BostonBruins.com — Within the Bruins organization, there are plenty of players Tyler Randell has looked to for inspiration over the last several years.
One of them — Shawn Thornton — recently departed for Florida. The other is the home-grown Milan Lucic, and when Randell signed a one-year, two-way deal on Thursday to remain with the B’s, he was one step closer to following the very same path.
“It feels great to have the privilege to continue to play in the organization,” Randell said after finalizing the deal, “and it’s definitely great to get the contract signed and get ready to go back to work.”
This year was a breakout year of sorts for Randell. After combining for two points through 53 games in his first two seasons in the AHL, Randell played in 43 games with Providence in 2013-14, registering career-highs in points (11), plus-minus (+1) and penalty minutes (93).
Randell credits one simple thing in particular for his progression: Confidence.
“Building confidence is huge — just being confident going into games, knowing I’ll be able to make certain plays and get the job done,” he said. “Confidence has definitely been one of the main things over the last couple of years.”
There are also plenty of smaller aspects of his game the 6-foot-1, 200-pound winger hopes to improve as he approaches his fourth year with the P-Bruins: being strong on the puck, on the boards and in the corners, getting pucks out of his own zone, improving his puck possession and growing more comfortable taking the puck to the net.
Randell also got his first shot at special teams last season, as he was integrated into the P-Bruins’ penalty kill.
“My training last summer definitely helped me out a lot,” he said. “I felt I was in great physical condition, and that helped me feel a lot better on the ice, so my confidence was pretty good going into last season. And as the year went on, I started making plays and points. Just playing my power forward game, points started coming, and that obviously made me feel better, too.
“I just have to keep the confidence level up, and hopefully I’ll keep progressing over this year.”
One area of Randell’s game that has always been a source of pride — and will continue to be — is his physicality. Randell registered several Gordie Howe hat tricks last season and will continue to hone his reputation as one of the P-Bruins primary energy players who is always willing to drop the gloves to defend a teammate.
“Being a power forward is definitely a huge part of the game — you’re the energy, I guess, of the guys,” he said. “You have to know when it’s time to give the guys a boost, whether it’s finishing a check or stepping up for a teammate and just getting the guys going on the bench and stuff, too.”
That fearlessness and toughness are characteristics that lead to the inevitable comparisons between Randell and someone like Lucic.
“I play a Lucic-type game — strong, physical, taking the puck to the net,” he said. “That’s a player I base my game off of.”
As he looks toward 2014-15, Randell knows that there is a big vacancy where Thornton used to be on Boston’s fourth line. He knows the opportunity is there for a Providence winger to come in and fill that role, but he refuses to put too much pressure on himself. He will just focus on what he can do: stay confident, compete hard in training camp and continue proving his worth to this organization.
“With spots opening up this year, it’s in my hands,” he said. “I just have to continue working every day, on and off the ice, and getting better in those little areas I’ve been working on, and hopefully [I’ll be] getting the opportunity this year.
“with Thornton leaving this year, that is definitely a huge hole to fill, and I’ve been working to kind of be given an opportunity to try and fill that role.”