BostonBruins.com — Justin Hickman had few expectations as he entered his first development camp as a member of the Bruins, but he had plenty of ideas and an open mind.
He knew he wanted to impress the staff in his first opportunity to get on the ice since signing an entry-level contract with Boston back in March. He knew that perhaps he had a lot to prove, given that a January shoulder surgery limited his opportunities to impress his new team with his on-ice skills.
He knew there were plenty of people to meet — new teammates, trainers and coaches alike — and that he wanted to make a good impression on them.
But first and foremost, Hickman wanted to prove to his new team that he is willing and able to work as hard as possible — the cornerstone trait of becoming a pro — and after a week spent in Boston, he was confident that he had done just that.
BostonBruins.com — Virtually any first-round NHL draft pick arrives at his first development camp with something to prove.
In the case of Zach Senyshyn, the motivation ran a little bit deeper.
“I’ve got a lot of expectations of myself, and I think that I take a lot of pride in my abilities,” Senyshyn said on the opening day of camp, which wrapped up last week. “I really want to kind of prove to not just the staff and the people that believed in me, but also the fans in Boston, that I’ll be a good player for this team in the future.”
The Bruins selected Senyshyn with the last of their three first-round picks at the June 26 draft. That pick — the No. 15 overall selection — was the pick they received as part of the package that sent defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary. On top of that, most scouting services pegged Senyshyn as a second-round selection, yet the Bruins grabbed him in the middle of the first.
As a result, when Senyshyn arrived in Boston for the first time since being drafted, there was a bit more of a spotlight on him than on the Bruins’ other two first-rounders.
But pressure is the last thing that scares him.
BOSTON — When Zac Rinaldo stepped foot outside after his flight landed from Hamilton, Ontario, on Monday afternoon, he had the same thought running through his head as every other resident of Boston.
“It was really hot,” he said with a grin, after meeting with the Boston media for the first time at TD Garden on Tuesday. “When I got off the airplane, it was really hot. But other than that, I’m in the North End right now in a little hotel — beautiful down there.
He paused, adding, “I’m half-Italian, so I can adapt real quick.”
That trait will serve him well as he opens training camp in a new place after being traded for the first time in his professional career. Rinaldo acquired via trade from Philadelphia on June 29, but this marked his first visit to Boston.
Rinaldo said the trade itself came as a bit of a surprise — so much of a surprise, in fact, that he didn’t even ensure that he had his cell phone on him when he set off that day for a charity event.
BostonBruins.com — Another summer is flying by and another season is rapidly approaching, which also means another development camp has come and gone.
Even for the most seasoned veterans in Boston’s prospect pool, saying goodbye at the conclusion of a week well spent was bittersweet.
“It was a blast — it went fast,” said defenseman Rob O’Gara. “It was a shorter week [than normal], but a bigger group of guys. I guess you almost have less time to get to know everyone. Once you get your first couple of camps under your belt, it’s more about enjoying it and embracing it and getting to know these guys, and I guess you have less time to do that in a short week like this, but it was great.”
This year’s camp certainly was different from those in years past, partly because it was commandeered, for the first time, by second-year Bruins Development Coach Jay Pandolfo as incoming General Manager Don Sweeney settled into his new role.
Sweeney, the customary development camp leader, said Pandolfo didn’t miss a single beat.
WILMINGTON — Last year, when Ryan Donato arrived in Boston for his first pro development camp, he was about one week removed from selected drafted by the Bruins in the second round of the NHL Draft. He was attending camp in his home city and wearing a jersey that had been worn by countless players he had watched and idolized growing up, including his dad.
There was a spotlight on him, no doubt about it.
In comparison, this year’s camp has been a welcome reprieve.
“There’s such young talent here, with a lot of the guys, and it felt more comfortable,” Donato said after the fourth and final on-ice session of this year’s development camp at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass. “Just worrying about my game, not worrying about anything off the ice, and just making sure I play my game and show the scouts what I’ve learned over the year, and that’s pretty much it. I just wanted to make sure I could keep my head level, and play hockey.”
Bruins Development Coach Jay Pandolfo said that last year, when an 18-year-old Donato arrived for camp — with another year of prep school ahead of him before he would even get a taste of NCAA-level competition at Harvard College — he was a bit green.
In the year since, that player has grown leaps and bounds.
WILMINGTON — When asked to describe his trajectory as general manager from the time he took over in mid-May until now — mid-July — Bruins GM Don Sweeney grinned.
“I think you guys have done a good job of that,” he quipped.
