Bruins’ Nickulas returning home

by Kevin Boryczki

Growing up, every kid dreams of playing in front of his hometown fans.

Providence Bruins forward Eric Nickulas grew up in Hyannis, Mass., a town on Cape Cod less than 70 miles from Boston and Providence.

In June of 1994, Nickulas was selected in the fourth round of the NHL draft by Boston, just prior to starting his collegiate career at the University of New Hampshire.

“I grew up a Boston Bruins fan, so it was great to be drafted by their organization,” said Nickulas. “It was also great knowing I would be playing close enough to home where my friends and family could come and watch.”

All throughout his career Nickulas has been fortunate enough to stay close to home. For three seasons from 1994-97 Nickulas attended college at UNH, posting 113 points (70g, 43a) in 106 games. In 1997 for one of the few times in his career Nickulas headed away from home to Orlando for a season with the Solar Bears of the International Hockey League.

“It wasn’t my first time away from, so that didn’t worry me,” said Nickulas. “I was more concerned about the transition from the college game to the pros and how I was going to adjust.”

It was not long before he returned to his backyard. For the next three seasons Nickulas split time between the Providence and Boston Bruins. His first season in the AHL with Providence the team won the Calder Cup and over the three seasons he spent 29 games with the Boston Bruins including his NHL debut.

“I made my debut with Boston against Toronto and I was nervous and excited at the same time,” said Nickulas. “All my family and friends were either at the game or watching at home on NESN.”

Following the 2000-01 season Nickulas was signed by St. Louis as a free agent, but continued to stay close to home, as he was assigned to their AHL team in Worcester. He spent a season and a half with Worcester before being called up to St. Louis where he spent the rest of the season. Nickulas returned to St. Louis the following year before being traded to Chicago. Last year, he remained in the Blackhawks farm system with their AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.

After leaving the northeast for just over two years and Providence for four years, Nickulas returns to the place he won the Calder Cup. His numbers were impressive for Providence tallying 113 points (57g, 56a) and 220 PIM in 177 games prior to this season.

Heading into this weekend Nickulas is 14th on the P-Bruins’ all-time list in scoring, seventh in goals, fifth in power play goals and leads all Bruins in game winning goals with 13. His all-time P-Bruins playoff numbers are even more impressive. In 42 playoff games the right wing has 42 points (14g, 19a) and 77 PIM. Nickulas ranks eighth in game winning goals, fifth in PIM, fourth in assists, third in points and second in goals and power play goals.

After this season he looks to lead most of those categories, while bringing the Calder Cup back to Providence.