August 11, 2014

Bruins Clubhouse: Pastrnak’s strong camp fuels roster speculation

By Andrew Merritt

 
 
Top pick David Pastrnak opened eyes at the team’s five-day development camp in July and signed an entry-level contract that paves the path for him to battle for a roster spot at Bruins training camp. Photo/Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal

David Pastrnak didn’t have much time to impress his new team, but he used that time wisely.

Pastrnak, whom the Bruins selected in the first round (25th overall) of this year’s NHL Entry Draft, did enough over the team’s five-day development camp to earn an entry-level contract, which he signed on July 15.

The 18-year-old Pastrnak, a native of Havirov, Czech Republic, will now have a chance to earn a spot on the roster at the team’s training camp, which begins Sept. 18. Should he make it, he can play up to nine regular-season games with the Bruins before the franchise has to decide to either keep him playing in the organization or release him back to his Swedish club, Södertälje, for the rest of the season.

“He’ll end up coming to camp now, and he’ll get the experience of a training camp, and he’ll get some games,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “He had a terrific development camp, and I know everyone’s talking about him.”

Chiarelli was cautious about guaranteeing immediate success for Pastrnak, though. “He’s a good young player; he’s just 18 years old and he’s a player — it’s well-documented that we’re looking for skill and speed and he fits that bill, but let’s not put the cart before the horse with David,” he said. “I think we’re fortunate to get him where we got him and he had a terrific camp, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Either way, it signals a strong start for the young Czech, whose size (6-feet, 171 pounds) will put him behind the 8-ball a bit once he goes up against the bigger bodies already signed to Bruins contracts. But he did show some slick skating, speed and offensive ability during the team’s five-day rookie camp in Wilmington, Mass.

“It’s another step along the way, and it’s important that we don’t skip those steps,” Chiarelli said. “And at each step, the level of play, the tempo of play, the strength of the players … all increases, so with a young 18-year-old who’s 171 pounds, you have to be careful. Now, he’s strong, he’s naturally strong, so he’s got that going for him, but we’ll have to see.”

Pastrnak is hoping there’ll be less waiting and more seeing for his new club. “It’s a great feeling, and that’s why I’ve been practicing, that’s why I’m going for it, and I just have to keep practicing and get better before I make the team and before the contract’s going to mean something,” he said. “I want to play in the NHL now.”

Should he make the team, he would be the first Bruins first-rounder to do so since Tyler Seguin, who skipped right out of Canadian major junior, past the AHL and right to the big club after being drafted second overall in 2010.

Since then, Dougie Hamilton (2011, ninth) and Malcolm Subban (2012, 24th) each spent time either in juniors or the AHL after being picked. The Bruins didn’t have a first-rounder last year, and their second-round pick, Linus Arnesson (60th), spent last season with Djurgardens in Sweden.

Pastrnak’s invite to training camp in the form of the three-year entry-level contract is also a sign that the Bruins are looking for some competition on their lower lines. With Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton gone to free agency (and then, respectively, to Colorado and Florida), the top and bottom ends of the Boston attack should look a bit different when the 2014-15 season starts on Oct. 8.

So there’s certainly a chance for Pastrnak, although the more realistic expectation is that he’ll head back to Sweden to grow and develop. But even if his NHL dream is put on hold for now, the contract means he’ll get the chance to take the ice with the full complement of Bruins, including his idol, countryman David Krejci.

“I just hope I’m going to stay alive after (from excitement), if it’s going to happen,” Pastrnak said. “I always said if I get this chance, I would do my best and show to the Bruins that they made the right decision and I would really enjoy it.”

THE NOTEBOOK

The Bruins hired former Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco (Medford, Mass.) as assistant coach, replacing Geoff Ward, who departed to become head coach of Mannheim in the German DEL. Sacco was an assistant with the Buffalo Sabres last season after serving as head coach in Colorado from 2009-13. Sacco’s hiring answered the question of where Providence coach Bruce Cassidy would end up, as there was speculation that Cassidy might be tabbed for the open slot on the Boston bench. Instead, he’ll return to coaching the Baby B’s. ...

The Bruins signed Matt Bartkowski to a one-year contract that prevents an arbitration hearing. The contract comes with a $1.25 million cap hit, slicing into the team’s already minuscule space. Yet after Bartkowski became a regular on the Bruins’ back line in 2013-14, and with no clear-cut defensive prospects ready to jump up to the big club, GM Peter Chiarelli opted to lock him in for another year. “I think it sends a positive message to Matt that we want to have him back,” Chiarelli said. “It’s just good to get it done.” ...

Defenseman David Warsofsky (Marshfield, Mass.) signed a one-year, two-way deal with a $600,000 cap hit toward the end of July. Forwards Jordan Caron, Justin Florek, Craig Cunningham and Tyler Randell and defensemen Tommy Cross (Simsbury, Conn.) and Zach Trotman also inked new contracts.

Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass.), the star BU defenseman who was felled by injury last season, was among the invites to the Bruins’ development camp and earned some praise despite being limited in a non-contact jersey. “He wasn’t able to participate fully but Matt’s had a good collegiate career so far and I would anticipate that he picks it up again when he gets back,” Chiarelli said. “We’ve got some real good skating defenseman and he’s one of them, so I was happy with it.”

Grzelcyk, who participated in last year’s development camp after being selected in the third round of the 2012 draft, came with a near-clean bill of health after season-ending shoulder surgery in January — a good sign both for the Bruins and Terriers, who certainly missed him in the latter half of their first year under new coach David Quinn (Cranston, R.I.). “We got a tremendous report from his doctors about five months after his surgery,” said assistant GM Don Sweeney.

This article originally appeared in the August edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to read the digital edition for free.

Email: amerritt@hockeyjournal.com

Twitter: @A_Merritt