Bruins

Observations from Day 4 of Bruins Development Camp

Observations from Day 4 of Bruins Development Camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – Here are the thoughts and observations from the fourth and final day of Bruins Development Camp at Warrior Ice Arena. 

 

1)  Best players from the camp in my estimation were Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato, a pair of mid-round picks that have been groomed and developed at strong NCAA programs while also serving as two of the older forwards among the prospect group. Bjork has speed and strength on his skates, an ability to finish off plays as he showed with one-timers and taking pucks strong to the net and has the kind of polish that most of these younger, up-and-coming prospects are striving for at this point in their careers. Donato has always showed a strong shot and the kind of motor you expect from a kid that’s grown up with hockey in his blood, but now he’s got a little more size and a little more speed to dominate among his peers. It was difficult for other camp prospects to separate him from the puck, and he took it hard to the net every chance he was on the ice. It remains to be seen what Donato does in terms of his NCAA career playing for his dad at Harvard, but he looks like he’s going to close to ready for pro hockey as he enters his junior campaign for the Crimson. 

2)  We had some fun with Jesse Gabrielle and the frosted tips he’s sporting during yesterday’s thoughts and observations, but one thing stands out about Gabrielle above and beyond the talent. The kid clearly has some kind of inner fire and drive to improve and show what he can do, and it manifests in the things that he does in between drills and scrimmages. Gabrielle is constantly skating around, shooting and working on something as other guys rest and recharge for the next drill, and that kind of energy and drive is exactly the sort of thing you want to see in a young player fighting for a job. Gabrielle has posted good numbers in junior hockey and could be the type to rest on his laurels if he really wanted to be, but Gabrielle showed this week that there should be a future for him in the Bruins organization as a Brad Marchand-type player that hopes he can hit something close to that ceiling. 

3)  I like the skating and lack of panic in Urho Vaakenainen’s game that translates well to breaking pucks out of the zone and transitioning quickly, and should make him a longtime pro in the NHL ready to go a couple of years from now. You can see the potential there, and there is tremendous value with those kinds of players. But you can see the lack of creativity and spark to his offensive game when he was playing in the half-ice 3-on-3 drills, and that’s something that may never be there for him on the back end. Clearly he’s not billed as an offensive defenseman per se, and some of that will develop over time as he parlays skill and opportunity into genuine improvement. But some of that offensive skill is a “either you have it or you don’t” kind of thing, and I’m not sure Vaakenainen is ever going to be a dynamic offensive defenseman. More like a solid mid-pairing guy that can play in all situations, put up a decent amount of points and be the kind of solid pro that every team needs. 

4) The first thing you notice about Zach Senyshyn is the speed and the way he can change gears when he’s skating, and he can surprise players by blowing by them when he really turns on the jets. But he showed an increased level of physicality as well in the 1-on-1 battles. At one point he just blew Oskar Steen off the puck during a battle between the two forward prospects, and you saw Steen’s stick go flying as Senyshyn moved the puck back down the other end of the ice in half-ice 3-on-3 drills. That was one area where Senyshyn looked a little wide-eyed in past camps, so adding a little more physicality to the speed package is a necessary ingredient for a player that’s been blessed with the size and the natural gifts already. 

5) Trent Frederic has done some good work in the weight room. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 205-pounds and was always a good-sized kid, but a year at the University of Wisconsin has him showing off man strength among teen-aged prospects. He easily carved out space in front of the net and won puck battles in the small spaces caused by the 3-on-3 drills, and continues to look like he’ll be a good third line center at the NHL level. The offensive game is still a little basic with Frederic despite the good numbers in college last season, and there isn’t much he does that’s of the flashy variety. He’ll also continue to be judged as a guy the B’s took at the end of the first round rather than rolling the dice on the undersized, ultra-skilled Alex Debrincat. But Frederic clearly a hard worker and a leader given the way he operates with his peers in the dressing room, and that will translate to the pro game well along with the size/strength talent that he brings to the table. 

6)  Guys like Wiley Sherman, Cedric Pare and Jack Becker are all big bodies that have some degree of skill or ability at their respective positions, but it’s really tough to judge them in the development camp environment. The skills aren’t going to make them jump off the page and there are too many older, experienced players at the camp for them to physically dominate with any size advantages they do have. Pare had a tough start to camp in terms of showing anything offensively, but he was a bit better as the week went on to at least show a bit of what the B’s scouts are seeing in him. Of the big-bodied prospects, Joona Koppanen might have been the best one all week as he showed some pretty decent skill to go along with the ideal 6-foot-5 size he brings up front. 

