Ranking the Top Players to Follow in the Boston Bruins' 2014 Development Camp
Two goaltenders, eight blueliners and 13 forwards comprise the Boston Bruins’ 2014 development camp roster, as the club’s website announced last Thursday. On-ice practices and off-ice training sessions will run from Wednesday through Sunday in Wilmington, Massachusetts.
Four of the five picks from the latest NHL draft are slated to participate, as are 13 other established prospects and six at-large invitees. A dozen players are holdovers from last year’s camp, while five were involved in 2012.
Veteran status at an offseason convention for mostly amateur prospects assures nothing for a given player. But a few are worth monitoring by virtue of where they left off with their current club.
Whether they elevated their stock or suffered a setback, the first formal event of the summer is a chance to build on those strides or pounce on a clean sheet.
Then there are the more recent upper-round selections from the last two drafts. While meaningful extramural action in The Show is still at least a year-plus away, their labels are magnets for scrutiny.
The coming week is one of the first chances, if not the very first, to determine where the most-touted Bruins aspirants are. That and maybe even where they should be (i.e. what league and what level) by the start the 2014-15 season.
Based on a combination of short-term potential, long-term potential and prospective gains this week, here are the top five names you should know at this year’s Bruins development camp.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Donato
As The Patriot Ledger’s Mike Loftus noted, because Ryan Donato still has another season ahead of him before he enrolls in college: "It’ll be a while before he gets a chance to earn a locker stall at the Garden.”
However, now that he is under Boston’s auspices, the organization clearly believes it is never too early to start establishing mutual familiarity. Donato, the club’s newest second-round selection, is one of four members of the 2014 draft class joining the subsequent development camp.
An early go-around in authentic Spoked-B attire ought to yield at least two benefits. Because he is a local kid (Scituate, Massachusetts) and the son of former longtime Bruin Ted Donato, clearing out the clouds of awe is a must.
There is also the matter of how he devotes his last year of pre-Harvard hockey preparation. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa wrote during the draft that the club’s front office “would prefer Donato go up against better players in the USHL” rather than stay in the prep-school ranks.
Development camp could mark the opportunity to ensure that the emotions evaporate, passively or vocally driving home the USHL point.
5. Malcolm Subban
Having logged preseason action with Boston and a full rookie campaign with Providence, Malcolm Subban has little left to prove at these camps. That is, at least, in terms of grooming his game amongst teens and early 20-somethings.
The up-and-coming goaltender is, however, entering his third development camp on the heels of a relevant move in the organization. As one of their first free-agent actions, the Bruins signed the comparatively seasoned Jeremy Smith this past Wednesday.
Smith has four-plus years on Subban in terms of age and professional experience. Joe Haggerty of csnne.com projects that Niklas Svedberg will graduate to the NHL, while Smith and Subban share the Providence crease in 2014-15.
The addition of another goalie bearing a denser AHL transcript lends Subban a stiffer challenge for the organization’s third-string slot. That entails more competition for the majority of the P-Bruins’ playing time as well as a few potential slurps of regular-season NHL action.
Even if Smith pulls an upset at training camp, that simply means starting another season with the old Subban-Svedberg tandem. Recall that the 24-year-old Svedberg has two AHL campaigns plus overseas action to his credit.
Either way, the 20-year-old former first-round draftee from 2012 will need to earn his stripes against an elder internal competitor.
He can start by warding off any and all ennui that may come with another week of training with mostly juniors and collegians. The 2014 development camp is Subban’s chance to set an early tone in front of his employers.
4. Zane Gothberg
Unlike Subban, the other goaltender on Boston’s development camp roster has tended to fly under the casual radar.
To his credit, though, Zane Gothberg did seize a late-season opportunity to radiate under national scrutiny this past March. The North Dakota sophomore finished fifth in the nation with a 1.99 goals-against average, which he coupled with a .926 save percentage.
He upheld those numbers, at worst, and enhanced them, at best, with some clutch NCAA tournament performances. After helping to edge Wisconsin in the first round, he turned in a 44-save extravaganza en route to a 2-1, double-overtime triumph over Ferris State.
