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Bruins see early promise at development camp

by Matt Kalman /
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Holding their development camp for the fifth straight summer, the Boston Bruins sent the message early in camp, as they always do, that just because they're working out at the team's Ristuccia Arena practice facility, the camp isn't about trying out or winning a job.

But that doesn't mean the two dozen or so prospects and free agents can't still catch the eye of General Manager Peter Chiarelli.

"Any time you watch them, you're always assessing them … what I told them to start the camp was, pay attention to every little detail in this camp," Chiarelli said Monday after the camp concluded its fifth and final day. "On the ice, off the ice, treat it as if -- you're trying out, but treat it with the utmost care and attention and determination. We want to instill at an early age the work ethic, the level of expectation that they're going to be facing from us. At the end of the day, it's a development tool, and  … it indoctrinates the new players into the organization and that's what we hope to accomplish."

Some of the attendees of the Bruins' first-ever development camp four years ago -- David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Tuukka Rask -- went on to become key players in Boston's Stanley Cup championship last month. Many of those who worked out for the club this week appeared as though they might contribute in a similar manner in years to come.

That would be bad news for the rest of the League and great news for the city of Boston, which waited 39 years for the Stanley Cup to return and hopes not to have to wait that long again. Through strong drafting, shrewd trades and solid free-agent signings, the Bruins have depth at every position and at differing stages of development.

While 2011 first-round draft pick Dougie Hamilton (selected No. 9 with the pick acquired from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade in 2009) will probably wind up going back to Niagara of the OHL this fall, others will return to their junior or college teams or play in the American Hockey League. Then there are others who might be able to chip in at the NHL level. Forwards Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight are one year removed from getting drafted in the second round and could again be among those challenging for a spot on the NHL squad during the main training camp. Both lasted until late at last fall's camp before they were returned to juniors.

Both Spooner of the Kingston Frontenacs and Knight of the London Knights skated for the Bruins' AHL team in Providence at the tail end of last season and showed marked improvement during development camp.

"We've had guys emerge out of our camp the first year and play," Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney said. "Peter has been very consistent that if a young man is ready to play and help his hockey club and help [coach] Claude [Julien] in the areas that we want and we've identified, then we make room. And Blake Wheeler, right down a list of guys that have cracked our club.

"Each of those two guys have things that we're excited about and have things that, they don't have the experience yet playing [in the NHL]. So they'll go through camps, play some exhibition games and see how they continue to react. But there's no reason why each and every one of those guys shouldn't be coming here and saying, 'I don't have to go back to junior.'"

"We want to instill at an early age the work ethic, the level of expectation that they’re going to be facing from us. At the end of the day, it's a development tool, and  … it indoctrinates the new players into the organization and that’s what we hope to accomplish."
-- Bruins' GM Peter Chiarelli

Development camp isn't just about playing hockey. On the ice, a portion of every day is devoted to power skating. There are also off-ice activities planned to encourage bonding between the players and teach them a thing or two they can apply on the ice or just in their everyday lives. This year the campers played a few rounds of paintball, took a class about social media and also took a course in nutrition.

Defenseman Ryan Button, a 2009 third-round pick who will turn pro this fall, learned a little bit on and off the ice.

"[In] paintball, I learned not to go run in and try to beat three people. I learned that the hard way," said Button, who sported several welts on his torso from being shot. "The power skating, I did a little bit of it back home. But [instructor] Besa [Tsintsadze] has got a lot of little things that he imports from Russia, and it's a lot of good stuff. … Learning that stuff was really great and is really going to benefit us in the long run."

The hope is that, at different stages of Boston's future, this group of prospects will be a benefit to the Bruins' organization.
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