The Bruins have a crowded defense core, yet that hasn’t provided any hindrance to the NHL’s hottest team.
Nine defensemen, including the injured Kevan Miller and the soon to return John Moore, grace the Black and Gold roster. Several Bruins prospects, namely Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril and Axel Andersson are seemingly closer to taking that next step to becoming full-time patrolmen on Boston’s blue line.
But another defenseman has flown under the radar through the first few months of the 2019-20 campaign.
Former Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic signed a PTO with Boston back in August as a way to provide some depth to the franchise in case negotiations with Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy went haywire. Don Sweeney inked their two prized d-men early at training camp, but Petrovic convinced the Boston brass enough to stick around the club in hopes of resurrecting his career.
So far, Petrovic has done just that down in Providence. Through 22 games, Petrovic sports a plus-six rating to go along with a pair of goals and 14 assists. Petrovic’s 16 points puts him in second place among American Hockey League defenseman and third overall amongst the P-Bruins scoring leaders. His 14 helpers lead the Baby B’s and also places him tied in the top spot for AHL blue-liners with San Antonio’s Derrick Pouliot.
“Just playing well as a team,” Petrovic said of his offensive output.
“Putting the puck in the right places and we’ve got guys going to the net and guys hungry to score and that really helps.”
Prior to his arrival in Providence, the 27-year old Petrovic had skated in 143 career contests in the AHL, all with the San Antonio Rampage, collecting nine goals and 51 assists. His best season came in San Antonio came in 2014-15 where he earned a spot in the AHL all-star game and recorded a 3-17-20 stat line in 41 games.
Florida believed he was ready to make the jump to the NHL and Petrovic eventually earned a full-time spot with the Panthers. Petrovic posted 50 points on five goals and 45 assists through his first 253 career NHL games.
But Petrovic hit a bump in his career early last season. After collecting just one assist in 24 games to open the 2018-19 season, the Panthers dealt Petrovic to his hometown Edmonton Oilers. A concussion sidelined Petrovic upon his arrival to Edmonton and he only skated in nine games, tallying just one assist.
Petrovic’s season debut with Providence marked the first time he laced up the skates since Feb. 16 and his first AHL game since 2015.
“Last year, I kind of lost some confidence,” Petrovic said. “I still want to prove that I’m a great player.”
“He’s been great,” Providence head coach Jay Leach said of Petrovic. “We knew he could bring some offense given his previous numbers in this league years ago and in the NHL. He’s come down here and he’s really worked. Over the last four or five games, he’s been really solid in other areas.”
The Boston Bruins carry five-right shot defenseman on their roster. But with Miller still and Steven Kampfer serving as the team’s seventh defenseman — while only appearing in four games this season — the Bruins could have Petrovic up in Boston if they encounter the injury bug again.
Petrovic, despite being more of a stay-at-home-defenseman, has developed a bit of a knack for setting up goals. But that’s not the only skill the 6-foot-4 blue-liner possesses.
The 2010 draftee has 20 NHL fighting majors to his credit, tangling with notable scrappers like Scott Hartnell, Tom Wilson and Evander Kane. Petrovic also dropped the gloves with former Bruins Adam McQuaid and Gregory Campbell. He has yet to record a fighting major for Providence this season, but never count out the potential.
Petrovic’s experience at both the AHL and NHL levels serves him well as a leader and mentor to younger players. All the while, he has found success in his game and has seemingly gotten his career back on track.
“I try to be a guy that the young players look to,” Petrovic said. “Even the leaders on this team are on the younger side as well. I just look to be the guy that the younger guy can lean on and if they have any questions. I can lend that hand.”
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