WILMINGTON – The Bruins wrapped up their first day of development camp after fitness testing and roughly an hour of on-ice drills, and managed to get all 23 invitees on the ice once goalie Malcolm Subban recovered from some cramping during the running tests.
Bruins fourth round pick Danton Heinen is missing from the camp entirely due to some summer classes he’s taking at the University of Denver, and Matt Grzelcyk will also miss at least one session due to a summer class at Boston University. Otherwise it’s another successful group in the eighth consecutive summer that they’ve brought out their prospects for a week of workouts and team-building sessions. The Bruins hope to give the young players a glimpse into the pro lifestyle, and also the expectations that the organization has for their draft picks and prospects.
“They should all feel welcome, whether they are an invite or whether or not they are in their fourth year of participating. They should feel like the Boston Bruins have identified that they’re willing to work with them, and we want to see where they might fit into where we want to go, and what we are trying to accomplish as an organization,” said Sweeney. “They can all be a part of that. Is it unrealistic to believe that they are all going to play for the Boston Bruins? Probably.
“But that doesn’t mean you don’t walk through the door, and try to establish yourself as a potential National Hockey League player. That’s what I think each and every one of these guys are feeling, or hopefully should feel, when they're here.”
With that bit of optimism in mind, here are some thoughts from the first day of camp:
The 6-foot-7 defenseman Oleg Yevenko certainly makes a big impression with his huge frame as he towers over the rest of the Bruins prospects – except for maybe 6-foot-6 Wiley Sherman – and he’s exactly what you would expect: a slow-footed, big bodied defenseman that packs a wallop when he hits. Yevenko crushed Simon Norberg during one two-on-two drills and drove him right into the end boards in one of the hardest hits seen in any of the B’s development camps. It’s hard to envision him as a college player because he can’t really unleash the fury at UMass, otherwise he’d be in the penalty box jus about every shift he’s on the ice. If he can improve his skating and footwork he’d be a really interesting prospect, but that’s easier said then done with a 6-foot-7 defenseman.
Really fun to watch the energy that first round pick David Pastrnak brings to the ice with him. He was chirping Malcolm Subban from the minute that the goalie hopped on the ice, and showed off plenty of creativity and flash with the puck in creating offensive plays. He set up Ryan Fitzpatrick with a sweet drop pass on one play, and Fitzpatrick completely buried it under the bar on a mesmerized Zane Gothberg. Nasty stuff. As Don Sweeney alluded to after the practice, some of that flair might be knocked out of him if he tries to pull the puck back in the middle of the ice a little too often. But the shot, the passing, the vision and the energy were all there in abundance even if he did seem to have some difficulty playing in borrowed equipment. The Czech youngster showed up to Boston with only his skates in tow.
I can see why the Bruins scouting staff took a liking to local defenseman Billy Sweezey, and very nearly drafted him in the seventh round last month. He wins most of his one-on-one battles and routinely broke up plays coming into his zone with an active stick and an aggressive mindset. I didn’t really notice him with the puck or attempting to create offensive plays, but his competitiveness and strength defending were very noticeable right off the bat. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a future between the B’s and the future Yale product.
Had one B’s official joke to me that it was all “Massachusetts kids and Swedish League guys” in the development camp, which wasn’t too far from the truth. It’s amazing that only four of the 23 invitees to development camp are Canadian, and only three of them (Malcolm Subban, Mitchell Dempsey and Matt Benning) are Bruins-controlled prospects. The Canadian kids are actually outnumbered by the Massachusetts kids by a 5-4 margin, and that’s a credit to the B’s mining their own home state for hockey talent, and devoting a lot of their focus on Europe.
Zane Gothberg is one player that’s taken a huge leap forward as a development camp veteran, and has really used his USHL and NCAA experience to transform into a legitimate goaltending prospect. He’s only 6-foot-1, 177-pounds, but he looks huge between the pipes when he’s deflecting pucks away from the front of the net, and is part of a really impressive line of B’s organizational depth between the pipes. Starting with Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg, Subban and Gothberg puts the Black and Gold in a good spot for a long, long time at a key position.
I continue to like the hands on Czech-born Peter Cehlarik, the raw toughness of Robbie O’Gara, the economical skating ability of Linus Arnesson and the first impression on Anders Bjork. The Notre Dame-bound Bjork was another player that featured a pretty deadly shot on the first day, and looked like he didn’t lack for any offensive confidence coming out of the US Development Program.