By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
The Bruins draft picks of 2017 have great timing.
They’re the first draft class that gets to avoid being transported back to the ‘80s for development camp and will instead get to enjoy the modern amenities of contemporary NHL life this weekend.
Instead of Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, the Bruins’ draft picks will be part of a group of 29 players descending on Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton for development camp Thursday through Sunday.
Development camp has become an annual rite of summer for nearly a decade, with the Bruins getting a chance to see all their prospects up close. Boston’s front office gets to see who’s been putting their work in and also gets a chance to better know the players off the ice to determine who has the character to fulfill his potential.
Here are five players that will attract everyone’s curiosity during the mid-summer hockey camp:
Urho Vaakanainen, D
The Bruins’ 2017 first-round pick (18th overall) has been described as a reach by some draft pundits. Classifying general manager Don Sweeney’s draft picks as reaches has become as much an annual ritual as the development camps.
But still, everyone is excited to see what forward Zach Senyshyn can do after a fine junior career, and now Vaakanainen gets to start his Bruins career under the same dark cloud. The Finn has plenty of time to prove that the Bruins bet on the correct defenseman at this year’s draft. And while some see a player who will add an offensive dimension to his game as he matures, if he already has a defensive base to work from – playing top four in the Finnish Elite League proves he has the talent – he’s already ahead of the learning curve.
Not only will it be interesting to see Vaakanainen compete against his peers, including players with development camp experience, but also see how he deals with some media scrutiny about getting picked so high.
Trent Frederic, F
Between Senyshyn and Vaakanainen, the “stretch” was Frederic, whom the Bruins selected 29th overall in 2016. It didn’t help that Bruins director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky dubbed Frederic as a future third-liner, but many were up in arms the Bruins didn’t wait until later to pick the University of Wisconsin prospect. All Frederic did was respond to the criticism of the pick with 33 points in 30 games as a freshman for the Badgers last season.
Maybe there’s more to Frederic’s game than some knew and Gretzky was either wrong or trying to motivate the kid. Either way, we’ll see how he fares in his second development camp.
Anders Bjork, F
The days of blending in among the crowd of prospects at development camp are over. The former Notre Dame forward’s profile has expanded every year since he was a fifth-round pick in 2014, but now he’s out of school and is a player the Bruins are counting on to crack their lineup in September.
Bjork is going to have to begin his adjustment to life as an NHL player, be a leader in this camp and also standout physically to avoid anyone souring on him before he even gets to training camp.
Zach Senyshyn, F
The aforementioned “original reach” of the Sweeney era is ready to be a pro and he played four playoff games for Providence in the AHL in the spring. Now it’s time to prove that all those points (65 in each of the past two seasons in the OHL) weren’t a fluke and that Sweeney made the right call at pick 15 in 2015.
Like Bjork, Senyshyn could have a chance to crack the NHL lineup with a strong training camp and he has a chance to build momentum this weekend.
Jesse Gabrielle, F
He’s flown under the radar as a fourth-round pick (105th overall) in the Bruins’ fruitful 2015 draft. But Gabrielle had 88 points in 61 games in the WHL last season.
He’s had a cup of coffee each of the past two seasons and at 6 feet, 200-pounds, he might be ready at 20 to be a dark horse candidate for a bottom-six role in Boston. He might as well start his challenge for a spot at development camp.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.