Providence Bruins training camp officially got under way at the Dunkin? Donuts Center on Tuesday after three days of skates that were closed to the media. Now with jobs available for the taking in Boston camp, the process of decision-making begins for the Baby B?s and coaches Rob Murray and Bruce Cassidy.
Following the returns of Jeff LoVecchio, Jeremy Reich and Wyatt Smith to Boston, Providence enters camp with 27 men, including 14 players of P-Bruins past, several other AHL-experienced veterans and a host of tryout hopefuls. Making matters more complicated for Murray and Cassidy ? which is typical for AHL coaches at this stage — is the list of men up top who may still find their way down to Providence.
While the likes of Jordan Caron, Joe Colborne and Zach Hamill (to name a few) aim to show they don?t belong in the AHL this season, 12 other forwards are in Rhode Island looking to show they want the AHL at a minimum. Jamie Arniel, Casey Haines, Jordan Knackstedt, Lane MacDermid, Kirk MacDonald, Levi Nelson, Yannick Riendeau, Antoine Roussel, Maxime Sauve, Jordan Smotherman, Devin Timberlake and Walker Wintoneak all are eyeing AHL jobs, though Haines, Timberlake and Wintoneak have bigger challenges ahead as tryouts.
Knackstedt finished fifth on Providence in points a season ago with 38, including 14 goals, while MacDermid was among the busiest fighters in the league as a first-year pro.
Arniel, who put in a solid performance with the big club?s camp, join the list of returnees to the Ocean State with MacDonald, Nelson, Riendeau, Sauve and Timberlake ? all of whom each spent at least a portion of the year calling The Dunk home.
Smotherman has several ties to New England and brings a rejuvenated spirit to Providence after a down year offensively in Syracuse.
Meanwhile, Haines, Roussel and Wintoneak, all rookie unknowns, will use camp to show they deserve to stay when camp breaks on Oct. 7.
On defense, a dozen players, not including the few extras that remain in Boston, are vying for likely seven spots on the back line. The group includes Yury Alexandrov, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Jack Christian, Matt Delahey, Ryan Donald, Matt Generous, Brandon Gentile, Alain Goulet, Nathan McIver, Jeff Penner, Todd Perry and Cody Wild. Christian, Delahey, Generous, Gentile and Perry also are in camp on tryouts.
Bodnarchuk, McIver and Penner, all NHL-experienced blue-liners, have the inside track on jobs in Providence and possible call-ups to Boston.
Alexandrov, a late survivor in Boston?s camp, is a favorite to stay as well.
Wild, a North Providence native and Providence College alum, and Goulet, who spent his entire rookie season in 2009-10 in Rhode Island, should also contend for spots, putting extra pressure on Donald and the five players on tryout agreements.
But Donald, Generous and Perry all spent time in the AHL at some point last season and expect to showcase their skills in camp over the next several days.
With number one goalie Dany Sabourin departing for Washington in the offseason, the top netminding duties are expected to belong to Nolan Schaefer, who is still up with Boston. That leaves three goalies fighting for one opening, though both spots are available as long as Boston carries three tenders.
Adam Courchaine, Matt Dalton and Michael Hutchinson will all guard the net to begin camp, but the edge to stay goes to Dalton after the second-year pro guided the ECHL?s Reading Royals to a conference finals appearance as a rookie last season.
Meanwhile, Courchaine, with limited pro experience for Providence in 2008-09, and Hutchinson, still eligible to return to juniors, will take their years of Ontario Hockey League showdowns to a new level in an AHL camp.
The P-Bruins will hold training camp over the next nine days, including two preseason games scheduled for Wednesday against Worcester at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Mass., and Saturday at Springfield.
There is much to be decided before the AHL?s 75th season kicks off on Oct. 8. But to the delight of fans across southern New England, the wait is almost over.