 11 times in his career. David Pastrnak had the lone assist, his 31st of the season. It was a pretty sweet sequence.

The pace calmed down a bit in the third period, but things got interesting again when the Penguins took a too many men on the ice penalty. The Bruins saw a golden opportunity in front of them to extend their lead to three with 8:18 left. Although they didn’t score, they still managed to hold their two-goal. Jarry being pulled for the extra attacker late led to a chaotic bunch of chances out front, but the puck couldn’t make its way past the scrum out front. A review followed the scrum and went in favor of the Bruins, keeping the game at 3-1.

Marchand notched the empty netter for his 21st goal of the season to seal it. Pastrnak’s second assist of the game and 32nd of the season helped set it up. The Penguins held a 10-6 shot advantage, bringing the shot total to 30-30 for the game. They had 10 shots in each period. When it all came down to it, the Bruins powered through in a physical game to come out on top. Next up are the Penguins again at 12:30 PM ET on Sunday at PPG Paints Arena. The Bruins are 28-9-12 and have won four of their last six games.

Final Score: 4-1 Boston

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Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 16 Preview

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(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week 16 of the AHL season has arrived. The Providence Bruins skate into it 22-15-1-2 (47 points) and 4-6 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 superb week that saw them beat the Springfield Thunderbirds 5-2 and 5-3. This weekend is another big weekend with three games in three days plus a game next Wednesday. Four games in a short period are never easy.

The hockey action begins on Friday, January 17, 2020, when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers travel to Providence, Rhode Island, to take on the Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The action continues on Saturday, January 18, 2020, when the Providence Bruins make their way to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to take on the Sound Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena. The three games in three days conclude on Sunday, January 19, 2020, when the Springfield Thunderbirds come back to Providence, Rhode Island, to take on the Bruins at the Dunk. Week 16 comes to an end on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms invade Providence, Rhode Island, to take on the Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Friday, January 17, 2020 (HOME) and Saturday, January 18, 2020 (AWAY) Providence Bruins vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers

The weekend home and home series with mark the fifth and sixth 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 most recent 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 Bridgeport Sound Tigers provide a favorable matchup for the Providence club. The Bridgeport club comes into the weekend 14-22-4-1 (33 points) and 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for eighth in the Atlantic Division and 16th in the Eastern Conference.  Furthermore, the Bruins are 24-17-6-3 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 1-12-2 when trailing after one and 0-15-2 when trailing after two. To add insult to injury, the Bridgeport club in 41 games has only scored 92 goals while giving up 133. Not only is this a horrendous -41 goal differential, but they’re only scoring 2.24 goals a game while giving up  3.24. They are giving up a full goal more than they are scoring. This isn’t a winning formula.

To compare, the Providence Bruins are 12-0 when leading after one period and 18-0 when leading after two periods. They’ve also scored 126 goals while giving up only 106 in 40 games. That means, not only do they have a +20 goal differential, but they are scoring 3.15 goals a game while only giving up 2.65. These are games that Providence must win. Bridgeport is not a good club at all.

Sunday, January 19, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (HOME)

The Sunday matchup will be the eighth of 14 these two teams will have. 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 third meeting saw the Providence club come out on top 5-4 in overtime. They would get goals from Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic, Robert Lantosi, Peter Cehlarik, and Paul Carey (OT). Veteran netminder Max Lagace stopped 24 of the 28 shots he faced.

The fourth battle saw the Bruins come out on top 5-0. Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Paul Carey, and Oskar Steen had the goals for Providence. Dan Vladar was out of this world in net stopping all 42 shots fired his way. The fifth game saw the Bruins come out on top 4-3. Robert Lantosi, Jack Studnicka, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Pavel Shen were the Bruins goal scorers. Dan Vladar was on his game, making 31 stops out of 34 shots.

The sixth battle would prove to be a good one. The Bruins won 5-2. Trent Frederic, Brendan Gaunce, Ryan Fitzgerald, Anton Blidh, and Karson Kuhlman would score goals. Dan Vladar stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced in net. The most recent matchup would also be a good one. The Bruins would win 5-3. Brendan Woods (2), Peter Cehlarik, Karson Kuhlman, and Anton Blidh would net goals. Max Lagace would go on to stop 21 of the 24 shots he faced in net.

The Springfield Thunderbirds come into the game 21-18-2 (44 points) and 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference. Despite this, this is still a favorable matchup for the Providence Bruins. Over the past five seasons, the Bruins are 28-15-4 against the Panthers’ affiliate, including 14-8-1 at home.

The Thunderbirds have been winning with excellent defense. They’ve only given up 117 goals in 41 games while scoring 125. This is a plus-eight goal differential. This also means they are only giving up 2.85 goals a game while scoring 3.04. The Springfield club is 5-2 when leading after the first period. They are also 14-2 when leading after two periods. On the flip side, they are 4-8 when trailing after one period. They are also 1-13-1 when trailing after two periods.

