Aside from David Pastrnak crumbling under light contact from a not very physical defenseman, camp was largely an exhibition of which pairings and trios acquired chemistry the fastest, and which people in the stands could survive the chill.

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at Bruins Training Camp 09/20/14

One of the more intriguing and yet low key battles is between former Dartmouth College forward Matt Lindblad and Michigan native, London Knight alumni Jared Knight. The two were paired against each other on day one and engaged in spirited but professional battles through drills and rushes. Day two, more of the same. It’s pretty close. Knight is more skilled. Knight’s shot has a better, more concealed release, and is a bit truer to the net. Lindblad is two years older, and has had better health over the last two years. Whoever comes out ahead in camp, team, players and fans win.

From the rest of camp:

Trotman: Ate Villie Leino a couple times on a drills and looked both good by himself and when paired with Bartkowski.

Khokhlochev & Eriksson watch Breen and others drill below the faceoff dots.

Khokhlochev & Eriksson watch Casto #65 and others drill below the faceoff dots.

Caron: Better day today.

Krejci and Caron eye up goalies and defensemen.

Krejci and Caron eye up goalies and defensemen.

Khokholachev: Deceptively agile and speedy, good hands, went around the enormous Breen and his reach to get off a shot with zero warning.

Alexander Khokhlochev watching drills.

Alexander Khokhlochev watching drills.

Bartkowski; Arguably the best defenseman at skating backwards in camp. Good speed and balance while he does it allowing him to turn in either direction as needed.

Griffith: Looked like he’d been playing with Bergeron and Marchand for a year during drills.

Subban: The new pads were repeatedly referred to as “Turco like” by various fans watching.

Malcolm Subban in his 2014 pads

Malcolm Subban in his 2014 pads

 

Morrow: Made a really nice backhand pass to McQuaid while both were moving at pace.

Matt Lindblad #52 and Ethan Werek #78 leave eyeball prints all over the rink.

Matt Lindblad #52 and Ethan Werek #78 leave eyeball prints all over the rink.

Lucic: Much more engaged today, accidentally took out both defenders during a two on two drill allowing Kelly to go five hole on the goalie.

Seidenberg #44, Cross #56, Lucic #17

Seidenberg #44, Cross #56, Lucic #17

Simonelli: Interesting resume, four years at Wisconsin, and some time on the US National Development team. both yesterday and today he was frequently paired with Seidenberg for drills.

Hamilton is pretty frequently seen watching the other session, usually while trying to hide.

Hamilton is pretty frequently seen watching the other session, usually while trying to hide.

Ferlin; Out-muscled Paille to get to a puck despite Paille having the inside position and a lower center of gravity. Did more than one drill with Lucic and looked like he could easily be part of more than one NHL team we could name.

Fraser #25 and Soderberg #34 size up the competition

Fraser #25 and Soderberg #34 size up the competition

Robbins: Made a really neat kick of a puck from the heel of his skate to the curve of his blade, made one or two other plays with his feet.

Robin, Batman

Day 1 is here.

The best news is that just about all the guys were healthy. Adam McQuaid not only moved without restriction, he lacked the pain lines and strain fans had grown used to seeing on him. Chris Kelly looked to be not just back to preinjury form but possibly a half step faster. Dennis Seidenberg held nothing back and looked in one viewing to be back to preinjury for as well.

The pair skated together for at least one drill at Bruins training camp.

The pair skated together for at least one drill at Bruins training camp.

The good news is I think all the guys battling for a job in the NHL this year who were with the club last year, look like they came to win the job now. Brian Ferlin and Seth Griffith showed up and looked good, Jared Knight looks to have slimmed down and no longer looks like an NFL free safety, perhaps most surprisingly Simon Gagne looked not just healthy, but like he was still capable of holding down a top six position, at least with one viewing.

#54 is six foot five or so

0 #54 is six foot five or so

Perhaps the biggest positive surprise other than Gagne looking good was Matt Fraser. During one on one battle drills he was paired up against a reinvigorated Zdeno Chara and held his own both taking and receiving checks, while staying with the puck, or pressuring Chara when the Captain had the puck.

Bergeron and Julien plotting, planning and talking hockey,

Bergeron and Julien plotting, planning and talking hockey,

The bad news is who wasn’t on the ice; Greg Campbell. He was watching from rink side. Torey Krug and Riley Smith are somehow still unsigned. And at the bottom of the list was the unsurprising lackluster performance of two players; Jordan Caron and Ville Lieno. About the only positive to Leino being there was he did manage to get off a few shots from the seat of his pants or knees, which he ended on pretty regularly as everyone including Caron seemed to drop him with ease. Caron for his part looks to have lost a good deal of muscle, and was moving poorly, as in Recchi in his last three months before retirement poorly, short choppy steps and all.

