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Sweeney: Rookie Camp Presents Big Opportunity for DeBrusk, McIntyre & More

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON — If Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney had to sum up Rookie Camp in one word, it would be this one: opportunity.

This camp is an opportunity for players to show Boston’s coaching staff and management what they’re capable of. It is an opportunity to show enough to earn a spot at main camp. It is an opportunity to seize an open roster spot.

“This is about opportunity — you make an impression, you have a chance to make an impression,” Sweeney said as Boston opened its 2015 Rookie Camp presented by AT&T. “All of us, I guess, evaluators are really excited about the group in general. They’re going to play against their peers for the most part, and we’re equally excited about the other teams and their own prospects, to go and use that as a measuring stick and kind of get ready for when the real competition begins next week.

“This is not a development camp anymore; this is about hopefully learning to carve out a job for every one of them, from a personal standpoint and then from the team standpoint — understanding that we do things inside out. You shouldn’t need external motivation at this point in time; you should be driven internally to try and get to where you need to go as a National Hockey League player.”

Development camp was an opportunity for many of these players to start to learn what it takes to be a pro. This camp, alternately, is their chance to actually be pros. This is their chance to show they can compete against the best rookies out there, and it is their chance to show that they deserve an extended look once the rookie tournament in Buffalo is over.

“There have been players that make NHL rosters out of these camps,” Sweeney said. “The group itself isn’t comprised of all NHL players, but I think it’s important for these kids to understand there are measuring sticks along the way in your own personal development, as well our own understanding of where guys are, from a trajectory of when they can possibly play in the National Hockey League and when they can help us win. And we’ve had guys that have come in, made the jump to the next level, and hopefully, we have more surprises in that same area.

“So it is important. It’s taken seriously, and we talked about that this morning, that this is the pro part. Make no mistake about it: The competition begins.”

Before the competition gets started, however, the rookies had to prove themselves off the ice. There were mixed results, Sweeney said. Not all of the rookies passed all three of Thursday’s conditioning tests — part of that, he admitted, could be due to the fact that rain forced them to complete the shuttle run on turf — but regardless of their test results, all of them will compete this weekend in the tournament.

When they return, however, they might have some extra work to do.

“To me, it’s a test you can train for, and that’s probably the most indicative thing,” Sweeney said. “If you put in the work in that situation — you may not be the best runner or the most graceful person — but if you put the work in, you should come out the other side in a positive result.

“So we had some guys that will have some supplemental work as a result of it, over the course of — not just today, tomorrow, whatever, but over the course of a period of time before the season starts. They’ll have to do some extra work.”

The players at this year’s rookie camp might not be players who are able to make an impact on the Boston Bruins’ 2015-16 roster. They might be players who can help out further down the road. But at the very least, this weekend will offer Sweeney and the rest of his staff an opportunity of their own to see where these rookies stack up. They will be able to project, to some degree, how far along these prospects are, and how close they are to impacting the big club.

This weekend marks the first step toward determining what lies ahead in these rookies’ futures.

“I’m excited about several of these players — all of them, to some degree — as to where they’re going to make their impact, and how far they can push from underneath,” Sweeney said. “So I think that we’ve identified some of those needs. Now, they might be two years down the road; we don’t know. Those players will ultimately determine that, as to when they’re ready to help.

“The best part about it is how excited everybody is to be here. And us, as an organization — we just have to realize we have to go to work with these guys, and some of them make it, and some of them won’t.”

2015 Draft Picks Have Same Goal in Mind

All three of Boston’s 2015 first-round draft picks will be attending the rookie tournament in Buffalo, and heading in, all three of them have the same goal in mind: To make sure they stay with the Bruins as long as possible.

It doesn’t matter that they’re young. It doesn’t matter that they were just drafted a couple of months ago and are expected to return to their junior teams later this month. Right now, they’re here, and that means they have a shot at making the Bruins roster.

“That’s what the goal is,” said No. 14 overall pick Jake DeBrusk. “The goal is to stay as long as you can, and make the team, and things like that, and I think this [rookie] tournament’s a huge thing for that. I think if you have a good tournament and really show well, it gives you a way better chance to stay than if you didn’t have a good tournament and didn’t show well, obviously.

“So that’s what I’m aiming for — just to do my best and show my capabilities and show exactly why they drafted me, and get some wins.”

DeBrusk certainly showed fans a bit of what he can do with a nifty viral shootout goal on the final day of development camp, but this camp is about more than that. For these players, it’s about showcasing their game against the best prospects other NHL teams have to offer, and giving management an idea of how they can contribute at the pro level.

“I’m just looking to show my skills and why they drafted me again — kind of the same thing as development camp,” DeBrusk said. “Getting in more of a game atmosphere, playing against other competition — it’s against other top prospects as well, and obviously you want to show well and do really good.

