After a couple weeks of speculation, newly acquired Bruins forward Blake Wheeler is happy to finally be a Boston Bruin.
Wheeler, who recently finished his third year with the University of Minnesota, opted out of his senior season with the Gophers to turn pro. But Wheeler chose not to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes, who drafted him 5th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, and became a free agent.
That was great news for the Black & Gold, as Wheeler decided that Boston was definitely the place for him.
“One of the biggest things about the Bruins organization was having someone like Mr. Cam Neely in the front office,” Wheeler explained via conference call on Tuesday afternoon. “The way he played the game is something (on which) I would like to model my game.
“If I can be a sponge…and learn everything that he can offer me, that is something that is highly valuable for someone like myself.”
Number eight may have been a major attraction for the young man from Minnesota, but so were the city and the chance to wear a Black & Gold jersey.
“I am really excited to be a part of the Boston Bruins,” he said. “Signing my fist contract is a dream come true.
“It is great to be a part of the great city of Boston, and what people are calling Titletown, USA.”
Right now, for Wheeler and the Bruins, the sky is the limit.
“It’s exciting to be a part of an organization that is up-and-coming, on a team that can develop the young guys like (Milan) Lucic and (David) Krejci, and be on a team that was part of the playoffs last year,” said Wheeler. “That, coupled with the amazing city of Boston, made (the decision) a no-brainer for me.”
Finding a roster where he could make an immediate impact was another important factor for the big forward.
“(Having a shot) is all I can ask for,“ said Wheeler. “At the same time, if I am not ready to make the team, I can go work on my game in a place like Providence and hopefully -- sooner rather than later -- be ready to play in the (NHL).”
Next week, at the B’s development camp, the man nicknamed “Wheels” will begin his journey with the Hub of Hockey.
“I couldn’t be happier that July 1st has finally come,” he said. “Being able to pick where you want to play and where you want to live is something that most players do not get the opportunity to do until their mid to late 20's.
“To be able to do it as a 21-year-old was the most attractive option for me.”
Finally, Wheeler is also excited to be able to join forces with an old linemate and friend. “Phil Kessel is an unbelievable talent,” Wheeler said. “Watching him play, you can all see how highly skilled he is, how fast he is and how good he is with the puck.
“But (more than that), we are pretty good buddies (and) it is definitely cool to have someone who you are pretty good friends with in a city where you are going to be the new guy.”
Although, beyond having a friend in the system, being 6’5 and 215-pounds can’t hurt either – unless you are on the other team.