BRIGHTON, Mass – Here are some thoughts and observations from the opening day of Bruins Development Camp at Warrior Ice Arena with plenty of good prospects on the ice:
1. Urho Vaakenainen looked as advertised with a smooth skating stride, plenty of confidence on the ice and a pretty good shot from the point. There wasn’t a lot of wasted energy or awkward passes from the silky smooth first-round pick. He certainly looked the part of a future NHL player in his first appearance in a B’s uniform. That being said, it’s difficult to gauge a player fully until we see him in game situations later in the week. There were no warning bells or whistles after watching him go through a first day of workouts, however, and the size, skating and overall skill level portend good things even if Vaakenainen isn’t expected to be the flashiest defenseman around.
2. Ryan Donato continues to be a real shining star in development camp. Maybe it’s because of his familiarity and comfort level with the "Bruins Way" of doing things, or maybe it’s because he’s been to a handful of them already. Maybe it’s just because he’s always been a solid prospect who's growing in that stature as the years go by. Whatever the case, Donato again stood out among the B’s prospects for his skating, his offensive creativity and for a shot that continues to beat the goaltenders at these camps. Donato is entering his junior season at Harvard and still doesn’t sound like a player who's ready to leave the Crimson with his dad Teddy as the coach, but he looks like he’s got a chance at the next level as he continues to grow, mature as a player and mold himself into what’s expected from an NHL prospect.
3. Incoming University of Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman really looked good in his first day on the ice with the Bruins organization. He obviously has good size at 6-3 and looks the part in goalie equipment, but he also looked athletic and very steady tracking the puck in the drills as one of just two goalies on the ice. Swayman wasn’t beaten cleanly by many shots and showed good competitiveness battling to keep everything out of the net when the puck got close to him. It’s always a challenge for goaltenders to stand out in development camps full of offensive prospects, but Swayman looked like the real deal in his first go-through prior to jumping in with the Black Bears.
4. Second-round pick Jack Studnicka looked perfectly fine as an offensive prospect in his first go-round with the other B’s youngsters on the ice. His skating speed was probably a little better than advertised. Apparently, that was his dad’s calling card when he was a player at Maine and his son managed to inherit that from the old man.
5. One name to keep an eye on among the non-draftee invitees is Karson Kuhlman from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He’s not a real standout at 5-foot-11, 180-pounds and his numbers at Duluth aren’t amazing in his three seasons there, but his skills jumped out among the other prospects given that he wasn’t drafted. He had a good day showing a dangerous shot, good skating speed and creativity. He looked like the kind of player that might warrant a longer look from the B’s once his collegiate career has finished. He certainly looked right in place with the best of the Bruins drafted prospects, so keep an eye on him in his senior season.
6. One player I just don’t see it with is Cedric Pare. He was a sixth-round pick out of the QMJHL with good size and toughness, but that’s about it. The book on him is that there isn’t much of an upside for his offensive potential and that he looks like a career grinder of sorts. Nothing he showed on the first day went against that. It’s always a challenge for everything to look good for these kids if they’ve been off the ice for most of the summer, but Pare had trouble with his hands simply calming the puck down and continuously fumbled it away when in position to make plays in drills. Clearly, Pare might not be a guy with the kind of skills that jump out at you at these prospect drills and perhaps game situations will show more of what he brings to the table. Still, he didn’t show much on his first day of drills with more polished, skilled players surrounding him on the ice.