“So that’s pretty much the main thing I’m focusing on going into the year — just really showing what I’m about and working really hard every shift and giving it my all. That’s all you can really do, right? So that’s kind of what I’m aiming for, and things will go well.”

During development camp, the three first-rounders were able to get a good feel for the talent level they will be competing against as they ascend to the pro ranks, but they weren’t able to get into any game action. That will change this weekend, in a round-robin style tournament against Buffalo’s and New Jersey’s rookies.

That, said No. 15 overall pick Zach Senyshyn, will be one of the biggest benefits of rookie camp.

“There’s some pretty incredible talents that are going to be at the rookie camp, and I’m pretty excited to be able to play with some of these guys,” he said. “I got to know them pretty well at the development camp, and it’s going to be pretty awesome all being able to put on that Spoked-B and be able to go into battle together.”

Jakub Zboril, Boston’s first overall pick in this year’s draft, has been hard at work this summer getting into prime shape for this camp, and now he is eager to see how that translates on the ice against tougher competition.

“I’m pretty excited for it,” Zboril said. “I’ve worked really hard in the summer to get here and show myself that I can really compete against these guys and show them I deserve that place.”

Sweeney, too, will use this tournament as tool to further evaluate his 2015 first-rounders.

“You get to look at the other teams that you’re going to play against and see where the benchmarks are for them, because they’re [competing against] comparable ages in their own development trajectory,” Sweeney said. “And again, the player himself is going to determine how much he can personally grow on and off the ice, but I think it’s healthier when a player gets into your own camp, amongst your own players, that you certainly have a better read as to where they are, where they can impact your team, where the potential of these other players lie. And that is where the evaluation tool comes in.”

Zboril is in a different position from his fellow first-rounders: He is the sole one of them to have already signed his entry-level deal with the B’s.

As a result, he is particularly motivated to assert himself in this tournament.

“I’ve got it in my mind, and right now, I feel really good,” he said. “I’m going to go [to Buffalo] for rookie camp, and I’m going to go [to Boston] for training camp, and I’ll do my best to show them maybe I [should] get a chance to make the team, or play some games, at least.”

Before they started thinking about the games, though, the rookies had to complete their off-ice testing on Thursday morning. Unsurprisingly, all three of the conditioning tests — which included a 300-meter shuttle run — weren’t easy.

Senyshyn got a taste of what the tests would be like in July at development camp, but Thursday’s were a different beast.

“It’s all about your own improvement, right?” Senyshyn said. “And I think that just kind of getting a baseline last [time] at the development camp and working toward getting better is always what it’s about. Everyone has their individual strengths, in hockey and off-ice testing, and you try to do what you’re great at and improve on what you’re looking to improve on.”

All three of these prospects still have plenty to prove. Many of the faces around the room are the same faces that were present for development camp, but this time, the stakes are seemingly higher, and no one intends to squander the opportunity to show Boston’s management something it hasn’t seen before.

“It’s a chance for me to kind of prove myself and show the Boston management and show the fans what I have to offer,” Senyshyn said. “Just show what I have to offer and do my best and hopefully put up a couple W’s in the Spoked-B.”

McIntyre Embarks on Next Chapter

Zane McIntyre
has spent plenty of summers in Bruins colors; he has attended a record six development camps with Boston.

But this weekend will mark his first opportunity to sport the Spoked-B in game action. This weekend, essentially, is the culmination of what he has been dreaming of ever since hearing his named called by the Bruins at the 2010 NHL Draft.

“I just remember that day, thinking, ‘Hey, this is going to be pretty special when this happens, and [I’ve] got to do everything in my power to make it happen,’” McIntyre said. “So from that point on, it’s been a long work in progress, but now, it’s going to happen, and it’s going to be really exciting, really cool.”

Sure, there is plenty at stake this weekend, especially for McIntyre, who is expected to compete for a spot on Boston’s 2015-16 roster. But for now, he is savoring the moment, savoring the experience.

“Right now, [I’m] just trying to control what I can control, and go out there and have a good time and really just play hockey,” he said. “That’s the best part about it. That’s the beauty of the sport and everything — you get to compete with a lot of friends you know, and also a lot of guys you will be playing against will be pretty tough as well.”

McIntyre has plenty of experience competing in pressure situations. In the past two years, he has played in two Frozen Fours with the University of North Dakota. He knows how to tune out the pressure, how to focus on the task at hand.

That will certainly come in handy for him over the course of the next few weeks.

“I go back to some of the lessons I’ve learned back at school, especially with previous coaches I’ve had as well: I think your body of work will really speak for itself,” he said. “I think right now, I just have to go in and stop pucks, and just keep my nose to the grindstone and just keep going from there.

“Can’t really get too caught up in what’s going on and this and that, and just really enjoy the process, too, because this is rookie camp — this might be my first and only rookie camp, too. So I’ve got to take advantage of that, for sure.”

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