The Calgary Flames have made numerous sizable moves since the offseason began, such as signing James Neal, signing Derek Ryan, and of course that blockbuster with the Carolina Hurricanes.
One player who’s name may have slid in somewhat under the radar is Austin Czarnik. The Flames signed him on July 1 after he had spent the four previous seasons with the Boston Bruins organization.
He put up 69 points in 64 AHL games last year and has totalled 17 points in 59 career NHL games. However, what’s most intriguing about Czarnik is that 24 teams inquired about him in the lead-up to free agency. It leads you to believe that most of the league thinks something is really there with Czarnik.
The Flames ended up landing him, and now we’re going to talk with the Bruins SB Nation page Stanley Cup of Chowder about what the Flames may be getting in Austin Czarnik.
Thanks to @skyonair_ for the responses!
1. Czarnik is somewhat outside of the traditional prospect rank age range, but where do you think Czarnik ranked in the Bruins prospect system last year?
Czarnik was in a weird place where he could’ve easily been the 3rd or even 2nd most important prospect in the system, but because so many young players just took their shot and became such welcome surprises, he kind of had the ground knocked out from under him. As a result he went from pretty close to the top of the prospect system to somewhere near the middle.
2. What did you like from Czarnik’s game at the NHL level? What do you think could be improved upon?
Czarnik has got some wheels and he certainly has the will to use them to both hound the puck and to create chances. It also helps that in comparison to depth talent, he usually wipes the floor with them in possession, though that’s a small sample size.
Where he definitely could improve believe it or not is on offense. At the NHL level he’s been able to be a pretty solid playmaker in his own right, but preferred to pass the puck of buck of scoring onto his teammates. Not a bad thing, just an area of improvement because he wrecked shop at the AHL level.
3. I’ve heard the main reason that Czarnik was in the AHL was the Bruins forward depth, was this the case?
More or less true, but it also had something to do with how the lines were constructed in the first place. The “open” spots all of last year were primarily on 2nd right wing, which he hasn’t done much playing at. Lines 3 and 4 where he’d have the best options of slotting in were full and also lines not dedicated to generating chances, so there might’ve been a belief that he’d have been a poor fit or a waste there.
4. Had he stayed with the Bruins, do you think Czarnik would’ve been an NHLer in 2018-19?
If all the moves Boston made and didn’t make happened exactly as they did this year? He’d be the frontrunner for the 3rd line Center. No bones about it. The forward depth of the B’s and what they did specifically for each line (and especially the fact that none of them outright sucked) meant he was kind of locked in as a good replacement option but never a full-time player.
5. Given what you’ve seen from his development, what do you think a realistic projection for him is at the NHL level? What do you think his ceiling could be as well?
A realistic projection is probably a bottom-six player who could make a real fun 3rd line. He has plenty of tools to succeed on a team that wants to be speedy and skilled and honestly, if given the right opportunity, he could find himself in the middle six. Which line? You decide.
@TheShawnFerris from Stanley Cup of Chowder also wrote: “I’m a bit more optimistic on Czarnik. I think he could creep into the Top 6. I think you could find him with Mikael Backlund for a few games if one of his wings go down, and he could really excel there.”
Bonus: Would you be interested in starting a “We used to have Dougie Hamilton” support group with us?
If that involves huddling yourself in a corner as you contemplate the void of space wondering how hockey men could be like this and like this twice, then we’re in.
So there you have it? As Brad Treliving likes to put it, the Flames have a kid that looks like he “could be ready to pop” this year.
If you’d like some more background into Czarnik, read up on this piece from @TheShawnFerris from February where he dove a bit deeper into Czarnik and his production.