Notes: Young B's take in development camp

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Notes: Young B's take in development camp

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON It might surprise many to find out that goalie Michael Hutchinson has actually been to four straight development camps with the Boston Bruins.

The 21-year-old Ontario native has been around the Baby Bs scene since getting drafted in the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft, and he was back in Boston after spending his first season in the AHL last year.

So it wasnt any shock when former London Knights teammate Jared Knight crashed into him during the first day of camp after taking the puck strong to the net. But Hutchinson was totally fine and ready to be known as more than the goaltender that went full yard sale on the ice before skating off.

I played with him in London and he crashed into me a few times there. So when I saw him coming I just braced myself and he got the better of me that time, said Hutchinson. When he hits you he really knocks you back. He took me from the near side post to the far side post with the impact.

The 6-foot-3, 193-pounder got off to a slow start to his first full pro season with the P-Bruins as he adjusted to live without a billet family on his own fending for himself as a youngster playing with older pros. But Hutchinson got through it with a 13-10-1 record and a .904 save percentage along with a 3.13 goals against average while bouncing back from an ECHL stint in the middle of the year.

It was fun. Overall I was fairly pleased with a few speed bumps thrown in there. Im trying to be a little more consistent this time around, said Hutchinson, who traveled with the team during the Montreal playoff series in the first round. I really want to eliminate the streaks. I learned how to manage my time a little better because you dont have to do it a billet family. At the start of the year it was an adjustment. You had to get your own meal and make sure you had time for your afternoon nap on a game day.

Now Hutchinson and Anton Khudobin are expected to battle it out for the third goaltender spot behind Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask on the depth chart with Khudobin sitting with the inside track heading into this fall.

Im really excited that they brought back Khudobin, said Hutchinson. I think we can really push each other with some healthy competition and its always good to know the goalie that youre going to be paired with.

The contrasting styles of Hutchinson tall and calm very like Rask and Khudobin (an undersized battler like Thomas) mesh nicely with the differences in goaltending at the big club level.

Every first year player goes through itits very rare you find a guy that goes upward all year and climbs a little bit. There are usually some peaks and valleys and Hutchinson had his, said Providence Bruins Bruce Cassidy. Hes a mature guy for his age, as far as goaltenders go, because sometimes you hear that goaltenders can be a little goofy. But I find him to be mature for his age.

Hes a pretty focused guy, hard worker, its just a matter of that big body and developing his technique and his athleticism to the level that it needs to be. I would assume hes going to have a good year for us just because of what I saw last year. Hes a mature guy, hell get better. I dont think youll see him go backwards.

The prospects and youngsters including 19-year-old Tyler Seguin, who isnt taking part in any of the on-ice drills went out for an afternoon of paintball to help bond the disparate group of kids on the roster. The paint ball game went along with a social media class and a cooking class that the Bruins sponsored to help ease the transition for many of the teen-agers and players in their early 20s.

Nomination for rawest player with plenty of upside at the development camp: Robbie OGara. The big-framed defenseman still has another year to go at Milton Academy before going off to Yale University, and appeared every bit the wide-eyed 18-year-old getting his first taste of the big time.

Im just trying to keep up with the speed and the pace of everything thats going on around me, said OGara. Obviously I have plenty of work to do to get physically stronger, but this really gives me something to shoot for in the future.

Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney sees OGara as a big piece of hockey potential with no rush to his development timetable.

Robbie OGaras a piece of clay right now, albeit its a big piece. At 64 it can change. Things have come at him here a little quicker in the last, Id say, eight months. But we got a chance to see him a lot. Hes in our backyard. We went down and spoke to him and hes excited, said Sweeney. This is probably catching him a little off guard in terms of the preparation aspect of it. As I mentioned, you come from the prep school ranks and you know, theres a lot to digest here in a short period of time. The good thing is theres no timetable for him.

Cassidy indicated that the Bruins havent made any hires for the assistant coaches in Providence quite yet, but that interviews were taking place during and after development camp.

No were still in the interview process. I would hope once the development camp is over thats something that gets worked out, said Cassidy. But again thats probably Donny Sweeney, Pete Peter Chiarelli, and Jimmy Jim Benning can give you a better answer there.

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

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.

Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

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Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

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Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs