WILMINGTON, MA – When the Bruins selected a bruising power forward named Cody Payne in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, his agent told him he couldn't have landed in a better spot.
It looks like his agent was right.
“I see a guy and if he’s in my train tracks there’s no doubt I’m gonna finish the checks,” Payne said after a physical final practice at Development Camp last Sunday.
One player who found himself on the wrong side of those train tracks was camp invitee, Darik Angeli, who Payne sent down to the ice with a hit along the boards.
“I hit to get the puck away from players and to stop plays and take pucks back into the offensive zone,” Payne said about his physical nature.
The physical play didn’t go unnoticed.
“I knew Boston was a tough club coming in and they definitely train tough,” the 19-year-old said.
Payne’s toughness isn’t a question, in fact it’s a big reason why he got drafted. That toughness was on display when Payne got chippy out on the ice between whistles and for a moment it looked like the crowd at Ristuccia Arena would be treated to some early fireworks in July.
“It’s just a very competitive camp… but once you get off the ice it stays on the ice. It’s a good group of guys in here,” Payne said of fellow B’s prospects.
Although he budgets his violence against teammates, he’s got a whole checkbook full of collisions ready for his opponents.
Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy noticed his physical presence.
“That showed, you know, there’s a couple of guys that finished their checks…[Cody] Payne I thought [was] trying to do it, but again, you’re playing against your own teammates so it gets - there’s a limit there that you can go,” Cassidy said.
On top of his physical play, Payne’s known for letting his fists fly on behalf of his teammates – something revered at the professional level of the Bruins organization.
“Boston likes to stick up for their teammates and that’s what I like to do,” Payne said. “They like to play gritty and with skill and with heart and soul so that’s basically what I try to base my game off of.”
Earlier in the year Payne looked reminiscent of old Bruins cult hero, P.J. Stock, as he waved to Plymouth Whaler fans while skating to the box after fisticuffs against Kitchener’s Cory Genovese back in April.
Payne showcased his 6-foot-2, 201-pound frame in his offensive game as well, skating through sticks and battling for real-estate in tough spots.
“I thought he looked good,” Cassidy said. “You know, he’s going through the middle of the ice with speed with his head up with the puck, so I liked his game today.”
Payne credited a strong foundation of youth roller hockey to be a contributor to the grinding nature of his play.
“There’s a lot of bad habits, but there’s a lot of good habits that come out of it too,” Payne said “It’s not physical, but it’s definitely a lot of speed and a lot of hard work to get up and down the roller rink so I thought I brought that into my game.”
Payne spoke of a specific roller hockey memory that gives a little insight to his competitive nature.
“I broke my stick in half and there was about five minutes left and I taped it up and I played with just half a stick and I got an assist,” he said.
While playing with a broken stick may have been one of the bad habits Payne spoke of, that kind of relentlessness is a key attribute in what Bruins hockey is all about.