Lucic enjoys exciting Vancouver homecoming

Lucic enjoys exciting Vancouver homecoming

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Traveling with the Bruins affords you some pretty unique looks into the lives of Bostons most celebrated hockey players, and some of the extraordinary experiences theyre lucky to have during the season.

The victory lap taken by David Krejci while Liberec crowd chanted his name in a Czech Republic rink was as emotional as youll ever see the young center get.

Meeting Zdeno Charas father and family in the historic Old TownSquare in Prague also immediately comes to mind.

Some moments are more noteworthy than others during the NHL schedule as the group of traveling hockey players dart across North America and Europe in some instances to fill out the 82-game regular season schedule and playoffs.

One of those special stitches in time arrived this week for Milan Lucic, who was home in Vancouver to play the Canucks for only the second time in his NHL career.

Very different than the last one-day trip through Vancouver two years ago by Lucic and the Bruins, this time around the Bs power forward enjoyed four days in the picturesque capital of British Columbia and his hometown -- surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Lucic was notified some time ago he would be honored by his former junior hockey team the Vancouver Giants with an induction into their ring of honour where he joined fellow Giants players Gilbert Brule, Andrej Meszaros, Mark Fistric and Brett Festerling."This is the place where Looch turned a boy into a man," said Mark Recchi. "I think it's a pretty special place for him."

The Giants are where then Bruins Scouting Director Scott Bradley discovered the big, strong raw-boned hockey player skating on the WHL teams fourth line.

Lucic wouldnt blow anybody away in a single viewing, but Bostons currentDirector of Player Personnel got to watch Lucic on a regular basis, and openly wondered what the youngster could do if he struck the balance between throwing punches and snapping one-timers.

Thats happened as a pro, and Bradley was on hand in Vancouver along with other members of the Bruins front office to watch Lucic bask in a little hometown glory this week.

Hes been bubbly for the last couple of days, and it couldnt happen to a nicer kid, said Bradley of Lucic. We had targeted him all along to draft, but hes exceeded every expectation that we had. I really like the fact that he just keeps improving all the time. In his draft year, every night when I came to see him play, you saw improvement.

People say he only had nine goals with the Giants, but he was fighting and playing physical and he scored nine goals while skating on the fourth line. If you got your crystal ball out and looked at it, you could see some of the future success. That force of will, that work ethic, that determination of his, thats exactly what were always looking for as scouts. Its a cool story. Lucic is a scouts dream because these guys dont come along all that often.

Lucics entire family was on hand to watch him drop the ceremonial first puck in a Friday night game between the Vancouver Giants and Chilliwack Bruins, and observe the unveiling of his banner after a highlight reel video package of greatest moments in his junior career including the MVP Shift where he decimated three different opponents with bone-rattling hits before throwing down in a fight that set the tone for Vancouvers Memorial Cup-winning contest.

There were great touches on the night including a little 6-year-old kid skating with both teams during warm-ups while donning Lucics No. 27 Giants jersey, and the 22-year-old Lucic really seemed to understand how fortunate that kind of a moment was for him.

Growing up as a kid this is the kind of stuff that you dream of. Youre always shooting for the stars when youre a kid, right? Im living my dream now because playing in the NHL is something I always dreamed of, said Lucic. Not only that, Im coming back home where everybody is really excited to see me.

My old junior team has sold 12,000 tickets for the game during Milan Lucic Night. It definitely makes you feel good about yourself and it really just reminds you of where you came from. It makes me really proud to call myself a Vancouverite.

Its not often somebody gets feted in their hometown at such a young age with friends and family surrounding them, but then again Lucic isnt the kind of player that comes around all that often.

Perhaps the one individual most apt to know exactly whats going through Lucics mind on a special Vancouver evening is Bs President Cam Neely, who grew up in the same area, played the same manner of game and understands exactly what it feels like to be the conquering son coming home to Vancouver.

