Rookie Bruins winger Peter Cehlarik impresses brass

September 26, 2016

The Bruins have a handful of high-profile rookies worth checking out in this year’s training camp. There are the four-year college stars in Robbie O’Gara and Matt Grzelcyk. High draft picks like Zach Senyshyn, Jakub Zboril and Jake DeBrusk always carry a certain amount of interest. And Danton Heinen, who left college two years early to go pro, possesses some buzz as well.

But now Slovakian forward Peter Cehlarik has forced himself into that class. Taken in the third round in the 2013 draft, Cehlarik might have been an under-the-radar name during the summer but has since opened eyes. His strong two-goal performance in the Buffalo rookie tournament has officially made the 6-foot-3 Cehlarik a player to watch, especially after the foot injury to Frank Vatrano.

“I was impressed, probably like a lot of other people, at the rookie camp out in Buffalo. I thought he played really well,” assistant coach Joe Sacco said. “He seems to be skating better than he was in the past. And he’s a big, strong kid. His ability to hang onto pucks, make plays in small areas, he has good hands … he made a lot of good plays in that rookie tournament. I thought he did a good job. He was one of the forwards I thought stood out in that tournament.”

Cehlarik, 21, comes into camp having played three seasons in the top league in Sweden and is more physically developed than some younger players vying for spots.

“It helped a lot,” Cehlarik said. “You learn a lot about positioning and to get organized in the game. Playing in juniors, you’re skating all over the ice, but now it’s more about positioning. Hopefully it’s going to help me here. Also playing against stronger players, it’s going to help me improve.”

After three years, Cehlarik thought it was time to move on and signed his three-year, entry-level deal in June.

“I think it got to the point where I had learned a lot from the people there in Sweden and the club, but they didn’t actually change over those three years and I just thought I’d try new stuff,” Cehlarik said. “I learned a lot there and went to move on. And obviously, it’s a dream to play here. I think it was good to have those three years, and I was always proud to play there, but now I’m excited to be here and fight for the team.”

Since he was drafted, skating has been a “needs improvement” area, but Sacco believes he’s made progress.

“The foot speed is something he’s working on,” Sacco said. “He certainly looks like he’s made some progress from last year, from what I’ve seen. He looks a little bit quicker out there — a little quicker to pucks, and a little bit quicker on the puck.”

In camp, Cehlarik has been skating with center Dominic Moore and Riley Nash. If Cehlarik can continue to impress, that’s a very plausible fourth-line combo for opening night.

“He’s made a big jump year over year, having watched him play the last couple seasons,” general manager Don Sweeney said. “Playing with men in that league (in Sweden) has helped him a lot. You understand that now when you see him play in the rookie games. He feels very comfortable. Again, the pace and such as camp goes along will dictate for him as it does for all the guys. Size- and strength-wise, it’s not an issue. It’s applying it and getting his skating. He’s got great hands, the ability to make plays, probably needs to be a bit more selfish and shoot the puck. But he’s made really good strides, so we’re excited to see where he’s going to be at.”