WILMINGTON — On Thursday, the Bruins gathered their rookies at Ristuccia Arena for off-ice physical testing in advance of this weekend’s prospects tournament in Buffalo.
For some, it didn’t quite go as hoped.
All three of the Bruins’ first-round picks from June’s draft — Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zachary Senyshyn — failed the conditioning test.
The part they failed consisted of three 300-meter runs, each of which had to be completed in one minute. The rookies had a three-minute rest in between each run.
“To me, it’s a test you can train for, and that’s probably the most indicative thing,” said general manager Don Sweeney said. “If you’ve put in the work in that situation — you may not be the best runner, the most graceful person — but if you put in the work, you should come out the other side with a positive result, so we have some guys that will have some supplemental work as a result of it.”
Sweeney did not specify the players who did not pass the test, saying only that a “couple” did not, but Zboril, DeBrusk, and Senyshyn all acknowledged in separate interviews that they did not complete the runs in the specified time.
The three were chosen with the Nos. 13, 14, and 15 picks in the draft, with two of the picks coming to the Bruins in trades for Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton.
DeBrusk said he did the first two runs as required, but slipped on the third and didn’t quite make it. As he said, “I think that cuts down a couple seconds, but I was right there.”
Because of the rain, the team conducted the testing on turf.
“There’s still an educational process,” Sweeney said. “These are young kids and understanding they’re now being evaluated as pros and they have to compare themselves against pros and established guys.”
Senyshyn, who is expected to return to Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL for the upcoming season, called the test “pretty eye-opening for me.”
“I’m pretty determined for next time, kind of knowing what to expect, that I’ll be able to pass it next time, for sure,” Senyshyn said.
When asked about the three first-round picks — before it was revealed that they had failed the testing — Sweeney’s tone was cautious, indicating that there was work to be done.
“I’m hoping that what we’re trying to convey here is they’re setting their own expectations,” he said. “They’re going to embrace the opportunity that’s being presented to them, but the internal drive that I’m talking about has to come from within.
“They shouldn’t look at themselves as first-round picks of the Boston Bruins. They should look at it as part of the Bruins, because they’re going to get pushed.”
All the rookies — those who passed the testing and those who did not — will still go to Buffalo for the tournament.
“All these kids are going with us, but they’ll have some remedial work to do and understand, more importantly, understand what it does take and what the expectations are,” Sweeney said.
“Maybe I’ll take them over and make them watch the veterans run and realize that’s who you’re competing against for a job at the National Hockey League level. That’s what the expectations are.
“That will be clearly defined. It’s not about the failure piece; it’s just an understanding of where you’ve got to get to.”
Franson scooped up
After more than two months of speculation, free agent defenseman Cody Franson finally signed a contract — with the Buffalo Sabres for two years and a $3.325 million cap hit. The Bruins had made inquiries on Franson earlier in the offseason, with their defense still a bit suspect, but opted not to move the necessary players to sign the defenseman.
“I think we have a really good group, an internal competition that I think is going to be healthy for everybody,” Sweeney said. “We have some younger players that they’re at the point where they need to jump in and establish themselves or we have to look elsewhere.”
The Bruins have seven defensemen on one-way contracts, but Sweeney said all of those players — Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug, Zach Trotman, Kevan Miller, and Matt Irwin — do not have guaranteed spots on the roster. Boston also has Colin Miller and Joe Morrow pushing for spots, and could use waivers, if necessary.
“As far as anybody being comfortable, if you’re referencing the seven guys, no,” Sweeney said. “It’s about carving out their spot and their ice time and seeing where the whole group fits together.
“I’m not going to stop [trying to improve the team] if it be through waivers or acquisition. Whatever it’s going to be, if we need, then we’ll go and fill.”
With the Bruins opting not to sign Franson — or, so far, another free agent defenseman — that leaves the opportunity open for a guy like Krug to push for a top-four role, as he has hoped for since signing a one-year deal in the spring. As he said Thursday, “Like I said, whether it was a month ago or even dating up to camp, if there’s a spot open, I’m going to be trying to take it.”
Giving him a try
Sweeney confirmed that goaltender Jonas Gustavsson will be attending Bruins camp on a professional tryout. As of Thursday, Gustavsson was the only player scheduled to be there on a PTO, though Sweeney did not rule out adding more . . . Forward Joonas Kemppainen was not able to participate in the on-ice portion of development camp, but Sweeney said he is healed and ready to play in Buffalo this weekend.