Its always special because you dont get to come home very often and play in front of family and friends, said Neely. You get a little bit more amped, and to be honored by his junior team is something I know is really special to him and his family. There are a lot of people in the building cheering him on Friday night with the Giants, but also coming up to the Canucks game on Saturday.

Of course Lucic should be a big factor against the Western Conference-leading Canucks with his team-leading 26 goals that have him on pace for close to a 60-point season and have seen him perhaps finally figuring out the balance between physically setting a tone and becoming a scoring threat each time hes on the ice. There are points when Lucics physical game has tapered off and hes dealt with a nagging shoulder problem at points during the season, but the power forward shifted into beast mode in Bostons win Tuesday night in Calgary and that makes a huge difference for Boston when Lucic can ramp it up to that level.

Just to see his skating improve, his shot improve. Hes a big physical presence and thats given him a lot of room, time and space for himself along with the rest of his linemates, said Neely. He has that kind of an impact when hes playing physical that it also has on our team. I think hes figuring it out.

It takes a couple of years to figure out how you have to play and what you have to do when youre that type of player. Its showing this year on the ice with how hes doing, and whats he doing. Its not just on the scoresheet. When hes playing physical for our team, it makes a big difference.

Getting honored in his hometown for past glory as a junior hockey player shows exactly how far Lucic has come, and just how much hes figured out in his short, successful time with the Bruins.

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

Friday, July 22: Versteeg headed for Europe

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Friday, July 22: Versteeg headed for Europe

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading, while vowing to never try to marry the NHL and Pokemon into the same lame story.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Kris Versteeg one of a number of NHL veteran free agents going to Europe for next season.

*The New York Islanders have reportedly been discussing moving to Queens and building a rink right next to the Mets’ Citi Field. Interesting. I know the Isles fan base was not happy with the setup in Brooklyn last season.

*The Black Knights get the top odds as a moniker for the Las Vegas franchise with a number of funny long shot names.

*Ian Mendes said that it’s pretty clear by the moves of the Ottawa Senators that they believe their time is now.

*Jason Botchford wonders if the Vancouver Canucks have a shot at being a playoff team next season. I hope so for Jim Benning’s sake.

*Ken Campbell wants to know if Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier, now that they’re both retired, are Hall of Fame-worthy players. I say no to both of them, but I can be stingy with my Hall of Fame qualifications as the Jarome Iginla fanboys know so well.

*For something completely different: Jon Stewart brought the funk and the noise while breaking his TV silence on Thursday night and tearing into a GOP that’s coming apart at the seams right now.

 

Bruins set to appear 16 times on NBC national broadcasts

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Bruins set to appear 16 times on NBC national broadcasts

The Bruins might have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs  each of the past two seasons, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be taking a backseat on the national television schedule for NBCSN and the rest of the NHL on NBC programming. 

The Black and Gold will appear in 16 nationally televised games in the 2016-17 season across the NBC Sports networks, though they won’t be a part of the Winter Classic, the Black Friday matinee or most of the other NHL showpiece events featured by NBC aside from their one appearance in the late game on “Hockey Day in America.”

In total, 16 games will be broadcast on either NBC or NBC Sports Network, with all other matchups being televised locally on NESN, along with some of these non-exclusive games ceding rights back to the local rights-holder.

The Bruins are tied with the New York Rangers for the third-most appearances on national television this season, behind only the Chicago Blackhawks (21) and Philadelphia Flyers (20). The broadcast schedule is highlighted by the Bruins visiting the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 19 as part of a quadruple-header on “Hockey Day in America.” 

