Cunningham making people take notice

920097.jpg

Cunningham making people take notice

SPRINGFIELD, MA Its pretty easy to get lost in the Providence shuffle if your name isnt Spooner, Knight, Bourque or Caron.

Providence Bruins forward Craig Cunningham was taken in the same 2010 draft class as Tyler Seguin, Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight among others, and hes largely flown under the radar during his time in the Bs organization. That can happen sometimes with fourth round draft picks, but the 22-year-old started to catch the eye of Providences coaching staff last season when he shifted from center to left wing.

The Trail, British Columbia native a place thats also the hometown of Ray Ferraro and Jason Bay among others continues to plug along with uncommon steadiness and strength on his skates, the high-effort willingness to play defense and now the ability to chip in offensively from a bottom-six forward spot.

Those are the kind of qualities that have Providence coach Bruce Cassidy convinced that Cunningham might just have a shot at the next level even if hes only 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds.

Hes been good. At camp we played him at center, but he played his best hockey last year on the wing, said Cassidy. He gets his shot off. He goes to the net. His defensive responsibilities arent as great because one thing about Cunningham is that he has to work to get around on the ice. Hes not a natural skater like Spooner so playing at wing frees him up that way a little bit.

Hes also a competitive and caring kid. He takes to coaching and he wants to win. We just have to find a line for him like a lot of guys. But I think hes got a chance to make it. He was a winner in junior with the Vancouver Giants, so he has a bit of that mentality. Hell do what it takes.

Cunningham went back to center for parts of training camp when the team needed a few extra centers to make the numbers work, but hes been back at the wing with the start of the AHL season. Cunningham potted his second goal of the season in Providences 3-1 win over the Springfield Falcons at MassMutual Center on Saturday night, and continues to build on a promising second AHL season.

Cunningham finished with 20 goals and 36 points last season, and is looking to improve those totals along with his minus-12 rating from last year. That improvement will start with more time spent around the goalie crease area where he was rewarded with a goal against Springfield.

Its a big weekend for us. All 20 guys both nights really bared down and got strong on the puck, said Cunningham of Providence sweeping a pair of weekend games against Manchester and Springfield. Weve got some older guys this year that can be bigger and stronger on the puck, so we just need to play that way every night.

I dont really have a number thing in my head for what I want to achieve this year. I just want to improve all the time. With all the guys in the AHL its a great opportunity for guys to show they can play, and just keep improving. I just push ahead every day and try to learn from the guys around me.

Its clear to anyone watching that Cunningham has made some big improvements heading into this season, and hes now making a name for himself along with all the other recognizable ones dotting the P-Bruins roster.

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

The Coyotes have hired former player Craig Cunningham as a pro scout, keeping the 26-year-old in hockey after a cardiac episode ended his playing career this season. 

Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cunningham played 34 games for Boston over parts of two seasons before he was waived and claimed by Arizona. He totaled 19 games for the Coyotes, but served as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s AHL affiliate. 

Cunningham was hospitalized after he collapsed during pregame warmups on Nov. 19. He was kept alive by continual CPR, but had his lower left leg amputated the next months due to an infection from the episode. 

Known as a high-character player who was popular with his teammates, Cunningham’s transition to scouting lets him further his career after a scary break. 

"I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my life with the Coyotes," Cunningham said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very grateful to John Chayka, Dave Tippett, the Coyotes and Roadrunners organizations, and all of the great fans across Arizona for the incredible support I've received over the past year. I'm looking forward to helping the Coyotes and I can't wait to get started in my new role."

Said Chayka, the team’s general manager: ”We're thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout. Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We're confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club."
 

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Morning Skate: Overreacting to the Oilers' window

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while really enjoying what the CW does season in and season out with the Flash.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Don Brennan says that the Senators fans not showing up for Game 6 is their way of sticking it to Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

*The talk is turning to the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and what they can do to help open up communication up and down the roster.  

*A guy that wore a Habs toque on his twitter avatar writes a glowing, praise-filled article about the performance of PK Subban during these Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s undoubtedly been good, but he just might have been wearing his Montreal Canadiens footie pajamas when he wrote this one, and rattling his fist at Habs management all the while.

*Interesting piece by Jason Gregor about the “window to win” for the Edmonton Oilers, and an odd notion that the window will close when Connor McDavid has moved out of his entry level contract. I’d say that’s kind of ludicrous.

*The Colorado Avalanche coaching staff has been let go after last year’s dreadful season, and that’s too bad for a really good guy in former Providence College head coach Tim Army. I’m sure he won’t be out of work long.

*Colin White made his Stanley Cup playoff and NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 6, and helped push Ottawa to a Game 7. It will be interesting to watch the Massachusetts native and former Boston College standout develop with the Senators as White was one of the players that the Bruins skipped over to instead draft Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The others, Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor, are all either in the NHL or knocking on the door as well, and it’s going to be a challenging road for both of Boston’s forward prospects to live up the justification of the B’s drafting them first. Granted DeBrusk and Senyshyn are also both doing their thing for the P-Bruins as they push into the conference finals of the Calder Cup playoffs, and they’re both bright prospects in their own right. It’s going to take years to determine the rights and wrongs of that first round, but White getting into the lineup for the Senators is proof of just how high that organization is on him.

*Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan says that Sidney Crosby handled the targeted abuse well from the Senators in a Game 6 loss that will push to a Game 7 between the Penguins and the Senators.

*For something completely different: A great message from Brookline homey and former Sox GM wonder boy Theo Epstein in his commencement address to Yale University.