The Bruins’ rookie camp wrapped up its final session at Ristuccia Arena on Thursday morning. The prospects have one more practice on their own at the Garden on Friday, then all but a handful will get to test themselves against the veterans as the club’s main training camp gets under way.
“We’re starting fresh again, everybody is going to be doing the main camp and we’ll see how they perform with the NHL players,” Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning said. “There will be maybe four guys that aren’t going to be at the main camp.”
The decision to keep almost all of the 22 participants in the rookie camp around for the main camp was made after seeing some mixed results in the exhibition games against the New York Islanders prospects. Most of the Bruins youngsters looked good in Monday’s 8-5 win, but there were few highlights in Tuesday’s 7-2 loss.
“We sat and we had a meeting [Wednesday] as a group and we talked about it,” Benning said. “Everybody at different times in the week looked good. The first game we played against the Islanders rookies some guys had some strong games. Even though maybe they weren’t so strong in the second game, we thought they deserved the chance to come to main camp.”
Benning and the rest of the Bruins management are particularly eager to see how a few of the top prospects will fare against the veterans in the coming days. Atop that list is skilled center Ryan Spooner, who surprised many by sticking around until late in camp last year and continued to impress with a four-point night in Monday’s rookie game.
“He’s going to be in camp all week,” Benning said. “He’s gotten stronger from last year, physically he’s stronger. We’ll see how he does with the big group. The NHL guys and the older guys are physically stronger and faster than the group he’s been playing with this week, so we’ll see how far he’s come from last year, but so far he looks good.”
Spooner understood the stakes in the rookie games as he tries to make a case to stick around even longer this year.
“Management is there watching, so those are two games you have to show your stuff in,” Spooner said. “If you don’t perform, you go home. If you perform, you move on to main camp.”
And that move brings its own set of new challenges.
“Obviously practicing with the big club is kind of intimidating to start off,” Spooner said, “but once you’re out there for a little bit you kind of settle in, so it’s good.”
Spooner and fellow 2010 second-round pick Jared Knight may be the only players from this camp with a shot at cracking the big club’s roster this season as jobs will be scarce with the Bruins returning almost their entire lineup intact from last year’s Stanley Cup-winning squad. But that doesn’t mean the main camp won’t be important for the rest of the prospects, including this year’s first-round pick Dougie Hamilton.
“For Dougie, he just needs to go through a camp and see the strength and the speed of NHL players,” Benning said. “He’s involved in a process that there’s no pressure for him. He can just go out there and play his game and learn. We’ll how he does and review where he’s at, but for him it’s going to be a good learning experience.”