Bruins prospects invited to World Junior Team Selection camps


Bruins prospects invited to World Junior Team Selection camps

While the NHL could very well still be locked out at the end of December, Bruins fans will have something else to distract them while the league and players come to their senses.

A number of Bruins prospects five to be exact -- were officially invited to World Junior Team Selection camps, and could be key players in the tournament that pits the best hockey players in the world under the age of 20 against each other. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is expected to be the cornerstone blue-liner for Team Canada, and 2012 first round pick Malcolm Subban is in the mix to be Canadas starting goaltender. Hamilton has 39 points (7 goals, 32 assists) in 30 games for the Niagara IceDogs, and Subban is 13-7-3 with a 2.23 goals against average and .931 save percentage along with a pair of shutouts.

Rugged winger Anthony Camara plays for the OHLsBarrie Colts and has put up 34 points (19 goals, 15 assists) in 28 games this season, and has really become an intriguing all-around prospect that combines offensive ability with a willingness to drop the gloves.
The World Junior tournament could be a nice final NHL tune-up for Hamilton if the lockout finally ends during the month of January, though theres no guarantee of that right now.
Meanwhile, Bruins 2012 third round pick and Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk has been invited to the US World Junior Selection Camp along with North Reading resident Jim Vesey. Grzelcyk has 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in 14 games for the Terriers this season.

Russian forward Alex Khokhlachev, who is struggling to carve out a niche for himself in the KHL this year, will likewise play for the Team Russian entry when the tournament gets started in his home country. Koko has seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 25 games for Moscow Spartak, but starred in the Super Subway Series when a team of Russian youngsters barnstormed through Canada playing junior teams last month.

The 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship will be held in Ufa, Russia from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'


Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower is coming off of one of the best games of his career, and he did it while running the Patriots defensive huddle without the help of his on-the-field partner at the linebacker level.

"It’s a lot more fluent having Jamie [Collins] out there," Hightower said on Wednesday. "A lot of the times we coordinate things a lot together. I usually take care of the front, he takes care of the secondary. We have our own way of doing things. Sometimes Jamie is just like, ‘No, you go ahead and you just make the calls and I’ll play off of you.’

"It helps having him out there. I mean, he does everything so he makes it a lot easier for me. Anytime I can have him out there with me, I’m 100 percent having him out there."

Hightower has plenty of experience playing without Collins, however, and Collins is accustomed to having to go without Hightower. Both had issues staying on the field in 2015, and although it's early, that trend has continued this season.

Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury, and Collins missed Week 6 with a hip issue, meaning the duo has been available to coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia only three times this year. 

Last season the pair was active for 10 of 18 games, including both playoff games, and during a Week 5 win over the Cowboys, Hightower played just nine snaps. Collins dealt with an illness that kept him out for four games last season, and Hightower, as has been the case for much of his career, was limited by (and often played through) myriad ailments.

Both are vital to the long-term success of the Patriots defense in 2016, but it's been hit-or-miss as to when they'll be out there to play off of one another as Hightower described.

"Our linebackers, Jamie, Dont'a, they're two of the best in the league," said safety Duron Harmon following Hightower's dominating performance against the Bengals in Week 6. "Any time we can have those guys out there, they just continue to create havoc.

"They make plays, they make it easier for us, especially me. The quarterback can't look off as long when Dont'a's all in his face -- him and Jamie. Having him on the field is a plus. And when you get both of them on the field it's a double-plus."

And therein lies the issue: Having both Hightower and Collins out there together has felt like a luxury rather than the norm. 

At some point, the Patriots will have to make decisions as to what they'll do at the linebacker level for the foreseeable future. Both Hightower and Collins are slated to hit free-agency, and their durability will certainly factor into the equation when the Patriots make them offers to stick in New England.

Until then, though, both will work to be available as often as possible -- both for their team's sake and their own as they eye new deals -- where they can stress opposing offenses at a degree to which most linebacker combinations around the league can only aspire. 

"With us out there we’re able to do a lot of different things, [we have] a lot of versatility," Hightower said. "So hopefully we can both stay out there."

Hightower was removed from the Patriots injury report last week, meaning he's able to take on a full workload in practice. Collins, meanwhile, continues to be limited in practice, and his availability for Sunday's game with the Steelers is not yet known. In place of Collins, sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts earned the bulk of the playing time against the Bengals last week. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo saw a season-high eight defensive snaps in the win.