Wilmington, Mass. --
|Hamill, Rask and Marchand at Development Camp. |
Over the summer Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins organization instituted the team's first ever Development Camp. As such, B's prospects like forwards Zach Hamill
, Milan Lucic
, Brad Marchand
and goalie Tuukka Rask
were all dropped into the world of the NHL without the pressure of trying to make a team.
Yesterday, when they returned to Ristuccia, all of the rookies seemed prepared for what will surely be a rigorous, trying week when the future of their hockey playing lives will depend on each and every drill, shift, save or play.
"This is my first pro training camp and I am looking forward to making the most of it," said Hamill from the very warm auxiliary locker room beneath the stands in the Bruins practice facility. "It was fun and, obviously, tough.
"I'm just going to take it day by day and go from there."
Clichés aside, Hamill looked to have learned a lot, both from his time at Development Camp as well as from his experiences in the Canada/Russia Super Series. Future B's teammates Lucic and Marchand joined him on that squad in what was surely a chest-puffing happening for the Bruins scouting staff.
"I probably played some of my best hockey," said Hamill who notched a goal and five assists during the series. "Just to represent Canada was so unbelievable and I hope to do so again at Christmastime (during the World Junior Tournament).
"(Having three players participate) was a big thing for the Boston organization…I think we had the most players on the team, so it's definitely a compliment to the Boston Bruins scouting staff and personnel."
Marchand, who had three goals and three assists in the tournament, is known as a bit of an agitator in the style of former Bruin forward Ken Linseman. As such, he earned a couple of misconducts in the tournament to go with his six points. Of all of the junior-aged players in camp Marchand carries the most serious -- most professional -- demeanor and clearly understands what is at stake during the upcoming two weeks.
"It's a lot faster than I am usually used to playing, but it was nice to get on the ice for the first day of camp with all the guys and see what you are up against," said Marchand, whose antics were on display during full-contact drills. "It's going to be a long camp and hopefully things go well."
If anyone could will themselves onto the Bruins team, it might be Marchand, whose workaday attitude has served him well along each stop of his career.
"I think (the Super Series) really helped me a lot," said Marchand. "I am in good condition…and I have already played a few high-paced games."
Lucic, the captain of Team Canada during the recent Super Series, earned three assists during the tournament, and was loudly praised for his leadership abilities and his physical toughness.
Just like the ultimate Bruins power forward, Cam Neely (who called to congratulate the B's prospect after he brought home the Memorial Cup in the spring), Lucic brings a blend of strength and offensive ability to the table.
And perhaps there's a little bit of Cam's intensity in there as well.
"I think this coming week is important," said Lucic who was last seen carrying the tournament trophy high above his head. "Obviously it's a little bit different (than Development Camp).
"There's more at stake.
"This is where the players really come to play and I think, for me, I think I need to show that I can keep up with the speed of the older guys…show that I can make plays at a high level of speed," he said.
Sometimes the Finnish born Rask seems cooler than his homeland. Sometimes it's even hard to determine if he has a pulse. But when he hits the ice, that calmness in his game translates into technical precision and makes him seem bigger than 6'3 in the net. A sublime glove hand completes the picture.
"(Everything) depends on how well I adjust," said Rask of his foray into the world of professional hockey in North America and its smaller rinks.
Rask believes that his physical fitness and physique are what he most needs to work on.
"I need to get some muscles on my body," said the goalie. "I need some weight, but I feel pretty comfortable on the ice -- my movement and my positioning.
"On the ice, I consider myself a balanced goalie…I feel (comfortable) in every style."
It's hard to imagine a situation where Rask would feel uncomfortable.
Showing he's human, however, Rask admitted that there is one situation where he might feel some butterflies.
"You know, I'm (not nervous) right now, but maybe it will come at some point," said Tuukka. "I was just thinking that if I play in Providence and for some reason they call me up I might have a feeling of 'WOW, my first NHL game if probably coming.'"
No doubt each of your teammates in the auxiliary locker room agrees with you on that point, Mr. Rask.
---The rookies return to the ice today in Wilmington and play a game versus the New Jersey Devils rookie squad on Sunday in Shelton, Connecticut.