BOSTON – When Bruins general manager Don Sweeney settles in to watch some NCAA Hockey Tournament action this weekend, he won’t be choosing sides.
With an NHL-best nine Bruins prospects (across seven teams) among the participants, there will be some overlapping matchups that make that difficult.
Danton Heinen and Denver will face off with Matt Grzelcyk, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and Boston University, while Ryan Fitzgerald and Boston College will battle with Ryan Donato, Wiley Sherman (he did not play in the Crimson’s last two games because of injury) and Harvard.
“We’ve been watching all the way along and we’ll continue to do so this weekend,” said Sweeney. “It’s tough, Denver and BU are playing so you’ve got your eyes on both sides. It’s a no-lose situation for somebody, but it’s tough because you have to stay impartial in terms of routing for individual players and their own success.
“Maybe if it was spread around completely we wouldn’t have to do that, but inevitably when you’ve got that many players they’re going to match up with each other.”
But will he be rooting even a little bit for Harvard, his alma mater?
“Obviously as an alum, I hope they continue to do well,” said Sweeney, who played at Harvard from 1984-1988, twice helping the Crimson to Frozen Four appearances.
“[Harvard coach] Ted Donato, Wiley Sherman, and Ryan Donato…we’re excited about the development they’ve had as freshmen and sophomores and hopefully their team can continue to play on in the tournament.”
The impressive haul of Bruins prospects at the tournament also includes Yale’s Rob O’Gara, Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork, and Northeastern’s Matt Benning. The heavy participation makes it an exciting time for the organization.
“It’s an enormous amount of pride,” said Sweeney. “We were well-represented in the World Juniors this year. It speaks highly of our prospects, the development process that each and every one of them are going through. Obviously the players deserve the credit, their teams.
“But it’s exciting for guys to be playing at this time of the year, it speaks volumes of their team success and their individual success.”
Among the nine prospects are two seniors – Grzelcyk and O’Gara – who will be looking to close out their careers in style. O’Gara won a National Championship during his freshman campaign in 2013, while Grzelcyk lost to Providence in the title game last season.
“You realize as a senior, having gone down that path, your college career is coming to an end,” said Sweeney. “You have to stay in that moment, obviously be excited about what might lie ahead with a pro career with us. Each one of those senior players will have the opportunity to continue on.
“Several of the underclassmen will be making some decisions as well. We’ll support them in either direction. I think each and every one of those players has the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League and for the Boston Bruins.”
For now, however, those future plans are being put on hold. Hoisting some hardware is the priority.
“I think it’s a good group, all those players have had successful years, as have their teams,” said Sweeney. “You follow these kids all year long and now you realize it comes down to one game – you’re done or you continue on.
“Hopefully, the way it can line up, we can get at least two guys or three guys in the Frozen Four and maybe a national championship.”