WILMINGTON -- The Bruins 2011 development camp is in the books, and though the end result was a room full of sore skaters, the Bruins are happy with what they’ve been able to get out the five-day camp. They get a look at which players are in tip-top shape (quite a few) and which ones need work (Alexander Khokhlachev), while the players get to know one another.
“I think our guys are doing a great job at finding some players that seem to fit what we’re trying to do with our hockey club,” Bruins coach Claude Julien, who observed the final two days of the camp, said Monday. “A lot of good players, and I guess the obvious ones are always the ones we look at when we’re talking about first round picks and so on and so forth ... But I’ve also seen some other guys that have caught my eye as well. So it’s just a matter of staying on top of things and seeing where some of those guys down the road might fit in and some have to go back.”
The players got to scrimmage and work on both special teams and shootout work in the last two days of camp. Assistant general manager Don Sweeney even noted during the camp that it’s never too early to see which players could eventually be of use in shootouts, so both Sunday and Monday saw breaks in the action for players to go one-on-one with goaltenders Michael Hutchinson, Zane Gothberg and Lars Volden.
For some players, it could be their final time in camp. Others, such as Gothberg (one more year of USHL before playing college hockey at the University of North Dakota in the) figure to have many more ahead of them. Whether 17 years old or in their 20’s, each player came in being watched carefully. Though general manager Peter Chiarelli said everyone was “pretty sloppy to start,” he liked what he saw.
“Any time you watch them, you’re always assessing them,” Chiarelli said. “What I told them to start the camp was to pay attention to every little detail in this camp. On the ice, off the ice, and treat it not as if you’re trying out, but treat it with the utmost care and attention and determination. We want to instill at an early age the work ethic, the level of expectation that they’re going to be facing from us. At the end of the day, it’s a development tool, and it allows, it indoctrinates the new players into the organization and that’s what we hope to accomplish.”
Here are four other things we learned at development camp:
DOUGIE HAMILTON ISN’T READY… YET
Well, maybe this isn’t a case of learning anything new, but after a good up-close look at the ninth overall pick, it is clear (not in a bad way) that Peter Chiarelli’s draft-day assessment that Hamilton was at least a year away from NHL-ready was correct.
The package that Hamilton presents is very impressive. He can move well and figures to operate on the power play once he reaches the NHL, and though there was some shakiness early on (as Chiarelli noted was the case with most players in the beginning of camp), there are isn’t an area skill-wise in which he seems to be lacking.
One thing is he is most certainly lacking is bulk. Depending on who you ask, Hamilton is between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5. He is still growing height-wise (Chiarelli said he’s actually grown a quarter of an inch since they measured him following the OHL season), but he needs more than anything to add weight. Weighing in the area of 190 pounds, Hamilton knows he needs to get bigger, and so do the Bruins.
“It’s got to be done properly and I’m sure he’ll do it,” Chiarelli said about the young defenseman gaining weight. “I know he’s conscientious about that. His parents are two former Olympic athletes. He’s got core strength too so like 210 would be great.”
As for seeing Hamilton out there and working with coaches and fellow prospects, Chiarelli said his projection hasn’t changed as to where Hamilton or any of the Bruins’ youngsters might be come October.
“This short period of time… nothing’s really changed for the good or bad,” Chiarelli said. “The projections that I have – that we have – remain the same.”
“I haven't really thought about it too much,” Hamilton said after the camp wrapped up. “For me, the next thing is the World Junior camp in August. I've got to get ready for that, then think about main camp. Obviously I want to stay as long as I can and learn from the guys, and do what I can to make the team.
“We're going to have a good team in Niagara, and if [the Bruins] want to send me back there, I think we could have a good run at the Memorial Cup, and maybe have the chance to play for World Juniors if I could. It's going to be an exciting year, and I'm looking forward to it.”
NOBODY’S MADE IT, BUT NOBODY’S BEEN CUT EITHER
Players are told heading into development camp that they aren’t there to try to make the NHL team, yet it’s obvious that some of the youngsters are aiming to make this their last development camp by making the Bruins this season.
“These are a hard couple of days, working out every day, skating every day with the power skating and scrimmaging,” forward Jared Knight said. “I want to make the big club.”
For the likes of Knight and fellow 2010 second-rounder Ryan Spooner, a prolonged stay in training camp is very possible. Knight and Spooner had 25 and 35 goals in the OHL last season, respectively, and Spooner lasted all the way until the end of September in training camp last year. Though both Chiarelli and assistant GM Don Sweeney said that the then-18-year-old realistically wasn’t ready for the show at the time, the ability he flashed earned him the distinction of being the last player from his draft class (aside from some kid named Seguin) to be cut.
