2018 Bruins Prospect Development Camp Provides The Potential For Optimism And Excitement

(06/26/2018- Boston, MA) Oskar Steen takes a shot at the Boston Bruins development camp at Warrior Arena on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Staff Photo by Matt West(Photo Credit: Matt West)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Days one through three provided plenty of great hockey and excitement for all in attendance, including myself. Development camp is an awesome opportunity for those who attend to see Bruins prospects and camp invitees, as some are unable to watch them play during their respective seasons much or at all. This is of course on top of the opportunities for growth and recognition it provides for the players in attendance across the camps of all 31 NHL teams.

The crop of young players in attendance at Warrior Ice Arena was one that didn’t disappoint and brought players from all over, including but not limited to the NCAA, OHL, QMJHL, SHL, and OJHL. The main standouts for me were Oskar Steen, Jack Studnicka, Jakub Lauko, Jeremy Swayman, and Curtis Hall, amongst a few others. This doesn’t mean that any players not included were bad or didn’t stand out to me.

Oskar Steen

The speedy Swede, Oskar Steen, stood out yet again, just like last year at camp. His quickness and speed allow him to evade defenders and create space to unleash his impressive wrist shot. The 2016 sixth-round pick arsenal was put on display at the 2018 World Junior Championships as well, with two goals and two assists in seven games en route to a silver medal with Team Sweden.

His speed and desire to have the puck on his stick could lead to him being an effective penalty killer at the pro level. Steen is still just 20-years-old as well, so the room to grow as a player and mature physically in his pursuit of an NHL job is certainly there.

Jack Studnicka

Stud is in his last name, folks. A 2017 Bruins second-round pick, Studnicka killed it at camp after an impressive 2017-2018 campaign with Oshawa Generals. The 19-year-old Canadian kid has his sights set on an NHL gig for the 2018-2019 season, and for good reason. His competitiveness, playmaking skills, and smooth skating make him a tough player to contain.

His 22-50-72 stat line in 66 games was good for a spot in the top-30 OHL scorers at number 27 on the list in the company of high-end prospects like Owen Tippett and Robert Thomas, to name a couple. 2018 second overall pick Andrei Svechnikov was in that range as well. But, he only played just 44 games, compared to everyone around him on the leaderboard being in the 50’s and high 60’s in games played.

There is a chance Riley Nash isn’t back with the Bruins in the near future, as he is an unrestricted free-agent come July 1. The Bruins’ third line center void is up for grabs if Nash goes elsewhere, with players such as Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Trent Frederic, and one of the new guys Martin Bakos also amongst the group that will vie for that third-line ice-time. With that being said, cracking the roster will not be easy for Studnicka. If he doesn’t make the NHL roster, he will need to go back to Oshawa in the OHL per the NHL/CHL Player Agreement, which would prohibit him from going to the AHL due to the fact that he is under the age of 20.

Jack Studnicka watch is on.

Jakub Lauko

A new talented Czech in Jakub Lauko joined the fold when he surprisingly fell in the Bruins’ collective lap at 77th overall. Lauko is a first-round talent in the eyes of some, and I am onboard with that. Just look at what Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley had to say after drafting Lauko:

“We had him on our list as a first-round pick. We’re ecstatic to get a player like this at that point in the draft.”

Getting a first-round talent late in the first-round certainly makes the Bruins brass feel better about not having a first-round pick this year. What sticks out past his dynamic skill set, and speed is his confidence in himself as a player and desire to make teams regret passing on him. This drive and determination alone should have Bruins fans on the edge of their seats eagerly waiting to see what Jakub Lauko can do at the NHL level.

After being drafted, Lauko had this to say about how he felt about his draft position, “I expected to be higher,” said Lauko (6 feet, 179 pounds), a left-shot who can play center or wing. “But now I can prove to everyone that I am one of the biggest steals in the draft.”

How can one not love that confident mindset and positional versatility? Fast forward to day two of development camp where he did his best Anze Kopitar vs. Tim Thomas impression against Kyle Keyser and succeeded in doing so.

 

From my perspective, I think it’s fair to say that Jakub Lauko was one of the best, if not the best player on the ice for much of the duration of the first three days of camp.

