Welcome to the National Hockey League, Brian Ferlin.
The Jacksonville, FL native earned his first call-up to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. He had the honor of playing in his first ever NHL game on Friday night against the St. Louis Blues. Although the team suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat, it was a night Ferlin would not soon forget.
Pride of Jacksonville, FL Brian Ferlin just took his first NHL shift. Only the 6th Florida-born player to ever appear in an NHL game.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 21, 2015
The 22-year-old joined a class of his own on Friday as the first player born in Jacksonville to appear in an NHL game. Ferlin played on Boston’s fourth line alongside Jordan Caron and Gregory Campbell, registering three hits in 10:33 of ice time.
Boston’s fourth-round pick in 2011 earned the opportunity to play again on Sunday in Chicago against the Blackhawks. Coach Claude Julien kept the fourth line intact for a second straight game as the Bruins looked to finish their disappointing five-game road trip on a high note. In a comprehensive 6-2 thrashing of Chicago, Ferlin only recorded 7:30 of ice time, but made the most of it recording a game-high eight hits and his first NHL point, assisting on Campbell’s second-period goal. The six-foot-two-inch winger utilized his frame to protect the puck while fighting off Hawks defensemen Brent Seabrook and David Rundblad, eventually finding Campbell in the high slot.
Hell of a play behind the net for Brian Ferlin. When you talk about "big body" and "shielding the puck" that was textbook by # 68
— Kirk Luedeke (@kluedeke29) February 22, 2015
Ferlin is in the midst of his first professional season after spending the previous three seasons with the Big Red of Cornell in Ithaca, NY. He signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Boston prior to this season and is projected to be a bottom-six forward in the league. Ferlin scored nine goals and 16 points from 46 games with Providence prior to his call-up.
Ferlin’s place on the fourth line has come at the expense of Daniel Paille. The former first-rounder of the Buffalo Sabres was traded to the Bruins in 2009 and is a valuable asset on the penalty-kill. In fact, seven of his 45 career goals in the spoked-B have come while shorthanded. This season for Paille has been a struggle, scoring just a single goal and seven assists in 57 games with a team-worst -10 rating. The 30-year-old has gone 36 games since he last lit the lamp and 16 games without a point. Paille was a healthy scratch in St. Louis Friday night and again in the Windy City on Sunday. Julien respects him as a player, but he has failed to convert on several breakaways and high-quality scoring chances over the past few seasons, leading to the Bruins faithful giving him the nickname “Stone Hands” Paille.
Both Paille and Campbell are both slated to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end, opening the door for Ferlin to occupy one of those vacant roster spots. The audition is well underway as his physical play and puck possession abilities could prove vital to a Boston team that has been soft on the body and careless with the puck during their recent rut in February (2-5-2). As the club tries to establish an identity, Ferlin should earn an extended stay with the big club following his performances in the Midwest. His teammate in Providence Craig Cunningham has taken advantage of the opportunity given to him by the Bruins brass earlier this season, finding a role as a gritty, fourth-line forward. Ferlin has the opportunity to show upper management that he belongs on the team not just for the remainder of this season, but next year as well. The potential is there for Ferlin and Cunningham to occupy two-thirds of Boston’s fourth line next year as Paille and Campbell are unlikely to be resigned given their limited contributions this season.
Brian Ferlin has been presented with an opportunity to turn a “cup of coffee” into something more given the direction with which the Bruins are headed. He passed the initial test after playing in his first NHL game and scoring his first point. The next step is a 23-game audition to show Boston he should be a part of their future plans beyond this year.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW