Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't Call Me Vinny

Boston Bruins prospect Yannick Riendeau (no relation to former B's goalie Vincent) may make his debut tomorrow when the Providence Bruins take on the Springfield Falcons.

I say "may" because his presence isn't in the P-B's lineup isn't confirmed.

According to the Providence Journal's Providence Bruins blog, he was prevented from making his first pro hockey appearance since Boston signed him as a free agent last April because he was on injured reserve when the NHL's holiday roster freeze went into effect. That freeze expired yesterday, so he's apparently eligible (and don't ask me why a guy playing to the AHL would be subject to that rule unless it has to do with preventing teams from sending NHL roster players down to the minors, but still- why hold up his eligibility like that?). But, my source said that it wasn't confirmed yet that he is on the roster, so if he somehow doesn't play Tuesday, you'll know that it has nothing to do with health or coaching decisions.

Anyway- Yannick Riendeau is a right winger who could see some power play time on a struggling Providence offense that took a major hit when Brad Marchand suffered a tendon damage in his foot from a skate blade (expected to be out at least 6 weeks- probably longer). The Baby Bruins just don't have many guys who can put the puck in the net and it has shown in their record.

Of course, expecting Riendeau to carry the team as a rookie is setting the bar a might high. He reminds me a lot of a young Mark Recchi- smallish, not very fast, but gifted with his hands and hockey sense. He made a play during last May's Memorial Cup tournament that left me shaking my head in wonder. Facing the boards and with a defender on his back, he started going right, and as the defender moved with him, then spun left and slid a perfect blind pass behind him on the tape of one of his teammates positioned in the slot for the one-timer goal. That kind of pure offensive ability is something you can't teach a player; it comes naturally or not at all.

Don Sweeney told me recently that you can make players more aware of offensive situations through coaching, but the innate, "eyes in the back of your head", ability to see the play unfold before it actually does can't be taught. Riendeau certainly has those impossible-to-quantify offensive instincts working for him.

Whether Riendeau has enough of that hockey sense and shooting skills to become a serviceable NHLer given his lack of size and speed remains to be seen. He wasn't good enough to get a draft call, so he's a longshot. At the same time, he tied Mario Lemieux's QMJHL playoff goals record last year (29 tallies in 19 games), so the kid has done some special things in his young career.

I think that if he can more closely resemble Pascal Pelletier at this stage, Providence would be OK with that. He's had a long layoff with his recovery from shoulder surgery, so don't expect big things from Riendeau right away. If the offense comes, consider it gravy.

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