Drafted in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Peter Cehlarik has yet to make a splash at the NHL level.
Playing in 20 games with the Bruins last season, the 23-year old had four goals and two assists. In 37 career National Hockey League games total, the native of Slovakia has five goals and 10 points.
Earlier this month the Bruins signed Cehlarik to a one-year, two-way contract. At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, Cehlarik brings size to the left wing position, something the Bruins currently lack.
But despite his size and small sample size at the NHL level, things have yet to click for Cehlarik.
With a handful of young forwards chomping at the bit to crack the Bruins roster in the coming months, the 2019-20 season is going to be a key one for Cehlarik.
Instead of filing for arbitration like fellow restricted free agent Danton Heinen, Cehlarik was hoping to land a one-way deal with the Bruins. Instead, Cehlarik was given a two-way deal, one that will require Cehlarik to not only earn himself a spot on the Bruins roster, but also keep one.
“Everything was dealt with after the playoffs. I wanted a one-way contract, it seemed positive for a long time, but it didn't work out to my liking,” Cehlarik said in an interview back in Slovakia
. “The season ended on the farm [in Providence], the club held better cards. Nor would arbitration help me.”
Cehlarik was recalled from Providence in the middle on January, starting with a game against the Flyers in Philadelphia. Cehlarik scored twice in the contest, and then added an assist in the following game for three points in his first two games.
But after that, things slowed down for Cehlarik with three points in his next 18 games before being sent back down to Providence.
“The Boston organization expects the players to get consistently good results. The Bruins are a big brand. It is not like Arizona, for example, where there is not such enormous pressure on players,” Cehlarik added. “I had several good matches, but then came the end of the transfer period, in which Boston grabbed two expensive attackers and they took my place.”
Heading into training camp in September, Cehlarik has a few simple goals in my mind, but also knows that if he is unable to meet those in Boston, he could attempt to meet those goals elsewhere.
“I still haven't met the goal I have three years to get a one-way contract and play a full year in the NHL. I want to try it in Boston again, if it doesn't work out, I believe in a chance in another place,” Cehlarik said. “The basis will be a quality campsite for which I am preparing.”
Being physical is not an issue for Cehlarik as we saw in his brief stint in Boston in January. His skating and playmaking abilities need some work. Cehlarik is aware of this and is focused on improving those skills and gaining the confidence needed from Bruins management and the coaches.
“There is no problem in physical readiness. I'm trying to constantly improve skating. Let me take a step or two faster. The league is constantly accelerating,” said Cehlarik. “The matches are in quick succession, I have to perform well and get the coach's confidence.”
One of the biggest issues facing Cehlarik is the fact that he’s a left-shot left winger, one who is not too comfortable playing his off wing.
“At each position, someone was ready to play. In my case it was the position of a wingman, left. Three left-handers were extra. I was about number two. The chance to play, however, was small,” Cehlarik said about his time as a black ace during the Bruins run to the Stanley Cup Final.
“You know how it goes in the playoffs. If someone does not lose their hand or leg, they play. The final was unrealistic.”
In the 20 games Cehlarik skated with the Bruins in 2018-19, he spent a majority of his five-on-five ice time with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. In 104:46 of five-on-five ice time together, the trio held the advantage in Corsi For % at 60.68, shots for 69-54, and goals for 5-2.
If Cehlarik is to make any impact on the Bruins roster this coming season, it may once again be in a role with Krejci and DeBrusk, or even filling the void left by Marcus Johansson.
Regardless of what role the Bruins have Cehlarik pegged for, or ones he takes it upon himself to target, he’s not alone and will have plenty of competition in the process.
“We’ll see when Anders Bjork comes back online. We’ll see what Peter Cehlarik does. I think we have, as I referenced, some guys internally,” general manager Don Sweeney said last month about filling the open top-nine roles. “Paul Carey’s another guy that’s played a lot of games in the National Hockey League with his skillset. You never know where guys are going to come back at and assimilate with.”
This latest contract seems like the Bruins way of offering Cehlarik one last chance to prove his worth. For the Bruins sake, they hope it’s a low-risk, high-reward type of contract.