The 2020-21 American Hockey League (AHL) season came to an end for the Providence Bruins, the minor league affiliate of the Boston Bruins, on May 6. Not being able to play any games in their home arena, The Dunkin Donuts Center, due to the arena being used for various coronavirus initiatives this season, they were forced to play their games at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts without fans.
Despite the shortened 25-game season, there were several prospects that had good seasons in Providence, with some even making their way to Boston during the season to fill in when injuries hit the big club. With a lot of questions surrounding Boston this summer with pending free agents, let’s take a look at how some of the Bruins’ prospects performed this season with an eye toward the NHL in the not too distant future.
What a season for Swayman both in Providence and Boston as the former University of Maine standout took the AHL and NHL by storm. With Providence this season, he went 8-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average (GAA) and had a .933 save percentage (SV%). He had one shutout and allowed just 17 goals on 252 shots. His best performance of his short stint with the P-Bruins was when he made 34 saves on 36 shots against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Feb. 27 in a 4-2 win.
After his strong start in the AHL, Swayman has been lights out in Boston in the first nine games he has played in. He has won seven of his nine games in Boston with a 1.44 GAA and a .946 SV%. He recorded his first-career shutout on April 16 in a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders and his second on May 6 in a 4-0 win over the New York Rangers. The fourth-round pick and 111th overall in the 2017 Entry Draft is making a strong case to be the goalie of the future in Boston.
Like Swayman, Vladar got some time in Boston this season with injuries and COVID-19 issues with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, but it was mixed results for the 75th pick in the third round of the 2015 draft. Vladar was 2-2 with a 3.40 GAA and a .886 SV%. His best performance was in a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 16 in his debut. He stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced, including an acrobatic save with his stick to deny Penguins forward Colton Sceviour.
Following Rask’s return in April, Vladar went back to Providence and finished the season 3-4-3 and finished with a 2.19 GAA and a .923 SV%. He allowed just 22 goals for the P-Bruins and had one shutout. With the play of Swayman and Vladar this season, the future certainly looks bright in the net for the Bruins.
In his first full season in Providence, Lauko finished second on the team in points with 19 on five goals and 14 assists, while leading the P-Bruins with a plus/minus of plus-11 in 23 games. Drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft and 77th overall, Lauko can play both center and left wing.
In 2019-20, Lauko had five goals and four assists in 22 games for Providence but missed a good part of the year with an MCL injury that he suffered at the 2020 World Juniors Tournament. At 21 years old, the production this season is a welcomed sight for the Bruins as there is a lot to like with Lauko’s game offensively.
Probably the most impressive of the rookie prospects in the AHL this season for Providence, Asselin had eight goals and eight assists with a plus-10 in all 25 games for P-Bruins, which included a hat trick on March 2 against the Wolf Pack. The Bruins signed the 22-year-old center, who also plays left wing, in June of 2019 to a three-year entry-level contract.
Asselin is someone to keep an eye on in the next couple of seasons, as he scored 26 goals in 2019-20 with the Atlanta Gladiators in the ECHL, following a 48-goal and 38-assist season with a plus-51 for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2018-19. He has a nose for the net.
The Bruins have some young defensive prospects in the minors with Urho Vaakanainen and Jack Ahcan, but Lyle is another young defenseman at 21 years old who is in the mix for the blue line in Boston in the future. In 25 AHL games this season, Lyle led Providence defensemen with seven goals and seven assists with a plus-8.
An offensive defenseman, Lyle signed a two-year, $800,000 entry-level contract in April with Boston. In 295 games in the Ontario Hockey League with the Owen Sound Attack, Lyle had 49 goals and 126 assists. The right-shot blueliner has a promising offensive game that the Bruins should like and could find himself in the mix during training camp next season on defense, depending on some offseason moves general manager Don Sweeney makes on defense with upcoming free agents.
Overall, Providence had a good season, winning the Atlantic Division championship for the second consecutive season. Boston saw several prospects this season between the taxi squad and injuries to know that there are some players down the road that is close to being NHL ready.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.