How long has winger Craig Cunningham been fostering his game in the Western Hockey League? Well, as a rookie, he was a teammate of Milan Lucic as part of the Vancouver Giants’ journey to the 2007 Memorial Cup.
After five seasons at the major junior level, complete with 330 regular-season games, 79 playoff twirls and 128 goals and 322 points in those 409 cumulative games, Cunningham is raring to enter Boston’s system as a fairly mature, seasoned kind of rookie.
2010-11 Highlights (With two WHL teams)
· Traded from Vancouver Giants to the Portland Winterhawks at midseason. Had a point-per-game productivity rate in the postseason as Portland reached the WHL’s President’s Cup finals.
· Placed fourth on Vancouver’s regular-season scoring chart and third in the playmaking department despite playing only half of the season with the Giants before the transaction.
· Went on a 10-game point-getting streak between Oct. 8 and Oct. 27. Within that span, he logged four goals, 21 assists and nine multipoint outings.
· Assisted on five goals in Vancouver’s 7-5 win over the Kelowna Rockets Oct. 20.
· Scored a hat trick in his third game with Portland, pumping in all three goals in a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds on New Year’s Eve.
· Logged four playmaker hat tricks during the regular season.
· Held pointless in only four out of 21 WHL playoff games. Had one assist in all five President’s Cup championship games.
· Went on a four-game pointless streak during his last three appearances with the Giants and carrying over to his Portland debut Dec. 28. He finished with a negative plus/minus in each of those outings for a cumulative minus-9 dip.
· Rating for the month of December fell to minus-11 upon going minus-3 in his Portland debut.
· Was on the ice for none of five Portland goals, but both of the opposing Kamloops Blazers’ strikes in a 5-2 win Jan. 15.
A fourth-round choice in the 2010 NHL Draft, Cunningham should have enough in him to become an AHL mainstay while patiently waiting for an opening in Boston’s tight system. How swiftly and smoothly he translates his rich resume from major junior to minor professional will decide how much of an impact he makes as a Providence rookie.