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Sunday, July 10, 2011

2011 Boston Bruins Development Camp: Day 4 recap

Last day for B2011DW in Wilmington, and Sunday was a chance to see the players scrimmage for the first time since the Bruins prospects convened here on Thursday.

They did one more hour-long drills and skills session, resurfaced the ice, and then went to it in a 4-on-4 "Sunday Funday scrimmy" as defenseman Ryan Button put it.

Team Black battled White and after Anthony Camara scored on Zane Gothberg right off the bat to take a 1-0 lead for White, Justin Florek tallied twice, Brian Ferlin pumped in a goal and the "Black Aces" triumphed over the "White Spaders" by a 3-1 score.

Here are the observations and thoughts of the specific players

Black Aces

Ryan Spooner: He didn't get a lot done in terms of finishing, but he was the fulcrum for wingers Florek and Ferlin. Man, is this kid ever slick. He did snipe a memorable shot on Mike Hutchinson during the drills portion of the day and continued to show off his speed and high-end puck skills. He hit a tiny window on the short side with his shot (Hutch is a right-catching goalie so Spooner beat him high to the blocker side). Spooner is a dual threat- he can score and set up the play. Offense is what excites most people the most, so it isn't any real surprise that the kid who grew up a huge Montreal Canadiens fan (thanks to his dad, Brad) is the most popular B's prospect right now with the folks who have taken the time to come out to rookie games a year ago and the development camps.

Zach Trotman: One of the more impressive defenders this week given his size, agile skating and a big shot. Trotman looked a lot more comfortable this time around and he activates smartly, jumping up into the play and holding the blue line well on the point. The Michigander turns 21 later this summer, and he's still on the raw side, but for the last pick of the 2010 draft, this guy is worth keeping an eye on.

Justin Florek: Scored two goals- one was an absolute snipe from the outside, where he showed a real penchant all week during the drills, unloading his hard, heavy shot to beat goalies top shelf. Gothberg was the victim on this one, but Tim Thomas may have had a hard time stopping it. Florek has a fast release and a heavy wrister that he can pick the corners with. He's a nice skater for his size and looks like he's spreading his wings offensively from what we saw a year ago. He could score 30 goals this year for Northern Michigan as a senior, though not sure what his pro upside is yet.

Brian Ferlin: He showed why he was the USHL's third-leading scorer this week. He doesn't have textbook technique in his skating, but he has some real speed. He blew past Dougie Hamilton on one play and went in alone on Gothberg, getting robbed by the Minnesotan's glove hand on what would have been a goal to bring the fans out of their seats. He's got a quick snap shot and you can see some real instincts for the offensive side of things. Ferlin is just one of a growing crop of big league prospects coming out of Florida- you would have pegged him for a Michigander or Minnesotan the way he performed this week and in that scrimmage. Ferlin is looking like a solid value for the fourth round, but we'll withhold any further judgment until we see him at Cornell this winter.

Ben Sexton: Not a lot to report on the '09 seventh-rounder. He skates well and got himself in position a few times but either missed the net or wasn't able to generate much in the way of a scoring chance.

Ryan Button: Excellent performance all week from one of the veterans in his third development camp. We're probably not going to see a lot of points from Button, but he's such a good skater, smart defender and hard worker that he's going to be something in the pro ranks. He makes good decisions, can carry the puck on his own and has a quick acceleration and jump in his step that allows him to be effective in small spaces. On one sequence, he did several spin-o-rama moves at the offensive blue line to avoid Camara's forecheck and then got it over to David Warsofsky, who got a low shot on net that Ferlin converted on the rebound. He's also a gym rat who takes his conditioning seriously, and his physical maturation from 2009 when the B's draft him to now is significant. The upside is the issue with Button, but he's a solid performer and person and should become one of Bruce Cassidy's go-to guys in Providence despite his youth.

Robby O'Gara: Raw, yes. But anyone who watched O'Gara this week has to be encouraged by the Milton Academy captain's performance in Wilmington. He has such a long, fluid stride that will only get better as he fills out and develops his physical maturity. But he has the two things you cannot teach: size and hockey sense. At one point, he skated through several players in the neutral zone, gained the line and while looking one way, made a crisp pass in the opposite direction to an open teammate down near the right corner to set up the cycle. The puck ended up in the net shortly thereafter. That's the kind of play that won't end up in the box score, but it was essential to his team eventually finding the back of the net. This fifth-round pick could end up being a player, but the wait is going to be a long one.

