There were plenty of encouraging takeaways for Don Sweeney and his staff to draw from at the conclusion of Bruins’ Development Camp last week.
Oskar Steen showcased some of the skill that made him a top-10 scorer as a boy amongst men in Sweden, while 2019 first-rounder John Beecher routinely skated laps around fellow B’s prospects.
Even Jack Studnicka, held off the ice due to his heavy workload this spring with the Black Aces, still drew praise for the intangibles in his game, with the 20-year-old pivot harping once again on his desire to fight for a roster spot up with the big club come September.
Development Camp gives these prospects a chance to show their merit under the watchful eye of the Bruins’ top management, with players like Steen and Studnicka, in particular, trying to jumpstart another infusion of young talent on a B’s roster that already boasts eight players aged 25 or under.
They may not need to convince Sweeney all that much. After all, Boston’s GM seemed adamant that another influx of young talent was prescribed for the 2019-20 campaign — or at the very least, it was the expectation.
“You have players that hopefully will take a step this summer and come, ready, locked and loaded,” Sweeney said back on June 17, over a week before the start of Development Camp. “I mean, shame on any young player who doesn’t recognize that this was a taxing year for some of our players, that they don’t come with their ears pinned back to think, 'Boy can I take a step here.'”
Sure, the 2018-19 Bruins might have been anchored by stalwarts such as Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and others, but contributions from the next wave of B’s talent put Boston over the top and put them just one game short of a Stanley Cup title.
Whether it be Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Sean Kuraly — you name it — Boston ran with the added spark that these young players brought to an already talented locker room, while Bruce Cassidy’s willingness to sow internal competition often brought out the best in his players.
Boston’s bench boss doesn’t expect the 2019-20 season to be any different, especially with players like Steen, Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen and others seemingly knocking on the door and ready to usurp some starting roles.
“We want to get some youth into the lineup,” Cassidy said. “How much is a balance — Donny and I talk about and the rest of the group talks about, see where it lays. But usually, at the end of the day I think the best players end up separating themselves, regardless of age, and that’s kind of what we’ve tried to do and it’s kind of worked out well for us, and hopefully that’s the same kind of strategy going forward.”
Whether it be new blood like Steen or Studnicka, or even the expected development from someone like Anders Bjork, it seems like another youth movement will be inevitable come September.
And given the way Boston’s current cap situation is this summer, it might be their only choice.