Matt Lashoff didn’t have to be at the Boston Bruins’ developmental camp during the summer. But there was no way he was going to miss it.
The 20-year-old defenseman had already put in a full season with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League in 2006-07 and had even earned a 12-game call-up with the parent club.
Those professional experiences are certainly vast enough to have allowed him to skip Boston’s first-ever summer developmental camp, which was mainly the domain of players who have yet to turn pro. But Lashoff needed to be on hand in early July in Wilmington, Mass.
|Defenseman Matt Lashoff, a first-round pick in the 2005 Draft, enjoyed a breakthrough season in Providence last season, earning spots on the AHL all-rookie team and AHL All-Star Game.
For his own piece of mind.
After a scary neck injury ended his impressive rookie campaign prematurely, Lashoff wanted to make sure he was well on the road to recovery. A mid-summer test against quality competition -- under the supervision of the Bruins’ front office – proved to be the ideal testing ground.
“With the way last year ended, I was really happy to come down here because I wanted to test myself and see how things are progressing,” Lashoff said. “They are way ahead of schedule. I’m going to be better than 100 percent coming into camp and I am really looking forward to it.”
For Lashoff, it is a relief to look forward to competing for a job on Boston’s blue line. The alternative was far less attractive.
In Providence’s regular-season finale, Lashoff was hit from behind by a Manchester forechecker and sent flying into the boards head-first. Although he was able to stagger off the ice under his own power after a few nerve-racking minutes of lying prone, there was initial concern that Lashoff had suffered a serious injury. In the aftermath of the hit, he could not feel his left arm.
“I got hit from behind and a kid fell on top of me and I kind of got my hands under me and went head-first into the boards,” Lashoff recalls. “It was very scary. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t sure what had happened and if the feeling was ever going to come back in my arm.”
The feeling did, indeed, come back, but his season was over. He missed out completely on the Baby Bruins’ playoff run and was plagued by concerns regarding his long-term health.
“The feeling came back pretty quick, which was good,” he said. “But the thing that was slow to come back was the range of motion and the strength. Obviously, the strength is not really an issue, but that is the one thing that is coming back more slowly, but it should be there soon.”
That realization alone made all the work he did at the week-long developmental camp worthwhile for Lashoff, who was a first-round pick, No. 22 overall, in the 2005 Entry Draft.
“This was a big testing thing for me because I wanted to see how things were progressing and I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone,” Lashoff admitted. “I’m happy to be on the ice and to be around the guys because they are great guys.”
With the lingering questions about the condition of his body put to rest, Lashoff can concentrate all of his efforts on improving on last year’s dynamic introduction to the pro game.
Two years ago, Lashoff got a taste of what it means to be a pro; playing in seven regular-season games and six playoff contents with the P-Buins after finishing a three-year career with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League.
That meager experience laid the foundation for a rookie year to remember this past season. He was the best defenseman in Providence, scoring 11 goals and 25 assists in 64 AHL games. He was named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team and was the only Providence player to take part in that league’s All-star Game.
Lashoff also enjoyed a 12-game call-up with Boston, recording two assists and looking, for the most part, ready to handle the rigors that the NHL presents.
|"You always want to score more goals and get more points the next year."
-- Matt Lashoff
It was the ability to handle that 12-game baptism of fire – necessitated by a string of mid-season injuries suffered on the parent club’s blue line -- that convinced Lashoff he is right on track to achieve his dream of playing and contributing at the NHL level.
“I think it went fairly well,” he said of his dozen-game taste of the NHL. “I got the opportunity to come up and learn some things in Boston. I’m taking that to heart and have been working on all those things all summer and even in this camp to get ready for the main training camp coming up.
“I felt pretty good coming in (to the Boston lineup) because I kind of got thrown right into the fire because Brad Stuart was hurt and I kind of took on quite a bit of load when I got in there. I didn’t feel too overwhelmed at all. I felt kind of at home. The guys were good to me and I had a good time.”
Lashoff knows there are things he needs to work on for his master plan to become a reality.
At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Lashoff has the size to be a factor in his own zone. While not the physical presence of a Dion Phaneuf, a young player with a similar build, Lashoff is not shy about playing the body. He also is positionally sound in his own end and has seen his fair share of penalty-killing duties.
In the offensive zone, he possesses a smooth skating stride a keen sense of puck anticipation. He is a gifted playmaker who can be effective on the power play as a support player. But he knows he can be better in many of these areas and will have to be if he hopes to find his way into Boston’s starting defensive rotation.
Lashoff was working extensively on his shot during the development camp and that work was paying huge dividends. He scored a career-best 11 goals last season with Providence, approaching the three-year total of 16 he compiled with Kitchener.
“It’s something I have always worked on,” Lashoff said. “You always want to score more goals and get more points the next year. The main thing I worked on a lot this year in talking with the coach down in Providence, Scott Gordon -- and he was great with me – is my shot. I think the one thing I did a lot differently was I am shooting the puck a lot more.”
He insists his shot will be better this season, even with the injury setback.
“I can laugh about it now a little bit,” Lashoff says of the scary crash into the boards. “Like I said, it came back fine and healed very quickly and very well.”
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