David Warsofsky: The guy's an athlete. Even though he's smaller than his listed size of 5-9, 170, he's an agile, elusive skater. He lacks the explosiveness and dynamic element of a player like Ryan Murphy, but there is some potential here for the pugnacious defender. He wasn't a high-end performer this week, but you can see that he has the skill to be effective at the AHL level, at least. Warsofsky has managed to silence the critics thus far in his career, and seems to relish doing so. Whether he can do enough to develop into an NHL regular remains to be seen, but Cassidy intimated that he envisions Warsofsky in a key two-way role for him in Providence this season and he could one day force his way into the mix in Boston.

Alexander Fallstrom: The Harvard junior is quicker this year and stronger. He also showed off some nice hands and has some legitimate potential as an NHL fourth-liner one day (may not be with Boston, though). When he has the puck on his stick anywhere near the net, he's a threat to score. Hasn't done much for the Crimson, but this could be a breakout year for him.

White Spaders

Jared Knight: No points in the scrimmage, but Knight was one of white's most consistent and dangerous threats. If there is even a sniff of an offensive chance, Knight kicks it into high gear. We never thought he was all that explosive a skater, but he's obviously worked on it, because he showed an ability to separate from defenders. He has a preternatural sense for when there's an opening and he goes for it. Underrated in his passing skills and defensive play. The most complete prospect as far as forwards go in Boston's system right now- without question.

Alexander Khokhlachev: His conditioning was lagging a bit, but Koko showed flashes of his high-end offensive skills in the scrimmage. He is highly effective when coming out of the corners and off the halfwall with the puck. He just missed on several well-placed shots that Gothberg and/or Lars Volden got pieces of. He's not a blazer and looked lethargic (he admitted to being very sore on Day 2) at times during drills, but he came alive during the scrimmage. He has sublime hands and we expect much bigger things from him a year from now when he'll know exactly what to expect. He's going to be a good one, but he's going to need some time to develop. That's good news for Warren Rychel, Bob Boughner and the good folks at Windsor, who should have him back this season and possibly beyond. Real solid kid, who took on every interview with a smile on his face despite lacking a prolific English vocabulary.

Dougie Hamilton: It was a pretty mediocre performance from Dougie in the scrimmage, but he still showed off his impressive skill set and competed hard. Like most top picks, the expectations surrounding him were enormous, so it was disappointing to hear some folks banging on him like I did (some people chirping us on Twitter, even). We suppose that these "experts" expected Hamilton to fly over the action and simultaneously cure cancer. In all seriousness, Hamilton's talent is undeniable, but like most youngsters, he was taken out of his comfort zone this week and struggled at times with it. Watch him next year- we expect a much more comfortable, settled and skilled two-way defender. All the tools are there.

Anthony Camara: A pleasant surprise, but not really. B's Director of Player Personnel Scott Bradley told us at the draft how underrated Camara's wheels and hands were, but he proved it at development camp. He scored a nice goal to start the scrimmage by taking a Craig Cunningham pass and then waiting for Gothberg to open himself up before slipping it past him. Camara skated well all week, driving to the net hard and making some good body contact. Like Koko, he won't even turn 18 until September and was buried behind skill guys in Saginaw, but with an increased role, look for him to break out a bit. He's not a high-end scoring type, but could be a third-line staple in the NHL one day. Just an impressive overall showing from the guy who looked like a reach at first glance, but who could end up being much more.

Craig Cunningham: One of the most active, and hardest-working guys at camp all week. We're not sure how his offensive numbers will translate in the pros, but he always keeps his feet moving and is a smart two-way guy with high-end character. He's a bit of a stealth player in that you don't notice him all that much until a big play is made and then you realize he's in the middle of it. He's a good, not great skater, but he just seems to be in the right place at the right time. We think he's going to be a very good AHL player in time, but not sure where he fits into the NHL picture yet.

