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European Draft Picks Leave Impression

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - When the NHL Draft was all said and done this past June, just about a week after the end to the 2013 playoffs, the Bruins had drafted three players from Sweden's junior leagues.

You'd have to go back to 2005 to find three or more European players selected by the B's in a single draft year (from the Czech junior leagues), and back to 2004 to find the last player chosen from the Swedish leagues (Anton Hedman, Sweden 2nd Division).

Chiarelli, of course, knew the trio of players from their extensive draft meetings.

But the Black & Gold's seventh annual Development Camp last week in Wilmington gave General Manager Peter Chiarelli - and fans - a closer look at their style of play and potential.

"Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had that many European players in one draft, so I think I was watching them a little more closely just for that reason," said Chiarelli, of following them through the week at Dev Camp. "And I was happy with what I saw."

"[Peter] Cehlarik - he’s going to be a good player. He’s got to get a little stronger, but good release, good hands, knows where to go."

"[Linus] Arnesson, of course, good tremendous skater, really good gap all the time, wants to defend, good size."

"And then [Anton] Blidh, he’s got some intangibles that you are going to see in the lower line players, but I like his grit."

Throughout the week, Cehlarik, a Slovakia native who plays for Lulea in the Swedish junior league, gave a glimpse at the "little bit of hands and little bit of Handzus" style of play Chiarelli had spoken about at the draft.

The forward stood out to Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy as well.

"Cehlarik, the young draft choice this year, you know he has very soft hands on the boards. He’s got that very European [Marian] Hossa look to him. Strong on the puck, big man," he said.

"Just show them why they picked me," Cehlark said of his mindset coming into his first camp, where he certainly made an impression.

"Show them what I've got, and learn how to be Bruin."

Both Arnesson and Blidh made their presence known as well.

Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney, who leads Development Camp every summer, pointed out with a smile that Arnesson had taken shifts at forward during drills at camp - which further suggested his two-way defenseman nature, with an offensive upside.

"Certainly a two-way defenseman. Really a good skater," added Sweeney. "I think you’ll see his ability to defend, and guys will have a tough time getting around him. He’s pretty fluid. He looks to make simple plays. Physical strength, because he’s dabbled now playing with older guys. I think it's exciting."

Arnesson grew up idolizing Niklas Lidstrom in his native Sweden (not a bad idol, eh?) and when asked to compare his game, the blueliner usually gestures towards a Niklas Hjalmarsson type of game.

When he sees the toughness of Boston, he thinks it suits him very well - they're a "machine" team, he said.

As for Blidh, one of the youngest 2013 Dev Camp attendees who turned 18 on March 14, he may fly under the radar, having been drafted in the sixth round (180th overall), but his enthusiasm for the game and the "grit" Chiarelli spoke about, should motivate him in the B's system.

He possesses the Bruins' hard-nosed style of play, and was obviously beyond excited when he was drafted by the team that fits that style. So much so that he ran into the other room to tell his father back home in Sweden.

"I like to forecheck, backcheck, and hit," he told me. (Sounds like a bit of Bruins' hockey to me.)

Blidh grew up liking Peter Forsberg's game, because of the heavy hits he could land, in addition to his ability to score big-time goals.

With the B's Development Camp wrapped up, the trio flew home to prepare for their seasons abroad. But after a whirlwind few weeks since being drafted by the club, and their first exposure to a professional organization, they now have the tools to reach the next level.

The intriguing part now is following them along the journey as they strive to get there.

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