"Compared to playing in Sweden the last couple years, it's been more freedom to play offense and show off the skills. It's a defensive league back there in Sweden, [there is] more space and freedom to show here," said Cehlarik, who is leading the Providence Bruins with 14 goals this season, while sitting third with 23 points in 30 games.
Entering the season, Cehlarik was viewed as a big body who uses his strength to play a well-rounded and responsible game up and down the ice. His scoring touch has been a welcome addition to Providence (21-8-4-3, 49 points), which has won 16 of its last 20 games to surge into second place in the Atlantic Division, six points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"He's been terrific. He's scored some real big goals at times," said first-year Providence coach Kevin Dean. "With good timing, he makes plays, he gets the puck to the middle with speed. He's learning the wall work in the defensive zone and doing a nice job there.
"He's growing. But right from the get-go, he's been good offensively, scoring some goals. He's a smooth, intelligent player."
Dean believes Cehlarik's penchant to get to the front of the net has helped drive up his goal total.
"He doesn't live in front of the net, but he comes in and out of the scoring areas," said Dean. "He's willing to get inside guys and get some rebounds. But he's also got a terrific release.
"He gets to the net at the right time and he has the ability to beat the goalies from outside with a shot as well."
Cehlarik had a strong showing at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo ahead of Bruins Training Camp, scoring a goal in both games the Black & Gold played. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound winger also played well during camp and the preseason and has carried that momentum over into the first half of the season.
"I've tried to have the pace I started in Buffalo," said Cehlarik. "It's been going pretty solid over this half year. To feel that I can play and have a little bit less ice out there.
"It gave me confidence to have a lot of pucks go into the net. It's a long season, trying to stay consistent and play every game."
Cehlarik, who signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Bruins in June, has also adjusted well to his new life off the ice. That part of his transition has not been much of a change, as he has lived away from home since he was 16.
"From the time I was 16, I lived by myself in Sweden [with a roommate]. We had an apartment, I cooked for myself and took care of myself," said Cehlarik. "It's been kind of the same experience here. I live alone, just five minutes from the rink. It has been really good for me so far."
The Slovakia native has represented his country several times on the international stage, including two World Junior Championships (2014, 2015). He helped his homeland to a bronze medal in 2015, chipping in two goals and an assist in seven games.
"It's been one of my best moments in my career so far," said Cehlarik, who has yet to meet fellow Slovakia native Zdeno Chara. "It's been huge…it's an honor and I got to enjoy playing there."
DeBrusk Finding His Way
Jake DeBrusk was the 14th overall selection by the Bruins in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. And since donning the Spoked-B on the draft floor in Sunrise, Fla., the 20-year-old winger has enjoyed a successful run of play.
After registering 39 points in 37 games with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League following a trade from Swift Current last season, DeBrusk joined the Bruins for his second training camp. The Edmonton native was one of the last cuts from camp, before being assigned to Providence.
In Providence, DeBrusk shook off a slow start and has been hot as of late. He went without a point against Hartford on Sunday, snapping an eight-game point streak in which he registered six goals and two assists.
"I don't think I've ever really been on one of those," DeBrusk said of his eight-game point streak. I'm starting to find the puck more. I'm starting to score more again."
Coming off of a strong camp with Boston, the confidence and results the winger found at such a young age have motivated him to elevate his game.
"It's really encouraging for a player like me who is 20 years old going into his first year pro. I was that close," said DeBrusk. "That's all I think about when I'm down here is to get back to that level."
Cave Excelling with New Physique
While DeBrusk was a high profile, first-round draft selection, teammate Colby Cave has found success on a much different path.
Cave, a native of Battleford, Saskatchewan, was signed by the Bruins as an undrafted free agent in April 2015.
Last season with Providence, Cave potted 13 goals and 16 assists in 75 games. Though he played a solid brand of two-way hockey, the 22-year-old centerman knew he had to make adjustments during his first offseason as a professional to find more success.
A newfound commitment to fitness and nutrition was a major step forward for his career.
"Over the summer, I really bore down on that and worked on the little things, getting quicker, getting faster, getting stronger," Cave said before the start of the season.
With 36 games under his belt this season, the improvement has been noticeable. Cave has notched seven goals and 12 assists with a plus-4 rating. The 6-foot, 187-pound forward feels his new, healthy lifestyle has played a major part in his success.
"In my year-end meeting, they said, 'If you come into camp in shape, that's one less thing you have to worry about,'" said Cave.
"It's one step closer to the NHL. That's the end goal is to make the NHL and play for the Bruins."
Providence plays its typical three-game slate this weekend:
- Friday: 7:05 vs. Utica at Dunkin' Donuts Center
- Saturday: 7:05 at Springfield
- Sunday: 3:05 vs. Bridgeport at Dunkin' Donuts Center