BUFFALO — Earlier in the week, only some 24 hours before a couple dozen Bruins prospects reported to rookie camp in Brighton, Ryan Humphrey was at his family home outside Detroit. He was eagerly tidying up plans to head back to Hamilton, Ontario, to start his third year with the OHL Bulldogs.
Another hockey season about to begin. Another year of dotting around the OHL, hoping someone in the NHL, anyone, would notice his game.
Then his cellphone rang. In that instant, everything changed. A team had been paying attention.
“It was my agent,” said Humphrey, his smile as wide as the Detroit River. “He told me the Bruins wanted me to come here to camp. I was a late invite and I’m just trying to make the most of it. Boston was the only one that gave a shot and I’m just trying to prove myself. I had no clue [Boston was interested], honestly.”
In what was generally a gloomy Saturday afternoon for the Bruins, ending in a 6-4 loss to Pittsburgh’s top prospects, the 19-year-old Humphrey was their ray of Black and Gold sunshine. He scored two goals, at 8:19 of the second period to chip away at the Penguins’ 4-0 lead, and at 3:59 of the third, setting the stage for John Beecher’s equalizer 27 seconds later.
Humphrey is one of four players, all forwards, the Bruins invited to their rookie camp that wraps up Monday morning. He was brought aboard, along with James Hardie, Keltie Jeri-Leon, and Brayden Schuurman, in part because Brett Harrison, a 6-foot-3-inch draft pick (No. 85, 2021), suffered a leg fracture a little more than a week ago while working out with his Oshawa Generals teammates.
Typically, rookie camp invitees don’t advance to varsity camp, and it’s likely Humphrey will be pointed back to Hamilton after Monday morning’s game against the Devils. But two goals could change the dynamic, and they at least set him up to make a greater case to stick around if he gets the chance to show some pop in Monday’s game.
“I loved him and J.D. Greenway today,” said coach Ryan Mougenel, noting Humphrey’s linemate. “He’s a fiery guy. He’s from Detroit. He kind of showed it tonight. He’s got some grit, I liked his game.”
There could have been more to appreciate, but Humphrey’s day came to an end early when he was tossed out of the game with 12:24 to go in the third. Play turned chippier after Beecher’s equalizer, and Humphrey was caught retaliating with a slash, smacking a stick into the skates of one of the Penguins just prior to a faceoff. For that momentary lack of discretion, he was assessed a minor for slashing and a misconduct.
Only 2:37 after his second goal he was in the showers, done for the day.
“Sometimes I think the refs forget, these guys get a small sample size,” mused Mougenel, “and he gets booted out of the game, it’s disappointing.”
Humphrey, from Woodhaven, Mich., just south of Detroit, was not selected in the NHL draft in 2021 or ‘22. He’ll be eligible again next June as a 20-year-old, and he’ll have at least the two goals to make the case that he’s worth one of the 32 NHL teams — perhaps the Bruins? — using a pick on him.
“I’m glad they gave me the opportunity,” said Humphrey. “I’m just super excited, and I love Boston.”
Hall also strikes
Curtis Hall, ex-of Yale, scored the other Bruins goal … Through two games (1-1-0) here, the Bruins’ top goal scorers, with two each, are Luke Toporowski, Beecher, and Humphrey … Toporowski picked up an assist on Beecher’s goal, a power-play strike. Beecher’s other goal was the winner in the 5-4 edging of the Senators Friday afternoon … Schuurman suffered a high ankle sprain in the win over the Senators and will not practice or play the remainder of the tournament … Goalie Reid Dyck, drafted No. 183 this year out of WHL Swift Current, gave up four goals on Pittsburgh’s first 19 shots. Mougenel said postgame that he was uncertain if Dyck will split Monday’s goaltending duties with Brandon Bussi (Friday’s winner) or if goalie instructor Mike Dunham will have Bussi go it alone.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.