Spooner’s line with Brian Ferlin and Justin Florek produced a gaggle of goals (four over the last two days by this scribe’s count) in scrimmages over the last two days of camp. This was Spooner’s second development camp since being drafted 45th overall last June, and both he and Knight had Chiarelli saying very nice things Monday.
“For a guy like Spooner, one of the things that we told him at the end of last year and at development camp and at training camp, was he has to put the time in to get better, to get stronger, to get bigger. And he did. He did do that, and all the testing showed that. There’s still room to improve, but you could tell, we take the testing very seriously and Ryan put the time in and you could see it in his play. He had a little more spring in his step with the puck, he had a little more bulk in his, he was able to protect the puck a little bit better.
“You see it firsthand, so a guy like Knight, he was already last year in tremendous shape and this year he’s even improved.”
While Knight and Spooner were among the players to leave positive impressions, it would be difficult for a player to crack the lineup. For either one to make the big club this season, they would have to take a job away from either Benoit Pouliot or Jordan Caron. Both players signed amateur tryout agreements to finish last season in Providence, but given that they are 20 years of age, they would need to be returned to their OHL clubs for the season if they don’t make the Bruins.
“I don’t want to kill any dreams that these kids have, but we have a whole other strata of players like the [Jamie] Arniels, the [Jordan] Carons, the [Matt] Bartkowskis, I mean we have a whole level that are really close. But usually every year there’s one or two. Like last year, [Ryan] Spooner stayed till the very end. Now was it realistic that he was going to make it? Probably not, but he played so well that at least we talked about it. So in that sense there probably will be someone that is there and wows you and you have to talk about it and think about it.”
BESA IN SHOW
New skating instructor Besa Tsintsadze made an impression on both players and onlookers in the power skating sessions of the camp. The Russian coach has worked with the best in business, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin. The last few days in Wilmington, the former figure skater brought his odd-looking drills to the Bruins’ youngsters, which has led to the ice being carved up so badly that players have had trouble keeping their balance in the following sessions.
“Really new,” Knight said of the drills. “I don't really power skate in the summer. It's more of going on the ice and doing some drills. It's different. Like Sweeney says, you've got to be a sponge out here. You've got to take everything away, and learn from this.”
The highlight of Monday’s session came when Tsintsadze was working with second-round pick Alexander Khokhlachev at center ice and showed off his figure skating moves by jumping and spinning 360 degrees, landing it perfectly and drawing loud cheers from the packed Ristuccia Arena crowd.
Another drill featured the players holding their sticks upright, spinning around and getting back to it before it could fall.
“I kind of enjoyed watching him,” Hamilton said. “He did the little jump 360 one time, and after the drills, he stickhandles and shoots it bar down. It's cool watching him and seeing his skills.”
While Tsintsadze will primarily work with the Providence Bruins this season, Chiarelli said he will also spend time with the big club.
“He’s dynamic,” the GM said of Tsintsadze. “It’s all about edges with him and that’s important. I talked to a few of the guys after the first session and their groins and their rears and their lower back were all really, really sore. To me, that’s good when those things are pushed.”
DEEP AT D
The Bruins’ currently have seven defensemen capable of handling NHL minutes next season in Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Joe Corvo and Steven Kampfer. If the Bruins need to give somebody in Providence a call at any point, Matt Bartkowski, the last cut from last year’s training camp, will be ready and waiting.
The long list of defenseman clearly extends into the developing blueliners as well. Hamilton is as good a defensive prospect as you can find, and plenty of others, whether home-grown (2007 second-round pick but oft-injured Tommy Cross, 2009 third-round pick Ryan Button), acquired via trade (BU’s David Warsofsky), or undrafted (Marc Cantin), plenty of young defensemen had their moments during camp.
“We’ve got a pretty strong group now,” Chiarelli said. “[Button] is showing improvement here. …Tommy Cross I thought, he’s had his knee problems, but I thought his skating and his mobility was the best that I’ve seen in a while. Then you’ve got Warsofsky who, you can see his skill out there, you can see his stretch passes. He’s an incredible stretch passer.
“Then of course you’ve got Hamilton and then you’ve got Cantin. Cantin I thought played well and he’s one of those guys that’s may be a little bit older than the rest of the crew, but as the days progressed, I thought he was strong out there today. … Bartkowski and Kampfer weren’t even here of course. So we’re happy with the defensive depth right now.”