Two of the most interesting and impressive forwards of the day were Sean Kuraly and Austin Czarnik. Both are likely fighting for roster spots. The two were notable for largely the same reason; being willing and able to grab pucks around the crease and either put them in the net, or start them out of the zone. Czarnik in particular put a couple shots in the twine the goalies didn’t even have time to react to.

Rob O’Gara was paired with Kevan Miller during drills, and displayed a consistent ability to take pucks from forwards. Including some jobber named Patrice Bergeron.

Matt Grzlecyk was paired with Adam McQuaid during their session. In that time he showed off something I don’t remember noting in the past; a slick and crafty ability to disrupt shots in and a round the crease and get them moving in the right direction. On a couple of rushes he disrupted he showed off soccer feet effortlessly moving the puck from skate to skate to stick. If you’re looking for a defenseman who is solid in his two way game, and stood out today, look no further.

Paul Postma played beside Torey Krug. Postma is coming off a career high in points and games. He looked respectable. He skates well, passed well, and never looked out of place. Despite his 84 points in 74 games in his final season in the WHL, he’s yet to display much offense in either the NHL or AHL.

Some of the forward groupings (not always by position):

  • Bergeron with Marchand & Bjork
  • Beleskey – Ryan Spooner – Ted Purcell
  • Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson -David Backes – Frank Vatrano
  • Sean Kuraly – Zach Senyshyn – Tim Schaller
  • Pastrnak – Krejci – Jake Debrusk
  • Nash – Acciari – Cederic Pare
  • Kenny Agostino – Austin Czarnik – Ryan Fitzgerald

David Backes was in the first session and lead stretches at the post practice stretch. During the first half of the session before ice maintenance he quite frankly did not look good. As practice wore on he stopped tripping, and looked better.

Matt Beleskey looks mechanically more sound than he did at any point after his first injury last year.

Ryan Fitzgerald looked committed to being there, focused and driven, something I couldn’t saw the last time I saw him in a camp.

The four goalies on the ice were Rask, Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban, and Anton Khudobin. You could split them into the pairs by the first and last two and argue quality all day. For my money McIntyre was the best goalie today, and Khudobin did not make the top three. Or even cast a shadow on them.

While it’s an outside chance of him making the team, don’t be surprised if Jesse Gabrielle makes the first or second cut.

From what I saw, and talking to other people at camp, I’d say Frank Vatrano is most in danger of losing a roster spot among the forward to play in Boston last year.

Of the three first round picks from 2015, I was unimpressed by Jakob Zboril in just about every way. Jake DeBrusk never looked out of place, and managed to both steal the puck from, and evade Connor Clifton.

More on Two Man ForeCheck which will be recorded in the evening 9/18.

On the surface splitting up Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron and his longtime co-star on the Boston Bruins top line Brad Marchand is a little crazy. But it might just be time.

With the team going fully into rebuild mode right now, and the likely departure of Zdeno Chara before we see another Cup hoisted, the team needs to do a couple of really important things, really fast. First and foremost is they need to sheppard the careers of players who have already shown NHL level talent. Second they need to mentor and help ripen the players who have yet so shine at the NHL level. Third they have to keep the team reasonably balanced so that players always have a core member of the team on the ice and on the bench. That’s no easy task.

Another factor that might lead to 37 & 63 shifting lines is simply the need to ignite some of the players who may need to be traded. The front office completed the destruction of the Seguin and Hamilton trades, and should look to rebuild their treasure trove of future draft picks. David Backes still has something left to give, and is a good soldier, but I don’t know if this should be where he finishes out his career. Matt Beleskey is another player who might end up elsewhere before his contract expires. Ryan Spooner is the third of the forwards likely to see at least one more home locker room before his career is over. I don’t see the three igniting each other.

One possible combination of the top three lines is:

Vatrano – Bergeron – Bjork

Beleskey – Krejci – Pastrnak

Marchand – Spooner – Backes

I know, the first thing that comes to mind is why isn’t a line with Pastrnak or Marchand listed first? Simple: I order them by centers.

Some would argue that Marchand is being punished by playing with Spooner and Backes. I think in someways this is an opportunity for Marchand to unleash his full offensive potential. Backes is a guy who not very long ago was worthy of being a Selkie nominee at least, and he still retains his defensive prowess, if at a slightly lower pace. While Bergeron is hardly slow, Spooner is fast. And playing full time with a guy who should cross the 40 goal mark this season, he’ll have the perfect opportunity to show exactly what he’s worth for his next contract when he’s playing with not one but two All Star veterans.

The physicality of Belesekey and the pure speed and goal scoring ability of Pastrnak make this a slightly more fleet footed version of lines that featured Lucic with Seguin and Kessel in the past. Krejci hasn’t lost any of his passing ability, and he and Pastrnak have great chemistry.

Bergeron has proven he can help develop any player who actually is NHL  level talent. Vatrano didn’t have a great year last year, but at almost 3 shots per game in his young career, with an unusually low 8.6% shooting last year, it’s almost certain he gets back to the 11-12% range this year, particularly with a top center, and a gifted wing on the other side. Bjork showed all season long at Notre Dame, and for years in international play he’s capable of playing at a high, high level. This would be the opportunity to prove it.

