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New Faces, New Opportunities

by Brandon McNelis / Boston Bruins - The summer of 2013 brought changes to the Bruins organization, which saw in influx of talent into the B’s pipeline of prospects with the acquisitions of Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow from the Dallas Stars as well as the free agent signings of Nick Johnson and Mike Moore.

A change of scenery means a fresh start and an opportunity to make important and lasting first impressions with both upper management and coaches. Defenseman Joe Morrow is no stranger to learning a new system after being traded twice in under a year after first being dealt from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Dallas Stars on March 24.

Less than four months later, on July 4, Morrow was moved yet again as one of the pieces in a seven-player blockbuster trade with the Dallas Stars. But despite experiencing two sudden shifts in his young hockey career, Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney has seen a solid work ethic out of Morrow and the ability overcome adversity.

“When Joe first arrived in Boston, his confidence was a bit shaken having been traded twice in a short period of time and he also had to deal with a nagging injury,” Said Sweeney.

“He worked very hard during the summer, in conjunction with our training staff to rehab and condition his body accordingly”

“He arrived at training camp wide-eyed to learn yet another new system and it certainly took some time for him to make the necessary adjustments.” Sweeney continued, “His recent play at both ends of the rink speaks to how well he has now adapted, and the job our coaches in Providence have done to provide Joe with the support he needs to continue to develop as an NHL top four D-man.”

Now 13 games into the AHL season with the Providence Bruins, Morrow has shown that he is starting to settle quite nicely, having notched two goals and eight assists for 10 points.

“Joe has a laid back personality but he loves to play the game and his consistency, physicality and decision making continue to improve with every game.”

Matt Fraser, who came over with Morrow in the Dallas trade, has shown the ability to adapt to a new system as well since joining the Bruins organization, including the ability to find the back of the net.  Fraser leads the Providence squad with 11 goals (tied for second in the AHL) this season and is ranked second on the team in points with 13 (11-2=13).

“Matt is scoring at an impressive pace, while continuing to adapt to a new system and a style of play that incorporates a more hard-nosed, aggressive style,” explained Sweeney.

“His shot is very dangerous and he has proven he can score goals from all areas of the ice and in all situations.”

Nick Johnson, who was signed as a free agent on July 5, a day after the trade with Dallas, was among the standout players during Boston Bruins training camp in September. Johnson finished tied for first with Jarome Iginla in goal-scoring during the exhibition matchups with three tallies.  Despite being assigned to Providence following training camp, Johnson maintained a positive attitude and has carried his success to the AHL, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by Sweeney and the B’s upper management.

Nick Johnson had a very strong training camp and almost made the big club. A lot of players may have pouted with that disappointing news but Nick’s arrived in Providence ready to lead a young team and compliment our group,” said Sweeney.

“Nick’s versatility as player who can provide offensively, whether five-on-five or on the power play, and also be a vital part of our PK units had been key to our coaches.”

“He has played on both wings and helped to mentor some young centermen as to the commitment it takes in both ends of the rink, game in and game out, to be successful at the NHL level.”

And with a young squad players in Providence, leadership among the group becomes increasingly important. Mike Moore (signed as a free agent on July 5), along with Johnson, has shown the capability to be that leader and was named Providence’s Captain for the 2013-14 season

“It did not take long for everyone to appreciate Mike Moore’s leadership,” said Sweeney of Moore.

“He was named captain and his unselfish play is a big part of his character. He leads by example and plays the game with big heart and passion. He also took some time to adjust his game to the Bruins’ style but the past couple of weekends, his consistency and level of play directly coincides with the team’s success."

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