Impressions from Bruins Development Camp

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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.

Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

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Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while using “malarkey” in my day-to-day vocabulary as much as possible. 
 
-- Dale Tallon was promoted with the Florida Panthers to accentuate his strengths as a talent evaluator, but maintains that he still has final say on hockey decisions
 
-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has another young D-man off the board with the Wild’s Matthew Dumba signing a two year, $5.1 million deal with Minnesota
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my take on the negotiations between Brad Marchand and the Bruins: There’s a couple of good signs at the outset of negotiations
 
-- The Arizona Coyotes are stressing the defensive side of things in a big, big way, and it appears to be part of John Chayka’s master plan

 -- Alex Pietrangelo would be a natural selection to replace David Backes as the next captain of the St. Louis Blues. 

-- A moving letter from Sens forward Bobby Ryan to his recently passed mother is up at the Players Tribune website. 

-- Chris Kreider has re-signed with the New York Rangers, and plans to get out of his head and onto the score sheet more often. 
 
-- For something completely different: Jerod Mayo will bring a new voice to Tom E. Curran’s Quick Slants program on our very own CSN network. 

 

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.