Boston Bruins development camp ended Friday, and it was a great opportunity for the organization to not only evaluate its prospects’ talent, but also educate them on what it takes to be an NHL player off the ice in regards to training, nutrition, etc.
Thirty-six players attended, including all 10 picks from the 2015 NHL Draft. One takeaway from the four-day camp is that the Bruins have done a pretty good job of replenishing a prospect pool that lacked depth and high-end skill at times in recent seasons.
Here are some observations and notes from camp:
— The display of offensive skill and smooth skating at camp was quite encouraging. Since the 2004-05 lockout and the rule changes that ensued, the NHL has become a game built more on speed and skill. That trend is only going to continue, and the Bruins are set up to succeed in this environment with the amount of highly skilled players they have drafted in recent seasons.
Players such as Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen and others impressed in camp and will soon bring a dynamic offensive skill set to Boston.
— Heinen ranked third in freshman scoring last season with 45 points in 40 games for the University of Denver. He’s going back to Denver for his sophomore campaign, but he’s not too far away from making an impact at the NHL level. Heinen is a strong, highly skilled right winger, and he drew positive reviews from Bruins coaches, including Jay Pandolfo, all week.
“He had a tremendous year,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. “… It’s another area you have to look at. That might be a player that’s accelerated (the process).”
Heinen has played some center for Denver, but Sweeney said he prefers him on the wing.
— Donato was one of the best players throughout camp. The 2014 second-round draft pick had an up-and-down 2014-15 campaign and played for four different teams. Donato showed great strength and skill in the battle drills and around the front of the net, and he also scored twice in Friday’s scrimmage. He’ll play at Harvard next season.
— Senyshyn came into the camp under a microscope as someone who was selected higher in the 2015 draft than many predicted he would be. He wasn’t fazed at all, though, and showed off his power-skating game and scoring ability with two goals and an assist in the scrimmage.
“There was a spotlight put on Zachary by several people earmarking him as the pick of Dougie Hamilton, that people were probably excited to see him,” Sweeney said.
“I don’t think he disappointed. He’s a really young player with a tremendous upside, and we’re happy to have him and we’re going to work with him from a development standpoint and see him become the player we hope he can become.
“I think he stood up in front of it. Some of the things I had read — he knew some of the attention that had been thrown his way, but I think any first rounder sort of feels that. That attention being thrown their way. They’re excited one minute, and then have a barrage of questions that sort of ask ‘why?’ He’s just going to go about his business. He’s a young kid and you love to see that enthusiasm from a player with his talent and the position he was in to score the goals he did in a somewhat reduced role on a really good team — I think there’s upside there and we’re excited about it.”
— B’s captain Zdeno Chara is still a first-pairing caliber D-man at 38 years old, but it’s never too early to plan for his retirement. The Bruins have a few blueliners with size, skill and above-average skating ability who can help fill the void when the time comes. Those players include Rob O’Gara (6-4, 208 pounds) and Brandon Carlo (6-5, 196).
Jakub Zboril, a 2015 first-round pick, signed his entry-level contract Wednesday and showed the skating, poise with the puck and physicality that made him a top prospect in the 2015 draft class.
“July 15 was the deadline for signing a player in that category,” Sweeney said of Zboril’s deal.
— Center Joonas Kemppainen didn’t participate in camp because of a hamstring injury suffered in Finland two weeks ago, but Sweeney said the injury “shouldn’t be a problem at all” for training camp.
— It’s difficult to properly evaluate goaltenders at these types of camps. The defense isn’t high-caliber, and there are a lot of odd-man rushes.
That said, Zane McIntyre looked good all week. He was well-positioned, showed good technique and made a number of quality saves from the high-danger area during the scrimmage. It was McIntyre’s sixth development camp, the most of any player in the event’s history, and he’s ready to compete for the Bruins backup goalie job when training camp begins in September.
“Somebody has to step up and grab that role,” Sweeney said. “And Zane’s confident that he wants to, and I’m sure Malcolm is, and I’m sure Jeremy is as well. And that’s healthy. It’s a bit of an unknown for us, so that’s an area that I’m going to continue to look at, whether it’s a little more experience or whether or not you do allow a person to emerge in that regard.”
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@985TheSportsHub
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