Yesterday, the Boston Bruins announced the players that will take part in the rookie camp and the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo N.Y.
The Bruins will practice in Buffalo and play in three exhibition games: Ottawa Senators on Friday September 16, 2022 at 3:30 pm; Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday September 17, 2022 at 3:30 pm; New Jersey Devils on Monday September 19, 2022 at 10:00 am.
In keeping with their long-standing tradition, the Bruins will not be streaming these games for their fans. The Ottawa Senators have always streamed their games at this event on their YouTube page. The Penguins have said they will stream their only game at the tournament, but no details as of yet. And the Devils have always streamed their contests on their website. So, you could be in luck. But beware: they won’t be speaking much, if any about your Bruins prospects and entirely of their own. After all, they are streaming for their fans.
Of the two goaltenders taking part, Brandon Bussi is under NHL contract while Reid Dyck was a 2022 draft pick of the Bruins. Of the none blueliners, Frederic Brunet and Jackson Edward are 2022 draft picks. Ryan Mast, Victor Berglund, Kai Wissmann and Michael Callahan are under NHL contract. Fedor Gordeev, Grant Gabrielle and Jacob Wilson are under AHL contracts.
Up front, Matthew Poitras was a 2022 draft pick. Under NHL contracts are: Jakub Lauko, Georgii Merkulov, Fabian Lysell, Marc McLaughlin, John Beecher and Curtis Hall. Under AHL contracts are: Joey Abate and Luke Toporowski.
Brett Harrison will miss rookie camp and main camp with an injury.
General Manager Don Sweeney dipped into the Canadian Hockey League well for undrafted free agent invites. They are: James Hardie (Mississauga Steelheads – OHL), Ryan Humphrey (Hamilton Bulldogs – OHL) and Brayden Schuurman (Victoria Royals – WHL).
The Bruins could sign these players to NHL contracts prior to the CHL season beginning or they would re-enter the draft. In Hardie’s case, he would be free to sign anywhere or go back to the OHL for a fifth season but he would not be eligible to re-enter the draft.
By now you are probably aware of the prospects heading to rookie camp. The players you may not know too much about are the invitees, and those are the players I will focus on here.
First eligible for the 2021 Entry Draft, Schuurman went undrafted. He was not ranked by NHL Central Scouting in 2021. He re-entered the draft in 2022 and once again went unselected. Central Scouting ranked him 76th among North American skaters on their final rankings, down from 58th on their mid-term rankings.
The Covid-19 Pandemic didn’t do any favors for Schuurman in his first go around. He did play 22 games as a rookie in the WHL and scored 5 goals and 6 assists. But he had a breakout year a season ago scoring 29 goals and 54 points while appearing in 68 games for the Royals hoping to get attention in his second draft.
It would appear that NHL teams shied away from Schuurman’s 5’9” height. However, he did weigh in at 191 pounds.
Schuurman is a speedy, multi positional (center or wing) player who possesses a strong hockey IQ. He has an uncanny knack for finding open space and the speed to get there. If his teammates can find him, he unleashes a lethal wrist shot capable of beating goaltenders clean. His shot is that good – it’s an NHL shot and release. And Schuurman is not shy about calling his own number and taking the shot. He averaged over 3 shots per game last season. It’s why he is so dangerous on the powerplay with more space.
Schuurman is not just a shooter. He can keep the puck on his stick, attack defenders and beat them with speed and has the ability to find his teammates. You’re probably wondering why he had more goals than assists. Well, the answer is simple. Victoria was not a very good team a year ago and you could find them often not able to dress a full compliment of 18 skaters. The turnover was high as well. Schuurman was one of two – okay, I will push it to three – bright spots on the team.
Will he earn a contract from the Bruins? Probably not. He would have to really impress during rookie camp. However, it gives the Bruins an inside look at whether he would be worth investing in next year.
Humphrey was also first eligible for the Entry Draft in 2021, although he missed his draft season in its entirety due to the Pandemic. Prior to his draft year, he appeared in 43 games for the Bulldogs and scored 3 goals and 2 assists.
At the conclusion of last season, Central Scouting did not have Humphrey ranked. And I need to be honest here, but I didn’t rank Humphrey either in my final 2022 draft ranking of OHL players. All Humphrey did was score 29 goals and 37 assists (all but 6 points came 5 vs 5) while playing all 68 games on a Bulldogs team that was loaded with talent. He was voted the Conference’s most underrated player by OHL coaches.
So, what can you expect from Humphrey? For starters, you’ll get an honest effort each and every shift whether it’s in the O-zone or the D-zone. If he were ever to put on the Bruins Black and Gold, I guarantee he would be a fan favorite immediately. He plays each and every shift with relentless pursuit in the O-Zone, Neutral Zone and D-zone. He took big strides last season, but I don not see his offense translating to the NHL. He’d be more of a Bruin of yester-year who will play with extra energy.
Will he earn a contract from the Bruins? Hard to say. The team has plenty of future bottom six forwards, but none that play with the energy and relentlessness that Humphrey does. He would really have to impress at camp. But it’s a pretty good bet that he’ll re-enter the draft for 2023.
Hardie is an interesting choice. He was first eligible for the 2020 Entry Draft where he was ranked 163rd by Central Scouting among North American players. I had him 31st among OHL players after a season in which he produced 43 goals and 63 points in 59 games.
In 2021, Central Scouting ranked him 154th among North American Skaters. I didn’t do a draft ranking in 2021 due to the lost OHL season because of the pandemic. In the most recent draft, Central Scouting had him 148th among North America Skaters. I had him 42nd among OHL players following a season in which he scored 41 goals and 77 points in 68 games.
Hardie has been a goal scorer at every level. The knock on him has always been a lack of top end speed and lack of awareness in his own zone and the neutral zone. However, he is an above average skater who has strong edges and very good agility. Last season, it was obvious Hardie put in the work not only in his skating but his defensive game. He has a knack for finding open spaces and rip off an excellent shot that he is not afraid to use from anywhere on the ice.
Obviously, NHL teams didn’t think there was enough of an improvement to spend a late round pick on him. If it were me, I would have. Pure goal scorers don’t grow on trees. That’s when you swing for the fences late in the draft.
Will he earn a contract from the Bruins? Truth be told, in my opinion he has the best chance of the three. And Hardie did get an invite to a handful of camps and he chose Boston, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But everyone will be keeping a close eye on Hardie.
I had planned to attend the Prospect Challenge in Buffalo, but health issues will keep me from attending. Let’s hope the live streams are working.