Impressions from Bruins Development Camp


Impressions from Bruins Development Camp

WILMINGTON, Mass. Peter Chiarelli said, in general, that the Bruins prospects were bigger and faster this summer, and thats always the mandate from the front office on Causeway Street.

"Generally speaking our development camp skaters look bigger and faster," Chiarelli said. "It was positive. The younger group of kids I was very pleased with. You very rarely come away from these camps with a negative feeling because its all potential. There are varying degrees of potential, and then maybe 70 percent of these players will move on again to the next year.

"Guys like Cody Payne and Colton Hargrove, those are big guys that can skate. Thematically we have size and skaters, but specifically Malcolm Subban did well and Matt Grzelcyk played well. But those kids are three, four or five years away."

Of course some players were in better shape than others as can always be the case in these summer development camps and there were clear standouts like Ryan Spooner, Dougie Hamilton and Niklas Svedberg. But heres a few random, incongruous observations after watching the young players skate over the course of five days at Ristuccia Arena:

Robbie OGara is listed at 6-foot-3 and 185-pounds and might be the most improved player at the entire Bruins Development Camp. In truth he said hes about 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, and he had no problem clearing bodies in the defensive zone. Hes clearly bigger and stronger, and was making his presence known moving bodies and playing shutdown defense around the net. OGara will never be an offensive superstar at the defenseman position, but hes an intriguing prospect given his still-growing size, his intelligence and his clear willingness to work hard at improving his game. The 18-year-old could be ferocious as he puts on weight and muscle at Yale University over the next four years.

Dougie Hamilton has gained 11 pounds from last season and is in the 200-205 pound range that the Bruins would like him to be if hes going to compete nightly in the NHL for 82 games next season. Hamilton still has work to do in his own zone when it comes to tracking smaller, quicker opponents, but he has rare skating ability for a player 6-foot-6 with his kinds of offensive tools. He also has a massive wing span with his size and stick to break up plays in the D-zone. All signs point to Hamilton making the Bruins directly out of training camp, and hes done the kind of work necessary to be considered for a spot.

Jared Knight didnt have the best prospect camp, but was also slowed by a high ankle sprain he first suffered during the London Knights' run to the Memorial Cup Finals. Several times Knight adjusted his skate and checked the ankle on the ice while running through drills, and he didnt appear to be moving around at full speed. Meanwhile his partner-in-crime Ryan Spooner was the highlight reel guy for both scrimmages while making plays offensively all over the ice. Knight should be at full strength when regular training camp begins, and he will get a solid look at the third-line vacancy in Boston.

Niklas Svedberg looks like the real deal in between the pipes. He was head and shoulders about the other goaltenders at the prospect camp, and he put on a show during the Sunday scrimmage while stoning the organizations best offensive prospects like Spooner and Hamilton during offensive rushes. With a solid glove hand, technically sound puck-stopper from the Swedish goaltender factory, he should be one to watch with the Providence Bruins this season as a 22-year-old prospect.

Matt Grzelcyk clearly has some growing to do at 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds, but he is one of the best skaters in development camp with the ability to shift gears quickly and shake defenders away from him. He probably looked the best of any of this years draft class at development camp, but still has a long way to go at Boston University in getting bigger and stronger.

Brian Ferlin had another solid development camp and continues to show good offensive skills and understanding while playing with high skill players. His shot and release are both excellent, and simply needs to keep getting bigger and stronger as a 6-foot-2, 201 pound power forward prospect at Cornell.

Ben Sexton was a guy that had a solid camp and looked much improved from last season, and was noticeable at both ends of the ice from the center position.

Malcolm Subban came as advertised. The 18-year-old was athletic and raw on the goaltending technique, but capable of making show-stopping saves with his natural gifts. He also looks like hes going to always have some of the Tim Thomas unpredictability to his game rather than the calm, unmoving shot-blocking style that you see many goaltenders adopting these days.

Anthony Camara hit everything that moved during the week. His offensive skills are still developing, but if nothing else hes got a future in the NHL as an energy playerpotential enforcer with some upside. If the Bruins encouraged fighting at these development camps theres no doubt Camara would have dropped the gloves at some point, and instead focused on punishing players in the neutral zone.

Matt Benning looked a little overwhelmed by the competition at the prospect camp and didnt appear to be in the best physical condition while coming down with groin issues before the scrimmages got started. Chiarelli spoke generally about players that had some work to do after the trainers took body fat measurements, and that might have been one of the players he was referencing without naming him. By all accounts Benning hadnt decided whether his future was in hockey until recently, so the young defenseman has some work to do before next years development camp.

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday


Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”


After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress . . . certainly. A return . . . we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.


'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments


'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.


That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.