He may not be on the track that other more NHL-ready wings are on heading into his first full NHL training camp with the Bruins, but Zach Senyshyn is also more ready than he’s ever been to put his best skate forward.
Senyshyn, 20, a first-round pick in 2015, wrapped up a standout junior career with the Soo Greyhounds by scoring 42 goals and 65 points last season, then got his feet wet with a few games in the AHL playoffs last spring.
The 6-foot-3, 196-pound Senyshyn went scoreless in those four playoff games with the P-Bruins, and came away with a much better idea of the expectations he’ll need to meet before he’s ready for Boston.
He’s got the NHL skating speed he showed in abundance while blowing past fellow prospects at last week’s Bruins development camp and is now starting to show his strength and ability to play without the puck are all improving rapidly. Senyshyn hopes it all comes together for him in camp with perhaps a couple of NHL roster spots open for younger players and the Bruins with every reason to see him succeed.
“Seeing the younger guys excel, like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly, and have terrific years, it really gives me something to look up to when I’m growing and developing this year,” said Senyshyn, who was drafted 15th overall, one pick after DeBrusk, two years ago. “It’s a big jump. As much as everybody tells you that, it’s another thing to experience it. I felt really good about my play [at the AHL level] and I’m really looking forward to next season.
“It’s always been my goal to play for the Boston Bruins and put on that Spoked B. It takes a lot of compete and I have a long way to go, but it’s something I’m willing to do. I think I have the drive to compete for one of those positions, and use my skills while learning from the guys and my coaches about what it takes to play at that level.”
The more realistic read on Senyshyn, however, is that he’s behind fellow young wingers Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk when it comes to competing for an NHL job in the coming months. He was far from dominant when dropped into the Calder Cup playoffs with the P-Bruins and he could stand to further develop his package of speed, size and strength that has him often compared to Chris Kreider at the pro ranks.
Fair or unfair, Senyshyn will also always be judged next to prospects Matt Barzal, Colin White, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor who were selected directly after his surprise choice by the Bruins. Clearly, the B’s are happy with what they see, but most of those aforementioned players are already beginning to show that they can contribute in the NHL while Senyshyn continues to hone his craft.
“Well, you see a guy like [Zach] Senyshyn, right? He’s turning pro, he can really motor. We knew that all along but now I’m getting more of a firsthand look at it,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy after taking in development camp. “Now, how does that translate into the game situations? That’s where September [training camp], to me, is a much bigger measurement stick.
“You’re the best at your level because you’re good. Now, you get to this level, that talent gap closes in a hurry so the detailed part of the game is important. You try to just hammer away on it because I know they’ve heard it 100 times. And if it takes 150, that’s what it takes to get it. But, it is so important that they learn those parts of the game and work on them in practice out there. Even though they know that they’re good, they get away with their talent. They’re not going to be able to do that in two months, or it’s rare. So that’s the message that I try to impart on these young guys without being a pain in the ass.”
It’s not inconceivable that the speedy, talented Senyshyn could really show he’s leaped forward in his development and thrusts himself into a competition to be on the right side with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. It would be an example of a young player being put in a prime position to succeed, and a place where creative veterans Bergeron and Marchand could use Senyshyn’s gear-shifting speed as a weapon against opponents with minimal defensive damage being done.
It’s those kinds of opportunities that have Senyshyn most excited about what’s in store for him next while knowing full well he’s got things to work on.
“It was great to be at Providence at the end of last season, and it’s all about developing and getting better with the focus on next season,” said Senyshyn. “We’ve got some great coaches out there that I love to work with and I’m really happy to start my pro career with them.
“What I think it takes to play consistently [at the pro level] is a big thing in my game. I want to find that consistency in my game where even if it’s not going in that night, you’re finding a way to help your team when you’re out there.”
That’s certainly a mature outlook from the 20-year-old with just a handful of pro games under his belt and it’s the kind of thing that Cassidy preaches from everybody on the NHL roster. Now, Senyshyn will get his chance to show he can do exactly that in his first real chance at winning an NHL job a couple of months from now in a very welcoming Boston environment for young prospects.