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Prospects at Development Camp Embrace Opportunity from Bruins

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON, MA - The Bruins' eighth annual development camp kicked off on July 9, with prospects from all over joining together and sporting the Spoked-B.

The 23 players invited to the camp come from Europe, locally in Boston, Canada and across the U.S. They spend their seasons playing in the NCAA, overseas and in junior hockey. They're all at varying stages of their development, and come from different draft classes.

Their one common thread is being part of the Bruins' organization, whether they were just drafted, or participating in their fourth or fifth camps.

"It’s a privilege I think to a degree to be invited to the camp. It doesn’t mean just because you’ve been drafted, that it’s your right now to be here and I think guys should treat it that way and in a respectful manner," said Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney, who started the camp eight years ago.

"And I think for the most part they do. We’ve got some guys that we are going to address to say ‘you need to do a better job in some areas’. It doesn’t mean we’re discouraged by any means but we want them to understand that they have work to do."

At the beginning of camp, the players take everything in stride, especially a new member of the organization like winger David Pastrnak, drafted 25th overall at this year's draft in Philadelphia.

"It's great. All players here are Bruins. Everybody here is on the same line," said a smiling Pastrnak. Like many previous draft picks, the camp marks his first time in Boston and his introduction to the Bruins' staff.

"It's just a good group, and we just have to give our best and make the Bruins proud of us," he said.

Being in Black and Gold is something that the prospects don't take lightly.

"It's a big moment for me, I didn't want it to get sweaty," Pastrnak joked of skating in the Spoked-B for the first time on the initial day of camp.

"I didn't want to make a wet jersey. I'm kidding obviously, but of course, it's an unreal moment and I'm really proud and happy that I can have this jersey on myself and I'm just going to try to give my best here."

At the other end of the spectrum, goalie Zane Gothberg is participating in his fifth development camp with the Bruins after being selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.

The goaltending process takes time, especially within the Bruins' stocked system, and Gothberg has taken advantage of every chance to be around the organization.

"I mean, to get the opportunity to come here and learn information, learn about your own game and talk with professionals, guys that have been around the game, guys that have been through the system, from the front office or even other players, talking with Subbs or talking with Goalie Bob, it doesn't matter," said Gothberg, referring to fellow camp goalie Malcolm Subban, and the Bruins' goaltending coach Bob Essensa.

"There's a wealth of information you can learn and you just have to take advantage of it whenever you can."

It's difficult to judge and evaluate players at camp through the on-ice sessions. You can see flair, and quick hands, a player's stride, and the way he makes decisions with the puck, especially along the boards and in tight. You can watch him battle, and not give up on pucks.

But until seeing a player in game situations, it's hard to round out a full evaluation during the course of the camp.

What can be measured, though, is their progress from year to year - physicality, and mentally.

For Sweeney, his focus is on looking for that change.

"I say they should get comfortable, or feel comfortable when they are coming back through the door because they have familiarity, but they also should feel a little bit itchy because they know they are going to be judged on their progression and where they are," said the Assistant GM.

"[Strength and Conditioning Coach John] Whitesides is going to grab them the first day and go through the body fat and their weights, so we want them acutely aware of the fact that they are being judged in that regard."

"How much work they put in, how much work they are going to be willing to do going forward, is a big part of it."

At the end of camp, the prospects will have exit interviews before dispersing for the rest of the summer, and heading back to their respective teams.

The Bruins' staff won't leave anything open to the imagination. If they think a player 'dropped the ball' in a certain area, they'll stress that for the upcoming season.

"You just can’t show up and expect it to happen just because you’ve been invited back," said Sweeney.

In speaking with the prospects, it's easy to tell that they take the week seriously. They enjoy their time with each other, no doubt, but know when it's time to work. The Bruins' staff puts a great deal of effort into the camp, and they should reciprocate.

"They should feel like the Boston Bruins have identified they’re willing to work with them and we want to see where they might fit into where we want to go, and what we are trying to accomplish as an organization," said Sweeney.

"Is it unrealistic to believe that they are all going to play for the Boston Bruins? Probably. But that doesn’t mean you don’t walk through the door and try to establish yourself as a potential National Hockey League player and that’s what I think each and every one of these guys are feeling, or hopefully should feel, when they're here."

It's the way that Milan Lucic and Torey Krug felt when they participating in the Bruins Development Camp before beginning their NHL careers.

"I think the camp sort of sets up a player to sort of understand what the expectations are when he rolls through the door down the road," said Sweeney. "Whether that is this year, next year or the following year."

"You feel comfortable as a player trying to ultimately win a job at the National Hockey League level - which is not an easy thing to do."

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