April 2, 2012

Prospect roundup: Florek gives P-Bruins a boost

By Kirk Luedeke

Editor's note: This feature originally appeared in the Boston Bruins Prospect Report.

With the NCAA hockey season over for all but four teams, change has come to Providence since the last prospect report. 

Justin Florek racked up 116 points in 157 games during his four years at Northern Michigan University. (Photo courtesy of the Boston Bruins)

The Baby Bruins got an immediate boost from 2010 fifth-rounder Justin Florek, who tallied twice in a four-point night and big win over the Manchester Monarchs in his AHL debut. The former captain of the Northern Michigan University Wildcats signed an entry-level contract with Boston after finishing his senior season strong with 19 goals in 37 games, with career totals 53 markers and 116 points in 157 NMU games.

The 6-foot-4 left winger, who turns 22 in May, plays a north-south game and has a heavy shot that he can unleash from the outside with good effect. As he continues to develop his strength and experience in the pro ranks, Florek has the potential to become an effective two-way winger who can establish position in front of the net and chip in offensively at even strength and with the man advantage.

Florek’s fellow 2010 draft pick and Upper Peninsula (Michigan) pal Zach Trotman also signed a three-year ELC with the B’s, foregoing his senior season at Lake Superior State University. Like Florek, he had an instant impact in the AHL, scoring the game-winning goal (on the power play) in his first Providence game one night after Florek’s outburst.

Trotman improved his offensive totals in each of his three NCAA seasons with the Lakers, finishing with a career-best 11 goals and 21 points as a junior. The last player taken in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Trotman brings an impressive mix of size and two-way ability to the mix for Providence. The mobile defender can move the puck effectively, but has a powerful shot from the point that makes him an appealing triggerman when his team is on the power play.

Providence received offensive contributions from speedy winger Nick Tremblay, who tallied a goal and assist in four games before returning to Clarkson University to complete his final semester of coursework. The blazing-fast skater and 2008 sixth-rounder posted his best offensive output in four years as a Golden Knight posting nearly a point-per-game with 17 goals and 36 points in 37 games as a senior.

Undrafted free agent Kevan Miller was one defenseman who spent the whole season with Providence, finishing third in scoring among blue liners with two goals and 19 points in 58 games. The native Californian was a four-year starter at the University of Vermont, seeing six games in the AHL with Providence at the end of 2010-11 on an amateur tryout (ATO).

Defenseman Colby Cohen spent his first full season in Providence after being acquired from Colorado in a trade last year for Matt Hunwick. The former Boston University star and 2009 Frozen Four MVP has a big shot and NHL potential as a power play specialist. The Philadelphia-area native is still rounding out his overall game and positional play after a three goal, 13-point season.

Providence is leveraging the newcomers and veteran contributors to try and complete a late-season surge to make the AHL playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Bear Cub snapshot: Michael Hutchinson, G

The third-round selection of the Bruins in 2008 (77th overall) is finishing up his second professional season after splitting the 2010-11 campaign between Providence and the ECHL’s Reading Royals.

Talent analysis: With good size (6-foot-3) along with quickness and agility, Hutchinson resembles Tuukka Rask in terms of style and substance. A right-catching netminder, the former OHL standout with Barrie and London takes up a large portion of the net and does not give shooters much of a target to hit. When on top of his game, he swallows up rebounds and plays calmly and poised between the pipes. Consistency is a challenge Hutchinson has faced since his OHL days, but he has the right attitude and a willingness to work on his shortcomings and battle through adversity.

Outlook: With Tim Thomas, Rask and Anton Khudobin in the system, Hutchinson has a tough chore ahead to break into the NHL lineup for Boston. With both Rask and Khudobin hurt last month, Hutchinson was a brief emergency recall, but returned to Providence when Marty Turco signed as a free agent. He will likely need several more years of development (barring a trade) before he is ready to compete for a regular spot in Boston, however he has the prototypical size and temperament to be successful in the pro ranks.