Senyshyn looking to show more than first-round tools with Bruins

Senyshyn looking to show more than first-round tools with Bruins

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. 

Haggerty: With Donato's debut, B's circle of life complete

Haggerty: With Donato's debut, B's circle of life complete

BRIGHTON – If you stay in the NHL for long enough, the hockey circle of life becomes complete for any player.

Sometimes it might be coaching the son of a former teammate or a former NHL player watching their kids suit up against guys they used to play against. Much more rarely, it might be father and son playing on the same team as the late, great Hall of Famer Gordie Howe did with his sons at the tail end of his brilliant career.

Much more common are NHL players sticking around long enough to play with sons of their former teammates. Such was the case with Patrice Bergeron, 32, skating at practice on Monday with the newly signed Ryan Donato. Bergeron couldn’t help but feel a little old at the notion, but immediately went back to his days as an 18-year-old NHL rookie playing with Teddy Donato in the final season of his NHL career back in 2003-04.

“It’s definitely different. When I was an 18-year-old coming in [to the NHL] I was playing with his dad, and that year [Ryan, as a little kid] was skating a few times after practice and I was there,” said Bergeron, going into the way-back machine to when he was the youngest player in the league in his first season. “Now he’s in the locker room and going to be a part of the team. He comes from a great family. I just hope I can help him as much as Teddy [helped me].

“It certainly doesn’t make me feel any younger. I still think I am, and that I’ve got a few good years ahead of me. It’s a little weird to see that, but that where I am in my career, I guess.”

Clearly, the memories of the younger Donato are notable for Bergeron, and they are doubly so for a young guy in Donato who's idolized No. 37. In fact, Donato said he was blown away that Bergeron even remembered him when they bumped into each other at the summer pro league in Foxboro a couple of years back.

It was a long way away from Bergeron heading over to Donato’s house for pool parties when he was still a teenager just starting to make NHL waves.

“This is what kind of guy Patrice Bergeron is...he was around the house a little bit when I was a little kid and he was a rookie in the NHL,” said Donato, telling the story at last summer’s development camp after dominating the rest of his Bruins prospect peers for a week’s time. “I hadn’t seen him for a pretty long time, and then he saw me in Foxboro a couple of years ago and said ‘Hey Ryan, how’s it going?’

“That’s pretty cool when your idol and the player you most look up to can remember you like that. It says a lot about him as a person, and we know what he’s all about as a player. He’s just a great of the best.”

It was when Donato retold that story to that we had a pretty good idea he wouldn’t be signing anywhere else but with the Black and Gold.

Bergeron and Donato won’t get to play together at the start, unfortunately, with the Bruins franchise center still out with a fractured right foot. That’s part of the reason the Donato, who turns 22 April 9, is being brought in with Bergeron, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk down with injuries and the Bruins in need of some dynamic wingers with offensive pop. Clearly, Donato has proven everything he needs to at the collegiate level with 26 goals in 29 games this season at Harvard and he was Team USA’s most dynamic player in PyeongChang with five goals scored in the tournament.

It’s still unclear how much of an impact Donato is going to make jumping straight from the NCAAs to the NHL, but he’s ready to start living out his NHL dreams with the Bruins team that also drafted and developed his dad 30 years ago.

“It’s a whirlwind. Right now it’s pretty crazy. Obviously, I’m really excited," he said. "It’s something I don’t want to happen too fast so I can cherish every second of it. Right now it’s a lot of fun,” said Donato, who signed his two-year, entry-level contract on Sunday. “Even going out for [the morning skate] was a dream come true. It didn’t even feel real yet.

“I just want to play well and do whatever I can to help the team. I just want to go in confident and do what I can to help. At the end of the day, it’s just hockey and I’ve been playing it my whole life, so hopefully, I can play to the best of my abilities.”

With a strong Bruins support system headed by a couple of his father's former NHL teammates in Don Sweeney and Cam Neely- who have known him since he was a little kid - and a roster primed for a long playoff run, the younger Donato couldn’t be asking for a better situation to show what he can do in the NHL. 

Now, it’s up to Donato to show he’s a chip off the old block as the son of a former Bruins forward who scored 150 goals and totaled nearly 350 points in a distinguished NHL career. Perhaps it’ll give him a chance to show that he’s going to be even better than the old man, who was pretty darn good in Black and Gold.  



'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

'Light at end of tunnel' for Bergeron's return

BRIGHTON, Mass – The long regional nightmare for Bruins fans might be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

That’s because Patrice Bergeron hopped on the ice on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of his team’s morning skate and then stuck around to jump in and out of drills while showing strong progress from his fractured right foot suffered at the end of February. 

Clearly,  Bergeron isn’t ready to play now and will miss his 11th consecutive game Monday night when the B's face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden.

Still, it looks like No. 37 will be headed on the four-game road trip after the game and could potentially become an option to play at some point over the next week or two. Certainly, it’s a sign that Bergeron is going to be able to come back and play meaningful games before the playoffs. That’s something that has the 32-year-old excited after missing the past three weeks.

“It was nice to be back on the ice and skating. It felt good. It’s been a long three weeks, but it was nice to finally move forward and be on the ice. It was definitely nice to be on the ice with the guys,” said Bergeron, who skated on Sunday with Bruins Skating and Skills Coach Kim Branvold as well. “There’s definitely still some discomfort, but it’s a lot better. That was to be expected that it wasn’t going to be perfect when I was back right away.

“I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel right now being on the ice. We’re trying not to set a timeline right now, but just make sure I feel good and have my bearings on the ice. So far I’m happy with where we’re at.”

Certainly, it would be good timing if Bergeron returned soon when it appears David Backes (deep laceration on his right leg) is going to miss a week or two and Jake DeBrusk is out with no timetable for a return after getting dinged with a big hit in Carolina on Boston’s most recent trip.

Impressively, the Bruins have gone 8-2-0 since Bergeron has been out. Riley Nash has been a point-per-game player in March while filling in for No. 37 with three goals and nine points in nine games along with a plus-4 rating. Still, the Bruins all know their all-around game will rise to another level when they get their best all-around player back in the lineup and re-form what’s been the best two-way forward in the NHL this season with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.