By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON The three Bruins rookies with the most to prove as camp commenced on Friday morning where also the trio of Black and Golden prospects with the most to potentially gain over the next month of drills, orientations and puck battles.
First round pick Dougie Hamilton and 2010 second round picks Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner are the unquestioned name players among the group of 22 young players participating in the 2011-12 Bs rookie camp at Ristuccia Arena.
A selection of the current score of players will be selected to remain for veteran camp when it opens next Friday, and all three are a good bet to remain at least for that long.
Hamilton is the furthest away from cracking the roster as an 18-year-old defenseman with a reedy 6-foot-5 body but also a world of potential as a defensively sound, offensively capable blueliner. The first round pick slid surprisingly to the Bs with their first round pick, and Hamilton bounced between impressive and inconsistent during his first prospect camp in Boston.
Hamilton is an exceptionally fast skater for such a big body and boasts a hammer slap shot, but the young blueliner also appeared surprised by the pace of scrimmages against other elite talent. He was caught behind defensively on numerous occasions and played with his head down a little too much, but these are all the traits of an inexperiencedD-man getting his feet wet.
Hamilton packed on six pounds since prospect camp and is up to 194 pounds, according to Bs assistant general manager Jim Benning, and is just looking to make a good initialimpression during his first NHLrodeo.
He looked really good today I thought hes skating well, said Benning. From the summer he weighed in at 188 and was 194 today, so he put on 5-6 lbs of muscle. Hes a young player and hell continue to get stronger and bigger. Hes going to be a good player. Its just going to be a matter of time with him.
The big blueliner also attended the Team Canada World Junior Orientation camp among the hockey hotbeds elite, and came away impressed with the quality of players around him.
There are a lot of good players in Canada, said Hamilton when asked for his impressions of the world junior camp.
Bruins officials believe Hamilton is at least a year or two of development away from potentially landing on Bostons roster, but that isnt stopping the cocksure teen-ager from attempting to make a strong first impression. He also wasnt about to concede a roster spot to anybody else without a fight despite six established NHL veteran defenseman already in the fold once the real Bruinsget going next week.
"I just want to come in and play my best, said Hamilton. "Obviously there are a lot of good D men. But I'm just going to coming in and I'm going to show my stuff and what I can do. Whatever they want to do with me, that's what I'll do."
Bruins front office personnel love to hear that kind of confidence from their young players, but all signs point to Hamilton returning to the Niagara Ice Dogs for at least one more campaign.
Two players that the Bs will be looking for confidence from as well as skilled execution on the ice are Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner a pair of skaters that went through the entire prospectrookieveteran camp rigamarole last season.
Theyve both learned their lessons well, and are treating things a lot more like business this time around with a potential NHL paycheck on the line.
The skilled Spooner dropped his body fat percentage significantly over the past year after the Bs staff implored him to push himself through the entire year, and Knight looks the most physically capable of enduring the NHL gauntlet over a long season.
Both are 19 years old with three-year contracts already inked with the Bruins, but both can also be returned to junior hockey for another season if they dont make the NHL roster.
I was just a rookie last year and I really didnt know what to expect, so I was kind of the little guy in the background, said Knight. This year I know some of the guys from playing with them, so this year Im going to be a lot more comfortable.
Benning admitted its going to be a difficult challenge for any of the three teenagers to make a Bs roster filled with 18 returning players from last years Stanley Cup winning edition, but the energy and spark of youth might be exactly what the team needs during an expected hangover season.
Either way Benning wasnt going to discount any rookies chances after watching players like Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and Brad Marchand play their way onto opening night rosters with strong training camp performances.
Since the team won the Stanley Cup but we dont know for sure, said Benning when asked the chances of any rookie breaking in with an established group of champions. Were just going to have to go through the process of this camp and main camp. And the one thing about Peter and Claude, if a player deserves to be on the team, then they find a way to get the player on the team. With time, thatll work itself out.