WILMINGTON, Mass. (AP) - Claude Julien opened his first training camp as head coach of the Boston Bruins with several prospects, including No. 1 draft pick Zach Hamill, as he works to improve on a season that saw Boston lose eight of the last 10 games and finish out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
"We're aiming for more cohesiveness as a unit this year and by getting that it will make us a tougher team to play against. This will be a much better team than most people expect," Julien said as 16 rookies took the ice on Wednesday.
"We have a couple of spots where new guys could come in and improve this hockey club," said Julien, who replaced Dave Lewis, fired in the off-season after the team went 35-41-6.
Hamill signed a three-year deal for US$875,000 a season with the potential to earn another $500,000 in bonuses if he can stay with the Bruins.
"What's worked for me in the past was just practising as hard as I could and playing as hard as I could every day, and at the end the totals were pretty good," said Hamill, who led the Western Hockey League in scoring last season and was a key member of Canada's Gold Medal Team at the 2005 Under-18 Junior World Cup.
Also trying to make the Bruins roster is third-round pick Brad Marchand, a centre, had 29 goals and 27 assists during the 2005-06 season with Moncton in the Quebec Junior Hockey League.
"I'm a lot more serious and focused than I ever was in the past on my career. It's a job now, the way I make my living and I'm really making that the most important thing in my life," Marchand said.
Julien said he's also watching left wing Milan Lucic, who "just came back from a pretty interesting tournament against the Russians."
This week the Bruins traded centre Ben Walter and a conditional 2009 draft pick to the Islanders for forward Petteri Nokelainen, who scored six goals and 10 assists last season with AHL Bridgeport.
"We gave up significant value and a draft pick to get Nokelainen but he's in much better physical condition than he was last year," said Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli. "He's an in-your-face type of player in the fact that he skates and hits."
The Finnish player was a teammate of Boston goalie Tuukka Rask during the 2005 World Junior Championships. Rask, a first-round draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs (21st overall), came to Boston in a June 2005 trade for Andrew Raycroft. He was 4-2 while allowing 13 goals for a 2.11 goals-against average in the World Junior Championships during the 2005-2006 season.
"I need to gain some weight and put on some muscle to make it at this level," Rast said Wednesday. "But with the smaller rinks in the NHL as opposed to Europe I'm also going to have to adjust to the speed of the game."
Veterans have an optional skate Thursday and scrimmages Saturday and Sunday. The rookies play the New Jersey Devils rookies Sunday in Shelton, Conn. Boston's first pre-season game is Thursday against the New York Islanders in St. John, Newfoundland.
Julien said the team has not finished conducting physicals on all players but the results so far are encouraging.
"We had the whole team here working out on their own a week or two before training camp opened, and that showed me that this group is ready to put the past behind them and get off to a good start," he said.