The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

Bruins Development Camp Day Three 2016 Edition

The 2016 edition of Boston Bruins Development Camp is cruising along and Day Three saw brought with it a plethora of skating drills. While this was certainly not the creation of a certain power skating coach from days of yore when none were able to master his drills, yesterday’s drills required some effort and concentration on the part of the boys. A couple of the participants were even seen coming off their skates during one drill in particular. It seemed that this drill was designed to humble even the best of the skaters and put them all on an even playing surface, but it was entertaining.  The crowd on hand has collectively been clamoring for a scrimmage, and while they might get a full one today (the last day), there have been mini scrimmages which have allowed this year’s attendees to show off their wares in a competitive light.

There have been a few of the campers that I haven’t said much about to this point, and with good reason.  There really hasn’t been much to say when it comes to most of them, and others I haven’t really seen them while trying to focus on one area of the ice while three separate drills are going on.  But in the interest of equal and fair play, here are a few of the campers that haven’t been mentioned yet…

Jack Becker has good size.  He has appeared to struggle with some of the skating drills, but has handled himself well.  He hasn’t done much to stand out but doesn’t appear to shy away from contact, just doesn’t appear to initiate it either.  Having spoken to others in the crowd I’ve heard everything from “he looks really good” to wow, he’s really struggling out there”.  I will reserve judgement until after today when he will hopefully get to show something before the end.

Cameron Hughes i owe an apology to for not mentioning him sooner but I haven’t seen that moment that makes one stand up and take notice.  On day three he fared very well in the skate drills and he showed up to play during the mini scrimmage.  Good speed, nice shot.  There’s something to like here and I will hopefully see more today.

Joona Koppanen was a late round draft pick and that may be appropriate.  He has struggled with skating and positioning but he does appear to have a nice shot with a not so quick release.  He seems to be a little more physical than your typical Fin but it serves him well considering his size.  At 6’5″ (listed), Joona tipped the scales at 194 pounds.  A little more weight and some skate work could turn him into a third line center and a nice defensive forward.

And now for a few (and I mean a few) quick notes regarding some previously mentioned campers…

This should be Matt Grzelcyk’s last camp.  He is really standing out as the best in camp, but this being his fourth one i guess that is to be expected.  He is smooth skating, properly positioned, and apparently becoming a sniper.  Three rush drills in a row he was able to pick the top corners on both Malcolm Subban and Stephen Dhillon.  I wouldn’t pencil him in for 50 goals, and the top notch goalies in the NHL will surely shut him down most nights, but it was a nice little added wrinkle to his game.  Time will tell if it’s just a camp thing or he can bring that to the next level.

Brandon Carlo appeared to be relying on his size and strength a little too much during one on one drills.  There were, by my count, four possible penalties that could have been called on two separate attempts.  I want to see him paste guys to the boards, but if he is going to follow the forwards behind the net, then he needs to come away with the puck or he will be beaten.

Wiley Sherman was the only defender during one on one drills that did not follow the forward against him behind the net.  Wiley let his man go and just met him out front.  Result…no goals or shot attempts from his foe.  Sherman may be onto something here.

I’m sure I’ve still not mentioned one or two of the boys, and I will rectify this oversight with my next edition, but for now, enjoy the hockey.

The Second Day of 2016 Development Camp

The second day of the 2016 edition of Boston Bruins Development Camp brought us skating and other exercises fast and furious. Not ones to allow standing around, the coaches had drills happening in all three zones. Boardwork to the left, goaltending to the right and skating in the middle, as though it were the basis for a good hockey player (wait…I think it is…).  With a surprise third session, yesterday’s instruction (at least for the benefit of all present) ended around 1:30pm.  With everything going on in the first session, it was difficult to keep track of everything happening so going on the slim notes and my memory, here are some thoughts on day two…

Trent Frederic started to shine yesterday when given the opportunity to show off his speed during rush drills in the second session.  Blasting past defensemen such as Jeremy Lauzon and Brandon Carlo, Trent was able to move in on both Zane McIntyre and Malcolm, scoring on the latter.

