The AHL All-Star Rosters were released this week and two Providence Bruins were named to the Atlantic Division roster. Jordan Binnington, the goaltender on loan from the St. Louis Blues, and forward Austin Czarnik. The Atlantic Division leaders certainly have more star power, but a combination of injuries and call-ups have given Binnington and Czarnik the opportunity to be the P-Bruins most consistent performers at the AHL level. Let’s avoid any references to the Smash Mouth hit and get right into breaking down the P-Bruins top performers.
Binnington Reviving Career
Binnington may not draw the attention of Bruins fans checking in on the Baby B’s, as he’s still St. Louis property, but he has been a fun story this season. The St. Louis Blues had high hopes for Binnington when they took him in the third round, 88th overall, in the 2011 draft. He represented Canada at the 2013 World Juniors, backing up Malcolm Subban on a team that failed to win a medal with the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jonathan Drouin, and Nathan MacKinnon – that’s a story for another time.
With Vegas announced as the primary affiliate of the Chicago Wolves in the offseason, the Blues were unable to find a home for Binnington. Blues prospects are currently playing in Chicago and San Antonio, and Binnington had been passed on the depth chart by 22-year-old Ville Husso who is currently playing in San Antonio and was recently named AHL player of the week. Binnington landed in Providence on a loan deal, and he’s responded to the tough situation by putting together his best AHL season.
P-Bruins' Jordan Binnington says that after he & Hershey's Pheonix Copley were thrown out for fighting on Saturday night, they watched the rest of the game together in the media room #goaliefight
— Mark Divver (@MarkDivver) December 18, 2017
Although he’s only appeared in 12 games with Bruins’ draft-pick Zane McIntyre also on the team, Binnington has a league-best 1.51 goals-against average and his .941 save percentage is good for second. Say what you will about sample size, but those numbers are video game-like. He’s also endeared himself to teammates. When a December game in Hershey turned ugly, Binnington was willing to drop the gloves with his goaltending friend Pheonix Copley. Sure, it was almost reminiscent of Tim Thomas and Carey Price laughing their way through a ‘fight’, but it sends a powerful message to the team when a goalie on loan from another organization is all-in.
What Does The Future Hold?
If Binnington maintains his form this season, the question is where does he go from here? He is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. The first thought may be after a season like he’s currently having, another organization may want to give him a chance in a backup role. Another possibility is the Blues bring Binnington back, as current backup Carter Hutton is a free agent after this season.
The younger Husso could use another year to develop in the AHL. It could leave the door open for Binnington, who’s currently only seen 13 minutes of action with the Blues in five seasons after a stellar junior career. Regardless of how it turns out, the P-Bruins are the happy beneficiary of a 24-year-goalie recognizing a defining moment in his career.
Austin Czarnik’s selection is no surprise. He has been the most consistent forward on one of the AHL’s top teams. Linemates Jordan Szwarz and Kenny Agostino have missed some time with the team either due to injury or call-up. Czarnik has led the charge offensively on a nightly basis. He appeared in 49 games for the Bruins last season, but the influx of young talent in the organization this season pushed him down the depth chart.
There’s no denying his playmaking ability, as this is the third season Czarnik has been an offensive threat in the AHL. He will also be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. It will give Czarnik and the Bruins a chance to evaluate where he stands in the organization. It’s possible the 25-year-old may want to explore other options. He’s been fun to watch for P-Bruins fans, and will be relied upon if the team has hopes of making a Calder Cup run this season.
There’s still a lot of hockey to be played before the All-Star events on Jan. 28-29. A call-up or injury very frequently changes the final rosters. It would be nice to see a guy like Jordan Szwarz rewarded for the season he is having, although he’s only appeared in 18 games. Kenny Agostino may have a shot for a late selection as the league’s reigning MVP.