Torey Krugs college hockey coach at Michigan State let the cat out of the big a little bit early on Thursday morning when he hinted via twitter that his star defenseman would be making his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But that spoiler hasnt curbed any of the enthusiasm for Krugs first game with the Bruins Tuesday night against Sidney Crosby and the Pens an event made possible when the Bs clinched everything Sunday nights rousing victory over the Rangers.
Krug led the Bruins in their circle of stretching following Tuesday mornings skate at TD Garden, and Claude Julien confirmed after practice that the 5-foot-9, 180-pound blueliner will be making his NHL bones. The enthusiasm of a hockey player taking part in their first NHL experience brings a vibrant kind of energy to the table and Krug, as well as his teammates, are looking forward to witnessing it all through the eyes of the 21-year-old.
I feel like Im ready. Im very excited. I was one year old when I held my first hockey stick and I could skate from the time I could walk, said Krug. So this has been my dream since I was a child.
Julien dropped the NHL household name Kris Letang when asked what has impressed him about Krugs game in practice, and it was in the sense of the blueliners strength within a small package. Like Letang Krug has all of the attributes of a puck-moving defenseman passing ability, vision and skating but hes also built in the fire hydrant mode of stout, low center of gravity defensemen that seem to have sprouted all over the NHL.
Its pretty clear the Bruins have been in the market to find one of them, and thought they might have had one before pulling the plug and dealing away Steve Kampfer at the trade deadline.
Everybody keeps talking about his size, but what I see is a guy who moves extremely well, passes the puck extremely well and seems to have really good vision, said Julien. There are a lot of guys that play that position even Kris Letang that arent overly big players.
When they say hes 5-foot-9, hes a pretty strong individual. Hes pretty solid and to me he has a lot of qualities weve been looking for. So its an opportunity for him to play and enjoy it and for us to see what hes all about. It will be a great experience for him. It will be good for us to evaluate him to see how far he is in his progression to being an NHL player.
Krug is a puck-moving defenseman and power play quarterback first and foremost, though, and the Bruins are clearly anxious to see what he can do in an NHL setting. With the Bruins expected to hold back playerslike Tim Thomas -- and perhaps others like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron on their Thursday trip to Ottawa Krug may even get a couple of games in a row to get an NHL feel going.
Boston has seeming been in need of a puck-moving defenseman over the last five years, but both Kampfer and Matt Hunwick didnt end up fully developing to their needs. They were hoping to acquire one when they traded for Joe Corvo, but that hasnt worked out to the organizations satisfaction.
So developing the mythic puck-moving defenseman within their own system becomes the ultimate goal, and Krug is the poster boy for the next chapter.
The youngster might be their best hope in developing a home-grown puck-moving defenseman, and the only accurate way to gauge his potential NHL readiness is dropping him into a game setting. Its not so much sink or swim after the former Hobey Baker finalist practiced with the team over the last week, but the NHL is a far cry from the NCAA hockey world that Krug just graduated from.
He assures that hes up for the challenge and excited for the opportunity, and theres an organizational opening there if Krug can show that he might just be the clubs own Letang or Bryan Rafalski.
But being excited for a challenge, and excelling at said challenge are two very different things. First impressions never come around twice, so Krug has a very good chance to leave the team wanting for more after these late season dress rehearsals.
Its something special. Its something as a child that you dream about. You work your whole life for it and you make so many sacrifices for it. Its good that its finally come true, said Krug. Its a tough time to come into a locker room, but the guys in here have been so receptive. My greatest teachers have been my teammates.
Its time to see what the teachers have been bestowed upon Krug for lessons, and just how good a student he might become in Black and Gold.