Boston Bruins 2018 Development Camp Wrap-Up

(Photo Credit:  Alan Sullivan Photography)

By: Mark Allred   |   Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

First and foremost I’d like to start my Boston Bruins Development Camp Wrap-Up article by showing my gratitude for the opportunity that was given to me this week from the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts. I was given media access to cover the B’s annual mid-summer event and want to thank the Bruins organization, particularly the organizations public relations department for their acceptance and guidance during this week’s festivities.

As a person from the outside striving to gain access to future events, I learned an awful lot from the veteran heavy hitters in the press box like the Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa,  NHL.com / CBSBoston’s Matt Kalman, Providence Journals Mark Divver, 98.5 The Sports Hubs Ty Anderson,  the Standard-Times New Bedford Mick Colageo, and CLNSMedia’s Jimmy Murphy just to name a few on how to conduct myself surrounded by other media professionals. I’m truly grateful for the hospitality from those mentioned above, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

In this article below I’d like to point out several Bruins prospects that stood out to me while in attendance at the Brighton facility during the four-day event this week. I’m also going to add what the scouts had said in the past leading up to their day when the Bruins selected them in their respected National Hockey League Entry Draft year to spice things up for those readers that want to learn more about the next generation of Bruins players.  Out of the 18 players that attended this year’s camp that the Bruins have rights to, it was difficult to narrow the choices down as there were so many positive things from all the attendees, but hope you enjoy my favorites moving forward.

-Forwards-

Martin Bakos  –  Right Wing

(Photo Credit:  Boston Globe / Lane Turner Globe Staff)

The undrafted 28-year-old forward was signed to a one-year, two-way contract in the middle of June 2018, and comes to camp as the oldest player. The 6′-2″ 198-pound Slovakian native spent his entire hockey career playing overseas in leagues such as his home Slovakian clubs, the Kontinental Hockey League, and most recently the Czech Pro League.  Before jetting over to North America for the first time, Bakos appeared in 52 games for his Bili Tygri Liberec club posting 14-26-40 numbers.

At this year’s development camp, I saw positive things from the right winger, and a few things that stood out to me was his skill and speed. He has the size to be that prototypical power-forward but also the hands and hockey IQ to be an asset on any of the teams throughout the B’s organization. With pretty much the complete package for a European import, Bakos used this camp and should continue to work hard during the long summer offseason to get used to his surroundings. The adjustment to the smaller ice and split-second decisions won’t be easy, but Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney believes there’s enough time between now and September to work on those attributes that the team was attracted to.

Curtis Hall  –  Center

(Photo Credit:  Alan Sullivan Photography)

Hall, a 6′-3″ 201-pound New Jersey native, is an American / Canadian dual citizen was selected in the fourth-round of this year’s Entry Draft and previously spent the last two seasons in the United States Hockey League with the Youngstown Phantoms. In 113 career games with Youngstown, the 18-year-old center posted 20-32-52 numbers and has committed to play hockey in the Ivy League as a freshman for the upcoming 2018-19 season for the Yale University Bulldogs. Although he was selected by the Flint Firebirds in the 10th-round of the Ontario hockey Leagues Priority Selection, the Jersey-born forward has always wanted to play in the NCAA Men’s Division 1 somewhere close to home, and with New Jersey being so close to Connecticut, the decision wasn’t a hard one.

Curtis brought an overwhelming amount of skill to his first ever pro-development camp and really impressed me and many others who had the chance to watch his ability on the ice all week. He’s got tremendous speed, stickhandling ability, and a pro release. His vision and calmness in open ice and tight situations along the boards was a couple of things that definitely caught my eye and look forward to watching him progress in his development by watching many of his games when he appears in his first year of collegiate hockey in the fall.

Jakub Lauko  –  Center / Left Wing

(Photo Credit:  Alan Sullivan Photography)

One of the fastest skaters selected in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, the 6′-0″ 179-pound Czech Republic native certainly turned heads at camp for a European skater selected in the third-round in 2018. Mostly playing in the Czech system with his Pirati Chomutov club teams growing up to the pro-level in 2017-18, he registered 3-6-9 numbers in 42 games teaming up with adult players and even though his numbers weren’t high, he’s got all the attribute of a young developing forward you want to see moving forward.

