Thoughts and observations from first day of Bruins development camp

Thoughts and observations from first day of Bruins development camp

WILMINGTON -- Here are a few thoughts and observations from the first day of Bruins development camp that was heavy on skating, and a tad light on the competitive stuff that may be to come in the next couple of days.

1)  Charlie McAvoy looks bigger on skates and in his equipment than I might have figured. Not in a negative way or in a “fluffy” way. He just looks solid with a little of the bowling ball, low center-of-gravity type build that you see with a lot of NFL running backs that makes them fast, powerful and very difficult to knock off their feet – or off the puck in this particular instance. He was agile in the skating drills and had a smooth way about him as he went through the drills despite being one of the youngest guys at the entire development camp. You can see why scouts and BU folks raved about his physicality and strength in puck battles that goes beyond the skating, passing and shooting that people always quickly notice about him. He looks like a very good pick by the Bruins, and somebody that could become a real ice time horse a couple of years down the line. He has the strong build and hockey body that coaches look for in big minutes-type players.

2)  It was a tale of two sessions for Trent Frederic. The Bruins first round pick from last month’s draft looked really nervous in the first session. He was falling down and nearly getting passed by other skaters in drills where the players where wheeling around a series of nets set up like an obstacle course, and he completely fanned on a shot attempt at the end of one of the skating drills when other players were showing their shooting prowess. It looked to me like he read some of the draft analysis about him being a bit of a reach at the end of the first round, and he was nervous trying to change people’s minds about him. Frederic is a high character guy by all accounts, and he showed it in the second session when he was much better as things got a bit more about physical strength, and less about sleek skating ability. Frederic had a beauty of a top corner finish on one 2-on-1 drill, and seemed a little more relaxed in the pro setting after showing some rookie jitters early. The jury was mixed on Frederic after being taken on draft day, and there was a little good and bad in Tuesday’s session. But give the kid credit for showing some moxie later in the afternoon.

3)  Brandon Carlo is another big name player in this development camp, and he looked rusty and tentative as well during the skating drills in the first session. Granted Carlo is never going to look like a gazelle skating around nets in a row like they were traffic cones, but he also seemed like he hadn’t been on the ice much recently after a long session. Carlo was much better in the second session when he was able to use his 6-foot-5 size to throw around other skaters during the 2-on-2 drills, and show a little of the mean streak he’ll need to have to go along with his size and strength at the NHL level. It was a decent start for the promising Carlo, but he’ll need to keep getting better as the week goes along to build some momentum going into an important fall for his development. The Bruins are expecting big things from Carlo even if they’re tempering their expectations a bit right now.

4)  I know some people were a little down on Jakub Zboril after his offensive numbers took a dip last season in junior hockey, but he looked much better in this year’s development camp than he did last year. He was clearly in much better shape, and looked smooth moving the puck while also showing good battle for pucks during the 2-on-2 drills. While some may be throwing around the “bust” word for a kid that’s only 19 years old, Zboril still looked like a first rounder to me during the first day of development camp. It could very well be that a little disappointment last year has taught the Czech Republic native a lesson, and he’s come back with a little bit of a healthy chip on his shoulder to prove he was worth the valuable pick Boston used to get him last June. It might be that Jeremy Lauzon has passed Zboril on the Bruins prospect depth chart after last season, but I think that’s more about what Lauzon is doing than what Zboril isn’t doing.

5)   I liked what I saw of Anders Bjork’s shot during the late drills. He led Notre Dame in scoring last season, and it showed a couple of times when he whistled wrist shots to the top corner past goaltenders like Daniel Vladar.

6)  Ryan Fitzgerald flashed his skating speed and shooting ability in both sessions, and stood out among the many local kids in attendance at the development camp. At 21 years old and coming off an excellent year at Boston College, it’s about time for Fitzgerald to really start to dominate among his peers as one of the older, more experienced kids going through the drills and skating sessions.

7)  Ryan Lindgren was missing from Tuesday’s session because of a school commitment, but he’s expected to be on the ice for the rest of the week with the rest of the B’s prospects. 

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.

Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.

“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”

Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.

Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.

Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.


Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

File photo

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.

*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.

*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.

*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.

*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.

*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.

*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.