Speaking of both Brandon and Jeremy, they appeared to struggle during the skating drills and seemed to have to force it during the third session.  A little too upright and not quite as smooth transitioning forward to backward, they could still use their size and strength to shut down the offensive player during drills as long  as they were in front of that man.

Wiley Sherman has become one of the veterans here at development camp and this fact has made it a little easier to notice the filling out he has done during his dev camp tenure.  Listed at 6’7″ and 220 pounds, Wiley is a beast compared to his first camp where he disappeared when he stood sideways to you.  His physicality has improved with this increase in size, but so has his shut down ability, as his positioning during rush drills saw Wiley consistently in the right place to keep whoever he fronted from even getting off a shot.  And when the offensive player was able to do so, the shot was typically off the mark to one side or other of the net.

Oskar Steen once again showed off his speed and quick release as he was able to score not once but twice on Zane McIntye.  Oskar was able to pick different spots both times, once denting the twine between Zane’s pad and glove and going over his shoulder with the second goal.

And who can forget the goaltenders?  The young invite Stephen Dhillon was seen working with goalie coach Bob Essensa on his side to side movements and other fundamentals.  He has shown an ability to shut down the skaters but has some skills to work on as he progresses in his career.  Daniel Vladar again appeared much improved but was not spared the same work that Dhillon had to deal with.  Vladar was once again up to the task, but this writer missed something that was pointed out by another onlooker in the crowd.  Daniel was said to be leaving his glove hand too low when going down into the butterfly position, something that bears watching as the third installment of this year’s camp gets closer to kick off.

So what does all this tell us?  There is definite talent in the Bruins’ future, but there is also a definitive line between those that have been attending camp for a second or even third time and those that are rookies to the event.  With the proper guidance from the coaches on hand and their coaches and trainers at their various clubs (school or junior clubs) these issues will be addressed and next year should bring about the type of change that Sweeney and company are looking for.

More to come after day three.  See you then.

 

Welcome to Another Year of Boston Bruins Hockey

Hello all, and welcome to another year of Boston Bruins Hockey. There are those of you that may feel that Mr. Sweeney and company have not done much to improve our beloved hockey team here in Boston, and you may be correct. Just look at some of the moves the leadership made in last year’s off season. The Bruins drafted three youngsters in a row at 13, 14 and 15. All three managed to fail their conditioning stints prior to the beginning of the season and the best of the bunch appears to be the young man selected at 15 (Zachary Senyshyn). They sent away Dougie Hamilton (so everyone in Calgary can now share in the knowledge of how to Dougie), as well as fan favorite Milan Lucic in an effort to change the dynamic of the team. However they brought in Zac Rinaldo because they wanted to still be tough, but at a lower cost (and talent level apparently).  The one player that seemed to be worth keeping was traded away for a first round pick in this year’s draft and a prospect we’ll be seeing at this year’s development camp…Sean Kuraly.

Now at the end of the GM’s rookie campaign Don Sweeney has done a little house cleaning.  Seidenberg has been culled from the herd, Brett Connolly was not sent a qualifying offer (how can that be possible?), and neither was Landon Ferraro.  There are other moves that were and were not made, but this is about the future.  All of these moves and signings can take up a whole piece by themselves, but the future was on display today at Ristuccia arena as the Bruins settled in for another development camp.

So Development Camp 2016 edition started yesterday about half an hour later than the posted time of 11:00am.  The arena was only a third to half full and 25 young men are present to put themselves through four days of drills and scrimmages (the on-ice experience) as well as enjoying community time.  Here are just a few quick comments about what this writer saw at the rink.

Two of last year’s first round picks, Jakub Zboril and Jake DeBrusk didn’t really do anything to stand out on the first day.  Some would say this isn’t a bad thing, but I believe that if you aren’t doing anything to get yourself noticed in a positive way then you could be spending the bulk of your time in Providence.

Sean Kuraly, with his time in Ohio behind him, has shown up to earn himself a spot.  I like his size, and he does have a heavy shot, but he comes across as a big loping winger who will take up space in front of the net, and could be a help with going into the corners to fight for pucks.  Looking forward to seeing what he brings to camp going forward.

