Iafrate looking to make his own name with Bruins

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WILMINGTON, MA – A casual Bruins fan attending Bruins development camp this week should have no problem recognizing the names on the back of some of the jerseys for the prospects participating in camp. There are plenty of new, unfamiliar names among the 37 individuals on the development camp roster, of course, but there are also a handful of very familiar ones as well.

Ryan Fitzgerald and Ryan Donato are second generation Bruins after their respective fathers, Tom and Ted, skated for the Black and Gold in their distinguished NHL careers. The big, young defenseman on the ice with the name “Iafrate” on the back of his practice sweater is in fact the son of legendary defenseman Al Iafrate. The 21-year-old Max Iafrate has already signed an AHL contract this summer with the Bruins organization for the upcoming season, and holds some of the very same qualities that remind one and all of his famous hockey father.

“It's pretty simple,” said Iafrate when asked to describe himself as a hockey player. “I hit hard, fight and rip some slappers. That's about what you can expect.”

That really paints a hockey picture of a potential Bruins player, doesn’t it?

He’s already done plenty of good things in a pretty solid showing in the first three days of camp, and was a top player with 12 goals and 36 points along with 131 PIMs in 59 games for Kitchener last season. The talent and the toughness are there for Iafrate after watching him for a couple of days competing among his peers, and it sounds like he also has the 100-mph Iafrate sonic boomer once the radar guns come out for his shot.

Now it’s just a matter of putting that all together with the hockey IQ piece, and to make it all go along with paying close attention to his skating game.  

Iafrate had his doors blown off defensively once or twice in the first couple of practices when it appeared he didn’t have the skating speed to recover on plays, but he also showed excellent fight and tenacity going head-to-head with first round pick Jakub Zboril during battle drills on Thursday. With all of that in mind, a stint in Providence learning how to play defenseman at the AHL/NHL level with Bruce Cassidy and Kevin Dean is going to be the best thing possible for Iafrate.

“Any defenseman that goes into Providence is going to learn a lot quickly. Bruce Cassidy and Kevin Dean do an unreal job down there,” said Bruins development coach Jay Pandolfo. “I played a long time [in the NHL], and I can tell you that I learned a ton going down [to Providence] last year and watching those guys work…especially with the defensemen.

“You can tell [Iafrate] is big and strong, and he’s got a good shot. It’s just going to take time. He’s going to need some time in the minors to see how he goes, but you can see the potential: he’s big and strong, and that’s a good thing to have as a D-man.”

Iafrate has the unmistakable big, booming shot and is a big, physical player at 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds just like his old man, but the undrafted Kitchener Rangers defenseman is also quick to point out just how different he is from a father that was already in the NHL at this point in his career.

“I want to make my own name for myself,” said Iafrate. “I’m obviously different than my dad. I’m a 21-year-old on an AHL contract and he made the NHL when he was 18. So we are totally different players. My dad was a great player and it’s a great story for you guys [in the media]. I have a hard shot like him and I can skate pretty well, so hopefully I’ll get noticed for those things on my own.”

It stands to reason that Iafrate has heard the comparisons one too many times to a father that was unique both in hockey abilities, and in his outsized personality. The stories of Iafrate smoking cigarettes in the B’s dressing room between periods of NHL games have reached tall tale status by this point, and the son would be hard-pressed to live up to some of the expectations set forth by a dad that played for the Maple Leafs, Capitals, Bruins and Sharks.

But that’s probably okay for the younger Iafrate, who was born during the 1993-94 season that his dad played for the Bruins. Max’s only memories of his father as an NHL player were as a four year old in San Jose chasing around the mascot while his old man played for the Sharks, so now it’s up to the younger Iafrate to start making his own NHL memories.

That will commence in a couple of months when Iafrate suits up for Providence, and starts the long road toward battling his way to the NHL with an inner motivation to make a name for himself just like his dad did 20 plus years ago. 

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