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.

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

Haggerty: It's time for Pastrnak to take a step forward

BRIGHTON -- The third season is usually a pivotal one when it comes to an NHL player's development and trying to forecast exactly how high their ceiling will be.

So it is for David Pastrnak, who is expected to take a major leap forward in his third year after showing flashes of great promise in each of his first two seasons.

“The [World Cup] is done, so now all of my focus is on being as ready as I can for this upcoming season,” said Pastrnak, 20, who threw probably the biggest hit of his career on unsuspecting teammate Patrice Bergeron when the Czechs played Team Canada in the preliminary rounds. “I feel way bigger, very comfortable on the ice, and I obviously feel really good right now.”

Pastrnak has had moments of dazzling brilliance in Boston so far while riding the usual learning curve that every young player travels in Claude Julien’s system. In addition, injuries last season sidetracked his development process.

Pastrnak put up 21 goals and 55 points between Boston and Providence as the youngest player in either league as an 18-year-old rookie two years ago. Last season he had 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Bruins while also missing significant time because of a fractured foot. The injury not only sidelined him for a few months but also made it difficult for him to jump onto the moving train of the NHL regular season once he was ready to return.

Just as the former first-round pick was really catching fire at the end of the year, time ran out on a Bruins team that had a few too many older veterans with empty gas tanks after being ridden hard throughout the season. Pastrnak scored goals in each of the final couple of games, and showed off the game-breaking ability that should be on full display if he's healthy and placed in a position to succeed.

His World Cup stint ended on a high note, as he played his best game of the tourney against Team USA, though he didn’t make a major impact in the elite international competition. He put on five pounds of muscle during the offseason and clearly looking bigger and stronger at 189 pounds after ending last season closer to 180.

Part of that is the natural physical maturation process for somebody Pastrnak’s age as he gain’s “man strength”, and some of it was a dedicated effort. He worked out in Boston with the B’s training staff for much of the summer for the first time in his career.

The expectation is that Pastrnak is going to be running on the right wing with David Krejci on Boston’s second line, and the search in training camp is for a left wing who can bring added playmaking ability and maybe a little size and strength to the mix. In a perfect world Krejci and Pastrnak will develop into the same dynamic, two-way combination of Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Pastrnak and Krejci could be a lethal offensive duo to be sure, but they’ll also have to pay attention to the little details if they want to stay together playing for Julien. Perhaps with that in mind, Julien was looking to temper expectations for Pastrnak

“I don't know if [the World Cup experience] accelerates expectations. But it's certainly encouraging to see that a guy that's got that experience to go and play at that level, and made himself better,” said Julien. “We know he's skilled and we know he's fast, and he's also gotten stronger. He's taking steps in the right direction here. We can look at those guys that are first overall picks and say, wow, some guys are exceptional.

“Some of the guys, you've got to give them time to grow and develop. That's what we need to do with David Pastrnak. I think we've got to stop putting expectations too high for him, and allow him to grow properly. He's going to have some growing pains and there are still some things he's going to want to get better at. There are still some things that he's going to want to learn that we're going to want to teach him. Let's give him that opportunity to grow properly without the extra pressure and extra expectations that maybe are not realistic.”

One would argue Pastrnak put those expectations on himself when he posted the 21 goals and 55 points as an 18-year-old, but that’s neither here nor there. Instead, the Pastrnak development project can, and should, be one of the things considered when we evaluate Julien’s current ability to get the most out of his young prospect-type players.

The bottom line with Pastrnak and the Bruins is this: It’s his contract year and motivation should be sky high. The Czech youngster is one of the few people who can step up and help fill the offensive void left by the free-agent departure of Loui Eriksson. Expectations are much higher for an experienced, talented 20-year-old than they are for a wide-eyed 18-year-old, and Pastrnak needs to make a big stride forward. Now is the time for Pastrnak to show all he’s learned, and completely unleash the array of offensive skills that caught everybody’s eye in the first place.

The Bruins need Pastrnak, and young players, to step up and start taking ownership of the hockey team.

Beleskey, Spooner and McQuaid highlight Bruins lineup vs. Red Wings

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Beleskey, Spooner and McQuaid highlight Bruins lineup vs. Red Wings

The Bruins announced their lineup for the second preseason game on Wednesday night at home against the Detroit Red Wings, and it was slightly more veteran-laden than the youthful Boston group tapped for Monday night’s opening loss to the Blue Jackets.

Matt Beleskey, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid and Dominic Moore lead the grizzled group of Bruins players readying for the exhibition tilt against their Atlantic Division rivals, and 19-year-old Zachary Senyshyn will make his preseason debut after getting fully medically cleared from appendectomy surgery a couple of weeks ago.

The 2015 first round pick has had a bit of a rough summer after bouts with mononucleosis and appendicitis forced him to miss Bruins rookie camp, but Senyshyn has quickly regained his strength and the blazing speed that's his biggest asset as a player. 

Austin Czarnik, Peter Mueller and Sean Kuraly are the only players from the opening night roster that will be in again to show their stuff against the Winged Wheels, and undoubtedly to get another long look from the Bruins coaching staff. Here is the full Black and Gold lineup for Wednesday night’s home date against the Red Wings with the untelevised exhibition game to be streamed on bruins.com

 

FORWARDS: Noel Acciari, Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Austin Czarnik, Brian Ferlin, Jesse Gabrielle, Justin Hickman, Sean Kuraly, Dominic Moore, Peter Mueller, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner.

DEFENSEMEN: Linus Arnesson, Chris Casto, Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller.

GOALIES: Malcolm Subban, Daniel Vladar.