Another possible combination, this assuming Spooner is moved before the season begins:

Pastrnak – Bergeron – Senyshyn

Marchand – Krejci – Bjork

Beleskey – Kurlay – Backes

This would give the team a certified checking line for the first time in a few years, but also a third line that should still pot close to sixty goals, and a checking line with Beleskey and Backes is going to leave other teams battered and bruised. Over the last two seasons the two have averaged about 3 (counted) his per game despite limited ice time, and availability. Backes is tied for 8th among NHL forwards in hits per game in that period, Beleskey is a few slots down tied for 12th.

These are just two permutations of the numerous viable, if not high likelihood possibilities for allowing two veterans to bolster two lines with their two hundred foot game, every shift work ethic, and pure craftiness on the ice. When you work in other players who might well make the team out of camp or get early call ups due to injury. Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, is a player likely to make the team, Riley Nash was played up and down the roster last year, Noel Acciari is quite the useful young player who has been pushed into the lineup whenever there’s a need.

Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik who saw action last year, certainly know what it takes to make it to the big show.  Ryan Fitzgerald has to have a better idea how to be an NHL player than many young men. Jesse Gabriel has all the tools to be an impact player, last year in the WHL he was over a point per game player with 35 goals. And it can’t be overlooked that David Pastrnak is still unsigned, and that the contract dispute could drag into the season, allowing one or more youngsters a shot at ice time that might not ordinarily be available.

Checkout this weeks Two Man ForeCheck and give it a listen while writing your hate mail.

The Warrior Ice Arena is a totally different place to watch the youngsters than the Ice Box in Wilmington.

My first impulse today was to wonder at the fitness level of the first group on the ice. Yes they were hamming it up for the cameras on the ice, but they were also clearly laboring. When guys like Bjork, Gabrielle, and Sherman look a bit slower than normal it i a pretty safe bet Whitesides and crew have been up to their tricks testing and building the fitness of the prospects.

Wiley Sherman continued to eat opposing players alive, in one on one drills they usually didn’t make it over the blueline. He looks to have an even higher percentage of lean mass this year, and he wasn’t exactly fluffy last time I saw him.

Ryan Donato is just polished. He is clearly one of the most talented players, not just one of the oldest.

Oskar Steen is clearly more physically mature than last year, and make four or five passes that drew notice.

Anders Bjork should be your favorite to take a roster spot in Boston this fall of all the players yet to play a professional game. Like Donato he’s fast, he’s agile, and he may have the best shot accuracy of all the forwards outside the NHL/AHL.

Daniel Bukac was their seventh round pick this year, I didn’t need to look up his stats to see him as a defensive minded defenseman. He didn’t seem out of his element playing against the older forwards.

Perhaps the most surprising guy was late invitee James Corcoran, the Walpole High goaltender. Smaller guy, but really, who cares? I liked his ability to hold the post while down, and still extend well forward and uses his stick. Snappy glove too.

Jack Becker might have been feeling the least wear from whatever was going on before practice. Only Senyshyn appeared faster in drills and rushes. Becker skated well, passed solidly.

During the scrimmage Jack Studnicka had a completely filthy, behind the back, through the defenders legs pass to Bjork pass that should rightly have sent everyone in the building to decontamination showers. (Bjork roofed it.)

A late add was Ori Abramson, a big defensive minded defenseman born in Ontario and attending University of Vermont. He’s a little older than most of the prospects but didn’t look out of place. Leans towards a close space and use stick type of defense.

Who is Anders Bjork? One of the newest official members of the Bruins organization. As a college player he is probably a little more likely to start the season in the spoked-P than on Causeway. Even for a player who goes into the college post season there is not the density of games a WHL prospect or even a skater in the USHL would play. Because of that conditioning will be a question in everyone’s mind even if he hits training camp in September and destroys every facet of the physicals. The NHL regular season is twice as long as the most regular season games he’s ever played.

At 5 foot eleven and a hundred and eighty three pounds the Wisconsin born forward is about the same size as longtime Bruins center David Krejci. One of the many products of the United States National Development program. Internationally he’s collected a U18 Gold medal, and a U20 Bronze. The Bruins picked up the man with a very well filled out hockey pedigree at 146 in 2014. Only two players taken after him have played in the NHL to date.

What’s to like about him?

Hands and feet. He can skate, he’s got a more than respectable shot, and he passes well. He has also increased his output every single season to date.

What should you worry about?

I wanted about a dozen Notre Dame games over the last two years, and that is not a team that has a strongly structured style of play. The team was typified in my viewings with strong play by individuals. While Cassidy isn’t Julien, to play in Boston he’s going to have to adapt to the system pretty quickly.

What won’t you see?

Lots of penalties, he’s not a particularly physical player, and while he doesn’t initiate a lot of hitting or extras, he also doesn’t let it draw him into stupid retaliatory penalties.

Projection:

Middle six production. Somewhere between 18 and 26 goals a season, and from 55 to 70 points is a pretty reasonable expectation if he sticks in the NHL.