Haggerty's thoughts and observations from day one of Bruins' Development Camp
Bruins Development Camp Day one
Here are some thoughts and observations from the first day of Bruins development camp at Warrior Ice Arena with 29 players in camp this season.
1. Jack Studnicka
Liked everything I saw out of Jack Studnicka during conditioning and power skating drills. The 19-year-old is in just his second season of B’s development camp, but he was the first in every drill and was really showing some leadership skills on the ice amongst a lot of inexperienced prospects in the group. He continues to show the good shot, the smooth skating and solid frame that make him one of Boston’s best prospects, and he showed a lot of confidence in his determined comments about vying for an NHL roster spot this fall. But the assertiveness and the desire to lead the group were even more impressive in my eyes, and show a maturity that might make him ready for NHL competition a little sooner than perhaps first expected. At the very least Studnicka continues to show there is good reason to be bullish on his future with the B’s organization after an impressive five game cameo with the Providence Bruins at the end of last season. Certainly Bruins Director of Player Development Jamie Langenbrunner was impressed: “He jumped up to the first spot in the line, he wants to be in charge, he wants to be an example. I think his place on the ice shows that. He’s not the most vocal guy in the world. His attitude and the way he plays, he’s a leading scorer, he’s a playmaker, but I saw him on two occasions go and get in a fight protecting a teammate. He has it in him. It’s just a natural thing for him. It’s the reason he was named a captain as a young 18-year-old in that league. He leads by example every day.”
2. Urho Vaakanainen
Urho Vaakanainen certainly looks bigger and stronger when you see him walking around the Bruins dressing room, and physically he’s looking a lot closer to competing for an NHL job. I say this with the caveat that it’s still very early in this development camp, but on Tuesday the former first round pick also still looks a little lacking when it comes to the offensive part of the game. During skating drills where the players finished by firing a shot on net, Vaakanainen came down and completely fanned on one attempt and then followed that up by blasting one with the kind of high and wide oomph that Scot Norwood would have been proud of. We’ll see what remains over the course of the rest of the week with Vaakanainen and this humble hockey writer will certainly keep an open mind. But it really just doesn’t look like he’s going to bring much to the table offensively, so he better be one heck of a fast-skating, shutdown defenseman now that he’s competing for a spot in Boston.
3. Jeremy Swayman
I continue to like what I see of Jeremy Swayman. He’s got idea size at 6-foot-2, 187-pounds, he posted a pretty solid .921 save percentage at the University of Maine last season and he was taking really good angles on the shooters throwing rubber at him on Tuesday morning. Certainly he’ll have competition in this camp with Daniel Vladar as a guy that needs to start seizing his chance with the Bruins organization, and a goalie in Kyle Keyser that’s going to be invited to the Team USA World Junior camp this summer. But Swayman looks like he’s got the goods between the pipes and certainly got his development camp off to a good start. Langenbrunner on Swayman: “He was probably [Maine’s] best player. That was great. A kid that’s continued to work, he looks bigger and stronger in the net right now. He’s filling out nicely. His competitiveness, he saw a lot of shots last year and held them in a lot of games. He’ll continue this year maybe a little ahead of where we projected possibly, but he was drafted in that slot for a reason. I think the scouts believed he could play and he’s shown it.”
4. Joona Koppanen
We’ll cut him some slack because he’s one of the biggest guys on the ice at 6-foot-5, 195-pounds, but it was pretty obvious that Bruins forward prospect Joona Koppanen wasn’t in ideal shape headed into this week’s development camp. After the conditioning skate at the beginning of practice, the big Finnish center was down on his hands and knees struggling to catch his wind once he’d crossed past the goal line for the last time. Koppanen had a pretty good season for IIves Tampere and had an excellent World Junior performance (three goals scored in five games) for Team Finland, so he came into this week with some things he could build on under the watchful eye of the Bruins scouts and development people. But the sight of Koppanen really scuffling through the first 20 plus minutes of practice while recovering from his opening conditioning skate isn’t really what anybody is looking for. He wasn’t the only one as one of the camp invites actually laid down on their side next to Koppanen when they were done with the conditioning skate as well, but the Big Finn should have expected this as a dev camp veteran. It might be in Koppanen’s best interest to start ramping up the skating and conditioning when he gets back to Finland to make sure he’s in the best condition of his life at Bruins training camp next fall.
5. Karson Kuhlman
Karson Kuhlman can shoot the puck. The Frozen Four MVP for the University of Minnesota-Duluth and undrafted signee was probably expected to be one of the more polished players in the development camp setting after four years of college, and he most definitely was that on day one. We’ll see more as the week goes along for him, but his hard, accurate shot and quick release stood out from other players that probably need to work on that a little bit more over the summer. He’s not exactly a sniper with 39 goals in 166 career games at the NCAA level, but he looked like a player worth keeping an eye on once NHL training camp begins in the fall. He could turn into another very useful NCAA signing by a Bruins scouting staff that’s mined a ton of talent out of the collegiate ranks over the years.
6. Adding size
The Bruins certainly aren’t the biggest, baddest team in the NHL anymore despite boasting the league’s biggest player on their roster in Zdeno Chara. But they’ve got some really big boys among their prospect group in camp this week: 6-foot-5 Joona Koppanen, 6-foot-3, 200-pound Curtis Hall, 6-foot-4 Jack Becker, 6-foot-5, 207-pound Daniel Bukac and of course 6-foot-5 goaltender Daniel Vladar. It’s good that the Bruins are still keeping size and strength in mind when making their draft selections. Perhaps that will trickle up to the NHL roster where they could definitely use a little more size and strength to the group, and certainly might have that coming with a guy like Trent Frederic competing for a job in camp this fall.