Countdown to camp: Noel Acciari
Countdown to camp: Noel Acciari
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: Noel Acciari.
The fourth line was once one of the biggest strengths going for the Bruins when matched up against quality opponents and it was certainly something Claude Julien felt confident in calling on when Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton were at their Black and Gold best. That hadn’t been the case in the past two seasons as the B’s underwent a major overhaul on their energy line and they were still searching for the right combination of players last season with decreased depth overall up front. The B’s will once again go with an open casting call for their fourth line when training camp opens next month, but there will be some players expected to win NHL jobs. Noel Acciari would appear to be one of those players after impressing as a hard-hitting, intense ball of energy in his NHL audition the second half of last season.
What happened last year
Acciari was called up to the Bruins after the trade deadline and given free rein to make an impression on the fourth line. Acciari had one point in 19 games, while struggling to generate anything offensively, and he finished with a minus-4 rating over that time period. What was remarkable about Acciari was his willingness to throw his 5-foot-11, 205-pound body around on nearly every shift he played and his total commitment to throwing hits on players much bigger and stronger than the fourth-line, fire hydrant-type center. The 24-year-old Acciari had seven goals and 19 points in 45 games for Providence prior to his call-up and, ideally, the Bruins would love to get that type of production from Acciari once he really settles into a role with Boston. The physicality and the high energy are already there for the former Providence College captain. Now it’s up to Acciari to pump up a little more offense to go along with the grit and intangibles.
Questions to be answered this season
The fearless nature and refusal to back down against the NHL’s toughest players will always be calling cards for a guy such as Acciari, so that is part of his identity as a Bruins player. It’s also something the Bruins were badly in need of when he stepped onto the ice in the second half of last season. But the burning question for Acciari is whether he will put up enough offensive production to remain in the NHL for a prolonged pro career after being an undrafted college free agent. The one point in 19 games for Boston last season wasn’t good enough. Acciari knows he can improve upon that meager amount managed with the Bruins. He’ll get his chance at some point this season and the hope is that more offense comes from greater confidence in what is happening around him.
What they’re saying
“Every guy out here is very shifty. I can’t just throw my body…then I’ll be out of position. It has to be timed pretty perfectly. I’ll definitely throw my body around when I can. Hopefully, I’ll get some turnovers with that. For me, it’s just when I get my chance [I need to] be hard to play against. Throw my body around. Get to the net when I can.” –Noel Acciari after his NHL debut last season for the Bruins, with what will be his mantra for the entirety of his NHL career for better or worse.
The first act was a good one for Acciari, who showed that he could be a very strong candidate for full-time fourth-line duty in his two-month audition last season in Boston. He’s young, he’s aggressive and Acciari is willing to sacrifice his body for a greater chance at the two points on any given evening. That level of fervent desperation from a solid bottom-six talent is something the B’s have searched for over the past two seasons. So many of the “fourth-line center” boxes were checked by Acciari last season, but he still needs to work on puck possession, making smarter and better plays offensively and the little details that go along with playing center in Claude Julien’s system. Acciari could be a useful, scrappy player for the Bruins this season if he continues to build on last year’s promise, but the native of Johnston, R.I. could also disappear pretty quickly if he starts getting bypassed on the organizational depth chart at center by more skilled center prospects coming through the system.