Sunday, September 18, 2011

Providence Bruins All-Time All-Star Team: Forwards

As part of the website’s year-long commemoration of the Providence Bruins’ 20th anniversary season, Daniel’s Den has selected 20 P-Bruins and assembled an all-time all-star squad.

To conclude this two-part release and round out this ultimate fantasy team, here are the top 12 forwards in P-Bruins history.

First-line Left Wing: Tim Sweeney
Only a select few players have averaged more than a point per game during a protracted Spoked-P stint. But only Sweeney has come close to averaging 1.5 points per night.

Over three separate stints with the team, he accumulated 71 goals and 101 helpers in 121 games-played for a nightly median of 1.42 points. And between two Calder Cup playoff runs, he partook in 16 contests, scoring 10 goals and 19 assists for an average of 1.81 points per night.

And in each of four individual regular seasons (1992-93, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97) and two postseasons (1993 and 1995), Sweeney never once finished with fewer points than games-played.

First-line Center: Sergei Zholtok
The late Latvian producer set the P-Bruins scoring standard early and often. A member of the Bruins’ organization for each of the team’s first three years of fostering its prospects in Providence, Zholtok played in 196 regular-season games and posted 83 goals, 103 assists and 186 points.

When he left for the IHL’s Las Vegas Thunder in the summer of 1995, he led the P-Bruins franchise in all three of those categories. His records stood for nearly a decade until Andy Hilbert surpassed each of them.

But it took Hilbert an extra season to do that. And there have been 10 other Providence forwards who have played more games but scored substantially fewer points than Zholtok.

First-line Right Wing: Peter Ferraro
A point-per-game player in his three seasons with the P-Bruins, which perhaps not-so-coincidentally were the years that saw Providence put in three straight appearances in the Calder Cup semifinals.

Arriving on a demotion from the parent club in the middle of the historic 1998-99 season, Ferraro did nothing but stoke the already-stimulated Civic Center masses. He played in 16 regular-season games, scoring two hat tricks and a total of 15 goals. From there, he garnered playoff MVP accolades with a 9-12-21 scoring log in 19 contests.

By the end of his Black and Gold tenure, Ferraro had 142 points in 142 games with the P-Bruins. He coupled that with 18 goals and 42 points in 49 postseason ventures.

Second-line Left Wing: Brett Harkins
A peerlessly prolific playmaker in the history of the franchise, Harkins etched 100 assists over 108 games between two P-Bruins stints. Only seven players have logged more in their Providence career and they each played in at least 14 more games than Harkins.

Harkins’ most fruitful of two years with the P-Bruins was his first in 1994-95. Teaming up with the likes of Sandy Moger, Fred Knipscheer and Tim Tookey, he topped the Providence scoring chart with 92 points, 29 more than the runner-up Knipscheer. And his 69 assists tied him with Cape Breton’s Peter White for the league lead.

From there, Harkins tied two teammates with eight goals and led the P-Bruins with 22 points in 13 playoff games.

Second-line Center: Andy Hilbert
So far, Hilbert is the only person to hit the century mark in the way of both goals and assists while wearing the Spoked-P.

Boston’s second-round choice in the 2000 NHL Draft, Hilbert spent four years in the Bruins system, playing the better part of three in Providence. In each of those three years, he never scored any fewer than 25 goals or assists.

His grand Black-and-Gold finale was in the 2004-05 NHL lockout year, when he collaborated with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes to steer an entertaining Baby Bs roster to the Eastern Conference finals. Along the way, he broke all of Zholtok’s franchise scoring records and piloted the offense through the playoffs with seven goals and 21 points in 17 games.

Second-line Right Wing: Eric Nickulas
Nickulas was not always the most radiant producer in his four seasons and two separate stints with the P-Bruins, although he did place first on the 1998-99 team with 31 regular-season goals.

