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.

The Boston Bruins need to do something with their RFAs and the need to do it quickly. They failed to move a disgruntled and ill fitting Ryan Spooner either at the expansion draft, or the entry draft. They were however lucky enough that someone mistook Colin Miller for a viable option on defense.

In order:

  1. David Pastrnak
  2. Zane McIntyre
  3. Noel Accari
  4. Malcolm Subban
  5. Colton Hargrove

And after that it’s entirely irrelevant who or what order they sign in. Even there, Pasternak far outweighs all the rest. Even saying that, I think both goaltenders are still viable. Noel Accari is in any reasonable evaluator’s mind a solid bottom six forward. Colton Hargrove can do everything Tim Schaller did, and play both wings. He’s also likely to be a bit healthier

With just a couple days left until free agency starts they have 36 of 50 total contracts, and as many as five roster spots available for forwards, plus a seventh defenseman. Morrow might languish in the pressbox for another year after a very strong showing in the playoffs. He too is unsigned.

The Bruins need to clear some dead weight from the roster. Push Hayes and Spooner overboard. Get the younger, hungrier players who will drive harder to be better players every shift into the lineup. Maybe you have to sacrifice Kevan Miller in a trade for O’Gara and Grzelcyk to make a run at the NHL without looking over their shoulders. What they can’t continue to do is let good players stagnate while sewing guys who cut corners and have slapdash effort to the roster.

Just days ago I wrote a piece on Torey Krug and how he should absolutely not be exposed at the expansion draft. Today we learn he is day to day heading into the playoffs. He is not expected to play in the season finale. Of the teams defensemen, no one does anywhere near as much to generate offense for the team. His penalty kill time this year is even contributing to better play in his own zone.

While the compact Michigan State alumni is hardly likely to turn to the dark side, his absence does indeed cast Vader’s shadow on a team where scoring among defensemen is pretty rare. At this point in the season Krug is tied for 5th in scoring among defensemen with 51 points, next is Zdeno Chara who with 29 points owns the 53rd rank. None of the other blueliners even make the top 100.

A next man up approach might slide Colin Miller into slot and bump him up a pairing. He’s a great skater, he’s a solid passer, a willing shooter, and already used to the NHL. Unfortunately those attributes haven’t combined to make him a good NHL player. He has less points than the other Miller who no one confuses with an offensive dynamo and who has played less games. For all his defensive prowess, Adam McQuaid has never gotten his point production into get close enough to his jersey number to be intimidating, so he’s probably not the answer. John Michael Liles has burned 52 games in a Bruins uniform, and racked up exactly the number of goals that the front office should spend in seconds deciding if they should offer him a net contract and giving him a line of 0-11-11 6PIM -6.

Joe Morrow has apparently been written off entirely by the organization. Which is sad, but not anything fans or writers will be able to do anything about. That brings us to guys currently in the AHL, and maybe players leaving college or aging out of juniors. Given the depth of defensemen in the system, I really can’t see an outsider being brought in. Sherman is unlikely to leave Harvard early, and isn’t an offensive guy. O’Gara did start the year with some time in the spoked B, but was eventually sent down for more minutes. Alex Grant is leading all Providence Bruins in scoring, but at 28 years old, the odds he’s even strongly considered are pretty slim.

Next up is Tommy Cross. At 27, he’s probably been consigned to the ranks of permanent AHL players. He did get a recall last year. He’s 2nd on the team in scoring for defensemen, with much of it at even strength. With 12 goals on the season and his well known mental acuity, even with less speed the Colin Miller, I can see him being at least as good offensively, and easily better defensively. Having played in the NHL already, I can see him handling playoff hockey better than most.

The player most similar to Krug in offensive abilities and projection is almost certainly Matt Grzelcyk who has 11 powerplay assists, perhals the area most likely to suffer without Krug. He’s speedy, he can handle the puck well in motion or holding a position, and can pass better than most. He’s nearing the end of this first professional season and aside from his offensive prowess can inject both speed and reasonable hockey sense into the backend.

