The Boston Bruins commenced their annual prospects development camp on Thursday morning with a rare instance of one participant bearing at least a sliver of NHL experience. Another attendee is all but a lock to debut with the team that selected him ninth overall in the 2011 draft.
Depending on the age of the major-junior players and where the NCAA players are in their academic class levels, the 30 prospects are either on hand to embolden their impression for the long run or to make an early crack at the Bruins NHL or AHL roster for 2012-13.
Whether they have been on the New England hockey radar for a month, a year or even two years, the presumptive “All-Camp” team of six prospects to watch on the other side of this summer is as follows.
Khokhlachev could stand to stabilize his defensive game, but has given little room for doubt as to his offensive value at even strength and on the power play. Despite missing 12 games during his second OHL season, he was the Windsor Spitfires leading playmaker with 44 assists and placed second on the team in goals (25), power-play goals (12) and points (69).
With his 19th birthday approaching in September, Khokhlachev is a lock to return to Windsor for the full 2012-13 season. That ought to be ample time for him to refine his game before vying for a spot in The Show or on the shuttle between Boston and Providence starting 15 months from now.
A teammate of the newly drafted Seth Griffith on the OHL champion London Knights, Knight was a point-per-gamer in 52 appearances this past regular season and had his best rating (plus-23) in four major-junior seasons.
Knight is now eligible for full-time AHL employment, meaning he can join a multitude of other new faces as part of the latest attempt to actually fulfill lofty promises in Providence. And the door is also open for him to finally join Tyler Seguin on the parent club as another handy return for Phil Kessel.
Spooner has already logged a few slivers of AHL action with a pair of stints following each of his last two seasons with the Peterborough Petes and Sarnia Sting.
This past year in Sarnia, Spooner had a chance to work with a strike force piloted by Nail Yakupov, the top pick in last weekend’s NHL draft. Despite the internal competition on that deep Sarnia roster, he managed to place third on the squad with 29 goals and fourth with 66 points.
Not unlike Kkoklachev, the prolific Spooner needs to balance out his two-way game a little more before he is a candidate for a full-time Boston roster spot. But there is hardly any rush in that department.
If Joe Corvo, Mike Mottau and Greg Zanon are all gone, as has been hinted, then odds are the Bruins are banking on Hamilton to fill the sixth spot on the defensive corps without further delay.
With nothing left to prove at the major-junior level, Hamilton must now translate his prolific point-based playmaking and power-play production to one of the NHL franchises that needs it most.
In addition, to ensure he fits in with the five-man core from the 2011 Stanley Cup, he must be ready to finish padding on NHL-caliber brawn this summer and start using it in September.
There is little question as to the impact Hamilton can ultimately make. The only true concern is how soon can he do it?
Krug already tasted a few NHL ice chips during the first week of April, implicitly meaning he is the prime candidate to fall back on if and when Hamilton needs to be scratched.
Krug signed on as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State, for whom he wore a “C” over his heart as a junior in 2011-12.
Those leadership credentials may not come in immediately prominent use if he is an NHL regular. But they could prove invaluable if Krug finds himself in Providence, especially now that Andrew Bodnarchuk could be leaving the organization.
Signed last month to an entry-level contract, Svedberg will be the presumptive challenger to Michael Hutchinson for the starting job in Providence. And per the nature of AHL-NHL relationships, that means he is also challenging Hutchinson to be the go-to guy in case Tuukka Rask or Anton Khudobin are sidelined at any point.