PROVIDENCE – Austin Czarnik insists that he’s not growing impatient waiting for a call from the Boston Bruins.
And, judging from the smile on his face at the rink every day, there’s no reason to doubt him.
Still, who could blame him if, deep down, he were just the slightest bit irked?
Czarnik, who played 49 games with Boston last season and 6 early this season, was assigned to the Providence Bruins on Nov. 9. Night in and night out through the first half of the season, the third-year pro has been one of the team’s best players.
“When he has his energy and his speed, he’s a top player in this league,’’ says John Ferguson Jr., Providence’s general manager and Boston’s executive director of player personnel.
Skating at right wing alongside center Jordan Szwarz and a rotating cast of left wingers, Czarnik is ninth in the AHL in scoring with 11-29-40 in 37 games. He has scored at least a point in the P-Bruins’ last six games.
His selection to the AHL All-Star Challenge – where he posted two goals and an assist on Monday night in Utica — was a no-brainer.
But for all Czarnik has done, other players have gotten the call ahead of him when Boston needed a forward.
To his credit, the 25-year-old is taking the right approach — focusing on the task at hand, instead of worrying about a decision that is out of his hands.
“You can’t look into it too much. It’s hard, obviously, if you don’t get the call, but you just have to focus on yourself. You let it go and you try to get better,’’ he said.
The thing is, no matter how well an AHLer might be playing, the needs of the parent club will dictate who gets called up.
“If they need a left winger and Austin Czarnik has scored five goals in the last three games, they’re still probably going to bring up a left shot. That’s really what it is,’’ said P-Bruins coach Jay Leach.
That’s pretty close to what happened last week when Czarnik remained in Providence while Anders Bjork – riding a streak of five games without a point — was recalled after Brad Marchand was suspended.
“It’s important that players understand. The only thing that they can control is their play. And if their play is where it needs to be, and they need a player like Austin Czarnik, he’s going to get the call. That’s the mentality. That’s minor league hockey right there,’’ said Leach, who spent the majority of his career in the AHL.
“The opportunity will come. You don’t know when, but it will come. When it comes, you have to be playing your best hockey.’’
No doubt, the waiting is difficult. “It’s really a daily, weekly, monthly challenge. In this career, you’re going to face adversity. He’s come through it before. He played 49 games in the NHL last year, so he’s proven that he’s capable of performing at that level and contributing at that level,’’ said Ferguson.
As well as Czarnik has played so far this season, Leach believes he has more to give.
“Honestly, I’ve challenged him a little bit because I think he can be even better,’’ said Leach. “He has an opportunity at this level to be an absolute dominant force when he really puts his mind to it. His play up until this point has definitely carried us. I don’t want to diminish that, but as his coach I do want to challenge him because I think it’s within him (to be better). And he’d probably say the same thing. I’m definitely happy with his play. A little challenge to be even better isn’t a bad thing.’’
Talking about Czarnik’s career track, Ferguson points to Yanni Gourde of Tampa Bay and Jonathan Marchessault of Vegas. Both are fast and undersized, like Czarnik. Both spent several seasons in the AHL before they were able to break through in the NHL.
“There are lots of guys in similar situations in this league that have endured and persevered, improved as pros. I think he’s doing that. (The opportunity) is still going to be there for him. If it’s not tomorrow night, it could be a week or a month from now, or it could be next year,’’ said Ferguson.
In the meantime, Czarnik is keeping his eyes on the prize.
“I’m just focused every day here. I want to get back up to Boston again. I loved being there and playing for them,’’ he said.