“Development Camp is an exciting time for everyone in the organization because it brings a peer group together that provides a glimpse into potential Bruins’ roster members,” Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney has said of the week.
“Every player is being discussed in terms of a progression from last year’s camp or because they have been just drafted or signed as a free agent: how quickly can they make an impact in the group?”
Throughout the past two days, the 24 prospects and camp attendees have been arriving from all over, some like recent second-round draft pick Linus Arnesson coming all the way from Sweden, and others like Matt Grzelcyk and Ryan Fitzgerald, driving a short way from Charlestown and North Reading -- to try and make that impact.
Lugging their hockey bags through Logan International Airport, the out-of-town prospects made their way to the team hotel, where we caught up with a few of them before camp kicks off.
Two B's prospects flew over together from Canada, 2012 first-round pick, goaltender Malcolm Subban, and 2011 draft pick, forward Anthony Camara. The pair both spent this past season in the Ontario Hockey League, Camara for the Barrie Colts and Subban between the pipes for the Belleville Bulls. Both will challenge for spots on the Providence roster for next season.
They were both also obviously excited to get started with camp, having been through it before.
"Pretty good," smiled Subban, on the feeling of being back in Boston. "I'm just as excited as I was last year to get it going and I'm really excited for camp."
"You can’t think it’s going to be too easy," he added, on his second year at camp. "Obviously, it’s still a pretty tough camp. And It’s challenging and you've got to be ready for it."
During the next week, the players will go through off-ice testing and on-ice practices and drills, while having meetings and participating in team-building activities.
Every moment is part of the learning process - and every moment, they're being assessed by the Bruins' staff. The camp is led by Sweeney. The lead coach is Providence Bruins bench boss, Bruce Cassidy. General Manager Peter Chiarelli will be around, and will certainly be watching closely.
"This is another chance for them to assess us here," said Subban, noting that the Bruins' staff came to a couple of his games in juniors this season and spoke with him about his development.
"And that’s the reason for this camp -- I will talk to them a lot more after the camp."
Part of the process is hearing from Chiarelli, Sweeney and the staff on what their strengths are, and what they need to focus on for their growth in the future.
Camara has had that experience the past two years.
"Coming back for the third time, and seeing some new faces and some regular faces is kind of nice, but we all come here for the same reason - to just play hockey and to train your skill."
The feedback he's received after each camp has helped him to become a more dynamic player.
"Getting quicker and stronger. That’s basically the game, how it’s progressing now everyone’s getting faster and stronger out there," he said of his progress. "You've got to just develop, and off the ice too is just as important as on the ice, I feel too."
"This is why we come here. They show you how the Bruins are run and everything like that. So it kind of gives you a heads up."
But don't expect the camp "veteran" to feel any sort of complacency heading into the week. Whether a newcomer or not, all of the prospects are vying to one day wear Boston's spoked-B, and every moment of the process factors into that.
"They kind of keep you on your toes at this camp," said Camara, noting that the staff keeps them guessing at what's coming next.
The gritty forward has still been able to help the new players get a feel for camp, though, and what the physical testing will be like.
One of those first-timers, Matt Lindblad, got a chance to speak with Camara on the ride from the airport to the hotel, along with Seth Griffith and Colton Hargrove, who have all been through the camp before.
"They told me just about the testing and just the ins and outs of the week," he said of the helpful advice.
Lindblad was signed by the Bruins as an undrafted free agent out of Dartmouth College this past spring, so he may be new to 'Dev Camp' but the 23-year-old played four games with Providence at the end of last season and is looking forward to honing his two-way skills.
"I value defense just as much as my offensive ability," said Lindblad, when we caught up with him briefly before the campers' opening meeting.
"If there’s one guy I try to model my game after, it’s probably Patrice Bergeron. He’s just a fantastic player. Just takes care of his stuff defensively too. He’s a great player."
Getting to the Next Level; Becoming a Bruin
The best by-product of Development Camp? The prospects get a glimpse at what it takes to get to the next level, whether through feedback, strength and conditioning meetings, or how to eat and properly take care of their bodies.
"Obviously I know it is a huge step to the next level," said Subban, on working towards his pro debut. "I’m going to do everything I can over the summer to get ready for it and I know that’s my goal right now."
The camp also introduces the prospects to fans, and gives them a preview of what could be the next crop of Boston Bruins.
Current B's such as Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask all made their way through development camps before making the big club.
The prospects all hope to follow down that path as well.
"Boston, their fans, the city. It’s just a great place, great atmosphere," said Lindblad, of his brief experience so far with the Bruins' faithful.
The Bruins' postseason run also helped motivate them even further.
"Definitely. It just shows how hard you have to work to get there," said Camara. "It shows what will and desire does."