Bruins

World Junior showcase highlights what Bruins did, and didn't do, at draft

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World Junior showcase highlights what Bruins did, and didn't do, at draft

A year ago Bruins fans were energized and excited while watching the World Junior summer showcase and witnessing a potential star in the making as Charlie McAvoy skated, moved the puck and obliterated forward prospect Lawson Crouse with a huge open ice hit. Perhaps it’s no surprise eight months later McAvoy was already in the NHL and paying dividends on that massive potential with an impressive playoff performance averaging a massive 26 minutes of ice time in six postseason games for the Black and Gold.

Unfortunately, it’s a much quieter summer showcase from Team USA this time around from a B’s perspective.

A couple of B’s draft picks, defenseman Ryan Lindgren and center Trent Frederic, are at the USA Hockey camp vying for world junior roster spots, but it’s 5-foot-8 Kailer Yamamoto that’s taken the summer hockey exhibition by storm. That’s the same skilled, explosive Yamamoto that the Edmonton Oilers took 22nd overall and just four spots after the Bruins played it safe in the first round with solid, stay-at-home defenseman prospect Urho Vaakanainen.

Yamamoto scored, assisted and was a dominant force by while skating on a top line with lottery pick Casey Mittelstadt and fellow first rounder Logan Brown for Team USA vs. Sweden on Thursday. He certainly didn’t look undersized or unable to easily handle the higher level of international play, and instead resembled Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Johnson or any number of feisty, productive and small NHL wingers making their way in the league these days.  

Clearly, it’s impossible to accurately evaluate it at this point because Vaakenainen could turn into a solid 10-year pro that will more than justify his selection by Boston, and Yamamoto faces odds stacked against him when he’ll be one of the smallest players in the NHL once he gets there. But the league is trending toward the tremendous speed and skill that Yamamoto brings to the table, and that’s not changing anytime soon. The bottom line is that it’s somebody else’s draft pick that’s got the hockey world oohing and aahing this week at the summer showcase.

The situation is all the more striking with former Bruins Director of Scouting Keith Gretzky now working as an assistant GM with Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton. That’s the very same Oilers team that happily scooped up the dynamic Yamamoto after the Bruins, along with the Sharks, Blues and Rangers passed on a potentially explosive winger while instead settling on a solid, no-frills defenseman with a lot of work to do offensively.

It certainly felt a lot better from a Bruins perspective last summer when they had the hot prospect making all the highlight reels at the showcase event. 

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Jakub Lauko ready to be 'humble & prepared' for Bruins training camp

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Jakub Lauko ready to be 'humble & prepared' for Bruins training camp

It wasn’t a slam dunk that 19-year-old Bruins prospect Jakub Lauko was going to play in the QMJHL this past season.

In fact, Lauko admitted he had a lot of reservations when it was first discussed that the best move for the Czech winger would be to come over for North American junior hockey where he could begin to adjust away from the European game.

Lauko wanted to go right to the AHL in Providence after scoring a couple of goals early in his first NHL training camp before suffering an injury in a collision during camp practice with Noel Acciari. Clearly it was the right move for the teenager to head instead to junior hockey for his development, though, and that’s the way things played out for him in a year where he got better as things went along.

It still was tough as Lauko adjusted to a different language and culture over the course of the hockey season, but the top B’s forward prospect had zero regrets when it was all over with this summer.

Lauko didn’t skate at all in Bruins development camp a few weeks ago because his junior season had just wrapped up after Rouyn-Noranda made it all the way to the Memorial Cup, but the Bruins prospect says that his experience in Quebec ended up making him a better player. It also showed him to be a big game player as he led the way with his eight points (two goals, six assists) in the five games it took Rouyn-Noranda to hoist the Memorial Cup.

“I hated it for the first month,” said Lauko, who was playing through a lower body injury toward the end of his team’s postseason run. “But at the end of the season, you just look up and see that you won two trophies. It was the right choice after that. I think I changed a lot as a player. I improved my English, and I think I’m a different player after this season, different person. I’m just happy I made the choice.”

