The Boston Bruins are on their way to Beijing, China to participate in a preseason series against the Calgary Flames as part of the O.R.G. China Games.
“Once we get on the ice, I am hoping that it is all business,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Part of the message is that some of the guys going over there are established hockey players and are getting themselves ready for October. There’s another group of guys that want to be here in October, so for them, the focus needs to be more on hockey and less on visiting a foreign country.”
During their almost two-week-long trip to a foreign nation, the Bruin’s players will compete in two contests against the Flames – the first coming at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 15, followed by the final meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, September 19 – and will have ample time to soak in all that the Chinese culture has to offer.
Last season, the Bruins held several youth hockey clinics in Beijing, while also venturing out to some of China’s most famous tourist attractions, including The Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
“It’s my first time going to China so it’s going to be a bit of a culture shock,” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “I’m excited to experience it and we’ll be doing it as a team. If you’re going to travel somewhere foreign and not know what to expect, best case scenario is to go with all of your teammates.”
As part of Boston’s “split squad” preseason approach, half of the potential roster candidates will travel overseas, while the other half will stay in the U.S. and will participate in their own domestic exhibition schedule.
Of those making the 16-hour trek to China, the most notable are McAvoy, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, Tuukka Rask and a trio of young forwards – Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka – who have seemingly been competing for the Bruins’ third-line center position since Development Camp started back in June.
Following the absence of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci on the overseas’ roster and an impressive showing at the Prospects Challenge last weekend in Buffalo, in which Studnicka and Frederic tallied impressive goals, the three youngsters got the nod to join the team’s trip to China; a message that they aren’t taking lightly.
“I am really excited about going to China,” Forsbacka-Karlsson said. “It’s a bit of a message and it’s going to be a fun trip and a great experience for me.”
“Well the good news is that the young centermen are going to get plenty of opportunity to play against good players; that’s also the bad news. We are going to find out if they are ready for it,” Cassidy said about the trio of prospects. “Jack [Studnicka] scored a terrific goal, Frederic showed that he can get to the net and JFK made good plays, although I’d still like to see him be more assertive. Those are the three guys we have looked at in the middle.”
Another thing to keep your eye on is how defensemen Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril mesh with the Bruins’ top caliber players, as they are expected to be in the running for Boston’s defensive rotation following the Adam McQuaid trade.
“I liked Zboril’s game. I thought he was more consistent, more assertive and much improved from last year,” Cassidy said. “Vaakanainen was good but I didn’t have much of a book on him.”