Well, 2010 Boston Bruins Development Camp is in the books, and I must say I had a great time here over the past five days.
This blog post won't be comprehensive, but wanted to get something up and on the net to briefly summarize what went on today.
First of all, the place was packed with fans, which, wasn't unexpected given the good turnout throughout the weekdays. You just knew that on a day when people who couldn't get out of their jobs during normal business days could attend, they would surge on the Ristuccia. The Bruins even opened up the media area to the fans to handle the spillover, and it still wasn't enough to accomodate everyone. It was great for the Bruins prospects to see that kind of fan support, and Joe Colborne told me that he thought everyone was phenomenal and that it was a real treat for the players to do their thing in front of so many dedicated fans.
The B's did drills for the first full hour session, and about 20 minutes of the second after they resurfaced the ice. Then, they scrimmaged for another 30 minutes, starting out at 5-on-5, then going to 4-on-4 and ultimately finishing the scrimmage going 3-on-3, which really worked the goalies out. Then, everyone got to do one shootout attempt, and that closed the book on the camp.
I tried to get a better look at the lower-end guys today because much has been written about the usual suspects, but once again, Colborne, Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner made that difficult because they were so involved offensively. Jordan Caron and Craig Cunningham showed off some nice mojo together during 3-on-3 play, and when I was talking to Cunningham afterward, he was praising Spooner (his 5-on-5 linemate- they alternated taking draws and playing center, with invite Tyler Brenner on the other side.) while Caron sat on the other side of him pointing at his own chest, looking for a little love. Cunningham finally caught on and gave Caron his due. That little example of rapport is why the Bruins are doing these camps- it gives someone brand new to the organization like Cunningham a chance to glom on to someone who's been around a little longer and he'll not have to spend time getting comfortable with a completely new dressing room when he comes back in late August.
Zach Trotman did not skate today. Not sure why. Mark Goggin did not skate all week- he had an injury I couldn't get any fidelity on, but was around the team at least, and participated in the off-ice training. Max Sauve was out there today at the end of the session, skating a bit and working one-on-one with Mike Hutchinson, who was the best of Boston's four goalies today.
Now, here are some quick notes on some of the lesser-discussed prospects:
Alexander Fallstrom, F-- Outside of the forwards who've gotten the lion's share of the attention in my writeups, Fallstrom was the biggest standout up front. He doesn't possess elite speed, but he's a decent enough skater who has good east-west lateral movement. He's a smart forward who does all the little things and has nice hands. He spent most of the camp riding shotgun with Big Joe Colborne and was an effective winger, putting away a lot of the pucks Colborne dished to him in drills and in scrimmages. Fallstrom is a heady, instinctive player who has a nice frame (with still a lot of room to grow into), but I have to say that every time I keyed on him, he was doing the right things. Put this kid on your watch list, because bigger things are in store.
Ben Sexton, F-- I've been tough on Sexton for being selected in the seventh round in 2009 ahead of some other guys I personally liked better, but he had a solid camp here. He's in very good shape and skates well. He's not big, but is thickly built and gets out of the blocks pretty quickly. He appears to be a pretty smart, two-way player but his hands aren't great. If he ever makes it, it will be as a bottom-line checking forward and energy guy. He's got a long road ahead of him.
Nick Tremblay, C-- If speed and being a good guy were all that mattered in a pro hockey player, Tremblay would be destined for the Hall of Fame. That said, I was far more impressed with what I saw from him in this camp setting as opposed to the few televised games I've seen him play over the past two years. His hands aren't as quick as his feet, but he gets that and is working to address his shot and puckhandling. The Bruins had him out on a line with Sexton (and Tyler Randell) all week, so they did Clarkson coach George Roll a nice favor by helping them to develop some chemistry. They did some good things overall, but that line didn't generate a lot of offense. I'm really intrigued as to how Tremblay will fare this season...his wheels are world class, but he's not brought much else to the table. Now entering his junior season, it's as good a time as any for him to get the consistent offense going.
