BostonBruins.com — David Warsofsky got a taste of the NHL last season. Heading into this year’s rookie camp, the Bruins brass have indicated time and time again that they expect him to compete for a full-time NHL roster spot.
Now, it’s official: Warsofsky will have that opportunity.
On Thursday, the defenseman signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $600,000 at the NHL level to remain with the Bruins.
“I knew after the season that I was going to be a restricted free agent and at some point would have to start talking, and I think the talks were pretty smooth,” Warsofsky said on Thursday. “I think both sides were on the same page, and it’s nice to get it done early in the summer and kind of focus on your training for the rest of the summer, and skating, and getting ready for training camp.”
This training camp will be a big one for the blueliner, who has played three full seasons with Providence. Last season marked a breakout year for him, as he registered a career-high 32 points and a plus-8 rating. He also tallied nine points (two goals and seven assists) in Providence’s 12 playoff games in 2014.
The highlight of Warsofsky’s season, though, came in late December, when he received his first NHL callup. In six total games with the Boston Bruins in 2013-14, Warsofsky registered a goal and an assist.
Warsofsky believes he is ready to make the permanent leap to the NHL, and that sentiment has been echoed throughout the organization.
“I think we have a good group right now, and I include Warsofsky because I believe he’s as close to an NHL player as you’re going to get from Providence,” said Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli on July 1, when free agency opened. “There’s nine defensemen we have -- NHL defensemen.”
Warsofsky appreciates the recognition, and it validates his own belief that if he keeps fine-tuning his game and continues along the upward trend he has been riding for the last three years, this could be the summer his dreams come true.
“It definitely gives me a little bit of confidence — I think when the management and the coaches say that about you, it pushes you even more,” he said. “You know that they think you’re capable, and I think I am capable of it also, so I kind of want to go out there and prove them right. And every kid’s dream is to move up from the AHL to the NHL on a regular basis, so that’s what I’m shooting for this year.”
For the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Warsofsky, the skills are there. The talent is there. Now, it is just about making sure he maintains consistency because, as he says, he can’t afford to take a night off when he’s trying to prove he is deserving of a roster spot.
“The way I play, I think I need to play my game every night,” he said. “I can’t really have those off nights, with my size and my strength. I can’t really afford to not be on every night, so being consistent and being responsible in my own end obviously is an important part of the Bruins organization. So I think every year, I come in and I want to improve upon both of those things.”
And in case anyone is willing to discount him because of his size, Warsofsky has just two words for the doubters: Torey Krug.
The two are similar in stature, and though Warsofsky enjoyed playing with and learning from Krug when he was still in Providence, he believes he can bring something else to the table. He isn’t looking to be a carbon copy of No. 47.
“We both bring different aspects to the game,” Warsofsky said. “I’d probably say we’re the most similar [of anyone on the current Bruins roster], but I try to play my own game. I don’t think Boston has a defenseman who plays the way I play, and I kind of want to bring that aspect of my game up to the NHL level also.”
It is clear that something clicked for Warsofsky in between the 2012-13 season and the 2013-14 season. He doubled his production, he improved from a plus-1 to a plus-8 and he emerged as a bona fide leader on a talented Providence team. He focused on improving in his own end and finding a way to get his shot through at the offensive blue line.
“I’m obviously not the biggest or strongest guy,” he said, “so I think my position is really important and I didn’t want to get caught on the wrong side of guys, so I worked on that a lot. Then at the offensive blue line, I tried to work on my game and getting my shot through and creating things down low. It doesn’t always have to be the perfect shot or the perfect pass, but just making things happen up there and getting the puck down low more often and going back and playing defense [is important].”
In the end, his work and his focus paid off. Clearly, he turned some heads as he wrapped up his season.
The Marshfield native credits his surge in confidence, in part, to having the opportunity to join the big Bruins for a handful of games.
“It was an awesome experience for me,” he said. “Being from Boston and getting to play for my hometown team was unbelievable, and then getting the opportunity to play in the NHL was really special. I think it gave me that confidence, and then when I did go back to Providence, I kind of had that little chip on my shoulder, like I wanted to get back to the NHL — and that’s obviously my dream, is to be in the NHL full time.
“So to get a little bit of a taste of it, and seeing how the organization does things and how guys play at a professional level, was definitely important for me.”
Still, despite the positive reviews he has received from the club’s higher-ups, Warsofsky is fully aware that he cannot assume anything.
“David’s put in three years, so clearly he feels that he’s a guy that is ready to contribute, and I don’t disagree,” said Providence Head Coach Bruce Cassidy during this summer’s Development Camp. “You can only have so many young defenders in your lineup, and it is a tough lineup to crack. It’s a team that was one game removed from the Stanley Cup Championship two years ago, they won four years ago — it’s a good lineup. And they’ve put some young kids in there. So that’s sometimes the luck of the draw in your career. Sometimes, the path to get there is a little easier than other places, and then when you get there, it’s harder to stay and vice versa.”
But Warsofsky is ready to work. He knows he is on the cusp of his dream — of making it to the NHL — and until he is there, he refuses to stop trying. He refuses to stop grinding.
“I think it’s an important year for me,” he said. “I want to take advantage of it, but I also know what it takes to be a regular in the NHL, and I think until that point where I can prove myself — that I am [an NHL defenseman] — I don’t think I’m going to stop working. I’m going to continue the same work ethic until I am there.”
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