Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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It was one up and one down for the Providence Bruins over the weekend.

They scored a goal in the final minute to beat a very good Rochester Americans team on Saturday night, then dropped a 5-2 decision to the Springfield Thunderbirds on Sunday. Both games were at home.

“I really liked our first period. I thought it was actually probably our best first period of the season as far as playing the game that we want to play,’’ coach Jay Leach said of Sunday’s loss.

But things didn’t go as well in the second and third periods.

“We have some work to do. We’re a young group and we’ll have to learn from games like this, where even if you play well, you don’t get what you want coming out of a period. You’ve got to readjust. You’ve got to be OK with that and just keep pushing through. I thought as it went along we got frustrated.’’

The P-Bruins finished the weekend in second place in the Atlantic Division with six points, one point behind the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Here’s the good, bad and ugly.

GOOD

— Anders Bjork had a good weekend, playing two more excellent three-zone games. He scored a goal against Rochester and a goal and an assist against Springfield. As of Sunday night he led the P-Bruins and was among the league leaders in points with 3-2-5 in four games.

— Max Lagace made 30 saves in the win against Rochester. He is 2-0 with a .967 save percentage.

— Oskar Steen didn’t get much done for the first 59 minutes on Saturday, but then he buried the game-winning goal in the final minute after a smart setup by Ryan Fitzgerald.

— Back from an injury, Peter Cehlarik scored a goal in his first game of the season on Sunday.

— Jakub Lauko and Steen scored their first AHL goals and their teammates made sure that they got the puck as a keepsake.

— Jeremy Lauzon had a good weekend, carrying the puck and defending with conviction.

— The home opener on Saturday drew 9,722 fans, the biggest crowd in the AHL on a night when there were 14 games.

BAD

— The P-Bruins went 1 for 7 on the power play on Sunday, including four straight fruitless power plays in the third period.

— They’ve been shorthanded 18 times in four games. Only five teams have been shorthanded more often.

— Providence was outshot, 16-8, in the second period against the Thunderbirds.

— The penalty kill gave up three goals in six shorthanded situations in the two games.

— Zach Senyshyn and Trent Frederic are off to a less-than-ideal start with 0-0-0 in four games.

— There were two fights on the weekend and Providence didn’t win either one.

— Providence’s next four games are on the road, with two in Laval, then Belleville and Bridgeport.

UGLY

— OK, this isn’t from the weekend, but the bus for Laval on Tuesday leaves at 6 a.m.

Good, bad & ugly from Providence Bruins weekend

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Perfect in Pennsylvania is a great way to start the season.

The Providence Bruins came home from season-opening road games against Lehigh Valley and Hershey with four out of four points.

They beat the Phantoms, 3-0, on Saturday and bested the Bears in overtime, 2-1, on Sunday.

“It was a gutsy road win,” said coach Jay Leach after Sunday’s victory. “We love these, especially early on. They’re great team builders. Those are two buildings (PPL Center & Giant Center) that are tough to play in and we were able to come out with four points. It was a heck of a weekend so we’re excited.’’

Here’s the good, bad and ugly from the first two games of the season.

GOOD

— Providence’s penalty kill was flawless, killing all seven penalties on Saturday and five more on Sunday.

— The goaltending was first-rate in both games. Max Lagace pitched a 28-save shutout at Lehigh Valley and Dan Vladar made 21 saves and gave up just one goal in Hershey. Both netminders made a number of terrific saves.

— Brendan Gaunce had a fine weekend. He scored a goal on Saturday, assisted on Ryan Fitzgerald’s goal and scored the winner in overtime on Sunday.

— Alex Petrovic made a smart play to make Gaunce’s OT goal happen.

— Anders Bjork had a goal and an assist in the win against Lehigh Valley.

— Oskar Steen made a perfect pass to Paul Carey for an insurance goal against the Phantoms.

— Jeremy Lauzon decisioned Garrett Pilon in the first bout of the season.

— Both of Providence’s games next weekend are at home, Saturday against Rochester and Sunday vs. Springfield.