While McAvoy is undeniably talented,  even if you’ve been there before. Making the jump when you won’t have the practice time to get comfortable with how other players communicate and play, or adjust to the pace of the game, sounds like a recipe for disaster at the toughest position to play.

Today was a chance to see more of the players in smaller groups. There was a lot of activity leaning slightly more heavily towards individual attention helping players use their edges a bit more and make better cuts and turns.

Matt Grzelcyk has nestled into the on ice leadership slot well enough one wonders where and when he’ll have a letter on his jersey. The skating, puck handling, passing and shooting that made him stand out after he was drafted clearly haven’t diminished even a little despite a few injuries during his college career.

Wiley Sherman isn’t just a big dude, he’s a big dude with good skating, good endurance, an active stick, and a respectable shot. While other players are bent over and spent towards the end of the practice, I never saw him winded during any drill, today or yesterday.

Sean Kuraly of Dublin, Ohio looks very mature for a reason, he’s 23 years old. Just watch him drill for a bit and you’ll be impressed by his shot release.

Stephen Dillon the invite from Fort Erie pulled out a split today making a save that was fluid fast, and induced a nicely appreciative swathe of sound from the spectators. The youngest player in camp had a more even day today, and seemed to have fully settled in.

Trent Frederic had an apparent split in ability between pure drills, and simulated player versus player action. He looked notably better in the latter.

Ryan Lindgren was on the ice today, looking like he was still skating the kinks out early and settling in to the drills nicely.

Jakub Zboril looked his best today in a one on one drill against Oskar Steen.

Nationalities:

  1. Americans: 14
  2. Canadians: 7
  3. Czechs: 2
  4. Swedes: 2
  5. Fins: 1
P1060015

#53 Fitzgerald aces a puck handling drill.

Tallest: Wiley Sherman Lightest: Cameron Hughes 160lbs

Another year of watching the Bruins prospects is upon us and while the show was fun, there were some big disappointments. Some of the most intriguing prospects were not on the ice. Rob O’Gara is no where on the list even attending this years camp, Matt Benning was likewise conspicuous by his absence. Zachary Senyshyn is down and out with mono, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is not attending for “personal reasons”. Worse, only the absence of the latter pair is explained. With the utter lack of quality in the Boston Bruins defense this year not seeing O’Gara and Benning is likely cause for concern.

A few players stood out in multiple areas. I thought Heinen, Steen, and Kuraly had the most developed shots. The release from all three is hidden  until the puck is two feet off the blade of their stick. Matt Grzelcyk as the grizzled veteran of the skating contingent looked to have slid into a leadership role demonstrating all the drills, and showed the high end agility, puck handling and shooting we’ve come to expect from the healthy and fit version of the Charlestown native.

What might be the most pleasant surprise is Daniel Vladar who looked like he could have stopped pucks for another six hours. He is a big, tall goalie who unlike a lot of guys approaching his six and a half feet he doesn’t seem to lose the puck when its on the ice right around his pads and skates. Day one is hardly the time go projecting NHL career lengths for anyone but he made the skaters work for the very few pucks that went by him, and had a quiet efficiency of movement.

Wiley Sherman is another of the jumbos, he seems to have put on some muscle filling out a body that looked a bit scary his first year at camp. That first year you’d watch him recovering between drills or at scrimmage and you’d see his jersey get sucked into his ribs when he breathed. To go with the muscle his straight line speed is certainly adequate.

Brandon Carlo should probably get the “Anthony Camara” award for body contact as he pressed hard on forwards during drills and the center ice simulate play.

In the first half of day Stephen Dillon looked a bit ragged and the skaters put more than a couple pucks past him in the early drills, repeatedly going to the same spots. As he warmed up and settled in the Niagara Icedog (and youngest player in camp) looked better and better.

The biggest takeaway from the group as a whole is the most noticeable separation between the most agile third of the players present, and the rest of the group. Not surprisingly small and very small men like Steen, Grzelcyk, and Fitzgerald were near the top of the chart.

Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre were on the ice early today doing goaltending drills with the staff, but did not participate in the general session with the youngsters. The most impressive player of the day was hands down Daniel Vladar who didn’t flinch from contact, tracked the puck well, and used pads, stick and glove to great impact.