#44 Showing all signs of good health.

#44 Showing all signs of good health.

One heartening bit for long term prospect watchers is that Tommy Cross looked the most quick and agile I can recall seeing him. While he’s got a whole mountain range to climb before getting a sniff at the NHL, he’s moving well enough not to be an instant liability when he hits the NHL stage.

#50 Knight and #52 Lindblad, two of the Providence Bruins competing for a Boston roster spot.

#50 Knight and #52 Lindblad, two of the Providence Bruins competing for a Boston roster spot.

As things stand right now, the Boston Bruins are a quarter million dollars over the cap having gone out and signed Jordan Caron to another NHL contract. If you allow for the Marc Savard contract being put on the long term injured reserve day one of the season that leaves about $3,700,000 to spend. Torey Krug and Reilly Smith are unsigned and there is no sign the players will be members of the Boston Bruins in October when the season opens.

Assuming no trades, major injuries or retirements before the season lets look at each line and pairing.

The Bergeron could see the steady tandem of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand check in for another season together with the right wing who scored the most goals for the Providence Bruins; Seth Griffith. Griffith put up 20 goals in 69 games as first year pro for Coach Cassidy last year.

The Krejci line, or given time on it arguably the Lucic line, would see the return of left wing Milan Lucic and center David Krejci, with yet another winger to work with. This year it would at least be a player familiar with the Boston system. Loui Eriksson is the only logical choice for this spot.

The third line becomes a writhing knot of enigmas, questions, and mysteries. If we assume Chris Kelly is healthy enough to start the season does he go back to center? For now, lets put him at left wing. Carl Soderberg looked his best last year as the season tipped over into the playoffs, at that point he was paying center but could get shuffled back to wing. For now we’ll write his name firmly in the center spot. That leaves the right wing open. With a look at maturity, size and a ability to play a third line checking position in the Claude Julien system, one of the best picks for the open position is Brian Ferlin.

The former Merlot line has lost something, but retains Daniel Paille at left wing, and Greg Campbell at center. Jordan Caron is the likely right wing. If Caron fills in more of the penalty killing duty, this would allow Campbell and Paille to take extra shift with other lines in the event of injuries, illness or under-performance. The Sangria Line is likely set.

At defense we’re looking at a first pairing that has Zdeno Chara and a rotating cast on the other end of the blueline. If it is Hamilton, that puts the best offensive defensemen on the same pairing, for now Seidenberg can be penciled in.

If we put a second pairing of Hamilton and Boychuck we’ve got a solid, if unfamiliar pair would can certainly be counted on for 19-22 minutes a night.

The third pairing will become a rotation of Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski. Thanks to the deep affection the injury bug holds for the Bruins defense, either here or in Providence the three have a working familiarity with each other, and as parings that will see 12-17 minutes most nights, it isn’t as important as upper pairings.

Now for the problems:

  • The most experienced right wing on the team, has never played that position consistently in Claude Julien’s rigorous system.
  • The other three right wings have all of their NHL experience concentrated in Jordan Caron. This is the same Jordan Caron who has been displaced in the lineup over the years by Zach Hamill, Brian Rolston, Carter Camper, Jamie Tardiff, Craig Cunningham, and never showed more value head to head than Shawn Thornton.
  • The defense as a whole is slow. Hamilton is hands down the swiftest, and then its a question of Miller versus Chara. Given how speedy teams like Montreal, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Carolina are this strikes anyone with a lick of sense as disastrous.
  • With the offense taking a step back, and the defense taking at best, a step sideways it is unlikely the team is as strong overall as last year.

The observant will have noted I didn’t mention a 13th forward. Given that promoting Ferlin and Griffith brings the team to $2.1m short of the cap, and the fact that their will be injuries at some point, there needs to be some flexibility to bring up one or two players to fill those injuries. Despite the front offices’s seeming love of David Pastrnak, he also isn’t here on the roster for a number of reasons. One is simply that his cap hit is higher than any of the other wingers who are currently signed and at his size, its questionable if he’ll make it through camp onto the roster on merit.

There is a case to be made for putting Pastrnak on the roster this fall that has nothing to do with how he does at camp, but that isn’t the point of this article. Realistically, even allowing for higher speed than Griffith or Ferlin, Pastrnak has arguably not played at a level as high as the AHL, he certainly hasn’t played anything like the length of an NHL season. Having played 36 games last year, the jump to an 82 game season is likely to hit him harder than it does most college players who leave school larger and stronger.

