Friday morning was the last time the Boston Bruins would take the ice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, as the team prepares to move to its new facility in Brighton for rookie camp in September. The last few Bruins to skate on the Wilmington ice were a part of this summer’s development camp, and will look to make their mark with the Bruins in the coming seasons.
“First and foremost I want to acknowledge the people here in Wilmington, the community itself,” said general manager Don Sweeney following the final session. “We’ve been in this area for 30 years. Bob Rotundo, and Eileen, have been tremendous partners with us. I spent my whole career practicing here and now in the management group and we feel very fortunate to have had this type of relationship with not only the town, but also the people here at Ristuccia.”
Sweeney also mentioned talks have begun again with forward Brad Marchand entering his walk year. Marchand would become an unrestricted free agent next July, and after a career season this past year, would presumably be in high demand.
“I think I’ve been pretty up front that I would like to be aggressive in trying to identify from what we have. I’ve identified March as a core guy and we want to continue down that path,” said Sweeney. “It always takes two sides to make a deal, and I would envision that he’d like to be part of this organization for what could be arguably his whole career. But, Brad has a say in this as well.”
Sweeney also was active this past week, signing restricted free agent defensemen Colin Miller and Joe Morrow. Defense was the Bruins biggest weakness as they faltered in the playoff race last season.
“As I’ve said, we have a number of players that are on the doorstep of pushing current players we have,” Sweeney said. “That’s what you want, you want it internally from the organization.”
Several Bruins defense prospects partook in the camp this week, including first round pick Charlie McAvoy, along with fifth-year developmental camp veteran Matt Grzelyck. The two were defense partners with Boston University last season, and were paired together multiple times during the scrimmages on Friday.
“He’s obviously very excited that the Bruins picked him,” said Grzelcyk of McAvoy. “To get to come out here a few weeks after the draft and to play with him a little bit more is awesome. It will be fun to watch him continue to get better in college.”
McAvoy and Grzelcyk highlight what has become a sneakily solid defensive prospect core, along with Jakub Zboril and Brandon Carlo, who also took huge strides from last season. As a part of an organization that has lacked defense, and struggled to develop its own prospect, the rapid development of blueliners is a welcomed sight.
Throughout the week, fellow first round pick Trent Frederic stood out as a strong and smooth skater. Both Ryan Fitzgerald and Ryan Donato appeared as leadership figures throughout the camp as the two college locals prepare for their upcoming seasons. Anders Bjork out of Notre Dame had a surprisingly solid camp, winning puck battle drills and showing startling speed in races, easily skating past his peers.
Danton Heinen out of Denver, however, seemed the closest to being NHL-ready throughout the week. Heinen had an impressive stretch in the full-ice scrimmage where he picked up an assist and a tally of his own. His offensive skills were notable at the college level, but he may be closer than was initially thought. With the Bruins losing several wingers to free agency, Heinen could battle now for a position on the roster.
Jesse Gabrielle showed some sniping ability in the mini three-on-three sessions, a three-on-three full-ice scrimmage, and a shootout. The 2015 fourth round pick showed an offensive explosiveness that he presented through his regular season in the WHL this past year.
One concern out of camp could be the development, or lack thereof, Malcolm Subban. Subban allowed five goals in his two periods of the scrimmage game, and often times just looked beat. Zane McIntyre out of North Dakota played well enough, and at this point, has obviously eclipsed Subban on the depth chart after they have been patient with the young goalie.
Being patient, after all, is something the Bruins brass doesn’t have the luxury of being.
“Patience is a word that is not readily thrown around in this marketplace,” said Sweeney. “We understand that. I’ve never not acknowledged that we’re in a competitive business, we want to win every year. But you have to grow your players, I firmly believe that. I’ve been committed to it since I’ve taken the job.”