With training camp starting next week, the Boston Bruins kicked off their annual rookie camp Thursday afternoon at Warrior Ice Arena before traveling to Buffalo for the Prospects Challenge.
Among the notables and NHL roster hopefuls in attendance were former Harvard University standout Ryan Donato, Trent Frederic, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen and Boston’s 2018 second-round draft pick Axel Andersson.
Boston is set to play three games over the course of the weekend – opening against Pittsburgh at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Buffalo at 7 p.m. on Saturday night and concluding with a game against New Jersey at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.
“It was great to get going today. The last couple of days have been anxious so it’s great to get going,” said Bruins prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. “I was there [Buffalo] last year and it was a good experience. It’s always nice to get a couple of games under your belt before the camp starts.”
This trip marks the fourth consecutive season that the Bruins have participated in rookie showcase contests at the Harbor Center and with it brings several questions to be answered from Boston’s group of young talent.
At one end of the spectrum, Donato is almost a certain lock to make the Bruins’ roster this season, however, this weekend will be a good test to gauge his development and progression at the professional level.
Following a stellar senior campaign last year at Harvard –a season in which he tallied 43 points and was a Hobey Baker finalist – Donato joined Boston late in the season and burst onto the scene, tallying nine points (five goals, four assists) in just 12 games.
Despite his instant production and ‘wow factor’, the 6-foot-1, 190 lb. center played in only three of Boston’s postseason contests due to questions about his durability in comparison to more veteran players. If he shows that he has improved his strength on the puck this weekend in Buffalo, expect Donato to be extremely productive and a much needed youthful spark to the Bruins’ offense this season.
Other potential NHL roster candidates that have something to prove this weekend are a trio of forwards in Studnicka, Frederic, and Forsbacka Karlsson; all of whom play a similar brand of hockey and will be heading to China next week with the Bruins for preseason games.
“I’m sure it is by design and our organization has looked at the depth and where people are at and obviously see potential in all three,” Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach said.
“They all have different assets: JFK has high-end skills and can make high-end plays. You can put him with some really skilled players and he’ll be able to make plays. Frederic is more old school and can make plays down low. From what little I have seen of Jack, I would say that he is probably a cross between the two of them. Now if we could just morph them all into one.”
All three are expected to compete this preseason for one of the final spots on the Bruins’ roster, making every opportunity that much more important.
“I feel like it’s always going to be a competition,” said Forsbacka Karlsson. “It’s going to be a fun trip and will be a great opportunity to show my game.”
Out of these aforementioned prospects, Studnicka is the odds-on favorite to secure a top-four line spot on the Bruins’ roster and is someone to certainly keep your eye on this preseason.
At 6-foot-1, 170 lbs., the Tecumseh, Ontario native has been impressive and has stood out this summer at both Development Camp and the first day of Rookie Camp. He is a smooth skater with a high hockey IQ and always seems to have a knack for finding the open man – something that is backed up by his 50 assists in 66 games last year as the captain of the Oshawa Generals.
Depending on how these prospects fair at the Harbor Center in Western New York this week, you might be seeing some new faces wearing the Black and Gold this fall.