No surprise here, folks. Providence Bruins left winger Frank Vatrano is the inaugural winner of Scouting Post B’s Prospect of the Month designation for October.
In just 31 days, Vatrano managed to post a four-goal game and a couple of two-goal efforts along the way to posting 10 goals and 12 points in his first 10 AHL contests of the 2015-16 season. The East Longmeadow, Mass. product signed with the Bruins as an undrafted free agent after posting 18 goals in 36 games with the UMass Minutemen in his first full season a year ago.
Here’s a UMass-produced YouTube video that shows the personal side of Vatrano and even takes you behind the scenes of the famous Antonio’s Pizza & Grinders- his family’s business where you can see his parents hard at work.
The Western Massachusetts hockey sensation left home at 16 to play for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was a member of the 2012 Under-18 World Champion gold medal-winning squad. Despite putting up some impressive numbers in his draft season, none of the 30 NHL clubs took a chance on him, and after his original commitment to Boston College fell through for academic reasons, Vatrano spent some time in the EJHL with the Boston Jr. Bruins.
He spent the 2013-14 (1 game) and 2014-15 NCAA seasons in Amherst, and jumped at the chance to sign with his favorite team, the Bruins. He skated in five AHL games last spring, scoring his first pro goal during the span.
Over the summer, Vatrano re-dedicated himself to conditioning, shedding 15 pounds and improving his cardiovascular endurance. Now playing at about 200 pounds, he’s quicker, faster and able to take longer shifts for sustained offensive pressure. His wicked shot is as dangerous as it always has been, and AHL goaltenders have had to find that out the hard way, as Vatrano’s natural nose for the net has paid immediate dividends. Here’s some hard evidence of his goal scoring prowess (4 goals against the Portland Pirates in the second game of the season), compliments of the Providence Bruins:
Given Boston’s hot offensive start, there isn’t a reason to think the B’s will bring him up to the big club in the immediate future unless there are some injuries or the scoring well runs dry. He’s got some things to address in terms of his 200-foot game and rounding out his skill set in order to be better prepared to meet the requirements of playing at the highest level. However, with his impressive start and natural ability to finish, fans shouldn’t have to wait much longer before seeing Vatrano make his NHL debut. He’s shown some resilience to keep the goals going after the early loss of center Austin Czarnik to injury just four games into the schedule. The duo had showed some impressive chemistry together going back to the brief stint in Providence to finish out the 14-15 season, but Vatrano has skated well with Alex Khokhlachev, who moved into the pivot position from the right wing while Czarnik has been out.
Honorable mention for Prospect of the Month honors: Jeremy Lauzon, D Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) with 3 goals and 24 points in just 15 games, the 2015 second-round selection has been boss in the early going, playing upwards of 31 minutes a night in all situations for the league’s second-most lethal offense. He’s not a flashy coast-to-coast kind of scoring defender, but keeps the play in front of him and gets many of his assists by working a heavy, accurate shot to the front of the net or finding open teammates in prime scoring positions.
Lauzon could have very easily been the top guy for October, but when it comes to Vatrano’s goal scoring and the fact that he’s doing it at the pro level versus major junior, I had to give the slight nod to Vatrano in a very close race. From the looks of it, Lauzon will continue to rack up the points if he can stay healthy, as he is very clearly the Huskies’ top defenseman and one of the team’s true go-to guys.