Boston Bruins: Providence Will Have Plenty of Winning Pedigree in 2012-13
Four of the Boston Bruins’ external acquisitions so far this summer—along with two homegrown prospects—could give the farm club in Providence as many as six new players with either an AHL, NCAA or major-junior championship on his résumé.
Forwards Chris Bourque, Jared Knight and Michel Ouellet, and defensemen Tommy Cross, Garnet Exelby and Aaron Johnson, all project to be part of the AHL for most, if not all of next season. Together, they will bring a dense mixture of energetic youth and veteran presence along with a common thread of valuable winning experience.
Johnson won a Quebec League title and Memorial Cup in his first of four seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic in 1999-2000.
Exelby shall join the 29-year-old Johnson in competition for a slot on Boston’s blue-line brigade, but is more likely bound to lend another dense layer of seasoning to Providence.
Two seasons with the Wolves led Exelby to five full seasons with the parent Atlanta Thrashers, followed by one in Toronto. Although, he has not seen NHL action since 2009-2010, resorting instead to one-year stints with the Rockford IceHogs and Grand Rapids Griffins.
But for what it’s worth, in each of those two seasons he retained the second-best plus-minus rating among defensemen on his team—though neither made it to the postseason.
Exelby, in particular, could be the P-Bruins’ blue-line complement to 35-year-old forward and team captain Trent Whitfield.
On the younger side, Cross will vie to crack the roster full-time after breaking onto the professional ice in the final three games of Providence’s 2011-2012 season. His AHL debut came one week after the senior captained Boston College to its second Frozen Four championship in three years.
But more recently, Ouellet has won an AHL playoff title with the league’s other band of Admirals from Norfolk. Within two weeks of assisting on the last goal in the Calder Cup clincher over the Toronto Marlies, Ouellet had his rights dealt by the parent Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Benoit Pouliot.
Ouellet is presently an unrestricted free agent, but if no one else claims him, he should be a surefire candidate to join the Providence strike force.
Two more likely and more impactful newcomers up front will be Knight—who is coming off an Ontario League championship to conclude his major-junior days—and Bourque.
Though hardly proven in the NHL, Bourque is coming off a career campaign of 66 assists and 93 points with the Hershey Bears. He has previously piloted Hershey to three Calder Cup Finals appearances, including back-to-back victories in 2009 and 2010.
The first of those titles came, in part, at the P-Bruins' expense in their most recent playoff game—which took place at the Dunkin Donuts Center on May 25, 2009. None other than Bourque tallied the game-winner as the Bears closed out Providence in the conference finals.
Consistent mediocrity has since ensued in the capital of Rhode Island.
With this quantitative and qualitative wave of acquisitions, the Bruins are unmistakably keen on ending their AHL playoff drought and returning Providence to where it was before Tuukka Rask, Johnny Boychuk, Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid graduated.
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