BRIGHTON – Noel Acciari played 19 games for the Bruins last season during his first National Hockey League campaign. All of those contests came in March and April, while the Black & Gold were battling for a spot in the postseason.
The 24-year-old acquitted himself well as the Bruins’ fourth-line center, gaining the trust of the coaching staff and his teammates during a vital part of the stretch run.
But Acciari is not taking anything for granted as he enters this year’s training camp. Despite his success last spring, he knows he must once again earn a spot on the Bruins roster.
“No one’s ever safe,” Acciari said following Wednesday’s captain’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “I definitely felt good at the end of the year, but it doesn’t mean anything. So, this summer I still had to train hard.
“Nothing’s permanent. You have to work for everything you get, so I’ve been working hard all summer and I’m ready to have a good training camp.”
Acciari, whose rugged style made him a natural fit for the Bruins fourth line, helped the B’s round out a strong collection of centers, joining Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Ryan Spooner up the middle.
But after the offseason signings of veteran middlemen David Backes and Dominic Moore, competition at the position is sure to be fierce. As a result, the 5-foot-10, 208-pounder is prepared to do whatever it takes to solidify a spot on the final roster, even if it means shifting positions.
“I played a little wing in college, but the most wing I played was last year down in Providence when it was a line with me, Austin Czarnik, and Seth Griffith,” said Acciari, who focused heavily on his agility and footwork during the offseason.
“I felt comfortable on the wing. I’ll play wherever I need to play, wing doesn’t make a difference. I can play wing or center. It’s just placement, being in the right place as a winger, where as a center, you have a little more room out there to figure out where you need to be.”
The Johnston, R.I., native tallied one assist, while averaging just under 10 minutes of ice time (9:54, to be exact) with Boston last season. He won 44.1% of his faceoffs and picked up eight penalty minutes.
The numbers may not have been eye-popping, but the experience he gained during his initial taste of the NHL was invaluable.
“It definitely helped my confidence,” said Acciari, who signed with the Bruins as a free agent in June 2015 after a three-year career at Providence College, where he helped the Friars to a National Championship during his senior season.
“As the games went on, I felt a little more confident in each game and I think that definitely helped…just knowing that I can play up there is definitely a good feeling.”
Acciari’s comfort level around the dressing room has also improved. When he arrived in Boston last March, Acciari was just 42 games into his professional career – he tallied seven goals and 12 assists for the Providence Bruins – and still attempting to his find his way on a veteran team.
“It’s a good feeling now after last year, being up here with those guys. I feel a lot more comfortable,” said Acciari. “I know I didn’t say a word, two words, in the locker room or anything just because I was too nervous.
“I just wanted to try and kind of get the lay of the land before I started talking because I’m a shy guy. So, being a little more vocal would be better. I’ll work on that.”
Acciari wouldn't be opposed to making some more noise on the ice, either.