The Boston Bruins are in the midst of their rookie development camp at Ristuccia Memorial Arena in Wilmington, Mass., and a few young players are turning heads so far.
Ryan Spooner, the center drafted in the second round (45th overall) has shown impressive progress. The 19-year-old has shown the playmaking abilities needed to enter Boston’s depth chart, and the willingness to learn.
As Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney told ESPN Boston’s Brendan Hall:
“I love the fact that he came down to Providence at the end of last year unsigned, but wanted to come and play hockey and wanted to kind of be a sponge to absorb, he wanted a taste. You could just tell that the kid is gung-ho; he wanted a taste of what it was going to be like to play against bigger, stronger players. And he came in and did very well, we asked him to shoot the puck a little bit more and he did that.”
If you read between the lines, this sounds quite a bit like the buzz Brad Marchand was getting after his first full year as a pro. While he might not be as natural an agitator, Spooner (5’10”, 172 lbs.) has a similar build and room to grow, both in size and in his mental game. Look for Spooner to start contributing around December or January, if he doesn’t beat out some veteran (Benoit Pouliot?) outright at camp in September.
Mike Hutchinson earning a top spot in Providence
Mike Hutchinson suffered a little bit of a scare on the first day of camp, colliding with Jared Knight in front of the crease and cutting his first session short. But since then, the 21-year-old goalie from Barrie, Ont., has shown solid improvement in his game, growing from his first season in Providence (splitting much of his time with veteran Nolan Schaefer).
Hutchinson will be looking to unseat Anton Khudobin on the depth chart behind Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, but even in the best-case scenario, he’s still an injury to one of the top two away from the NHL, barring a deal.
If he does make it, though, he’s already looking good — check out his NHL-ready mask, courtesy of Matt Kalman at thebruinsblog.net.
Cassidy riding the overdue Hamill
Zach Hamill, the Bruins’ top-pick in 2007, has shown a natural ability to create plays and turn seemingly dead opportunities into goals, but his progress has not been nearly as quick as the Bruins’ brass has hoped — since his selection, Marchand, Spooner, Knight, Jordan Caron, Jamie Arniel, Max Sauve and others have leapfrogged the 22-year-old Vancouver native.
New Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has been blunt about Hamill’s disappointing tenure, and even hinted that his future may be with another team. From Boston.com’s Fluto Shinzawa:
“At the end of the day, when you’re in your fourth year with the same organization, it falls upon yourself just to push people. The individual has to recognize what’s going on around him. A few people have passed him. It’s time for him to start passing some younger guys that have come in the last couple years. Whether he’s ready to do that, we’ll find out in September.”
That potential, if he shows it in camp and can crack the Bruins lineup some in October, could indeed net Boston a decent return, albeit not the kind they expected when they drafted him.
If you need to see evidence of his potential, check out this goal, setting up Michael Ryder, which was one of the Bruins’ most impressive of 2010-11 (jump to the 4:45 marker):