Providence Bruins 2009-10 preview

By Justin Megahan

As the Providence Bruins take to the ice for the 2009-10 AHL season, they hope to build off the Eastern Conference Finals appearance in this spring’s Calder Cup playoffs. However, they’ll be doing so with a new-look roster, a newcomer to the crease, and with some new team leadership in the locker room.

Goaltending

Tuukka Rask, who has spent the majority of the previous two seasons tending to the Baby B’s net, made the NHL roster after beating out off-season acquisition Dany Sabourin for the backup role in Boston. Sabourin, who spent last year backing up Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh before being dealt to the Oilers organization, will get the nod as starting goalie in Providence. Backing him up will be rookie Matt Dalton out of Bemidji State. Second-year pro Kevin Regan was assigned to ECHL affiliate Reading on Thursday.

Forwards


Without last season’s top two point-getters, Johnny Boychuk, now manning the Boston blue-line, and Martin St. Pierre, who signed with the Ottawa Senators over the off-season, the P-Bruins will turn to returning talents Brad Marchand, Vladimir Sobotka, and Zach Hamill for offense. All three were in serious contention for a NHL spot on the Boston roster but were the last three cuts from camp.

Marchand was third in points on the squad last season, but will be looked to take the lead of the team offensively. While Marchand has already showcased his talent as an agitator and playmaker, this season coach Rob Murray expects more from the 2006 third rounder. In the past, Marchand has been guilty of getting too cute with the puck, and passing up shooting opportunities, something he’ll need to right this year.

Hamill, drafted by Boston in the first round of 2007, looks to make a bigger impact this season, after a rookie year with the team in 2008-09 that was plagued with wrist and thumb injuries. Ideally he would return to the form that made him the WHL leading scorer in 2007 with the Everett Silvertips.

Sobotka split his time last year between the Providence and Boston roster, putting up a point per game with the P-Bruins. No doubt he will once again find himself bouncing between the two rosters this year, but in Providence, the 22-year-old will be expected to be a big offensive contributor.

After leading the team in goals with 28 in his first season in North America, Finnish winger Mikko Lehtonen will also be returning for his second year in the Providence black and gold. The 22-year-old will be looking to overcome his checkered past and put together another solid season with the Bruins.

Jamie Arniel was promoted to the AHL roster late in the season, just in time to lace up his skates for the post-season, but after a strong camp he could provide a vital scoring touch in his first full season with Providence.

Jeff LoVecchio suits up with the P-Bruins this season, returning from missing the entire 2008-09 season due to a concussion, and bringing a two-way game and hard work in the defensive zone.

Joining Providence this season, and donning the "C" on his chest, is Trent Whitfield. Whitfield was originally drafted by the Bruins in the 1996 Entry Draft and returns to the organization to be part of a group of new older players assuming leadership roles. Kirk MacDonald, who suited up in only 24 games last season, is the only player older than 25 returning to the team this season. Last year’s captain, Jeremy Reich, signed with the Islanders over the off-season, and gone is alternate captain Wacey Rabbit, now suiting up for the Milwaukee Admirals.

Drafted in the fourth round of this summer’s Entry Draft, 20-year-old Lane MacDermid will be looking to make an impression. MacDermid has endeared himself to fans and found himself in more than a few Youtube videos thanks to his willingness to drop the gloves in the OHL.

Also new to the P-Bruins this year, is 24-year-old Drew Larman, the undrafted center who has spent the past four seasons playing with the Panthers system. And Guillaume Lefebvre joins the Providence line-up after having earned a two-way deal with the Bruins with his performance as an invitee in Boston’s training camp. Lefebvre was originally drafted by Philadelphia in 2000 and has spent limited time in the NHL with both the Penguins and Flyers.

Defensemen

With the promotion of Boychuk, taking over the blue line will be second-year defensemen Jeff Penner and Andrew Bodnarchuk. Both entering their second full seasons with the team, Penner will look to build off his strong first year with the P-Bruins, and puck mover Bodnarchuk will try to regain the scoring touch that made him such a threat with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL.

Adam McQuaid will also be returning, once again providing Providence with a physical shutdown defender, and taking on the title of alternate captain. In a season when emphasis may be focused on putting the puck into the opposing team’s net, McQuaid will likely prove to be the Sabourin’s best friend on their side of the center line.

New to the black and gold this season are defensemen Drew Fata, Rob Kwiet, Andy Wozniewski, and Alain Goulet.

The addition of Fata and Wozniewski brings a veteran presence to the defensive corps, and with Wozniewski, someone who has some NHL experience with the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues.

The impressive 6’3 Goulet has turned some heads with his dominant performance with the Gatineau Olympiques in the OHL, racking up 35 points in 32 games.