Impressions from Bruins Development Camp


Impressions from Bruins Development Camp

WILMINGTON, Mass. Peter Chiarelli said, in general, that the Bruins prospects were bigger and faster this summer, and thats always the mandate from the front office on Causeway Street.

"Generally speaking our development camp skaters look bigger and faster," Chiarelli said. "It was positive. The younger group of kids I was very pleased with. You very rarely come away from these camps with a negative feeling because its all potential. There are varying degrees of potential, and then maybe 70 percent of these players will move on again to the next year.

"Guys like Cody Payne and Colton Hargrove, those are big guys that can skate. Thematically we have size and skaters, but specifically Malcolm Subban did well and Matt Grzelcyk played well. But those kids are three, four or five years away."

Of course some players were in better shape than others as can always be the case in these summer development camps and there were clear standouts like Ryan Spooner, Dougie Hamilton and Niklas Svedberg. But heres a few random, incongruous observations after watching the young players skate over the course of five days at Ristuccia Arena:

Robbie OGara is listed at 6-foot-3 and 185-pounds and might be the most improved player at the entire Bruins Development Camp. In truth he said hes about 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, and he had no problem clearing bodies in the defensive zone. Hes clearly bigger and stronger, and was making his presence known moving bodies and playing shutdown defense around the net. OGara will never be an offensive superstar at the defenseman position, but hes an intriguing prospect given his still-growing size, his intelligence and his clear willingness to work hard at improving his game. The 18-year-old could be ferocious as he puts on weight and muscle at Yale University over the next four years.

Dougie Hamilton has gained 11 pounds from last season and is in the 200-205 pound range that the Bruins would like him to be if hes going to compete nightly in the NHL for 82 games next season. Hamilton still has work to do in his own zone when it comes to tracking smaller, quicker opponents, but he has rare skating ability for a player 6-foot-6 with his kinds of offensive tools. He also has a massive wing span with his size and stick to break up plays in the D-zone. All signs point to Hamilton making the Bruins directly out of training camp, and hes done the kind of work necessary to be considered for a spot.

Jared Knight didnt have the best prospect camp, but was also slowed by a high ankle sprain he first suffered during the London Knights' run to the Memorial Cup Finals. Several times Knight adjusted his skate and checked the ankle on the ice while running through drills, and he didnt appear to be moving around at full speed. Meanwhile his partner-in-crime Ryan Spooner was the highlight reel guy for both scrimmages while making plays offensively all over the ice. Knight should be at full strength when regular training camp begins, and he will get a solid look at the third-line vacancy in Boston.

Niklas Svedberg looks like the real deal in between the pipes. He was head and shoulders about the other goaltenders at the prospect camp, and he put on a show during the Sunday scrimmage while stoning the organizations best offensive prospects like Spooner and Hamilton during offensive rushes. With a solid glove hand, technically sound puck-stopper from the Swedish goaltender factory, he should be one to watch with the Providence Bruins this season as a 22-year-old prospect.

Matt Grzelcyk clearly has some growing to do at 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds, but he is one of the best skaters in development camp with the ability to shift gears quickly and shake defenders away from him. He probably looked the best of any of this years draft class at development camp, but still has a long way to go at Boston University in getting bigger and stronger.

Brian Ferlin had another solid development camp and continues to show good offensive skills and understanding while playing with high skill players. His shot and release are both excellent, and simply needs to keep getting bigger and stronger as a 6-foot-2, 201 pound power forward prospect at Cornell.

Ben Sexton was a guy that had a solid camp and looked much improved from last season, and was noticeable at both ends of the ice from the center position.

Malcolm Subban came as advertised. The 18-year-old was athletic and raw on the goaltending technique, but capable of making show-stopping saves with his natural gifts. He also looks like hes going to always have some of the Tim Thomas unpredictability to his game rather than the calm, unmoving shot-blocking style that you see many goaltenders adopting these days.

Anthony Camara hit everything that moved during the week. His offensive skills are still developing, but if nothing else hes got a future in the NHL as an energy playerpotential enforcer with some upside. If the Bruins encouraged fighting at these development camps theres no doubt Camara would have dropped the gloves at some point, and instead focused on punishing players in the neutral zone.

Matt Benning looked a little overwhelmed by the competition at the prospect camp and didnt appear to be in the best physical condition while coming down with groin issues before the scrimmages got started. Chiarelli spoke generally about players that had some work to do after the trainers took body fat measurements, and that might have been one of the players he was referencing without naming him. By all accounts Benning hadnt decided whether his future was in hockey until recently, so the young defenseman has some work to do before next years development camp.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.