Boston, MA - Justin Florek is in his first full season of professional hockey. He played just eight games with the Providence Bruins last season, after finishing up a four-year career at Northern Michigan University. This season, the 22-year-old out of Marquette, Michigan is slowly, but surely, adjusting to the pro game.
In 60 games with Providence, Florek has scored 10 goals and tallied 15 assists, while leading the P-Bruins in plus/minus at plus-10.
Boston Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney says Florek has developed well this season after a slower start with the transition. Last year, in just eight games with Providence, Florek scored two goals and added two assists.
“Justin's made a nice progression throughout the year,” said Sweeney. “[He] may have got off to a slower start offensively than he would probably have hoped, especially when he came in the year before and got off to a torrid start."
Florek realized that playing at the professional level was not going to be as easy as the first few games and began to work on the details of his game. Now, the 6-foot-4, 199-pound winger is utilizing his size and the results are starting to show: netting three goals within a recent five-game span.
“As is the case with the vast majority of young players, there is an adjustment period to the pro environment but Justin understood the challenges in front of him,” Sweeney explained. “I think he's developing into a player that is playing really heavy along the walls, in front of the net, and providing consistent forechecking pressure. He is really leaning on defensemen and using his size and strength to his advantage now."
“His penalty killing duties, stick positioning, and overall awareness has been very good. He is a good two-way player for us. He's shown a nice development curve throughout the season and his offensive production has increased as a result of all of his hard work and attention to the smaller details of the game,” Sweeney Said
With the NHL's work stoppage early in the season, many NHLers were keeping fresh in the AHL. Florek believes competing with, and against, those players forced him to up his game and, thus, had a positive effect on the way he has performed.
“At the beginning of the season it was tough, with the lockout and everything we had a lot of NHL-caliber guys down in the AHL,” Florek said. “It was really competitive, I learned a lot throughout that period. I think it really pushed me to progress faster."
“I just feel like that helped me out a lot. We had a lot of great guys here to compete with and play with, and along the way [it helped me] progress as a player to where I am right now.”
The uptick in goals for Florek of late is a direct result of him using that strength, according to Sweeney, as well as being inserted into more offensive situations.
“I think he's been put in a few more scoring opportunities situations,” Sweeney said. “He hasn't played as much power-play time as he's was accustomed to in college, so that's been an adjustment for him, as it is for all players."
“He's finding his stride, I think, offensively, Justin is recognizing where the quieter areas of the ice are to get shots to the net as well as going to the heavier spots to utilize his size and strength.”
Florek also pointed to the belief he has gained in his offensive abilities as another reason for his recent hot stretch.
“I think it has a lot to do with confidence, just with the puck and everything, just learning to make plays,” he said. “Knowing that I have the ability to do it and then just building upon that and trying to do things with confidence and put the puck on the net.”
Sweeney says Florek is not a flashy player, but as he continues to work on the smaller aspects of his game, the more he will be able to provide offensively. For now, though, Florek’s primary duties are to be responsible in all three zones.
“He's not necessarily a highlight-reel type of guy,” said the B’s Assistant GM. “His skating continues to get better, he's working at that as well, but he just does focuses on the smaller details: he gets pucks out, pucks in, doesn't turn pucks over, all of the things that coaches sort of see as the game goes along."
“It allows other players to use their strengths because Justin's a reliable guy, but he's a guy who can contribute offensively. He's understanding where in the areas of the ice he can get his shot off and how to be effective down low on the cycle.”
Being a responsible player is what Florek says is his main focus moving forward.
“I think everything is a work in progress with my game,” Florek explained. “I think right now I’m really focusing on being a plus player, my plus/minus, being out there for goals scored, being a defensive forward. That relates to all parts of my game, putting the puck in the net, and making plays in the offensive zone.”
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