By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka and Axel Andersson are among the high Bruins draft picks in development camp this week that are garnering a lot of attention and will be groomed by the organization to play a prominent role with the NHL team in the years ahead.
Every year there are a handful of guys in development camp as invitees, guys whom the Bruins want to get a closer look at with a chance to get an inside position on eventually signing the player. Last summer Karson Kuhlman was in camp as an invitee; this season he’s here getting ready to start a two-year contact.
Here is the story of three such players in this week’s development camp at Warrior Ice Arena.
*Six-foot defenseman Teemu Kivihalme is the rare camp invitee who was actually drafted rather high by another NHL team. The Nashville Predators picked him in the fifth round (140th overall) in 2013. But after three years at Colorado College he didn’t see room for his services in the Predators’ organization, so he left school a year early to turn pro in Finland. He had 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in 44 games for Karpat last season.
“Living on my own overseas is an adjustment, but overall it was a good experience,” said Kivihalme, who wasn’t completely on his own because his grandmother lived nearby.
Kivihalme said he learned a lot about taking care of himself off the ice during his pro season, and he got to play a few more games than he would have in college. He’d like to stay in North America this season but he has a contract to return to Karpat, so his backup plan is in place. The Bruins will probably keep a close eye on him.
*Philip Lagunov’s bilingual skills have come in handy. With Bruins 2018 seventh-round pick Pavel Shen lacking in English skills, Lagunov has been able to put his fluent knowledge of Russian to use to help out his camp mate.
But that’s not why the 6-foot, 185-pound Lagunov came to development camp this week after having 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 37 games as a first-year player at UMass last season. He’s around to show off his skills, which are also bilingual in a way. Lagunov was born in Hamilton, Ontario, lived in Russia and played youth hockey there until he was 9, and then he moved back to the Toronto area.
“My thing is I try to get the best of both in my game, and then try to learn from both,” Lagunov said. “Because you can’t be perfect but I just try to take a little bit of everything, right?”
Lagunov was drafted by his hometown Mississauga IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League. However he always had his mind set on playing college hockey, and that led him to begin his career with the Minutemen.
Lagunov admitted part of the appeal of college was he thought he would be a late bloomer. Now the Bruins will have a better understanding of him while they watch him bloom after getting an up-close look.
*Half of the 14 defensemen selected in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft were shorter than 6 feet tall. That’s an inspiration to Northern Michigan defenseman Philip Beaulieu. The Minnesota native stands 5-foot-9 and is listed at 187 pounds.
“I’ve kind of always had to battle that growing up, being a smaller player. But you always find a way around it like small guys do. My good buddy [5-foot-9] Scotty Perunovich went second round [45th overall to St. Louis] there, he’s not that bigger than I am,” Beaulieu said. “So yeah it’s definitely encouraging and the game has changed to more speed and skill … so can’t complain.”
Beaulieu had 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 43 games last season and earned CCM/AHCA Second-Team All-American honors as a junior. As part of the league-wide trend to trust smaller defensemen, the Bruins have been leaning on Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk as part of their top six. That’s encouraging to Beaulieu, who singled out Krug as someone he loves to watch. Like the Bruins’ diminutive defensemen and others around the sport at all levels, Beaulieu has to figure out how to use his lack of size to his advantage.
“Just working hard off ice. You could walk around and be a short guy off the ice and look up at these guys like ‘holy crap.’ But once you’re on the ice, you’re kind of in your zone,” Beaulieu said. “So you don’t worry about it on the ice, it’s a different game, so I just let my instincts take over on the ice and try not to worry about my size.
“Just get low.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.