BostonBruins.com — Craig Cunningham is not unlike many other 22-year-old players in the AHL. He’s preparing for the upcoming season, working hard to improve his game every day.
And, above all else, he does not want the AHL to be his last stop.
Cunningham said he’s focused on making strides in his second season of professional hockey, and hopefully making his way to the NHL.
"I think that just every day you’ve got to get better," Cunningham said. "I think everyone is pushing all at the same time to make the NHL.
"Anyone that’s playing in the American League, that’s not their final goal. Every guy wants to be up in the NHL."
Cunningham, drafted by Boston in 2010 NHL Entry Draft (4th Round, 97th overall) said he used this past season in Providence, which was his first as a professional, to become acclimated and "learn the ropes."
Now, coming off a year in which he led the P-Bruins with 20 goals, Cunningham is not only focused on the task at hand, but also the broader objective.
"I think watching guys like [Jordan] Caron who have been in the NHL, and [Torey] Krug a little bit, [Trent] Whitfield being the captain here, he’s been in the NHL a lot, he’s got a great work habits, comes to the rink and shows you how to do it," Cunningham said. "So I think you follow guys that have been there before and have had success, and that’s how you learn."
For Cunningham and a host of other Providence prospects, there will be plenty of role models with respect to NHL experience. Along with the aforementioned Caron, Krug, and Whitfield, eight other members of the team have made stops in The Show.
There’s plenty of advice to be sought for Cunningham — the young forward could be seen talking to players like Krug when the team took the ice for its opening day of training camp last week. And the more comfortable he and those other players become, it will only making developing that much easier.
"I think everyone that was here last year kind of found their role, found their niche," Cunningham said, "and I think that’s going to happen a little bit again this year, but, kind of try and improve from last year and start where you left off."
Bruin General Manager Peter Chiarelli also talked player development when training camp opened up last week, and said if the Providence players concentrate on their AHL game, the overall product will progress.
"This is a good league. It’s a really good league, we want to put a good team out there and often times players, those bubble players as you characterize them, they make think that they are, but they’re not fully engaged down at the American League, and that hinders their development,” Chiarelli said. “I think that’s the biggest thing; just focus on the task at hand, and let’s get your development up and running."