LOS ANGELES - When Kevan Miller signed a two-year, one-way contract extension with the Bruins on January 21, 2014, the defenseman was finally starting to cement his dream of playing in the NHL.
After being with the team for a month following Dennis Seidenberg's season-ending injury, he hadn't been able to reflect right away on the changes in his career, going from making his debut with Boston in November, to becoming a fixture on the blueline for the rest of the season.
"It's been a good journey, but it's not done yet," the 26-year-old had said.
Seven months later, Miller has 58 NHL regular season and playoff games with Boston next to his name, and he's putting in all of the offseason work to make sure that his progress doesn't stop there.
A native of Santa Clarita, California, in greater Los Angeles, Miller heads home every summer to train. It's there to he first started dreaming of playing in the NHL, even if it wasn't the norm for most kids his age, being in sunny, warm SoCal.
In LA now, he's surrounded by friends he grew up playing with (and are still working towards their dream of playing in the NHL) and other local players.
When our BostonBruins.com crew caught up with him Wednesday in Los Angeles for a #BearTracks summer road trip, he had the chance to look back at his year and being able to share the experiences with his friends back in Cali.
BostonBruins.com - #BearTracks is back! For the past few summers, the BostonBruins.com crew has driven and flown across the country, and up north to Canada to visit the Bruins in their hometowns during the offseason.
The trips have taken us to see Patrice Bergeron in Quebec City, Brad Marchand in Halifax, Gregory Campebll in Tillsonburg, Adam McQuaid in P.E.I., and Milan Lucic in Vancouver, among other players and stops along the way.
Along the way, the players have shared their hometowns and their stories with fans, of who they were when they were younger and the places that shaped them, long before they became Bruins.
The visits have helped fill the time during those long summer, offseason months, when all of the training is done away from cameras and away from Boston.
In the summer of 2014, #BearTracks is taking us to a place where we usually only see the inside of the Staples Center: Los Angeles.
Defenseman Kevan Miller grew up in Santa Clarita, California and lived in LA until he was 16, when he left to attend Berkshire School in Western Massachusetts.
The 26-year-old Miller saw his NHL dream realized just this past season, when he made his debut with the Bruins on November 21, 2013 against St. Louis.
BostonBruins.com - On July 18, the Bruins announced that they had signed restricted free agent Zach Trotman to a two-year contract that becomes one-way in the second year.
If you're a defenseman on the Bruins' lengthy depth chart like Trotman, that's the vote of confidence you're looking for from the Black & Gold.
Entering his third year pro in 2014-15, the blueliner who was once the final pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (the Bruins traded with Chicago for the pick in order to nab him) will earn an NHL salary in 2015-16.
"I'm really excited to have another two years with the Bruins and I'm really looking forward to continuing to work hard and move my way up the ladder," Trotman said over the phone.
"It's great to be a part of something like that where excellence is almost expected every year, so coming in, you have high expectations for yourself, knowing everyone around you is going to be working just as hard, trying to achieve the same goal."
He'll continue following steadily behind home-grown defensemen in Providence like Kevan Miller, Matt Bartkowski, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid. Even Torey Krug spent a year developing with the P-Bruins before his NHL transition.
BostonBruins.com - On Friday, the Bruins announced that a host of restricted free agents, including Jordan Caron, had been re-signed.
Caron's deal is a one-year, one-way contract worth an annual cap hit of of $600,000.
Entering his fifth year pro after being drafted 25th overall in 2009, the 23-year-old winger has appeared in 123 NHL games with Boston, along with nine Stanley Cup Playoff games, and 111 games with Providence.
The 2013-14 season marked the first time he spent the entire season with the big club, filling the role of the thirteenth forward. He suited up in 35 games during the season, recording a goal and two assists, and stepped in during the postseason, scoring his first career NHL playoff goal in the first round against Detroit.
Caron looks back at 2013-14 as an up-and-down season, adjusting to his role being in and out of the lineup.
BostonBruins.com - David Pastrnak made his way towards the bow of the boat, as it eased through the Boston Harbor.
He was on his way back from Thompson Island following a day of team-building activities with 22 other prospects he had befriended during the past week at Bruins Development Camp.
As he stared off into the distance, with his Bruins' draft hat backwards on his head, the skyline of downtown Boston stretched out before him. There had just been a downpour and the clouds were beginning to open right over the city.
Two weeks ago, the 2014 first-round draft pick was in Philadelphia, hearing his name announced as the Bruins selected him 25th overall.
Just a week after that, the 18-year-old Czech was arriving to Boston for the first time in his life to attend the club's development camp.
Much can happen in a two-week span.
BostonBruins.com - Matt Bartkowski has been a Bruin for four years.
On July 15, after the restricted free agent was signed by the Bruins to a one-year deal, he's headed for his fifth.
"I'm grateful to be able to sign with the Bruins' organization because I know we have a chance to win every year," said Bartkowski, speaking with media on a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
"It's been nothing short of just spectacular, awesome, whatever adjective you want to use for it, but we have a great group from the top down, from the management down to the teammates and everyone, just a great group of hockey people."