Besides his speed, what really attracted me to this player during the development camp week was his creativity with his hands and the ability to showcase those mitts while skating in full stride. He shields the puck well along the boards and in open ice skating towards the net positioning his body where defenders can’t reach around to disturb his progression to get a shot on goal. His release and shot are another animal as he finds the right time to put the puck on the net whether crossing the blue line or goal line extended.

Jack Studnicka  –  Center

(Photo Credit:  Alan Sullivan Photography)

Selected in the second-round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the 6′-1″ 172-pound forward made his second appearance at the Bruins development camp and continued to impress those fortunate enough like myself who have seen him at the Warrior Ice Arena the past two summers. The 19-year-old was a first-year team captain for his Ontario Hockey Leagues Oshawa Generals and ended the 2017-18 season with 22-50-72 numbers.

After his Generals team was eliminated in the second-round of the OHL playoffs to the hands of the Niagara Ice Dogs, Studnicka joined the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins for five regular-season games contributing impressive 1-4-5 totals while gaining great experience with the NHL Bruins top minor-pro affiliate. In Jack’s OHL career he’s appeared in 192 games all with Oshawa posting 44-106-150 numbers in that duration.

Studnicka has an uncanny ability to make an opposing player look silly almost everytime he possesses the puck. His tool-box of skills are all there, and it’s no doubt why the Bruins selected him to begin with. He has speed and an outstanding amount of offensive talent to see the complete 200-foot sheet of ice regardless if he has the puck or not. His composer and hockey IQ whether all alone or being double covered is something to see for yourselves as he has the ability to make things happen quickly while seemingly stickhandling in a phone booth.  Could very well be a dark-horse to make the NHL club for the upcoming season, but also couldn’t hurt to continue his development one more year in the OHL then be eligible for the AHL the season after if necessary.

-Defensemen-

Axel Andersson  –  Right Defense

(Photo Credit:   Alan Sullivan Photography)

Selected by the Bruins in the second-round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the 6′-0″ 179-pound blueliner has the ability to produce offensively while getting back in the D-Zone to be that shutdown type of player.  The 18-year-old Sweden native played last season with the SuperElit Djurgardens IF J20 club and produce 6-25-31 numbers in 42 games. The 2018 World Junior Championship Bronze Medal winner for team Sweden was recently selected in Canadian Hockey Leagues Import Draft from the Kitchener Rangers, but rumors have it that he’s not going to report to the OHL club but might return to Europe to continue his development.

This kid blew me away at camp this week with his speed and vision of the ice. His edgework and positioning in the D-Zone really stood out to me but that explosive stride transitioning to the offensive was a treat to watch. I enjoyed mobility and how strong he was mainly in short ice three on three drills. His puck possession during the week was off the charts and has incredible timing when it comes to those tape-to-tape stretch passes. Definitely going to be a player to keep an eye on in the next few years as he continues to grow and hone his skills to prepare for any level of professional hockey.

Urho Vaakanainen  –  Left Defense

(06/26/2018- Boston, MA) Urho Vaakanainen skates at the Boston Bruins development camp at Warrior Arena on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Staff Photo by Matt West

Another solid selection when it comes to adding depth to the Bruins organizations future, the first-round choice in 2017 from the NHL Entry Draft in Chicago, Illinois had another outstanding development camp for the second consecutive year. The 6′-1″  185-pound defenseman from Finland spent the 2017-18 season in the Finnish Liiga League with the SaiPa club posting 4-7-11 numbers in 43 games. Vaakanainen signed an entry-level contract in mid-June of 2018 and is expected to join the AHL Providence Bruins in the upcoming 2017-18 season. He’ll make a serious push to challenge for that left shot blueline spot that this B’s team seems to foam at the mouth over but if he doesn’t make the NHL in his first try, he’ll get some substantial pro experience with the Bruins top minor-pro team with Providence.

Vaakanainen is another solid defensive prospect that showed his skills this week and continues to work on his game and physical stature. Although not known for his offensive abilities, Urho can play that prototypical “shutdown” style and reads the ice very well to be ready and position himself appropriately when his team gives up the puck, and the opposing players work their way into his defensive zone. As a 19-year-old he still has time to gain more muscle and size, but as of now, he’s rock solid when it comes to clearing another teams players at the top of the crease creating havoc for his goaltender. Decent puck possession abilities and smooth passer and skater for that fast jump out of his defensive zone.