Brandon Carlo didn’t appear strong on his edges during drills, but he does look solid during the defensive spots and doesn’t shy away from the contact…even if it was with a player a foot shorter than himself.

Danton Heinen looks polished with soft hands and a ninja-like release on his shots.

Charlie McAvoy looked as a first round pick should, solid without overwhelming everyone, but I want to see more.

My favorite on day one has to be Oskar Steen.  He reminds me of Anton Blidh.  Another youngster that appears to face every drill with the mentality that if he doesn’t get it just right then the Bruins are going to send him home.  He is small in stature but not in effort.  And he can shoot.

I make this next statement with the caveat that development camp is only one day old…Most improved player from last year has to be Daniel Vladar.  The sith lord just came out and looked like he belonged.  He showed the confidence of a player that had been working on his fundamentals and it came through.  Post to post tracking and his ability to track the puck when it was in close to him were so much better.  He stopped all but a few of the pucks that he saw during multiple drills.  I look forward to seeing more of him.

2015: Another Year, Another Development Camp

If you’re reading this, then you know that its another year and another development camp.  The boys are back in town for yet another chance to show their wares and prove the powers that be (the Boston Bruins brass) knew what they were doing in either drafting, signing or inviting these talented youngsters to camp.  This year welcomes 34 hockey hopefuls to, what will be, the last development camp hosted at Ristuccia Memorial Arena in Wilmington, Massachusetts.  Next year, and for years to come, this wonderful exhibition of talent will take place in Brighton, Mass.  The format for this year’s shindig, at least on the first day, involved 3 sessions.  The youngsters were split into two groups with dev camp veterans and rookies mixed up.

As I write this, I am preparing for day 2, so I wanted to get some quick thoughts down regarding some of the Bruin hopefuls.  First off, the “Young 3” (I couldn’t think of anything else catchy to call the 3 first round picks, if anyone else can think of something, let me know) all looked like they needed some work.

Jakub Zboril appeared to struggle with skating backwards during drills.  Shooting and defending were smoother, but more time to review is needed here.

Jake DeBrusk looked winded after his first stint on the ice and during skate drills it seemed as though he really had to concentrate to complete the tasks assigned.  We’ll see if today is a better day for the 14th overall pick.

Zach Senyshyn actually looked the best of the three, but still appeared to struggle during skating.  His stick control both one and two-handed was good, but there is work to be done here as well.

Noel Acciari was signed by the Bruins from Providence College.  His first day was memorable as the crowd was awed by his accuracy shooting the puck.  Five times he was able to beat both young goaltenders (there are three at this year’s camp) picking top corners and spaces just above their pads.  The negative comment here is that in an actual NHL game Noel wouldn’t have the time that he had to line up and measure his shots.  Acciari did appear polished but at 23, he should look better than the younger campers on the ice.

Anton Blidh…I love this kid.  Every time he appears on the ice he plays like the coaching staff are going to send him home that very minute.  He gives every drill everything he has.  Anton has put on some weight and size, and he now appears to be a player that can hold his own on the ice.  He still has some issues with shooting high and wide, but did find the back of the net on a couple of occasions.  Work ethic doesn’t appear to be an issue with Anton.

Colby Cave didn’t show much, unfortunately.  He has good speed and it is obvious that he likes offense, but during skate drills he appeared to struggle and nothing he did on the ice really made him stand out in a positive way.

Peter Cehlarik has also added some size but needs to use it more effectively.  During corner drills he should have been able to pin players against the boards and kept better control of the puck using himself as a shield but didn’t.  He can score and has a nice shot.  He looked good during skate drills as well.

There were more notes from day 1, but I will have to include them with the day 2 posting as I need to get myself to the camp.

L.W.L.

2014 Edition: Development Camp…Day Two

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So when last we met the kids at camp had finished their first day and while some appeared a little gassed, others left the impression that they had been here before and seemed like they hadn’t even broken a sweat.  Rob O’Gara, for one, looks like he’s out on a leisurely stroll, no sweat, not even the appearance of heavy breathing.  Development Camp…Day Two brought us more drills and two sessions that ran almost to 2:00 in the afternoon.  This was a better day fitness-wise, as none of those present gave the impression of exhaustion, although the long day must have gotten to some.

