ThoughtsObservations from P-Bruins scrimmage

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ThoughtsObservations from P-Bruins scrimmage

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. A few thoughts and observations from the first day of scrimmaging at Providence Bruins training camp at the Rhode Island Sports Center as the two groups played against each other.

The Black squad otherwise known as Group B pounded the White Squad (Group A) by a 5-1 score including a four-point game from defenseman Zach Trotman, who finished with a hat trick along with an assist built on a series of long range bomb shots from the point.

Trotman laughed at the notion that hes an offensive defenseman, but he did score 11 goals last season for Lake Superior State and consistently found a way to get pucks through traffic. The Bruins signed the 6-foot-4, 202 pound blueliner while he still had one year of NCAA eligibility remaining, and theres a healthy ceiling for the prospect given his size, shooting ability and commitment to playing two-way hockey. Hes flown under the radar during his experience at Bruins development camp, but he wont any more after pumping three goals in during the teams first dress rehearsal.

Ryan Spooner was noticeable in creating a number of offensive opportunities, and the most encouraging part of it was his ability to turn defense into offense. On at least three occasions Spooner pressure defensemen on the forecheck, stole the puck away and then moved in for a one-on-one chance against the goalie. He didnt end up with any points, but its that merging of skill and hockey instincts that will make him highly effective at the AHL level this season.

Jared Knight is showing that hes not fooling around in his first pro camp with guys like Peter Chiarelli, Jim Benning, Don Sweeney and Claude Julien watching along with both the AHL and NHL coaching staffs. He dropped to his knees to block shots on at least two instances in a scrimmage, and crashed hard into the boards once after a collision on of his patented power forward drives to the net. Knight was a gritty, physical presence and appeared more than willing to do the kind of things required of a bottom-six forward at the NHL level. The offense wasnt as consistently noticeable for Knight, but its a positive sign if hes still making an impact when his shots arent falling.

I actually thought goaltender Shaun Hunwick was a kid picked from the stands before being informed that he was a last-minute addition to the roster of P-Bruins players invited to training camp. He actually got into three minutes of a Columbus Blue Jackets game last season after a very successful career at the University of Michigan, but his 5-foot-7, 163 pound body is a tough hurdle to overcome. Hes reportedly got the same great attitude that older brother, and former Bs defenseman, Matt Hunwick possesses, and hell need it to silence the critics.

Free agent signee Matthew Pistilli helped contribute to several of Trotmans goals by using his 6-foot-2, 219-pound frame to screen Niklas Svedberg in front of the net, and he fed a nice cross-ice pass to a trailing Trotman for another goal in the hat trick. Amid some players with a greater degree of hype attached to their names, Pistilli really stood out on Day One.

The Providence coaching staff interchanged Lane MacDermid and Max Sauve in with the two of them, but it appears theyre looking to pair Spooner with Chris Bourque from the start of camp. They developed some nice chemistry together over the course of the two 20 minute periods, and Bourque also added a tally when he snapped a shot from the high slot past Hunwick in the final 20 minutes. Bourque also missed on a backhander earlier in the scrimmage off a nice feed from Spooner, and had enjoyed some of the best offensive chances out on the ice. Bourque looks ready to go early in a training camp hed been eagerly looking forward to.

Speaking of goaltenders, Niklas Svedberg looked a little shaky in first outing. He was having trouble tracking pucks through traffic, but thats understandable given the adjustment from European Leagues to North American pro hockey. Many European goaltenders talk about the significant transition time going for larger rinks to the smaller ones in the NHL and AHL. Both Mike Hutchinson and Adam Morrison looked solid between the pipes.

Alden Hirschfeld was a former teammate of Carter Camper at Miami (OH) and they teamed up for the White Teams only goal. Camper fed Hirschfeld a pass from behind the net and his old Red Hawks teammate snapped it home. Hirschfeld also threw around his 6-foot-1, 206-pound frame with reckless abandon and teamed with Tommy Cross for one of the best collisions of the scrimmage.

Christian Hanson didnt appear to lose a face-off through the scrimmage and stood out at as the biggest specimen on the ice at 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds. You can see why an NHL team would view him as a very useful role player as the Maple Leafs organization did over the last few years.

Justin Florek was around the net and popped in the rebound of a Trotman shot for one of the Black Teams five goals. He performed the same kind of good hands garbage man work at the Bs Development camp over the last few years, and looks like yet another prudent signing of a player lured away from NCAA eligibility at Northern Michigan.

David Warsofsky can skate and has plenty of confidence, but the wrap-around-the-net breakout move from the defensive zone isnt something that Claude Julien and the Boston coaching staff are fully in love with. Its pretty high risk without much reward at the NHL level, and its something could become very predictable if its used too much during game action with experienced fore-checkers.

Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

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Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering what Melissa McCarthy is going to do now that Spicey is gone.

