One of the more unheralded Bruins prospects this season is Slovak (by way of Sweden) winger Peter Cehlarik. The AHL rookie (note- we don’t say rookie pro because he’s been playing pro hockey at Sweden’s highest level against men since he was 17) is having himself a year- he potted four goals and six points over three games last week to move to the top of Providence’s scoring list.
The 90th overall pick in 2013 has a good NHL body with the hands and hockey sense to score goals. His skating has been a work in progress since the B’s drafted him, but he’s fine in the open ice. Where Cehlarik gets exposed a bit is in his short-area game and burst, where he doesn’t possess above average acceleration and agility- it takes him a bit to get going, and he’s susceptible to getting behind the play when there are quick changes of direction in the common possession style that more and more pro teams are employing in the AHL and NHL.
TSP spoke to Bruins player development director Jamie Langenbrunner recently and he had some intriguing perspectives to share about Cehlarik’s success to date, and perhaps why he has not as yet gotten a chance to make an appearance with the big club in Boston despite his 18 goals and 30 points in 36 AHL contests.
“I think the first thing that stands out is his ability to make a play,” Langenbrunner said. “It started with what he did at rookie camp in Buffalo and that was the first time I’d seen him. He’s NHL-sized; he’s a good-sized kid- he’s pretty strong, pretty well-built. I think you’ll continue to see him make plays because he’s got really good vision and hands.”
Cehlarik’s natural skill set has earned him high marks to date as a player who developed in the larger ice surface in Sweden with Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League. However, even with the production both overseas and here under Kevin Dean at Providence, there are some adjustments the 21-year-old is still working through in his first North American season.
“For Peter, the one adjustment where you play on the bigger sheet (of ice in Europe), although there’s more room, I find that the game is slower there,” said Langenbrunner. “With that added space, you keep everything to the outside, so adjusting to the North American rink where everything happens a little quicker and you want to those first few steps- you want to get that speed- it is what it is and you either have that or not. But just those first few steps to get those areas a little quicker and a little bit harder on pucks- the short-area burst is such a big part of hockey, and to be able to translate that at the National Hockey League level and getting into those areas is important because if you don’t have the time, then you’re not able to jump into those areas.”
This is not to say that Cehlarik isn’t capable of coming in and helping out the B’s in an area that has been their biggest concern this year- generating consistent scoring- it’s just that as hard as it can be for outside observers to recognize at times, there are things that happen behind the scenes that sometimes drive outcomes as they pertain to personnel decisions. In other words- it isn’t just about the goals, and when there are identified areas of improvement, those can delay the arrival of a player to the NHL who appears to have what is needed on paper.
“I think for him, the biggest adjustment he’s struggled with or has so far is the pace of play,” Langenbrunner said. “He’s going to have to get his level up just a little bit to play at the NHL level. He’s been very good in Providence so far, putting up points, but at times, when you’re talking about playing in back-to-back games and whatnot, it will get to him a little bit. For him, it’s an adjustment coming from over to North America and he’s put up nearly a point per game in the AHL, which is pretty darn good, so he’s been a nice surprise. I know for the coaches and for us beyond the production, it’s going to be that consistency and bringing that pace to another level to be able to create a little more.”
As was the case last year with Frank Vatrano, at some point- a player’s ability to put the puck in the net at a high level will often force a team’s hand. With Boston struggling to mount any kind of consistency on offense and having their backs against the proverbial wall, it is probably time to see what the young Eastern European forward can do. He just might provide a spark that is so needed in Boston right now, and unlike other young pros who come straight out of major junior- he has a leg up in terms of the competition he faced prior to arriving to the AHL. Langenbrunner, himself a graduate of the Peterborough Petes of the OHL in major junior, understands that players like Cehlarik and even Vatrano, who came out of the U.S. NTDP and the collegiate ranks, have a built-in advantage in terms of their experience right out of the gate.
“Sometimes the difference between a college kid and a major junior kid is that a lot of those college kids are playing against 24 or 25-year-old men,” he said. “Whereas the junior kids are 19 or 20-year-olds, which is a big difference in size, strength and consistency that you will see go in and out of 17 or 18-year-old kids’ games, whereas the older you get the more mature you are in your game.”
At this stage of a third consecutive up-and-down season in danger of missing the NHL playoffs, Cehlarik will only likely help. Perhaps instead of trading for a proven scorer, part of the answer could come from within the Bruins organization.
Amateur Prospects as of 01/24/17
|Zach Senyshyn, SSM||OHL||37||28||12||40||23|
|Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George||WHL||39||22||18||40||58|
|Anders Bjork, Notre Dame||HE-NCAA||25||15||21||36||8|
|Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU||HE- NCAA||23||10||14||24||16|
|Jakub Zboril, Saint John||QMJHL||28||6||16||22||26|
|Ryan Donato, Harvard||ECAC- NCAA||19||10||9||19||12|
|Ryan Fitzgerald, BC||HE-NCAA||20||5||13||18||28|
|Trent Frederic, Wisconsin||Big10- NCAA||14||7||10||17||16|
|Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin||Big10- NCAA||20||4||13||17||8|
|Jack Becker, Sioux Falls||USHL||31||9||6||15||30|
|Charlie McAvoy, BU||HE-NCAA||22||3||11||14||20|
|Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda||QMJHL||18||2||11||13||10|
|Cameron Clarke, Ferris St.||WCHA- NCAA||24||1||5||6||24|
|Wiley Sherman, Harvard||ECAC-NCAA||19||0||5||5||12|
|Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota||Big10- NCAA||19||1||3||4||51|
Pro and European Prospects
|Peter Cehlarik, Providence||AHL||36||18||12||30||12|
|Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr.*||U20- Finland||19||9||17||26||2|
|Danton Heinen, Providence||AHL||30||8||15||23||4|
|Jake DeBrusk, Providence||AHL||42||11||12||23||13|
|Colby Cave, Providence||AHL||42||10||13||23||26|
|Matt Grzelcyk, Providence||AHL||36||2||16||18||12|
|Sean Kuraly, Providence||AHL||32||8||8||16||17|
|Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF||Sweden- Elite||32||5||7||12||16|
|Colton Hargrove, Providence||AHL||34||4||8||12||37|
|Anton Blidh, Providence||AHL||22||6||4||10||22|
|Chris Casto, Providence||AHL||34||1||7||8||28|
|Rob O’Gara, Providence*||AHL||26||2||3||5||4|
|Noel Acciari, Providence||AHL||10||0||4||4||7|
|Austin Czarnik, Providence#||AHL||2||1||2||3||0|
|Justin Hickman, Providence||AHL||17||2||1||3||15|
|Oskar Steen, Farjestad||Sweden- Elite||33||1||1||2||6|
|Linus Arnesson, Providence*||AHL||18||0||1||1||4|
|Brian Ferlin, Providence*||AHL||2||0||0||0||0|
|Zane McIntyre, Providence#
|Dan Vladar, Providence
|Malcolm Subban, Providence||AHL||19||5||9 (1)||2.96||.909|
# Czarnik, McIntyre recalled to Boston
*O’Gara, Arnesson, Ferlin all Injured
Tyler Randell, Tommy Cross, Alex Grant > age 25- not listed