It’s the classic hockey saw: Small guys must prove they can play, while big players need only prove they can’t.
NHL teams were scared off by Austin Czarnik’s size, so they didn’t draft him.
The Michigan native was a scoring whiz at every level, displaying speed, creativity, puck skills and a willingness to battle and make a difference. But in the end, when it came to the NHL draft, no joy.
So, he went to Miami University, ended up being the captain and was even a Hobey Baker finalist. He dazzled with some serious scoring mojo while he was at Oxford and the Bruins managed to beat out other suitors to get him on April 1, 2015.
It was no fool’s joke- the kid can just flat-out play. He showed it a year ago as he provided consistent offense and nearly scored at a point-per-game clip for Providence as a rookie pro in the AHL. That after impressing with the Bruins during the exhibition season, where he showed some instant chemistry with Frank Vatrano.
Czarnik played so well that he was a late-season emergency callup to go into the Boston lineup if a banged-up David Krejci was waved off. That didn’t happen, but if not for that, Czarnik would have made his NHL debut already.
He’s generously listed at 5-foot-9, but has pure speed in open ice that makes him so fun to watch. Witness tonight, as he burned past Andrei Markov in the Habs’ zone to get to a loose puck and rifle it over Al Montoya’s shoulder.
TSP has seen all we need to- the guy is skilled enough to play in the NHL…right now. He’s a winner. He’s worked hard to improve in the offseason and he’s putting that effort into practice with consistent offense during exhibition play. Of course, offense alone isn’t a guarantee that Czarnik will make the big club out of camp, but it certainly helps. Working against him is his natural center position and the depth the Bruins currently have there. We suspect he’s versatile enough to play out of position and still make things happen, and he’d probably do manual labor if the team asked him to- he’s that kind of guy.
In other words- Czarnik is earning a job with the Boston Bruins the right way. He’s not a big-time draft pedigree guy, but he’s showing that Ryan Nadeau and the rest of the staff that scouted him and helped to close the deal in 2015 deserve a lot of credit for seeing this kind of potential in him.
Let’s not ruin the party by talking about projections and ceilings just yet- all in good time. For now, let’s enjoy the excellent play and results Czarnik is getting. He’s proving he might be small, but he has big talent and a bigger heart.
That’s a fact we suspect is not lost on Don Sweeney, Claude Julien and the Boston coaches.
Kirk, how much do you think the organization showing faith and trust in Krug as an undersized, undrafted college UFA had to do with Czarnik’s signing with the Bruins?
Do you think that that compounded level of trust the staff has worked toward with those types of players, who are seemingly becoming more pervasive and more productive, would be affected if Krug were traded for a player he shares a position with?
Thank you for any kind of response. You’re the man.
Krug was probably a factor in the decision to pursue (and successfully woo Czarnik) but at the end of the day, every player is judged on his own merits & evaluated on an individual basis. People tend to want to ascribe motives or give credit to other players in many instances but a lot of times it simply comes down to belief in what a player might be able to do based on his play & not what others before him have done or accomplished. I’m not going to speculate about how a rumored (dubious sources I would add) trade may or may not affect player attitudes.
Thanks for the kind words/support for the blog.- KL
If you’re Claude in this scenario, and Sweeny says you can have one of Heinen or Czarnik on the opening day roster… Do you go with Heinen?
Honestly Czarnik looks more exciting, he looks faster, and he has the AHL numbers to back it up. I could easily see him being a fan favorite with the energy he brings. But Heinen seems to me like he might be more versatile. Playing center and wing, and he’s bigger and has more of a pedigree.
Claude is NOT going to play any of these talented kids … he’ll find some crappy old veteran like Dominic Moore or Riley Nash to play instead, and justify it on the basis that they play “responsibly” in their own end. BTW, the only players who are actually scoring consistently in these preseason games are Heinen and Czarnik. There is no way to justify the existence on the roster of guys like Moore and Nash that are slower have little or no offensive creativity!