Boston Bruins Development Camp has come and gone. There were over a dozen returning players, new draftees and invitees. While I do wonder how it is they failed to invite any goalie prospects, and had Malcolm Subban filling in for Adam Morrisson, and University of North Dakota star, and Fargo Force alumni Zane Gothberg. There  are literally dozens of colleges within driving distance of Boston, and if the goals of camp is to coach, develop, and protect the health of prospects then it makes perfect sense to have additional prospects in camp.

That said, camp was as always engaging.  The progress some players made over the years is notable. No players stood out as not belonging, but trying to watch two dozen players at once is foolish. Below are the players who stood out most for one reason or another.

Cole Bardreau, of Cornell University stood out among the forwards showing great speed, lateral movement and hands.

Anton Blidh had a hard shot that was a little bit high at times.

Oleg Yevenko was the largest, and oldest of the prospects. The UMass Amherst defensemen didn’t exhibit great skating but was in the right place to use his stick well.

Billy Sweezey of Hanson, Ma was the youngest player in camp and it didn’t seem to mean much. Solid positioning, good skating, respectable size and still a year of high school to go.

Rob O’Garra clearly is an athlete with high level conditioning. The day camp opened when some of his campmates were flagging, he looked like he might be warmed up. The rest of week he never looked like he broke a sweat.

Wiley Sherman, more poised, more precise and clearly having filled out more than a little.

Colton Hargrove, the improvements in Hargrove’s game are pretty obvious, I’m willing to bet if the 2012 entry draft were redone the son of Rockwall Texas would go before 205 this time.

Kyle Baun, after Bardreau arguably the most impressive forward in the group. Good hands, good speed.

Matt Benning was hands down the most impressive player in camp. Not only was his positioning excellent he used stick, body, and skates to separate opposing players from pucks. Northeastern has itself a good looking young defenseman right now.

David Pastrnak seemed to have a bit of trouble keeping his skates on the ice and his uniform ice free, possibly new skates, possibly the sheer pace of camp, or possibly an ongoing skating issue, its hard to say in just a few viewings. I won’t be shocked if he’s invited to camp in September, but given that he’s still under contract to Soldertalje he likely will not break camp with either the Boston or Providence Bruins.

Of all the differences between this camp and years past, is how strongly management curtailed physicality. In years past no scrimmage was complete without double digit numbers of hits by players trying to make sure they remembered by management and each other. This year, there a scant handful. While development camp focuses on skill and athleticism, elusiveness is a skill and leadership may be doing the organization a disservice  not to keep the players on their toes. And on the other end, physicality is a big part of the tool set of many players.

While several of the young men look really great among their peers, it is no measure of how they will perform against the AHL or NHL. Among the forwards, I don’t see anyone among the forwards I would project above the second line. Among the defensemen, assuming their trajectory continues at the same level two or three who could land in the second pairing in most NHL cities, and depending on circumstances you could see a top pairing player or two.

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.

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.

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.

Recently some interesting and oh-so-timely news came out of one of the Boston newsies regarding one of the Bruins goalies possibly being traded. While there was certainly a reason behind that article, I’m not sure it was a reasonable writeup.

If you look at the way goalies are developed and handled across the NHL, both now and over the last decade or so there is an absolutely explicit path to stability in the crease. One older veteran goaltender, one young goaltender. The Montreal Canadiens tried going with two youngsters in Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak and abandoned the model pretty quickly. The Washington Capitals spent a couple seasons with Varlemov, Neuvirth and Holtby, and quickly jettisoned a youngster for a veteran.

The Saint Louis Blues had great stability with the veteran Elliot and the young Halak this season. The Minnesota Wild, health aside, have enjoyed stability in the crease with their goaltending duo. Jimmy Howard in Detroit has been nurtured in his development by a series of elder statesman.  It’s pretty simple, two veterans can work, like in New Jersey, an older and younger goalie can work, but no one ever relies on two young goalies.

So when we look at the Boston Bruins goaltending assortment, we see a pretty clear mix in the system We have the elder statesman, who has been there and done that, and is still able to do so; Tim Thomas. We have a young, and goaltender who can play well in the regular season in a limited role but hasn’t ever played more than 60 games or performed well in the playoffs; Tuukka Rask. Then there’s Anton Khudobin, only a handful of NHL games to his name, just one professional playoff appearance to his name, and ten months older than the player immediately ahead of him on the depth chart.

After that things get murkier. Lars Volden and Zane Gothberg will both turn 20 this year, and both are college boys.  It is unlikely either will be playing anywhere professionally in the next year or two and three years is a more likely break in point. Michael Hutchinson made some impressive strides in limited duties for the Providence Bruins. Next up is Adam Couchraine who’s entry level contract expired on July 1 and has not managed to claim much playing time in the AHL or even the one NHL callup.

Adam Morrison and Niklas Svedberg have both been signed this season. Morrison bad his pro debut for the Providence Bruins this spring, and Svedberg has some Euro experience but neither is much closer to the NHL than Gothberg and Volden. A further spanner in the mix is Karel St. Laurent who played in 21 games for the Reading Royals and four for the Providence Bruins in his first year pro last season.

So, the question to ask yourself is:  If you’re an NHL club in win now mode, where do you put your trust? Do you break the trend that has been successful for teams and go with a 20-22 year old and one or two guys in their middle twenties who haven’t established themselves as winning playoff goaltenders? Another option would be bringing in one or more free agents. Of course any new player in the system, free agent or promotion especially in goal, the most important position in the sport, will have a shakedown period and the margin between a division win and deep playoff run, and having team breakup day in the middle of April isn’t as wide as it used to be.

