After two seasons with the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins, Battleford’s Colby Cave is determined to start next year in the National Hockey League as a member of the Boston Bruins.
“This is going to be the biggest summer of my career and I’ll be putting in a lot of work to make sure that I can achieve that goal that I have,” Cave said.
“This is my job now and I’m looking forward to doing whatever it takes to reach the highest level.”
Since signing an entry-level contract with the Bruins two years ago after four seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Swift Current Broncos, the 22-year-old forward has learned a number of valuable lessons during his time in Rhode Island as he adjusts to the pro game.
“These last two years in Providence have really helped me to understand what being a pro hockey player is all about,” Cave said. “There’s a lot of differences from playing junior hockey. You’re living on your own and looking after yourself, and every guy your playing with is also trying to make it to that next level in addition to being a good teammate and helping the team succeed.
“This season, the biggest thing that I improved on was my consistency. When you look at guys like Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby, the reason they are successful is that they play the exact same way every night. It’s pretty amazing when you are close to the highest level of hockey but you feel like you are far away at times.”
Following a rookie campaign where he had 29 points in 75 games, Cave had 35 points in 76 games for his sophomore season.
He also had six points in 17 playoff games as the Bruins made their way to the semifinals.
“I don’t think I had been out of the first round of the playoffs since I was in bantam or pee wee hockey,” Cave said. “It’s pretty fun to be playing into May and going to the rink in your shorts. I could get used to that.
“Having that long run was better than what I thought it would be. To get into the second round and know that you are going to still be playing hockey for a few more weeks is pretty exciting. With the support that we got as a team from everyone in Providence and from the people here back home, I really feel like one of the luckiest guys in the world.”
The Bruins quest for their first Calder Cup championship since 1999 came to an end in the semifinal round as they lost in five games to the Syracuse Crunch, who are an affiliate to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s pretty tough when you go all that way and have nothing to show for it,” Cave said. “There’s a pretty sour taste in my mouth after how the year ended and that gives everyone on the team some extra motivation as we get ready for the new season.
“It was a really close series that could have gone either way. I remember we hit the post a couple of times in that fifth game and if we could have got a goal early on, we might have had a chance to change the momentum around and have another game back at home.”
With a fluctuating roster throughout the playoffs, Cave and his linemate Colton Hargrove found themselves playing with a couple of different faces during the Bruins’ run to the semifinal.
Early on they were paired up with veteran Peter Mueller, but they finished off the year playing with Zach Senyshyn, who was a first round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and had just finished his junior hockey career a few weeks earlier with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
“I think every person that was in the lineup played with a different guy all year,” Cave said. “It was pretty interesting to be in the locker room at times. We actually had some guys getting dressed in other rooms with as many guys as we had in the playoffs.
“See the guys like Zach coming up from junior reminded me of what it was like for me when I came up to Providence from Swift Current. It was pretty nerve wracking to come into an new organization like that after playing in junior, but you can see that the future is looking bright for the team with the guys we have coming in.”
Cave will be spending the majority of his summer in Saskatoon doing on-ice and off-ice conditioning work prior to going to the Bruins training camp in September.
“The majority of the guys are from the Saskatoon area, plus we have Reid Gardiner (who split time last season with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets and the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) who is from Humbolt that trains with us,” Cave said.
“Everyone in the group is either playing in the pro ranks or just finished up in junior hockey, so we’re all in that same mindset of trying to make it to the next level. We’re all pushing each other at all times.”