The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

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.

2014 Edition: Bruins Development Camp…Day One

Not everything went off exactly as expected on the first day of the 2014 edition of Bruins development camp. Sitting in the crowd, one could sense that the fans were just a little unhappy about the more than one hour late kickoff to this year’s party. But once the campers hit the ice all appeared to be forgiven. Then snag number 2…Malcolm was nowhere to be found. With only two goaltenders in camp this year, it was a little more noticeable than it might have been in years’ past. Again the situation was rectified as Mr. Subban made his fashionably late appearance. By the way, he looks bigger too.

The 2014 edition brings 23 campers to Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass.  Twelve of these young gentlemen have been bere before, with goaltender Zane Gothberg present for his fourth development camp.  He is having a solid, if not somewhat spectacular college career at North Dakota, and the Boston Bruins staff appear more than excited to be patient when it comes to this young man.  Working with Bob (Essensa, goaltending coach), Zane can be seen asking  questions and performing the tasks set to him.  During one drill, Zane’s ability to go post to post showed just how quick he is to cover that blue real estate in front of the net.

The aforementioned Malcolm Subban, the first pick for the Bruins two years ago, made his third appearance at Boston’s annual camp.  Standing tall, he appeared bigger than years prior, however, after researching it, Malcolm is as tall as he was on draft day, potentially an inch larger.  One thing that was noticeable was that he was playing much further out of his crease than in the past, something that he has been knocked for, as he appeared to play a lot deeper in his net, a much riskier way of doing things.

A couple other quick notes before heading off to day two…

The only draft pick not present was 4th rounder Danton Heinen.

There are seven invitees to camp this year, the youngest, Billy Sweezey is still in high school.  The oldest, Oleg Yevenko, is 23 and plays at UMass Amherst.

Speaking of Mr. Yevenko, he is a big man.  6’7″ and 230 pounds (as listed by the Bruins), his body appears to be NHL ready, but that is as far as it goes at the moment.  He would definitely be a project, but as he has been draft eligible since 2009, there may be more work here than any team may want to invest.  Skating and footwork appeared to be issues.  Yevenko struggled in the corner while trying to gain possession of the the puck during  one of the drills.

Matthew Grzelcyk came out of the locker room wearing a red, closer to maroon, jersey.  Unsure as to whether he was “no contact” or just forgot his jersey at home.  He did seem to be in shape this year, as last year he appeared a little on the heavy side.  More to come on Matthew.

Matt Benning…what can I say.  He appears to be improving year to year.  When he first arrived at camp he looked undersized and, dare I say, a little overwhelmed.  Harvard is doing him good and his skating and footwork have vastly improved.

Michael Doherty is a nice invite to camp.  He has good acceleration and good hands.  He plays at Yale with Rob O’Gara, so we will surely see more of him.

Speaking of O’G, he is filling out his frame nicely.  He has become a solid blueliner at Yale and I personally can’t wait to see him in a Bruins uniform.  His awareness is improving and he tracks the action well.  He is tough to get around in drills and is hockey sense seems to be improving as well.

Colton Hargrove…He has been one of my favorites since the day the Bruins drafted him.  He followed up a good freshman year with a solid sophomore effort.  Would not be surprised if Andy Murray hangs a letter on his jersey this year!  Colton has improved year to year at camp.  He doesn’t shy away from contact, sees the ice well and has a scoring touch.  Good footwork and hands round out the package.  More to come on Colton as well.

Ok, off to day two…More later today…

L.W.L.

 

P.K. Subban Should Be A Bruin

While watching the second round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs, specifically the Bruins/Montreal series, it reminded me of something that I have been pondering for well over year now. The Boston franchise, while having a top tier defense, and one of the best defensemen in the game, is getting old in that department. Then the 2013 playoffs came around and Boston called up some of its young guns for the push, and youth was served. The issue here is that while the defense is young, none of the gents are yet a candidate for number one defenseman. Sure, Dougie could fill out that role at some point, but needing a leader on the back end is something that the B’s brass should be considering. In other words, P.K. Subban should be a Bruin.

Sure, the Bruins have Big Z (Zdeno Chara for the uninitiated), but at 37 years old he won’t be playing forever.  The Bruins have defensemen in Providence, and a couple youngsters playing for the big club, but none of them appear ready to adopt the mantle of “number one defenseman”.  P.K. has shown that he is the leader of the d-corps for the blue-blanc et rouge.  Especially in these playoffs.  Subban is averaging 2 points per game against the  Bruins.  He has 11 points in 7 games.  Sure he is only a plus 1, but while averaging over 27 minutes a night, he is third among defensemen still active in the playoffs.  At 24 years of age, Pernell Karl would be a nice addition to the blueliners on Causeway Street.

P.K. has stated that he is looking for top dolllar on his next contract, between 8 and 9 million dollars per year.  Whether he is worth that at this stage of his career is up for debate, but the way he is playing in these playoffs, especially against his arch-rivals, definitely begins to tip the scales in his favor.  Another tic in his favor, his age.  At just 24, giving him a long term contract wouldn’t hurt so much.  Structure it so that he gets his money in years 3-6 or something along those lines.

Chara still has four more years on his contract after this season finishes, but can we, Bruins fans or not, really expect him to play 27 plus minutes a night as he approaches the big 4-0?  I would say the answer to that question is probably one that the voracious fans in Boston don’t want to have to answer.

Answer…Bring in Subban.  You still get to have the Big Man roaming around the the blueline.  Pair him up with P.K.  Then it doesn’t matter who hangs back and who pinches in.  Yes the d-corps gets expensive with Seidenberg and his 4 year 16 million dollar deal, but by trading a couple players away, it can work.  It has to work.

By acquiring his services, the Boston Bruins can shore up the number one defenseman slot for the next ten years rather than hoping that Chara can maintain his torrid pace for the next four.  P.K. Subban should be a Bruin…and hey, number 76 isn’t taken!

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