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Rask Wows at B's Development Camp

by Tom Halkin / Boston Bruins
He was late for camp. 

But when your traveling all the way from far-off Finland, connecting through Iceland, your delay is usually excused; especially if you happen to be All-World goalie prospect Tuukka Rask.

So, Rask, who has been touted as the “best goalie not in the NHL,” arrived in Beantown just after the conclusion to the first session of Development Camp. Rask had spent all day in transit after participating in a good friend's wedding over the weekend in his native Finland.

How was the party Tuukka?

“It was prefect.  Thank you for asking,” the boyish-looking netminder politely told the crowd of media that had gathered around him after his first on-ice session of the week.

The tall and slender Rask, admitted to being a little jet-lagged, but assured his audience that he was still excited to move forward with the rest of the week, and the hot-prospect did not disappoint.

After just a couple days of camp, Rask was drawing “As Advertised” comments from many of the other players as well as Bruins staffers on hand for the week.

“Obviously everyone holds him in a high-regard,” said Director of Hockey Operations and Player Development, Don Sweeney.  “Another team took him in the first-round, and we had him at the same place.  He comes as billed…You can see the technique and quickness.”

Rask seemed pretty comfortable seated in the corner stall of the Ristuccia Arena locker room, and he calmly shared pleasantries with the Boston media.

Tuukka chatted about his favorite band, Metallica, and even offered his own recommendations of similar bands to reporters expressing a shared interest in hard rock, stating calmly, like an old friend, “You should really check them out.”

He even brushed aside questions of “pressure” and “hype” with the cool of a seasoned-veteran, not the 20-year old rookie that he is.

And Tuukka only grew more comfortable as the week grew on -- on and off the ice.

The 20 year-old got his first good look at the city for whom he will someday play from onboard one of the famous Duck Boats. Then, he jumped right into the Bruins spirit of community involvement the next night, as he helped out a local floor hockey clinic in East Boston.

Tuukka needed no instructions as he immediately got involved playing mini passing and shooting games with the excited youths. 

Rask’s biggest thrill however, came on Thursday night when he was an honorary guest on the NESN Red Sox pre-game show.  Tuukka, who admits he is not a baseball fan in general, does support our local nine - he even donned two different Red Sox hats during camp – and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“The atmosphere there is great,” he said.  “It was fun.

 “I was a little nervous at first (about going on the pre-game show), but I think it ended up going pretty well.”

However much fun he may have had, Tuukka couldn’t help being a little jealous of his pre-game show partner, B’s first round draft pick, Zach Hamill, who threw out the game’s first pitch.

“That was awesome, I wish I could have done that,” a grinning Rask said.  “That was probably one of the best moments of his life; not just anyone gets to do that.”

Just by talking to him for a few minutes you could tell Tuukka was thoroughly enjoying his time in Boston and with his new teammates.

“I’ve just been trying to get to know the guys by practicing together and hanging out with them outside the rink.  That’s probably been the best thing about it so far.”
It couldn’t all be fun and games for Tuukka though.  While everyone admits that the young goalie has been impressive, they note that he still has his share of work to do before becoming a regular NHL goalie – a dream of his since he first started playing net at age six, a la his godfather. 

“Just looking at him you know he needs to put on a few pounds of muscle,” said goaltending coach Bob Essensa.  “From a goaltending prospective, size is always a good thing.  So long as he’s adding muscle and not losing any foot speed.”

Alas, that is where this development camp comes into play. 

“This is a great opportunity for him to get acclimated to the size of the ice surface and the next progression of shooters,” Sweeney confirmed.  “Just like everyone else, it can only help him develop.”

That idea definitely isn’t lost on Tuukka.  He knows that he has to continue to work hard to develop into a top tier NHL goalie.

“If you want to play, you have to practice hard,” Rask said.

As such, “Tooks,” as he was dubbed by his teammates at camp, practiced what he preached and baffled many of the talented goal scorers on the ice in Wilmington.

This did not go unnoticed.  The other goalie present for most of the week, current UNH starter Kevin Regan was impressed as well.

“It has been fun watching him,” said Regan.  “He is as advertised.  He is an unbelievable goaltender and has a good future ahead of him.”

Tooks will train locally before joining incumbent Tim Thomas, and possibly new Bruin, Manny Fernandez, on a trip to Calgary for a week long goalie camp with coach Bob.

But wherever he may end up this year, the young Rask is sure to impress.  You can bet your beans that he will be wearing a spoked-B sooner rather than later.
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