WILMINGTON, Mass. — When the Bruins brought back the bulk of their veterans up front this offseason, the young prospects in the system knew they would be facing long odds in making the team this year.
But that doesn't mean there's anyone in this week's development camp giving up on their dreams of reaching the NHL as soon as possible. That's especially true for the pair of forwards closest to making those dreams a reality.
Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner entered the Bruins organization together in 2010 when they were each drafted in the second round, Knight going 32nd overall with one of the picks Boston acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade and Spooner taken with Boston's own pick at No. 45.
Both have impressed ever since, putting together strong showings in the last two training camps, improving each season in the OHL and even getting a taste of pro action in Providence. The next step is to make a bid for a spot with the big club, but that path may be blocked by the re-signings of Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell.
"Yeah, it's going to be hard for them," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "What we told them going into this camp is that you're going to have an opportunity to make the team. There's obviously some that are more likely than others to have that opportunity, but what we've done in the past and what we will do in the future is that, if they knock our socks off, we will find room for them."
That message appears to have hit home, as both Knight and Spooner remained upbeat about their long-term futures in Boston while participating in their third development camps this week at Ristuccia Arena.
"There's always opportunities," said Knight, who had 52 points in 52 games in his final season with London last year. "It's just about going into camp and making a really good impression and doing your best. I have seven to eight weeks to really buckle down and get in tip-top shape. Any training camp you go into, it's going to be tough to crack [the lineup]. That's the name of the game: competition."
Spooner likewise thinks he'll still get a fair shot to land a job with the club if he can perform well enough in the main camp this fall.
"I've always been a firm believer that if you go to camp and you earn your spot, then you'll get it," said Spooner, who had 66 points in 57 games in his final OHL campaign with Kingston and Sarnia. "I think no matter what, if you're on a team that has a lot of spots or if a team that has one or none, at the end of the day if you go to camp and you earn your spot, they'll make room for you. That's what they talk about here."
Still, Spooner did admit that it was hard to ignore all the re-signings this summer and the potential openings disappearing with them.
"I mean, yeah, sometimes it's like, 'Oh, they re-signed this guy, this guy, this guy and that guy,' but they're such a deep team here," Spooner said. "You can't really put too much pressure on yourself to make it when they have as much skill as they do and as much depth as they do. Obviously, it's realistic that I'll be in the American Hockey League next year, and that's a great league, too. I'm looking forward to that."
Spooner and Knight aren't going to pout if they have to pay their dues in the minors, but they also aren't going to give up on their goal of reaching the NHL as soon as possible. And that's fine with the Bruins.
"There's nothing wrong with having a little bit of confidence and thinking you should be there," said Providence coach Bruce Cassidy, who is helping to run the development camp. "As long as it doesn't affect the attitude in the locker room or how they approach and prepare, I think it's good to have a chip on your shoulder in the minors, because not everyone makes it out of there. So to have that mentality is a good thing as long as it doesn't cross the line to becoming selfish or negative when you don't make it up."
Spooner and Knight have shown no hint of any attitude problems. They're just determined to make the decision to send them to Providence this fall as difficult as possible, no matter how many veterans may be listed on the depth chart ahead of them.