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Rookies Excited for Next Step in Main Camp

by Caryn Switaj @NHLBruins /

BUFFALO - The Boston Bruins Rookie Camp, presented by AT&T, wrapped up on Monday in Buffalo with the Bruins prospects earning a 9-3 win over the New Jersey Devils prospects at the HarborCenter.

The prospects also earned a 3-2 overtime win over the Pittsburgh prospects on Friday, and dropped a heated 7-4 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

While the outcomes of the games aren't the end-goal of the Prospects Challenge, the rookies' 9-3 victory will certainly help propel the majority of them into main training amp, which begins this Thursday, Sept. 14.

Providence Bruins Head Coach Jay Leach, in his first foray behind the bench at rookie camp, certainly gained knowledge after the weekend.

"You know what, these weekends are interesting, and it's obviously my first time going through, and I had a great teacher in Kevin Dean last year and he said just to try to keep it simple and get them to skate, and I think we did that," said Leach.

"I think we did it for all three games, other than that first period in the first game," said Leach. "I thought we did a nice job of that and I think [this win] was hopefully a culmination of the last five days."

Boston Bruins Training Camp, presented by AT&T, runs from Sept. 14 through Oct. 4, with the Bruins opening their 2017-18 season against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 5. Off-ice testing for the veterans will take place on Sept. 14, with the first on-ice sessions beginning on Friday, Sept. 15 at Warrior Ice Arena.

"Well we were excited about coming in, to evaluate our guys, and I don't think that's changed," said General Manager Don Sweeney, who spoke with media at the conclusion of the Prospects Challenge.

"Now the opportunity's there that they're going to play with NHL players who are established and we'll see whether or not it levels off, or whether or not it continues to move forward," said Sweeney. "But the competition is really what we're trying to create here internally with our group, and be deeper."

A number of prospects impressed during the Prospects Challenge, especially with the 9-3 win to cap off the exhibition games. In the win, Danton Heinen notched a hat trick, and 2017 second rounder Jack Studnicka continued to make himself noticeable with a shorthanded breakaway goal.

Jesse Gabrielle showed a presence up front during rookie camp, along with Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Fitzgerald, and on the back end, Charlie McAvoy, Rob O'Gara, and Matt Grzelcyk demonstrated their experience. Forward Anders Bjork spent his time before main camp adjusting to the pro game from college.

"It was different than college for sure - you had less time, there's a lot of big bodies out there and a lot of skilled players with speed," said Bjork. "So it's definitely a challenge and a challenge that everyone looks forward to."

With that brief exposure to the pro game, Bjork is excited to take the next step at main camp around the Bruins' veterans.

"It's something I'm definitely excited about," said Bjork. "I think everyone's a little bit nervous to be on the same ice as those guys and keep up with them, but it's a challenge for us younger players and something that we're all really excited about, and we hope that we can be able to keep up with their pace and help them out."

While the players are ready to dive into training camp and the 2017-18 preseason, the staff is just as excited to see the competition play out, especially with the younger players bubbling up from drafts in recent years.

"Well, we wanted to look at where we needed to attack our organization - we'd had a lot of success, but felt the depth of our organization needed to improve," said Sweeney.

"And we did set out to do it, albeit while remaining as competitive as we possibly could at the NHL level. Our veterans would be the first, if you asked them the question, [to say] they want to win, and that's what we have to do - that's what this business is all about and our younger guys have to understand that. They have to grow and learn and develop, and hopefully they'll push the envelope for us."

Video: B's crush Devils 9-3 to wrap up Prospects Challenge

Video: Don Sweeney addresses media at Prospects Challenge

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