Rookies looking to make roster push

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Rookies looking to make roster push

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON The three Bruins rookies with the most to prove as camp commenced on Friday morning where also the trio of Black and Golden prospects with the most to potentially gain over the next month of drills, orientations and puck battles.

First round pick Dougie Hamilton and 2010 second round picks Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner are the unquestioned name players among the group of 22 young players participating in the 2011-12 Bs rookie camp at Ristuccia Arena.

A selection of the current score of players will be selected to remain for veteran camp when it opens next Friday, and all three are a good bet to remain at least for that long.

Hamilton is the furthest away from cracking the roster as an 18-year-old defenseman with a reedy 6-foot-5 body but also a world of potential as a defensively sound, offensively capable blueliner. The first round pick slid surprisingly to the Bs with their first round pick, and Hamilton bounced between impressive and inconsistent during his first prospect camp in Boston.

Hamilton is an exceptionally fast skater for such a big body and boasts a hammer slap shot, but the young blueliner also appeared surprised by the pace of scrimmages against other elite talent. He was caught behind defensively on numerous occasions and played with his head down a little too much, but these are all the traits of an inexperiencedD-man getting his feet wet.

Hamilton packed on six pounds since prospect camp and is up to 194 pounds, according to Bs assistant general manager Jim Benning, and is just looking to make a good initialimpression during his first NHLrodeo.

He looked really good today I thought hes skating well, said Benning. From the summer he weighed in at 188 and was 194 today, so he put on 5-6 lbs of muscle. Hes a young player and hell continue to get stronger and bigger. Hes going to be a good player. Its just going to be a matter of time with him.

The big blueliner also attended the Team Canada World Junior Orientation camp among the hockey hotbeds elite, and came away impressed with the quality of players around him.

There are a lot of good players in Canada, said Hamilton when asked for his impressions of the world junior camp.

Bruins officials believe Hamilton is at least a year or two of development away from potentially landing on Bostons roster, but that isnt stopping the cocksure teen-ager from attempting to make a strong first impression. He also wasnt about to concede a roster spot to anybody else without a fight despite six established NHL veteran defenseman already in the fold once the real Bruinsget going next week.

"I just want to come in and play my best, said Hamilton. "Obviously there are a lot of good D men. But I'm just going to coming in and I'm going to show my stuff and what I can do. Whatever they want to do with me, that's what I'll do."

Bruins front office personnel love to hear that kind of confidence from their young players, but all signs point to Hamilton returning to the Niagara Ice Dogs for at least one more campaign.

Two players that the Bs will be looking for confidence from as well as skilled execution on the ice are Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner a pair of skaters that went through the entire prospectrookieveteran camp rigamarole last season.

Theyve both learned their lessons well, and are treating things a lot more like business this time around with a potential NHL paycheck on the line.

The skilled Spooner dropped his body fat percentage significantly over the past year after the Bs staff implored him to push himself through the entire year, and Knight looks the most physically capable of enduring the NHL gauntlet over a long season.

Both are 19 years old with three-year contracts already inked with the Bruins, but both can also be returned to junior hockey for another season if they dont make the NHL roster.

I was just a rookie last year and I really didnt know what to expect, so I was kind of the little guy in the background, said Knight. This year I know some of the guys from playing with them, so this year Im going to be a lot more comfortable.

Benning admitted its going to be a difficult challenge for any of the three teenagers to make a Bs roster filled with 18 returning players from last years Stanley Cup winning edition, but the energy and spark of youth might be exactly what the team needs during an expected hangover season.

Either way Benning wasnt going to discount any rookies chances after watching players like Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and Brad Marchand play their way onto opening night rosters with strong training camp performances.

Since the team won the Stanley Cup but we dont know for sure, said Benning when asked the chances of any rookie breaking in with an established group of champions. Were just going to have to go through the process of this camp and main camp. And the one thing about Peter and Claude, if a player deserves to be on the team, then they find a way to get the player on the team. With time, thatll work itself out.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Guy Boucher proves to be a man of the people

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Morning Skate: Guy Boucher proves to be a man of the people

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while putting the pieces together now that the hockey season is O-V-A-H here in Boston. 
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Arthur takes a look at the end of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who put on a good show with their young, talented crew. 
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here is this morning’s interview with Toucher and Rich where I talked about the Bruins taking a step forward despite their season being over. 
 