What makes Nickulas particularly memorable, though, is his mastery of clutch situations. In his first three seasons with the P-Bruins (1998-2001), 13 out of his 57 goals were game-winners, a tie for the franchise record.

During his brief return to the team in 2005-06, he took that record all for himself when he scored in overtime to beat the Springfield Falcons on March 11, 2006.

Third-line Left Wing: Jozef Stumpel
Despite playing in only 56 out of 80 regular-season games, Stumpel was second only to Sweeney on the inaugural P-Bruins team with 92 points on the year. He tied Zholtok for third on the team with 31 goals and led all Spoked-Ps with 62 assists.

The following year, he averaged a point-per-game with five goals and 12 helpers in 17 AHL outings before he earned a permanent roster spot in Boston. With that, for more than a decade, he was the only P-Bruin to score more than 100 points in fewer than 100 appearances, logging 109 in a mere 73 games.

Third-line Center: Randy Robitaille
With an average of exactly on assist per game (74) and 28 goals, Robitaille became the first P-Bruin with a triple-digit point campaign en route to AHL MVP honors in 1999.

And by all accounts, he wasn’t so shabby the year prior, either. Appearing in only 48 games for a team that would finish as the league’s bottom-feeders, Robitaille placed fifth on the 1997-98 Providence scoring chart with 44 points.

His 29 helpers put him in a three-way tie for second on that year’s team leaderboard with Kirk Neilsen and Barry Richter, who appeared in 72 and 75 games, respectively.

Third-line Right Wing: Cameron Mann
In each of four seasons in the Bruins organization, Mann saw action in both Providence and Boston. He tallied 21 goals in back-to-back years with the P-Bruins in 1997-98 and 1998-99, but those identical numbers were not indicative of his improvement.

Rather, whereas Mann required 71 games to insert those 21 strikes as a rookie, he equated that output in only 43 AHL twirls in 1998-99. In addition, he personified the team’s turnaround by improving his plus/minus rating a whopping 42 points (from minus-27 to plus-15).

And over the course of two Calder Cup playoff runs, the first of which he joined late after first playing in the parent clubs’ postseason, Mann amassed a 13-14-27 scoring log in 22 games.

Fourth-line Left Wing: Eric Manlow
Despite playing in only 48 games, Manlow placed second on the 1999-2000 team with 17 regular-season goals and then led Providence with six goals and 14 points in the playoffs.

The following year, he appeared in 60 regular-season games and finished as the P-Bruins top playmaker with 51 assists. And once again, he led the team in playoff scoring with six goals and 13 points as Providence put in its third straight appearance in the Eastern Conference finals.

By the end of his three-year stay, Manlow had logged 46 goals and 102 points in 176 games.

Fourth-line Center: David Krejci
To date, Krejci is the only player other than Stumpel to have finished his Providence career with more than 100 points within fewer than 100 games.

Krejci would last one full rookie year in the AHL, during which he led the team in both regular-season and playoff scoring, most notably assisting on 13 goals in as many playoff tilts in 2007. He would then play 25 more games in 2007-08 before earning a permanent spot in The Show circa New Year’s 2008.

By that point, he had played in 94 regular-season games for the P-Bruins, scoring 38 goals and 64 assists for 102 points.

Fourth-line Right Wing: Andre Savage
Savage joined the P-Bruins fresh out of Michigan Tech and finished third on the 1998-99 team leaderboard with 27 goals and second with 69 points.

Over the next two seasons, split almost evenly between the NHL and AHL, he saw action in 75 games for Providence, scoring 28 goals and 60 points in that span. In addition, he pitched in nine goals and 20 points in a cumulative 31 playoff games.

In 1999-2000, Savage was one of only two P-Bruins (along with late-season acquisition Jason Krog) to average more than a point per game, amassing 15 goals and 32 points in 30 twirls.

Taxi Squad: Keith Aucoin, Brad Boyes, Grigori Panteleev, Pascal Pelletier