Tyler Randell, RW-- Tools, tools, and more tools-- this kid's got 'em. This guy has it all-- a big body with functional strength, a powerful stride that generates good top speed, and a wicked wrist and snap shot that he can wire top shelf easily. What dropped him to the sixth round was some shortcomings in the intangibles-- compete level and hockey sense. His coach at Kitchener, Steve Spott, told me that he can be dominant and then he goes through stretches where he's filling a sweater. So, if the light comes on for Randell, he could be a very good third- or fourth-line NHLer one day. He'll fight when he needs to and prides himself on playing hard in front of the net. Every time I look at him in a camp setting (he was sniping the top corners on Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask both last fall at training camp), I say, "That kid's a player," but he has yet to put it together over the course of a season. Careers aren't made in camps, so if he ever gets it going, he could be a very nice player for where he was picked.
Justin Florek, LW-- I was not a fan of the pick when it was made, but it's hard not to like this guy based on what he brought to the mix this week. He's not a high-end offensive player, but he's like Randell in that he can do things other players can't because of his good size and mobility.
Florek is an intelligent player who hustles and plays pretty disciplined but showed some signs of playing with an edge/mean streak. Every time I keyed on him, he was doing what you want a budding power forward to: going to the front of the net to take away the goalie's sight lines, finishing his checks and being a disruptive force in the offensive end. Again, I'm not saying that Florek is a lock for the NHL or the Bruins, but he's a player you appreciate more when you see him live, and he did come out of the U.S. NTDP, so he's ahead of the power curve in terms of his conditioning and experience. He's headed back to Northern Michigan this season and it will be interesting to see what he does.
Matt Bartkowski, D-- Steady and solid. Those are the two words I use to describe this player. He's a good skater-- better than I thought he would be coming in. And, the last two days, he showed more of a willingness to try and get involved in the offensive flow of the game. His shot isn't going to scare anyone, but he's responsible and seems to make the safe play out there. He's kind of a ghost-- in five days of covering the camp, I somehow never managed to track him down in the dressing room if you can believe that. He just seems to quietly go about his business with very little fanfare. He has the makings of a solid stay-at-home d-man in the AHL, possibly with more offense to his game than he showed at Ohio State. But, he'll have his work cut out for him to crack Boston's back end as a regular.
Zach Trotman, D-- He's a lot like Bartkowski in that he doesn't do a great deal to jump out at you, but he's pretty mobile and keeps it simple. He didn't skate today, but looked good the other sessions if unspectacular. He has a lot of work in the weight room to do, however. He's tall and lanky, very much an unpolished prospect and an obvious longshot because of where he was drafted, but he didn't embarrass himself at any time and performed about as well as to be expected for his first time at a development camp.
Ryan Donald, D-- OK, not technically a Bruins prospect, but he gets on here simply because of his insane through-the-legs, backhander he roofed up under the crossbar during the shootout session to whoops and a massive ovation. He's a minor leaguer-- his agility and speed aren't NHL-caliber, but he seems like a guy who worked hard all week and genuinely enjoyed the opportunity to be there (as did Marc Cantin and Brenner). I give him full marks for pulling off that trick shot when he did...he was one of the final shooters and certainly went out in memorable fashion.
Guys who helped themselves the most at this camp (in my view): Colborne, Ryan Button, Knight, Spooner
Nobody really hurt themselves, although Yuri Alexandrov did do as much as was expected of him. I think he'll need to bring it up a notch in September, but as it stands today, he's not ready for primetime and will need to develop in the minors. Everyone looked like they belonged and as there were no jobs up for grabs, they did what they set out to accomplish: Bond as much as they could in an artificial setting while getting a brief immersion into the systems, coaches and staff so that they can come back to Boston (for those not returning to college) in September with a good foundation in place that sets the conditions for success.
Well, it's been fun.
Now, I'll go full bore into doing some updated profiles and projections for you on these kids and where they stand heading into the 2010-11 season. It may take a while, but hang in there and the payoff will be worth it.
Many thanks to those who have commented or took the time to introduce themselves to me this week. I had a blast and look forward to doing it all over again.