Since arriving in Boston Peter Chiarelli has made moves that rewrote the franchises future history, and others that merely changed the roster. Today the Boston Bruins extended their general manager for another four years. With seven seasons behind him, there is more than enough to look at to evaluate him as general manager and hockey mind.

Coaches:

The Bad:

Upon landing in Boston Chiarelli’s first verifiable move was to pill the bench bosses job. For that position he picked arguably the worst coach in Boston Bruins history. Dave Lewis came in, glued the gloves on Zdeno Chara, left him on the ice too long, and designed a defensive scheme that led to the worst GAA in the Tim Thomas era. Fortunately for Bruins fans, and likely several players this would prove to be a mistake that lasted just one season.

Power play coaching. The Boston Bruins powerplay has been a disaster for years. Not since before Matt Cooke nearly killed Marc Savard has the team had a viable powerplay. The team has shuffled several (recent) 30 goal scorers through the power play including Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton to little or no effect. It has used guys with enormous slap shots like Chara and Boychuk, and guys who zip around the offensive zone like Marchand, Kessel and Seguin. There hasn’t been any change in this area, and it reflects one of the fundamental components of Peter Chiarelli’s personality.

The Good:

Claude Julien has been one of the best coaches in the NHL for the last several seasons. He’s rehabilitated guys like Rich Peverley and Daniel Paille. He’s taken rookies like Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci and given them a chance to play up to their full potential while bringing them along slowly. He’s also recognized who the teams core guys are and used them to the teams best advantage. His campaigning for Patrice Bergeron’s inclusion on the 2010 Canadian Olympic team was notable, his support of Zdeno Chara for Norris candidacy and wins likewise. Further he’s show the ability to adapt as needed and make the right calls in the playoffs.

Drafting:

The Bad:

There hasn’t been much good to come out of the 2007-present drafts. Tyler Seguin failed to live up to the hype, and is now gone. While Tommy Cross’s injuries were not something anyone could predict, the rest of the 2007 draft was horribly unimpressive. Zach Hamill has all of the NHL games to date for the Bruins that year. Denis Reul played just five AHL games, Alain Goulet hasn’t escaped the ECHL for the past two years, Radim Ostrcil hasn’t played a minute in the Boston system at any level, and lastly Jordan Knackstedt departed the system almost before anyone learned who he was. Most subsequent drafts have been little better. The 2008 draft saw two NHL games in return for more than a years labor, one to Jamie Arniel and the other to Max Sauve, no one from that draft is in the system any longer.

The Good:

Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. That’s pretty much it. Yes, I and others hold out hope that Jared Knight, Zane Gothberg, Colton Hargrove, Alexander Khokhlachev, Ryan Spooner, Rob O’Gara, Malcolm Subban and the several others will turn into legitimate NHL players, but that’s all we can do at this point. O’Gara, Hargrove, Grzelcyk, and countless others are college kids who will be a long time getting to the NHL, if ever. If you’re feeling optimistic you can count Jordan Caron in the “win” column, if not ad the 25th overall pick in the 2009 column to the other end of the ledger.

Free Agents:

The Bad:

Derek Morris counts as possibly the biggest miss of the Chiarelli era for free agents. He wasn’t a horrible Bruin, but he was not what was needed. From the same year if one must nitpick there is Drew Larman. While Josh Hennessy and Steve Begin weren’t unmitigated successes, they hardly grew legions of fans. The second tenure of Shane Hnidy.

The Good:

Torey Krug is the most recent player who has worked out, at least short term in the system. Remaining open to Jarome Iginla is another one that has to count as a win. Shawn Thornton is one the very quiet successes that no one ever talks about as a good free agent signing. The late season signing of Miroslav Satan was a master stroke. He didn’t have to be great, but he made people feel he was in being pretty good.

