With the college hockey season down to the Frozen Four, a wave of unrestricted free agents have begun to sign with NHL teams, and one prominent player is making his way to Boston.
The Bruins signed Miami (Ohio) University senior Austin Czarnik to an entry-level contract. Czarnik and Miami Men’s Hockey first shared the news via Twitter on Tuesday, and the Bruins officially announced the signing on Wednesday. The 22-year-old Michigan native will report to the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on Monday that the Bruins were “believed to be [the] front runner amongst teams interested’’ in Czarnik, who was free to sign with any NHL club after Miami’s season ended with a 7-5 loss to Providence College in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Czarnik played 159 games over his career at Miami, tallying 46 goals with 123 assists. He ended his final collegiate season with nine goals and 36 assists in 40 games, tied for 15th in the nation in points. His assists total placed him behind only Boston University’s Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues for most in the country.
Czarnik was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in 2013, eventually won by Drew LeBlanc of St. Cloud State, and served as captain of the RedHawks during his junior and senior seasons. He played for the United States at the 2012 World Junior Championships, scoring two goals with two assists in six games.
Czarnik is already familiar with one face in the Bruins locker room. He played on the same line with forward Reilly Smith during Miami’s 2011-12 season, with Smith and Czarnik finishing 1-2 on the team in points that year with 48 and 37, respectively.
A knock against Czarnik – and possibly a reason he was passed over in the NHL draft – is his size. Listed at 5-foot-9 and 167 pounds, no player currently on the Bruins roster is shorter, while no player weighs less.