"I was lucky enough to be here as a Black Ace when they won the Cup and the past few years, we've fallen a little short, but every year we have a chance to win, so there's nothing more you can really ask for."
With the contract (worth an annual cap figure of $1.25 million), the defenseman and the Bruins avoided the arbitration process. Bartkowski was Boston's only RFA to file.
"There wasn't any hesitation to file for it, but there wasn't any doubt in my mind that we weren't going to have a deal before we got to that stage [with the hearing]," he said. "I didn't want to go to arbitration. I filed for it just as a protective measure, but I think it was mutual that we knew that something was going to get done."
BostonBruins.com - On Tuesday morning, the Bruins signed defenseman Matt Bartkowski to a one-year deal, avoiding the arbitration process. The Bruins also announced that they signed forward David Pastrnak to an entry-level contract.
Bartkowski marks the second restricted free agent signed by the Bruins this offseason, following goalie Niklas Svedberg. His contract is worth $1.25 million.
Out of the club's RFAs that need to be re-signed, only Bartkowski filed for arbitration. When General Manager Peter Chiarelli met with media on the final day of Bruins' Development Camp Sunday, he told reporters that he thought a deal would get done with the blueliner before his arbitration hearing. That proved true.
"It’s always good if you can come to an agreement before the hearing. So I think it sends a positive message to Matt that we want to have him back," Chiarelli said Monday, when the deal was announced. "It was going to be a contract anyways, because he elected arb, but I’m okay with that. It’s just good to get it done."
"It doesn’t mean you do it and your compromise or work around the edges - it’s to get a good result, and you try and do it in the best interest of the player also."
Bartkowski is coming off his first full-time NHL job in 2013-14, in his fourth year in the Bruins organization. He played 64 games, recording 18 assists with a plus-22 rating. The defenseman opened eyes during the 2013 postseason, when he filled in for injuries along with Torey Krug and scored his first NHL goal in his second playoff game.
BostonBruins.com - While David Pastrnak certainly stood out among the group at Bruins Development Camp, General Manager Peter Chiarelli was also impressed by the strong camps from Sweden natives Anton Blidh and Linus Arnesson.
Both were drafted by the Bruins in 2013, and came into their second camp looking much stronger and much more comfortable.
"You know, I thought Blidh had a strong camp, I thought Arnesson had a strong camp," Chiarelli said, while discussing his impressions on the final day of on-ice sessions at Ristuccia Arena.
Arnesson, a mobile, two-way defenseman, signed his entry-level deal with the team on June 1 after being the team's first 2013 draft pick (second round, 60th overall). It came as a bit of a surprise for Arnesson, but was a testament to his development.
The blueliner is set to attend Boston's training camp before playing the 2014-15 season with Djurgarden in the Swedish Hockey League.
Blidh, an aggressive, high-energy winger, was a sixth round pick (180th overall) for the Bruins in 2013, and came into camp a much more mature, physical player with added strength.
BostonBruins.com - Two weeks ago, Czech David Pastrnak was one of the newest members of the Bruins organization. Drafted 25th overall in the first round in Philadelphia, the club was fortunate the right wing out of Södertälje in Sweden was still available when their pick came around.
After a week at the Bruins' Development Camp, his first in-depth experience with the Black and Gold, he's shown the management and scouts enough for them to be excited about his potential.
With forward roster spots up for grabs at training camp this September, there's an outside chance the skilled winger could be pushing for a spot.
"You never know," said General Manager Peter Chiarelli, addressing media on the final day of the camp's on-ice sessions at Ristuccia Arena on Sunday. "You don’t want to place too much of a burden on this kid’s shoulders, but he was good."
"The hesitation you have is he’s 170, 173 pounds, but he’s wiry strong, so you never know. The speed, skill, sense is all there so it would be nice, but we’ll see. He’s young and to throw someone like that at that age, at that weight – but there have been guys who have done it."
Pastrnak impressed at development camp with his shifty play and his quick foot speed, and with the ability to make nifty passes, or rip one past glove-hand. He has a flair on and off the ice. Teammates and staff gravitate to him.
BostonBruins.com - When the prospects arrived to Bruins Development Camp, they could have never guessed what they would get the chance to do five days later.
After putting in days of work, they all arrived to Fenway Park on Saturday morning, wide-eyed and beyond ready for batting practice aiming at the Green Monster.
When they walked into the empty ballpark, a line of Red Sox jerseys - complete with their names etched on the back - awaited them in the dugout, along with the Sox hats to match.
"It was pretty crazy," said 2014 draft pick, and Scituate, Massachusetts native Ryan Donato. "I've been to a lot of games and being on the field and taking BP is another thing. And to be with some of your friends is another."
"I mean, it was just a great day, a great experience, and I'll remember that for the rest of my life."
Donato was joined by fellow Massachusetts natives Ryan Fitzgerald, Matt Grzelcyk, Michael Doherty and Billy Sweezey. They were all in awe (as was everyone), from the moment they saw the field and slipped on the jerseys.
"Growing up, watching baseball, watching the Red Sox, it was a pretty unbelievable to be able to be on the field and play on the field," said Donato. "We had a great day, and the Red Sox organization did a lot for us."