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Development Camp 2008: A Last Look Back

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
This time last week, Bruins prospects from around the globe were returning home after a very successful week of summer hockey at the second annual Boston Bruins Development Camp.

Under the tutelage of Director of Hockey Operations and Player Development (and former B’s standout) Don Sweeney, team Vice President and Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely, Bruins assistant coaches Geoff Ward and Bob Essensa, Providence head coach Scott Gordon and his assistant Rob Murray as well as skating instructor Paul Vincent, Boston’s best young players got a taste of what a pro training camp feels like.

All of them came away changed for the better and ready to return to the rink in September.

“You do not get a second chance to make a first impression. This is my first camp with the Bruins, so I am just trying to play my game, keep it simple, do the things that I do well,” said recent Bruins acquisition Matt Marquardt. “I am not trying to go out of my comfort zone to do things that I am not used to doing.

“I am trying to get the most out of (camp) and meet the guys.”

“We are creating good friendships here,” added the young forward. “Those are the kind of things that carry into the season, too. The fact that we know each other will make it much more comfortable come the season, so it is great to be here and it is a ton of fun.”

All of the above would certainly be good news for Sweeney.

“It’s always going to be a work in progress,” said the former defenseman on Day 5. “And we’ll continue to tweak it and find areas to improve upon.

“We met guys as a group last night and had a discussion, a forum to get some feedback from them, so you can take some of those things and apply it.

John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room.
“Overall, the goal was probably a little different this year because of the youth of the overall group. (We paid) a little more attention to individual things and from a skill standpoint, worked on breaking things down rather than thinking about system play or any of that other stuff.

“We really just want to plant seeds for what areas these kids need to work on to continue to improve as players.”

Those seeds were clearly sown over the five-day camp.

“The first day, everyone’s a bit rusty, but as you get on the ice, everybody gets better…and I think that’s a key part (of camp),” said camp returnee Jordan Knackstedt. “The flow drills help get your legs and arms going, and scrimmages are always a bonus.

“Obviously, team building exercises always help, and you get to know everyone a bit better. (Coming back for a second year) you know what to expect, so that helps.”

Mr. Neely, a fixture at the camp, summed it up well.

“We’re trying to create a culture here and an environment that we want our players to work hard and compete hard and be a Bruin type of player,” said Neely. “That has been a tradition for a long, long time here in Boston and over the course of the years, we may have lost our way a little bit, but we’re getting it back.

“That really comes with getting guys that have good character and first and foremost, it’s in the character of this organization.

“(Now) they are property of the Boston Bruins and we want them to feel like they’re a Boston Bruin,” Neely added.

At this point, it’s hard to believe that ANY of the players who attended this year’s camp, bleed anything other than Black & Gold.
A couple of more transcripts from Saturday...

Cam Neely
On Blake Wheeler…
"The things I like, obviously, are his size and his skating – he skates really well. He really was competitive this week, which you want to see out of all your players so he’s someone who showed that. I like to see our guys really come into camp and try to compete for a job and push some of our other guys. I think it’s very healthy."

On being involved with the team…
"When Peter first asked me to get involved, I didn’t really know what direction it would be in but anything I can do to help the organization get to where they want to get to, I’m happy to do."

On the physical play…
"It’s good to see that. These guys know that they have to impress in some way, shape or form. Even if you don’t have the size and ability to play physical, like with a guy like (Brad) Marchand – but he’s a guy who will take the body and show that he can play physical and that’s what these guys have to do – is show something."

On developing players now vs. then…
"I think the biggest thing is that these guys have an opportunity to get a little taste of what training camp is going to be like. When they come into training camp, they will see a lot of familiar faces and they wont be as uptight or nervous. But another good thing is that now they are going to leave here with some off-ice instruction on what they need to do to get in better shape and some things that they need to do on-ice. It’s easy to go out and play shinny hockey all summer and think that you’re going to be in good condition but what we’re trying to do is (say), 'Ok we know what you do well, but here’s what you need to improve on.' And getting that instruction throughout the course of the week that they can take with them the next six weeks. It is up to them to work on it but at least they have some guidance."

On what was most enjoyable…
"Just to see some of these kids listen to what has been told and you see that they are working on those things. It’s an interesting week for them. You see them develop in a short period of time. We have guys who have pure hockey sense and pure skill but its some of the other things, when you talk to them and see them put that into their practice and you think that these guys are willing to listen and they want to learn and they want to get better, its certainly encouraging for the organization…You talk about driving to the net, going to the net, and taking the puck to the net. You see them try to make nice, fancy plays at the blueline and that’s not going to work all that well at the pro levels so it’s about getting the puck to the net and driving on the net and that’s what the coaching staff out there was really hammering into them from the forwards standpoint."

On how players realize that they still have much to learn…
"It’s one of those things; you’d like to think that everybody thinks they can get better. I’d hate to have anybody that thinks that they can’t improve. We don’t want the guys to work on the stuff that they’re good at; we want the guys to work on things that they need to improve on and that’s kind of the messaging that we’re trying to get out there – when you have an opportunity to get on the ice, don’t work on the things that you’re already good at, work on the things that you need to improve on. Even if it is for five, ten or fifteen minutes before practice or after practice it is really important to look at what you need to improve on and try to improve those things. Also, to try and do drills which are game type situations –shooting drills and puck handling drills that are going to happen in a game. We see guys take shots from a standstill and shoot on the net and that doesn’t really happen in a game, so you want them to work on game-type situations."

 Dev Camp 2008: Cam Neely, Day 5  

Peter Chiarelli
On size and skill…
"I’ve seen it out there this week in Wheeler, I’ve seen it in (Joe) Colborne, talking about size and skill combination, I’ve seen it in Marquardt, those are three big men. And that’s what we’ve set out to do in recruiting these players; we want to improve our size. I’m not saying the small guys wont play but we’ve set out deliberately to improve our size and skill and you can see that we’ve done that with those players."

On Denis Reul and developing players…
"He’s actually improved considerably from last years camp, he’s passing much better, he’s gotten bigger, I saw him in the scrimmage step up a lot, I don’t know if we want him doing that but its nice to see that he’s thinking about doing it. So he’s a good example of a player who was a raw player but has shown considerable improvement and that is what this camp does, it gives them a measuring stick to where they are year to year and it orients them with the rest of the group, which is a social aspect that we try to accomplish there. But it also allows them to come in on a playing field with a high level of skill and see where they fit."

On Providence next year…
"We’ve got a couple of veteran players that we were close to signing. It’s going to be a very young team this year, but we want it to be young. We’ve got a very good coach there in Scott Gordon and his assistants, and they do a great job at developing these guys. Last year they had an older team, it was still one of the youngest teams in the league, but it was older compared to what it is this year and they had kind of a disappointing end in the second round (of the Calder Cup Playoffs) but the players have learned a lot because they are put in important positions at a young age."
I just wanted to take an opportunity to thank the Bruins summer interns in my department: Hannah Goldman, Erica Richey and Mark Nugent. Their hard work made our comprehensive coverage of Development Camp possible. Thanks also to Angela Stefano, who interned with us last season and who will return in the fall -- in an effort to remain up-to-date with the squad during the summer, Angela took vacation days to travel to Boston and help with coverage. JB
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