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Don Sweeney: Bruins still talking to free agent defensemen

07.17.15 at 1:25 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

WILMINGTON — Speaking at the conclusion of the team’s development camp, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said he is still active in trying to improve the team’s NHL roster.

Sweeney said he remains in talks with both free agents and other general managers. Boston’s biggest need is on defense after losing Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski off a blue line that was already in need of upgrades.

“You’€™re always going to want to have the best group you possibly can,” Sweeney said. “There’€™s probably an element of unknown because we have some guys that are going to push and we have waiver decisions, different things that can impact the decision overall. There are a couple free agents that we’€™re still having conversations with that we feel might improve our club. If the financial component works, we’€™re not going to stop having those conversations because it might be the right thing to do.”

Including overages and the money retained in the Milan Lucic trade, the Bruins currently have approximately $67,235,667  devoted to 12 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders for next season, leaving them with approximately $4.16 million in cap space.

Among the remaining free agent defenseman are big righty Cody Franson and 33-year-old Christian Ehrhoff.  The Stars signed former Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya to a two-year deal, but a source told WEEI.com early in free agency that the Bruins were not seriously interested in the player.

Read More: Christian Ehrhoff, Cody Franson,

Bruins hope increased competition will do Ryan Donato well

07.16.15 at 3:02 pm ET
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2014 second-round pick Ryan Donato will attend Harvard in the fall. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

2014 second-round pick Ryan Donato will attend Harvard in the fall. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

WILMINGTON — By staying at Dexter Academy, Ryan Donato may have chosen the wrong level of competition last season. He won’€™t have to worry about that going forward.

The Bruins’ first pick from the 2014 is already an NHL player (David Pastrnak). Their third pick is a quickly rising prospect who tore up the NCAA as a freshman (Danton Heinen). Smack-dab between those picks was Ryan Donato, whom the B’€™s selected with the 26th pick of the second round.

While it was known he would play under father Ted Donato at Harvard this season, he had yet to choose between returning to Dexter for his senior year or playing against older and better competition in the USHL last season. Citing academics, Donato chose Dexter after playing fall hockey with the South Shore Kings of the USPHL.

Coming off a junior year in which he put up 78 points (37 goals, 41 assists) in 38 games, Donato faced the challenge of still trying to develop while playing in a league he’€™d seemingly already mastered.

“One thing my dad made clear to me was that every player hits that moment where they think that they’€™re playing their greatest, and then they have a downfall,” Donato said Thursday. “What he said was [to] always be competitive and always try to get better no matter where you’€™re at.”

That proved to be tougher than expected for Donato, whose points dropped off as a senior. Feeling that he was something of a marked man against other teams, Donato dropped off his draft year pace with 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in 31 games for Dexter.

When the season ended, Donato went to the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, and against better competition looked more like the player Boston had envisioned. Donato posted five goals and five assists for 10 points in eight games with the Lancers, adding goal in the playoffs.

“At Dexter, I was I was being double-covered a lot, kind of getting that feeling of being in tight spaces,” Donato explained. “When I got to [the USHL], I felt like I had a lot more time and space, but that pace was also a lot faster and I felt like that was more of the pro style that the scouts were looking for.”

Going to college will ramp up Donato’€™s competition significantly, and he likely won’€™t have the burden of the other team focusing entirely on him. The Bruins like what they’€™ve seen from Donato so far at camp and look forward to seeing how he fares at college.

“In all the battle drills and all that stuff, he’€™s competing really hard,” Jay Pandolfo said. “You can see the skill level when he’€™s around the net, so I think he’€™s progressing really well.

“We’€™re really looking forward to seeing him play next year at Harvard. He’€™s the kind of guy that I think when he plays with better players, he’€™s going to make them better and it’€™s going to be better for him.”

Donato is in no rush to turn pro, and he also hopes to get a Harvard degree in the process. He has yet to declare a major, but he said he’€™d like to finish his degree at some point if he chooses to leave school early. That’€™s a bridge he won’€™t have to cross for a while, however, and his focus for now is on Harvard.

“I’€™m definitely going to prioritize academics, but my long-time goal is to be an NHL player. Whenever they think I’€™m ready, or whenever my family thinks I’€™m ready, I’€™m going to go,” Donato said. “I also want to pursue my academics and I’€™m not going to take that lightly at all.”

Read More: Ryan Donato, Ted Donato,

Notes from Day 3 of Bruins development camp

07.16.15 at 2:47 pm ET
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Sean Kuraly was traded to the Bruins last month. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Sean Kuraly was traded to the Bruins last month. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

WILMINGTON — The Bruins have one more day of development camp after holding a pair of sessions Thursday at Ristuccia Arena.

Here are some notes from the third day of the annual prospect camp:

– Rather than splitting the players up into two mixed groups, Thursday’€™s first session featured only forwards, with goaltenders joining them early on. After the forwards skated for over an hour and a half, a defense-only session was held.

– The physicality was ramped up a bit Thursday, with one drill focusing on grabbing rebounds while players pushed the net-front man with blocking shields commonly found in football practices.