-Goaltenders-

Kyle Keyser

(Photo Credit:  Alan Sullivan Photography)

Signed to a three-year entry-level contract back in October of 2017, the 19-year-old finished his third year with the Oshawa General in 2017-18 and had career highs as the teams starting netminder. Even though his best year in the OHL was rattled with two concussion injuries, the 6′-2″ 182-pound goaltender from Coral Springs, Florida managed to post a 28-13-0 record with a 3.16 Goals-Against-Average and .904 Save Percentage. Keyser, an undrafted netminder, will most likely report back to his OHL Generals team for another year of development in 2018-19 but can be eligible for the AHL Providence team the year after.

Kyle is a very competitive goaltender and showed off his skills throughout this week of camp. He does need to work on some things a bit more to complete his overall game, but there were signs of excellence and quickness that I thought stood out to me. His lateral movements from post to post were outstanding, and his blocker side was strong, but his glove hand can be a cause for concern but enough time at his age to correct.  I like how aggressive he is when challenging opposing shooters and his athleticism to quickly get back into the play for a follow-up shot or rebound. Look for him to have better numbers in the OHL next season if he can remain healthy for the duration.

Jeremy Swayman

(Photo Credit:  Alan Sullivan Photography)

After a surprising 2017-18 freshman year with the University of Maine Black Bears, the 19-year-old Anchorage, Alaska native made an immediate impact with his NCAA Division 1 team when outplayed veteran starter Robert Mcgovern to start the regular season.  After having one-year success in the USHL with the Sioux Falls Stampede to prepare for the collegiate level, the 6′-2″ 187-pound Swayman went on to post a 15-12-3 record a 2.72 GAA and .921 Save%. Jeremy was the recipient of many NCAA and Hockey East Awards but his play in 2017-18 and the amount of rubber he saw early in the year caught the eyes of Team USA’s World Junior Championship coaching staff when he got the invite to Buffalo, New York as a third-string netminder.

Selected in the fourth-round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft from Chicago, Illinois, Swayman made his second-straight development camp appearance and showcased his skills very well. In my opinion, he’s a very well trained reactionary goaltender that has outstanding athleticism who knows when to be aggressive cutting down the angles but also smart enough to read the play coming towards him with appropriate positioning.  Like Keyser above, he tracks the puck well down low and has a quick blocker and glove hand. Jeremy has worked hard with former Black Bear Alumni Bruins Goaltending Development Coach Mike Dunham and internal Maine crease coach Alfie Michaud, and I expect to see him have a better season in 2018-19 during Hockey East play.

Dan Vladar

(Photo Credit:  Alan Sullivan Photography)

Vladar made his third-straight development camp appearance this week after being selected in the third-round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The 6′-5″ 196-pound Czech Republic native was another successful product of the developing ranks in the USHL with the Chicago Steel even though he wasn’t eligible to play in the NCAA. Dan signed a three-year entry-level deal in April of 2016 and has spent a majority of his early professional career with the Bruins “AA” Premier affiliate in the ECHL with the Atlanta Gladiators. In his time with Atlanta, Vladar appeared in 59 games posting a career 22-27-2 record, a 3.42 GAA and .899 Save%. When called up to the higher AHL level with the Providence team, Vladar has played much better with a better structured defensive system to produce a record of 6-2-1, impressive 2.42 GAA and .922 Save%.

This summers development camp event was by far the best I’ve seen from the big, athletic netminder. He continues to work hard with goaltending coaches Bob Essensa and Mike Dunham, and with goaltender-on-loan Jordan Binnington most likely heading back to his St. Louis Blues organization, Vladar is expected to split the 2018-19 season in Providence with veteran AHL goaltender Zane McIntyre who will be in his last year under contract and future uncertain.

With Vladars’ tall stature, he takes up most of the bottom of the net when retrieving pucks in the crease but could use more work on his glove hand. He doesn’t have to be an aggressive goaltender with his height but stays square to the puck and has decent rebound control. One of my favorite things about his playing style is how he deals with opposing players at the top of the crease. Most of the time he can see over them when the puck is at the point but has the smarts to drop down and ultimately take away any second chance opportunities.

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