WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Nary a speck of real estate along the concrete bleachers at Ristuccia Arena was left vacant for the fourth day of Bruins Development camp, as the team engaged in the first of two intrasquad scrimmages.
At one point, the front doors were locked as spectators were turned away, the rink already over capacity with nearly 1,000 gathered in attendance. Many in the crowd stood and applauded at the conclusion, as players engaged in a post-game stretch, but there was certainly a balance of positive and negative to be weighed with this one.
Early on, goaltenders Michael Hutchinson, Zane Gothberg and Lars Volden were getting ahead of the forwards, with Anthony Camara the only scorer; but come the second half of the scrimmage, the offense got going at both ends for some nifty plays.
The line of Justin Florek, Ryan Spooner and Brian Ferlin generated a handful of scoring chances throughout the second period, including a Florek snapper from the left circle that beat Gothberg to his far side and a one-timer from Florek to Ferlin -- creating on two goals to give the Black team a 3-1 win over the White.
“I felt great today,” Florek said. “Pucks were just bouncing our way. It was great playing out there today with Ferlin and Spooner, two great players, setting each other up. Things were just going our way today.”
Their opportunities also exposed some of the areas of improvement needed for touted first-round draft pick Dougie Hamilton. The lanky defenseman, the ninth overall pick in last month’s draft, demonstrated his shooting ability from far out, and his stick handling when given the opportunity to join the rush. But early in the second half, after fumbling away a kick-out pass at the point, he was left in the dust by Ferlin, who broke away only to get robbed by Gothberg’s glove.
“You know, like I talked about yesterday, Dougie’s looking to get up ice,” Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney said following the scrimmage. “He’s comfortable on the power play, he’s looking to be physical. You know he’s going to be a well-rounded player with a two-way component.
“Where that fits in on the high side, one or the other, we won’t worry about that today, that’s for sure. We just continue to work with him and get him to understand and process the game, you know, as speeds go up.”
In between the halves, the team practiced breakaways, with Spooner and Zach Trotman beating Gothberg under the armpits at one end, and Brett Olson and Marc Cantin both going five-hole at the other end.
But the niftiest move might have come from promising young Russian Alexander Khkloachev. The 17-year-old second-round pick tapped the ice with a flurry of small forehand-to-backhand dekes, and slipped the puck under the goalie’s right pad, drawing some pop from the crowd.
Overall, Sweeney said he was pleased with the potential on display, while noting some needed improvements.
“I thought the Ferlin line created an awful lot, did a real good job on the cycle, and obviously Florek had the one opportunity and buried it,” Sweeney said. “I thought all of our D moved the puck pretty well today, to tell you the truth, got involved in the offensive flow, which we’re going to continue to encourage. Obviously, Camara scored a goal, so you like to see that from a guy who plays with a lot of bite, that he can play on both sides of it.”
Follow the leader
Hamilton and camp veteran Tommy Cross of Boston College have been paired as roommates in camp this week, and were put together on one of the defensive pairings in Sunday's scrimmage. Between the long and lanky Hamilton and the sturdy 6-foot-3, 210-pound Cross, it was one of the bigger pairings on the ice.
Both have shown flashes of exceptional offensive skill with the puck. But more importantly, off the ice Sweeney feels that Cross, the Bruins’ 2007 second-round pick in his fourth development camp, has been “kind of a calming influence for Dougie.”
“He’s been patient about staying in school, and he’s a captain, which obviously speaks volumes,” Sweeney said of the Simsbury, Conn., native, who will enter his senior season with the Eagles this fall. “Boston College runs a hell of a program, so that’s a credit to Tommy in a leadership capacity.
Cross called Hamilton “a fun guy” and “real mature for his age,” and acknowledged the tutelage of former Eagles teammates like Ben Smith and Matt Lombardi in helping him become a leader.
“If guys follow you, they follow you, and if they don’t, they follow someone else,” Cross said. “It’s just kinda natural. I’ve been around a lot of good leaders, guys at Boston College, guys you can learn from and emulate. You see how guys follow them, and you want to give a good example so that guys follow you.”
Ferlin has room for growth
Ferlin made history last month when he became the first prospect from Florida’s First Coast region to get picked in the NHL Draft, going in the fourth round (121st overall) to the Bruins after his first season with the Indiana Ice of the USHL.
His father is a native Chicagoan, and hence a lifelong Blackhawks fan, but Ferlin grew up following the Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis-led Tampa Bay Lightning teams of the early 2000s. And unlike some other top prospects in non-traditional markets across the Sun Belt and Southern California, Ferlin has rarely taken to rollerblades, preferring the indoor rinks.
“It’s a lot of travel, but there are rinks, you’d be surprised,” he laughed. “It’s difficult to play, obviously, but you can do it. It’s getting a lot bigger [in Florida] than people think around the country.”
With his sturdy 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, the Jacksonville, Fla., resident has shown some flashes of promise so far with his skating ability and heavy shot. He was also on the tipping end at the far post of Florek’s one-timer in the scrimmage.
In yesterday’s conference with the media, Sweeney took note of the amount of room for growth with Ferlin.
“He’s got tremendous upside athletically,” Sweeney said. “I think he’ll continue to get more and more comfortable on the ice as he plays more and more hockey.
“He’s got good speed, he’s got good size, he’s got good skills, he’ll understand now in terms of how to utilize those even better as he plays with better players and moves forward. We’re excited. I think he’s a nice project and a nice piece to have to continue to go to work with and then see where he takes it.”