– Jakub Zboril, who signed his entry level contract on Wednesday, confirmed that the deal doesn’€™t change anything about his path to the NHL. Zboril will return to the QMJHL this season, as the NHL/CHL transfer agreement does not allow players to go pro unless they play in the NHL.

– Sean Kuraly, the forward acquired from the Sharks in the Martin Jones trade, is excited for both his immediate and longterm future. Before he signs with Boston, he’€™ll play his senior year at Miami University under head coach/apparent Bruin developer Enrico Blasi.

Kuraly, who will be Miami’€™s captain for the coming season, was effusive in his praise for Blasi, who has coached past and present Bruins products such as Carter Camper, Reilly Smith and Austin Czarnik.

“Coach Blasi is just the kind of guy that, the biggest thing about him is that cares about his players,” Kuraly said. “It goes beyond hockey. He’€™s a guy that knows you as a person and it helps in a hockey sense. I don’€™t think he ever stops thinking about the team. … His presence has been just huge in my development, and that’€™s a reason I’€™m going back to be there for another year.”

– Jay Pandolfo had high remarks for Danton Heinen for the second straight day, saying the 2014 fourth-round pick “œmakes it look easy.”€ Heinen will return to the University of Denver after finishing 15th in NCAA scoring as a freshman.

– Also receiving praise from Pandolfo was 2015 second-rounder Brandon Carlo. The 6-foot-5 defenseman was ranked higher than 15th overall pick Zachary Senyshyn by some and was perceived to be a good value pick when Boston took him 37th overall last month

“His size and the way he skates, that’€™s such an advantage for a D man when they’€™re that big and they can skate like that,” Pandolfo said. “He’€™ll make it tough on forwards just because he’€™ll be able to close on them so easily. He’€™s pretty effortless out there.”

– The Bruins will wrap up the camp Friday with a 10:15 a.m. scrimmage. Pandolfo said Tuesday that his preference was to have a 4-on-4 game rather than 5-on-5.

Read More: Enrico Blasi, Sean Kuraly,

Danton Heinen appears to be a mid-round get for Bruins

07.15.15 at 9:21 pm ET
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There’€™s something the Bruins see in players that the Western Hockey League doesn’€™t.

Like Milan Lucic once upon a time, British Columbia native Danton Heinen was passed over by the Western Hockey League coming out of Bantam. Heinen, attending his first Bruins development camp this week, says it was because of his lack of size.

“I was a little bit of a late bloomer,” Heinen explained Wednesday.

Indeed he was, in more ways than one.

While Lucic ended up finding a home in the WHL, Heinen’€™s lack of attention from the league turned his attention to college. After he committed to the University of Denver, the Bruins took him in the fourth round of last summer’€™s NHL draft. Heinen expected to be picked later if at all, yet just as he grew in stature after the WHL draft, his profile has grown since his NHL selection thanks to a monster rookie year at DU.

Playing on Denver’€™s first line, the left-shot wing (he played on the right side due to a surplus of lefties) established himself one of the top players in college hockey. His 45 points tied him with fellow B’€™s prospect Austin Czarnik for 15th in the country, while the only freshmen with more points than him (Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin) were taken in the first round of their respective drafts.

Now, as he goes from unheralded incoming freshman to a solid NHL prospect, Heinen’€™s stay in college could be shorter than expected. He’€™ll need at least another year of college before going pro, however, as he still needs to add to his 6-foot-0, 161-pound frame.

“You can tell he’€™s talented,” Bruins development coach Jay Pandolfo said Wednesday. “He’€™s got a lot of poise with the puck. He’€™s got a great release, great shot. He’€™s going to be a really good player.

“He still needs to get a little stronger. That will help him with protecting pucks, but he looks really good. I thought he stood out today.”

While the build still isn’€™t quite there, Zane McIntyre says the skill is. The Mike Richter Award winner and a Hobey Baker finalist said he was impressed in each of the five teams his team faced Heinen’€™s Denver squad.

“He’€™s really skilled,” McIntyre said. “I think the biggest thing is probably him being poised with the puck. He’€™s really strong with his and his body position at keeping the puck and making a play. He’€™s able to do that with his abilities of keeping the puck on his stick and how strong he is.”

Heinen said he’€™s comfortable playing either wing, but the idea of having a top left wing prospect in the coming years along with 2015 first-rounder Jake DeBrusk gives the Bruins hope at a position they’€™ve failed to develop in recent years. Brad Marchand is the last big-name left wing they’€™ve developed, but Heinen’€™s selection provides hope for the future.

Read More: Danton Heinen, Zane McIntyre,

Don Sweeney didn’t say the thing that everyone thinks Don Sweeney said

07.15.15 at 7:43 pm ET
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Don Sweeney deserves a lot of the criticism he’s received this offseason. He traded Dougie Hamilton for a relatively minuscule package, overpaid for Adam McQuaid and, for some reason, traded a third-round pick for Zac Rinaldo. There’s plenty to criticize without adding in quotes he didn’t say.

