New ECHL affiliate for the Bruins

By Janine Pilkington

The Boston Bruins added another pro team to their development system when they reached an affiliate agreement with the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the ECHL this week. The announcement came just prior to the Ice Dogs’ first game of the regular season on Oct. 20. The club is starting the 2006-07 season with new owners, and new faces both on the ice and in the front office. Head Coach and General Manager Rick Adduono, in his first season with the Ice Dogs as well, is a former Bruins draft pick (1975) who brings with him seven years coaching experience in the ECHL.

When Hockey’s Future spoke to him by phone on the morning of the Ice Dogs’ home opener, he expressed his enthusiasm for both the deal with the Bruins and the upcoming hockey season.

“It’s fantastic,” Adduono said. “It’s great for our organization, and we’re thrilled to be affiliated with the Boston Bruins. We want to develop their players, and win at the same time — and hopefully continue this for a long time to come.”

The Bruins have a large number of prospects playing pro this season, so the deal with Long Beach couldn’t have come at a better time to finally have an ECHL level team designated for their players. In the past, players sent down from Providence (AHL) went to whichever team would take them. Long Beach should bring some stability, in that all Bruins prospects playing at that level can be on one team. The hope is that this will make the whole process of shipping players up and down go more smoothly.

“From what (Bruins assistant general manager) Jeff Gorton and I have talked about, he really doesn’t want players sitting around,” Adduono said. ”Also, I think the real positive is that (Providence coach) Scott Gordon and I know each other very, very well from over the years, coaching against each other in the ECHL, and we’ve had a great relationship as far as talking about players and him calling up players in the past.”

Chris Collins, TJ Trevelyan, Mark Tobin and Mike Brown are the first players to be assigned to the team. All are young, early on in their pro careers and should benefit from the ice time and playing experience they will get in Long Beach. They will also need to be ready in the event that Providence has a roster spot to fill.

Adduono complimented the new additions to his roster and said they have been working hard since their arrival. Mike Brown (G) is a Bruins fifth round draft pick from the 2003 Entry Draft, and Mark Tobin (LW) is a former second round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 who was picked up by Providence in early October. Collins (LW) and Trevelyan (LW) signed with the Bruins as free agents over the summer of 2006.

“Seeing both of them [Collins and Trevelyan], they’re certainly not big in stature, but they both handle the puck very well, they both skate very well, they’re both excited to be here in Long Beach to get regular shifts, to show what they’ve got and why they were signed by the Bruins.”

The first game of the season for the Ice Dogs ended in a 2-1 decision in favor of the Idaho Steelheads. The lone Ice Dogs goal was scored by Chris Collins, unassisted, in the second period.

Chris Collins

Boston College alum Chris Collins may have been unable to cap off his college career with a championship, but he did finish with some of the most spectacular play of his career, which undoubtedly helped to solidify interest in him from NHL teams. The accolades spanned the duration of the season, including numerous player of the week honors, a Hobey Baker nomination (he was a top-ten finalist), and he was voted Hockey East’s player of the year.

“You know it’s funny, Chris’ first three years here really he was just a tenacious forechecker, really gritty, excellent penalty killer — just a real energy guy,” described BC’s Associate Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh. “His senior year, pucks started going in for him, and I think his role changed a little bit. To make that type of jump was really big for him.”

It was a significant leap for Collins, who, in his senior year, more than tripled his output, scoring 34 goals for a total 63 points in 42 games. In fact, he scored more goals in that one season than he had in the other three combined. When asked where this sudden proficiency for scoring goals came from, Collins was quick to give credit to his team.

“I couldn’t have chosen a better place to go [to school],” he told Hockey’s Future. “The first three years I learned a lot. We had a lot of great players, and then my senior year I got the chance to do more stuff, and I think I definitely benefited.”

Collins is perhaps just one positive story on a team that performed far better than expected. Following the 2004-05 season, a number of BC’s players moved on, and when the fall of 2005 rolled around, more than half of the roster spots were held by freshman or sophomore players. Ultimately it would be the team’s drive and the willingness of each player to step in and do his job that led to BC’s success.