If a thirteenth forward is carried, Ryan Spooner, is likely in the mix, or might entirely displace whoever might otherwise win the 3rd line wing. If Spooner plays there pushing Soderberg to one wing and Kelly to the other, seeing him get reps with wingers from the top two lines wouldn’t be a big surprise. You could also argue for a more physical presence in the lineup and slide Bobby Robbins into the space vacated by Shawn Thronton and possibly pushing Caron to the third line or more likely the pressbox.

A quiet camp session with a few drills and scrimmages. The players had shuttle runs before getting on the ice. Some of the players seemed sharper today, a few others seemed to be wearing.

Adam Morrison had his best day in the net today, controlling rebounds along with the rest of his game.

Matthew Lindblad shows some smooth movement, made a couple real nice cross ice passes and is well aware of where other players are on the ice.

#85 Mitchell Dempsey #79 Matthew Lindblad #72 Chris Casto

#85 Mitchell Dempsey
#79 Matthew Lindblad
#72 Chris Casto

Zane Gotheberg, as he reminded me this was his fourth development camp, the first happening when he was just 17 , is best described in two words: crisp, consistent. Early in the camp or late, the beginning or middle of a session and its the same story.

#80 Brian Ferlin #83 Seth Griffith #88 Matt Grzlecyk

#80 Brian Ferlin
#83 Seth Griffith
#88 Matt Grzlecyk

Matt Grzelcyk showed more physicality than last year, also scored on a nifty backhand roofer.

Wiley Sherman hustles up ice

Wiley Sherman hustles up ice

Chris Casto reminds me of defensemen like Matt Greene of the Los Angeles Kings and Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins.

#81 Malcolm Subban in goal #82 Alex Cord #68 Colton Hargrove #90 Casey Bailey

#81 Malcolm Subban in goal
#82 Alex Cord
#66 Colton Hargrove
#90 Casey Bailey (Number obscured)

Wiley Sherman is a raw big body who will probably project to be about 225-230 for regular NHL play.

#50 Linus Arnesson #79 Matthew Lindblad

#50 Linus Arnesson
#79 Matthew Lindblad

Malcom Subban addressed the low points of his game between last year and his visibly in camp, and even more so in the jump in his stats. Interestingly he had three assists in the regular season, and one in seventeen playoff games and you don’t hear much about his puck handling ability.

Linus Arnesson apparently no one told him European defensemen aren’t supposed to play physically, or if they did he probably knocked them down three or four times.

Development camp is fun to watch because you get to see what the coaches and scouts see in players that might never show on the ice. Having been to camp the past several years I like larger groups than this better. With the larger groups there’s a wider spectrum of talent, and you can point to individual standouts much easier. I also find it is easier to concentrate on players. I also think that with the larger groups the players go at it a little hard trying to stand out.

Today was the third day of Bruins development camp and started off with puck handling drills. Griffith, Grzelcyk and Blidh stood out, but the drills weren’t all that easy. Three on one drills were another big part of the morning. Three forwards russing the net against one defender. The goales were all sharp, and the three defensemen who did the best at containing the forwards were O’Gara, Casto and Grzelcyk.

Zane Gothberg in net  Brian Ferlin beside the net.

Zane Gothberg in net
Brian Ferlin beside the net.

Malcolm Subban’s athleticism is pretty impressive, I’m hard pressed to thnk of any goalie who exceeds him by a wide margin. Subbans’s explosiveness is much like Jonathan Quicks, if lacking several years of NHL polish.

Malcolm Subban in net Casey Bailey taking the shot.

Malcolm Subban in net
Casey Bailey taking the shot.

Anthony Camara has shown the same sort of ability to be a complete player that landed him a spot on the Canadian World Junior team this year.

I ran into the parents of one of the campers after the scrimage, nice people, family can tell you a lot about a person.

As with most development camps day one was getting everyone’s feet wet. While some of these young men haven’t skated in weeks, a few managed to stand out.

Anthony Camara’s puck handling ability is far in excess of his first trip to camp. Since last time we saw him he made the Canadian World Junior Championship team, went a point per game in the playoffs for the Barrie Colts, and in general continued to be a menace on the ice.

Bruins development camp 7/10 Left to Right: #53 Ryan Fitzgerald, #78 Derek Docken, #80 Brian Ferlin, #82 Alex Cord, #64 Anton Bligh.  In net: #60 Zane Gothberg

Bruins development camp 7/10
Left to Right:
#53 Ryan Fitzgerald, #78 Derek Docken, #80 Brian Ferlin, #82 Alex Cord, #64 Anton Bligh.
In net: #60 Zane Gothberg

Anton Blidh is in his first camp for the Bruins and showed off a quick, hard shot on day one.

