BUFFALO — The Bruins closed out their rookie camp here Monday afternoon with a 9-3 thumping of the New Jersey Devils that included three goals by Danton Heinen and 3 points each from top-end prospects Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, and Jack Studnicka.
Wins always matter, but rookie camp is far more about a getting a fix on the franchise’s depth chart than it is about the win-loss columns. The three-game Prospects Challenge provided Boston management with a better understanding of its young assets and where their skills might fit into the playing hierarchy.
Depth is a franchise’s blood supply, and the Bruins’ reserves have been replenished over the last couple of years, particularly among the forwards.
“You wonder whether your phone rings as a result of it,” said general manager Don Sweeney. “You’re having conversations and exploring things that may or may not exist, or happen, but you can be in a stronger position to deal with strength.
“And if not, your internal options result in the fact that you’ve got depth, kids are going to push, but that’s all to be determined.”
Heinen, a winger who was on the Boston varsity for the start of last season, was among the stronger performers here. He lined up as Studnicka’s left wing Monday, with Bjork, the promising ex-Notre Dame standout, on the right side.
Studnicka, a second-round draft pick this June, was among the bigger surprises, and advanced to the varsity camp that will begin on-ice drills Friday in Brighton.
“It will be interesting, the next three days,” said Sweeney, noting the club’s three workout dates prior to the exhibition opener next Monday in Quebec City. “He’ll come back and play with more established and stronger players and see where he fares there.
“But he showed very well here. He sort of reaffirmed what our scouts had identified — his attributes as a heady player. He’s a got a lot of room to grow. He’ll have to do a lot of work, but he fit in very well.”
An 18-year-old center, Studnicka is 6 feet 1 inch, 174 pounds. He has played two seasons in the OHL (Oshawa), and projects to return there for more seasoning.
Studnicka has made himself a preliminary candidate to contend for an opening — though it most likely would mean shifting from pivot to wing. Down the middle, the Bruins project to begin the season with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Ryan Spooner, and Riley Nash.
“Very impressive,” said Jay Leach, who coached the Boston team here. ‘”He made some high-end plays. He’s in the right slots. He does a lot of nice things. He’s a baby-faced kid. I didn’t really know him. But, man, he makes some nice plays.”
Studnicka scored 18 goals and finished with 52 points last year in Oshawa, enticing the Bruins to select him with the 53rd pick in the draft.
“It was fun, I think I learned a lot,” he said after wrapping up his first pro camp. “It’s another experience I’ve got under my belt.”
Studnicka worked out with Oshawa for about a month before reporting here to rookie camp. The head start no doubt added to his comfort factor, as he looked confident from his first shift in Friday night’s opening game.
The question later this week will be whether he can keep pace and match strength with established NHLers.
“Some guys, I find, can get away with it, because they are smart and they’re crafty,” said Leach. “They are a little elusive. And to me, he gets by people in tight areas, much like Bjork does — the same for Bjork, Heinen, and DeBrusk.
“So he is a smart, heady player who can make those plays, and it might be a quicker learning curve for him.”
Goalie with presence
Undrafted goalie Kyle Keyser turned back 24 of 27 New Jersey shots and finished camp with a 2-0 record. He’ll be back in the draft next season.
“He was terrific,” said Leach. “Technically speaking, I would say he was very good. One thing I would say, as a coach, I look for presence — and he had a presence. He had a calming influence.”
Keyser will return now for a second season in Oshawa .
“He’s been a guy on our radar screen,” said Sweeney, “and I think he probably moved it up another notch.”
Born and raised in Florida, the 18-year-old Keyser is 6-2, 182 pounds. Last season, he backed up Jeremy Brodeur, son of Devils legend Martin Brodeur.
“It’s never a lock, right?” said Keyser, musing over the June draft in Chicago. “That’s the nature of the game. I wasn’t discouraged at all by not getting picked. I just see it as an opportunity to impress 31 teams for the next couple of years, leave my options open. Not discouraged at all. Still believe in myself.”
Upward of 20 of the rookies who performed here will suit up for the start of the varsity camp. Some exceptions: defenseman Victor Berglund will return to play in Sweden; fellow Swede Oskar Steen, a forward, returned overseas following his game here Saturday; and forward Joona Koppanen will return to Finland next weekend . . . Defenseman Emil Johansson suffered a concussion Saturday and will be in Brighton, though Sweeney said it remains uncertain how soon he will resume practice.