By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- There are plenty of familiar names and recognizable faces participating at Bs rookie camp this weekend, and theres also a forgotten man skating with the rookies at Ristuccia Arena.
The player in question is Zach McKelvie, a 26-year-old West Point graduate that had to fulfill his military obligations before getting a chance to pursue his dreams of playing professional hockey. The Bs originally signed the defenseman prospect in 2009 with an understanding that the Army would allow McKelvie out of his military obligation, but that never happened last year.
It was a great experience. I was an infantry officer in the army, said McKelvie. More than anything it was a learning experience, and getting to know the men and women that were deployed four or five times is extremely humbling and gratifying at the same time. I definitely wouldnt trade the two years served for anything.
I thought about hockey every day and I missed hockey every day, but I also took pride in wearing the US army uniform every day.
McKelvie was obviously rusty after spending the last year plus off the ice as a full-fledged military man serving his country, but Bs assistant general manager Jim Benning painted the picture of a two-way defenseman prospect reliant on strong skating ability to be effective.
Ironically enough McKelvie was stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia over the last two seasons, but has begun to knock the rust off his game. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder still has enough things going for him in the skillsskating area that hell get a chance to hone his game in the minor leagues, and show exactly what interested Bs talent evaluators so much in the first place.
Hes a great skater. He hasnt played competitive hockey in a couple of years from college, but because hes such a good skater and he moves well out there -- and hes a competitive kid -- I think his timing will be off a little bit I think to start, said Benning. But I think once he gets his timing he could turn out to be a good player for us.
Benning is a keen evaluator of young hockey talent, and the Bs assistant GM believes theres still plenty of time for McKelvie to get his groove back with no hurry given Bostons stacked stable of D-men at the NHL level.
Hes a transitional player because he can skate so well, get back, get the puck, and hell either be able to carry it out or make a first pass to get the puck up ice or hell jump into play to join the play to help out in the offensive end, said Benning. Hes a good two-way player. But he hasnt played competitively in a couple of years so it might take him a little bit to get his timing back to show what he can really do. We like him as a prospect. Hes a high character kid and his physical tools are good, so once he gets his timing back he should be competitive at camp.
With the skills sitting close to the surface and the character to place his individual dreams on hold while duty called, McKelvie has already proven to be something special before skating a single shift for the Bruins organization.
Now he gets a chance to prove it on the ice for the Black and Gold.