Just a few weeks before camp, Kuraly was traded to the Bruins – along with a 2016 first-round pick – from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for goaltender Martin Jones.
So not only was Kuraly trying to make an impression during his first camp with a new organization, he was also in the process of figuring out whom exactly the people were that he needed to impress.
Fast forward a year to Kuraly’s second Development Camp with the Bruins and the 23-year-old forward has a much firmer grasp on his place with the organization.
“It’s just nice to kind of know where I was going to be for a year,” Kuraly said during last week’s camp. “I know some of the guys now, I know some of the staff. Just a little more comfortable now, [I] kind of know what’s going to happen next a little bit more.”
In late March, following his senior campaign with the University of Miami (Ohio), Kuraly agreed to terms with the Bruins on an entry-level contract that begins next season, meaning he will kick off his professional career this fall.
“It was great,” Kuraly said of getting the signing out of the way. “It’s good to have it over. I wanted to get it done as quickly as we could. I was obviously lucky to land in a place like Boston. You can get traded anywhere, but to be here, I was really lucky and happy. My family was pretty excited about it.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder finished his career with the RedHawks with 43 goals and 50 assists in 154 games. His six goals during his senior season dropped from 19 his junior year, but Kuraly – who still led Miami with 136 shots on goal last season – feels his overall game has progressed nicely since last summer’s camp.
“I think I learned a lot last year, I think I tried to take as much of this camp in as I could,” said Kuraly, who is considered by many to be a dependable two-way forward.
“I think every year that’s the point, if you’re coming to these, you’ve got to soak up as much information as you can, take little pieces with you and work them.
“We learn stuff this week…you only get better if you take it with you and practice it all year.”
At 23 years old, Kuraly feels more at ease around the dressing room, where he was one of the oldest players at last week’s Development Camp, which was his sixth dating back to his time with the Sharks organization.
“I’ve only been here one year so I’m still learning,” said Kuraly. “This is my sixth Development Camp and just look at some of the guys that have been here a few years and follow them. You’re always trying to set a good example.”
Kuraly also has a close friend nearby that he can lean on if necessary. Providence Bruins center Austin Czarnik played with Kuraly for three seasons at Miami and the two continue to train with each other during the summers.
“We’re excited to be together,” said Kuraly. “We had a great couple years at Miami together. He’s a great teammate and I’m really looking forward to spending some more time with him and really the rest of the guys in this room.
“It’s really a great group; we’ve gotten to know each other a bit. It’s going to be a fun year, a fun couple years.”
Whether that fun comes with Providence or Boston, Kuraly is confident in his ability to make the jump to professional hockey.
“It’s going to be a big step up,” said Kuraly. “Obviously, college you’re playing with some older guys, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a challenge. As a hockey player, if you get to the next level and take on those challenges, you’re doing a good job. I’m excited about it and I really can’t wait to get started.”
The Bruins brass, likewise, is eager to see Kuraly advance to the professional level.
“He protects the puck very well, he’s strong on the puck, hard down low, retrieves it well, receives it well, and he uses his body to get to the crease,” said Bruins Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson.
“And he’s been able to demonstrate some of that and give us some of what he has shown Miami and the San Jose organization, who drafted him, and he’s now ready to turn pro. He’s ready for the next step.”
Kuraly, a native of Dublin, Ohio, is a natural centerman and played there for much of his career at Miami. But Ferguson acknowledged Kuraly has the size and ability to move to the wing should he have to.
“I think he can move to the wing,” said Ferguson. “I think he’s capable of doing that. He’s certainly strong enough on the fore check and strong down low as I mentioned. At the same time he’s a big body in the middle that’s strong on draws and good down low.
“So I think he’s got versatility in his game; he certainly has a strong appreciation for the two-way game, can kill penalties and I think he’s going to get a chance to prove that he does have some versatility.”
Regardless of what position he plays or what team he ends up on this fall, Kuraly is determined to do whatever it takes to become the best player he can be.
“Whatever happens is going to happen,” said Kuraly. “And all I can do is put the onus on myself to put the work in every day and see if I can help the team in Providence or Boston, wherever I can help the most is where I’ll excited to be.”