Local hockey scene well-represented at B's Development Camp

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WILMINGTON, MA – It seems like every Bruins Development Camp is something of a celebration of local hockey talent, and this year’s ninth annual camp at Ristuccia Arena is no different.

There are the draft picks, of course.

Ryan Fitzgerald and Ryan Donato are both sons of former Bruins forwards, and both are young prospects continuing to make strides outside the Bruins organization that owns their respective professional rights. The 21-year-old Fitzgerald finished with 17 goals and 25 points in 38 games for the Boston College Eagles last season, and the 19-year-old Donato played for four different teams while getting prepared to start his college hockey career at Harvard University next season.

Donato, in particular, has been a noticeable player in this year’s development camp, and has made major strides with his strength and conditioning while getting ready for a big step up in competition next season.

“I think [Donato] is excited to play in college this coming year,” said B’s development coach Jay Pandolfo. “He still kind of played a bit of a high school schedule last year, and moving on to a college schedule this year is really going to help him as a player. Like [Frank] Vatrano, he was a guy that didn’t know what to expect last year, and has gotten into much better shape this year. He’s ready to make that next step to college next year, and then we’ll see where he goes from there.”

The same can be said for UMass forward and East Longmeadow, Mass native Frank Vatrano, who dropped some weight after signing a pro contract with the Bruins that started with this week’s Development Camp. The 21-year-old Vatrano showed a dogged tenacity in hunting the puck during offensive zone drills, and looks like a player in the first couple of days of practice that’s going to be difficult to play against given his strength and skill.

“He’s done a great job. Right when [Vatrano] got into Providence we talked to him about some things that he needs to get better at, and things he’s got to do if he wants to play at the next level,” said Pandolfo. “He’s taken that and done an unreal job with it. He’ll be in even better shape when September comes around, so he wants to be a good pro and he’s working at it. You can tell that he’s moving around a lot better on the ice, and he’s always had that really good shot.”

Another New England product that made a big impression on the first day of Development Camp was Noel Acciari, the former Providence College captain and emotional spark plug that signed a free agent contract with the Bruins a couple of months ago. The 23-year-old Acciari brings a reputation for hard-nosed intense play, and also showed off an impressive shot and release during the first day of drills.

Just like the rest of his fellow New England prospects, Acciari is living out a dream suiting up in the Black and Gold with a shot at the NHL now within his grasp. He is the only one among the group, though, that routinely skated between periods of Providence Bruins games as a youth hockey player, and will now get to play at the Dunkin Donuts Center arena where he spent countless hours as a hockey-loving kid.

“It’s been a blast. You’re just trying to keep getting better. You’re out there with some very good players, so I just need to keep playing the way I play and have some fun with it,” said Acciari, a Johnston, Rhode Island native. “I weighed my options [as a free agent], but playing in Boston has always been a dream of mine. It was a tough decision to leave school, but I already had my degree and this was a great opportunity for my career.”

The local group of players at B’s Development Camp is rounded out by free agent invitees from inside state lines. Massachusetts natives Mike Vecchione (Saugus), Brien Diffley (Burlington) and Mark Hamilton (Winthrop) have all had their moments in the first two days of camp with the Bruins, and are getting a once in a lifetime chance to feel like Bruins even if this is as close as they get in their hockey careers. 

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