Bruins’ minor league depth being tested early
When Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, and David Backes were ruled unable to go during the first week of the season, the Bruins were forced to dip into their depth down in Providence to fill some gaping holes. As a result, Matt Grzelcyk, Austin Czarnik, Noel Acciari, and Danton Heinen received some early looks.
Despite the return of Backes, Bergeron, and Krug, the injury bug continued to haunt Boston’s locker room. With Acciari suffering a fractured left index finger, Ryan Spooner tearing his right groin, David Krejci and Kevan Miller getting blindsided with upper body injuries, and Tuukka Rask suffering a concussion after colliding with Anders Bjork in practice a week ago, the Bruins had to make some calls down south.
Over the last week, Kenny Agostino, Rob O’Gara and Zane McIntyre were all recalled from Providence. Even Peter Cehlarik was recalled eight days ago but optioned back down the next day.
Yes, the injury bug has hit the Bruins hard through the first few weeks of the season, but if there is a silver lining in it all, let it be this; Boston’s prospects are gaining valuable experience.
Now I know I may be stating the obvious, but look at the big picture. The theme of this year’s Bruins team is youth. With these injuries, the B’s youth story in Providence will become more battle-tested and inch closer to a spot with the big club.
And Boston isn’t just calling up your average minor leaguers. Not only have players like Agostino, Heinen, and Cehlarik been on the top of their own team in production, they are among the AHL’s best.
Agostino, at the time of his call-up, had two goals and five assists in just three games. He was named the AHL’s player of the week on October 16 and has seen plenty of action on Boston’s top power-play unit with Bergeron and Brad Marchand. The 25-year old journeyman currently has one assist with Boston.
Agostino’s linemates, Heinen and Cehlarik, have been equally as good. Heinen is 1-7-8 in four games and Cehlarik is sporting 3-3-6 totals in five games thus far. Heinen registered an assist in all three games with Boston. Czarnik has gotten off to a hot start of his own upon his return to Providence, collecting two goals and four assists in his first three games back with the P-Bruins. Each aforementioned skater is within five points of the league lead in scoring.
Though he did not see action in Saturday’s loss to Buffalo, Zane McIntyre has gotten off to another great start with the P-Bruins, possessing a 2.01 goals against average in four starts.
O’Gara, who was called up and dressed in Saturday’s game, has played well defensively throughout the start of the year.
“It felt good. You know, it’s been a long day today with the drive up from Providence this morning,” O’Gara said after Boston’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres on Saturday. “But it felt good – just trying to stay within myself, playing psychical, being assertive. You know, I think doing that more and more just a little each game… when I’m comfortable and confident is when I play my best. I think that will take a little bit of time, but I felt good with how I did tonight.”
Perhaps the most interesting, under the radar storyline in the constant roster shuffling between Boston and Providence is the fact that both Jakob Forbacka-Karlsson and Jordan Szwarz have yet to be called up. Szwarz, with two goals against the Laval Rockets in Sunday’s 4-1 home win, leads the team in goals (five) and is tied with Heinen in points (eight). Forsbacka-Karlsson has flourished at the beginning of his first full professional season, collecting two goals and three assists in six games.
The Bruins have struggled with injuries to start the year, but in the process have given their prospects some good, hard looks. Between O’Gara, Czarnik, Heinen, Grzelcyk and Agostino, the five have combined for four assists and a plus-one rating. The contributions the team has received from their call-ups is certainly a great sign, with a few more options in Providence to boot.
If and when the Bruins do suffer injuries, the depth is there on the farm ready to make another impact when given the chance and be a part of the new wave of young talent descending on Causeway Street.