CAMBRIDGE Andrew Ference isnt leaving Boston in the next few weeks, and his family is going to stick around as theyve planted roots in the fair city over the last six years.
But the 33-year-old defenseman cant sit around forever and wait for the NHL and NHLPA to come to accordance on a new collective bargaining agreement. Instead Ference is among the many players eyeing Europe if theres a prolonged work stoppage reaching into December or January. The choice to move abroad for hockey work is as much about practicality as anything else for Ference, who is in the final year of a three-year deal with the Bruins and cant afford to fall behind the NHL flock.
During the last lockout you saw some guys that stayed behind when others went to Europe or played in the AHL. Those guys fell a step behind the other players when the NHL got started again, and they had a really difficult time catching up to the pace, said Ference. Im in the last year of my deal and I cant afford to just sit around and allow the intensity to dial down in my workouts.
There were over 200 NHL players that never returned to the NHL following the 2004-05 lockout due to age, injuries, rust and the quickened pace of the game among other things, so its a legitimate concern.
Most NHL players will flock to Europe for a few dollars and the chance to play somewhere a little more exotic than North America. But the biggest reason for an NHL player to head overseas is to remain sharp while playing in high intensity hockey games. Both the NHL and NBA players are fortunate there are many quality pro leagues in Europe looking for players when a work stoppage hits.
Along with David Krejci and Dennis Seidenberg who are about a week away from leaving to play in their home countries until the NHL resumes Ference is hoping to find a spot as many players look for an employment port during the lockout season. Ference played 31 games for HC Ceske Budejovice during the 2004-05 lockout, and finished with 20 points in a productive offensive role for the Czech Republic club.
The Bs alternate captain confirmed that another stint with Ceske Budejovice was certainly within the realm of possibility. Ference didnt seem concerned there would be difficulty finding a job in Europe if he waited for a few months to see how things come together in labor negotiations.
There are no shortage of great leagues out there where you can keep yourself sharp, said Ference. I think most of us are going to wait at least a few weeks to see if the negotiations heat up. If they dont then youll start to see guys make the move thats best for their career. Thats something different for each individual player.
For Ference that will include Europe if the best efforts of the NHL and the NHLPA dont get things going over the next month.
CHICAGO – The Bruins finished up their 2017 NHL Draft class with a bit of a project, but a 6-foot-5 defenseman with some great skating wheels is a pretty good way to go with a seventh round pick. The B’s nabbed Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Daniel Bukac with the 204th pick in the draft, and admitted afterward that he’s an ultra-big bodied player that could take some time in the development process.
Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley said Boston is more than happy to be patient with Bukac given the tools that he’s working with as an 18-year-old prospect. Bukac had two goals and 17 points to go along with 38 penalty minutes in his first season in North America after coming over from the Czech Republic, and Bradley said that B’s scouts noted that he continued to improve and get comfortable as the season wore on.
"He's raw. He's a project. [He’s a] kid from the Czech Republic that played in the Western Hockey League,” said Bradley. “At the start of the year - he's come leaps and bounds with his development. Talking to the people - the coaches, the management, and the GM in Brandon, they're very excited about him coming back to Brandon. They're expecting big things from him. We look forward to seeing him in camp."
Bukac is starting to garner some good international experience after playing for the Czechs in the Under-18’s and the Ivan Hinkla Tournament, but this weekend it was all about his addition to the talented group of Bruins prospects in the hockey world.
"I'm so excited to be drafted by the Boston Bruins," said Bukac, who described himself as a solid two-way defenseman with a good first pass. "It's an awesome feeling. I'm so glad that I was drafted by Boston."
CHICAGO – While the Bruins went strong two-way defenseman early in the 2017 NHL Draft, they took a shot at a more offensive-minded Swedish defenseman late with seventh-round pick of Victor Berglund.
The six-foot, 165-pound Berglund clearly has a way to go in physical development and will need to get much bigger and stronger before he’s potentially ready for the North American pro ranks, but B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley raved about the Swedish defenseman’s skill set and potential. He also noted that Boston’s entire European scouting contingent, including former B’s forward PJ Axelsson, were fully on board with taking a flier on a talented player that simply needs to develop in the Swedish hockey system.
“Our Swedish guys were on top of Berglund. They think he’s a mobile D, he’s ultra-skilled and he skates well. He’s a six-footer, but [PJ Axelsson, Svenake Svensson and Victor Nybladh] were all pounding the table for him,” said Bradley. “We went along with it and I think we might have something there. Talking to his strength coach after the fact he’s working on putting some muscle and weight on, so we look forward to seeing him at development camp.”
In 62 games at three different levels, Berglund posted five goals and 18 points last season and displayed the kind of speed, creativity and play-making that one needs from their defensemen in today’s NHL.
"I'm an offensive defenseman, who likes to play with the puck, with a great short pass," said Berglund. "I like to follow the rush up ice and want the puck."
It will be a matter of building size and strength and for Berglund to continue developing his game in Sweden for the time being, but the Bruins are certainly happy with him at the 195th pick in Saturday’s second day of the draft.