WILMINGTON – The up-and-coming Bruins went through plenty of drills and off-ice courses over the last few days, but the weekend of development camp is usually reserved for what the coaches, players and management like best.
The group of 24 players split up into two sides and skated in a four-on-four scrimmage that allowed the B’s prospects to worry less about stopwatch times and unfamiliar drills, and more on doing what they do best: play the game of hockey.
“It’s tough when you only have two lines on each team to go for any length of time in scrimmage, but you want to see a little bit. It is hockey after all. We’re here to develop skills and some of the off ice stuff, but you do want to see them play,” said Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who is running things on the ice along with assistant coach Kevin Dean and B’s assistant general manager Don Sweeney. “Scouts obviously love to see that to see what they’ve drafted and as coaches we like it too. I thought it was a decent pace. There was some chances. Goaltending was good. They scored a couple goals. For me, as a coach, I always like when D [defensemen] get involved, they activate. So I was looking to see that part of the game.
“You see a guy like O’Gara [Rob O’Gara] for example. [He’s] not what you truly think of as an offensive guy, but he was getting up there. He’s trying to round out his game even though it’s the middle of July. It should help him going forward at Yale.”
Cassidy mentioned four players in particular that stood in game action, as opposed to the drills, and they included O’Gara and Team Canada World Junior participant Anthony Camara. Some of the Bruins scouts in attendance and Cassidy both noticed Slovakian draft pick Peter Cehlarik, who had the size and the skills that talent evaluators are always looking for.
“[Peter] Cehlarik, the young draft choice this year, has very soft hands on the boards. He’s got that very European [Marian] Hossa look to him. [He’s] strong on the puck [and a] big man,” said Cassidy. “I noticed O’Gara getting in on the rush and I liked that. When he first got here he was kind of timid, now you can see that winning a championship has made him a little more of an assertive player.
“[Seth] Griffith is very smooth. Every time he gets the puck it seems like he can slow the game down to his pace. Now, whether he can do that in the American League, you know, you’ll see better players. But it’s nice to know that he has that hockey IQ or acumen…whatever you want to call it. [Anthony] Camara, I noticed his foot speed.”
Here are a few of my observations while watching some of the four-on-four scrimmaging:
- Bruins draft pick Ryan Fitzgerald looked very good while being one of the youngest and smallest players on the ice: he makes smart choices with the puck, and can see plays developing when he makes in the offensive zone. For a smaller player at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, he’s very tough on his skates and can’t be knocked off the ice when he takes it down low toward the net. He should be plenty of fun to watch for the next few years at Boston College, and he seems worth every bit the fourth round pick that he was in this year’s draft.
- Charlestown native and 2012 third round pick Matt Grzelcyk pulled off the best move during the shootout portion of the practice, and completely baffled Adam Morrison with a backhanded top shelf bid. He continues to show all the tools to potentially push for a job in Boston down the line as one of those young puck-moving guys in the same vein as Torey Krug.
- Peter Cehlarik teamed with Ryan Fitzgerald a few times on slick offensive plays in the offensive zone, and that looked like a combo that could look really promising five years down the road.
- Anton Blidh was living up to the reputation he brought in after getting drafted, and was throwing his body around while bringing a tenacious, physical presence for a little-known 18-year-old from Sweden. Bruins fans are going to like him quite a bit if he can develop the other parts of his game.
- Anthony Camara had a number of chances on partial breakaways, and has the offensive instincts to get into the proper places where goals are scored. But it would seem that rebounds, tipped shots and interior work close to the net is where the rugged forward is going to score in the pros rather than dazzling one-on-one moves. His skating speed and compete level were both excellent, but his hands didn’t scream out 30-goal scorer as he was last year in the OHL.
- Zane Gothberg was impressive in the scrimmages, and seemed to play even bigger than his 6-foot-1, 177-pound frame would have dictated. He stopped a number of partial breakaways cold and seemed to be tracking the puck well. Malcolm Subban was also solid, but continues to battle an inconsistent glove hand that’s been evident over the last couple of years.