To give some perspective to those numbers, The Bruins have given up 106 goals in 40 games while scoring 126. That is a +20 goal differential. That means they are only giving up 2.65 goals a game while scoring 3.15. The Providence club is 12-0 when leading after one period and 19-0 when leading after two. However, they are 2-9-1-1 when trailing after the first period and 1-11-0-1 when trailing after two. These two teams are evenly matched and getting and sustaining an early lead, are imperative to winning.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020, Providence Bruins vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (HOME)

The Wednesday meeting will mark the second of six the two teams will have this season. In the first meeting, the Bruins would go on to win 3-0. The now in Boston Anders Bjork, Brendan Gaunce, and Paul Carey would score goals. Max Lagace would stop all 28 shots he faced in what would be his first game as a Bruin.

Historically, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have given the Providence Bruins fits. Over the past five seasons, the Providence club is 10-13-2. This includes 5-6-1 at home. This game, however, should not reflect that. The Philadelphia affiliate skates into the matchup 16-19-1-4 (37 points) and 4-6 in their last 10 games. This is good for seventh in the Atlantic Division and 15th in Eastern Conference.

The only real positive thing that you can say about the Lehigh Valley club is that their defense is not horrible. They’ve given up 114 goals in 40 games. This means they are only giving up 2.85 goals a game. The problem with that is they’ve only scored 93 goals this season. This means they have a -21 goal differential, while also only scoring 2.32 goals a game. Scoring less than you give up is not how you consistently win hockey games.

Some other stats of note for the Phantoms, they are 8-4-0-1 when leading after the first period. 9-0-0-1 when leading after the second period. They are 3-10-0-1 when trailing after the first period. The Lehigh Valley club is 3-15-0-3 when down after the second period. This is another game that you would expect the Providence Bruins to come out victorious.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Hot

Karson Kuhlman: Karson Kuhlman had a rough start to his year. While up in Boston, he suffered an injury eight games into his season. The former University of Minnesota-Duluth Captain has been excellent in the four games since he came back. In those games, he’s netted two goals and dished out an assist for three total points. On top of that, he’s looked great on the ice. He’s skating with purpose and attacking the puck whenever he’s on the ice.

Brendan Gaunce: Brendan Gaunce is in his first season with the Providence Bruins. He’s had a good season overall. In 30 games, he’s netted eight goals and dished out 11 assists for 19 total points. This includes netting a goal and dished out three assists for four total points over his last three games. The former Utica Comets forward has provided a spark offensively that the team has needed.

Not

Oskar Steen: Oskar Steen is in his first professional season in North America. The Sweden native has had a rough time adjusting to the North American ice. In 38 games, he’s netted four goals and dished out seven assists for 11 total points. He also has not registered a point over his last eight games played. Steen is still young. I expect him to adjust to the smaller ice and start producing soon.

Alex Petrovic: Alex Petrovic is someone who started out on fire in his first season with the Providence Bruins. In 35 games, he’s netted two goals while dishing out 17 assists for 19 total points. However, he hasn’t registered a point over his last six games. Hopefully, the former Edmonton Oiler and Florida Panther defenseman can pick up his offensive play soon.

My Players To Watch This Weekend

Up Front

Jack Studnicka: Jack Studnicka is one of the Bruins’ top prospects. He’s also having an excellent season. In 38 games, he’s netted 14 goals and dished out 12 assists for 26 total points. He also earned himself a spot on the AHL All-Star team. Despite not registering a point in his last six games, the young forward still looks good in all zones. Look for him to break his pointless streak this weekend.

On The Blue Line

Urho Vaakanainen: Urho Vaakanainen is having an excellent season with the Providence Bruins. Not only is he playing well defensively, but he is playing well offensively as well. In 34 games, he’s netted four goals and dished out seven assists for 11 total points. Look for him to have a big weekend at both ends of the ice.

In Net

Max Lagace: Max Lagace has had an excellent first season in Providence. He is 14-6-2 with a 2.49 GAA and a .915 save percentage. He’s also registered a league-high five shutouts this year. With Tuukka Rask being injured, it looks like Vladar could be called up to Boston on an emergency basis. This means Lagace is going to have to have a stellar weekend for the Providence club.

The Providence Bruins bounced back in a big way this past weekend after their worst one of the season. The next four games on the schedule are a good chance for the Providence club to build upon that and continue the momentum. Every game this weekend is a game that they should win. It would be nice to bank some points and get a little bit of a cushion in the standings heading into the Calder Cup playoffs. Feel free to send me any questions or comments on Twitter. As always, GO, Bs, GO!

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