Quarterly Prospect Report: Providence Bruins 2017-2018 Season
Quick hits about prospects that have played more games at the AHL level than NHL level his season. Grab a bucket of popcorn and scroll down for some first-hand observations with a side of researched statistics and other media sources’ takes (when relevant).
Fortunately, the 2017-2018 season was not the first time I’d been introduced to Ryan Fitzgerald. While the BC Eagles failed to qualify for the NCAA playoffs in 2016 – 2017, they did appear in 2015 – 2016. It’s been fun to watch Ryan progress, and he looks like he hasn’t lost a step since his Junior year as he ranks second among rookie scorers (5th overall) on a lethal Providence roster. Through 20 games, he has 6 goals, 5 assists, for 11 points with a +/ of 1, and considering he was skating for the club’s first ugly blowout at the hands of the Charlotte Checkers, that’s a respectable number. Fitzgerald works hard every shift, loves mucking in the corners and dirty areas of the ice. You can find him racking up points at even strength and on the powerplay. Unfortunately, on Sunday, December 3, 2017, Ryan was boarded by a skater from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers club and injured. Hoping for a speedy recovery.
With one point less than Fitzgerald (11 pts), Senyshyn (10 pts) is no slouch. Third on the team in rookie scoring (6th overall), he has amassed 3 goals and 7 assists in 20 games played. Senyshyn’s speed has translated well from juniors, blowing by defenders to set up plays, or score. Coach Jay Leach has used him in various roles, from 4th line duties to start the season, up to top line duties, PP, and PK time. Senyshyn’s trust grows with each passing game, per Leach’s comments (credit goes to Mark Divver). There were concerns about Zach to start the season, but whether intentional or not, he has been silencing critics with his strong body of work.
Another scoring machine for Providence, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson leads all rookies in scoring (2nd overall) with 7 goals, and 9 assists. JFK thinks the game at a deeper level than most other skaters on the ice, and combines this with soft hands to score, or set up scoring plays. His frame is NHL sized, however still needs to put on some muscle before assuming full-time duties on the Boston roster. Jay Leach praises him for his cerebral game and versatile role, however states JFK at times is too passive, watching the play, and not dictating it. Regardless of this one drawback, he continues to excel and develop well with a bright future.
Unfortuantely, Gabrielle has found himself on the outside looking in, or up in the press box for stretches. His speed, size, and offensive instincts are encouraging but his consistency and puck possession leave something to be desired. Recently, suspensions to some of the AHL-only Providence Bruins has allowed him to make a return to active duty, however his work is cut out for him to succeed as a roster mainstay and big-club candidate.
Dec. 10th edit: Gabrielle has scored his first goal; maybe this is the spark he’ll need to find more points. Has the toolbox, just needs the mental aspect.
At the time I began writing this (Dec. 3rd), Matt was just under the AHL/NHL games threshold. Over the past week, the scale is now more in favor of the NHL games played. I’ll still write up a quick blub about him regardless. Grzelcyk is a smart, puck moving defenseman that makes intelligent passes, and plays a 200 foot game. In 14 games for Providence, he was credited on assisting 4 goals for 4 points. To put this in perspective, Gabrielle has unfortunately accrued none in the same number of games played. (Ninja edit: He now has a goal.) Matt’s effective playmaking abilities earned his callup to Boston where he has recorded his first NHL goal already, and earned the praise of Head Coach Bruce Cassidy. He is now paired alongside right-shot fellow blueliner Kevan Miller who compliments Grzelcyk well, by being a big-bodied defenseman who works hard in the corners to retrieve pucks, allowing Matt an easier lane to set up his smooth, outlet pass.
While Kirk Leudeke praised Lauzon’s balanced approach in early 2017 during the QMJHL Huskies’ playoff run, Coach Jay Leach has seen a more aggressive Jeremy during the 2017-2018 Providence campaign. Lauzon works hard, competes and loves to dig in the corners for pucks, and doesn’t hesitate to clear loose pucks from the slot/crease. For his efforts, he’s been rewarded with a gorgeous preseason goal from the blueline on Chicago’s Corey Crawford, and some points in Providence. (0 G, 2 A) His real strengths are in his tenacity, and the competitive spirit he brings to each game; however these can also be his weaknesses as being overly aggressive will draw him out of position. Lauzon is still a prospect I remain high on, and will continue to be until he proves otherwise. (Spoiler alert: he won’t)
Zboril has benefitted from being one of the last prospects I’ve written about. Since I began writing this, he has accrued a few assists, including a pivotal one where he kept the puck in the attacking zone and begun a play that would eventually tie the December 10th game against Utica. (The PBs later won.) Like Gabrielle, he has the toolbox, maybe moreso than anyone else on this list. He struggles to connect the mental aspect into the physical execution. Occasionally he makes lazy plays that result in turnovers. I criticize with caution however, as he is in his first professional campaign and only 20 years young: emphasis on the young part. Additionally, he has had stronger games of late; the games against Binghamton on December 1st and 2nd, and Utica on the 10th have shown his tenacity and adaptability in learning from mistakes. When he’s on, he is reachable, teachable, and receptive to coaching and learning where he went wrong and why. Conversely, when off, he can be passive and allows the play to come to him too often instead of directing it.
Technically speaking, his skating is crisp and efficient, passing strong and accurate, but if you’re skating into trouble or aiming your passes at the wrong target, neither of those things matter. Given his first round pedigree, Zboril has the tallest hill to climb. Expectations are high, given the success of McAvoy and Carlo in the past two years. Unfortunately, people are already starting to break out the “bust” term for him, forgetting how young he is and that defensemen take longer to develop (generally speaking).
Perhaps one of the best things that can be said about a defenseman is that you don’t notice him. Fans might not immediately recognize this young blueliner so let’s join Mr. Peabody in the Wayback machine to 2014 and the 7th round of the draft. Emil was selected 206th overall, but don’t let his draft position fool you. This smooth-skating Swede already has his first professional goal and a handful of assists at this early mark of the year. He directs the play with and without the puck, and doesn’t become frantic during extended time in his own zone. Johansson makes good outlet passes, and has good overall technique in all facets of his game. Suffice to say he’s probably doing a good job if the only place you hear his name is when the PA announcer tells you he has registered a point or the ultra-rare occasion he takes a minor penalty (only 6 PIMs total).
After a red hot season last year in which McIntyre went 9-0-0 in December of 2016, Zane has struggled to find consistency in his outings this season. During parent club Boston’s recent string of injuries, McIntyre found himself travelling up and down I95 every few days, which couldn’t have been good for his development. It showed in his starts during the month of November, only winning 1 of 5. He was the goaltender for the 8-2 debacle in Charlotte in which the rest of the team failed to show up, which further hurt his numbers. Of late, his performances have been better, posting 4 straight wins since the Charlotte game. This may be more due to the P-Bruins receiving reinforcements as Boston gets healthy and sends most of the Providence roster back, however Zane has done his part to keep the Baby Bruins in games, regularly facing 30+ shots/night. As with Tuukka regaining confidence with Boston, Zane needs to keep this winning trend up to rebuild his own confidence as he backstops the 3rd best team in the entire AHL through the rest of the year.