Parker Wotherspoon looking to stick in NHL

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How long defenseman Parker Wotherspoon remains in Boston will no doubt depend on how he plays in the short-term future. When you’re 26 years old and have a grand total of 17 NHL games like Wotherspoon had heading into Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild, you pretty much have to prove yourself on a nightly basis.

But in his latest recall from Providence, Wotherspoon showed enough in two tough games games against the Islanders and Rangers to make the B’s decide to keep him on the roster, designating Ian Mitchell to be the one to go back to Providence. And with the expected return to the lineup of Charlie McAvoy, it was rookie Mason Lohrei to be squeezed up to the press box, not Wotherspoon.

While Wotherspoon is not exactly huge – he’s 6-foot-1, 195 pounds – coach Jim Montgomery said he brings “snarl” and “jam” that is needed on the B’s, especially on the defense corps with Derek Forbort out. Players like that add to the general good vibe for a team.

“One thing he does is he has an energy about him,” said Montgomery after the morning skate. “He has a positive energy where he elevates the mood on the bench, he elevates the mood in the dressing room. You know that that he’s a guy that’s going to be there for you, and I mean his teammates.”

The Surrey, British Columbia native was a fourth round pick of the New York Islanders in 2015. He played 293 games with their AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, seeing just 12 NHL games which came last season. The two parties decided to go their separate ways last summer.

With Bridgeport and Providence playing each other often, GM Don Sweeney had become a fan of his game and the stoutness with which Bridgeport had always defended. The fact that he played so much in the AHL without getting much of a chance didn’t keep Sweeney from offering him a contract last summer. Sweeney sounded cautiously optimistic about what he’s seeing from Wotherspoon.

“It’s his first time changing a team, and sometimes you get a bump in that regard when you come to an organization, and some guys handle that well…because they think it’s a renewed positive approach to things, and how an outside team has now viewed you, as opposed to maybe you flatlined in your (former) environment,” said Sweeney. “Parker was excited to join our group, he knew our organization, he had done his research in terms of where he thought his strengths would be appreciated. And all he asked for was an opportunity, as all players would, regardless of whether or not he’s played 300 games down there. He wanted an opportunity to prove he could play in the National Hockey League, and we’ve always been committed to when guys are playing well and the need is there, that we’re going to give guys that opportunity, and it’s up to them.”

When the Bruins called in the summer with a one-year offer that carried an NHL salary of $775,000, Wotherspoon jumped.

“A team like the Bruins, especially after the year that they had, it was definitely exciting to have them have interest in me…It’s hard to so no when they’re calling,” said Wotherspoon. “One of the things I had (in mind) going into the summer was to find good management and good leadership and I want to win.”

In this most recent call-up, he played his former team and then the Rangers, seeing over 19 minutes in each game.

“I felt confident, more so in the second game. The first game was against the old team. That’s exciting and jittery and it’s the big time, so you’re a little nervous out there. But as the game went on, I felt good. You just find your skating, find your hands,” said Wotherspoon.

To say that Wotherspoon has “made it” would be premature. But while his time in the AHL may have looked like a long, hard slog from the outside, Wotherspoon feels he’s made continuous progress.

“I never really wavered,” said Wotherspoon. “I always felt like I was getting better as the years went on. So I just knew if I stuck to it and someone gave me an opportunity I’d do everything I could to be ready for that opportunity. It is a mental grind, to be sure, playing over 300 games down there (312, including his time in Providence this year), but it’s what I went through my whole life to be up here.”….

Morgan Geekie maintained his spot on the top power play unit. With the return of Pavel Zacha from his upper body injury, that gives the B’s both a left- and right-handed faceoff man. Geekie also adds a few more elements that Montgomery likes.

“Just this puck recoveries and how hard he is in the middle of the ice,” said Montgomery. “He’s got a strong stick. You see the shot, but he wins battles because of his stick. And he’s got a good hockey mind.”…

Things for Lohrei to mindful of in the future?

“We’ve talked to him about being firm, getting his nose over top on pucks, winning his one-on-one battles more consistently, which will lead to less time in our own end. It’s not just him, it’s something we’re talking to our team in general about,” said Montgomery….

Montgomery said that if Matt Poitras had played in the World Junior tournament, the B’s probably wouldn’t have loaned him to Team Canada, but now he’s got a good opportunity.

“At the beginning of this year, making the World Juniors was probably more realistic than making than NHL. And here he is in the NHL and now he’s getting a a chance to go represent his country,” said Montgomery.

 

 

 



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