BOSTON - Ryan Spooner remembers what it was like to be on the cusp of making the big club.
Training camp after training camp, Spooner would push to make the Bruins roster for opening night - and stick for the season. When he didn't make the cut, he worked hard in the AHL, and would get his opportunities. But there's a pressure and excitement to making the team right out of camp.
"Yeah, I mean, two years ago, when I came to camp, I was kind of in the same spot," Spooner said following a practice on Friday at Warrior Ice Arena.
The Bruins have just one preseason game remaining, on Saturday night at TD Garden against the Philadelphia Flyers (5:00 p.m. ET - NESN, 98.5 The Sports Hub).
Soon, more roster cuts will be made. There are a few young players who have yet to make their NHL debuts still at camp, including forwards Austin Czarnik and Danton Heinen.
Czarnik centered Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes during Friday's practice.
"It can be kind of nerve-racking and I just hold him he's got to go out there and play and have fun with it," Spooner said of his advice to Czarnik.
While Czarnik received his first NHL call-up during the 2015-16 season (though he did not play), Heinen is entering his first full season as a pro.
"They're doing well, you know," said Spooner. "They're scoring goals and I'm very happy for them. They're playing well."
The duo skated together during Thursday night's preseason game in Columbus, with Beleseky on their left wing. Heinen was grouped with Dominic Moore, Riley Nash and Noel Acciari for Friday's practice.
"They're two guys with great skill," Beleskey said of the young forwards. "They make some good plays out there. Heins, for a young kid, he's got some good patience with that puck, so I just let them do their thing, and play their game."
With three points each during the preseason, Heinen (three goals through four games) and Czarnik (two goals, one assist through five games) have been soaking it all in.
"I'm just playing my game, enjoying it while I can," said Czarnik. "If it's meant to be, I'll be up here. If not, then I'll just have to keep on working and get up here, so it's just about going out there and having some fun."
The 21-year-old Heinen has seemed at ease ramping up his game for the NHL level, even if it's a big jump from the University of Denver.
"Those NHL guys are bigger, faster, stronger, so you've just got to bring your game up," said Heinen.
He's also had to block a few things out of his mind, like any 'wow, I'm here' NHL-type moments.
"I think when I lined up beside [Jakub] Voracek there in Philly, he's a pretty big guy, a good player, so that was definitely one of those moments," smiled Heinen. "Just [have to] kind of block it out of your mind."
Those moments may eventually pass for players like Spooner, who has been skating on a line with David Krejci and David Backes recently at training camp, the pressure and excitement always remains.
"I still get kind of nervous from time to time, but I think it's more of the excitement of just to go out there and play," said Spooner. "For me, I've learned that if I go out there and I'm afraid to make a mistake, it doesn't really work, so I just go out there and I just try to play to my strengths and try to use my skill."
It's a mantra that's engrained in every player.
"You've just got to go out there and kind of do what got you there," said Heinen. "If you put too much pressure on yourself, then it's going to be negative, so I think I'm not going to try to put too much pressure and just go play my game."
"If you put some good pressure on yourself, it brings the best out of you."