Providence Bruins

Jul 12, 2017


With their top five scorers from the previous season not on the opening night roster, the Providence Bruins knew they would be turning to new sources of production in 2016-17. That group turned out to be the rookie forwards, as the group of four key first year players ended the season among Providence’s top-10 scorers. In addition to their work with Providence, the quartet of prospects also showed that their NHL future is not too far away with three of four making their debuts for Boston.

The first to make his debut was Danton Heinen, who did so in Boston’s season opener. A fourth round pick in 2014, Heinen was nothing short of dominant upon arriving in Providence with four multipoint games in his first ten contests and a stretch of 15 points in 15 games. A natural center, Heinen played on the wing in addition to moving from line to line which led to some inconsistency throughout the season. Still, the 21-year old finished fifth on the P-Bruins with 44 points and was selected to the AHL All-Star team. He stepped his game up in the postseason, as his nine goals were not only most on the team, but tied for the most in one postseason by any P-Bruin in history. His 18 points led the club and also set a new Providence rookie record for playoff scoring.

Peter Cehlarik led the way in goals most of the season for the P-Bruins, though he finished second on the team with 20 due to injuries and call-ups to the NHL. A left-wing, the 21-year old spent most of the season skating on the first or second line for Providence showing off his natural scoring ability. A 2013 third round pick by the Bruins, his goals were not only plentiful, but clutch. Four of his goals were game-winners, five of them gave Providence a lead and three of them tied the game. His scoring was missed in the playoffs, as he missed both the Division Finals and Conference Finals due to shoulder surgery.

Sean Kuraly was another youngster with high expectations purely on how he was acquired. The 24-year old was traded to Boston by San Jose along with a first round pick in exchange for goalie Martin Jones four days after Jones was acquired as part of the Milan Lucic trade. A center on the fourth line most of the year, the 2011 fifth round pick gave Providence depth throughout their lineup while providing some spark to penalty kill unit. He led the team in shorthanded and was a big reason why the team’s penalty kill was second the league. Though he had already made his NHL debut in November, Boston fans really became familiar with him in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when he scored his first two career goals in game five, including the overtime winner.

The only member of this rookie group not to make his NHL debut may have been the one who had the best season overall in Jake DeBrusk. Expectations were high for the 2015 first rounder, and the 20-year old didn’t get off to the best of starts scoring just 23 points in his first 44 games. He turned it on in a big way after that, scoring 26 points in his final 30 games while leading all Providence first-year players in scoring en route to being named the team’s rookie of the year. His 49 points were also tied for second overall on the team, and he added six goals and nine points in the playoffs.

These four weren’t the only rookies on the roster as the season ended, as Ryan Fitzgerald, Jesse Gabrielle and Zach Senyshyn each saw limited time in April. Fitzgerald had the biggest impact as he centered the fourth line in the postseason, but all three should be back as rookies next season for the P-Bruins with the talent to match what this year’s impressive crop accomplished.

While the present was great to these youngsters, their future is even brighter as they compete for NHL roles. Should that future be in Boston there are potential lineup spots for them to compete for, especially on the left wing. DeBrusk and Cehlarik are naturals at the spot, but all four of them can play the position. With the Bruins in need of a top-six winger and production from their bottom six in 2017-18, the team is likely to give these Providence stars a serious look.

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The Providence Bruins are the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Boston Bruins, playing their home games at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI. Spanning more than 20 years, the Boston/Providence affiliation is one of the longest and most successful player development partnerships in professional hockey history.

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