Bruins prospect Zach Senyshyn taking his progress one step at a time
PROVIDENCE — Zach Senyshyn turned 20 on March 30 and, until his junior season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds ended, he’d been playing with and against teenagers.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Senyshyn, one of the Bruins’ three first-round draft picks in 2015, is less than noticeable on the ice among professionals while playing for the Providence Bruins.
Until he is.
Take for instance the Baby B’s 2-1 overtime victory against the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup conference finals. He had gone three periods without landing a shot on net or creating any kind of scoring chance. But in the overtime, Senyshyn’s explosive speed turned what looked like a nice little scoring opportunity in the neutral zone into a full-on breakaway. If not for the nob of Syracuse goalie Mike McKenna’s stick, Senyshyn would have had his first pro goal, and a game-winner to boot.
That winner eventually came a little later off the stick of Providence teammate Jordan Szwarz. But it is that kind of dynamic offensive capability that made the B’s confound many draftniks and take Senyshyn, rated by some as a second-rounder, with the 15th overall pick. He has a long way to go before proving the B’s right, but right now he’s getting a head start on his pro education that will begin in earnest next fall.
“It’s a very tough spot, but he’s very eager to learn,” Providence coach Kevin Dean said. “You saw he’s gotten a breakaway in each game, and the one (on Sunday), it hits the goalie’s butt end. It’s a tough break.
“But you can see he’s got some real attributes that’ll make him a good pro hockey player. He’s got speed. He’s got some courage along the wall. He goes to the front of the net. Those are all good things. We’ll continue to work with him on a few things. The change of flow, he seems to recognize that a little more slowly than we’d like, but he’s (20) years old. That’ll come. He’s very engaged, which is good. He wants to be coached, he wants to learn, so he’s only going to get better.”
Senyshyn hoped to challenge for spot on the Bruins varsity last fall, but his summer from hell kept him from competing. First, he missed the team’s development camp in July because of mononucleosis, then he had an appendectomy on the eve of training camp. Too young to be assigned to the AHL and clearly not ready for the NHL, Senyshyn had no choice but to head back to juniors where he scored 42 goals this season in 59 games after netting 45 goals the previous year for the Greyhounds.
A positive-minded Senyshyn does not focus on that disappointment.
“You know what? You obviously want to be up with the big club, and it’s my dream to play for the Boston Bruins, but I think it was really critical to my development to be able to go back and really work on the other details of my game and really develop as a player,” he said. “In retrospect, it was a great development opportunity, and I was really happy with my time in Sault Ste. Marie, and I’m really proud in the way I was able to take my game to the next level this year with the Soo.
“And I’m really excited for the next step with Providence. You just want to soak up as much as you can in each situation you’re in.”
Senyshyn not only feels he improved his defensive game, but he’s also more physically able to compete at the pro level. A year ago, he was 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds. Now he’s up to 200 pounds. He still will have to figure out other ways to beat defenders. In the OHL, he could get to the net by using his speed and taking the puck wide, but now the players are faster, stronger and smarter. But he hasn’t looked intimidated by the physical play.
“I came from college, and in college, you’re playing against older kids,” said Dean, a UNH product. “In the OHL, he’s playing against 16-year-olds. Then all of a sudden you’re in pro hockey and you’re playing again grown men, so that’s a huge jump physically. You’re playing against guys who have beards and families, so physically it can be a little daunting, but he seems willing to get in there. He doesn’t look light and on the perimeter. He’s getting to the net, and his wall play is pretty good. It’s just going to be fine-tuning the little things. The skill and the ability’s there.”
It would be surprising if Senyshyn didn’t get the same treatment as his fellow 2015 classmate Jake DeBrusk, who spent his first full pro year in Providence and is now a prime candidate to score a spot on the Bruins in the fall.
Yet, for now, Senyshyn is only focused on getting better.
“I’m just going to work with them here and have a big summer,” he said. “Coming in here, I’ve realized it’s a big jump to this level and an even bigger jump to the next one. Right now, I’m just trying to take it day by day and soak up as much as possible.”