BOSTON – Coming into the 2010-11 season, defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk was ready to take the next step in his pro hockey career. But instead of making the big leap to the NHL, the rearguard watched as two prospects with less experience leapfrogged him on the depth chart.
Steve Kampfer and Matt Bartkowski, essentially fresh faces in the organization one year ago, both earned promotions to the big club, while Bodnarchuk got left behind on the farm.
“It was frustrating. Boston’s got a lot of really good ‘D’ prospects,” said Bodnarchuk. “Steven Kampfer was playing great and (Matt) Bartkowski was playing great. I consider them good friends, so I was happy for them, but at the same time you know where you want to be. It was something where instead of getting frustrated you just sort of put your nose to the grindstone and know what your immediate goal is.”
Nearly two years removed from the last time he sported the Spoked-B, Bodnarchuk is back in Boston. The 23-year-old defenseman was recalled from Providence on Monday morning in the wake of Kampfer being returned to the AHL to get some playing time.
“It’s very exciting,” Bodnarchuk said following practice at TD Garden. “It’s been a long time since the last time I got up here. It wasn’t the greatest year for me last year. I put in a lot of hard work and I’m glad to be back here, but I’ve still got a long ways to go.”
It’s been an up-and-down year for the P-Bruins, who currently sit in fifth in the Atlantic Division, making Bodnarchuk’s numbers this season look all the more impressive. The Alberta native has 11 points through 47 games and, despite playing heavy minutes for a team with a minus-22 goal differential, has an even plus-minus rating on the year.
“I’m really, really happy with how the year’s going,” Bodnarchuk said. “I think as a fourth-year pro I’m still a young guy, but I have almost four years under my belt. The biggest thing for me is my consistency. Personally I think game-in and game-out, I haven’t had a bad game and that’s a big thing for me.
“I came out of juniors as an offensive guy and sort of bought into the role as a defensive, shutdown and PK guy. Consistency in my game this year is what’s really helped me come along and sort of turn some more heads.”
Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who spent parts of two seasons alongside Bodnarchuk in Providence, sang the 5-foot-11 blueliner’s praises.
“He trains very hard and he’s very dedicated,” Marchand said. “I know he’s having a really good year this year and he’s playing a lot of minutes. He’s been a plus player on a team that’s not winning a whole lot. He’s just trying to bide his time and wait. Now that he’s up here he’s very excited and he hopes to take advantage of the situation.”
Marchand recognizes it’s been a long wait for Bodnarchuk to get a legitimate chance to show his stuff in Boston and commends his patience.
“It just shows he wasn’t getting down,” said Marchand. “He was waiting for his opportunity. Some guys have to wait a little longer than others to get that. All that matters when you get it is you take advantage of it.”
Now in his fourth year with the organization and headed toward another summer of restricted free agency, Bodnarchuk undoubtedly hopes to capitalize on the long-awaited opportunity he's been presented.