July 11, 2011

Sweeney 'really impressed' by B's campers

by Jesse Connolly

Don Sweeney talks with Ryan Spooner during Bruins development camp. (Dave Arnold Photography)

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- After five days of practices, scrimmages and off-ice workouts, the Bruins concluded their annual development camp on Monday afternoon at Ristuccia Arena.

Assistant general manager Don Sweeney didn't want to boost or deflate any egos by singling out players he thought might've overachieved or underperformed but, as a whole, the former B's blueliner was thoroughly impressed by everything he saw.

"The kids have really come in, I told them that on the ice today, I thought they really bought into trying to take advantage of all the things we’ve thrown at them: the challenges, the power skating and stuff, the scrimmages, even the tempo," said Sweeney. "And guys making plays that we ask them to try things offensively to get up ice, and 'D', and move the puck. They all really tried things.

"Off the ice, you know the first couple days are a grind. It’s a long day with the physicals and then you know, gong to play paintball and the guys decided to divide up teams. I’ve been really impressed with the group and the camp overall."

Sweeney kept tabs on the lengthy list of returning players, monitoring how well they'd improved since their previous showings, but molding all of the first-time campers was equally as important.

"The new guys coming in, it’s an open canvas," Sweeney said. "It’s their chance to make a first impression and then go to work on some of the things that we’re going to identify and we do it in pockets."

"The goaltenders will meet with Bobby Essensa and then us. And then they’ll also meet with [John] Whitesides individually from a strength and conditioning sides of things, meet with our scouts in an exit meeting and then myself to try and dial in some of the stuff they did well this week. And like I’ve said, go to work on some of the things that we think you can improve upon."

Sweeney has been on point for the prospects development camp every season, making slight tweaks along the way. The assistant GM liked the flow that this year's camp had and believes the off-ice focus put on nutrition and other related matters could make a big impact.

"We’ll do a little recapture in terms of how the players (felt), sometimes we have feedback from them as well," Sweeney said. "We’ll get that in the exit meeting. As well as our staff to meet. So it’s a little early for me to judge that to offer an indefinite opinion. I (liked) the nutrition session that they did off the ice, and being able to go down to the Garden and spend time with our chef. We're really appreciative of their time and efforts there and I thought it was really helpful.

"You know these guys are going to be on their own, and going to make selections at Whole Foods or somewhere else, Stop and Shop, not to be biased. Making good choices and being able to prepare them (is important). I thought that was a nice addition to our camp and an area that we felt we needed to address."

While the likes of Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight have been pegged as the two players with the biggest chance to potentially earn a spot with the team next season, Sweeney believes there's no reason any of Boston's prospects should arrive at the team's main camp in September with the mindset that their hopes of making the club are nonexistent.

"Peter [Chiarelli] has been very consistent that if a young man is ready to play and help his hockey club and help Claude [Julien] in the areas that we want and we’ve identified, then we make room," he said. "So they’ll go through camps, play some exhibition games and see how they continue to react. But there’s no reason why each and every one of those guys shouldn’t be coming here and saying I don’t have to go back to junior."

Thanks to Sweeney's encouragement, expect to see many fresh-faced youngsters brimming with confidence two months from now when things get rolling.