Observations from Day 3 of Bruins Development Camp

Observations from Day 3 of Bruins Development Camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – Here are some thoughts and observations from the third day of Bruins Development Camp at Warrior Ice Arena with just one more day to go. The scrimmage should be fun to watch, and instructive as to how all these prospects play in game-type situations.

1)   It’s clear in watching Anders Bjork skating with the rest of the prospects on Saturday that the 20-year-old is light years ahead of the rest of the group in terms of skating, offensive polish and overall presence on the ice. He was skating with purpose and offensive swagger during the drills and the scrimmage, and it set him apart from the rest of the group in the best way possible. He was among the best skaters in prospect camp last season, and he was clearly the most powerful skater among the players taking the ice on Saturday. He certainly looks ready to compete for an NHL roster a couple of months from now, and served as a good example for the young 18 and 19-year-olds of the level they need to get to if they want to be knocking on the NHL door.

2)  Urho Vaakanainen is extremely smooth. He looks like he’s gliding when he skates. He doesn’t panic with the puck on his stick and he’s in very good position with or without the puck in all three zones. He makes a good first pass and he seems to process the game quickly. He was pushed around a little bit by some of the bigger, stronger players over the last couple of days, but that’s to be expected as one of the younger guys on the ice. It also remains to be seen just good he looks once the intensity gets upped a little bit physically and intensity-wise, and what exactly he brings to the playmaking part of the offense in game settings. He looked good during a 4-on-4 scrimmage setting on Saturday, and will be pushed further if the Bruins go for a little 3-on-3 scrimmage on Sunday to finish off camp.

3)  Trent Frederic gives off a “future leader” vibe in the dressing room when he’s interacting with his teammates. The 19-year-old is in just his second development camp, but he has the kind of easy manner and good sense of humor that goes a long way toward bringing all corners of the dressing together. You combine the likable personality with the strong work ethic and the accountable, heavy game that he plays on the ice, and Frederic has all of the makings of a hard-nosed future team leader. Perhaps it’s not surprising that said he models himself after David Backes, who has a lot of the same kind of qualities that the Bruins were very interested in bringing back to their NHL dressing room when they signed him last summer.

4)   Oscar Steen isn’t a household name, but he’s had a pretty strong camp as a small, skilled forward out of Sweden that’s going to need to play up-tempo. The 5-foot-9, 192-pounder still hasn’t made a big splash in the elite league in Sweden playing against bigger, stronger and more mature opponents, and it remains to be seen if the sixth-round pick used to select him ends up paying off for the Black and Gold. But he has been one of the better forwards through three days of development camp. That could bode well for what the Bruins are looking for from him moving forward.

5)   Zach Senyshyn is fast, fast and even more fast than can be described conventionally. While the skating speed of Anders Bjork was very noticeable when he joined the group on Saturday, Senyshyn has effectively mixed skating speeds in camp with an impressive burst that he can kick in to create offensive opportunities for himself. It feels pretty apparent that Senyshyn still needs some seasoning at the AHL level to develop his game, build up his toughness and learn how to effectively his size speed/combo to great effect. But you can already see that Senyshyn is going to be very effective paired with a center that can get the puck to him in stride with some time and space, and that’s exactly the kind of finishing guy that David Krejci is on his best days.

6)  Jesse Gabrielle is fun to watch on the ice. He’ll try some higher level stuff than many other of his fellow forwards will not attempt offensively in the development camp setting, and he’s got the skill to finish off some of those plays. But in all fairness to Gabrielle, he is at his best game in a scrimmage-type setting where some of his physical play can impact the tone on the ice. He hasn’t had much of a chance to show that rabble-rousing side of his personality during skating drills and skill exercises with the B’s this week, and that’s something the Bruins are looking forward to simply base it on his playing style similarity to Brad Marchand. Nobody is saying Gabrielle is going to push close to a 40-goal season over the next few seasons just as Marchand did last year, but he should show the Bruins a little agitating taste of what happens when he isn’t on his best behavior during the next training camp game. He also has frosted tips as a hair choice for this week, and that is a strong indication that Gabrielle doesn’t take things too seriously. 

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. 


Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game


Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.