One story that cropped up late in the weekend and got some mild traction in Boston and the Bruins beat Monday was word out of Slovakia where it appears that left wing Peter Cehlarik’s time with the team is up. The 2013 third-round selection was interviewed in local media outlet Ta3.com, expressing his frustration at not having carved out more of an NHL role for himself, and appearing to levy a sizeable share of the blame to coach Bruce Cassidy (admittedly, we’re going off of translation devices and the interpretations of other sources) for his inability to do so.
We’ve tried to be fair to Cehlarik here, observing in the past that given his hands/skills and potential to generate offense, he was worthy of opportunities in Boston. Having said that, it was never a secret that he was a surprising pick of the Bruins in Newark at the end of the third round because he did not have the kind of typical attributes that the B’s prize in their forwards: higher-end skating and/or ability to play with pace/urgency, willingness to consistently get to the front of the net and play hard between the dots, and a modicum of jam- basically- being hard to play against. Even when putting up decent numbers in Sweden, Cehlarik could never be identified as a player who was a rugged competitor and a tough opponent. Although possessing a big frame, slick hands and the vision to create, he was a soft-skill, perimeter player.
Back in 2016, we had this to say about him after he signed his NHL contract with Boston:
The Slovak, who has spent the past three seasons playing in Sweden, is a top-six NHL forward dark horse kind of prospect, but he’s also one of those guys who is tough to peg because if he doesn’t make it as a scorer, it’s hard to envision him playing a heavy and responsible enough game to succeed on the third or fourth lines in Boston. His initial first steps are a bit clunky, though with a long, efficient stride, he can work well in open space with good straight line speed. Cehlarik improved his skating from when he was first drafted, but it will never be a strength. He has a quick release that allows him to score goals off the rush; an-in-stride drive that sometimes handcuffs goalies. He’ll also take the puck in close and shows some pretty fine dangle in getting net minders to open up and commit.
So, now- we’re facing the reality that the 2013 draft class was a bust for the Bruins. They traded their 1st-rounder (Jason Dickinson) to Dallas for Jaromir Jagr, so the first choice was at the end of the 2nd round after reaching the Stanley Cup Final that spring. Linus Arnesson was Boston’s first selection, and the “2-way”, “puck-moving” defenseman has already come and gone from North America, returning to Sweden after the end of his ELC and 79 games, 1 goal for the Providence Bruins from 2015-17. Cehlarik joins him as the next highest-drafted player to not meet hopes and expectations.
The point of this post is not to highlight some of the organization’s missteps in the draft- it happens to every team and organization and while some seem to prefer to call attention to the draft failures by this club, that’s not the key takeaway here. What is important to note is that the B’s broke away from their normal draft model to take a swing at a player who did not fit with their organizational values and style. When it works, great- but when it doesn’t, should anyone be surprised?
The good news for the club is that they have done a better job than any other NHL franchise at identifying undrafted talent and getting production from that viable pipeline. It’s not something you want to get into the habit of depending on, but if the 2013 Boston draft is shaping up as a dud (Ryan Fitzgerald is a group 6 free agent, Wiley Sherman may not be offered an extension given the recent NCAA signings) with only Cehlarik and Anton Blidh having played any NHL games, at least the lack of success in Newark hasn’t adversely impacted the team’s fortunes seven years later.
Final points on Cehlarik before we wrap up: He isn’t a terrible player. He probably could and should have gotten more playing time than he did, but at the same time, the idea we’ve seen put forth by some that he wasn’t given a “fair shake” rings hollow. What is a “fair shake,” exactly? We heard the same comments with Alexander Khokhlachev when it didn’t work out for him here, too- is a “fair shake” being gifted 15+ minutes a night on a top line regardless of production? Is a “fair shake” continuing to roll out a player who, for whatever reason, doesn’t enjoy the trust and confidence of the coaching staff and fellow teammates? Even if the player isn’t doing his part in practice and games to earn his way? Is a “fair shake” getting opportunities to play with David Krejci and Charlie Coyle? No one is entitled to a “fair shake”, whatever that means- you get what you earn.
The fact of the matter is- Cehlarik got 40 games in the NHL spread out over three seasons, and was unable to make it work. He says that Cassidy essentially blocked him from succeeding. That’s his view and he’s welcome to it. Cassidy said at various times when he was up that Cehlarik’s lack of details and at times urgency are what prevented him from sticking in Boston. Both can be true- it isn’t necessarily an either/or. The Bruins obviously wanted him to succeed- there is not a conspiracy to keep a good young player down, and it is not wrong to assert that he didn’t do enough to make it in world’s best league, despite some neat flashes of what could have been.
We could go on, but what is the point?
TSP friend Ty Anderson has done some solid work on the recent Cehlarik analysis. As a matter of fact, Ty’s insights and opinions over at 98.5 the Sports Hub are almost always on point. Whether you agree or disagree, he takes the time to put some meat on his opinions and loves a good debate. His coverage on the latest with Cehlarik here and here are worth checking out if you haven’t already.
In the end, we wish Cehlarik well in Sweden. He’s probably better suited to be a solid pro in Europe where his style of game will translate. We do not see him being an NHL player going forward- all teams had a chance to claim him on waivers and any one or more could have made a push to trade for him. It didn’t happen, so both parties are moving on.
As the old song goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Here’s video of Cehlarik’s best night- his only NHL multi-goal game. Credit to “Dafoomie”, who does a great job at archiving B’s clips for us all over on YouTube: