By Kirk Luedeke
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla.—Anthony Camara has become somewhat of a folk hero with the segment of hardcore Boston Bruins fans that also closely monitor the organization’s prospects for his offensive potential, physicality and willingness to drop the gloves with anyone, anytime.
The 2011 third-round selection (acquired from Phoenix for defenseman Derek Morris) was a former OHL first-round pick and has the natural (albeit raw) talent to be a NHL forward one day, though Camara’s inexperience and Boston’s NHL depth on the left side means that he is probably not ready for primetime duty. The Mississauga, Ont. native does not possess an abundance of size at about 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, but he plays bigger, having earned a reputation as a fierce body checker and pugnacious left winger who goes to the net and scores an abundance of “dirty” goals.
“I try to bring a two-way game and be good defensively,” Camara told New England Hockey Journal after his one-goal performance against the Florida Panthers. “The Bruins are a defensive team and you (have to) be a good defensive player to play in the NHL, but not take away from your offensive ability too.”
Since being drafted, Camara watched his junior production increase each season, but his offense really took off in the 2012 OHL playoffs when he had been traded to Barrie from Saginaw. That success allowed the 20-year-old to launch into his best year of major junior, when he tallied 36 goals (in 50) riding shotgun with Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Mark Scheifele and Zach Hall on the Colts’ top line.
Although Camara has progressed in his development since being drafted, his fiery temperament has gotten the better of him at times. Last year, he ran into some on-ice discipline issues that cost him several suspensions in the OHL and cost him a shot at topping the 40-goal mark. He alluded to the importance of addressing that aspect in Florida as he prepares for his first pro campaign.
“(I’m) definitely improving the mental side of the game,” Camara said. “(Head coach Dale) Hawerchuk on the Barrie Colts definitely helped me a lot and certain people in the Boston organization helped me (with) the kind of player I am and how I have to play that. You have to pick and choose your shifts and just build off that. It’s a whole game, not just one period or one shift.”
Providence coach Bruce Cassidy saw some positives in what Camara was able to accomplish in Coral Springs, referencing him several times after the Tampa Bay and Florida games.
“I thought for the younger guys Camara handled himself pretty well,” Cassidy said. “He’s someone who goes to the net and has the ability to create some offense when he gets there. He's been consistent in his play here.”
A rugged forward who can score goals on one shift, then drop the gloves the next (he amassed 454 penalty minutes during his OHL career), Camara demonstrated that against the Florida Panthers when he tipped home a Zach Trotman shot from the point. After the ensuing faceoff, he checked Panthers defenseman Jonathan Racine along the boards and was immediately challenged. Although giving away size and reach to the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Racine, Camara answered the bell and although the decision went to the young Panther, that kind of response has endeared the Boston prospect to fans since his draft year.
Looking ahead to main camp and the importance of making a good impression on the Boston coaching staff, he reflected on the positives he drew from the experience of playing in the rookie tournament, where he finished with two goals in three games.
“Playing with (Alexander) Khokhlachev and (Seth) Griffith and stuff and playing with new guys we’re just kind of starting to jell,” said Camara. “A lot of it is just trying to build chemistry with one another, build off that. It was a tough game: we had our chances, they had theirs, but that’s how games go and we just gotta bury on ours (scoring chances) too.”
Although he possesses the traits of a Boston Bruins-type player, it’s not Camara’s time yet. However, with a strong performance in Providence, his opportunity to prove himself in Boston may not be long in coming.