Boston Bruins boast deep, inexperienced group at minor-league level

By Bill Ladd
Photo: Jamie Arniel has been one of the few pleasant surprises for a Providence team that has for the most part underachieved this season. (Photo courtesy of www.theahl.com)

It’s been a disappointing season in Providence. There have been a few bright spots, but their lowly 13-14-2-1 record has been driven by some disappointing seasons from some of Boston’s better prospects.

Zach Hamill, C, 22

This was a critical year for Zach Hamill. In his third professional season, he needed to show that the uptick in production in the second half of last year was representative of him turning the corner in his development. That has simply not happened however.

Every once in a while Hamill will have a shift that gets your attention, but overall it’s just not coming together for him on any kind of consistent basis. Through 28 games, Hamill has just one goal, 14 points, 48 shots and a plus/minus of minus-two. Every one of those statistics represents a drop from last year’s pace, which just isn’t good enough for a former eighth overall draft pick in his third pro season. Hamill is in his last season of his entry-level contract with the Bruins. While the Bruins will likely not cut ties with the 22-year-old after this season, he is by no means in a position of leverage. If he does re-sign with the organization, it will be on a short-term deal.

Joe Colborne, C, 20

Like most hopeful NHL rookies, Joe Colborne took the news that he was being sent down to the AHL hard. It took him the better part of five games and a meeting with head coach Rob Murray to get his head on straight and his game pointed in the right direction. Since then, he’s been better, recording 16 points in his last 25 games, but he’s still not quite living up to the billing and expectations placed on the Bruins number-two ranked prospect. Colborne’s style is often compared to Joe Thornton and like the developing Thornton, Colborne has often look disengaged and listless.

If Colborne hopes to position himself for a longer look with the Bruins next fall, he’s going to have to get off the perimeter and turn up the intensity level in the second half of this season. Otherwise, he could be looking at several years in the minors.

Jordan Caron, RW, 20

Caron made the big club out of camp, and was fitting in well on a line with Patrice Bergeron recording three goals and seven points in 20 games, and leading the team in penalty killing ice time, but then seemed to hit a wall. He wasn’t playing with the same gusto as at the start of the season, and when Marc Savard rejoined the club Caron was relegated to the press box. Management wisely decided Caron would be better off playing 20 minutes a night in the AHL than being a healthy scratch in the NHL. But since his demotion, Caron has only mustered two assists in seven games.


Maxime Sauve, C, 20

Max Sauve has been one of the bright spots in Providence this season, that is, until he was injured. He started off his pro career with three goals and four points in four games, and then was sidelined for a month with a wrist injury. He has come back strong however, recording three goals and five points in the seven games since he’s returned. If Sauve can stay healthy, and maintain that pace there’s a good chance he could see a call-up this season and would have the inside track on an NHL job next fall.

Jamie Arniel, RW, 21

Another bright spot in Providence this year has been the elevated play of Jamie Arniel. Last year, Arniel displayed a terrific work ethic and was considered a diligent defensive player, but this year, the robust sophomore added an offensive dimension to his game that many fans didn’t see coming. He now leads the team in goals with 13, points with 22, and shots with 105. That’s a 35 goal, 300 shot pace.

Arniel was rewarded for his improved play with a one game call-up to Boston in late November and is looking like a sure thing to make it to the NHL.

Yuri Alexandrov, D, 22

This has been an adjustment year for Alexandrov; new culture, new language, a major emphasis on nutrition, conditioning and training, smaller rinks and a more physical style of play. To his credit Alexandrov has weathered the changes without complaint, and you can see he has an NHL skill level and hockey IQ, but he hasn’t worked through all the changes yet and there are still gaps in his game. As of this writing he has 10 points and a minus-six through 29 games.

Matt Bartkowski, D, 22

This is one of those times where numbers don’t tell the story. Bartkowski’s 11 points and minus-seven through 28 games would lead you to believe he’s struggling, but Bartkowski is consistently one of the most noticeable P-Bruins on the ice.

The two-way rearguard is a solid skater, a physical presence, and a big, frequent shooter. If there’s a knock it’s that you’d like to see more progress as the year goes along, but even his current level of play has gained notice.

Steven Kampfer, D, 22

Kampfer has been a dominant presence for Providence all season, and at the time of his call-up, was leading the team in scoring and plus/minus with a plus-10. Kampfer’s 16 points in 20 games is a 66 point pace. Kampfer’s strong play eventually led to a call-up to Boston, and he’s been nothing short of impressive for Boston as well, playing his way from 13:50 in ice time in his first game all the way up to 22 minutes alongside Zdeno Chara in his fifth.

Boston will have some tough decisions when Mark Stuart returns from injury as the Bruins desperately need Kampfer’s skill-set, but they are also tight against the cap and are already carrying seven NHL defensemen on one-way contracts.

Michael Hutchinson, G, 20

Considering Michael Hutchinson was expected to be sent back to junior for one more year, he’s acquitted himself fairly well. He beat out Matt Dalton and Adam Courchaine for the right to be Providence’s number two goalie, and then went on to outplay AHL veteran Nolan Schaefer for the majority of starts on the club. Through 17 games Hutchinson has seven wins, six losses, and a modest .900 save percentage.

The plan initially was for the vetera
n Schaefer to carry the workload, while Hutchinson learned from an experienced mentor and developed under less pressure, but Schaefer hasn’t delivered. As a result, Hutchinson has had to learn on the fly. It would still probably be best for Hutchinson’s development, and the team in general, if management could find a proven, successful veteran for Hutchinson to pair with, but Providence has already made one big trade this year and help in goal was not part of it. So this season may continue to be a trying one for Providence fans and a trial by fire for "Hutch."