Hamilton, Knight, Spooner get ready at NHLPA Showcase


Hamilton, Knight, Spooner get ready at NHLPA Showcase

The Boston Bruins were well represented in the fourth annual NHLPA Rookie Showcase, and Bostons young prospects had the gifts in hand to prove it.

Dougie Hamilton, Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner are all concerned about a potential NHL lockout, but that was a worry for another day with so much going on around them in Toronto.

All you can do is hope that things start on time. Its easy to sit there and just worry about the negatives around it, but its not the best thing to do, said Spooner. Im saying to myself that the season is going to start on time, and that gives me the best chance to prepare. It would be easy to cut corners and say eh, the season isnt going to start on time and slack a bit. But Im not doing that.

All three Bs prospects had their likeness scanned for the latest edition of the EA Sports NHL Hockey 2013 video game, and also posed for plenty of photos snapped for what will eventually become their first hockey trading cards with Upper Deck and Panini America (the official trading card licensees of the NHLPA & NHL). The cards will be made once each member of the trio plays a game in the NHL.

Hamilton, Spooner and Knight were among 29 NHL hopefuls the most ever for the NHLPA event -- that the players association summoned to Toronto as players expected to make their NHL debuts this season.

Or at the very least players that are within striking distance of making it to the big leagues soon. Hamilton and Spooner had worked up a friendly rivalry as hockey video game adversaries over the last couple of days, and enjoyed getting back together so quickly after Bruins Development Camp in early July.

It was pretty fun. Very cool, said Hamilton, who has the best chance of the three players to crack the Bs roster out of training camp. There were a lot of pictures and autographs, but the best part was probably the full head scan by EA sports for the video game. They had 18 cameras for our head and profile and stuff.

They actually have the OHL in the game, so I made my video game debut two years ago. But the real debut as a member of the Bruins will be pretty cool.

The players went from station-to-station at the two-day event taking pictures, recording videos, playing video games against each other, and signing plenty of autographs for fans before taking in a dinner at the Hockey Hall of Fame. There were also plenty of free goodies for the players from Upper Deck and Panini.

Obviously Im here with Dougie and Jared, so thats awesome. Ive been able to sign some autographs and enjoy myself, said Spooner. Opening up hockey cards and playing NHL 2013 have both been pretty cool. I think Dougie and I opened up six or seven containers of hockey cards, so maybe like 2,000 each. Its been pretty cool for somebody that loves hockey.

NHLPA representatives Mathieu Schneider and Rob Zamuner also spoke to the 29 NHL prospects prior to the dinner, and wrapped up a nice little way for each of the youngster to cap off whats been an important summer.

Its been pretty busy. Were going from station-to-station, but its been really fun, said Knight. We just yesterday played in the EA video game tournament and each got a copy of the game. So I think Im going to go home and play it.

We did a bunch of head shots for the game as well. That was pretty cool. A lot of the guys here Ive played against and Id never really met before -- and a lot of guys from the Dub WHL and the Q QMJHL that Id never played against or met. So it was cool to get to know them and go out to dinner with them.

Hamilton, Spooner, Knight and the other 26 prospects spent much of Tuesday at the MasterCard Centre practice home of the Toronto Maple Leafs where they interacted with the media before finishing the day with a scrimmage on the ice. It was a brief whirlwind trip for young prospects getting ready for the biggest moments of their hockey careers to date, but its also another step prepared by the NHLPA to get those youngsters ready for their NHL close-up when it does arrive.

Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe


Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

The Bruins seemed to discover a winning formula on the West Coast. Now the challenge is to keep it going.

It took them more than a month of play in the regular season, but they finally won two games in a row. Anton Khudobin and the B's played strong defense and finally built leads against the Kings and Sharks, and they avoided the kind of soft goal or defensive mistake that has been at the heart of so many of their losses.

Clearly that kind of tight, defensive game is how they're going have to play until they get their full lineup back, and they need plenty of wins. They're currently stuck in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.

"It's always nice to get a couple of wins, especially against tough teams," said David Krejci, who is scoreless but averaging almost 17 minutes of ice time  in the two games since returning from a back injury. "We knew we had some areas of our game that we had to improve, and we still do after the start to the game we had against San Jose. It's nice to get two in a row, and we're focusing on three in [New Jersey]. We're building toward something, and we're on the right track. It's a big game [against the Devils].

"Playing with a lead, playing good defensively and having a good, structured game with everybody buying in . . . when you have a young team and you're playing strong clubs like LA and San Jose, it really says a lot about what we're trying to do here when you can get the job done."

The good news is the Bruins are going to make it through the Thanksgiving marker within shouting distance of a playoff spot, but they're still just scratching the surface of what they need to do to stay relevant in the East. They're hoping that finally reeling off a couple of consecutive wins can start a run of good hockey at a time when they desperately need it.

"I think we've played as a five-man unit" said Kevan Miller. "Forwards are getting back to help the 'D', and defensemen are stepping up to help the forwards. When you play like that and everybody is on the same page, it makes it that much easier. I think everybody, whether you're coming from Providence or you're up here, has played the same systems, but it can be a little bit of a struggle to get everybody on the same page.

"We've done a pretty good job of that, but doing it for 60 minutes has been a bit of an issue. We're trying to work on that."


Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game


Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

BRIGHTON, Mass – It had to be a bitter pill for Matt Grzelcyk to be sent back down to the AHL after playing solidly for the Bruins earlier this season. 

The 23-year-old Charlestown native was excellent playing in place of Torey Krug in Boston’s opening night win over the Nashville Predators, but his stay didn’t last very long. The former Boston University standout was back in the minor leagues shortly afterward once Krug returned from his fractured jaw a little earlier than expected. Now Krug is again banged up again with an upper body injury, and Grzelcyk has been called up to fill in for Krug during Wednesday night’s pre-Thanksgiving road game in New Jersey against the Devils.

Once again it will be about a focus on puck-moving and power play for Grzelcyk, who is the closest thing that the Bruins have to the smaller, skilled Krug in their minor-league system. 

“I was happy with how things went before I got sent to Providence, so I’m just going to try to do the things that I was doing well before I got sent down. Mentally knowing that I can play at the NHL level [is huge], and just going through the experience was positive,” said Grzelcyk. “Mentally my first year I think I was a little too nervous and tentatively with my play, and that’s not me at all when I’m at my best. I’m confident with the puck, and confident with my speed and ability. It was just about going out and doing it on the ice.”

Grzelcyk was okay down in Providence with four assists and a plus-4 rating in 14 games, but he’s been patiently waiting for another NHL call since logging 12:11 of solid puck-moving ice time in his lone appearance for Boston this season. Now he’ll get it in a likely pairing with Kevan Miller against the New Jersey Devils

“He’s a puck-mover. He’s quick. He can get up the ice and support the rush, and he’s a good distributor,” said Cassidy of Grzelcyk. “There are a lot of natural similarities to Torey [Krug] because of their physical makeup, but they are similar [players] with Torey at this level being a bit more significant offensive player. Whether it’s in [Grzelcyk] or not time will tell, but we believe it is and we just need to get it out of him.”

Grzelcyk will get a chance to show that offensive wrinkle and more when he suits up against the New Jersey Devils for his second game of the season after paying his dues with the P-Bruins overt the last month.