WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Sporting a fresh tan and newly grown salt-and-pepper goatee (“I was a little late starting off,” he joked with reporters following the first morning workout), Bruins head coach Claude Julien has been up in the crow’s nest at Ristuccia Arena the last two days watching the two-dozen young prospects work through the team’s development camp.
Julien was jovial with reporters as he spoke in the parking lot just outside the arena, taking note of the maturation of veteran campers such as Tommy Cross, the raw ability of top draft choice Dougie Hamilton, and the flair seen this week from young forwards Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight. He also fielded questions about some of the new faces that will find a stall in the NHL club’s locker room come September.
Of forward Benoit Pouliot, newly acquired from Montreal, Julien said he didn’t know him personally but grew up 20 minutes away from his hometown. So far, the former No. 4 overall pick has grossly underperformed, and made his name locally here for scraps with David Krejci and Andrew Ference, and his charging call on Johnny Boychuk during the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring.
Julien said he’s “seen him enough” to think “he’s going to be a really good acquisition.”
“I think his skill level is extremely high,” Julien said. “I know that a lot of people seem to think that he underachieved. At the same time, we feel that we probably will be able to give him a better opportunity here with the space that’s open for him. From what I saw, when he played for Montreal, there were times where he was really physical. We saw him get in a fight with Krejci, but also involved in the corners and then being physically engaged I guess.”
Julien compared the situation to when Nathan Horton arrived last summer from the Florida Panthers with few questions about his ability but several about his consistency, and whether he’d live up to the reputation that had come with being a former top-five draft pick.
“He showed that he can,” Julien said. “So we feel the same way about Pouliot. That he’s going to come in and be that same kind of consistent player and kind of grow from there. He’s a young player, I think 24, so a lot of potential there.”
For the first time in what seems like forever, Julien will be heading into a season as head coach without Michael Ryder, who signed a two-year, $7 million deal with Dallas. Julien -- who has coached Ryder in juniors, the AHL, the Canadiens and the Bruins -- said he respects Ryder for getting “some security.” Ditto Tomas Kaberle, who signed a three-year deal with Carolina that will pay him $4.25 million annually.
Besides, Julien said he thinks new defenseman Joe Corvo, acquired by trade from the Hurricanes, will be able to fill the role vacated by Kaberle on the power play.
“I think, you know, you look at Corvo, who’s got a really good shot. He’s a player that may be a little bit more physical and more engaged,” Julien said. “And we’re going to have to work with him as far as kind of making him understand the way we play here. And I think the way we play will certainly help him a little bit. Because, you know, again, we don’t want him running around, we want him playing well positionally.”