Bruins prospects shining brightly at camp

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Bruins prospects shining brightly at camp

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.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

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Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing. 

Bruins’ new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility to open Sept. 8.

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Bruins’ new Warrior Ice Arena practice facility to open Sept. 8.

The Bruins’ new practice facility has been years in the making and they will finally get to officially open the doors to Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton next month. 

The B’s players will start informal captain’s practice skates at the new facility on the New Balance property in these final days of August, but the team announced on Friday that the new facility will be officially opened to the public on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs, team president Cam Neely, general manager Don Sweeney and a number of players will be on hand for the opening ceremony and ensuing open house for the media. Also planning to attend from New Balance will be Owner and Chairman Jim Davis and NB Development Group LLC Managing Director Jim Halliday, along with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo. 

Following the formal portion of the event, Warrior Ice Arena will host the “Boston Youth All-Star Game featuring Bruins Alumni” which will feature local squirt players from the Boston communities of Allston-Brighton, Charlestown, Dorchester, Hyde Park, South Boston and West Roxbury mixed in with members of the Bruins alumni. 

The Youth All-Stars will team with Bruins alumni and they will play the first official game before the ice is turned over to the current Bruins players for their training camp later in the month.

The Warrior Ice Arena gets its name from the Warrior brand of hockey equipment that is now a division of New Balance and comes with a 79-foot high Warrior hockey stick that greets visitors at the front entrance doors.

Warrior Ice Arena will be the B’s new and permanent practice home after the Bruins spent 25-plus years practicing in the suburbs of Boston at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.