Trades:

The Bad:

Manny Fernandez wasn’t picked up for a bad price, but between his various injuries and Tim Thomas solidifying his hold on the starting goalies job, he was paid about $290,000 per game. Brandon Bochenski was brought in for Kris Versteeg. Versteeg would go on to be a contributor to the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup win and remain a valued NHL commodity, Bochenski would have trouble sticking to the NHL and end up in Europe. Vladimir Sobotka for David Warsofky, the Saint Louis Blues got the guy who led them in playoff scoring and hits last spring, and Warsofsky has yet to see a single NHL game.  Traded Petteri Nokelainen for Steve Montador who along with Wideman would eventually help cost the Bruins a playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Good:

Moving good guy with bad luck Chuck Kobasew for Alexander Fallstrom, Alexander Khokhlachev and Craig Weller. Kobasew was on the roster as part of a sluggish team and the Bruins would then flip Weller along with Bitz for Seidenberg and Bartkowski. Dennis Wideman and a 1st round pick were traded for immediate help, and possibly attitude in exchange for Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton, Florida would jettison Wideman for glass trinkets, the Bruins would win the Cup with their new boys. Picking up Danile Paille for essentially nothing was one of the sneakier good moves in his tenure. Adam Mcquaid and Johnny Boychuk were picked up in similar trades.

Draws:

Phil Kessel for the picks that turned into Seguin, Knight and Hamilton. Seguin was on a cup winning squad but hardly a huge factor, Hamilton was displaced for AHL callups, Knight has yet to have a healthy season. It is hard to say Chiarelli had a choice in trading Kessel, but the direct return has yet to be better. The Tomas Kaberle trade might count as win, but the Bruins gave up a 1st round draft selection, Joe Colborne, and a pick they would eventually trade. Kaberle failed to distinguish in his tenure, was not extended, and actually hurt the already woeful Bruins powerplay arguably making their path to the Cup harder than it would have been without him.

The two biggest hallmarks of the Chiarelli era to date have been his loyalty to the people he picks, and being more comfortable with low and midlevel deals than the franchise shaking ones. Those less charitable than myself would count conducting media availability as if each word he spoke cost him a $5 deduction from his salary as one of those hallmarks, but given the mental perambulations of certain elements of the local media, it is hard to be surprised this happens. With a Cup win, and a second team that took a juggernaut to six games despite being hobbled by injuries it is hard to call his tenure anything but a success.

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.

A team USA hockey squad without New England ties would be something close to criminal. No, I take that back. It’d be a crime against the region that hosts America’s oldest NHL franchise, and nurtured the Hartford Whalers for decades. New England is where the AHL has their home offices. The Manchester Monarchs, the Providence Bruins, Springfield Falcons, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Worcester Sharks, Connecticut Whale, and Portland Pirates all have their roots deep in the communities of New England. The Eastern Junior Hockey league holds sway over young players. Hockey East is the battle ground for some of the best academic and athletic institutes in the world.

At the current camp for team USA’s world junior squad their are four New Englanders. At six foot five overlooking Jon Gillies would require a monumental effort. One look at the numbers the towering tender has put up for the Indiana Ice over the last two years say putting the puck past him is no easier. Concord New Hampshire and South Portland Maine both claim him.

Colin Blackwell, a draft pic of the San Jose Sharks is in camp as well. The North Andover, Ma native doubled up his New England ties and is a Harvard scholar-athlete. ECAC competitors would probably rather he didn’t sharpen his skills any further at the international level as his rookie campaign’s assist total was third among forwards for Ted Donato’s Crimson.

A north shore home address didn’t stop Jim Vesey from skating into the draft as a member of the South Shore Kings of the EJHL. Nashville got a the EJHL MVP in the third round. While he’s likely headed to Harvard this fall, if he does end up playing for the Predators he would be joining Hal Gill of Concord Ma, and Colin Wilson of Greenwich Ct on the roster.

North Andover is represented by 2012 Boston Bruins draftee Matt Grzelcyk. The blueliner is headed to Boston University after having helped Team USA reach the post season in the USHL last year. Soft hands, and wheels to spare are Grzelcyk’s stock in trade.

John Gaudreau who hails from Carneys Point New Jersey will be returning to the home that adopted him sometime during last years Boston College campaign where he put up some eye popping numbers.