With the 2019-20 AHL season in flux given the coronavirus pandemic, there may not be an extended chance for some of Boston’s most promising prospects from Providence to show they’re NHL ready in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
It has been a strong season, after all, for Providence. In the final game before the league suspended the season, Providence set a franchise record with its 12th straight victory, a 3-1 decision over Hartford. The win also propelled Providence into first place in the Atlantic Division and tied them for second-most points in the AHL.
The future is bright in Boston, but which of Providence’s top players will make the jump in the near future. Here are five players to keep an eye on for next season’s NHL roster.
Jack Studnicka - C
The leading scorer for Providence this season, Studnicka has been a consistent presence offensively all season. Not only is it his goal-scoring ability, but his vision and awareness to create plays in the offensive zone has seen Studnicka take a major step forward this year.
With two more years left on his entry-level deal, the 21-year-old has become a proven penalty-killer, collecting 10 shorthanded points, including seven goals, this season. Inserting Studnicka onto the third line next year could result in some much needed secondary scoring for Boston.
Dan Vladar - G
Boston suddenly has a bit of a goalie competition brewing behind Tuukka Rask. With Jaroslav Halak facing free agency and potentially driving a price too high for Boston, and the Swayman signing meaning there’s a bit of a logjam in the minors now, the backup job is looking like Vladar’s to take.
In 25 games this season for Providence, Vladar has a 1.79 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. At age 22, Vladar still has some time to develop but is showing signs that he’s NHL-ready for next year. He’ll have to battle Swayman for the job, but Vladar’s pro experience gives him the obvious edge for now.
Trent Frederic - C
Another young prospect, Frederic provides a mix of physicality and offensive finesse the team has sorely missed at times this year. With Joakim Nordstrom set to enter free agency next year and Jake Debrusk becoming a restricted free agent, the Bruins may need to fill voids for both.
Frederic, a left-shooting center, is still developing but some made a big leap this year and may just be a big offseason away from becoming an NHL-mainstay. Frederic is locked up for just one more season and with an average annual value of just 1.14 million, he’s an affordable option at forward.
Brendan Gaunce - C
At 25-years-old, it might not seem like the most promising investment, but Gaunce has had a strong season once again at the AHL level and was approaching a career-year when the season was suspended. Having played 118 games at the NHL level, including one this year with Boston in which he registered an assist, Boston may look to use Gaunce in a depth role next year similar to how Par Lindholm was used this year.
Urho Vaakanainen - D
The former first-round pick has only played in two games but has taken big strides in his second year as a professional. Vaakanainen won’t dazzle with his point production, but he can be real asset on the back end with his size. He can also kill penalties, important for longevity at the pro level. It might be another year before he takes off, but Vaakanainen could vie for a depth role in Boston next fall.