The Bruins wrapped up their sixth annual development camp Monday at Ristuccia Arena, closing the five-day camp with more power-skating drills in the morning followed by a final scrimmage.
The White team prevailed 4-2 in that one to sweep the scrimmages that closed out the final two days of the camp. But while that little taste of game-like situations may have excited the large crowd on hand, the real purpose of the camp is to give the organization’s young prospects a taste of what professional hockey is all about and help prepare them for the real thing when the main training camp opens in September.
“The reason for us to be here was to get your foot in the door and see what a pro camp is like and what the Boston Bruins are like,” said goalie Malcolm Subban, who participated in his first camp just a week after the Bruins selected him in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. “We got a pretty good taste of what the [training] camp is going to be like.”
The Bruins also got to see how the youngsters responded to the challenges presented to them, and Boston’s management team came away impressed.
“Generally speaking, [they’re] bigger and faster, so generally speaking positive,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said of his impressions of this year’s camp. “The younger crew, like this year’s draft, I was happy with. You very rarely come away from these camps with a negative feeling because it’s all potential.
“Malcolm I thought acquitted himself well,” Chiarelli added. “[Matt] Grzelcyk played well, but these guys are three, four, five years away.”
Not everyone in the camp is that far from making an impact at the NHL level. Dougie Hamilton, a defenseman taken ninth overall in 2011, fellow blueliner Torey Krug, who played two games for Boston at the end of last season, and forwards Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner, who scored both goals for the Black team on Monday, are expected to compete for spots on the big club this season.
“Those guys, I call them the usual suspects, are progressing,” Chiarelli said. “There’ll be guys that will challenge in our training camp. I think the Spooners and the Knights are going to challenge, obviously Dougie’s going to challenge.”
But not until after meeting the challenges of this week’s camp. The Bruins even shook things up a bit this year to keep the youngsters on their toes. They didn’t reveal much of the schedule of activities in advance, and moved the fitness testing from the first day to the second to last day on Sunday.
“The Sextons, the Crosses, the guys that have been here four or five years, they look at the schedule and know what to expect,” Chiarelli said, referring to Clarkson University forward Ben Sexton and Boston College defenseman Tommy Cross. “So this year going in we didn’t want to disclose a lot of the schedule. Usually you have your testing, which is a dreaded thing, right away, and then you have your team building, which is a hard, arduous physical exercise later on and they kind of prepare themselves around that, so we wanted to keep them off balance a little bit.”
Even with the changes, the returning campers felt more confident having gone through the program in the past.
“I thought I definitely felt more comfortable than last year,” Hamilton said. “I had more fun with it this year and I’m looking forward to [training] camp.”
The first-timers gained confidence as the camp wore on as well.
“The first part of camp when you can’t even hold on to your itinerary and forgetting things, Mom’s not here to pick up the stuff for you,” assistant general manager Don Sweeney said. “[Subban] literally just went from the excitement of being drafted last weekend to being thrown into this environment, which could catch anyone off guard, especially when you’re 17, 18 years old.’
Subban proved a quick study, understanding immediately what the Bruins wanted to see from him and taking advantage of the opportunity to learn a little about the pro game and the Bruins’ system.
“They want to see your work ethic and see all areas of your game and what you need to improve on,” Subban said. “It wasn’t too much, but it’s a good camp and it’s just good to get your foot in the door and get to know the Boston Bruins and what they’re all about.”
That response is just what the Bruins were hoping for.
“That’s the pro mentality that we want to start to seep in,” Sweeney said. “We realize that you can’t get that overnight. You have to go through it and be around other guys. They’ll see guys like [Jared] Knight and Tommy [Cross] that are further along in that process and all of the sudden it’s, ‘Woo, that’s how I’m supposed to react.'”
The Bruins hopefuls reacted well to the challenges they faced on and off the ice the past five days. Now they will try to apply those lessons to the real thing when the main training camp opens in a couple months.
Photo via Twitter/Dougie Hamilton