7)  Jeremy Swayman was the best of the goalies in camp, in this humble writer’s hockey opinion. He was big, athletic and quick from post-to-post while showing good competitiveness on each and every play around him. I just have not seen it with Daniel Vladar, who is huge size-wise and should have the advantage given his pro hockey resume. He’s way too inconsistent at this point in his career and doesn’t really look like the heir apparent for the Bruins with Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban entering into a career phase where they’re looking to break into the NHL as back-ups. 

8)  In all, this was a solid Bruins development camp. Not as star-studded or high-end quality as the past couple of seasons when guys like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo were on the ice among the prospects. But there are still some good players coming through the B’s system that should be competing for jobs this season and beyond for a Bruins team that needs to keep producing young talent in a salary cap era. 

David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

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David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

TORONTO – The Bruins top line totaled up 20 points in the first two games, and the B’s took both of those against the Maple Leafs. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had zero points in Game 3 on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre, and the Bruins ended up dropping that game to the Leafs. 

So clearly the Bruins’ playoff fate could be strongly tied to the ebbs and flow of their top forward trio, but the hope with the B’s is that the formula won’t be that simple throughout the postseason. A big part of the reason the Bruins gave up a boatload to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash was to acquire another forward capable of shouldering a scoring load, and turn Boston’s second line into a much more dangerous group. 

All three members of the B’s second line, David Krejci, Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk, all have goals during the best-of-seven series, but they also came up empty in Game 3 with Krejci and DeBrusk only managing two shots on net between them. They know that they’re capable of more given the offensive talent on the ice, and given that so much defensive attention is being paid to neutralizing Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak rather than them. 

“We had lots of good looks. I missed a couple. We had lots of good looks that just didn’t go in,” said Krejci. “So we need to work extra harder [in Game 4] to bury those chances and have them end up in the back of the net. We need to stick to the game plan and respect the game plan.”

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Nash had five shots on net and some pretty good chances, but the best scoring chance was a DeBrusk dangle and pass to Krejci wide open at the net. It looked like the puck hit a rut on the ice and Krejci was never able to settle it down for a shot despite the nice-looking pass, so that line is left biding their team for another chance to carry the offense. 

“I think that’s the main reason why we’re the second line. We all have attributes that can help this team. It hasn’t really come to the table yet, but I still thought that we generated chances [in Game 3], and I think our whole team did. It just wasn’t bouncing our way,” said DeBrusk. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time you take the positives from it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to get harder from here on in. Hopefully our top line does their thing, but if not then we’ll be ready to hopefully help out in that category.”

The Bruins top line is ready, willing and able to shoulder the lion’s share of the scoring burden for the Black and Gold, and most nights they’re going to be able to live up to that kind of responsibility. But if the Bruins want to beat the good defensive teams and become a much more difficult team to play against in the postseason, they’re going to need to start getting production from a second line that should be built to play the power, puck possession game in the postseason.

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

TORONTO – At some point, they’re going to have to start thinking about re-naming the award after Patrice Bergeron himself.

The Bruins center was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy on Wednesday night for the seventh consecutive season, and is going for his NHL-record fifth trophy for being the best defensive forward in the NHL. Bergeron was named a finalist along with Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Bergeron finished his 12th NHL season with 30 goals and 33 assists for 63 points with 26 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating in 64 games.

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He ranked fifth in the league in faceoff win percentage (57.3, min. 1,000 face-offs), 12th in face-offs won (784), third in even strength faceoff win percentage (58.0, min. 500 face-offs won) and first in shorthanded faceoff win percentage (58.3, min. 50 face-offs won). The 32-year-old forward also ranked second overall in the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential), with a 57.56%, which should make the fancy stat nerds very happy.

Some might argue there other more worthy candidates given that Bergeron missed 18 games due to injury this season, but he was also the center of a line that didn’t give up an even strength goal until January while putting up his customarily excellent stats. That being said, a guy like Aleksander Barkov also deserved plenty of consideration outside the top-3 finalists that all come in with equally strong chances of taking home the award.

Bergeron has won the Selke in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If he wins the year's Selke Trophy, he will break the record held by four-time winner and Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey. The Selke Award is given annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season, and will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.

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