By Dan Hickling
He's seen one fellow blueliner after another get the call to Boston ahead of him: Johnny Boychuk. Adam McQuaid. Steven Kampfer. Matt Bartkowski.
All of them have managed to leapfrog Andrew Bodnarchuk on the Bruins' defenseman depth chart. Some become fixtures in Boston, others prove too good to send back to Providence.
All of them, interestingly enough, were plucked by the Bruins from other NHL organizations.
However, Bodnarchuk, whose pro genes are exclusively Black and Gold, has a message for Bruins' management: “Don't forget about me.”
There was a time when Bodnarchuk was smack dab on the middle of the Bruins’ radar as a defense prospect. Drafted in the fifth round back in 2006 – the same draft that netted longtime friend and junior teammate Brad Marchand – Bodnarchuk quickly showed he had the game to be an NHL-caliber, puck-moving defenseman.
But that was before the injuries, notably his shoulder, and other defensemen with similar talents showed up in Providence. Even though he received a five-game look-see in Boston, two seasons back, Bodnarchuk was eventually shunted toward the back of the backline line.
But not in his mind.
He came into training camp healthy after shoulder surgery, and ready to work his way back up the ladder.
“After getting a taste a couple years back,” he
said, “and now going into my fourth year pro, I feel like I'm
ready and able to play in the NHL. And that's where I want to be. I
feel very capable of doing that.
“I just have to get the right opportunity. I just want to re-establish myself, after last year.”
Boston, which eventually jettisoned other home-grown defense hopefuls (namely Matt Lashoff and Mark Stuart, both former first-rounders), wanted to be certain to get a longer look at Bodnarchuk, which is why they extended him a qualifying offer after his initial contract ran out last year.
“I definitely want to stay in the organization,” he said. “I'm a young guy (still just 23), and I haven't had the chance to switch organizations. But from what I've heard, once you're comfortable with a system and coaching staff, and the cities, you really don't want to leave.”
Bodnarchuk took the Bruins' offer as a sign of affirmation from the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
“It's a big thing,” he said, “when the team qualifies you when they could move on. They definitely still have plans for me. Hopefully their plans are the same as my vision. Hopefully everything works out here.
“I feel that I'm young enough that I haven't been pushed out of the prospect category. And there's still a good chance for me to establish myself with Boston. So I was happy to come back here.”
Around the AHL
Soon after last summer's affiliation hookup with the Portland Pirates was finalized, the Phoenix Coyotes stocked their new farm team with plenty of veteran leadership to help shepherd their young hopefuls. Still, when it came to selecting a team captain for the Buccos, new coach Ray Edwards didn't have to think twice about handing the ‘C’ to defenseman Dean Arsene. The 11-year veteran, who was never drafted, has now been a captain in four AHL cities (Hershey, Springfield, Peoria, Portland). That ties an unofficial league record held by Rob Murray (Moncton, Springfield, Hamilton, Philadelphia).
Dan Hickling can be reached at email@example.com.