O'Gara's improvement shows

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O'Gara's improvement shows

If there were an award for most improved at Bruins Development Camp this week, it would have gone to 6-foot-4 defenseman Robbie OGara without any debate.

The giant man-child defenseman was a little bit of a babe lost in the woods last season as a 17-year-old out of Milton Academy competing against faster, more worldly, more experienced competition among Bruins prospects.

It was to be expected. Physically, he simply appeared younger than his peers, and had plenty of work in front of him to start filling out his reedy teenager build. It looks like OGara did just that by hitting the weight room over the last year. He utilized his entire experience at last years development camp as the highest form of motivation.

Ive definitely become stronger over the last year. I worked hard over the past year because the camp was a wakeup call. I think bigger, stronger and faster is going to be my goal for a long time. But the gains that Ive made have helped my confidence, said OGara. For me this year is 100 percent different. Last year, I was really nervous and pretty much freaking out before I got here.

This year, Im putting myself out there a little more on and off the ice. Im having a lot more fun too.

OGara came back to development camp this season and looked like a completely different player. He has gained size and strength physically through the combination of maturation and diligent work, and he skated with the kind of confidence a player shows when he knows he belongs.

It became customary to see OGara throwing bodies around near the net and clearing space so his goaltender could see the attackers on the outside. Those kinds of anchored, stalwart defenders are worth their weight in gold at the NHL level.

OGara was using that ideal size to shove players around in the defensive zone, and was one of the biggest physical factors in camp, along with grinding bottom-six pugilist Anthony Camara.

The gains in one year show that the OGara, 18, is ready for higher competition as he heads to Yale in the fall.

While OGara was a viable offensive player and power play performer for Milton Academy, putting up 25 points in 24 games last season, he may be more of a stay-at-home type defenseman at the Division I college level.

That should set up some pretty good Bs prospect battles between OGara and Cornell forward Brian Ferlin over the next three years in the ECACHL -- something they joked about along with Union College camp invitee Wayne Simpson this week.

Big-time college hockey is also a perfectly good lot in life when youre a solid 6-foot-4, 193 pound block of raw hockey talent like OGara. He's still growing into a potential shutdown blueliner down the road.

Last year he walked in and I think I had seen bigger legs on these aluminum chairs, you know. Then he comes in this year hes talkative and he looks more like a man than a boy. With his style of play hes a defender and a big guy, said Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. So when he grows into his frame and recognizes how to use his stickhes not flashy at all but could be a very serviceable guy for you down the road.

I definitely see improvement physically in him and just his sort of demeanor around the locker room. Like a lot of guys when they go through a year of camp they get a little more comfortable and learn a couple things about the pro side of things. Hopefully, he takes that forward with him off to Yale, and has a good year.

Part of the beauty of the prospect development camp is taking players from all different development backgrounds and pushing them together for a week of drills and scrimmages. Placing the relatively inexperienced OGara in with players bragging world class hockey backgrounds, such as Dougie Hamilton and Malcolm Subban, has opened his eyes to where he needs his game to be, and the big blueliner project has responded exactly as they hoped.

Going into Yale I know my game. I think Im more of a stay-at-home guy and just trying to be as solid as I can back there, said OGara. I play my game and thats keeping the puck out of the net.

OGaras self-awareness about his simple, strong defensive style and his willingness to work mean the past years improvement is a sign of much more to come.

Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

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Wednesday, Aug. 31: Blake Wheeler named captain of Winnipeg Jets

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while excited for Season 2 of Stranger Things now that it’s official.

*An interesting look at Jack Eichel’s perspective during the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes as it seems like he took the hands off approach toward the end.

* On this date in NHL history a classy, legendary Hall of Famer, was born in late Habs forward Jean Beliveau.

* The USA Today has a list of 10 players that could change the fates of their respective teams this season, and there wasn’t a Bruins player among them.

* Former Bruins winger Blake Wheeler has been named captain of the Winnipeg Jets in a move that makes all the sense in the world. He’s really developed into a terrific player since being traded from Boston.

* PK Subban will visit a Montreal children’s hospital to give an update on his pledge to give a big helping hand.

* Resident NHL cheap shot artist Raffi Torres will be getting a tryout with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he’s one type of player that the league can do without these days.

* The Hockey News lists young center Matthew Barzal as a player that could make or break the season for the Islanders. That’s the same Barzal that the Bruins skipped two years ago to draft Zach Senyshyn in the first round, for those that are keeping score.

* For something completely different: Stranger Things season 2 details? Ummm, yes please.

Countdown to camp: Malcolm Subban

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Countdown to camp: Malcolm Subban

Click here for the gallery.

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Malcolm Subban.

