By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Dougie Hamilton, Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner were the unquestioned darlings of the prospect camp in July, and the headliners once again at rookie camp last week.
But its pretty clear the Bs youngsters have understandably transitioned into learning mode now that veterans camp has ramped up into full swing.
The three prospects are in a secondary dressing room at TD Garden for the rookies just down the hall from the veterans, and theyve taken on more of a listening and learning role over the last few days. But on the ice their unpolished, considerable skills are still shining brightly and coach Claude Julien has taken notice.
Hamilton, in particular, has looked very good with the higher caliber of talent skating around him and proved in his first scrimmage action that hes capable of making the initial simple transition pass flawlessly.
Its an underrated skill for a defenseman and its not going to lead to gaudy assist totals, but Hamilton prompted a Niklas Lidstrom reference from the Bs head coach when reviewing his first impressions of the blueliner.
Combine that with Hamiltons smooth skating ability both forward and backward for a 6-foot-5 kid also expected to be a physical presence, and thats quite the tool box for a young blueliner working his way to the NHL.
All of that adds up to something good in the future for the Bs and Hamilton, but it wont be this season as the Bruins have already reached their 50-contract limit for players signed within their organization. But the passing reference to Detroits franchise defenseman makes one wonder exactly what Hamilton will look like next season with another year of growth and development under his teen-aged belt.
We did some one-on-one drills today with the backwards skating and certainly hes a strong backward skater and has a good stick. I think hes learning a lot about our game and the game at the pro level, said Julien. Hes one of those guys -- we talk about players that come back to camp and improve every year -- well, hes one of those players that will certainly do that because hes capable of putting a little more muscle and a little bit more weight on. It certainly wont affect his game.
Hes already a good, smooth skater. He sees the ice well, moves the puck well. He has a bit of the Lidstrom quality of making easy passes and seeing the ice well -- and making the game look so easy. So hes got some good qualities there that I think will bode well for him in the future.
The one teenager whos already got his own stall in the main Bs dressing room at the Garden is Tyler Seguin.
The mere mention of a little more muscle and a little bit more weight during training camp makes the 19-year-old immediately come to mind after a summer spent in the weight room. Seguin came into camp hovering around 196 pounds, and has been noticeably more aggressive taking the puck to the net and mixing it up in the middle of high traffic areas.
Julien said thats exactly what they hoped to see out of Seguin in Year Two, and the first few days of camp have been a nice little preview of a potential breakout sophomore year. Seguin has been paired up with Nathan Horton in practices and scrimmages, and the two forwards have created a lot of offensive chemistry in a short amount of time.
Hes been very good. Ive noticed him," Julien said. "You guys certainly have as well. He seems a lot stronger and he seems a lot more confident from what Ive seen so far. His first three days his skill level has really shown because hes competing with that confidence. I see . . . a guy whos got a year under his belt whos coming in this year and wants to make a difference.
We all know that hes got it. So its up to him to show it. And in the first three days I think hes done that, so hopefully that carries through and he keeps going for the rest of the year.
Julien also chose to pair Knight and Spooner together on a rookie line, and both forwards have evolved from wide-eyed 18-year-olds to experienced prospects looking to potentially win a job. Both players know that theyre most likely headed back to junior hockey for one more season with a stacked lineup of Stanley Cup-winning veterans, but theyve already managed to earn the NHL endorsement from their coach.
When a guy comes in for his second year, hes had a taste of camp the year before and hes more confident. Hes not as intimidated and not so much in awe, said Julien. I think Knight and Spooner are basically going through that stage where theyre not in awe as much as they were last year. They feel more comfortable.
Theyre not afraid to go into the corner and battle with veterans and showcase their strengths. So I see two guys that are obviously more comfortable, and thats just part of the process of growing, being bigger, stronger, more mature and more comfortable. Both of those guys, to me, are guys that I cant see not playing in the NHL someday. Theyve got all the goods. Its up to them to keep working at it.
Its still an amazing haul when one considers that three (Knight, Hamilton, Seguin) out of the four super prospects in camp arrived via the Phil Kessel trade two years ago, and have set up the Bruins organization for a prolonged run into the future.
While only Seguin will likely contribute to this coming season for the Bruins, a few days of camp have confirmed that the future is indeed very bright for the Black and Gold.
Its also confirmed that the Thank You, Kessel chant last season might still have a little bit of mileage left in it.