By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Fame typically comes with privileges, but in the case of Bruins prospect Sean Kuraly, nothing is guaranteed.
Kuraly rose to stardom last spring when he scored two goals, including one in overtime, to help the Bruins stave off elimination in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference first round against Ottawa. He admitted that he’s been recognized a couple of times around Boston since his heroics.
“They kind of catch you off guard the first few times,” Kuraly said.
However, this weekend the second-year pro is roughing it with a roster of Boston’s other top prospects at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo.
“I think you just kind of take it one step at a time, kind of do what you’re told,” Kuraly said before departing Warrior Ice Arena for the trip to Western New York. “I’m looking forward to it, we’ve got a good group of guys here, a lot of people I’m familiar with as hockey players and people. I think it should be a good little introduction to what camp will be like.”
Perhaps if the Bruins had won that series, Kuraly would’ve had more chances to shine and stake a greater claim to a spot on the NHL roster without having to be part of these extra competitions. More likely, even if the Bruins hadn’t been eliminated in Game 6, Boston would’ve still wanted to see more out of Kuraly.
Other players with NHL experience, including playoff stalwart Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen, are also part of a talent-laden roster. This is a chance for these players to get a head start on training camp, show leadership skills around less-experienced players and maybe even produce more against their peers than they’re expected to do against NHL-level talent.
But the 6-foot-2, 212-pound Kuraly’s not planning on suddenly becoming dangling menace with the puck. Instead, he figures he’ll continue to be the player he was each time he was called up by Boston, including in the playoffs.
“I think I’m at my best when I’m really north-south and heavy,” said Kuraly, who had 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in 54 games last season for Providence in the AHL. “The simpler I am, the more affective I usually am … even in a rookie tournament. You’re playing your role; I’m not changing my game because there’s not a couple centers ahead of me or a bunch of guys ahead of me. It’s the same role, I practice that role and be the best I can.”
It’s that attitude and approach to the sport that will give Kuraly a leg up on the competition in training camp. Unlike the 24-year-old’s first NHL camp last fall, this year there could be as many as three bottom-six jobs open, depending on how other prospects fare and how some veterans bounce back.
Other than a little more facial recognition in Boston, Kuraly said life hasn’t changed much. His offseason workouts were similar to years before. If anything, there’s just been a slight adjustment to his mentality because one year ago he was trying to make the NHL; now, a few years removed from his playoff coming-out party, he’s trying to stay in the greatest league in the world.
“It’s definitely my dream to be here,” he said. “All I ever want to do is stay here and I’d be lying if I told you that wasn’t my goal coming out of 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.