Things might have been much different for Subban had he avoided the fractured larynx injury last winter, and instead been able to continue building momentum toward winning an NHL job this season as the understudy to Tuukka Rask. Instead, Subban sustained the freak injury that knocked him out for the final months of last season, and now finds himself stuck organizationally after the B’s signed old friend Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on July 1 to once again work in tandem with Rask. Now it looks like it will be the AHL again for the foreseeable future for Subban.

What happened last year

Subban has shown flashes throughout his young career after the Bruins made him a first-round pick in 2012, and that continued last season prior to the stray puck that hit him in an unprotected part of his throat during pregame warm-ups. The shame of the injury’s timing was that Subban was perhaps playing the best hockey of his career and it finally appeared like he was headed toward the consistency that’s eluded him thus far. Instead the 22-year-old finished last season with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage and didn’t appear on the surface to make much of a progression from his first couple of pro seasons. The injury cost Subban any chance to potentially move into this season as Tuukka Rask’s backup at and really puts a lot of pressure on him to turn the corner this season in the AHL.

Questions to be answered this season

The question still lingers as to whether Subban is an actually NHL goaltender. He still has the potential to be a No. 1 guy as he gains experience and confidence between the pipes. He’s still just 22 with three years of AHL experience and goaltender is a position where it can take longer for the development arc to be completed. But Subban needs to start showing a little bit more dominance in the AHL if he wants to start pushing for looks in the NHL, and clearly needs to be more consistent rather than shining every once in a while with brilliant performances. The talent is clearly there for Subban as a gifted athlete playing goaltender, but it still looks like he’s a late-comer to the goaltending position as he was in his teenage years. Perhaps this is the season where it all comes together for him.

In their own words

“I’ve been hit in the neck before. I have all the gear on now, the protection and stuff. I’ve gotten used to it. Honestly I feel like a tank. I’m not even worried at all about getting hit again. [My approach] is the same as it’s been since I was drafted. I just focus on myself and my game, and that’s all I can really control. My goal is to make the team the same as it is every year, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I just have to play well and give my chance a team to win every night.” –Malcolm Subban talking about his injury and his approach at development camp in July.

 Outlook

We are entering make-or-break territory with Subban and the Bruins as he enters his fourth pro season with the organization with very little discernible progress made over that time period. The injury makes it even more difficult to gauge if he has shown significant signs of development in his time in the AHL and if he’ll be a better goalie than the one that imploded in St. Louis during his NHL debut a couple of years ago. Subban has made strides in his technique and certainly seems to understand the need to gain consistency at this point in his career, but all of this will be happening at the AHL level for the next couple of years barring any injuries to Rask or Khudobin. One has to wonder if Subban is going to end up in another NHL organization via trade given the current goaltending situation in Boston. Subban won’t be getting his NHL shot anytime soon in Boston and he still has work to do before he’s even earned it. With Rask a fixture in Boston and Subban’s lack of clear dominance in the AHL, it makes one wonder why the B’s selected him in the first round back in 2012 when clearly there were bigger organizational needs.  

 

 

Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

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Veteran center Dominic Moore among Bruins signings

The Bruins announced some organizational signings and one surprise dip into late summer free agency with a one-year, $900,000 contract for 36-year-old depth center Dominic Moore.

The B’s also announced one year, two-way contracts for forward Brian Ferlin, along with defensemen Chris Casto and Alex Grant, and all three of those players will serve as young, organizational depth players in Providence.

Moore has spent each of the last three seasons with the New York Rangers amid a career 765 NHL games played as a solid face-off and penalty-kill player that has fourth line candidate written all over him.

The Bruins will be former Harvard center Moore’s 10th NHL team. He’s coming off a season where he posted six goals and 15 points in 80 games for the Blueshirts, and has previously played for Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Toronto, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Tampa Bay and San Jose along with the Rangers.

While Moore is a solid candidate for fourth-line duty that will provide leadership, good face-off work, solid and gritty penalty-kill work and all kinds of NHL experience, he is also a 36-year-old on a team that has a ton of center candidates headed into camp. 

Moore’s presence could be problematic if he’s standing in the way of developing young centers Austin Czarnik and Noel Acciari. The expectation is that B’s coach Claude Julien, as he always has in the past with safe veterans like Chris Kelly, will go with a player like Moore over the youngsters if times start getting tough for the Black and Gold.

Ferlin, 24, completed his second professional season with the AHL's Providence Bruins in 2015-16, producing six goals and eight assists for 14 points with 27 penalty minutes and a plus-nine rating in 23 games. He was sidelined for much of last season in Providence by a concussion.

Casto, 24, completed his third full AHL season with Providence in 2015-16, establishing career highs with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points with 47 penalty minutes in 68 games.

Grant, 27, spent the 2015-16 season with the Arizona Coyotes organization, splitting time between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate in Springfield. He recorded seven penalty minutes in five games in the NHL, while compiling 11 goals and 31 assists for 42 points with 57 penalty minutes in 69 games in the AHL.