UND’s magic ran out with three-fifths of a second left in regulation in the national semifinal. The rival Minnesota Gophers, backstopped by Tampa Bay prospect Adam Wilcox, clinched a dramatic 2-1 triumph at that point.
At the halfway mark of his college offseason and his college career, Gothberg is entitled to more confidence entering this camp. He also has a chance to start furthering his case for an early climb to the next level.
Of the five Bruins backstops currently under contract, Svedberg, Smith and Adam Morrison are all due to hit free agency in 12 months. It would not be a stretch to envision Gothberg dropping out to join Providence after his junior season concludes.
It all depends on what he does this week, how he builds on it back in Grand Forks and how the incumbent professionals perform.
3. Matt Grzelcyk
A local third-round pick from the 2012 entry draft, Matt Grzelcyk will be six months removed from his last formal game when camp commences. The Boston University blueliner last played on Jan. 8 before a separated shoulder ended his sophomore season.
The good news for Grzelcyk is that he is at the halfway mark of his NCAA eligibility and should be able to max that out. As far as his professional patrons are concerned, in the words of boston.com correspondent Evan Sporer:
There will be no rush to pry Grzelcyk away from the collegiate ranks, as the Bruins again are stacked with defensive talent in the organization. When he does turn pro, however, Grzelcyk figures to be another power play quarterback, and a player who can start the rush and get out in transition from his own end.
In the meantime, his third summer camp with the Bruins could be a favorable springboard for Grzelcyk. It can break his half-year fast from intensive action and whet his appetite to restore normalcy at BU come autumn.
Although the sample size is small and unripe, it will also offer an early impression of his post-injury form. If nothing else, it will pose a measuring pole for him to think about in the final two months before he rejoins the Terriers as team captain.
Recall that, prior to his injury, Grzelcyk was a two-time candidate for the U.S. 20-and-under World Championship team. He barely missed the cut on his first try before making it on his second (and last). That is the caliber he is aiming to replenish.
2. David Pastrnak
Apart from Subban, David Pastrnak is the only other first-round draft pick on Boston’s 2014 development camp roster. He will embark on his first formal on-ice event with the Bruins since they nabbed his rights with the No. 25 pick on June 27.
The Czech forward, who has been facing elder competitors in Sweden of late, has minimal experience on North American ponds. It appears as though that will continue despite his selection by the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario League import draft.
Per prospects guru Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News this past Thursday:
As it stands now, Pastrnak will not come over. He has a contract with Sodertalje where he plays against men and is happy there. The only x-factor would be if the Bruins sign him to his entry-level deal and re-open the major junior discussion, but right now, Belleville looks to be out of luck.
Granted, a week of training on this side of the pond is hardly guaranteed to convert Pastrnak on that front. It is, however, crucial to starting young and establishing comfort with the environment and system he hopes to join in the long run.
Surely, in the week since the draft, all Bruins have heard the David Krejci comparisons and how Pastrnak himself looks up to Boston’s established top-line pivot. At his present stage, there is no substitute for the coming week if the club wants Pastrnak to start adopting the same habits for the same skill set.
1. Linus Arnesson
Grzelcyk, Matt Benning and Rob O’Gara have all been to one more of these development camps. But Arnesson is closer than any other homegrown defenseman to donning his first Bruins game jersey, AHL or NHL.
If that is the plan, then this midsummer week should be a layer above last year’s.
Here was how Arnesson left his first impression last July, as assistant general manager Don Sweeney told Caryn Switaj of the team’s website: "I think you’ll see his ability to defend, and guys will have a tough time getting around him. He’s pretty fluid. He looks to make simple plays. Physical strength, because he’s dabbled now playing with older guys. I think it’s exciting."
Simply put, Arnesson needs to make another season of the same in Sweden translate accordingly to his second Bruins camp. This time, he could be giving Providence bench boss Bruce Cassidy a preview of one of his newest defensive additives.
As The Hockey News lists the organization’s depth chart, Arnesson ranks fourth among presumed Providence blueliners. He trails only free-agent acquisition Christopher Breen and prospective returnees Joe Morrow and David Warsofsky.
There is ample time for other offseason moves and a salad bowl of impressions at September’s training camp for that to change. Arnesson can use this week to make headway in amplifying his odds of middle-tier AHL duties to start his North American career.