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AHL Notebook: Bruins have uninterrupted pipeline in Providence

Frederic, Vaakanainen among brightest prospects being groomed for success in Boston

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Correspondent

The affiliation between the Boston Bruins and Providence is the longest in the American Hockey League. It has been a profitable one.

The affiliation began during the 1992-93 season, and it has sent goaltender Tuukka Rask and forwards Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and David Pastrnak, among others, to Boston.

Current prospects are being developed within a winning AHL environment; Providence has reached the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of the past six seasons.

With another strong team in Providence this season, that streak could continue. After a tough start, Providence has been among the best teams in the AHL and is on an 11-game point streak (9-0-1-1). Providence (55 points) is in a fifth-place tie in the Eastern Conference with Lehigh Valley and Toronto.

Here is a look at those who have helped Providence this season and could soon be on their way to Boston:

 

Jay Leach

The 39-year-old, who captained AHL affiliates for Boston, the New Jersey Devils, and the San Jose Sharks during a 12-season pro career, is in his second season coaching Providence.

A familiarity with the AHL and a proven ability to shape young talent made him a natural choice for the Bruins to continue the successful development record after Bruce Cassidy was promoted to coach the Bruins.

"[The AHL is] made to expose younger players to those situations and play big minutes," Leach said. "You're going to have to live and die with that. Ultimately, in the end, if you continue to put them out there, guide them along the way, you should see some improvement. Really, drastic improvement because of how young they are."

 

Trent Frederic

At 20 years old, Frederic is still working on figuring out the pro game, but he looks to be well on his way.

Boston selected the forward (6-foot-2, 203 pounds) in the first round (No. 29) of the 2016 NHL Draft and he turned pro late last season after two seasons at the University of Wisconsin. He since has received a promotion to Boston.

Video: Trent Frederic joins NHL Now to discuss his debut

After a three-point game (two goals, one assist) in a 5-3 home win against Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes), the AHL's top team, on Jan. 25.

Frederic was promoted to Boston three days later. He had 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in 37 AHL games before being called up.

Adapting to a pro-style schedule has been part of Frederic's development. There are more games and fewer practices in the AHL than Frederic was used to in college.

"It has taken me a little bit," Frederic said of the adjustment. "Managing your time, sleep, eating, it's all a little different. More games, you have to manage that. It's a physical league. You can get frustrated sometimes. You just have to stick with it. It's not easy, for sure, but it's a lot of fun."

 

Urho Vaakanainen

Boston chose Vaakanainen (6-1, 185) in the first round (No. 18) of the 2017 NHL Draft.

The defenseman turned 20 on Jan. 1, and it has been a busy season for him. Along with two games with Boston (no points), he also played for gold-medal winner Finland at the IIHF World Junior Championship, where he had four assists in seven games.

The rest of his time has been spent with Providence, where he plays a major role and has eight assists in 13 games.

"Since coming back, he has been skating, puck-lugging machine," Leach said. "He has wanted the puck. He's involved in the offense quite a bit. He's on the power play running one of the units."

"He looks like he's really excited to go out there and be an impact player. That's what he is. He's young. He's going to have his mistakes along the way, but he definitely looks like he wants to make a difference, which is all you can ask for, especially as a young kid."

 

Ryan Fitzgerald

Like Frederic, the 24-year-old Fitzgerald took the NCAA path and played four seasons at Boston College after the Bruins chose him in the fourth round (No. 129) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

The forward had 37 points (21 goals, 16 assists) in 65 regular-season games as an AHL rookie last season. An injury has kept him out of the lineup since Jan. 5, but he has 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) in 36 games.

Leach raves about Fitzgerald's versatility.

"[Fitzgerald's] game is his inside game. He's moving his feet, pulling the puck, really good in tight," he said. "That's what he was doing consistently for a couple of months. He's always that utility guy for us and can play a bunch of different positions."

 

Jakub Zboril

Boston selected Zboril in the first round (No. 13) of the 2015 NHL Draft, and he is in his second season with Providence.

Zboril (6-0, 200), who will turn 21 on Feb. 21, played his first two NHL games earlier this season and did not register a point. In Providence, he has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 31 games.

 

Zach Senyshyn

Senyshyn was selected in the first round (No. 15) in the 2015 draft. The 21-year-old (6-1, 192) has 20 points (13 goals, seven assists) in 40 games for Providence.

 

Jeremy Lauzon

Boston chose Lauzon (6-1, 204) in the second round (No. 52) of the 2015 draft. The 21-year-old defenseman has progressed nicely in his second pro season and earned a 15-game trial in Boston earlier this season, scoring once. He has since returned to Providence and has six points (one goal, five assists in 22 AHL games.

Lauzon joins Zboril, Vaakanainen, Connor Clifton and Wiley Sherman as part of a strong group of young defensemen in Providence.

"There are probably four or five guys back there that are right on the line, on the fringe, of maybe making an impact up top," Leach said.

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