Brian Ferlin spent the school year at Cornell holding down the second spot in scoring on his team, and playing in more games than his freshman season. Smooth, purposeful movements with a clear confidence on the ice.

Alex Cord an invitee from the Mississauga Steelheads opened the door for physicality throwing the first, and loudest hit of the morning.

Matt Benning, while it is hard to judge defensemen at these camps it is obvious that Benning who outscored five other defensemen on the his Clark Cup USHL championship team came to camp very fit and notably poised. This fall Benning is off to Northeastern, and the man who will be coaching him spoke quite highly of Matt and his season.

Zane Gothberg watching Gotherberg in net is a lot of fun. He’s very precise in his movements. When he moves there’s no flailing to stop, when the puck hits his equipment he doesn’t have to search for the puck he just puts his hand down or takes control of the puck with the stick. Backwards, sideways or forwards he seems to always end up exactly where he needs to be.

Off Ice Notes:

Don Sweeny said the team expects 2012 1st round pick Malcolm Subban to turn pro this year. Organizational history indicates that he’ll likely spend the season getting a lot of reps split between Providence and the ECHL rather than minimal games at the NHL level. The assistant general manager also noted that the small size of the development camp this year will allow the players in camp more reps, and be a bit more draining.

Oldest to youngest the players will be competing to see who can knock the most back in the very near future. The Bruins have planned a bowling expedition in addition to their team building and community service projects.

The five days of camp were quite the spectacle. While the smaller number in this years crowd showed off individuals more, it was harder to separate the players into either A: likely NHL ready this year or next or B: not yet close. Like everyone else, my focus was first on the guys most likely to turn pro this season, second on the new draft class, and third on everyone else. With so many players, including six goalies and drills being run at both ends of the ice and sometimes in three lines, I didn’t get a chance to focus on everyone.

In the first group:

  • Tommy Cross, unflappable puck handler, smooth, smart passes and over the years his willingness to throw the body has grown. Some have criticized his foot speed but the list of NHL guys without high end speed who have logged hundreds and hundreds of games isn’t short. Glenn Murray, Hal Gill, Mike Komisarek, Adam Foote are just a few on the list.
  • Ryan Spooner, almost certainly both the best skater in agility and speed as well as the softest hands in camp. Solid shot too. Has clearly gotten stronger and filled out since being drafted.
  • Jared Knight, still a fearless net driver, willing to trade hits with larger players and definitely plays bigger than his average size. One of the fitter players and was able to absorb hits from larger players, in a manner similar to Bergeron, without it shifting his balance.
  • Dougie Hamilton, good straight line speed, good passer and not afraid to shoot, pinch or or go deep into the offensive zone. Made a nice hit crossing the blueline in scrimmage. Is off to the Worlds this summer.
  • Alexander Khokhlachev while barred from contact in drills, and held out of scrimmages, his hands are undeniably gifted. Has bulked up a bit despite the time off. Unless he makes the NHL this year will be playing for the KHL team his father manages this year.
  • Torey Krug, sealed off the boards well, went into traffic as needed and was also aware enough of more offensive minded defense partners to stay back when they pinched. It’s not a surprise why the Bruins signed him out of college.

Malcolm Subban watching the action at Development Camp

This years draftees:

    Malcolm Subban, high end athleticism, not

just

    explosiveness but control. When you watch him move in the crease you get the feeling he could move the exact same distance fifty times while singing the national anthem. When I spoke to him I got the impression he listened very intently and that can’t hurt a goalies development.

  • Matt Grzelcyk, of the defensemen, probably the most agile, showed good hands in several drills as well. Small but popped in and out of lanes well. He’s off to college this fall.
  • Colton Hargrove good skater both in terms of movement and speed, made nice passes even on bad ice, willing to hit and be hit as well. Western Michigan University fans will get to watch him play this year.
  • Cody Payne, while the most notable line on his stats in the PIMs he showed off more than you might expect. He’s played for Team USA internationally in the Ivan Hlinka so he certainly should be watched.
  • Seth Griffith, shoot first, and second mentality, never looked out of place. Was tracked a bit better by TheOffWing, but I noticed him more and more as the week went on.
  • Matthew Benning is one of those rare right shooting defensemen, was limited by a minor injury. On his juniors team he was in the top half in points per game, and had 87 PIMS. Clearly not a goon, but bears watching for his skill.

