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The Future is Now?

Sweeney says "competition and opportunity" will be there for young players during camp

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

This story originally appeared in the Boston Metro newspaper's Bruins season preview section.

BOSTON - Don Sweeney knows it may appear that the Bruins have had a quiet offseason. The B's general manager preached patience ahead of free agency and refrained from making any major summer signings or trades, instead opting to add to the team's depth by inking forward Kenny Agostino and defenseman Paul Postma to one-year contracts, with an eye toward providing opportunity for Boston's wealth of young talent.
And that's why, despite a lack of acquisitions from outside the organization, Sweeney is quite comfortable with how the offseason played out.

"The offseason may appear somewhat quiet to the outside but a lot of the planning was taking place during the course of the [2016-17 season] and toward the end of the year, in particular," said Sweeney. "Charlie McAvoy and Anders Bjork, and [Jakob] Forsbacka Karlsson as well, were players that had made the decision to leave [school]…. the integration of these young players, along with several players who played in Providence, is going to create internal competition and is exciting for us.

"They have to prove that they can play and that they're ready for the challenge. Charlie's a good example, going in and handling himself very well [during the postseason]. However, the bar kind of resets and we'll see where they are come training camp. But the competition and opportunity will be there.
"When you couple that with [head coach] Bruce Cassidy running his first training camp and [assistant coach] Kevin Dean coming on board. I think there's a positive energy surrounding all of those elements."

Video: Don Sweeney addresses media at Prospects Challenge
Sweeney has made clear that there will be opportunity for Boston's bevy of prospects to make the roster out of camp. Up front, Bjork, Austin Czarnik, Jake DeBrusk, Forsbacka Karlsson, Danton Heinen, and playoff hero Sean Kuraly will be among the youngsters fighting for full-time work with the big club. And on the back end, Matt Grzelcyk and Rob O'Gara, each of whom had brief stints at the NHL level last season, will be looking to make an impact.
With so many players vying for a limited amount of spots, the competition during camp could be fierce.
"Our intention is to create a deeper roster from top to bottom.  We want depth and severalplayers have shown the ability to go up and down [between Boston and Providence] players like Kuraly, [Tim] Schaller, [Noel] Acciari, [Anton] Blidh, [Peter] Cehlarik, Czarnik, all took advantage of their opportunity last year.
"Let's see whether or not they can take it and run with it. You bring in a player like Kenny Agostino [last year's AHL MVP], along with a proven AHL scorer in Frank Vatrano…the opportunity is there, but these players have to go and grab a hold of it."
Regardless of who locks up some of the open roster spots, Sweeney said that - as always - the Bruins would look to their veteran core to lead the way.
"Teams lean on their best players, the core group defines the success of your team and how they lead," said Sweeney. "We have tremendous core guys [and] we have other guys that are beginning to move into that group…I think the support will be there for our younger players, the enthusiasm, the drive from our veteran players, will push our guys to their standard. I think the patience will be there from our coaching staff…It is up to the younger players to reach a higher level of expectations."

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