WILMINGTON, MA -- Given the number of questions about situations around the NHL regarding free agency, Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli seemed pleased to refocus on his own projects and speak about his club's sixth annual Development Camp on Monday.
"The crowds here were great," said Chiarelli of the fan presence in Wilmington. "I don’t think they were this big even in Tyler [Seguin's] year, consistently.
"So that was great to see."
Also great to see were the immediate results of the B's most recent drafts skating together on the ice at Ristuccia Memorial Arena.
"Generally speaking, bigger and faster," was the GM's impression of Dev Camp 2012, "And, so – generally speaking, [it's] positive.
"The younger crew, this year’s draft, I was happy with. You very rarely come away from these camps with a negative feeling because it’s all potential and…then a year later you sift through the players and maybe 70% of them in your mind go to the next year, but it was fairly deep this year.
"Our guys…got some big guys that can skate, so I was happy," added the GM. "Specifically this year’s draft – Malcolm [Subban] I thought acquitted himself very well. [Matt] Grzelcyk played well but these guys are three, four, five years away."
However, by the time the newest B's find their way onto a training camp roster in a distant (or not so distant) September they'll have several development camp experiences to recall as they navigate their way into the professional ranks. However, an important part of that experience comes from keeping the campers on their toes in July.
"Well the guys…that have been here four or five years, I mean they look at the schedule and they know what to expect so this year going in, so we didn’t want to disclose a lot on the schedule," said Chiarelli, with a smile. "Usually, you have your testing which is a dreaded thing right away and then you got your team building, bonding [and that's] a hard exercise; it’s a physical arduous exercise later on and they kind of prepare themselves around it, so we just wanted to keep them off balance a little bit and not tell them.
"We just wanted a little different twist."
But there were no curveballs thrown Chiarelli's way as he watched his lineup skate this summer.
"No, not really," said the B's boss. "The usual suspects are progressing and…just by where they are in their development and contractually, there’ll be guys that’ll challenge at our training camp.
"I think the [Ryan] Spooners or the [Jared] Knights are gonna challenge, obviously Dougie’s [Hamilton] going to challenge.
"I don’t wanna exclude anyone but those are the guys - those are the usual suspects."
However, even the campers who came straight from Pittsburgh's NHL Entry Draft acquitted themselves well.
"When you look at this you have to look at it closely," said Chiarelli. "You’ve got your 18-year-olds – first drafts - and you’ve got your 23-year-olds, college free agents, and the Tommy Cross’s.
"So, you’re talking five years of development and growing and maturing, so…I’m sure if [the 2012 draft class] had two weeks to sit home and soak things up and then come here it would be different.
"But there's nothing wrong with baptism by fire."
And Chiarelli said everybody survived their Black & Gold initiation.
"In fact we kind of abbreviated it a little bit because they were working really, really hard," said the GM of the B's grueling fitness testing. "I don’t know if we jammed a little bit more stuff into the on-ice stuff or the team building -- 'The Program' the one out at the beach in Dorchester -- that was a real strenuous five-six hours, so in a short time they can lose some steam.
"So we kind of cut the run test short a little bit, but all the other stuff was good."