Everyone else:

  • Robbie O’Gara is headed to Yale this fall, big body, better agility than some of the smaller players. More than willing hitter who didn’t get out of position to do it.
  • Adam Morrison, the recently signed goalie tracks the puck well and is not going to be beat along the ice. Moves the pads well even if both are flat.
  • Niklas Svedberg, no beatings dished out this week, but he also didn’t get beat by many pucks. Aggressive play, willing to come out of the crease and just shrugged off physical contact.
  • Wayne Simpson didn’t look out of place, handled the drills, physicality and the like quietly, had a huge open ice collision and shrugged it off. Also showed off some nice hands.
  • Brian Ferlin two words best describe his game one is power the other is forward. Uses his body and brain.
  • Ben Sexton, in body and scrimmage reminds me of Sean Bergenheim, compact and solid body, lower skating posture
  • Parker Milner, stays upright a bit more than some goalies while down, good glove.
  • Justin Courtnall, quiet competence, for some unknown reason attracted a lot of attention from other Hockey East players, displayed good on ice awareness and dropped back to cover for pinching defensemen frequently.
  • Chris Casto, more a stay at home defenseman than guys like Hamilton or Krug.
  • Anthony Camara, good size, straight line player, likely to annoy the hell out of the defenders he runs over.

 

Today’s skating drills were revealing. Some guys are more agile than they show in the course of a scrimmage. Not surprisingly the players who have done these drills in the past do them best. Ryan Spooner stood out and that was in no way news.  Several of the bigger players like O’Gara and Ferlin did quite well, and despite the questions about Cross that should have been stuffed and mounted long ago he went through drills that  look painful more smoothly than Hamilton.

I spoke with a couple players after practice, O’Gara who is headed off to Yale in the fall says his goal is to get bigger and stronger. Using the camp stats as reasonably accurate if he puts on 5-8lbs of mass and stays all four years he’ll wind up somewhere in between 205 and 217, I can’t imagine many forwards wanting to go into his corner. Had the most physical shift of the day smashing the larger and older Justin Courtnall repeatedly.

Local boy and USNDT Matt Grzelcyk will be staying local and playing for Boston University for the next few years. Bruins fans can look forward to the nearly inevitable BU/BC Beanpot games have at least once prospect on each team. The smooth skating defenseman was drafted in the 3rd round this year and is among the smaller players at camp. Watch him closely.

Jared Knight says the playoff experience in the OHL helped him develop, and that he’s focused on improving his game and going into camp focused.

The most entertaining and informative exchange of the day however was off to the side as Khoklachev and Subban worked on one end of the ice while the rest of the campers practiced rushes. Khoklachev is held out of contact for a few more weeks. Until the lacerated kidney is completely healed he can’t be a full participant in camp. Subban was in net. As Khoklachev swooped in from the blueline for shot after shot the two ratcheted up the skill level, the two found the competition increasingly humorous. At one point Khoklachev was lying on the ice laughing. The two exchanged mock exuberant celebrations after a save or score. Good to see players who might well play together for ten years making fun out of their very serious work.

Dev Camp ’12 Saturday June 30

Coach Cassidy spoke about the development of various players. Tommy Cross was praised for coachability while playing two games in Providence last year. Stressed that the camp was about developing individual players and familiarizing players with the Bruins expectations and way of doing things. Later he mentioned the Providence Bruins not only had 11 1st year pros, but fourteen concussions, the highest in the AHL last year. He’s expecting a better season this year.

Former St Louis Blue, Boston Bruin, Florida Panther, and Washington Capital Dennis Wideman is now and likely for the next five years a member of the Calgary Flames. On Wednesday he signed a five year deal contract worth $26.25million. Jay Feaster clearly felt that a mediocre skater who has never been on a team that made it past the second round, has been jettisoned by four teams, is a career -39, and who boasts just one goal in 44 playoff appearances is worth five and a quarter million in cap space each year. My opinion is that Seth Jones should get familiar with the Calgary real estate market.

Mathieu Darche has rejected a Habs offer of a a two way contract. The well traveled thirty six year old is also a member of the NHLPA negotiating team. The three time 30 goal scorer at the AHL level has never hit even 15 in the NHL topping out at twelve. Presumably he’ll be looking for a deal roughly equal to his most recent and potentially even a two year deal. No word on if he’ll attempt to sign in Boston as several past recovering Candiens have.

Boston Bruins development camp is starting on Thurday, prospects have been trickling including 6’2 Florida born forward Brian Ferlin:

Ferlin was taken in the fourth round in 2011 and attends Cornell University. The Indiana Ice alumni will find himself sharing a locker room with former and current Boston College Eagles, OHL champions, Texan Colton Hargrove, Brit Cody Payne and the rest of the hopefuls.