Every summer USA Hockey holds a National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY. It serves as an opportunity to watch some of the top junior players from the United States, Finland and Sweden for an intense week of practices and games.
Two of the most impressive players at the camp happen to be Bruins prospects forward Phil Kessel and goaltender Tuukka Rask
. Both joined the Bruins organization at this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, which took place in Vancouver on June 24.
The Bruins selected Kessel, 18, with the fifth overall selection in the draft, while Rask, 19, came to Boston in a draft-day trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rask, a native of Finland, was a first-round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.
“Kessel and Rask are two of our top prospects,” said Bruins Assistant General Manager Jeff Gorton. “Kessel is a dynamic player who can really skate and knows how to find the back of the net. Rask is a real solid goaltender who makes plenty of big saves. We’re really excited to have both of them in our organization.”
Gorton was in Lake Placid earlier this week to watch the camp and take a look at some of the potential 2007 draft picks. But he also managed to check in with both Kessel and Rask.
Kessel is playing for the United States Blue team in the tournament. USA Hockey, which hosts the annual tournament as part of the evaluation camp, typically splits the top players in its program into two teams for the tournament.
Through two games Kessel had scored three goals and an assist, including the game-winning goal against Sweden in a 4-2 victory on Wednesday. Kessel scored two goals against Rask in a 4-2 victory over Finland on Tuesday.
“He was real impressive in the two games I saw,” said Gorton of Kessel. “He was one of the best players on the ice. He scored some big-time goals.”
Despite taking the loss in the game against Kessel’s USA Team Blue, Rask played a solid game. He made 44 saves, including a number of highlight reel variety.
“Rask was spectacular at times,” said Gorton. “He really kept his team in the game despite the United States dominating the play.”
Team Blue outshot Finland 48-19 in the game, but Rask kept Finland close. Team Blue needed an empty net goal with just over a minute left to cement the win. The tournament continues through Saturday with each team playing two more games. So far both teams from the United States are undefeated.
While there is a chance that Kessel will opt to leave the University of Minnesota and turn pro with the Bruins before the start of training camp, as of right now, neither Kessel nor Rask are expected to attend camp when it opens on Sept. 14 at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. Kessel is on track to begin his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota in the fall, while Rask is under contract for one more season with Ilves Tampere in the Finnish Elite League.