Young Bruins impress in developmental camp

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Young Bruins impress in developmental camp

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON It was a brief respite to be sure, but little more than a month after capturing the Stanley Cup the Bruins were back on the ice at their practice facility in Ristuccia Arena.

It wasnt the Cup-winning Bs, of course. They have scattered to the four corners of the earth for the next six weeks before they have to return for training camp in September. But the baby Bs have taken their place.

First-round pick Dougie Hamilton took his first twirls in a Bruins uniform, promising forwards Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner returned a year bigger, stronger and determined to make a push for a roster spot, and Bs fans got their first look at the man they call Koko 2011 second-round draft pick and Russian winger Alexander Khokhlachev.

Knight and Spooner showed off the sizzling wrist shots that caught the eyes of the Bruins staff last fall during training camp, and Knight in particular looked like hes packed on some muscle for an important training camp. The 2010 second round pick has even taken up triathlons this summer as a way to vary his conditioning and exercise while getting ready for a run at a Bs roster spot.

Knight, 19, showed he can take the puck toward the cage with force, and the 5-foot-11, 202-pounder smashed into goalie Michael Hutchinson in the biggest collision on the ice during the entire Thursday afternoon practice session.

Your hopes are that everybody gets away healthy, first of all, said Bs assistant general manager Don Sweeney. Obviously Jared drives to the net and its probably typical. I was talking to Doug and Marc Cantin, two guys in the OHL, and it wasnt any surprise to them that it was Knight who ran into Hutch Michael Hutchinson. But Mikes fine and Jareds not going to change his game.

"I think overall we have fresh faces in here, we have some older guys who are returning -- and you hope that you blend that together right away. Maybe some of the older guys kind of, you know, give them a little heads-up because some of these kids are coming in here wide-eyed. You tell them that the Bruins are here to learn about you, youre here to learn about the Bruins and how we do things, and then learn about yourself and where you need to go between now and September. Wherever youre going to go play we want you to be a sponge throughout the course of the week. There are a lot of teaching moments that happen throughout the course of this week that you should really file away and learn from.

Hamilton drew the biggest crowd around his locker stall immediately after the first day of practice, but despite all the fanfare, its pretty clear he knows theres a long road of development ahead of him. He showed off the smooth skating ability and the powerful shot, but he said that theres plenty to do before hes ready to make a run at an NHL roster spot.

I definitely have to get stronger. Ive grown a lot in the last few years in my bantam year I was 5-foot-9, 145-pounds and that was four or five years ago and get used to that, said Hamilton. There are times when youre a little uncoordinated, and Im just trying to fill out into my body. There are a lot of college guys here and Im a little undeveloped while being one of the youngest guys here. But Im happy for my own personal goals and what Ive done.

You learn about yourself. You learn about what you need to improve on. I think the coaches are going to help me out, and show me some things that I can incorporate and work on for the rest of the summer. Thats what Im trying to do.

While its always difficult to gauge defensemen during development camp drills, Sweeney liked what he was of the youngster as he makes first impressions with the Boston staff this week.

Hes a big boy. He moves really well for a kid thats 6-foot-4. I like his overall approach to the game. He looks like he wants to get up ice and is conscientious about his one-on-one play, said Sweeney. Its a small sample size, obviously, but based on all of our games we watched him play, hes a well-rounded player that has a lot of room for continued development. Were really excited to have him.

There is plenty of excitement about the entire next wave of Bs players represented at the development camp this week, and thats big news considering 18 members of the defending Stanley Cup champs will be returning for another kick at the Cup next season.

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

Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

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Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

The improvement plan has become as clear as it’s going to be for the Bruins this offseason.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney locking up Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million deal this week and vowing to sign Torey Krug as well, the Bruins defensemen corps is going to look awfully similar to last season’s misbegotten group.

Almost identical, it would seem.