“We were good all year,” Collins said. “People maybe at the beginning weren’t sure how we’d be, maybe thought it would be a rebuilding year, but guys like Brian Boyle stepped up, and with Cory Schneider in your net, you’re never going to be a bad team, so it was one of those years that just got better and better.”

Collins was never drafted, something he perceived as giving him more opportunity to try and prove himself. He wasn’t sure where he’d end up after he graduated, but he knew he wanted to play hockey, so when the Bruins came calling, there was no hesitation. In July of 2006, the Bruins offered Collins a contract, and a little more than a month later, he attended his first NHL camp.

“I skated with all the veteran guys for a little while,” Collins said of his camp in Boston. “I think the biggest thing is that you’re in awe for the first few days — you’re skating with guys you’ve been watching, growing up your whole life. I think once you realize you can play at that level, you’re fine. I think after the first day or two I felt good, it was just a great experience for me to be able to skate with those kinds of players.”

Collins attended training camp in Providence before he was reassigned to the ECHL. It’s tough to say whether the player that emerged during the 2005-06 season will be the player we see at the pro level. Much will depend on how well he makes the transition from college hockey and how quickly he finds chemistry with the team. While Cavanaugh was guarded about making any predictions, he did see potential for success if the young forward continues to play with the same edge he had in college. He’s a player that is as adept at handling the defensive responsibilities of the game as he is persistent in his pursuit for the puck. Of course, having the ability to pot a few goals doesn’t hurt either.

“I’ve always been a quick, strong, fast guy, so, I just kind of try to get better day by day. I look forward to working hard and making my overall game better.”

Whether it was the atmosphere in Providence, or a reflection of Collins’ personality, the 22-year-old appeared remarkably calm and focused for a rookie. He was eager to begin the season and is yet another player with the potential to make an impact on this Bruins roster. Standing at just 5’8, he’s on the small side, but at roughly 200 lbs, he’s got a solid build and the strength to compete successfully at the pro level. How quickly he acclimates himself will depend on many factors, but one thing that is certain, is that Collins has the right combination of skills and motivation to help him on his way.

TJ Trevelyan

TJ Trevelyan came to the Bruins via the free agent market during the summer of 2006. The 22-year-old Mississauga, Ontario native finished off a four-year college career with the St. Lawrence University Saints (ECAC) and much like new teammate Chris Collins he had a spectacular senior year. Trevelyan went undrafted during his college career, but that never deterred him from his goal to play pro hockey.

“I learned a lot in college, on and off the ice, and I met a lot of people, but it’s just a stepping stone,” Trevelyan said during training camp in Providence. “My goal is to play in the NHL at some point. What’s done is done — I enjoyed it, but I’m excited to start over again.”

At 5’10 and weighing in around 180 lbs, Trevelyan is another player that’s on the small side, but he’s an excellent skater who is offensively gifted. During the 2005-06 season, he totaled 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 40 games, leading the Saints in almost every area, including power-play goals (8) and shorthanded goals (2). He was player of the year in the ECAC for 2005-06, a unanimous nomination for the All-ECAC First team and a Hobey Baker top ten finalist.

Trevelyan had his first NHL camp experience this fall after signing with the Bruins. Spending time in the dressing room and on the ice with NHL veterans is eye-opening for many rookies, to say the least, particularly when a player of Zdeno Chara’s stature is present.

“He’s huge,” recalled Trevelyan, “He had to duck down coming in the room, all the guys — Glenn Murray, and all the defensemen, they’re huge, you’re just like wow, knowing that you’re playing against guys like that now, but it’s a step up.”

Despite the differences between college and a professional hockey camp, Trevelyan was upbeat and enthusiastic, and walked away with a taste of what it feels like to wear a Bruins uniform.

“The training camp was awesome. They made everyone feel like a professional.”

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.