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As is the case every year, the Boston Bruins rookies eagerly arrived in Wilmington to take the ice and show off their skills to coaches, executives, and fans. As the camp concluded, it appears that the development of players from the 2008 camp has continued to grow strongly due in large part to time with either the Providence Bruins of the AHL or maturity in the junior leagues. With the players officially back home, it’s time to look back and review how the camp went.
Defenseman Ryan Button and Russian prospect Yuri Alexandrov certainly made their presence known on the blue-line. Both showed great promise and were more than willing to use their size to their advantage during the drills and scrimmage. Alexandrov, who spent his last two seasons in the KHL, demonstrated great skating abilities and showed no signs of being unable to keep up with the North Americans.
Along with the blue-liners of tomorrow, Jordan Caron certainly surprised many of the fans in attendance at Ristuccia throughout the week. For a 6’2″ forward, Caron had surprisingly good puck-handling skills and was more than capable as a skater. During the drills, Caron frequently got into good battles for the puck with Yuri Alexandrov, which were very Bruin-like. It appears as if the gritty and not-afraid-to-get-your-hands-dirty style of play practiced by the Bruins is even showing up among their prospects.
Speaking of gritty, 2008 draft choice Jamie Arniel had a strong showing throughout the week. Playing on the ‘gold-line’ with Tyler Randell and U-Mass Lowell forward Scott Campbell, Arniel’s strong play surprised fans who mainly know Arniel as a guy who made news clippings for his off-ice issues.
Arniel’s biggest improvement seems to be his shot, which looked phenomenally better than it was in 2008, and in the scrimmage Arniel showed his two-way style of play after scoring a goal past Matt Dalton on a breakaway after forcing a turnover. Arniel’s development will be continued in Providence, where he finished the season in the Bruins attempt for the Calder Cup.
Although Arniel showed great improvement from 2008, he’s not the only skater who shined out on the ice compared to last year. Maxime Sauve, the Bruins second round pick from 2008, has shown an all around improvement in his game. Notably, his puck awareness has improved dramatically, along with ability to create scoring chances on the grey line, which consisted of line-mates Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron. Sauve will begin the year back with Val d’Or of the Q, but I’d pick the lefty to finish out the second half of the season with Providence if he continues to develop into a legitimate offensive weapon.
With the draft picks and free agent signings come the camp invites. This year the Bruins invited seven players to their camp, including Boston University’s Jason Lawrence and loud-mouth Rob Kwiet, who’s deking and loud personality was a hit among fans sitting in the frozen bleachers. Mark Isherwood, another camp invite had a strong showing and displayed some offensive skills for a defensemen. The other three un-signed invites, defensemen Brady Lamb, Tyler Ludwig and forwards Scott Campbell all played worthy of receiving contract offers from Boston as well.
For the Bruins, the need for a possible netminder of the future continues. Although Tuukka Rask is slated to be the goaltender of the future in the Hub of Hockey, it’s never set in stone that he can hold up and have the mindset of a full time NHL goalie (see: Hannu Toivonen).
Matt Dalton, a pivotal cog in the Bemidji State miracle run, had a strong camp, displaying great mechanical skills while his only weakness appeared to be his blocker side. Sporting new pads and a new helmet, Michael Hutchinson had a great camp and looked as if he improved in every facet of his game from the previous year. Despite the strong showing of these two crease-protectors, the play of Adam Courchaine also got notably better, specifically when it came down to his shot recovery.
With the rookies set to return in September, they’ll now either spend the next month and a half relaxing, or getting up to health as Tommy Cross, Yannick Riendeau and Zach McKelvie were held to minimal on-ice activity or none at all throughout the week.
As the fans got the chance to watch the rookies on the ice, then meet with them and get pictures after, one thing’s for sure, the future of the Boston Bruins is looking brighter every year.