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Trevor Kuntar puts best foot forward for Bruins at Prospects Challenge in hopes of scoring chance

Trevor Kuntar first took the ice with the Bruins at development camp in 2021.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Skating may not be everything it takes to make it in the NHL, but other than those who choose goaltending as their career path to hockey’s wonderland, speed and agility afoot are the underpinnings of all other facets of the game.

Poor skaters need not apply. Average skaters often are destined to a life in the minor leagues. While pace alone won’t guarantee a paycheck, it at least opens the door to opportunity.

Trevor Kuntar, the lone Bruins scorer Saturday in a 4-1 loss to the Canadiens in the ongoing Prospects Challenge, has lacked nothing in the feet-don’t-fail-me-now category in his two games thus far for the WannaBs.


It’s a promising sign in game development for the 22-year-old former Boston College forward. From the day Kuntar arrived at the Heights in the fall of 2020, the constant message from then-coach Jerry York, and then last season from Greg Brown, was never to stop working to improve his skating game.

“They both harped on me to work on it a lot,” said Kuntar, who grew up in Williamsville, N.Y., a suburb immediately north of the Sabres’ home at KeyBank Center. “It was always, ‘Be smart, play hard.’ … I was really thankful to be able to play under them.”

Kuntar’s goal Saturday, cashed in with a blind backhand sweep as he skated out from behind the goal line, was the product of tenacity. The 2020 third-round draft pick (No. 89 overall) kept tracking a play that failed to generate a chance only seconds before, then moved into what is considered a danger area — that space in and around the low slot where a stick to the ribs, a crosscheck, or a facewash usually are the price of admission.

The shot itself was a low-percentage offering, but it paid off, in part because it caught the goalie by surprise and mainly because Kuntar kept a play from going down a dead-end road.


“I love how he plays,” said AHL Providence coach Ryan Mougenel, Boston’s bench boss for the tournament. “He’s tenacious, he’s inside, he’s got some offensive ability.

“I think he’s going to be a real good pro. I think he’s one of those players that his game translates real well to pro hockey. I think he’s a little bit of a dog on a bone.”

Karson Kuhlman made a strong impression upon Bruins management at the 2018 Prospects Challenge.Nick Wass/Associated Press

It was precisely that attitude that Karson Kuhlman, fresh off the Minnesota-Duluth campus, displayed in the Prospects Challenge in September 2018 to put himself on Bruins management’s one-to-watch radar. Kuhlman eventually played 11 games with the varsity that 2018-19 season, and though he has since moved on (signing a two-way deal with the Islanders for this season) he remains a prime example of how the skating-and-tenacity mix can deliver eye-catching results for kids looking to make their mark.

“The NHL is a second-effort league,” said Mougenel. “You’ll see guys who come from a really skilled background and [their offensive attempts] are one and done. I think it’s real important you learn that. It’s funny, you watch [David Pastrnak], for sure one of the premier players in the NHL. But if you watch Pasta play, his second efforts are off the chart — I don’t know if that was in him always, but it’s an acquired skill and it’s something we identify with the Bruins and it’s real important to the fabric of who we are.”


Kuntar, exactly 301 NHL goals short of where Pastrnak stands today at age 27, for the moment is only hoping that he’ll have a sweater hanging in a stall when the varsity camp opens Wednesday in Brighton. Realistically, as a left shot left wing, he’s looking at a roster deep in that department, starting with the prolific Brad Marchand. General manager Don Sweeney also added veteran left wings Milan Lucic and James van Riemsdyk over the summer.

Most likely, Kuntar, who signed a two-year/two-way deal in March after his junior season at BC, will start the season in Providence. Boston is hardly a closed shop, but it would take a phenomenal preseason performance for him to knock established names off the puck.

“This is a great opportunity for everybody to kind of showcase themselves,” said Kuntar. “We got to know everybody, and get to know the Bruins system. They harp on us to compete and to care for another. It’s cool to get that experience before main camp.”

Mougenel gave his young charges Sunday off, following back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. The tournament concludes Monday morning for the Bruins against the Devils’ entry … Les Kuntar, Trevor’s father, played four seasons in net for ECAC St. Lawrence. A Montreal draft pick in 1987, he went on to play six games for the Canadiens in 1993-94 when Patrick Roy was king of the goalie hill. Now 54, the senior Kuntar quit the pro dream in 1997 and went to work in sales for CCM … The Devils’ Tom Fitzgerald is one of five ex-Bruins running NHL clubs as GMs these days, along with Sweeney, the Wild’s Bill Guerin, the Stars’ Jim Nill and the Blue Jackets’ Jarmo Kekalainen. Jeff Gorton, the former Rangers GM whose NHL career started in the Bruins’ media relations department, is the executive vice president of the Canadiens.


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at