Last season, David Pastrnak took Bruins training camp by storm, cruising by teammates with superhuman quickness and hands softer than a baby’s bottom. Fans clamored for the first round pick to immediately make the senior squad, yet the 18-year-old Czech was sent to Providence instead. While “Pasta” sent Bruins nation into a tizzy last season, who will turn heads this year? What are the most intriguing storylines?
New Season, New Faces
Well, new general manager Don Sweeney certainly made his mark during his summer at the helm. After sending franchise cornerstones Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic out West in separate deals, it appeared as Sweeney was most certainly selling. As soon as he began gutting the team, Sweeney attempted to build it back up. Veterans Matt Beleskey and Matt Irwin signed with the Black and Gold and Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes was acquired from the Florida Panthers for Reilly Smith and Marc Savard’s contract.
Beleskey is a power forward who resembles Lucic’s physical style of play, is a power forward who crashes the nets hard and finds ways to put the rubber in the back of the net. Equipped with a rocket of a wrist shot, Beleskey netted 22 goals for the Anaheim Ducks last campaign.
Due to David Krejci’s ability to create opportunities and past success with Lucic, many expect Beleskey to slide into the depth chart on Krejci’s right. The crafty center has could feed the rubber right into Beleskey’s wheelhouse, which would result in a plethora of lighted red lamps. The punishing style of hockey Beleskey plays compliments Krejci’s crafty and quick game, which is another reason why the two would connect so well.
Matt Irwin, a career bottom pair/depth defender, has his chance to make a good impression with his new team. Competing with Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, and potentially others. The skilled puck moving defenseman will be in competition to secure a spot on the second power play unit, so watching how he performs in camp will be crucial to his placement in the lineup.
Jimmy Hayes: “It’s a dream come true for me. I grew up a Boston Bruins fan…” (via B’s pool quotes).
— Nicholas W. Goss (@NickGossNESN) July 2, 2015
A slick skating giant, Jimmy Hayes effortlessly strides across the ice, always finding the right place to be. With the possibility to be moved up and down the lineup due to his overall versatility, Hayes could find himself on the right side of a plethora of different centers this season. Finding the right combination to best utilitize his complimentary scoring should be a high priority for Claude Julien.
A Sense of Urgency
The unique quality of training camp is that it is all practice; none of what happens during the fall session “counts”, as in none of the results will have any bearing on the regular season point total. That being said, players are competing for their roles on the team and prove to the coaching staff that they belong.
This training camp should matter more than most to the boys from Boston. Coming off of a heartbreaking end to last season, where the Black and Gold sputtered down the stretch. Two losses in the Sunshine State sealed their fate as the most overachieving team to not qualify for the postseason tournament (96 points was the most for a team that didn’t reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs).
A solid training camp will pave the way for a fast start to the season, something that the Bruins should crave. The Bruins need to ensure a fast start to the season, making sure that they grab every point possible along the way. Many teams will doubt the ‘new and improved’ Boston Bruins, so establishing a winning streak and building confidence are instrumental to the team’s morale.
The Young Guns (On Offense)
With all of the retooling, of course there will be an opportunity for a player to permantely work his way up to the senior squad. Whether it be on the fourth line, a rotational spot on the blueline, or the backup goaltender, multiple roles could be claimed in training camp.
Alexander Khoklachev and Seth Griffith have the best opportunities to crack the lineup during the skates at Rustuccia Arena.
In 30 games with the Bruins last season, Griffith notched 10 points, including six goals. His ability to create offense helped the Bruins when injuries were ravishing players up and down the lineup. Griffith brings a slick shot and sweet handles to the lineup, and adds considerable skill to the bottom half of the depth chart. Khoklachev is a facilitator and an offensively gifted center, with the ability to see the play before it develops.
A welcome addition to add scoring to the fourth line, Khoklachev could help create chances for his teammates around him. While neither has an easy road to make the team, a strong camp would put both young forwards in contention to play in Boston this season.