By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The ice is ready and the rookies are in town.
It must be time for the Bruins’ annual Development Camp, taking place at Warrior Ice Arena for the second year in a row.
This year’s Development Camp roster features 29 players, including 16 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goaltenders. The roster includes 18 players within the Bruins organization and 11 players who will attend on an invite basis.
Here’s a closer look at what the Bruins are throwing out there over the next four days.
Forwards: Martin Bakos, Stephen Baylis (invited), Jack Becker, Henry Bowlby (invited), Mitchell Fossier (invited), Curtis Hall, Joona Koppanen, Karson Kuhlman, Philip Lagunov (invited), Jakub Lauko, Tom Marchin (invited), Cedric Pare, Pavel Shen, Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka, Colin Theisen (invited).
Who’s new: Martin Bakos was signed away from the Czech League as a free agent two weeks ago, and Kuhlman was an early spring signing after the University of Minnesota-Duluth won the NCAA national championship. 2018 draft picks Curtis Hall (fourth round, 119th overall), Jakub Lauko (third round, 77th overall), and Pavel Shen (seventh round, 212th overall), meanwhile, will don the Spoked-B for the first time.
More about the invited: Stephen Baylis was Bowling Green’s third-highest scoring forward last year, with 31 points in 40 games… Henry Bowlby, in addition to having a name that sounds like royalty, had eight goals and 16 points in 24 games for Harvard a season ago… 21-year-old Mitchell Fossier was U-Maine’s leading scoring last season, with 34 points in 37 games. He was also a teammate of Preds 2017 first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen in the USHL in 2015-16… Philip Lagunov has a somewhat local connection, as he spent this past season with UMass-Amherst… Tom Marchin has recorded 29 goals and 50 points in 81 games at Brown University… Colin Theisen spent last season with Notre Dame.
What to watch: Not sure about you, but I’ll have my eyes glued on Jack Studnicka. A second-round pick in 2017, the Bruins have subtly mentioned Studnicka in the majority of their end-of-year press conferences when talking about the immediate future. When they do this, it’s typically for a reason. And that leads me to believe that they think this is a player that has a legitimate shot of making their team sooner rather than later. Studnicka recorded 22 goals and 72 points in 66 games with the Oshawa Generals last year, and capped his year with one goal and five points in five appearances with the P-Bruins.
Here’s a simple question: Does Martin Bakos have enough to be an NHL player? I admittedly have a hard time seeing a 28-year-old abandoning a considerably successful European career to toil in the American Hockey League, so if Bakos is here, it’s to try and win an NHL job. And if you ask people close to him, he certainly seems to believe that the roster turnover gives him that chance. A week of trying to keep up with players with the speed of today’s game should be a good first test.
Jakub Lauko is a fascinating player. A third-round selection by the Bruins, Lauko himself believes that he should have gone a lot sooner. He’s motivated as hell. He wants to prove everybody wrong. That alone should lead to an eventful showing. (And for what it’s worth, I received numerous messages from people in the know praising the B’s for this pick.) Give me the hype.
Defensemen: Nick Albano (invited), Axel Andersson, Philip Beaulieu (invited), Victor Berglund, Daniel Bukac, Lucas Ekestahl-Jonsson (invited), Teemu Kivihalme (invited), Dustyn McFaul, Urho Vaakanainen, Nick Wolff (invited).
Who’s new: 2018 second-round pick Axel Andersson and sixth-round selection Dustyn McFaul join the Bruins organization.
More about the invited: Nick Albano, currently playing for UMass-Boston, helped guide Beverly to a state title in 2014. He had eight goals and 35 points in 27 games for UMB this past season… Philip Beaulieu is another puck-mover invited to camp. He tallied 11 goals and 42 points in 43 games for Northern Michigan University a year ago. His 31 assists were the second-most in the WCHA, while his 42 points were the fifth-most… Lucas Ekestahl-Jonsson, which seems like a lot of fun to say, comes to B’s development camp with six goals and 26 points in 58 games for TPS Turku last season. A teammate of Ekestahl-Jonsson on that team? Ex-Sabres defenseman and blast from the past Henrik Tallinder… Teemu Kivihalme, a skater with Karpat, actually went against Ekestahl last season. He was with Colorado College before that… 21-year-old Nick Wolff was also part of the University of Minnesota-Duluth squad that won the national title this past season.
What to watch: Vaakanainen. Vaakanainen. Vaakanainen.
With the Bruins’ summer pursuit of that impact, left-side defenseman with size to plug behind Zdeno Chara looking relatively hopeless yet again, Vaakanainen has emerged as the hope for Boston. After back-to-back-to-back years of competing against men in Finland’s pro ranks as a teenager, the 2017 first-rounder seems ready for the challenge, too.
“My goal is to get a spot in Boston,” the 19-year-old Vaakanainen said when asked about his personal expectations after signing his entry-level contract earlier this month. “But other than that, I don’t really have any expectations. I’m just part of the camp trying to be as good as I just can be and play as well as I can and try to get the spot.”
I think this group is actually really interesting, if only because the Bruins appear to be looking for potential puck-movers. The Bruins first found this with Torey Krug as an undrafted college free agent signing, and cultivated Matt Grzelcyk rather quickly at the professional level. But they’re both in Boston now, leaving the Bruins to look for that next player. I think there’s also something to be said for the Black and Gold realizing the importance of trying to identify skillful defenders in today’s game.
Goalies: Kyle Keyser, Jeremy Swayman, Daniel Vladar.
Who’s new: Kyle Keyser makes his Boston Bruins development camp debut. The 19-year-old Keyser turned an appearance at Bruins rookie camp last September into an entry-level contract, and recorded 28 wins and a .904 save percentage (the 8th-best among OHL goalies with at least 30 appearances) for the Oshawa Generals a season ago.
More about the invited: No invites here. Everybody’s part of the organization in some capacity.
What to watch: Given where the game seems to be trending, especially in net, it’s hard not to love what you see from Daniel Vladar. At 6-foot-5, Vladar (a third-round pick of the Bruins back in 2015) is a towering figure that occupies as much of the net as one can. Vladar has enjoyed a solid pro career to date, too, split between Atlanta of the ECHL and the P-Bruins.
But here’s where the development gets serious for the 20-year-old netminder. Expected to be in Providence full-time this season, you’re going to want to see the Czech goaltender begin to separate himself from the pack, which he seems more than capable of, with six wins and a .922 save percentage in 12 career AHL appearances.
Jeremy Swayman (fourth round, 111th overall in 2017) is looking like a sneaky good pick for the Bruins, too, after a freshman season at U-Maine that featured a .921 save percentage, which was the second-best in Hockey East last season.
The camp begins with an 11 a.m. on-ice session on Tuesday, and continues with 10:30 a.m. on-ice sessions Wednesday through Friday. All sessions will be at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton and are open to the public.