BostonBruins.com -- With the return of key veterans to the Boston Bruins lineup, the Providence Bruins roster is benefiting from the infusion of talent and experience back to the AHL club. Matt Fraser and Justin Florek were reassigned to Providence recently, completing NHL stints of 14 and three games, respectively.
Fraser scored a pair of goals since a Dec. 7 recall to Boston, showing a smattering of the offensive talent which has seen him score 86 goals in just 158 career AHL games since he turned pro for the 2011-12 season. The former Kootenay Ice star did not get an abundance of ice time with the B’s, but he gained invaluable experience with the big club.
Florek shined in his fourth-line role, tallying a goal and assist in games against the Kings and Ducks, his first career production at the highest level. The 2010 fifth-round pick and Northern Michigan University graduate and captain has the kind of size and tenacity to be an ideal fit on the lower lines for Boston.
His skating and overall foot speed/quickness has improved from when he was drafted. He has a powerful stride and good straight-line speed when he gets going from a standstill or change in direction. Florek keeps things pretty simple by going hard to the net with his stick on the ice and playing an effective three-zone game. A hard shooter whose best offensive asset is his heavy drive and quick release, he does not play an intimidating style, but does grind it out along the walls and uses his 6-foot-4 frame to establish position in front of the net.
Team Finland captured the 2014 World Junior (under 20) championship just after the new year, and while the B’s boasted no prospects on the gold medal winner, several of the organization’s players had standout performances in Malmo, Sweden.
Linus Arnesson earned a silver medal (for the second consecutive year) with Team Sweden, falling to its regional rival in overtime, but once again established himself as an important contributor. Arnesson’s good size, smooth mobility, and intelligence makes for the kind of effective but low key player that every successful team needs. He won’t get many style points for flash, but he advances the puck smartly and plays an efficient positional game.
Winger Peter Cehlarik of Team Slovakia played well in his first trip to the signature tournament. Although not a top-level skater, he thinks the game well and uses his quick hands to carry the puck through the neutral zone and maintain offensive possession. He needs to use his 6-foot-2 frame more effectively in front of the net, but showed off some impressive long-term potential.
USA defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who grew up in the shadow of TD Garden in Charlestown, was named one of the squad’s three MVPs despite a disappointing fifth-place finish. The mobile rearguard unfortunately recently suffered an injury and is expected to miss some time with Boston University.
Bruins Prospect Snapshot:
Matthew Grzelcyk, D Boston University (Hockey East)
Scouting report: The 2012 third-rounder, who turned 20 on Jan. 5, is a diminutive 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, but as NHL fans have discovered, size isn’t everything. He is a plus-skater who not only possesses a quick initial first steps, but has a top separation gear, and is fluid and elusive when carrying the puck up the ice. Grzelcyk’s quick feet keep him out of trouble, as he is often able to beat the initial forechecker with his speed and lateral agility. Makes a decisive first pass with a crisp, on-target outlet feed and can hit the intermediate-to-long lead passes with ease. Outstanding hockey sense and vision; makes good decisions under pressure and has a natural knack for the offensive flow of the game. While not an overpowering shooter, he’s added some power to his drive and is a scoring threat thanks primarily to accuracy and smart shot selection. A superb passer/puck distributor in the offensive zone. Has an active stick and good handle on taking proper angles. He can be overpowered by the bigger, more physical forwards he goes up against, however. High-end character: Grzelcyk wants to be a player and understands his physical limitations. He doesn’t try to be something he’s not, but realizes he has a lot of work to do in his development.
Outlook: The Bruins kept tabs on the former Belmont Hill star who left Massachusetts at age 16 to skate for the U.S. National Team in Ann Arbor, Mich., and that faith in spending a top-90 pick on a skilled but undersized defender is paying off. Although he’s probably at least a year or more away from turning pro, Grzelcyk has established himself as one of the best young offensive defensemen in college hockey, and proved his value on the international stage in Sweden, finishing among the tournament’s leading scorers. Although currently dealing with an upper body injury, Grzelcyk is a vital cog for David Quinn’s BU Terriers squad now and moving forward. He’ll likely need some time in the minors first, but the youngster is showing NHL potential as a top-four defender and key special teamer who can contribute on both the power play and penalty killing units.
Kirk Luedeke covers the Boston Bruins and NHL prospects for the New England Hockey Journal and is a contributing editor and hockey scout for the Red Line Report. You can follow him on Twitter at: @kluedeke29