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Senyshyn Impresses Across the Board at First Development Camp

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins — Virtually any first-round NHL draft pick arrives at his first development camp with something to prove.

In the case of Zach Senyshyn, the motivation ran a little bit deeper.

“I’ve got a lot of expectations of myself, and I think that I take a lot of pride in my abilities,” Senyshyn said on the opening day of camp, which wrapped up last week. “I really want to kind of prove to not just the staff and the people that believed in me, but also the fans in Boston, that I’ll be a good player for this team in the future.”

The Bruins selected Senyshyn with the last of their three first-round picks at the June 26 draft. That pick — the No. 15 overall selection — was the pick they received as part of the package that sent defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary. On top of that, most scouting services pegged Senyshyn as a second-round selection, yet the Bruins grabbed him in the middle of the first.

As a result, when Senyshyn arrived in Boston for the first time since being drafted, there was a bit more of a spotlight on him than on the Bruins’ other two first-rounders.

But pressure is the last thing that scares him.

“I love the pressure,” he said on draft night. “I’m really ready to take on the challenge. 

“I really believe in my abilities and really working hard. [Being drafted high] is kind of motivating me, and I think I can prove this team right for taking me.”

Senyshyn didn’t ask for the spotlight, but he didn’t let it bother him, either. Even at the ripe old age of 18, he already has a firm grasp on the significance of tuning out the chatter and focusing on himself — his game, his attitude, his worth.

“It was a little bit surprising, for sure,” Senyshyn said of hearing his name called earlier than expected at the draft. “But I’m very confident in my abilities, and I’m ready to be able to show this team that they took me for a reason.”

The wiry teenager did just that at camp. It was hard to showcase much of anything skill-wise during the first three drill-heavy on-ice sessions at Ristuccia Arena, but still, Bruins Development Coach Jay Pandolfo took notice of him, even after just one day.

“You can see right away how powerful of a skater he is, and he’s young,” Pandolfo said. “You can tell he still hasn’t really matured — even his body — so he’s just going to keep getting better. You can tell right away the explosiveness he has, so he has a lot of room to grow. It’s exciting to see what he has.”

During an intrasquad scrimmage on the final day of camp, Senyshyn made his biggest impression. He finished the 50-minute showcase with two goals and an assist, impressing his teammates and his new general manager alike.

“There was spotlight on Zachary by several people earmarking him as the pick of Dougie Hamilton,” said B’s GM Don Sweeney on the last day of camp. “People were probably excited to see him, and I don’t think he disappointed.

“He’s a really young player with a tremendous upside, and we’re happy to have him, and we’re going to work with him from a development standpoint and see him become the player we hope he can become.”

The Bruins — and the rest of the hockey-loving universe — saw plenty of Senyshyn’s untapped potential during the 2014-15 season, which he spent with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. The Greyhounds roster was stacked last year with the likes of Darnell Nurse, Anthony DeAngelo, Jared McCann and more. Still, in a rookie season spent mostly on the fourth line, Senyshyn managed to turn heads with his 26 goals and 19 assists in 66 games.

When given more ice time and a more prominent role, it isn’t difficult to imagine how much more impactful he could be.

“I think I’m a player who’s really growing right now,” Senyshyn said at the draft. “It was my rookie season in the OHL, and I’m really just scratching the surface of my potential. I think I have a ways to go, but I’m really passionate and really driven to get there as quick as possible.”

That much was obvious at camp. Senyshyn made it his mission to soak everything in — the on-ice skill sessions, the off-ice seminars, the community outreach activities, the time spent lounging in the dressing room with players who could be his teammates down the road.

Even as a first-round pick, he was wise enough to recognize the opportunity in front of him to learn from the veteran players at camp — players who had been there before, players who know a bit more than he does about what it takes to be a pro.

“The level that everyone’s at — they’re all pros,” he said. “The guys that I’m learning from, and even some of the guys in here, are pros or have been to the camp for so many years before, and I’m taking pieces away from everyone — not just instructors, coaches, development guys, but also the players.

“Everyone in this room is here because they do something exceptionally well, and I think looking toward those guys and being able to take something from them, whether it’s small or big — I think that’s going to be what helps you get to the next level.”

Hearing Senyshyn talk, it is unsurprising that he has handled the post-draft pressure as well as he has. He is exceptionally enthusiastic and articulate, and he never shies away from the tough questions. He is honest and analytical in his assessments of himself and his own career trajectory, and that will only serve him well as he proceeds further down the road toward becoming a pro.

“He knew some attention had been thrown his way, but I would think any first-rounder sort of feels that attention being thrown their way,” Sweeney said. “They’re excited in one minute, then have a barrage of questions that sort of ask, ‘Why?’ — and he’s just going to go about his business.

“He’s a young kid — you love to see that enthusiasm from a player with his talent. And the position he was in, to score the goals he did in a somewhat reduced role on a really good team — I think there’s upside there, and we’re excited about it.”

Already, in the few weeks since his life changed at the 2015 draft, Senyshyn has grown up. He has come face-to-face with a type of pressure that very few 18-year-olds ever face, and he has shown a fearless willingness to triumph over it.

In the first test that comes part and parcel with being a pro, Senyshyn passed.

“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind, for sure,” he said, “but it’s been a dream come true. This is all I’ve ever wanted ever since I was a young boy, watching the draft and kind of watching all these players start their careers.

“I know there’s a lot of work to come, but it’s just been a dream come true, and I’m really excited.”

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