 Bruins games on NBC and NBC Sports Network (all times Eastern):

Wed., Oct, 26 at N.Y. Rangers at 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Tues., Nov. 22 vs. St. Louis at 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Tues., Nov. 29 at Philadelphia at 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Wed., Dec. 7 at Washington at 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Wed., Dec. 14 at Pittsburgh at 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Tues., Jan. 10 at St. Louis at 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Wed., Jan. 18 at Detroit at 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Wed., Feb. 1 at Washington at 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Sun., Feb. 12 vs. Montreal at 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Sun., Feb. 19 at San Jose at 8:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Sun., Feb. 26 at Dallas at 12:30 p.m. (NBC)
Thurs., March 2 vs. N.Y. Rangers at 7 p.m. (NBCSN)
Wed., March 8 vs. Detroit at 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Thurs., March 30 vs. Dallas at 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Sun., April 2 at Chicago at 12:30 p.m. (NBC)
Sat,, April 8 vs. Washington at 3 p.m. (NBC)

Bruins’ pick Frederic out to prove he wasn’t a reach

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Bruins’ pick Frederic out to prove he wasn’t a reach

Trent Frederic had heard all of the chatter about the Bruins reaching a bit for him when they selected the physical, athletic center with the 29th overall pick last month in the draft.

Draft night pundits had the Wisconsin-bound Frederic much lower in the rankings and even Bruins scouting director Keith Gretzky admitted that Frederic probably projects to being a third-line center in the NHL a few years down the line.

“[Frederic] is not going to be a top-two line guy, we know that,” said Gretzky on draft night. “But he has some jam. He plays hard with the [amount of] penalty minutes. We were fortunate to get him. We believed he was our next guy and we really liked the projection of him as a staff. Everybody raved about him, his character is outstanding. He’s an athlete.”

So, it’s fair to say it was a conservative pick going for a player more likely to have an NHL career rather than a boom-or-bust risk choice like the small, skilled Alex DeBrincat and it’s equally important to note that the Bruins were looking size, strength and jam with a few of their center choices in this particular draft class.

The B’s selected the 6-foot-2, 203-pound Frederic as an organizational need pick and a safe pick at the end of the first round, but there were also at least two NHL teams that had player pegged to go between 20-30 in the draft.

“If you watch him in the [fitness] testing he’s a really good athlete, and he’s explosive,” said Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo. “He was playing on that US [National Development] team behind [Kieffer] Bellows and [Clayton] Keller, so I think maybe he’s got a little bit more skill than people are giving him credit for.

“He’s got some upside more than a third line player. I know that’s what everybody was saying, but there were a lot of teams that were pretty high on this kid. I think he just went under the radar a little bit playing on that US team behind the top skill players.”

So, Gretzky, Scott Bradley, Don Sweeney and the rest of the B’s talent evaluators weren’t on their own in making the selection, and only the passing of time will tell if he turns into the next David Backes, or the next Chris Kelly. 

It appeared early in last week’s Bruins development camp that Frederic was trying to do too much as he struggled at times in skating drills and looked a little nervous during the first session with fellow NHL prospects.

But Frederic settled in after that and showed the athleticism, the toughness and a fairly decent amount of skill over the four on-ice days of development camp prior to getting ready for college. He certainly wasn't bursting with over-the-top offensive skill like Jake DeBrusk or Charlie McAvoy, but Frederic didn't look out of place grinding and battling with fellow top prospects while showing a ready willingness to go to the danger areas on the ice. 

The 18-year-old admitted he’s got a little of a chip on his shoulder about the first round reach chatter, and that won’t be a bad thing as he develops at the NCAA level.

“I have the hard work and the dedication, and I think I’ve been a winner my whole life…so I have that’s something I can bring to the Bruins. I think my two-way play is what they like a lot. My overall skating and my offensive game are things that I’m working on a lot,” said Frederic, who had 20 goals and 40 points in 61 games for the USNTDP last season. “I think you use [the draft talk] as motivation, and something that can push you to get going and to prove people wrong I guess you could say.

“I think I’ll do it, and I’ll work my hardest to do it. [The best advice I got] was don’t read anything good and don’t read anything bad about yourself because none of it really matters. I don’t know if anybody gave that to me, or if I gave it to myself. The main point is [to not buy into anything] whether it’s really good or bad.”

That’s exactly the right kind of attitude for the Frederic, who will be under the microscope a little bit now that he’s become a first-round pick in a Bruins organization leaning heavily on their future prospects.