We learned some new things about the B’s hopefuls…things such as Anton Blidh, while fast and well-balanced on his skates, he needs to work on putting the puck on net.  He stayed extra time after the official drills ended working on his shooting.  Anton fired shot after shot at the net, hitting everything but the twine.  Taking a line from one of my favorite movies; “Always end on a good shot, I say”, and Anton did just that, scoring and skating off the ice.

The morning session started before it officially began when Malcolm Subban, Zane Gothberg, Matt Benning, Anders Bjork and Alex Globke came out ahead of the full class to work on goaltending drills with Bob Essensa.  Primarily working on post to post coverage, the two young netminders (Subban, Gothberg) were down on their knees stopping pucks shot from the bottom of the circles and in the slot.  The two were also working on post coverage, staying tight to the post through the whole save process before moving to the opposite post to field another shot.

Couple of notables:

Matt Benning has really stepped up his game.  He has shown better vision on the ice and his passing is much more crisp than it has been at prior camps.  Outlet passing has been tape-to-tape sharp.

Rob O’Gara has shown leadership skills on the ice, calling out plays while running drills where the defensive unit is setting up to cover an oncoming rush.  Instructing the younger campers on who to cover as they enter the offensive zone and where to direct the puck once the defense has gained possession.

Cole Bardreau has shown that he has speed and quickness.  His acceleration and balance are strong.  His speed through the neutral zone is good, but his best asset are his hands, very soft and strong, crisp passing.  Would like to see a little more shooting from the young man.

Colton Hargrove appeared to be getting a little “cute” with his stickhandling while trying to gain entry into the offensive zone during drills.  Once he started gaining entry into the zone without all the puckhandling he was more successful.  He also scored a nice goal on his former teammate, Gothberg.

Speaking of former teammates, Oleg Yevenko has shown that he isn’t just a big body on the ice.  He displayed some solid positioning while working the two-on-two drills and was able to keep the puck and skater away from the slot area of the ice.  Oleg may need to work on his skating and work along the boards, but there are some fundamentals in place that can be worked with, a good foundation to build from.

Billy Sweezey has shown that he belongs on the ice.  Being the third youngest at camp, Billy has held his own and doesn’t shy away from the contact, something that will surely not go unnoticed by Cam, Claude, Donnie and Peter up in the stands.  The young man is committed to Yale, where he will be joining Michael Doherty and Rob O’Gara.  Just a side note here.  I witnessed Billy after the second session talking to a young boy, giving him a puck and autograph as well as taking pictures with the youngster.  He seems to have the makeup of someone who others can look up to…giving back to others.

Wiley Sherman displayed some nice positioning on defense, standing up multiple attempts at entry to the offensive zone for a few of the campers.  Doesn’t appear to be overly physical, just doing his job shutting down the rush.  Good footwork kept him in front of multiple attackers, and when they did get by, he didn’t give up on the play.

There were some interesting drills at the end of day two, with players both clogging the slot area while others were positioned in the corners and at the points.  Working on jockeying for position in front of the netminders, things were getting a little more physical in front of the nets.  Seemed to give the guys on the ice the opportunity to work off a little extra energy before the coaches called it a day, with Oleg Yevenko leading stretches for the second straight session.

One final note:  The young men here are soaking in all the education they can get.  On evidence I present Mitchell Dempsey.  The young man, having finished nearly three hours of rushes and defending, was out there with Kevin Dean, assistant coach in Providence, working on net front presence with regards to tip drills and positioning in front of the net.  The two gentlemen spent an additional 15 minutes or so, with Dean shooting pucks on net from the slot and the corners, so that Dempsey could work on his positions and tipping.  Dean would skate over and give instruction to the young man, who appeared to be soaking up every word that was spoken.  Dedication to his craft is not a concern for the young Mitchell Dempsey.

Well, that’s all for day two.  Day three begins in an hour and a half, so  we’ll see you then…

L.W.L.

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