The offensive instincts are there on top of his bulldog mentality and willingness to work in the gritty areas and play physically. I can’t think of anything that worries me with Jakub Lauko as a player. He just has the makings of a successful NHL player with time to improve even more past development camp, get stronger and to mature.

Lauko said after the draft in the video above that he is willing to take on any challenge and talks about his appreciation of fellow Czech’s within the organization in David Pastrnak, David Krejci, and prospect Daniel Bukac – who Jakub has known since he was around seven-eight-years-old. On top of his offensive prowess, Jakub is confident that he is one of the fastest players in the draft, he’ll block shots, and he doesn’t shy away from going at it with players that are bigger than him. How did he fall into the late third-round of the draft?!

Lastly, I’ve said it on Twitter, so I’ll stress it again here.

There is plenty of room on the ‘Laukomotive’.

Curtis Hall

First and foremost, Curtis Hall’s hair. My goodness, what a mane.

Curtis Hall comes to Bruins development camp with a playstyle reminiscent of current Bruin David Backes, who Hall models his game after.

Jeff Cox (@JeffCoxSports on Twitter) of the New England Hockey Journal, wrote the following about Hall this past January, “Hall, who has spent some time playing right wing in international competition, feels more comfortable at center. He tries to emulate Boston Bruins versatile forward David Backes, who also plays center and right wing.” Positional versatility and buzzsaw on the wing or down the middle like David Backes? I’d take that.

Throughout days one to three of development camp, Hall used his large 6-foot-3, 196-pound frame fight for puck possession and score in close proximity to the net, or with his sweet wrist shot. Another thing that stands out is his work ethic, which goes hand-in-hand with his willingness to fight for pucks and create an offensive flow for himself and/or those around him.

Yale University will be an excellent place for Hall to grow as a player and a person in the NCAA’s Big Ten. Adding more strength to his already impressive frame will make him a nightmare to play against, especially in the physical game at the next level.

Pavel Shen

The Russian centerman Pavel Shen rounded out the 2018 draft class for the Boston Bruins at 212th overall. What stood out to me with Pavel Shen was his smooth skating ability, puck skills, and how it looked as though he wasn’t overcomplicating how he handled himself on the ice. It is understandable for players to be nervous in their first go at an NHL development camp, Pavel Shen didn’t seem nervous to me, he looked pretty comfortable to me out there.

The ‘Shensation’ as I now like to call him, looks to hold solid value as a seventh-round pick near the very conclusion of the draft. Below is a video that I found to very cool, take a look.

Whether it was the first Bruins 1-on-1 in Russian or not, it was very cool to see something like this in an interview with two young players – Pavel Shen is 18-years-old, Philip Lagunov is 19-years-old.

Martin Bakos

The oldest player in the group, Martin Bakos comes to camp as the oldest player from Slovakia and the Czech pro league. The Bruins signed Martin Bakos to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 back on June 14, shortly after, he was invited to development camp at age 28. An interesting start to his Bruins career to say the least.

Unsurprisingly, he looked comfortable right from the get-go as a 28-year-old veteran in a sense. His confidence with the puck is very present whenever he is on the ice and he clearly has a very solid hockey IQ in the offensive and defensive parts of his game.

As mentioned earlier, if Riley Nash does, in fact, move on from the Bruins in free-agency, Bakos is certainly a candidate for the third-line center position. It will be very interesting to see how he progresses over the summer and into the regular season. Keep an eye out for Martin Bakos.

Martin Bakos, certified surgeon with those hands.

Karson Kuhlman

Karson Kuhlman is a player that myself amongst a growing amount of people are starting to believe can contribute at the NHL level. This isn’t to say that if not, Providence would be a step-down, but rather it is a statement that he is making a name for himself early in his career as a Bruin.

He was definitely a leader as a 22-year-old at camp with many guys who are younger than him – he would help warm up the goalies at times during camp and anyone who looked closely could see his vocal nature on the ice. Not to mention, he works extremely hard whenever he is on the ice and the desire to be a difference maker is very much present in how he operates as a hockey player.

A high character kid with speed and a great shot to go with experience as a winner at the University of Minnesota Duluth – particularly the two National Championship appearances, including one National Championship title in which he won MVP.

The Goalies: Jeremy Swayman, Kyle Keyser, and Daniel Vladar

Jeremy Swayman

Honestly, all three goalies put solid performances forward in the first three days, but Jeremy Swayman with his athleticism and quickness, in particular, stole the show in my eyes, in a sense.