Sure, Sweeney said on Wednesday that the Bruins are actively seeking out “a transitional defenseman” that’s presumably a little better than 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles, and can be paired with Zdeno Chara as a top duo for next season. It’s the No. 1 priority on the Bruins offseason shopping list just as it was last season once they shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for draft picks and were instead saddled with a fearsome, crippling black hole at the top of their organizational D-man charts.

The trade market has been set to a degree by the Erik Gudbranson trade from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with Jim Benning giving up a Grade-A center prospect in Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for the 24-year-old top-four defenseman. Per a hockey source with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins were not involved in any talks for the towering Gudbranso. It sounded like the Panthers and Canucks were pretty locked in with each other on making a deal.

That’s an unfortunate product of Boston not being able to match up with the available center prospect that might have interested Florida and having dealt some of those 2016 draft picks on fruitless deadline rental deals for Lee Stempniak and Liles.

So, how difficult will it be to land Kevin Shattenkirk, or Jacob Trouba, or Sami Vatanen, or Tyson Barrie, or any other mobile blueliner able to play big minutes, move pucks and survive against the other team’s best offensive players while being sheltered defensively by Zdeno Chara?

“Time will tell on that one, you know? Either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. We’re going to be aggressive,” said Sweeney. “We certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. But we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

The Bruins had better hope it’s a miracle-working puck-mover that they bring to Boston because otherwise they are on course for bringing back the same old sorry usual suspects from last season. Miller and Adam McQuaid will be taking up a combined $5.25 million on the salary cap, Krug will have a salary in the range of $5 million per season after watching the B’s largesse in the Miller deal and both Chara and Seidenberg will trudge on as proud, aging warriors well on the back end of their careers after outstanding service in Boston.

That means many defenders, including Joe Morrow and Colin Miller, return. Defense was the clear weakness on the team, which finished 19th in the NHL after being in the bottom third of the league pretty much all season. It was inarguably the worst defensive group of Claude Julien’s 10-year tenure with the Bruins and had major difficulties in all areas ranging from tape-to-tape passes, to coverage breakdowns and good, old-fashioned lost battles in all of the danger areas.

So, with the plan to add one high-caliber “transitional defenseman” already laid out, it’s clear the B’s belief is that will be enough to substantially improve things on the ice.

At least that’s the theory before the bullets start flying next season and Sweeney gave a few perfunctory lines about the team improving in every area.  

“This is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so,” said Sweeney. “Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch [Cassidy], through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table.

“[It’s] how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our [coaching] staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.”

So that’s the plan, folks. The big move of the summer is getting a defenseman they badly need, filling in a few roster spots, signing a good deal of their own players and then hoping for a better result next time around.

Isn’t there some kind of line about insanity and expecting different results with the same cast of characters year in and year out? 

 

Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

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Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while still laughing at the #TeamFrich movement.

*Dave Lozo says that the decision by Mike Sullivan to play Marc-Andre Fleury could still come back to haunt the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Miracle on Ice goaltender Jim Craig marvels at the evolution of USA Hockey from the Miracle days to the current system that just keeps on producing top talent.

*Mike from Woburn hates the Kevan Miller contract almost as much as I do.

*Speaking of the Kevin Miller deal, here’s a scenario where the big overpay for Miller might help them land another talented young player.

*In other hockey news, the Vancouver Canucks landed legitimate top-4 defenseman Erik Gudbranson while the ink was drying on the Kevan Miller contract.

*Chris Phillips is expected to announce his retirement from the Ottawa Senators after a long career in Ottawa as a defensive warrior.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough says some tough decisions await the St. Louis Blues after dropping the conference finals to the San Jose Sharks.

*The San Jose media has decreed that it was worth spending a first-round pick for Martin Jones after he helped carry them to the Cup Final. For the Bruins it means that their first round pick will be No. 29 or No. 30 in the first round, so whoop-de-do for that.

*For something completely different: 21 scientists say that Tom Brady is right and the NFL is wrong about Deflategate.