Report out of Europe indicate another addition to the goalie stable. The Bruins who signed WHL standout Adam Morrison have added another talent to the equation. Now before we dive into who might or might not be traded Niklas Svedberg does have some pretty outstanding numbers in the playoffs, and more than respectable numbers in the regular season, but has never played a single game in North America. According to Elite Prospects he also appears to have another year on his contract.

Also of note is Svedberg’s reported stats. Listed at six-two and one-seventy-six he’s both taller and thinner than Krejci. With height and weight identical to the Buffalo Sabres Ryan Miller, it doesn’t mean he can’t succeed or even thrive in the NHL environment, simply that injuries are likely on a frame without much in the way of extra muscle or insulation.

Svedberg seen here in white, is an interesting addition for the Boston Bruins who have prospects, Michael Hutchinson, Lars Volden, Zane Gothberg (@ZanoInsano_29), RFA to be Adam Couchraine, the previously mentioned Morrison, in addition to starter Tim Thomas, backup Tuukka Rask, and Anton Khudobin. It’s hard to argue that Khudobin is not NHL ready after a second solid season’s numbers behind a poor team, or that Hutchinson is not progressing nicely when he finished tied for third in sv% in the AHL in his second professional season.

It is unquestionably for the best that depth is added, and that the depth be of high quality. After two (and counting?) Vezina seasons from Thomas, and a legendary Stanley Cup run that saw him become the first American goaltender to win the Conn-Smyth trophy, it’s unlikely any goaltender not playing at an elite level will survive the not so tender mercies of Bruins fans and media.

With speculation about Tim Thomas potentially being traded, and his age, added to the questions of Rask’s health and contract (RFA) we could see a seeming embarrassment of riches disappear in a single afternoon or two. One things for certain, if the Boston Bruins are going to have playoff success in the post-Thomas Era, they will need goaltending that doesn’t lose them games.

S/T to Boston Julie for the Svedberg 411

So when last we met, I was waxing poetic about the talent on the ice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Ma., where the future B’s (they hope) had gone through Day 4 of Development Camp.  Well, the young men were back on the ice for Day 5, and there were some notables in attendance as well.  Peter Chiarelli had a great spot to watch the action from and Claude Julien, sporting some after playoff facial hair and possible golf attire, was walking the seating area during the intermission.  Unsure as to how much of the action he witnessed, but my guess is he saw quite a bit.

The day started out with, of all things, skating drills.  These were fun to watch on Day 3 and exposed some skating issues for the young guns.  Today was no different.  Everyone seemed to grasp the concept of skating forwards and backwards, staples to be sure, but coach Besa Tsintsadze had other plans.  Anthony Camara had issues skating over his stick and and also with the “stand your stick on the butt end, spin around and catch it before it falls” drill.  He fell once.  He wasn’t the only one that fell, Koko had his issues as well, but showed some good footwork making figure 8s around his stick while it lay prone on the ice.  The good news is that once again Tommy Cross showed no ill effects as he worked the drills with no issues but did appear to take one or two of them a little more slowly than the others.

At the opposite end of the ice sheet coach Essensa put the goaltenders through some workouts, and once again Lars Volden showed that he was equal to the task.  As mentioned in the previous post, he has nice horizontal movement from post to post, and also showed a strong glove hand when faux one-timers were being fired at him from 1o feet out.  Hutch and Goth looked strong through most of the drills but appeared a little exposed when shots were taken over there shoulders to the top shelf.  None of the three are going to be challenging for a starting spot on the Bruins any time soon, but Hutch looks to be heading toward a back up role in Providence with the baby B’s.

Some more mental notes…

Zane Gothberg:  Showed that he can handle the rubber being fired at him and stopped just about everything he was supposed to stop.  During the scrimmage section he did make some nice stops, but never really ventured away from the net.

Ben Sexton:  Showed some speed during both the skills and scrimmage.  Had some issues during the scrimmage but looked good on offense.  The thing with Sexton that I liked most was his ability to take direction and his willingness to ask for direction, as evidenced by his taking face off instruction from, I believe, Cunningham or Koko.

Jared Knight:  One of the most polished of the crew at camp this week.  He looked as though he was showboating a little, as was Spooner during the skating drills.  Jared is better at back-checking and defense and he is really good in the offensive zone, as to be expected.  His passing is spot on, and he has a good shot, but looks much better from in close.  He was also willing to get a little physical.

Craig Cunningham:  To me Craig didn’t do anything blatantly wrong, but he didn’t jump out at me either.  He has good speed, but had an issue finishing one timers in front of the net.  He did go into the corners and was willing to muck it up, which works for me when it comes to having a B’s mentality

Alexander Fallstrom:  Alex doesn’t seem to shy away from the physical contact, both taking and receiving it.  It appeared that he checked Camara into the stanchion (anyone say Max?) but it was later learned that Anthony put himself into the stanchion avoiding or trying to hit Fallstrom.  Anyway, Alex did appear to have some issues with the skate drills in the morning session but he showed good hustle and grit.

Brian Ferlin:  Brian showed some hustle and speed on Day 4 scrimmage.  Day 5 saw him repeat the effort.  Appeared to be having a good time on the ice, nothing glaring about his defense, would like to see more physical in his game.

Justin Florek:  He can score, and what a shot!  Fairly accurate as it hit the back of the net twice.  The line combo for both scrimmages had Florek and Ferlin centered by Spooner, and they clicked well together.  All three were vocal and knew who was supposed to be where.  He was physical behind the net and didn’t shy away from contact.

Only got a few in here, but keep an eye out for the rest of the Development Camp roster…