WILMINGTON — If there’s ever a Bruins’ prospect to ever have a veteran label during the team’s annual Development Camp, then defenseman Tommy Cross fits the label perfectly.
Cross, a member of two NCAA championship teams at Boston College (the latest being this past season) and a second round draft pick of the Bruins in 2007 (35th overall) has laced up the skates for each of Boston’s first six Development Camps.
The first time Cross stepped onto the Ristuccia Arena ice in 2007, he skated alongside the likes of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Adam McQuaid. Five years later, the Simsbury, Connecticut, native is skating with another impressive list of prospects that also includes Dougie Hamilton, Malcolm Subban, Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner, just to name a few.
While the players around him have changed, the five-day event remains eerily similar to the first time that Cross stepped on the ice at the Bruins practice facility.
“Same as usual,” said Cross, a captain at BC during his senior season. “It’s a really good learning experience. You can still take in a lot of these camps no matter how many times you come here.
“The players change every year and the coaches make some changes to the itinerary,” Cross added. “The first year they hammered us physically in the on-ice testing and some of that has been cut off with some off-ice activities that are pretty grueling. It continues to change even though I’ve been here [for every camp] and I still don’t know what to expect.”
Although there have been a few tweaks from the same coaching staff since the first camp, Cross has been accustomed to the scene.
“You know what to expect. They [the coaching staff] change it up every year, obviously, and they keep you on your toes,” Cross said. “But you know the staff very well [over time] and you know some of the other players.
Shortly after leading his team to a 4-1 victory over Ferris State in the Frozen Four title game, Cross signed his entry level deal and joined the Providence Bruins for the final two games of their 2011-12 AHL campaign.
Although he only arrived for a cup of coffee in Providence, Cross used the brief experience to get acquainted to the pro game. And during that time, he noticed a few differences from the college style of play, but still praises the NCAA as a stepping stone to the next level.
“The guys in the AHL are obviously older. It’s a bit more of a controlled style,” Cross said. “I think college hockey is a great place for learning, though, and I prepared myself for the next level and the AHL is kind of like a new system.”
When the five-day event is said and done, Cross will not only have his diploma, but he will also graduate from Development Camp and move on to the next phase of his hockey career at the age of 22.