Boston Bruins: Remembering Their Providence Graduates' Best Years in the AHL

Al DanielCorrespondent IINovember 13, 2012

Boston Bruins: Remembering Their Providence Graduates' Best Years in the AHL

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    Can rookie center Ryan Spooner make like David Krejci in his transition from the Canadian major juniors to the American Hockey League?

    Can goaltender Niklas Svedberg match the first-year impact of his fellow Scandinavian, Tuukka Rask? Is defenseman Kevan Miller the next Adam McQuaid?

    That is a sprinkling of legitimate questions worthy of extra attention as the Providence Bruins fill the lockout-induced void among the Boston fanbase.

    Presumptive NHL third-liner Jordan Caron’s graduation from the AHL is on indefinite hold as he falls back on the top affiliate for the duration of the lockout. Once normal business resumes at TD Garden, he will presumably be the first player summoned from the minors and take his permanent position in The Show, along with seven others who have smoothly morphed a spoked-P into a spoked-B over the past decade.

    Going back to the previous NHL work stoppage, there have been seven other current Bruins players who began by logging substantive seasoning in Providence. Their last touches of pre-NHL development are recounted as follows in chronological order.

Patrice Bergeron: 2004-05

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    Eligible to pass the season-long lockout in the AHL after his NHL rookie campaign, the then-19-year-old Bergeron was named to the Canadian World Junior team and the AHL’s Canadian All-Stars amidst a 21-goal, 40-assist campaign.

    His position on the Providence leaderboard likely would have been a little higher had he not taken holiday leave to help his country to gold at the WJC.

    Bergeron subsequently added a 5-7-12 transcript in 16 playoff games, helping the Baby Bs to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001.

David Krejci: 2006-07

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    As a first-year professional fresh out of the Quebec League, Krejci topped the P-Bruins’ charts in every fundamental offensive category with a 31-43-74 scoring log.

    During the regular season, he twice torched the Worcester Sharks with identical 2-2-4 transcripts on Nov. 18 and again on March 2. He did not go a single meeting without a point in the 10-game season series against the Springfield Falcons, who allowed him to bookend a 14-game production streak between Jan. 7 and Feb. 16.

    In the 2007 Calder Cup playoffs, Krejci scored a pair of playmaker hat tricks and totaled 16 points in 13 games.

Tuukka Rask: 2007-08 and 2008-09

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    It is honestly hard to choose between either of Rask’s two AHL seasons.

    He had only two winless streaks lasting longer than two games as a rookie and only one as a sophomore. He bolstered the P-Bruins to the league’s best record in 2007-08 and to the third round of the playoffs in 2009.

    In his first year, he garnered more call-ups to the parent club and charged up two three-game winning streaks, two four-game and one five-game. In his follow-up campaign, he had three winning streaks of three or four games and four shutouts.

Johnny Boychuk: 2008-09

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    Previously a member of four other AHL teams before his rights were acquired from Colorado the preceding summer, Boychuk tied Martin St. Pierre for the team lead with 66 points and Mikko Lehtonen for a team-best 10 power-play goals.

    That output, along with his plus-19 rating, made Boychuk the first P-Bruin since Jeff Serowik in 1995 to nab the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s top blueliner.

Brad Marchand: 2009-10

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    Though limited by injuries and call-ups to a mere 34 appearances, Marchand made a constant impact during his second and final year as a P-Bruin. He retained a jutting plus-14 rating to run away with the team lead and tallied seven power-play goals as part of a 32-point bushel.

    Though few, if any, could sense it at the time, Marchand’s last AHL game took place on March 3, 2010, during the P-Bruins’ two-night visit to Abbotsford, B.C.

    A little more than 15 months later, he was in the same province, teaming up with Bergeron and Mark Recchi and scoring multiple goals in a Stanley Cup-clinching game.

Adam McQuaid: 2009-10

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    Like Marchand, McQuaid was pressed into a baptismal fire on a Boston parent club riddled with injuries. In turn, he also played less than half of Providence’s 2009-10 schedule.

    But like Marchand, he stood out on the P-Bruins’ playoff no-show team with a plus-11 rating and was effectively finished in the minors by late winter. He came back for one conditioning twirl on April 4, but has not returned since, instead stepping in to make a substantive impact on Boston’s 2011 title run and cementing his spot on Claude Julien's blue-line brigade.

Anton Khudobin: 2010-11

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    Obtained in a minor-league deadline deal with Minnesota, Khudobin won each of his first four starts in Providence and helped another non-playoff team finish strong with a 9-4-3 run. In that 16-game span, Khudobin retained a .920 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average.

    He was not too shabby in 2011-12, either, eventually earning a call-up late in the season.

    With Tim Thomas most likely finished in Boston, Khudobin figures to be a full-time NHLer from here on out, serving as Rask's backup.