Swayman made great strides throughout his freshman year as a University of Maine Black Bear. Swayman put forward a great freshman season at UMaine – after 31 appearances, yes 31 appearances as a freshman, Swayman finished the season with a 2.72 goals against average and .921 save percentage. That’s not something to glance over and forget about, that is seriously impressive.

Kyle Keyser

Kyle Keyser’s aggressiveness and quickness in the crease are impressive attributes within his arsenal. He had a consistently solid first three days and is the youngest of these three goalies. On day three, Keyser made an incredible save on a 2-on-1 chance from Jack Becker. A teammate of fellow Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka this past season, Keyser will look to continue his progression in Oshawa for a three season. The 19-year-old goaltender from Coral Springs, Florida, has amassed 73 appearances over two seasons in Oshawa – with 47 of them coming last year.

That’s a pretty tough save to make in a high-pressure situation.

Daniel Vladar

Three things that Daniel Vladar likes are the hit TV series ‘The Office’, hockey, and modeling his game after Bruins starting goalie Tuukka Rask (6-foot-3), as well as Nashville Predators veteran goalie, Pekka Rinne (6-foot-5) – two large goalies, like Daniel. His movement in the crease is impressive for someone of his size, like Rask and Rinne and with a keen eye, one can definitely see similarities in their playing styles. Just ask BNG team member Thomas Nystrom (@nahstrom on Twitter) or Boston Sports Journal Bruins writer Anthony Gulizia, as he wrote about Vladar, Rask, and Rinne not too long ago.

The oldest of the goalie group, Vladar is well-spoken with a giant goaltending frame with good crease awareness and vision to go along with it who will look to build on his development in Providence this upcoming season.

Camp Invitees: Stephen Baylis, Henry Bowlby, and Teemu Kivilhalme

Stephen Baylis

Stephen Baylis, Henry Bowlby, and Teemu Kivilhalme stood out to me amongst the solid group of camp invitees at camp. Although they may never join the Bruins organization, their solid performances at camp certainly helped their chances of landing a spot in professional hockey someday, whether that is within the Bruins organization or not.

Stephen Baylis is a 23-year-old forward from Bowling Green State University. He showed solid hands, a good skating stride, and he played heads-up hockey.

Baylis will head back to Bowling Green State University for his senior year this fall to continue to his developmental path.

Henry Bowlby

Henry Bowlby is an incoming sophomore at Harvard University from one of Minnesota’s hockey hotbeds in the city of Edina. As a freshman at Harvard, he scored eight goals and added as many assists, good for 16 points in 24 games. Not too shabby for a freshman. Bowlby’s quickness, soft hands, and shooting ability were on display at camp and really caught my eye.

Bowlby can be found in the video below displaying his quickness and skills with the puck on his stick in tight below wearing number 75.

Henry Bowlby is definitely a player that I will continue to monitor. If he progresses nicely at Harvard and Bruins management keeps an eye on him, maybe he could land a contract in Boston someday and join Harvard teammate and current Bruin, Ryan Donato in the organization.

Teemu Kivilhalme

Now here is a player with an interesting background that led him to Boston for development camp – Teemu Kivilhalme. Teemu was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL draft by the Nashville Predators, played three seasons at Colorado College, left college a year early to play for Kärpät in Finland and never signed with Nashville. The next step? Prospect development camp with the Boston Bruins.

On day one of camp skated towards a barrier on the blue line, stumbled right in front of the barrier on a zone-entry drill and recovered very quickly to evade the barrier and plant a wrist-shot in the top-left corner of the net. Some may not have noticed it, but his quick recovery and impressive finish made me watch him closer as camp went on. He is a smooth skater with a quick shot. He wasn’t overly flashy with anything, but showed a structured and calm playing style throughout the first three days.

Kivihalme is set to play for Kärpät again next year and is most definitely a player to monitor for me due to his skill set and his interesting path to get where he is today.

Be optimistic and get excited if you somehow aren’t already – because outside of the NHL and AHL rosters that are in pretty good shape, there is plenty of depth in the Bruins’ prospect core. Plus, there is the possibility of one, if not multiple of the camp invitees in attendance becoming members of the Bruins organization someday.

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