Upon returning from a shoulder injury early in the offseason, and missing nearly the entire training camp, Peter Cehlarik returned to practice on September 29 trying to make a late push to make the roster. Unfortunately, it ended up being a too little, too late for the 22-year-old from Zilina, Slovakia and he was optioned back to Providence.
Now, just three games into the AHL season, Cehlarik is already making a strong case for being called back up to the big show in the near future.
“It’s just been preparation,” said Cehlarik, who tallied a pair of assists in 11 games with the Bruins in 2016-17. “Last summer, coming off shoulder surgery, I had a lot of time. I missed most of training camp, I just spent time skating on my own. So the preparation was long enough for me to get ready come puck drop.”
Cehlarik is certainly prepared as he is wielding a white-hot stick at the start of the season, collecting two goals and three assists. Cehlarik opened the season with Providence’s first goal of the year – a nifty move through-the-defenders legs – in the first period of the P-Bruins’ home-opening win over the Springfield Thunderbirds. Six and half minutes later, Cehlarik got the primary assist in Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson’s first career professional goal.
The following Friday, another home victory over the Thunderbirds, Cehlarik chipped in on Forsback-Karlsson’s goal midway through the first. Around the same time during the second, Cehlarik picked up the primary assist on Kenny Agostino’s tie-breaking goal. He provided the P-Bruins with some insurance with a tally of his own less than minutes later, tipping in an Agostino shot from the point on the power-play to give Providence a 3-1 lead. The Baby B‘s would eventually hang on for a 3-2 win.
Cehlarik capped off a solid weekend on Saturday at home against the Marlins with a nice set up from the point where he dished the puck down low to Agostino. Agostino then flipped the puck to Forsbacka-Karlsson who fed Tommy Cross in front for a power-play goal with about seven seconds left in the game. This move, however, came too late for the P-Bruins to recover as they suffered their first loss of the year in the 3-2 setback.
One of the most exciting aspects of Cehlarik’s stats in his impressive start to the season has been his point production while playing alongside linemates Kenny Agostino and Jason Forsbacka-Karlsson. They are 1-2-3 in terms of points and assists (Cehlarik is second behind Agostino) and the trio are also tied for the team lead in goals with Cross. It’s safe to say that, thus far, Cehlarik has fed off the energy and talent of his top-line peers, and in turn, they have fed off him.
“The whole line has been effective,” said Jay Leach after Saturday’s loss. “The three of them track pucks well, they’re not a perimeter group, they stop and start and they’re doing all the right things.”
“But Peter had a nice offseason,” Leach continued on Cehlarik in particular. “He’s playing with a lot of purpose right now. He’s like a dog on a bone, he’s really getting after it and that’s why you see that he’s in a lot of sustained shifts in the o[ffensive] zone with his lineups. Peter’s really had an excellent start to the year.”
A key focus of Cehlarik’s during the offseason was the improvement of his conditioning and lower body strength post-surgery. He began skating in early August and worked with Bruins skills coach Kim Branvold to improve his on and off-ice conditioning.
“Once I got to training camp, we started skating, working on skills and shooting,” Cehlarik added. “I’m feeling good right now.”
Not only has Cehlarik been feeling good, he has undoubtedly been looking good on the ice as well. His lower-body work has paid off as he looks significantly stronger on his feet and has greatly improved his all-around game. It’s all led to Cehlarik’s hot start to his 2017-18 season.