“I don’t get to see much [of BU] except the odd game on TV, but he’s a very dynamic guy,” Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said at the organizations development camp. “There is room for those guys in the game now that are undersized defenseman.”
Grzelcyk flew onto the scene at BU this past season, becoming a top offensive weapon on the Terriers blue line. Grzelcyk saw a lot of power play time, which helped contribute to his success offensively.
The Charlestown, MA native scored 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) and was a +12 during his freshman campaign with the Terriers last season.
“He’ll continue to develop [at BU], and his time will come,” Cassidy said of Grzelcyk. “I’m sure the Bruins are excited about him [as] he is a guy that can move very explosively with the puck.”
Grzelcyk’s freshman season at BU was certainly no walk in the park. The team was surrounded by off-ice issues after an internal investigation. BU had its ups and downs as a team, but it did battle all the way to the Hockey East Championship game, only to be knocked out by NCAA Frozen Four participant, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
“There was obviously a little bit of adversity in the beginning, but it really brought our team together,” he said. “We [had] a lot of team chemistry, [and we] got closer as a team. There are a lot of positives to it, too.”
Hockey East is one of the most challenging collegiate leagues, so having the success he had was not necessarily expected. Many freshmen, especially defenseman, often bloom at an older age. Grzelcyk’s breakout season earned him a spot on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
“I have to credit my teammates, because I wouldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “We had a great team this year.”
Although for only one season, Grzelcyk had the opportunity to play for former BU coach Jack Parker, which was certainly a great experience. Parker is one of the most famous coaches ever at the collegiate ranks, where he finished his coaching career third all time in wins with 897 of them.
“[Jack’s] a legendary coach, and it was pretty special to be his last freshman class,” Grzelcyk said.
Before BU, Grzelcyk played with the United States National Team Development Program, giving him a lot of exposure playing at a high level. Over two seasons he scored 22 points and got plenty of experience on the international stage. He played in both the World U-17 Hockey Challenge as well as the U-18 WJC.
“It was the biggest stepping-stone for my career so far, I was about 148 pounds soaking wet when I first got there, and I put on about 20 pounds,” Grzelcyk said of playing for the U.S. NTDP. “Just getting that development off the ice was huge. Playing overseas in those tournaments was really special, too, and I didn’t take those opportunities for granted.”
Despite having such a successful freshman season at BU, Grzelcyk was the last member cut from the eventual gold medal-winning United States team at the U-20 World Junior Championship. Although he was certainly frustrated, it doesn’t mean it was a complete failure. He should be right back in the mix for the 2013 team, too.
“It was a great experience for sure, and anytime you get to represent your country is special,” Grzelcyk said. “Getting over there and not being able to play was disappointing, but it was still a great experience. I watched the WJC growing up a lot, so it was special to be able to see that live.”
After being drafted in the third round (85th overall) in 2012, Grzelcyk has had two opportunities to take part in the Bruins development camp the past two summers. As a Boston native, he knows what is expected and that message has been clear from the Bruins.
“It’s been great [at development camp], and going through the process last season has helped me a lot,” he said. “I felt a lot more prepared coming in [this summer]. The biggest thing [the Bruins] do is that they show us just how hard it is to make it at this level. They really stress training off the ice, which is something I am definitely focusing on. [The Bruins] just stress hard work.”
Grzelcyk will return to BU this upcoming season as he looks to build upon his freshman season with the Terriers.
Follow Richard Murray on Twitter via @Richie_Murray