“It was a really big experience for me, through the regular season, playoffs and to the Cup. It was hell of a ride for us and I really enjoyed it. Just happy to have two trophies over my head after.”

He was always pretty good to begin as evidenced by his standout performance at last summer’s development camp, and in last fall’s Bruins rookie training camp as well. The 6-foot-1, 172-pounder has speed, tenacity and goal-scoring ability as evidenced by his 21 goals and 41 points in 43 games for the Huskies during the regular season. Then he poured on six more goals and 13 points in 19 games during the Memorial Cup playoffs and showed off the skill that got him drafted.

Now Lauko heads into his second NHL training camp one year bigger, stronger and more mature in his hockey game. Will he finally get his wish to be in either Boston or Providence this fall where he’s already shown some of the hard-nosed and skilled traits he’ll need to eventually stick at the NHL level?

"I think he came in last year and had a good training camp, he did a real good job of coming over to North America and adjusting a little bit. It was a little bit of a challenge early on. Tough going into Northern Quebec learning English and French at the same time to a degree,” said Bruins Player Development Coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner. “It was tough living-wise for him early on, but his game continued to grow and he played his best hockey at the end of the year. That's what we were hoping for. We will see when September and October comes with him."

Certainly the Bruins could use another top-6 or top-9 winger after they never replaced the departing Marcus Johansson, but it has to be considered a longshot for Lauko with more finished prospect products like Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlarik and Zach Senyshyn in the running for any vacant forward spots.

Whether it’s next season or a couple of years down the road, however, it’s beginning to feel like Lauko is going to be in Boston sooner rather than later. And he will make an impact with his two-way game when he finally does arrive after the Bruins selected him in the third round (77thoverall) in last summer’s NHL Draft.

“It’s hard to say (where I will play this season),” said Lauko, who signed his entry-level deal with the Bruins at the tail end of training camp last fall. “I will go into the year and just try to find a spot in Boston. You never know what’s going to happen. I will just stay positive and whatever happens is going to happen.

"I will just arrive here humble and prepared. I will try to fight for a spot here. If it will not go well, just keep working and try to fight for a spot during the season and next seasons.”

Lauko certainly has the right attitude and he’s got the goods as far as his game goes on the ice. Everybody will just have to wait a few months to see if the 19-year-old has matured enough to the point where he could use those electric skills and tenacity to challenge for a B’s roster spot at a precocious young age.

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Bruins forwards Chris Wagner, Charlie Coyle celebrate five-year anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Bruins forwards Chris Wagner, Charlie Coyle celebrate five-year anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge

In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge came into existence. The challenge, inspired by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates and his counterpart Pat Quinn, involves a participant dumping a bucket of ice water on their head while being filmed. During the video, the participant nominates others to join the challenge or forfeit and give a charitable donation to ALS research causes. The challenge was created to build awareness for ALS.

Quickly, the Internet embraced the Ice Bucket Challenge challenge and seemingly everyone was doing it, from average everyday people to Kermit the Frog to Boston-based sports teams. And the challenge reared its head once again on Monday.

On July 15, 2019, a revival of the Ice Bucket Challenge to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the viral sensation took place at Copley Square. And a couple of current members of the Boston Bruins, Chris Wagner and Charlie Coyle, were on hand and spoke about what the challenge meant to them.

"Obviously, it's just such a great cause," Wagner said per the Bruins official Twitter account. "It's a terrible disease. I've seen a lot of people affected by it. You know, family and friends too. Just to be here in support... it's easy for us and the whole thing goes a long way to raising some money."

Meanwhile, Coyle recalled actually doing the ice bucket challenge in his Weymouth-based home and bonding with his friends and family over the event.

"I did it in my backyard with my sister," Coyle said. "It was a lot of fun. And you get to nominate some of your friends, get them involved and it just keeps getting passed on. Like I said, it was just a fun way to do it. Everyone had a good time with it and it was a great idea by these guys."

It's nice to see that Wagner and Coyle are offering their support of this locally-based cause, especially given their Massachusetts-based roots.

And, of course, it was fun to see them participate in the challenge once again, which you can check out at the end of the video below, courtesy of the Bruins Twitter account.


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