Bruins training camp opens two weeks from Friday, and with the core of the Stanley Cup championship team intact, along with some recent additions in defenseman Joe Corvo and forward Benoit Pouliot, there don’t appear to be too many openings on the roster.
Realistically there will be one forward spot available and possibly a spot on defense as well. But as general manager Peter Chiarelli said recently, there is always room for a young player or camp invitee to impress the coaching staff and team brass enough to earn a spot.
“First and foremost, if someone is going to create an opening by their play, we’ll gladly play along and make that opening,” Chiarelli said. “We’ll either send someone to the minors or trade them. We’re able to carry 23 guys, so there’s room to carry some extra players. We’ve got some young guys that we know are going to push some guys, and I expect that.”
One player who did that last season was Jordan Caron, who made the Bruins out of camp and played in 23 games (three goals, four assists) before being sent to Providence (AHL). Caron will be entering his third training camp at the NHL level, and Chiarelli said if any younger player is going to push for a roster spot, the team’s first-round pick in 2009 is a likely candidate.
“He made our team out of camp last year and for whatever reason -- and there’s a number of reasons -- he wasn’t able to sustain his play,” Chiarelli said of Caron. “So at the end of last year we felt he got his play and his steam back up and would have been the next guy into our lineup during the playoffs. So I would expect that he would push strong for a spot in the lineup.”
There are other youngsters who will be in the mix as well.
“We’ve got guys that have had good years in Providence,” Chiarelli said. “A guy like [Max] Suave. He had a terrific year in Providence. A guy like [Jamie] Arniel, he had a terrific year in Providence. Even [Zach] Hamill, he’s been much maligned but he can play at the pro level. So you’ve got guys that are going to push and they may surprise.
"Caron is at the top in the forward group because he made the team and the way he performed at the end. In the defensive group, we’ve got some guys like [Matt] Bartkowski, [Steven] Kampfer, [Colby] Cohen, [David] Warsofski, [Andrew] Bodnarchuk. Even [Marc] Cantin -- he’s older. We’ve got some guys there on D that will push too. But as I said, Caron is the more likely to find a spot.”
The defenseman who enters camp with the best shot at earning that seventh spot with the big club appears to be Kampfer, who Chiarelli thinks will benefit from the experience he got playing 38 games with Boston last season.
“He brought an efficient puck-moving element with some speed to our game,” Chiarelli said of Kampfer. “I think he got caught up in the speed at the end, which is understandable when you reach that playoff crescendo or the tempo leading up to the playoffs. I think Steve got caught up a little in that and then unfortunately got hurt and kind of fell a little bit down the depth chart. He brings that kind of light-on-your-feet, quick-thinking defenseman, which is a good add to our group.”
“I think what he learned throughout the year is that he has to be in tip-top shape and he’s a guy that has to watch what he eats -- and he’s in good shape -- he just has to continue to watch what he eats. But he learned how to be a pro so I thought he learned a lot last year.”