From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Peter Cehlarik.
While the numbers aren’t gaudy for the 23-year-old Cehlarik during his first two pro seasons for the Bruins organization, the Slovakian-born winger has shown some pretty high-end talent in flashes during his brief stints in Boston. Perhaps most importantly Cehlarik brings a different element than many of the other young Bruins wingers as he has the size at 6-foot-2, 202-pounds and plays with a little more size, strength and puck possession than many of his winger peers. The former third-round pick isn’t at the top of the B’s prospect list, but he’s a player that could surprise in training camp as a top-6 forward candidate if given a chance to really pop.
What Happened Last Year: It was a frustrating season for the talented Cehlarik to be sure as he suited up for just 41 games between Boston and Providence, and battled injuries just as he was beginning to get things going at the NHL level. Shortly after scoring his first career NHL goal in Boston, Cehlarik suffered a leg injury that wiped him out for a month and relegated him back to the AHL ranks once he was healthy enough to return to game action. Once back in Providence Cehlarik also went through the worst dry spell of his pro career as he endured a full month without a goal. The big winger finished with 11 goals and 23 points in 35 games for the P-Bruins and regained his offensive groove in the second half of the AHL season, so there’s still plenty of optimism about his offensive game after putting up 31 goals in Providence over the past two seasons.
Questions To Be Answered This Season: Cehlarik had a slow start to training camp after coming off shoulder surgery a summer ago, and the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder missed a big chunk of time in the middle of the season due to a leg injury suffered in Boston. So the biggest question about the big-bodied winger is whether he can stay healthy enough to stick on the ice for a full season and show what he can do with his skills and talent. Cehlarik stayed on the ice long enough to suit up for 49 games with the P-Bruins two seasons ago and posted a 20-goal season in Providence, but he yet again battled through some injury issues in that first North American season as well. So the biggest single question Cehlarik will face is his ability to remain healthy in order to see how good he can be at the NHL level. The talent is there and Cehlarik has some things (puck possession, finishing ability around the net) that could translate very well at the NHL level, but he needs to stay on the ice to prove it.
In Their Words: “He has the hockey IQ and the hands, big enough body guy. You just don’t know when they come up – if they can handle the pace, the pressure, time and space issues.” –Bruce Cassidy, on Cehlarik.
Overall Outlook: The 23-year-old Cehlarik isn’t the flashiest prospect or the young winger with the most buzz behind him, but he should very much be in the mix for a winger spot on the NHL roster along with other young players. Cehlarik is bigger and stronger than most of his B’s prospect peers and can play a little more of a puck possession game to go along with the offense, so there are some areas where he could really fit a need for the Black and Gold. But it goes without saying that Cehlarik is going to need to remain healthy to make that happen, and he’s going to need a dominant training camp in order to secure a key spot on Boston’s roster. He showed last year during a brief mid-season stint with Boston that he’s capable of playing with David Krejci, and showed that he can provide some offense in that kind of a spot. This time around is much more of a make-or-break chance for Cehlarik after banking experience in each of the last two seasons, but the opportunities will definitely be there for him with all things being equal.