Tyler Randell: His skating is only average and he needs to pick up a step coming out of the gate, but his hands are NHL-caliber. Randell was sniping goals all week, and his shootout move on Volden was a sight to behold, as he moved in, deked at least 6-7 times getting the goalie to commit and go down before skying a backhander up under the crossbar. We're intrigued as to what Randell will do in the AHL this year. He can technically go back to Kitchener for an overage season, but Providence would do well to add his grit, snarl and potential to hit some goals. An effective bottom-six forward with some modest offensive upside.

Marc Cantin: Impressive as an invite to Boston d-camp a year ago, Cantin continued his run of steady, solid play. He looks a bit like Mark Stuart out there, but a better skating version of the former Boston stalwart. Cantin was the most physical presence among the prospects this week, looking to make big hits and never passing up a chance to staple an opponent against the boards whether in drills or in the scrimmage. He's a smart guy who plays well positionally and is an interesting prospect as a lower-pairing D. Not much upside with this guy, but he's solid. Watch for him to earn a lot of ice time in Providence this season despite being a rookie pro.

Tommy Cross: Sharp and composed, he looked and acted the part of Boston's most senior prospect in attendance and the captain of the Boston College Eagles for the upcoming season. Skates well and plays a physical but disciplined game. The main concern with Cross is with his overall offensive hockey sense, which is limited despite having a big point bomb, and with his right knee. He's healthy now, but like Gord Kluzak, will be day-to-day for life, meaning that you hope and pray he'll have a long pro hockey career, but wonder how much he thinks about it and whether he can be as effective at the pro ranks.

Mike Hutchinson: The best goalie in camp this week by far, and opened some eyes with his size and quickness. He didn't allow a single goal in the first scrimmage, and he was tough to beat during the shootout portion. One of the true good guys in any room- Hutch always has a smile on his face, but is also a legitimate competitor who hates to be beaten. Jared Knight revealed some insights about his former London teammate, which leads us to believe that Hutch will be an NHL goalie one day. Unfortunately for him, Boston is going to be a tough nut to crack, but he has an opportunity to earn some playing time in Providence. Consistency has been his biggest challenge thus far, but as far is physical tools and puckstopping skills go, he's a legit NHL prospect.

Zane Gothberg: He doesn't turn 19 until August, but we thought that Gothberg had a solid week. He wasn't Hutch, and his technique has more refining to do than that of Volden, but he's a big guy who battles like Thomas does. He was at fault on the Camara goal, but the Florek shot was a bomb and Gothberg was excellent the rest of the way. At times, he looked unsettled, while at others, he was a rock this week. Gothberg's attitude and competitiveness are strong suits of his, and as a long-term project, he can continue to address his style and build confidence. He's back in the USHL for one more year and will then be in Grand Forks at the University of North Dakota in 2012. We still think that Gothberg is a diamond-in-the-rough and is in the catbird's seat, with no pressure on him whatsoever right now. The Bruins will be patient with him and see where it leads them.

Lars Volden: Wow. We banged him for his performance in the WJC, but it was one game and he showed some legitimate upside this week. He's big, quick and a classic butterfly goalie. He didn't play as well in the scrimmage as he had in the drills the previous three days, but there's something there. He stays square to the shooter, takes up a lot of the net and has the look of a guy who could play in the AHL right away. He'll try and make the Espoo Blues senior team this season and see where it takes him, but for a sixth-rounder, this guy looks like a player. Like Gothberg, Volden is a long-term project, but worth keeping tabs on.

The invites:

Brett Olson- The Michigan Tech senior is the oldest guy there with a 1987 birthdate, but worked hard and appreciated the opportunity. He grew up with Devils prospect and former UNH standout Mike Sislo, the two skating on a line together throughout their minor hockey days.

Josh Jooris- Union College playmaker is a good skater and passer; not all that tall, but strong and showed flashes of talent. From Burlington, Ontario- skated in the OJHL for his hometown team before going to the NCAA.

Steve Spinell- Carter Camper's teammate at Miami University is from Illinois. Has good size and mobility, though doesn't have much upside. Along with Cantin, was the most physical player in camp. Reminds us of a Matt Bartkowksi-type guy.

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