Much of the on-ice sessions this week at the Boston Bruins development camp have centered on improving—or in some instances teaching—skills that, when mastered, will give these prospects some added ammunition in their game bag. By perfecting their edges or learning how to stay up after hopping on one foot, a player could retain control of the puck and that may just mean a goal in a game situation.
Each day as the players have come out onto the ice they have spent time manipulating their skating with long, exaggerated arcs to help them control their edges. This has often been followed by work with bumper pads, where they must skate around them or between them, working the puck and then usually shooting on one of the goalies.
The bumper pads often require them to keep their legs a certain distance apart, or limit how far to the right or left they can go. Control of their skating means they are stronger on the ice, even if bumped by an opposing player. Using their stick with a single hand to maneuver the puck between the spaced out bumper pads not only strengthens their arm a bit, but offers a skill in puck control that they will find themselves using frequently should they make it to the NHL.
Perhaps what is so surprising about these drills is that for many of the players they are almost a foreign approach to the game. After all, when they are with their team during the season, the focus is on systems and how to limit the next opponent.
“Yeah, exactly like you said, I think the biggest thing is that you don’t do…don’t focus on the skills and skills practicing that much, you’re doing systems and things like that. You know you’re going as hard as you can. It’s one of those practices where if you fail, it’s actually okay. It means you’re trying your hardest,” said second-year prospect Jake DeBrusk. “You know, one of the things is that you can always work on your game and think about things—a little cross-over or stick handling. You know I like that part in my game. I love those kind of practices where you’re stick handling around… There’s lots of things that are working through your mind. I like doing those skills practices.”
Enjoying them as DeBrusk might, they certainly aren’t easy. It’s while skating with a wide, long bumper pad between the skates that quickly shows a player when he bring his legs together, as the bumper pad gets in the way and he finds himself sprawled on the ice. In the end that is a valuable teaching lesson though.
“It’s development camp so they are developing different skills that you are not used to doing, so it’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s actually good,” shared first-year prospect Trent Frederic. “[Hopping on one skate] is tough, but a good skill.”
When it comes down to it, as DeBrusk pointed out, such drills are going to have mistakes in them, at least when the players are first introduced to them. However, those drills dont’ have to be limited to the days of development camp, at least that’s what one player believes.
“I think the coaches are putting lots of things in front of us that we need to get better at—lots of puck protection, positioning, puck battles on the walls and retrieving pucks on the walls, lots of things you need to do to be a pro in the NHL one day,” Jesse Gabrielle said candidly. “These are typically things that you wouldn’t work on but they are things you should work on. I plan to put lots of these drills in my off-season routine and become the best player that they want me to be and the kind of player they want in their organization.”
Such a commitment to progression is certainly something that the development camp staff is hoping to hear from lots of the players. It won’t stop the drills, but will prove that the message is being heard.