Observations from Day 1 of Bruins development camp

Observations from Day 1 of Bruins development camp

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.  

Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis


Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. 


Morning Skate: Chiarelli taking heat in Edmonton


Morning Skate: Chiarelli taking heat in Edmonton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a rough weekend for the Justice League movie. 


*Radko Gudas was suspended for 10 games after slashing at the head of Mathieu Perreault, and it’s an appropriate sentence for a play that has no place in the NHL, and from a player that really deserves to get slapped around by the Department of Player Safety. Some like the Hockey News here believe it should have been a more severe suspension, but this is the right move with a player that’s headed toward a Raffi Torres sentence the next time he crosses over the line. Let’s hope the message finally gets through to a dirty player, but I’m not holding my breath given his past history.  


*Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is beginning to take some heat in Edmonton with a hockey team that’s performing way under expectations to this point. 


*All Alexander Radulov wanted was to feel like he was wanted, you guys. The Dallas Stars just so happened to say that to him in the form of money and contract years. 


* does a Calder Trophy voting poll with their own staff and it looks like Clayton Keller is strongly in the lead, and that Charlie McAvoy isn’t getting nearly the mount of consideration that he should be getting right now. This is the only rookie averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game, people…c’mon now. 


*It’s officially over for the Montreal Canadiens just a couple of months into the season, and it may be for GM Marc Bergevin as well. I’m not sure the Habs are dead and buried quite yet, but Carey Price as a question mark certainly doesn’t help matters. 


*Hall of Famers Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were both honored in Anaheim this weekend after their Hockey Hall of Fame honors last weekend. 


*For something completely different: Here’s a petition for fans to get a home release of the Zack Snyder cut of the Justice League movie. These people thirsting for ponderous, bombastic drudgery in their comic book movies amazes me. While I feel for Snyder and his family given their tragedy over the last year, I think his movies are god-awful and can’t fathom why anybody would be pounding the table demanding to see a cut that left the DC and Warner Brothers execs running and screaming for Joss Whedon.