Austin Czarnik is an undersized right-shot center. (Miami Photo)
The Bruins haven’t drafted particularly well over the years, but undrafted free agents can help a team trying to groom NHL players. Torey Krug is Exhibit A around these parts.
On Tuesday, the Bruins signed another highly sought-after former college player in Miami (Ohio) center Austin Czarnik. The Michigan native was a linemate of Reilly Smith’s in his freshman year, a Hobey Baker finalist as a sophomore and captain of the RedHawks in his junior and senior seasons.
Like Krug, size may have been what allowed Czarnik to slip under the radar as a teenager. Czarnik is listed at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. Miami coach Enrico Blasi says he makes up for it.
“As a smaller smaller guy, you’ve got to play hard and not [be afraid] to get in nasty areas,” Blasi told WEEI.com Tuesday. “He certainly does that. He’s got real good skill and and good vision for the ice.”
Added Blasi: “He’s always been told that he can’t play at that next level and he likes to prove people wrong. It wouldn’t surprise me if he made it.”
Playing with Smith in 2011-12, Czarnik scored 10 goals and added 27 assists for 37 points as a freshman. He had 40-plus points in each of his final three seasons with Miami, giving him 36 goals and 123 for 159 points over his college career.
The Senators were among the other teams reported to be vying for Czarnik’s services after Providence ended Mimai’s season in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Smith, who turned pro after his junior season and Czarnik’s freshman season, said he kept in touch with Czarnik throughout the process.
“I kept in touch with him a lot during this year, just kind of picking his brain as to what he thought he was going to do and how the year was going,” Smith said. “It’s good to see there’s light at the end of the tunnel. He played really good hockey at the end of the year, so it’s no surprise that something’s happening for him this quickly.”
The Bruins signing Czarnik keeps the RedHawks-Bruins connection alive. The Bruins are clearly fond of Blasi’s work, as they were high on Smith in the 2009 draft before eventually trading for him, and had also signed Smith’s former linemate in Carter Camper back in 2010. Before Czarnik got to Miami, Smith and Camper made up one the best lines in college hockey with eventual Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele.
Smith said he’s glad to have a former teammate and linemate join the organization, while Blasi feels his players are in good hands when they go to the Bruins.
“Great organization, great people working there,” Blasi said of the B’s. “[I have the] utmost respect for everyone with the Bruins organization. They’re first-class. I talked to Don Sweeney the other day, and just the way they conduct themselves in the process is first-class.”