*The debut for Philadelphia Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick has been scratched due to “an infection in his face.” Boy, this kid can’t get healthy, can he?

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is 100 percent sure that the Winged Wheels will be making a return to the playoffs this season.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has hope returning to the city of Houston that they might get an NHL franchise one of these days.

*Travis Yost delves into shooting percentage and some of the nuances when properly trying to break it down statistically.

*There are new season ticket charges for Habs fans in Montreal, and boy are they pissed off about it. Feels like the kind of thing that could push them to riot in the streets or flood 911 emergency lines if the Canadiens aren’t too careful about it.

*Young Blues defenseman Colton Parayko signs a five-year deal with St. Louis to avoid salary arbitration while the D-man taken exactly one pick before him by the Bruins in the draft, Matt Grzelcyk, is going to be hard-pressed to move past the AHL level this season.

*For something completely different: What would Ivan Drago have been doing with his life after his showdown with Rocky in Mother Russia?

 

 

Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

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Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

Urho Vaakanainen was billed as a smooth-skating, solid defenseman when the Bruins selected him in the middle of the first round in last month’s draft.

That’s exactly what the 18-year-old D-man put on display at his first chance to participate in Bruins Development Camp earlier this month as one of the younger players taking his first paces with the B’s organization.

Vaakanainen skated with ease and smoothness and didn’t have much in the way of panic when he was breaking the puck out of the zone during workouts. To be sure, it was clear that many of the tools are there for the Finnish prospect. Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley had likened him to Hall of Famer Paul Coffey for his skating ability in the days after he was drafted last month in Chicago, and Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner used the equally impressive Devils player comparison of Scott Niedermayer when discussing Boston’s top pick.

The bottom line is that Vaakanainen would appear to be well-suited to an evolving hockey league where the skating game is arguably the most important quality and it’s pretty much a prerequisite for success if you’re going to be a D-man in the NHL.

“I think it’s the effortlessness that he skates with, it’s smooth," Langenbrunner said. "I think Scott [Bradley] had mentioned to me yesterday, Scott Niedermayer. That’s obviously high praise with a guy that is effortless and can skate

"[All] around the rink,” said Langenbrunner. “He seems to have a little bit of those tendencies that kind of floats on his skates a little bit. That’s something that I don’t believe you can really teach. Some guys have that and some guys, it’s a little more work.

“You’re talking about a 17-year-old kid that played in the Finnish Elite League. For him to put up huge offensive numbers, I think would be pretty tough. I think now, going into his second year there is a little more confidence. Obviously, you hear more growth. You’ll see maybe a little more of an uptick there. He’s a smooth skater. He sees the ice well, he’s got good size, and he can make plays. So, I think as the confidence grows, numbers will grow just if you’re making the right plays over and over again.”

Clearly, there is some polish still to come to Vaakanainen’s offensive game after watching him in drills with his fellow prospects at development camp. That’s reflected in the two goals and six points in 41 games for JYP in the Finnish Elite League last season as well, a level of production that caused some to question just how top-end he’ll be offensively in the NHL when he does mature into his 6-foot, 183-pound body.

Vaakanainen showed a decent, accurate shot from the point and some solid instincts when it comes to making plays with the puck, but it’s also clear he doesn’t have quite the same level of pure offensive as Charlie McAvoy. The good stick, solid defensive instincts and strength for his size were all there as advertised. The skating game will cover up a lot of the things that Vaakanainen still needs to work on.

Some of the young player’s lessons can be learned and improved with greater offensive experience afforded him when he returns to Finland for the upcoming season. Some of that may mean a modestly effective offensive player in Vaakanainen once he’s met his NHL potential. It’s simply too early to tell and a lot could be learned based on his level of improvement in Europe this season and the preview everybody will get when he plays in the World Juniors for Team Finland around the holidays.  

For his part, Vaakanainen had a great week at development camp learning the streets of Boston, meeting his fellow Bruins prospects and officially making a good first impression in his first action as a first-round pick.

“As the camp went on you felt so much better and relaxed, and I had so much fun,” said Vaakanainen, who actually stayed with Langenbrunner and his family at his house after the draft. “You’ll learn new things and you get to know all the new people that are in the Bruins organization. It’s going to help me in the future to know everybody.

“I think maybe they want to see more of my offensive game because there hasn’t been so much of that the last couple of years. The role might be bigger now and more offensive, so it’s coming. Of course, you have to work hard for that, but when you play more minutes it absolutely helps to get more comfortable with what you’re doing.”

The bottom line with this pick hasn’t really changed even as Vaakanainen showed what he could do in a week of practices at Warrior Ice Arena. The Finnish teenager is a fine D-man prospect who looks like he’ll going to enjoy a solid 10-year career once he actually cracks the NHL roster and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The one thing we’ll all see over the next few years is whether or not the Bruins could have done better for themselves with the No. 18 pick in a draft class with an admittedly shallow talent pool as compared to the past couple of seasons.