For the sixth straight season, the Boston Bruins held a week-long development camp at Wilmington’s Ristuccia Memorial Arena. The camp roster featured a total of 29 players, including six goaltenders. Today, I’ll be taking a look at a few things that stood out during the annual team-building event for Boston’s rookies.
Knight, Spooner, Hamilton Live Up To The Hype
Next to 2012 first round draft choice Malcolm Subban, the three most widely known prospects in the Bruins’ organization are without a doubt Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner and Dougie Hamilton. Knight and Spooner were each chosen in the second round of the 2010 Entry Draft and were both making their third appearance at development camp. After four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, both plan to go pro this fall, whether it be with Boston or their AHL affiliate in Providence. Hamilton, Boston’s first round draft choice in the 2011 NHL Draft (9th Overall) is eligible for one more year in the OHL, but is expected to be skating with the big club this fall.
Each member of the trio was equally impressive at development camp, appearing to be head and shoulders above the other Boston prospects. Admittedly, roster spots are not earned in July and being able to dominate in a field of rookies is far different than skating against proven NHL players, so take this analysis with a grain of salt.
Knight is a player who was often able to use his size and strength to his advantage during his time with the London Knights, and whether or not he’ll be able to do so at the next level has often been called into question. In his three years with the Bruins’ organization, the Battle Creek, Michigan native has bulked up quite a bit and now most certainly has the requisite size to succeed in the NHL. Knight was often able to overpower smaller players during the camp’s two scrimmage games and use his strong skating ability to power through defenders while driving hard to the net.
20-year-old Ottawa, Ontario native Ryan Spooner is without doubt the most exciting player to watch in the entire Bruins’ prospect pool. Throughout camp, his impressive arsenal of offense was on full display. His uncanny on-ice vision and deceptive speed remind me a lot of a younger Marc Savard. After making it to the final cut at each of the past two training camps, expect Spooner to make a serious push for a roster spot in the fall.
The extraordinary turnout at Ristuccia Arena this week was definitely a testament to the Bruins’ passionate fan base, but could also be attributed to the excitement over OHL defenseman of the year Dougie Hamilton. After an otherworldly 72-point campaign in 2011-’12, the Niagara Ice Dog simply has nothing left to prove at the junior hockey level. Hamilton was the best player on the ice at development camp this week, exhibiting tremendous skill in all facets of the game. He was strong in the defensive zone, using his long reach to break up scoring chances and one-on-one breaks during the camp’s two scrimmage games. Perhaps most impressive was the confidence with which the 19-year-old prospect would jump into the rush and use his immense puck handling skills to create offense for his team. Hamilton will provide a vast improvement in the transition game of whatever team he suits up for this season (Boston or Niagara).
Late Round Picks Improve And Impress
Throughout the 2012 Bruins’ development camp, many of the team’s late round selections were exceedingly impressive. London Knights’ forward and 2012 fifth round pick Seth Griffith looked fantastic at camp this week, demonstrating a great offensive skill set and the shiftiness needed to beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Defensemen Robbie O’Gara (5th round, 2011) and Zach Trotman (7th round, 2010) looked to have put on a considerable amount of size and have added a new level of physicality to their game. Both could become third paring defensemen at the NHL level, which is tremendous value for where they were taken in the draft.
Leadership A Familiar Habit For Torey Krug
After captaining the Michigan State Spartans to an NCAA tournament appearance in March, defenseman Torey Krug inked a two-year entry level contract with the Boston Bruins. The undersized blueliner practiced with the team every day and even skated in two games with the big club towards the end of the regular season. First-year campers Seth Griffith and Matthew Grzelcyk (3rd Round, 2012) spoke superlatively of Krug’s leadership skills and were very appreciative of all the help he’s given them.
“Torey Krug, he’s played with Boston a couple games last year and he knows what it takes. Some of the younger guys like Subbs (Malcolm Subban), he helps them out and tells them what to do and stuff like that. It’s nice to have those guys around to learn from.” – Seth Griffith
“I think guys like Torey Krug and Tommy Cross have been instrumental in helping us rookie guys around. (We were) Probably a little intimidated at first but they made it clear that they’re here for us. I couldn’t be happier to have those guys around.” – Matthew Grzelcyk
Khokhlachev Will Be An Interesting Story This Fall
It was announced during camp that 2011 second round pick Alexander Khokhlachev would be returning to his home country of Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League next season. “KoKo” had signed his entry-level contract with the Bruins, but would be heading to the KHL to play for the team his father manages.
“The plan is now for him to play in Russia, and he’ll attend our camp (in September), and then he’ll go back and play for the Russian team his father is the manager there, and then after one year, he’s under our purview.” – Peter Chiarelli
Training camp this fall will be especially interesting, being that Khokhlachev may have a real shot at making the Bruins. His offensively dynamic skill set, combined with impressive defensive zone prowess remind me a lot of Detroit Red Wings’ superstar Pavel Datsyuk. I’m hardly suggesting he’ll ever reach that level of success — as very few actually do –, but if he continues on the same development track, Khokhlachev has the potential to become one of the league’s elite two-way centermen.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.