Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Boston Bruins Prospect Series: #6 Ryan Button

Ryan Button, D
6-1, 195
March 26, 1991
Shoots: Left
Boston's 2nd choice, 86th overall (third round) in 2009
Signing status: Unsigned

Talent Analysis

Physical: Does not possess ideal height for a defenseman, but is long-limbed and in very good physical condition. Needs to continue to add muscle mass and strength, his biggest hurdle to making it as an NHL regular. Superb skater with high-end four-way mobility; can accelerate rapidly and use his speed to lead the rush. Very good on his edges, with the ability to make tight turns and change direction in an instant. Excellent athleticism; has fluid movement in his hips when pivoting and can handle the most elusive of skaters who attempt to jitterbug, or the fastest of them who will try to use their speed to gain position on the outside. Comes from excellent athletic stock: father is an accomplished triathlete, while cousin, Jennifer was an Olympic swimmer. Makes a very good first pass and keeps his head up, looking to make the quick outlet. Can carry the puck at speed and lead the rush if he is inclined to do so. Shoots the puck well from the outside, but is more lethal with his wrist and snap shots when he steps in from the blue line and works inside the circles. Has not been all that productive because his team, the Prince Albert Raiders, has struggled to generate a lot of offense in his time there. Could be poised for a breakout offensive season given his age, experience and budding confidence. Solid defensively; takes the body and finishes his checks. Understands positioning and just needs to continue to gain experience and resist the urge to try and do too much. Tough: will drop the gloves and fight to defend teammates and is pretty effective for a middleweight. One scout I spoke to last year believes that head coach Bruno Campese restricted Button's pugilistic activities because of his role and value to the team, but the lack of quantity in bouts is not due to a reluctance on the player's part.

Intangibles: A solid citizen and hard worker who is a good teammate. Works out in the offseason with several Edmonton-based pro players, including Boston fan favorite Johnny Boychuk. Humble to a fault; can be very tough on himself when he doesn't play to his and others' expectations. A leader; has the ability to inspire his teammates through his play or in the dressing room, where he is articulate and confident enough to speak up when something needs to be said. Outworked and outperformed higher bantam selections to earn a spot on the Raiders as a WHL rookie three years ago, so he understands that draft position doesn't mean much-- that it is what you do with the opportunities presented that matter most. Will likely go back to junior for one final year, but has a chance to make an extended stay at training camp in Boston and present himself as a legitimate option for the team in 2011.

2010 Development Camp analysis
Button was arguably the best all-around player for the team at the July camp. He showed off his sublime skating skills at drills and in the scrimmages. The two-way defenseman also outshined other more experienced players with his good decision-making, physical play and offensive production.

Two plays that captured the potential Button brings to the Bruins down the road: in the first scrimmage (Thursday) he took a pass at the left point and drew his stick back like he was going to fire a slap shot. When Jordan Caron moved in close to block the shot, Button pulled the stick down, gathered the puck and zipped around the forward, curling around the left circle and then beating goalie Mike Hutchinson with a bullet snap shot to the short side that knocked the water bottle off the net. The shot was all the more impressive because Hutch catches right, meaning that Button beat him cleanly to his glove side. The second play happened on the second day (Friday) when Button took the puck in the neutral zone, accelerated to the blue line, then put the puck into the right corner. Then, he beat the defender to it in a footrace, fought off the check to maintain control and put a perfect pass out front to a wide-open and alone in front Joe Colborne, who one-timed the shot home.

Button showed off good improvement in his physical conditioning, having grown about an inch since he was drafted and adding good weight and strength to his build. It showed on the ice, and he made a definitive statement about his potential at the next level. Based on his camp performance, he is one player to keep a close eye on at main camp in September.

A year ago, it was looking like Button would be a solid No. 4 in the NHL, but after a very good second half of the 09-10 campaign and his standout camp performance, he has the tools to be a solid No. 3 and possibly even a No. 2 if he continues to develop the offensive side of his game. His size will not be an issue, as he has the skating chops and will likely be stronger than average given his diligent off-ice work habits. How far he goes and how quickly he makes the jump will likely depend largely on factors beyond his control, as Boston is pretty well stacked with defensemen under contract at present, but if he makes the same kind of statement in September that he did in July, he'll force the Bruins to re-think his timeline a bit. The team was thrilled to land Button in the late-third round in '09, but he struggled in the early part of 09-10. Once he seemed to relax, his production came on and he carried that success into the summer. Watch for him to continue his upward mobility in September.

"I'm just a lot more relaxed this year. I know the coaching staff, I know the trainer, I know the general managers; (Don) Sweeney. I just know everyone. I'm a lot more comfortable and I'm not afraid to come ask and I can also help the young guys out. They're here for the first time like I was last year, so I have the responsibility to help them out."- Ryan Button to B2010DW, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

"The first day (at camp) was a lot of team-bonding stuff; having to do stuff together, having to help each other out. Then, the second day was swimming and kind of helping each other again. It was all about helping each other; that was the main thing and objective to help your teammates. It wasn't about yourself, but your teammates. They told us straight out, 'We don't care about you, you don't care about yourself. It's all about your teammates-- it's all about the guy beside you. If they fail, then we all fail.' I think it was really good to start off with that and kind of bond us as a team-- well, we're not a team, but we're here for a good week, so it's good to know the guys and I think it really sped up the process of meeting people and getting on the same page."- Ryan Button, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

"I think it went really well. It started off, and things were pretty tough with The Program and stuff like that, but it got easier as the week went along and it made it a little easier on the players that we could relax and play hockey-- that's the main reason we're here. We're not here to swim in pools or run a million times. We're here to play hockey, and as the week went on, we got to do that and so it was a lot of fun and I feel a lot more comfortable going to main camp now."- Ryan Button, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

"I've been working hard on my strength and my fitness. I think I came here and people told me that I look a little taller, I look a little thicker, so hopefully, I can do that a little more and keep getting thicker before the main camp. I mean, those guys are men out there, so I'll spend more time in the gym so I'm better prepared to handle the size, strength and speed those NHL players all have."- Ryan Button, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

“Actually, physically, he surprised me a little bit walking through the door. I think he hit a little growth spurt during the course of the year. I had seen him out in a very cold part of the world earlier in the year and he wasn’t as physically developed as he is right now. He’s done a lot of bit of work; he’s working with a bunch of pro guys in the off-season and the fruits of those labors are starting to bear forward. So, I’m happy with where he’s at right now. But again, he’s got a long way to go and he understands that. But he’s a good skater and yet you get on the power skating side and dial it down to little specifics and everybody has things to work on.”- Bruins Assistant GM Don Sweeney on Ryan Button, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

The Final Word
No player did more to raise his profile in the Bruins organization at camp than Button. He demonstrated all of the positive attributes that had the team raving about him in Montreal when they nabbed him at the end of the third round. Even with the excellent showing in Wilmington this month, Button is not a sure bet to be a top-flight two-way NHL defender, but it certainly looks like he'll play and contribute to some degree because of his athleticism, intelligence and attitude.

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