Cunningham 'calm and cool'
Vancouver Giant looks forward to challenges of climbing ladder in Boston
By Steve Ewen, The Province
August 5, 2011
Since Craig Cunningham was 15 he has constantly outworked the competition, said Giants GM Scott Bonner.
Photograph by: Steve Bosch - PNG Files, The Province
Call it Craig Cunningham's Boston Bruins' re-boot.
The Trail native, a longtime Vancouver Giants stalwart, inked a three-year, entry-level deal with the Stanley Cup champions earlier this month and is preparing to start the season in their minorleague system, likely with their AHL affiliate in Providence, R.I.
A year ago this week, Cunningham wasn't sure what lay ahead. The Bruins had picked him in the fourth round of the 2010 entry draft, and were keen on him playing in Providence. They had already run out of the league-mandated 50 contracts, and were trying to get Cunningham to sign an AHL-specific deal.
Cunningham was well aware he was destined for the minors, but worried about accepting a lesser contract, especially with his first signing. He opted to return to the Giants for his overage season, and had a peculiar year - started out on fire, had a slump that coincided with a Vancouver losing skid and was traded to the Portland Winterhawks as part of their push for the league title.
"I'm glad that I don't have to worry about people asking, 'So, when are you going to sign?'" joked Cunningham, the 5-foot-9, 191 pounder who turns 21 in September.
"I owe a lot to Scott Bonner and Don Hay. They deserve a lot of credit for the kind of player I've become. But it was good to move to Portland, too, and get to play deep in the playoffs, and play with guys, in Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter, who had gone fourth and fifth in the NHL draft."
Cunningham went to the Bruins' prospect camp in Wilmington, Mass., earlier this month and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli praised his work ethic to reporters on hand.
"He looks like a kid who's willing to learn, willing to put the time in," Chiarelli was quoted as saying.
Bonner, the Giants general manager, says that Cunningham will remain an example that he and coach Hay bring up with young players. It's hard to remember at times that he didn't have a goal in a combined 63 regular and playoff games as a 16-year-old, especially after he had 37 goals, and 97 points, in 72 regular-season games as a 19-year-old. He had 87 points, including 27 goals, in 71 league games split between Vancouver and Portland last season.
"Since Craig was 15 he has constantly outworked the competition," said Bonner.
Cunningham is living in Vancouver once again this summer, with his good friend and training partner Landon Ferraro. Ferraro, a centre who turns 20 on Monday, is trying to skip his overage season with the Everett Silvertips and play in the Detroit Red Wings' farm system.
"I'm just going to go to camp and try to be calm and cool," said Cunningham, who heads to Boston Sept. 9. "I have three years to play and try to earn a second contract. Obviously, the chances of making the big team right away are pretty slim, but I hope to get a couple of exhibition games in.
"It's not going to be an easy ladder to climb. It's going to be a great challenge. I'm going to try to do what I did in Vancouver. Hopefully, it doesn't take me the full three years to do it."
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