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.