With the recent rash of injuries to key Boston Bruins players, the major league club has been forced into calling up a significant portion of its AHL affiliate Providence Bruins. While some Bruins fans are scratching their head hearing some of the names play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards calls out on a nightly basis, one name makes more sense to me than any other has in the past month and change.
Peter Cehlarik was drafted in 2013, at a respectable 90th overall (3rd round). For what it’s worth, and for context, this is only 30 or so spots from countryman, and Bruins longtime #2 centerman David Krejci (who was drafted in 2004). Former Asst. GM (now current) Don Sweeney spoke of the choice of Cehlarik in the 2013 training camp: “Peter is a very skilled hockey player, and you’re seeing right away what kind of player… He has the shot, the release, and the hands. He can also make plays in traffic and in-and-around the net.” Kirk For the next 3 years, Cehlarik elected to stay with the SHL, after which he was assigned to minor league affiliate Providence at the start of the 2016-2017 season.
Peter’s impact was felt immediately. Limited by injuries, he played in 49 of 76 AHL games for Providence and put up respectable numbers: 20 goals, 18 assists for a point total of 38. For perspective, Jake DeBrusk put up 49 points in 74 games, while Jordan Szwarz put up 54 in 65 games. Cehlarik’s season in Providence was also shortened by a mid-season stint with the big club in February of 2017. Cehlarik dressed for his first game against the Vancouver Canucks, on a line with countrymen David Pastrnak, and David Krejci. While his presence wasn’t fully illuminated against Vancouver, he would record his first point in the very next game against division and historical rival Montreal.
Cehlarik should already be credited with his first national hockey league goal; on February 23rd, he fired one past LA Kings netminder Jonathan Quick while playing on the Czech line, however upon video review, the goal was called back as the play was ruled offsides.
Honestly, I believe Cehlarik would have made the Bruins roster out of training camp if not for an upper body injury (shoulder). His point pace (0.77 ppg) in Providence was second only to leader Jordan Szwarz (0.81 ppg). For a player with his frame, his speed is excellent; in Providence I’ve personally seen him race up and down the ice keeping pace with the play. He also exhibits a good net front presence at about 1:10-1:20ish of this video. While you’re at it, watch the whole video as it’s from Cehlarik’s 2015-2016 season before signing his ELC and coming over to play in the States. In it, Cehlarik exibits good straight-line speed, passing, forechecking, creativity with the puck, and vision. Cehlarik’s only weaknesses are in what longtime Bruins’ prospect reporter Kirk Luedeke calls “short-area game and burst”. In Luedeke’s own words: “it takes him a bit to get going, and he’s susceptible to getting behind the play when there are quick changes of direction in the common possession style that more and more pro teams are employing in the AHL and NHL.” His play style reminds me of Milan Lucic or to a slightly lesser extent, Nathan Horton. Like the former two, Cehlarik has the ability to muscle players around, and put up respectable numbers while he’s at it. This power forward style player has been missing from the Krejci line for a while, and the muscle will help open up the ice for DK46 when he returns.
The timing of this callup makes sense, as one would think familiar face Austin Czarnik would be making the drive up I95 for the umpteenth time. However, Cehlarik has a signifigant size advantage over the nimble Swiss army knife Czarnik. Historically, West Coast teams have been built with significant size, speed, and skill. During the most recent game against the Kings, Boston found itself getting pushed around by larger players, and consequently played timid at times. Cehlarik is also highly capable of making plays, courtesy of his hands and vision, according to Bruins’ player development director Jamie Langenbrunner. His frame will help him better shield the puck as he demonstrates with teammate Sean Kuraly during the past season.
This article isn’t to say Peter Cehlarik will be the savior of the Bruins or that he will be the next Phil Esposito. I am merely shedding light on a player who has earned another shot at the big club. You might ask if he’s so great, why did he get sent down last season but that should be part of a young player’s development and doesn’t always reflect poor performance. Give Cehlarik a shot, it’s finally his time to shine.
Sources: AHL stats page, video from SHL, dafoomie’s helpful video clips, Kirk Luedeke’s Scouting Post blog, etc.