Boston Bruins

Observations from Day 1 of Bruins development camp

Observations from Day 1 of Bruins development camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – Here are some thoughts and observations from the opening day of Bruins Development Camp at Warrior Ice Arena with plenty of good prospects on the ice:

1. Urho Vaakenainen looked as advertised with a smooth skating stride, plenty of confidence on the ice and a pretty good shot from the point. There wasn’t a lot of wasted energy or awkward passes from the silky smooth first-round pick. He certainly looked the part of a future NHL player in his first appearance in a B’s uniform. That being said, it’s difficult to gauge a player fully until we see him in game situations later in the week. There were no warning bells or whistles after watching him go through a first day of workouts, however, and the size, skating and overall skill level portend good things even if Vaakenainen isn’t expected to be the flashiest defenseman around.

2. Ryan Donato continues to be a real shining star in development camp. Maybe it’s because of his familiarity and comfort level with the "Bruins Way" of doing things, or maybe it’s because he’s been to a handful of them already. Maybe it’s just because he’s always been a solid prospect who's growing in that stature as the years go by. Whatever the case, Donato again stood out among the B’s prospects for his skating, his offensive creativity and for a shot that continues to beat the goaltenders at these camps. Donato is entering his junior season at Harvard and still doesn’t sound like a player who's ready to leave the Crimson with his dad Teddy as the coach, but he looks like he’s got a chance at the next level as he continues to grow, mature as a player and mold himself into what’s expected from an NHL prospect.

3. Incoming University of Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman really looked good in his first day on the ice with the Bruins organization. He obviously has good size at 6-3 and looks the part in goalie equipment, but he also looked athletic and very steady tracking the puck in the drills as one of just two goalies on the ice. Swayman wasn’t beaten cleanly by many shots and showed good competitiveness battling to keep everything out of the net when the puck got close to him. It’s always a challenge for goaltenders to stand out in development camps full of offensive prospects, but Swayman looked like the real deal in his first go-through prior to jumping in with the Black Bears.

4. Second-round pick Jack Studnicka looked perfectly fine as an offensive prospect in his first go-round with the other B’s youngsters on the ice. His skating speed was probably a little better than advertised. Apparently, that was his dad’s calling card when he was a player at Maine and his son managed to inherit that from the old man.

5. One name to keep an eye on among the non-draftee invitees is Karson Kuhlman from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He’s not a real standout at 5-foot-11, 180-pounds and his numbers at Duluth aren’t amazing in his three seasons there, but his skills jumped out among the other prospects given that he wasn’t drafted. He had a good day showing a dangerous shot, good skating speed and creativity. He looked like the kind of player that might warrant a longer look from the B’s once his collegiate career has finished. He certainly looked right in place with the best of the Bruins drafted prospects, so keep an eye on him in his senior season.

6. One player I just don’t see it with is Cedric Pare. He was a sixth-round pick out of the QMJHL with good size and toughness, but that’s about it. The book on him is that there isn’t much of an upside for his offensive potential and that he looks like a career grinder of sorts. Nothing he showed on the first day went against that. It’s always a challenge for everything to look good for these kids if they’ve been off the ice for most of the summer, but Pare had trouble with his hands simply calming the puck down and continuously fumbled it away when in position to make plays in drills. Clearly, Pare might not be a guy with the kind of skills that jump out at you at these prospect drills and perhaps game situations will show more of what he brings to the table. Still, he didn’t show much on his first day of drills with more polished, skilled players surrounding him on the ice.  

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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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. 

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

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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.  

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