December 5, 2009

Kirk's Call: Sudden impact for Arniel

by Kirk Luedeke

Jamie Arniel skates during a Bruins preseason game against the New York Rangers. (photo: Getty)

After a tough first month of the season, Providence Bruins center Jamie Arniel grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and erupted for seven goals and 12 points to earn Reebok/ AHL Rookie of the Month honors for November.

“It’s nice to get the recognition,” Arniel told hockeyjournal.com after a recent practice. “I never got an award like this in the OHL, so this is a first for me. It’s a nice bonus for sure, but the real thing I’m concerned about is continuing to put the puck in the net and help the team win.”

The Kingston, Ont., native joined Boston’s farm team last spring during the Baby B’s run to the AHL’s Eastern Conference finals. In eight pro games after finishing his major junior career with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, Arniel scored one goal. For him, it was a good primer of what was in store for him in his first full professional season.

He took those experiences with him to his second training camp with the Bruins, impressing the brass during the team’s rookie camp and tournament in Kitchener, Ont., and then carrying it over to the veteran portion in Boston and Wilmington, Mass.

“I was a little more comfortable (at camp) this time,” said Arniel. “I had a lot less on my mind from the previous year, and was coming off a good year in the OHL with Sarnia, plus the time in Providence, so I had a lot more experience.”

After a rocky start in the 2009-10 season’s first 31 days -- a period in which Arniel registered just three assists in 10 games -- the 20-year-old quadrupled his points output in 13 more games the following month, earning the nod as the AHL’s top rookie in November. His scoring streak reached an impressive six goals in six consecutive contests (with 11 points overall) from Nov. 14-25. The streak matched a team record, tying him with three other players.

“It’s a matter of getting more comfortable, getting more ice time and gaining confidence,” Arniel said. “I’m playing with great players here, and so I’ve been able to bear down, put the puck in the net and play a solid game to help the team get some wins.”

He also attributed some of the team’s October struggles to the effects that the call-ups to Boston of Vladimir Sobotka, Brad Marchand, Guillaume Lefebvre and Mikko Lehtonen had Providence’s depleted roster to generate consistent offense. All players, save for Sobotka, have since returned to Providence, and the team’s scoring prowess has been borne out statistically, with Providence going 7-3 in their last 10 games for a 12-11-1 record, only eight points out of first place in the Atlantic Division behind the Manchester Monarchs.

Another aspect of Arniel’s seamless transition to the challenges and skill of the AHL game is tied to his experience in the OHL and the important preparation the league provides for its players.

“I started there (in the OHL) at 15 playing 68 games at a high level, a very serious level of hockey,” he said of his time with the Guelph Storm and Sting. “In the OHL, you’re playing a lot of games and against a lot of players who are NHL draft picks already, so the kind of experience I had really prepared me for what I’m going through.”

As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if Arniel, who is not known as an offensive force, but more as a fine two-way player who plays a responsible, disciplined game, can continue putting up the numbers. However, even if there is a drop-off, as long as the rookie continues to earn his coaches’ trust and confidence with his attentiveness in all zones and energy level, he’ll continue to see the ice time so critical for his development.

That’s what I want to do,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep working hard, skating hard, doing everything that is asked of me to include putting the puck in the net, and helping the team win. That’s what really matters.”

Bruins prospect notes

The Boston Bruins announced that they had signed Val-d’Or center Maxime “Max” Sauve to an entry-level deal this week.

The team’s second-round selection (47th overall) in 2008 is the son of former NHLer J.F. Sauve, and was born in France while his dad was playing professionally there. He currently leads his junior team in scoring with 12-23-33 totals in 23 games.

The contract, a three-year, two-way pact, will pay Sauve an estimated 900k plus bonuses per season if he plays in Boston. As soon as his junior season ends in spring, he’ll be eligible to join the Providence Bruins as Arniel did last year.

“I think we were in the same position,” Arniel said when asked for his thoughts on Sauve jumping to the AHL in a few months. “I came in and practiced a couple of times, then went into my first game. I was very nervous, but did OK, and just kind of took it from there. He’ll be fine; he’ll probably go through the same thing, and I think he’ll do well.”

Sauve’s speed is his best attribute, but Arniel, who has spent a couple of development and B’s training camps with his fellow ’08 draftee said that the young Quebec Leaguer’s game goes beyond his wheels.

“He’s a great player who’s really good with the puck and has good hands and vision,” he said. “He’s got the ability to be a scorer in the pros and hopefully the NHL one day.” …

The Providence Bruins announced that they have launched official fan pages on Facebook and Twitter this week. Links to both social media sites are available on Providence’s official Web site, wwwprovidencebruins.com.

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.