Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik
Countdown to camp: Austin Czarnik
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 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Austin Czarnik.
In a different situation Austin Czarnik might be a lock to crack the NHL squad. In his first AHL season he posted 20 goals and 61 points, and in doing so put on display that he can be a feisty, playmaking force at the center position at just 23 years old. It still may happen for Czarnik if a trade or two opens things up down the middle, or if he gets a foothold into the fourth line center spot that will undoubtedly be open for competition. But it may be another year in Providence for Czarnik this season after center David Backes was added to the mix for the Bruins this summer, and Boston seems to have a lot of depth down the middle organizationally at this point. All that said, Czarnik will get plenty of chances to shine early in camp with other centers competing in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
What Happened Last Year
Czarnik enjoyed his first pro season in the AHL with the P-Bruins, and promptly went out and dominated after making the jump from college hockey. Czarnik posted 20 goals and 61 points in 68 games for Providence, and was Providence’s best player during their brief postseason run with two goals and three points in three games against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Czarnik did just fine surviving in the rough-and-tumble minor leagues at a tiny 5-foot-9, 160-pounds, and made his reputation by burning opponents with speed and creativity for consistent offense throughout the season. Czarnik made it up to Boston for a practice session last season amid some injury woes for the Bruins, but never got a chance to actually make his NHL debut. That should change this year given the nature of injuries and attrition through an 82-game season, and Czarnik will at the very least get his feet wet at the NHL level.
Questions To Be Answered This Season
The question for Czarnik is whether he can survive in the NHL as a greatly undersized center at 5-foot-9, 160 plus pounds, and continue to play with the effort and energy he’s showed throughout his young career. There are certainly other players in similar situations with similar strengths and weaknesses that made it in the NHL, and Czarnik hopes to be one of those players after an impressive first pro season becoming a 20-goal, 60-point guy at the always-challenging AHL level. Czarnik’s speed, instincts and high motor all serve him well as a hockey player, and all of those key attributes were on display last season as one of the bright lights during Bruins training camp. But the 23-year-old is at the same stage as so many other excellent pro players found themselves over the last 5-10 years: Czarnik needs to show he can hack it at the NHL level by playing and producing there, and thereby make that difficult jump from the AHL to the NHL. It remains to be seen if a trade, or injuries, opens up enough time for Czarnik to show the Bruins exactly what he’s capable of this season and beyond.
What they’re saying
“I just have to play smart on the bigger guys, wait for my time to attack. When the time is right [then you] go in. I think I have to contain a lot and overall I think I developed a lot this year. It was a good year.” – Austin Czarnik on his first pro season after the P-Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs last spring.
Austin Czarnik is another of the bright prospects that the Bruins have pulled from the NCAA world, and the 23-year-old did himself and the organization proud by hitting the ground running in his first pro season in Providence. Czarnik was a consistent, productive performer during his first year in the Bruins organization with the P-Bruins, and stands to perhaps get even better with another year of experience under his belt. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound size was never a big problem for Czarnik, and the NHL does cater to smaller, faster players now much more than it did in the past. Certainly his standing as one of the best performers for Providence during their brief playoff run is a good indicator that he might have a little extra something to give at the next level. Czarnik simply needs to get an opportunity to show that he can do it, and that’s the rub right now for a young center buried a bit by the depth in the B’s organization. Perhaps Czarnik will surprise and win a bottom six forward spot if he enjoys a massive training camp performance, but more likely he’ll need a center moved to get his NHL shot.