Sweeney returning to his roots at Bruins' Development Camp


WILMINGTON -- After riding through the turbulent highs and lows of his first few months as Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney gets to return to the familiar this week.

Sweeney's been the subject of much conversation, both positive and negative, after some of the bold offseason moves he's pulled since becoming GM. Now, though, it's back to one of the first ideas he had upon joining the Boston front office.

He's the one who, nine years ago, conceived the idea for the B’s development camp, designed to help ease the transition of some of the club's brightest prospects into the NHL. The earliest camps welcomed fresh-faced rookies such as David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic, and later waves included the likes of Tyler Seguin, Tuukka Rask and Dougie Hamilton. Last summer, 18-year-old David Pastrnak first showed off the skills he'd later display with the Bruins.

Sweeney has always thoroughly enjoyed watching the young kids finally get on the ice wearing Black and Gold. His involvement with the camp may change now that he's GM, but his interest hasn't lessened.

While he'd love to have history repeat itself, Sweeney isn’t expecting another young prospect to pop like Pastrnak. With the Bruins already locked in with 12 forwards and 7 defensemen on their NHL roster, and a bevy of young up-and-coming players directly behind them, he and the B’s scouting staff will spend the week judging a group they hope will become NHL-caliber players over the next handful of years.

All told, 37 amateurs have been invited to camp, an exceptionally large group. But the vast majority of eyes will be on the trio of Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn, whom the Bruins selected with the 13th, 14th and 15th overall picks in the first round.

The skilled, physically intense Zboril and the offensively productive DeBrusk should simply show off the raw talent that made them first-rounders, but there will be extra attention paid to Senyshyn, who many figured would be a second-round pick. The word around the draft was that the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to take Senyshyn in the first round, which may have prompted the B's to select him. But there were more heralded prospects, like Mathew Barzal and Kyle Connor, on the board at the time.

Senyshyn is the ultimate swing-for-the-fences pick, in which the Bruins will look smarter than everyone if he turns into something special or look like they panicked if he doesn't. Sweeney is ready for the criticism either way.

“I knew [there would be heat]," he said on July 1. "I had my eyes wide open when I took the job. I talked to ownership about the direction I thought we needed to set course in, and it’s a twisty way to get there."

However, he's also looking forward to development camp and what it represents.

"I think it’s exciting for us now to turn the page forward with looking at all the sort of landscape in front, and the excitement of our younger players," he said. “I think we’ve improved our overall group and our team in taking it in a direction that I think everybody’s excited about. Hopefully it falls in place. You never know. The games are not going to be played until October, and a lot can happen between now and then. But for me it’s about looking forward, not behind.”

There will be other interesting stories, of course. The Bruins have invited Brandon Tanev, the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev, to development camp, and Al Iafrate’s son, Max, will be here this week, too, after the Kitchener Rangers D-man signed with the Providence Bruins. Also in camp is ex-North Dakota star Zane McIntyre, who has an outside chance at competing for the B's backup goaltender job this fall.  

But this week will be much more about the 10 players drafted a month ago in what’s been touted as the deepest NHL Draft class in a decade, and how those players will begin to shape the new Sweeney Era.

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