BUFFALO – Three more quick hits from the Prospects Challenge.
The performance of the Bruins’ 2017 first-rounder has been underwhelming so far this weekend.
With NHL jobs up for grabs in Boston’s training camp next week as Kevan Miller and John Moore recover from injuries, more will be expected from Vaakanainen, Boston’s top defense prospect, if he is to earn a place on the opening night roster.
Not that there’s any real cause for concern. It’s been only two games, after all.
“He’s certainly not exactly where he wants to be, not to say any of them really are,’’ said coach Jay Leach after practice on Sunday.
“He’s fighting it a little bit. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. He expects to be really good and in a tournament like this sometimes it’s hard to be really good, it’s so helter-skelter out there.’’
Leach compared Vaakanainen’s situation to Danton Heinen’s two years ago in Buffalo. Hoping to win an NHL job in camp, Heinen squeezed his stick a bit too tight in the early going before settling down and going on to a 47-point rookie season.
“You just have to kind of put it in check, understand the situation, that these games are a bit helter-skelter,’’ said Leach.
“Vaaks wants to be good. He’ll figure it out.’’
Coaches love players like Hughes, the Wisconsin alum drafted in the sixth round in 2015.
“He’s a utility guy. He can play wing. He can play center. He can play on the power play and the penalty kill. He’s a very heady player. He’s not afraid to be in the mix. He does a lot,’’ said Leach, who used Hughes at wing with Jack Studnicka and Anders Bjork on Saturday night
An under-the-radar, bottom-six prospect, Hughes will look to build on a fine rookie season (13-15-28 in 52 games) in Providence last year.
His season was interrupted when he went down with a knee injury in mid-February after a collision with a Charlotte player. “I actually got a penalty for slashing, so I don’t know what happened there. It was weird play,’’ said Hughes, who avoided surgery and was able to return to the lineup for the playoffs.
“He’s got a real good attitude. He competes. Does a lot of things that project to put him in consideration for further growth as a pro,’’ according to John Ferguson, Boston’s executive director of player personnel.
This season Hughes will look to “find that consistency that I had leading up to that injury. That was some of the best hockey I’ve played over a long stretch. To get to that point in the year pretty quick would be nice.’’
Never drafted, the 5-foot-6 Hannoun parlayed a light’s out performance for Prince Albert in the WHL playoffs – he led the league with 14 goals in 24 games – into an invite to play for the Bruins’ rookie team.
Hannoun, whose cousin is Toronto’s Nik Petan, was noticeable in Saturday night’s game, setting up a goal by Oskar Steen.
“He’s a little bulldog. He buried that guy on the wall there. He gets to the net. He made a nice play on that goal. He’s 5-6, but he’s sturdy. I knew he could make a play. He scored some big-time goals last year (for Prince Albert) in the WHL. These (smaller) guys, they find a way,’’ said Leach.
Atlanta of the ECHL is Hannoun’s most likely destination this season. First, he’ll probably attend Providence’s training camp, according to Ferguson.
“The biggest thing is opportunity. I got an opportunity here and I’ve just got to make the most of it, just keep working hard every day,’’ Hannoun said.