Mention the name Zach Senyshyn to a Soo Greyhounds fan, and the image of a bona-fide speedster going wide and beating a defender to the net is sure to appear.
But the offence-first sniper, who scored 87 combined goals over his final two Ontario Hockey League seasons, apparently bears little resemblance to the Providence Bruins right-winger of 2020.
“I’ve changed my game a lot,” said Senyshyn, now 23-years-old and a three-year veteran of American Hockey League action. “It’s definitely rounded out a lot more.”
With 208 pounds – “Some good weight for the corners,” he chuckled – on his six-foot-two frame, Senyshyn spoke of using his speed and size to advance pucks and help shut down some of the opposition’s top players.
The scoring slots are well-filled in Boston, added the Ottawa native, who scored 26 times as a Hounds rookie in 2014-2015.
Senyshyn followed that up with a 45-goal season, and, in his final OHL campaign, he notched 42 markers.
Elite speed, coupled with the ability to fill the net, enticed the Bruins to use the No. 15 choice overall on Senyshyn in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Determined to crack the lineup of one of the NHL’s powerhouse teams, Senyshyn said he has to be a reliable winger, one who is difficult to play against.
“I’ve gotten more comfortable playing a bottom-six role,” he said. “You’re only as good as keeping pucks out of your own net and at the end of the day, it’s about helping your team win. It’s been a lot of fun taking pride in different things.”
Senyshyn had seven goals and nine assists in 42 games with Providence at the time the AHL halted play on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the NHL works towards resuming play with a 24-team, 2019-2020 post-season, clubs are expected to employ 28-player rosters with an unlimited number of goaltenders.
Obviously, Senyshyn hopes to be among those chosen.
“I’m training and working out as if I am going to be a part of it,” he said. “I want to be 100 per cent ready. But if I’m not chosen, I know I’m in great hands with the Bruins organization.”
As an AHL rookie, Senyshyn notched 12 goals and 14 assists in 66 games during the 2017-18 season.
A year later, he put up a 14-10-24 stat line, also in 66 games.
With his three-year, NHL entry level contract expiring, Senyshyn could soon become a restricted free agent.
However, he’s hoping to negotiate a new deal in order to stay in the Boston organization.
To date, he’s played in six NHL games, scoring once and assisting on two others, while averaging 9:26 of ice time.
Asked if his path to regular work in the NHL would be easier – and perhaps faster – in another organization, Senyshyn spoke of how “when I do get to the NHL, I want it to be with Boston.”
He also explained how “faster isn’t always better,” and how “the grass isn’t always greener.”
And he used the words “delayed gratification” as he spoke of what it would mean to become a regular with the organization he first signed with.
“I really see how everything I’ve learned over these last three years with Providence has helped me take my game to the next level,” Senyshyn said. “They’ve pushed me to learn to do things I wouldn’t have had to do in another organization.”
He talked about how, once he gains regular NHL work, he doesn’t expect to return to the AHL.
“Boston has given me the tools,” Senyshyn said. “They’ve invested time and energy into me.”
He’s also fallen in love with the city and Bruins fans, calling them the best in the NHL.
“It’s my second home. It’s truly incredible. It’s the place where I want to play,” he noted. “I want to help bring a Stanley Cup to Boston.”
During the 2018-19 season, Senyshyn got his chance with the big club and scored an empty-net goal in his NHL debut.
On Apr. 4, 2019, playing in Minnesota, the former Greyhound found himself called upon to help protect a lead, late in what would eventually be a 3-0 Bruins victory.
With the visitors up 2-0 and the Wild net empty, Senyshyn was sprung on a breakaway. A Minnesota defender tried to angle him off, but Senyshyn skated to the outside, beat his man and deposited the puck into the Wild goal.
“It’s a very-cool experience, but it doesn’t feel real when it happens,” he said of netting his first NHL goal, which came with 2:09 left in regulation. “That was a dream come true and it was nice they trusted me enough to put me on the ice at the end of the game.”
Having his parents, Paul and Melissa Senyshyn, and his childhood best friend, Matt Slainek, in attendance, made the occasion that much more special.
This season, he registered his first multi-point game, garnering a pair of assists in a Nov. 5, 2019 clash in Montreal.
The Bruins lost 5-4 to the Canadiens and Senyshyn described playing in the Bell Centre as “pretty electric. There’s so much energy there. The atmosphere is nuts.”
After making Senyshyn a first-round draft choice, some Boston fans were critical of the Bruins decision.
Senyshyn wasn’t treated kindly by some on social media.
Asked about that, he called it “ a lot of noise,” and spoke of how, during his younger days, it affected him more than it does now.
“When you’re in hockey, there’s always going to be criticism,” he added. “It’s part of the game.”
That said, as a first-rounder, he did feel more pressure to produce early on.
“But it’s pressure I put on myself. I have a standard I set for myself,” he explained. “Obviously, I wish I was up in Boston sooner. But they’ve been super supportive of the progress I’ve made.”
Senyshyn spoke of how, “obviously, I’m not content staying in the AHL. I want to be an NHL player and make an impact soon. But I’m just focused on getting better every day.”
As for his three seasons with the Greyhounds, Senyshyn talked of how the Sault was the scene of some of his greatest hockey memories.
“It’s truly a family there with the fans and the city. I keep in touch with a lot of people in the Sault,” he said. “My best buddy, Blake Speers, still lives there.”
Speers, also a former Hound, is a forward with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners.
Senyshyn brought up his Sault billets, Kevin and Flora Nott, calling them “a great mom and dad. They’re family to me. I want to visit them soon.”