Arniel finding new life in Sarnia

By Ken McKenna

If the 2007-08 season could be described as a mix of the sour and the sweet for Boston Bruins‘ prospect Jamie Arniel, then the 2008-09 campaign could have the young center on a sugar high for its duration.

While last season was by no means a bad one for the Kingston, Ontario native, it was not without its low points.  The lowest point for Arniel was the trade that sent him from the OHL‘s Guelph Storm to his current team, the Sarnia Sting.  Trades, of course, are a part of the business in professional hockey.  But in junior hockey it can be a particularly gut-wrenching experience due to the fact that players at this level often are experiencing this upheaval for the first time in their life.  And when the trade involves someone that is 17- or 18-years-old, it can have a great effect on the player.  Arniel admits as much when asked about the subject.

"It was one of the hardest things in my career to go through", admits Arniel.  "It was definitely something I needed to work hard to move past."

But the flip side of a trade is that the team acquiring you is usually thrilled to have you on their side, which was the case with the Sting’s trade for Arniel.

<p>"I got to Sarnia and they welcomed me with open arms and I played really well there", enthused the talented Arniel.  "This year, it’s carried over and I’m playing well right now and having a great time trying to help the team win."

Indeed, while the Sarnia Sting as a team have struggled, Arniel so far has had an impressive 2008-09 season.  In 26 games, he has registered 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points.  Arniel’s seven power play goals have him tied for third in that category in the OHL.  Arniel, while happy with his play thus far, seems to be taking his personal success in stride.

"In the past, I’ve been a strong offensive player", said Arniel.  "I had a great second season in Guelph, and last year was pretty good, as well.  So I just wanted to keep that going this season and provide as much offense as I can in Sarnia.  I want to be one of the go-to guys and I’ve been that so far, so I want to continue that."

Arniel’s efforts have been aided by his linemates, Justin DiBenedetto and Matt Martin.  DiBenedetto currently stands fifth in OHL scoring with 37 points, while Martin has notched the same number of points (27) as Arniel.  Both DiBenedetto and Martin are prospects of the New York Islanders.

"They’re both having great seasons’, as well, and we kind of just feed off of one another", acknowledged Arniel of the season his linemates have had so far.  "We’re hoping to have the best season that we can and hopefully move up the standings."

The play of Arniel has not gone unnoticed outside of Sarnia, with the center recently being chosen to play for Team OHL in the Canada-Russia Challenge.  Arniel played in the game held in St. Catharines, a tight-checking affair won by the OHL squad, 3-2.  Arniel, who in 2007 also represented Canada as a member of the Under-18 squad, obviously enjoyed the event and the challenge of facing the Russian opposition.

"I had fun", said Arniel.  "I wasn’t expecting to play this game, but I had a real good start to the season. So they gave me a shot, and I think I played really well.  We came out with a good effort and got the win.  So I definitely have no complaints -  I had a great time.  The Russians are really skilled, and we really had to work for our chances.  When we got them, we buried them and we got the win, so we’re pretty happy with that."

Maybe the highest point of the past six months for Arniel was his selection by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Draft.  Although the weekend didn’t go quite as he expected it to, the outcome was something that most hockey-playing Canadian kids’ dream of.

"It was definitely an exciting day to hear my name called", beamed the 19-year-old.  "I was expected to go a lot higher, so that was really hard for me to sit there waiting to be picked.  But once Boston called my name everything was alright and I was so happy.  It’s a great organization and I have no complaints.  I had a great time there this summer and at the training camp before the season.  It inspired me to work that much harder this year and hopefully get a shot there next year."

If Arniel can carry over his play from this season into next year’s training camp in Boston, the young pivot is likely to receive more than a cursory glance from the Bruins’ organization.