There’s a big upside to the Bruins’ Wiley Sherman
BUFFALO — This is not the first time the Bruins have seen the Wiley Sherman movie. In 1993, they took a flyer on another 6-foot-7-inch defenseman in Hall Gill with the 207th pick in the NHL Draft, and Gill enjoyed a long, successful NHL career.
To a certain extent, Don Sweeney — the 166th pick in the 1984 draft — was also a project, a diminutive 5-foot-10-inch backliner with speed and smarts. Like Gill, he played 1,000-plus NHL games and is now entering his fourth season as the Bruins’ general manager.
“I would be wary of saying [Sherman] is a [true] project,” said Providence coach Jay Leach, who is likely to have Sherman on his defense for the full upcoming season. “We drafted him. We signed him. So we obviously have identified that he is an NHL prospect. That being said, he was at the rink every day this summer, working his you-know-what off. I believe he lost about 10 pounds and crushed the testing for pull-ups. He’s clearly shown — whether he’s the project or not — he is willing to be the project.”
Sherman, chosen 150th in the 2013 draft, today has at least eight NHL-caliber defensemen ahead of him on the Bruins’ depth chart. If there’s a Spoked-B waiting for him, it’s likely a year or two down the road. But again, the likes of Gill and Sweeney proved that timelines sometimes have a way of shortening.
“Listen to what my coaches have to say, take it to heart, and work on it,” said the towering Sherman, noting his mind-set here Sunday, the day before the Bruins wrap up their annual Prospects Challenge. “My stick is going to be my biggest tool, so keep working on that, refine that, and good things will come.”
Sherman, who played four seasons at Harvard before turning pro in March, scored a goal in the Bruins’ 4-2 win here Friday night over the Devils. His way to the show, though, is likely what defined Gill’s game — a third-pairing backliner particularly valued for his long reach and wingspan, a key asset on the penalty-killing squad.
“I know the game has changed in regards to defensemen,” said Leach, a former backliner. “But there is still room in the game for a big guy who can defend. If he can make plays when it’s on his stick, then off his stick, and he is effective in front of his own net, and he’s safe, he can still eat pucks, and penalty kill . . . He can play 12-14 minutes a game for you down the stretch. And as the season goes on, those guys become valuable.”
The Bruins have another Bergeron, this one also from Quebec, here in rookie camp.
Justin Bergeron, who will turn 18 on Thursday, will suit up Monday morning on defense for Boston’s tournament wrap-up game vs. the Devils.
“I just saw my name on the roster,” said the Other Bergy, moments after Sunday’s workout ended at the Harbor Center. ‘I’m pretty excited.”
Bergeron, who grew up near Sherbrooke, is not related to the veteran and has yet to have the chance to meet Bruins’ superstar. Unlike his namesake, who grew up a couple of hours away in Quebec City, and he also he grew up a Canadiens fan. The senior Bergeron was a Nordiques lover and was decidedly anti-Les Glorieux. The Canadiens twice had the chance to draft Bergeron before he was selected 45th in the 2003 draft. Justin then was only 2 years old.
“I need to be cool with you,” the modest, fresh-faced Bergeron told a reporter here Sunday, “I am a Montreal fan.”
Bergeron was the youngest player available in June’s draft in Dallas and went unselected. Despite his invite to join the Bruins in rookie camp, he again will be eligible for the June 2019 draft, which means his only game as the Black-and-Gold’s Other Bergeron could be Monday vs. the Devils.
He soon will return for a second season with Rouyn-Noranda, his junior team in far northern Quebec.
The rookies will board a flight to Boston early Monday afternoon and be in Brighton as part of Tuesday’s sendoff that will see most of the varsity crew head off to China. The rookies, with a handful of vets, including the likes of Zdeno Chara and the elder Bergeron, will remain on Guest Street and start workouts Thursday. The club’s first preseason game in North America will be Sunday, 1 p.m., with the Capitals on Causeway Street.