On Tuesday morning, a couple of tweets referring to a quote from Sweeney made the rounds. The tweets suggested the Bruins felt they adequately replaced Milan Lucic, Hamilton and Reilly Smith with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes. Believing it to be true, folks rightfully pointed out how silly that logic was.

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Being busy with development camp, the whole thing was overlooked on this end. After finally listening to the appearance (which came on WAAF), Sweeney did not say that. Essentially, he said the Bruins lost guys who scored and they need the ones who came in to score. Here’s his answer to Lyndon Byers’ question about replacing Hamilton:

“Well, LB, we did a goal exercise prior to going into the draft and free agency, and clearly between Milan, Reilly and Dougie, it was about 41 goals in the course of [last] year. Now, Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes had, you know, good offensive years and accounted for 41 goals between them, so we certainly had to be cognizant of goals going out and goals coming in. Clearly, those guys are going to have to come in and score.”

Much like Sweeney shouldn’t be let off the hook when he screws up, he shouldn’t be criticized for things he didn’t say.

Read More: Don Sweeney,

Bruins sign Jakub Zboril to entry level contract

07.15.15 at 5:30 pm ET
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Jakub Zboril was taken 13th overall by the Bruins last month. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jakub Zboril was taken 13th overall by the Bruins last month. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Bruins announced Wednesday that they have signed defenseman Jakub Zboril, the first of their three first-round picks in last month’€™s draft, to his entry level contract.

Zboril, a 6-foot-1, 184-pound blueliner is among the prospects at this week’€™s development camp. A well-rounded defenseman, Zboril had 13 goals and 20 assists for 33 points in 44 games for the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs.

The signing of Zboril likely will not impact his track to the NHL. Because he plays in the Canadian Hockey League as a member of a QMJHL team, Zboril has to be returned to his junior club if he doesn’€™t stay in the NHL, per the NHL/CHL transfer agreement. Zboril can play nine NHL games before the first year of his contract would be burned, though he isn’t expected to push for NHL time this season.

Zboril’€™s circumstances will be different than that of 2014 first-rounder David Pastrnak, who was playing in Europe when he came to the Bruins and therefore was allowed to spend much of last season in the AHL as a member of the Providence Bruins. Pastrnak was the youngest player in both the AHL and NHL last season.

For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Jakub Zboril,

Notes from Day 2 of Bruins development camp: Joonas Kemppainen speaks

07.15.15 at 3:17 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins prospects took the ice for the second day of development camp Wednesday at Ristuccia Arena, with the injured Joonas Kemppainen (hamstring) still not participating.

Here are some notes from the second day of the four-day camp:

– Joonas Kemppainen said he suffered his hamstring injury while training last Monday. The 27-year-old Swedish import does not speak English well, but he articulated his frustration with being kept off the ice well enough.

Said Kemmpainen: “It sucks to do some rehab work, but I hope to [have] a quick recovery.”

It’€™s still possible that Kemppainen could get on the ice Thursday or Friday.

– Providence College coach Nate Leaman was among the instructors on the ice Wednesday. The coach of the national champions is familiar with at least two players in camp in forwards Noel Acciari and Brandon Tanev, both of whom played for him last season. Acciari signed with the Bruins as a free agent, while Tanev is in camp on an invite basis.

– Fifteenth overall pick Zach Senyshyn showed off his skill set a bit more Wednesday, beating defenseman Jeremy Lauzon in a 1-on-1 drill and sliding the puck past third-round pick Daniel Vladar from a tough angle.

– Defenseman Max Iafrate is an interesting kid. While he too has a very hard shot, he doesn’€™t have much in common with his father, Al Iafrate, regarding their paths to the NHL.

Al, a longtime NHL defenseman who played for the Bruins when Max was born back in 1994, was the fourth overall pick in the 1994 draft. Max, meanwhile, went undrafted and had been in three different development camps (Washington, San Jose and Colorado) prior to signing his first professional contract this summer with the Bruins.

“€œI’€™m a 21-year-old on an AHL contract,”€ he said. “€œThere’€™s tons of different ways to get there, but [Al] got there pretty easy. He was in the NHL when he was 18. He didn’€™t really face anything that I’€™ve had to face.”

The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder will play in Providence next season, where the Bruins hope he will follow Kevan Miller as an unheralded player who developed into an NHL contributor.

“I think any defenseman that goes into Providence is going to learn a lot quickly,”€ Jay Pandolfo said. “€œBruce Cassidy and Kevin Dean do an unreal job down there. I played a long time, and going down there this year, I learned a ton from those guys.”€

– P.J. Axelsson, a Bruins scout who is serving as an instructor this week, is enjoying his new profession. Axelsson, who played his entire NHL career with the Bruins before playing four seasons back home in Sweden, admits he’€™s still getting used to being a scout.

“€œSo far, I love it,” Axelsson said. “I’€™m still learning, obviously; I’€™ve only been doing it for two years, but it’€™s fun.”

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