This blog post won't be as comprehensive as others, because I got behind the 8-ball with other things tonight. I'll provide some more comprehensive and in-depth content here as the camp wraps and I can write profiles on the prospects and how they did.
Today, a lot of guys stood out in positive fashion. Joe Colborne continued to show off his impressive size, skills and work ethic. He's a great kid and always has been-- he's honest and genuine and I never understood where the questioning his heart came from. He may have a longer fuse than some might want in a player of his build, but he puts forth the effort you want to see. Now, development camp is one thing...let's see how he looks at training camp when he's fighting with guys for an NHL job and in the preseason when he'll be going up against guys who will really be wanting to stick it to him. But, I don't think there are any doubts as to why the Bruins picked him where they did (16th) in 2008.
Today, he was an on-ice predator, finding seams and doing damage. He's such a smart player; you can see it in the way he holds onto the puck and distributes it so well. I'm still looking for more physicality, but this hasn't really been the setting. He knows that they're going to bring the hitting in the fall, so it'll be interesting to see how he responds. For the time being, however, he's been fine.
On defense, Ryan Button was the player of the day once again. He's got the speed, agility, first-pass ability and offensive instincts to be a very good one in the NHL one day. His biggest challenges will continue to be getting his build and strength NHL-ready, but as far as attitude goes, he's a gamer. Today, he corralled the puck in the neutral zone, gained the blue line and then dumped it, beat the defenseman to it down on the far wall behind the goal line and then found a wide-open Colborne alone in the slot for a one-timer that he put home with ease. Button's strong play went beyond the offense, too. He exhibited excellent gap control throughout the scrimmage, made good decisions with and without the puck and generally played like a high-end No. 2 NHL defenseman. Now again, like Colborne, Button's big test will come in September when he goes up against the big boys, but now that he's gotten a taste of what he's capable of, I'm pretty encouraged to say the least. With him, you can absolutely not judge him by the stats-- the Raiders simply aren't going to generate much no matter what he does. But even a casual fan with little understanding of the game could sit in the frigid Ristuccia today and recognize that he's the best defender out there.
Jared Knight. What else can you say about this guy? He's absolutely lived up to the 32nd overall billing with a real nose for the net, passion, desire and oh yeah-- those killer shooting skills Peter Chiarelli and Wayne Smith raved about. He did it again today, twice, scoring an old fashioned take the puck to the net with the defender with you and bang it past the goalie. Bang is the operative word here, because as the puck crossed the line, Knight got jammed hard into the net, knocking it off its moorings while he crashed to the ice and lay there for a few moments before regaining his feet (didn't miss a shift, btw- old school hockey, eh!) One of my favorite sayings is the one about it not being the size of the dog that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog. Well, Knight is a classic example of that. He's not very big, but he's an animal (no pun intended) about his fitness and conditioning. Scouts say he's not a great skater, but the kid out here in Wilmington has shown some nice jump and is so good in his east-west moves that it's hard to notice any deficiencies. And if they exist, well, they've got to be easily correctable with additional training.
Knight's second goal drew gasps and sighs from the crowd because he showed his lethality from the outside as he gained the zone, then let fly a hard, heavy wrist shot near the left wall that zipped over Zane Gothberg's glove and up under the crossbar. Just an electrifying shot. And one of my colleagues leaned over to me and said, "High school goalie or not, that was an NHL-caliber shot!" Indeed. I know the comparison is hackneyed, but I'm going to use it. Knight is like Mark Recchi...he just knows what to do with the puck when he's anywhere near the net. And, you can't put a pricetag on guys like that. They're gold to any team who drafts them.
Is he going to make a real run at a job in Boston come September. I don't know. The odds are stacked against him, simply because he has a limited set of options. But I do know this-- he's going to make things interesting. In all likelihood, he'll return to London, but he's definitely one to watch.
Yuri Alexandrov had a better day on Friday. I think he may be one of these players who will do his best work not in the drills and isolated instruction, but in games where his experience playing in the KHL and hockey sense/instincts can come to bear in a fluid, spontaneous environment. I like his attitude, though. He was laughing in the dressing room afterward today and apparently was a good sport about doing an interview with John "Bish" Bishop of Boston Bruins.com even though his English is limited. I see a guy who's trying to fit in and seems to be displaying more confidence as the sessions have gone on. I'll have my eye on him tomorrow in the extended scrimmage; I think he's going to be fine, even if time in Providence is in the offing come fall. Rob Murray will take very good care of him there.
Steve Kampfer had another solid day today. He's got the wheels and the vision to make the first pass and get the puck up ice, but gave one of the more thoughtful and intelligent answers about what he needs to improve on, not taking the easy way out that most players take by answering "everything" but instead giving me several legitimate areas that need work in his mind, namely his defensive positioning and moving opponents out of the danger areas in front of his net. He's another undersized player on 'D', so he's going to need to learn about leverage and all of the other subtle tricks that the smallish defenders must master in order to make it to the NHL.
Tyler Seguin's ability has not yet translated into major production in the scrimmages yet, but he's just a guy that when you watch, you can appreciate how well he thinks the game faster and more effectively than everyone else. He's not only fast, but slippery as well, and can thread the needle. Plus, he hustles and isn't afraid to stick his nose in and do a little dirty work. He had a strawberry on his chin from where it looked like he either took a stick or maybe kissed the dasher somewhere. He did spring Knight for that second goal on the bomb from the outside, but we haven't as yet, seen Seguin setting the table in dynamic fashion as we saw on the Plymouth Whalers highlight videos, or finishing with equal aplomb, but based on what I've seen from him all week, it's coming. Maybe not tomorrow, but by September, Seguin will do some things to wow you.
Ryan Spooner had another one of his patented "danglesauce" days on Friday. He's a nonstop motor who never quits, and is fearless about taking the puck to the net. I worry a little bit about how well his body will hold up doing things like that, but he's certainly a guy who knows what he needs to do out there and isn't afraid in how he goes about it.
Well, that's about it. I bantered a little more than usual today, so not as organized in my notes (hey- this is a full disclosure blog) but when I actually get a chance to lay out everything side-by-side when it's all over and I'm back at home base, the payoff will be worth it.
I'm already reaching out to my contacts around the areas and compiling my initial 2011 watch list, so before you know it, I'll be rolling out Bruins2011DraftWatch and you can start the clock on tracking the guys who could get the call in St. Paul next June. I can't believe the time is winding down on this particular space since I started it back in October, but as they say, the show must go on.