WILMINGTON, Mass. -- From Long Island to Milton and now the Boston Bruins, it's been a dizzying year for Milton Academy defenseman Rob O'Gara. In his first year with the Mustangs, O'Gara had nine points in 30 games as they took home a NEPSAC championship.
After getting selected in the fourth round (151st overall) by the Bruins last month, O'Gara is in the team's development camp this week at Ristuccia Arena. Following the first training session yesterday, Bruins assistant general manager Don Sweeney called him "a piece of clay right now, albeit it’s a big piece." And at 6-foot-4 and 197 pounds, having just turned 18 two days ago, and getting set for his final year of eligibility with the Mustangs before heading off to Yale in the fall of 2012, there's seemingly nowhere to go but up for the wide-eyed prospect.
O'Gara sat down with ESPNBoston.com following day two of camp to talk about his development, being part of the Stanley Cup champs' organization, and life back home on Long Island.
Q: You're from Nesconset, New York. How did you end up at Milton?
A: "Last summer, probably this time last summer, my coach [Paul] Cannata called me and asked if I was interested in the school. We weren't really sure, you know, financially, stuff like that. We looked into it, I applied, and it's just been a whirlwind since. It's been great."
Q: Tell us about your development over the last year at school.
A: "I think starting, I remember my numbers in the fall when we do training with our school. My numbers were crap to be honest. Just to see them go up, just the hard work, and then all that happened at school with the team and everything, it's just been incredible. I've learned so much as a player. Being able to go and skate against these guys now, it's a big stepping stone."
Q: More specifically, what kind of training were you doing that last fall?
A: "A lot of mobility. My hips were really tight coming in, and just stretching, cleans, all the power stuff, we really focused on that. That's where we tested."
Q: How would you say you progressed during the season as a player?
A: "I think being able to adapt to the role I had on the team, I'd say we had four very offensive defensemen besides me, and I think I was able to fit the role being more of a defensive style of player. I think I really progressed that side of my game a lot. I tried to get better each and every game."
Q: Getting ready for the game, some guys like to relax, others get focused. Take us through your pregame routine.
A: "I like to get to the rink at least two hours before the game. I put on my iPod, and for the first hour we'll kick around the soccer ball and stuff. We usually have a team meeting an hour before the game, then after that I just stretch, I focus, I kind of keep to myself, really think about what I have to do for the team to win."
Q: What kind of music is on that iPod?
A: "I'm all over the place, to be honest. I like the classic rock, from my dad, but I'm into the hip-hop, rap stuff too. I like Drake, to be honest, I don't know why...Actually, I'll tell you, my roommate at school is a huge Drake guy. So whenever I'd come into the room he'd be listening to that. So, I guess I got accustomed to that and started to like it."
Q: What kind of goals have you set for yourself for the rest of the summer and the fall?
A: "This summer I'm going to be skating with Aleksey [Nikiforov], he's a skating coach on Long Island [in Hauppauge]. He's got a couple professionals with him. Just keep progressing, skating with high competition, getting to the gym as much as I can, get bigger. I want to be at least 205 by the time I get back to school, and hopefully by next September I'll be 220, I'll fill out but keep my mobility and stuff like that."
Q: You're an Islanders fan. But what's it like being in this locker room?
A: "Actually, being near Boston, there's a ton of Bruins fans at school. So through the playoff run, it was hard not to root for the Bruins, it was the buzz around campus. It was an amazing run they had, just great to watch and really get behind. And then to get picked by them is such an honor, so incredible."
Q: There's not exactly star power here, but when you first got on the ice yesterday, did you find yourself star struck at all?
A: "Sure, I mean just stepping out and taking a few laps, and telling yourself, 'I'm here'. But I've just got to focus, and I think I did a pretty good job of that yesterday."
Q: Have you had a chance to speak with Vice President Cam Neely yet?
A: "No, not yet, but that would be incredible (laughs)."
Q: Big Neely fan growing up?
A: "Oh yeah. My dad showed me all the videos he had, just watching Neely and all that old-time hockey. It was great stuff."
Q: Back on Long Island, what's the best beach?
A: "Back on Long Island, I go to Robert Moses. There's a Par-3 there, and I love golfing. Just going with friends, it's a good time."
Q: What's the best place to eat in Suffolk County?
A: "I'm a big bagel guy. The best bagel store on Long Island is this place 'Hot Bagels' in Hauppauge, by my grandpa's house. It's about 20 minutes from my house. My dad refuses to go anywhere else, so he drives 20 minutes Saturday mornings to go grab some bagels."