WILMINGTON, Mass. — Throughout his career, David Warsofsky has put up big numbers in every category, but the only figures most scouts see are the more modest figures in the columns under height and weight.
Warsofsky stands just 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, but the Marshfield, Mass., native has big aspirations in his first camp with the Bruins. While he admits the preconceptions that people make about his size can be frustrating, proving the doubters wrong has also driven him to success on the ice.
"When I was younger it was [frustrating]," Warsofsky said after Thursday's rookie camp practice at Ristuccia Arena. "But luckily enough I've been successful at every level I've played at. I'm hoping to bring that to the next level in the NHL. When people say that [he can't play defense at his size], I kind of use it as motivation more than anything. I've been hearing it my whole life, so I'm kind of used to it by now."
The diminutive defenseman overcame the first hurdle on Thursday when he earned an invitation to the club's main training camp, where he'll test his skills against the veterans in the coming days.
"I'm excited," Warsofsky said. "Any time you get to skate with an NHL club and get a chance to try to prove yourself and make a club like that, it's kind of a surreal situation. I'm looking forward to it."
Warsofsky, 21, has already had a taste of pro hockey, playing 10 games with Providence at the end of last season after signing with the Bruins following the conclusion of his junior season at Boston University. Warsofsky did not look out of place in the AHL, collecting three assists and a plus-3 rating, and that experience helped prepare him for his first pro camp.
"I think it did a ton for me," said Warsofsky, who finished his BU career with 22-46-68 totals and a plus-32 rating in 113 games. "I wasn't there that long, but just to get some games in there and get a feel for what it's like to play professional hockey, the level that it's played at and the lifestyle. It's obviously a change from college, so in learning how to prepare myself and how to get ready for the next level, it really helped."
Warsofsky showed how prepared he was with a solid effort in the Bruins' first rookie game against the New York islanders' prospects on Monday, collecting a goal and two assists in an 8-5 win. Tuesday's second game on Long Island didn't go as well, but Warsofsky was far from alone in his struggles as the Bruins lost 7-2.
"The first game against the Islanders he was excellent," Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning said. "All the things we talked about that he could do — skate, move the puck, jump up in the play — he did all those things. He looked really good. The second game he played well, but didn't get the results. We expect him to keep doing the things he is good at and we'll see how he fares against the NHL group."
Warsofsky contributed offensively in that first game, but he was just as proud of his defensive work. Battling down low against bigger NHL forwards will be his biggest challenge in fulfilling his NHL dreams, but it's an aspect of his game he has worked diligently at improving.
"I think with my size everyone is always going to question my defensive play, so every shift I go out there I take pride in what I do in the defensive zone," Warsofsky said. "I kind of let my natural talent take over offensively and then focus a little more on the things you not so good at, so I really focus on the defensive zone and getting better at that end."
The Bruins know that Warsofsky is never going to manhandle opposing forwards in front, but they feel that he can compensate for his lack of size with his speed and smarts and still be effective in his own zone while contributing to the transition game.
"Physically at his size, it's going to be hard to knock guys off the puck," Benning said. "What he's real good at is he is real smart and he has a real good stick, knocking pucks down, having his stick in the lanes, anticipating where pucks are going to go to. And his angles are real good and he's good at keeping guys boxed out in front of him. Although he might not run guys over, he's a smart defender. But his bread and butter is going to be his skating and his ability to handle the puck and transition the puck up ice."
With almost everyone back on defense from last year's Stanley Cup-winning squad, it won't be easy for Warsofsky or any of the club's young prospects to a spot on the Bruins blue line this season. If Warsofsky can earn a spot in Boston in the coming years, he'll be a rarity for more than just his size. He's also bidding to be the first Bay State native to wear the spoked-B since Hull's Bobby Allen played 18 games in the 2007-08 season.
Warsofsky was originally drafted by St. Louis in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, but was acquired by Boston in 2010 for forward Vladimir Sobotka. The fact that he's now getting his chance to pursue his NHL dreams in his hometown just adds to his motivation to make it.
"It's exciting," Warsofsky said. "For me it's really exciting being a local guy and hopefully one day wear the Bruins jersey."