Then, he took the time to consider the question. In the two months that he has been at the helm of the Bruins, Sweeney has made changes — necessary changes, changes that simply had to happen for a number of reasons. He brought in forwards Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes on the day free agency opened and traded forward Reilly Smith. He traded defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Milan Lucic on the day of the 2015 Entry Draft, bringing in a return that, when all was said and done, included three first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and prospects Colin Miller and Sean Kuraly.
And as it stands now, Sweeney feels pretty satisfied with the job he has done.
“Again, knowing that there was going to be some change — you can talk about planning, but until you’re having conversations as to what materializes, you don’t necessarily absolutely know,” Sweeney said following the conclusion of this year’s development camp at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. “There’s just no absolute in this game, from start to finish, and until a red light goes on — that’s the only absolute you have.
“Were there areas that we needed to change and address, and have some flexibility in certain things? Yeah, there was, and I’m on record as saying three very good players left our organization, and we’re hopeful the players we brought in are going to have an impact.”
WILMINGTON — Every year at Boston’s development camp, there are new players who filter in, new prospects who need to learn the ropes.
The Bruins are lucky, therefore, to have a core group of veterans who have been in attendance at several camps now and can serve as that much-needed resource for younger prospects who don’t necessarily know what to expect of their first pro camp.
WILMINGTON — On Wednesday, one more prospect joined the long list of those at Boston’s development camp who have signed their entry-level contracts.
The Bruins announced that 2015 first-round pick Jakub Zboril has inked a deal with the B’s, just a few short weeks of being selected with the 13th overall pick at the 2015 NHL Draft.
“It’s really awesome,” Zboril said following Thursday’s on-ice session of development camp in Wilmington. “[I’m] really happy for me, and I’m really thankful to the Bruins, but it’s just one of another steps that have to be done.”
This past season marked Zboril’s rookie campaign with Saint John of the QMJHL. There, he finished third in scoring among rookie defensemen. His on-ice skills have impressed Bruins Development Coach Jay Pandolfo, even after just three sessions at Boston’s camp.
“On the ice, he makes it look pretty easy — real smooth skater, moves the puck really well, defends well because he’s such a good skater,” Pandolfo said. “He’s a young kid — he still has a lot to learn, but he’s come in here [as Boston’s] first overall pick. It’s opened his eyes a little bit, and we’ve talked to him, and he knows what he needs to do to get better, and he’s going to do that. He’s a good kid.”
WILMINGTON — First and foremost, the goal of development camp is to show the prospects in attendance what it means, and what it takes, to be a professional hockey player.
It is one of the most valuable takeaways from a week spent with the Bruins organization, and it is one that all 37 of these prospects cherish.
“It’s very beneficial,” said forward Colby Cave. “There’s a lot of resources around here, a lot of guys that have played in the NHL, coached in the NHL — just guys that have been around the league a long time. Every little thing — whether it’s on the ice, or life tips off the ice — I can really use those tips, and like I said, everyone’s really nice around here, and very business-like, and they treat you like a professional.”
That lesson is perhaps most meaningful to the handful of prospects at this year’s camp who recently signed their entry-level contracts and who plan to be in attendance at rookie camp this fall.
“I think [development camp] just makes them more comfortable — kind of trying to figure out what we expect,” said Bruins Development Coach Jay Pandolfo. “They get a chance to talk to us a little bit, ask questions, and that’s what they’ve done. If you’re just kind of going into a pro camp in September and have never been there, it’s difficult. You kind of don’t know what to expect, you’re a little nervous… I think this camp alone gets some of the nerves out.
“You’re comfortable with the guys, you’re comfortable with what we expect. I think that’s the biggest thing for those guys that are going to be here in training camp.”
WILMINGTON — The 2015 NHL Draft was exciting. It was life-changing.
But on Tuesday, when all 10 of Boston’s 2015 draft picks had the opportunity to wear the Spoked-B on their chests for the first time, and to put on the helmet and get out onto Boston’s home practice ice, it was something else entirely.
“It was amazing,” said forward Jake DeBrusk, whom the Bruins selected with the 14th overall pick last month. “Just putting on the helmet, and the colors — it was really cool. Getting out on the ice and just seeing the place — it was really exciting, and I was pretty happy.”
For all of Boston’s recent draftees, being selected at all was a dream come true. This week’s camp presents the first step toward making those dreams into a reality.
“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind, for sure, but it’s been a dream come true,” said Zach Senyshyn, Boston’s 15th overall pick. “This is all I’ve ever wanted ever since I was a young boy watching the draft and kind of watching all these players start their careers. I know there’s a lot of work to come, but it’s just been a dream come true and I’m really excited.”