-- He might look and sound like a Bond Villain, but Guy Boucher was far from it in stopping to shake hands with Senators fans at the airport after their playoff win over the B’s. 
 
-- Interesting that John Stevens is named head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, since the change isn’t expected to be a big departure from what was already going on there. 
 
-- The San Jose Sharks are all done for this season, and one wonders if GM Doug Wilson is going to have to choose between Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau moving forward. 

 -- Speaking of the Senators, PHT writer James O’Brien has Clarke MacArthur and Craig Anderson making Ottawa’s playoff victory all the more emotional

 -- For something completely different: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is coming to a theatre near you soon, and here’s a review. I’m looking forward to this one.

Haggerty: Cassidy should be rewarded for a job well done

Haggerty: Cassidy should be rewarded for a job well done

BOSTON -- After the Bruins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday, nearly every player was in agreement in identifying the turning point of the season:

The coaching change.

The B's went 18-8-1 in the regular season after Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien and rallied to make the playoffs after a late-season, four-game tailspin had them in danger of missing out for the third straight year. And despite being ravaged by injuries, they showed fight and spirit in pushing Ottawa to six games, including a road victory in a double-overtime, Game 5 thriller, before eventually succumbing in overtime, 3-2, on Sunday.

Certainly there were moments of sloppiness -- ill-timed penalties, moments when the Bruins simply couldn't bust through Ottawa's 1-3-1 trap -- but Boston's gutty playoff showing, coupled with the regular-season surge, makes it seem clear Cassidy deserves to be awarded the full-time head coaching gig. 

Several Bruins players voiced their endorsement of Cassidy on Sunday, lauding him for bringing energy, offensive thrust, and open-mindedness to using younger players. 

"The results speak for themselves," said David Backes, who played some of his best hockey in Games 5 and 6 once he was paired with center Sean Kuraly. "We were climbing uphill when [Cassidy] took over and we made our way [to the playoffs] . . . [He] certainly did a heck of a job."

And how does Cassidy -- who had gone more than 13 years since his last NHL head coaching job before replacing Julien on an interim basis, and spending the previous eight seasons at the AHL level in Providence -- feel? 

"Absolutely. 100 percent," said Cassidy, when asked if he wanted the Boston job on a permanent basis.

And if he got it, perhaps those improvements would continue.

"Maybe a full year with him, he changes a few things," said Backes.

"That will be determined going forward by management whether I continue to be the head coach, and what players will be here will [also] be determined by management," said Cassidy. "So it's a tough question to answer [on what improvements need to be made]. I think we scored some goals this year. We were good on the rush as well and the power play . . . and we were always a good forechecking team. This series took on a personality that we were going to have to score on the forecheck. 

"I thought that's why you see guys like [Noel] Acciari and Kuraly get into the lineup and really contribute. It's the strength of their game, and maybe less so from other guys that are more line rush guys. Don't forget, we had a lot of neophytes going into this series in terms of National Hockey League playoffs. So there's a learning curve for them and that's part of the growth process that we hope that, if we're sitting here next year at this time talking about advancing, that they learn something from this year. That's what every team goes through and the [David] Pastrnaks of the world, [Charlie] McAvoy . . . pick your players that are new to it, and [they] have to learn from [it]."

The decision to start Anton Khudobin in Brooklyn late in the regular season after the Bruins had lost four in a row was a turning point-type move, where Cassidy certainly pushed some buttons with No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask. And his insertion of Kuraly for Ryan Spooner in Game 5 worked on every level, and probably prolonged the series. So give him credit for both of those things along with the pumped-up offense he helped orchestrate in the final few months of the regular season. 

The Bruins won't be making any public statements or pronouncements on Monday, but one has to assume Cassidy holds the inside track on the job after guiding the team back into the playoffs for the first time in three years. Certainly there may be courtesy interviews for other candidates like Providence College coach Nate Leaman, but it's difficult to see anything else Cassidy would have to accomplish to be fit for the position. 

As Backes said himself, the results speak for themselves.