Providence Bruins

Jun 26, 2017


From players coming over from other organizations to NHL caliber talent rejoining the team, Providence had no issues at forward with the veteran guys they had on their team. Some contributed heavily to the P-Bruins success while others were able to help both Providence and Boston during the season. Topping the list of additions were two players that skated together most of the season and each had career years in Jordan Szwarz and Wayne Simpson. Both players joined the club on a PTO prior to the season, but were each awarded season-long deals after proving how valuable they were to the 2016-17 team.

Szwarz led Providence in both goals and scoring for the season as he found the back of the net 22 times and had 54 points. Six of his goals came on the man-advantage which was tied for most on the team as the 26-year old set career highs in all scoring categories. Szwarz, an alternate captain, had his best games when needed the most as he scored the team’s first two goals in their Division Finals Game 7 win in Hershey. In the Conference Finals, he scored both the tying and OT winner in game two vs Syracuse to even the series. Simpson was a lesser known commodity after spending 2015 with Portland, but quickly made himself known to fans. He finished tied for second on the team with 49 points and led in both assists (33) and rating (+22). He was one of only two players to suit up in every game during the 2016-17 season and the 27-year old really stepped up at the beginning of the season to put Providence in the playoff mix. Simpson had points in 15 of 19 games from the end of October until mid-December, and of his 16 goals half of them either tied or gave the P-Bruins the lead. 

While both were crucial parts of Providence’s success, neither had the opportunity to perform at the NHL level. Noel Acciari, Austin Czarnik and Anton Blidh were able make an impact in Boston as well. The 25-year old Acciari was already familiar to Bruins fans as he spent time in both locations during his rookie year. After starting this season with Boston, he went up and down between the leagues four times. With Providence he netted his first career hat-trick in February and his physical brand of hockey ignited the team night after night. Like Acciari, Czarnik also started this year at the NHL level and made his NHL debut for Boston on opening night. He played a majority of the season there, but was up and down three times from the minors and closed out the year with Providence. Czarnik was a force with the P-Bruins as the 24-year old finished with 23 points in just 22 games. Blidh also made his NHL debut this year, but the 22-year old spent most of his second pro season with Providence providing energy along the bottom lines.

While most of these guys had just a taste of NHL time, Chris Porter and Peter Mueller spent most of their professional careers with NHL franchises. The two have combined for 531 NHL games, and the duo brought their experience to the P-Bruins. Each served a variety of roles for the club, changing lines and positions often throughout the season. Both Porter and Mueller scored 25 points during the season, though Porter saw better personal success towards the end of the season and in the playoffs while Mueller had more of his success early in the season to get Providence’s offense off the ground.

Two second-year players that hope to someday have that kind of NHL time are Colby Cave and Colton Hargrove, line-mates that have yet to skate in the NHL but were key parts to Providence’s third line. Cave was a consistent, solid player for the P-Bruins in 2016-17, skating in every game while finishing seventh in points. Hargrove was a bit streakier as over a quarter of his point total for the year came during a six-game point streak, but he one of the biggest goals of the year for the team as he scored the game-tying goal in Game 6 of the Division Finals

Rounding out the veterans are tough guys Tyler Randell and Zac Rinaldo. In his sixth season with Providence, the 26-year old Randell was also an alternate captain for the 2016-17 season after spending 27 games in Boston the prior season. As expected, he led the team in penalty minutes and led in fighting majors with eight on the year. Rinaldo had finally started to find his grove with the organization after a tough start and already had a career high with five goals, but a wrist injury at the end of January ended his season early.

Turnover is rapid in the AHL, so with very few of these guys under a guaranteed contract for next season it is likely some move on as they chase their NHL dream. Who returns and who will remain a mystery until free agency starts, but all of the team’s veterans did themselves well in 2016-17.

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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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