Rookies vying for shot at B's third line

Rookies vying for shot at B's third line
September 5, 2013, 12:15 am
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WILMINGTON, Mass. – There are 22 skaters in rookie training camp with the Bruins that got underway on Wednesday afternoon at Ristuccia Arena, and the camp is clearly a big opportunity for all of the young players looking to carve out an NHL niche.

But there is special emphasis being placed upon a group of forwards among the 22 fresh-faced newcomers that should also get plenty of play once things settle down to NHL training camp.

The newly svelte Jared Knight, playmaking Ryan Spooner and the rugged Anthony Camara are all forwards that will be expected to open eyes in both rookie training camp as well as the full NHL camp. The trio of forwards will be among a varied group that will compete for at least one, perhaps two, vacant forward spots on Boston’s third line on either side of Chris Kelly.

Those young players are well aware that the Bruins officials will be looking their way for jobs given the precarious salary cap going down to $64 million this season, and that’s factored into their training work over the summer.

“I obviously want to make the team, and that should be the goal of every guy that’s here right now,” said Spooner. “I remember my last two camps that there weren’t really any open spots, so I just came here to enjoy myself and get the experience.

“But this year it’s a different ballgame. There are a couple of spots open, and I’m going to play my best to try to win one of them. But if that doesn’t happen I’ll just go down to Providence and keep working on my game.”

Newcomers Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser will also be in the mix after arriving to the Bruins via the Tyler Seguin deal with the Dallas Stars, and big Swede Carl Soderberg is a favorite to win of the two third line jobs. It should be among the most entertaining storylines throughout rookie  camp as those names compete directly with each other, and that was evident on the first day of skating.

Knight lost roughly 20 pounds over the summer while losing bulky muscle as he dumped his football workout in the weight room in favor of a hockey workout that favors explosiveness and flexibility over sheer awesome strength. The lost weight didn’t stop the 5-foot-11 Knight from cleaning out free agent forward Maxime Villemaire during one-on-one drills at Wednesday’s camp practice.

The intensity of B’s training camp is expected to help Knight overcome the hamstring woes that turned last year into a lost season for the former second round pick.

Spooner isn’t an idea fit for third line duty, but has the most offensive upside of all the available candidates after posting 57 points in 59 AHL games last season. Camara has zero NHL experience heading into his first full pro season, but he’s got the physicality, the nasty streak and the ability for occasional offense that coaches are always looking for  in a bottom six role.

Above and beyond those third-line candidates, there’s also every possibility that Claude Julien and the Bruins coaching staff will allow a player like Daniel Paille to jump to the third line if he’s the best winger candidate in training camp. It’s a nice departure for Paille, who has been a good-as-gold soldier capable of taking care of things at the fourth line. Paille is equally suited to third line duty if the Bruins feel it’s a good idea to give one of their loyal wingers some upward mobility.  

None of these scenarios are a lock for Boston’s third line quite yet, but it doesn’t hurt to develop a young solution rather than continuing to go to the same, expensive, eclectic lineup. That’s where the value comes in for a productive farm system that’s worth its weight in goals, and still has a few more kinks to work out.