(Photo: Rhonda R. McClure)

For those who attended camp this past week with the Boston Bruins it represented a myriad of experiences that reached the breadth of the histories of those who attended. Draftees who were picked before 2014 saw it as an opportunity to reunite with camp friends, but more importantly to show the Bruins organization how they had improved in areas both on and off the ice. Those who were drafted this past June, at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, may have seen the surreality of their draft turn into reality—that moment when their skates touched the ice and they saw a milestone had indeed been reached.

ryan donato dev camp

Ryan Donato

Of course for 2014 draftee Ryan Donato that surreal experience continued a little longer. The son of Ted Donato who presently serves as coach of Harvard University’s men’s hockey team, Donato donned the jersey of the team for which his father played. And he is expecting to attend Harvard beginning in the fall of 2015.

“It’s pretty unbelievable just being in the rink watching my dad play with a lot of the Bruins guys and being able to put on the jersey yourself, it’s kind of a surreal feeling as I said.” Donato told reporters during camp. “Putting it on with some of your friends too, it’s kind of [an] unbelievable feeling also.”

And then there were those who were invited to camp. For them, camp represented a moment to show that they really do belong in the NHL. This year’s invitees included: Cole Bardreau (forward, Cornell), Kyle Baun (forward, Colgate University), Michael Doherty (forward, Yale), Alex Globke (forward, Lake Superior State University), Simon Norberg (forward, Leksand), Billy Sweezey (defenseman, Noble & Greenough School) and Oleg Yevenko (defenseman, University of Massachusetts-Amherst).

The Pink Puck talked to a couple of the invitees, asking them what it meant to them to be invited to camp and what they were hoping the Bruins organization would see in them.

Billy Sweezey and Cole Bardreau

Billy Sweezey and Cole Bardreau

“I’m just hoping they can get a little more…, that they can see me a little bit more,” said Baun. “I know that they’ve seen me quite a few times during the season, but just showing them what I can do in practice—all the management and all the guys who can’t come see me during the season can see me and hopefully like me.”

“It was a big honor getting invited, especially to my hometown team,” answered Sweezey, who will be a senior in high school this coming fall. “I’m just trying to get some experience under my belt, especially with a lot of these older guys already in college.”

“Obviously I didn’t get drafted there for three years, so that’s disappointing,” Bardreau responded candidly. “But to know that a few teams are still going to give me a shot, I think that’s obviously encouragement to keep going and just an opportunity to show them what I got and keep going.”

It was clear that those who were invited clearly understood what an opportunity they were being presented with and were determined not to squander it.

The Boston Bruins development camp brought together 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies for a variety of on-ice drills, off-ice classes, opportunities to just have some fun, team building and exposure to the Bruins staff for six days. One of the smaller training camps for the year—the Detroit Red Wings camp, for instance, had more than 40 players at theirs—it consisted of 12 returning players, four of this year’s drafts (Danton Heinen was unable to attend due to college classes) and the previously mentioned seven invitees.

After the on-ice events last Wednesday of Day One of camp, assistant general manager Don Sweeney spoke to media. he stressed how excited they were about each of the players at camp, regardless of how the player got there.

“I’ve said this before, and I’ve said this to the players themselves,” Sweeney said. “They should all feel welcome whether they are an invite or whether or not they are in their fourth year of participating.”

It was clear when talking with the returning players that they looked forward to returning to camp for a variety of reasons. For those who experienced their first camp last summer, this year was a little less nerve-wracking. But each one of them had something to prove.

“For me, I’m coming off of surgery, so I’m just trying to show them I can recover quickly and come back from an injury.” said Matt Grzelcyk, who spent camp in a red “no contact” jersey.

“A little bit more confident than last year, coming in knowing what it’s like, what the environment’s like, knowing some of the guys,” said Mitchell Dempsey. “It’s a lot more something to look forward to. I’m just excited to… I don’t know what to say, I love being here.”

“I know what to expect for the most part. Familiar faces all around,” Matt Benning offered. “Since this [is] my third year, I’m just trying to lead the younger ones. Trying to tell them what it’s like and what’s expected and stuff like that.”

The joy each of the players exhibited was obvious both on the ice and in the locker room afterward. They hope that hockey will be their occupation, certainly, but more importantly hockey is their passion.

None of the players who participated in development camp expects to make the Bruins just from what they did this past week. In fact, many of them will return to their collegiate teams for the coming season. However, the day after camp ended the Bruins announced signing first round (25th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, David Pastrnak to an entry-level contract.

David Pastrnak

David Pastrnak

The 6’0”, 171-pound native of Havirov, Czech Republic has gone on record as saying that Boston Bruin David Krejci is his idol. In fact, after he was drafted by the Bruins on June 27th, he received a congratulations text from Krejci. The infectiously happy Pastrnak clearly has great skill, but he was just happy to be at camp, and his smile on and off the ice spoke volumes.

During one interview he mentioned that he had lost his passport. He said when he told his agent, that his agent joked back that it was clear Pastrnak didn’t want to leave. And it could be that Pastrnak will get that wish. Of course the question remains will he play in Boston or Providence or elsewhere for the coming season.

After camp, Pastrnak was asked by The Pink Puck about his first camp.

“It was the perfect time. It was unreal,” he responded grappling for words. “Just overall happy. It was just perfect. I don’t even know what I have to say, I enjoy this camp and it was nice to be with all these guys.”

Despite being drafted early and having some impressive skills, Pastrnak understands that he can always improve.

“I will work on like get better. And, uh, get more weight and get faster, get stronger.” he told The Pink Puck. “Everything. I can get better with everything like everybody. You’re never perfect so I can work on everything.”

And perhaps that is the best thing about the players at development camp. When camp ends, they are already looking forward to next year’s camp and vowing to improve throughout the coming season.

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