Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins show at prospect camp that another wave of talent coming

Haggerty: Bruins show at prospect camp that another wave of talent coming

BRIGHTON, Mass – There is little question that youth is going to continue to be served with the Bruins.

Brandon Carlo established himself as a top-four defenseman last season and David Pastrnak exploded into a game-breaking force in his third NHL season with 34 goals. Then in the playoffs, 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy got a head start on what’s expected to be an exciting upcoming season for him in Boston. There’s more to come this season as draft and development continue to crank at a high level for the Black and Gold. There was ample evidence of that during last week’s B’s Development Camp that wrapped up on Sunday afternoon.

MORE BRUINS

It might not have been as high wattage as the past couple of years when Carlo, McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk were still campers, but it was also clear that there will still be Baby B’s pushing to make the final NHL roster a couple of months from now.

“We’ve been fairly committed to allowing our young prospects to try and grow and take some opportunity,” Bruins GM Don Sweeney said. “Now, we’ve got some great competition and internal competition set up, and I do believe there will be a couple players, and there are a couple that are here that got a taste last year that will be along those same lines, will challenge; particularly up front. On the back end, probably not as much, which has led me to continue to look outside [the organization]. I’ve had some conversations. Our RFA situation sort of dictates a little bit of patience as well in making sure we clarify that before we move forward. But I think the most exciting part is the internal competition piece that we’ve set a plan in motion. I think there are players that will step forward and grab that opportunity.”

That may not be particularly good news for Robbie O’Gara or Matt Grzelcyk among the young defensemen group and it’s a clear indicator that the B’s front office doesn’t think that Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon are quite ready for prime time. Still, it’s just as clear after a great weekend as the best player on the ice that winger Anders Bjork heads into his first pro training camp with a legitimate shot to win a top-six role with the Black and Gold.

Bjork, 20, missed the first few days due to a family obligation, but dominated with his skating speed, skill and confidence level with the puck once he arrived. Bjork was pulled away by the B’s from his senior season at Notre Dame for a couple of reasons, but the predominant one is that he showed at the college ranks that he’s pushing toward NHL readiness at a rapid pace.

The left-shot Bjork will undoubtedly get looks at both wings, with left wing open alongside David Krejci on the second line. He played mostly right wing with the Fighting Irish. 

“He’s got a skill level that’s pretty high-end. He can make plays. He kind of dances on his skates a little bit. Light on his skates but strong on his feet, and he pokes it around pretty good. He looks a little bit out of control at times, but he’s really not. He’s in control. He’s just moving that quickly,” said B’s Player Development Coordinator and former Stars and Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner. “He can skate and he’s smart. So, when you can skate and you’re smart, you can probably play in the National Hockey League. It’s [another thing] for him believing he belongs and being comfortable in that, and using what he has to be a good player.”

It won’t all be on Bjork to represent the B’s youth brigade, however. DeBrusk will get his first real chance to secure an NHL roster spot after a strong first pro season with the Providence Bruins. Danton Heinen will get another NHL look after finding his game down the stretch with the P-Bruins are some hesitant moments in Boston early last season. Zach Senyshyn will also factor into the forward picture for the Bruins after finishing his final development camp, but his considerable gifts of good size and blinding speed may need some polishing with the P-Bruins before they’re ready for prime time.

Beyond those names is Harvard prospect Ryan Donato, who stood out at this year’s development camp with his motor, his hands and his hockey IQ that could be pro-ready as soon as this spring once the Crimson conclude their season.

The bottom line with all of this is that the Bruins have another wave of young players coming to the NHL this season to mesh with grizzled veterans Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Backes, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask. It’s exactly what the B’s need if they want to continue to compete in the salary-cap era and build on a youth/veteran mix that pushed back into the playoffs after their two-year absence.

They also have the right man behind the bench in Bruce Cassidy, who has the developmental role of an AHL head coach still fresh in his mind with an ability to teach the game to younger players while showing the necessary patience to do just that.

“You have to let these kids grow up on the job if they can handle it every day. I do believe that there needs to be a conversation with your leaders. With these young kids that are going to play – let’s say [Patrice] Bergeron and Marsh [Brad Marchand], we’re spit-balling here – but let’s say one of these young kids goes and plays with that line. I have to convince those two guys that they have to pull this kid along, whatever kid it happens to be, because that will make us a better team if we can spread the wealth, and use other players in different roles,” said Cassidy. “Maybe if [David] Backes plays on a line with, let’s say JFK [Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson], a 200-foot center that we have if he starts in that role that he would have to mentor. I think that’s a conversation we have to have. Krech [David Krejci], if there’s a young left winger on his side – you’ve got to work with this kid.

“You can get frustrated with him at times, but you have to work with him and you have to pull him along if we’re going to be the team that we want to be. Can these young kids handle it? That’s the most important [thing]. Can they even play in those positions? If they can, they show the ability to do that, then we need the younger guys to help them through the mental part of that. That’s kind of a challenge, I think, for the coach, is to get those older guys to buy into it. We’ll use Pittsburgh because they just won two Cups as an example of it. Clearly, they found that formula to be successful. I don’t know how Sid [Sidney Crosby] treats the [Conor] Shearys of the world, the [Evgeni] Malkins, or [Bryan] Rusts, but they’ve pulled him along. And [Jake] Guentzel, throw him into that mix. I don’t know the conversation that went into it. Clearly, there had to have been one and there had to have been a buy-in for these older guys to play with these guys and vice-versa – the younger guys to accept these conversations and learn from them. I think that will be our biggest challenge, and one I’m looking forward to because I do believe some of these young kids, assuming they’re ready and we’ve talked about it – until they get on the ice and show it, that could make us a much better, stronger team if we incorporate those younger guys.”

Clearly, the Penguins found that perfect mixture of proven veteran champions and young, cap-friendly players to climb the mountaintop together. That’s exactly what the Bruins are looking to build the next couple of seasons in Boston. Last week’s development camp showed that the Black and Gold are still on the right track toward making that happen with a new wave of youngsters ready to hit the ice this fall. 

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

bruins_brad_marchand_012417.jpg

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

CSNNE SCHEDULE

Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

bruins_anton_khudobin_121516.jpg

Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

CSNNE SCHEDULE