BAD

— Providence has been shorthanded 12 times, tied with Stockton for the most in the AHL.

— The P-Bruins took three stick penalties late in the game in Hershey.

— Trent Frederic didn’t have a shot on goal in either game.

UGLY

— There are turnovers and then there are turnovers. The Jakub Zboril giveway that gifted Hershey its only goal on Sunday was hideous.

— Injured: Peter Cehlarik.

Three quick hits from PC-Maine

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There are a lot of new faces in the Providence College lineup this season, but the result on Saturday looked familiar. Even with seven freshmen dressing, the Friars jumped on Maine with two goals in the first 4:35 and rolled to a 7-0 win.

Here are three thoughts on opening night:

— WHO’S IN NET?

I’d been pestering Nate Leaman for a couple weeks about who his starting goalie was going to be in Game 1. Of course, I kept waiting for him to say Michael Lackey. You know, the guy with four years at Harvard under his belt. But Leaman insisted repeatedly that he and his staff were evaluating each day’s practice and hadn’t decided.

In the end, he did go with Lackey, who was rock-solid in stopping all 29 Maine shots.

“He had an unbelievable practice Tuesday. It was the first time I walked off the ice and said, ‘We have a starter,’’’ Leaman said on Saturday night.

Lackey’s strong debut is “an unbelievable sign for us,’’ he said, pointing to two excellent saves in the second period when the Friars got sloppy and Maine showed signs of gaining some traction. “The team gets up at home and it’s point night,’’ he said.

“The thing is, your team can’t get arrogant in front of him. I thought that’s what we did when he made some of those saves,’’ Leaman said.

“He played a good game, let’s see if he can come back with another one. You can’t get arrogant off your first game, that’s what I told (the team) after the game.’’

— WHO’S GOING TO SCORE?

The Friars said goodbye to four of their top five scorers in the offseason – Josh Wilkins, Brandon Duhaime, Scott Conway and Kasper Bjorkqvist. That quartet totaled 63 goals last season.

Who is going to pick up the slack?

Start with the top line and Jack Dugan (39 points in 41 games last season) and Greg Printz (11 goals). They delivered on Saturday as Printz scored four goals and an assist and Dugan chipped in with a goal and three assists. Their center, freshman Parker Ford, recorded two assists. The line combined for 17 of PC’s 59 shots.

As for the second line, Tyce Thompson had a goal and two helpers and freshman Patrick Moynihan had two assists.

It wasn’t all good. Dugan went to the box alone for roughing after a scrum in the first period and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and a misconduct in the third after he deposited the puck in the Maine net after an offside whistle.

“I was a little disappointed in a couple of the penalties, but outside of that our top line was pretty good. They had a good night tonight, but it’s a long season,’’ Leaman said.

— THREE FRESHMEN D?

The newcomers on defense – Max Crozier, Cam McDonald and Luke Johnson — got through their first game unscathed.

Crozier, playing with Mike Callahan in what could develop into a go-to pairing, had an assist and four shots.

“Crozier played a great game. He was really good with the puck. We kind of rode (captains Callahan and Spenser Young) a lot in that first period – our veterans guys – just because we wanted to acclimate those other guys a little bit,’’ said Leaman.

“In a league game, first game as a freshman, that’s not the easiest thing to worry about. They got a good taste of it. Fortunately, we were able to pull away a little bit, so they were able to get a lot of ice in the third. At the end of the day, those three have got to be a big part of us. We think all three have a real high ceiling.’’

It sounds like there were some butterflies before the game, understandably so.

“It was quiet in the locker room beforehand. With the new guys, as a coach you really don’t know what to expect because you don’t know how to read guys yet, whether they’re ready or they’re not.’’

On this night, at least, they were ready.

“It’s a process. On to Holy Cross,’’ Leaman said.

P-Bruins preview: Prospects are promising

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For the Providence Bruins, winning and developing players to move up to Boston have gone hand in hand in recent years.

They’ve made the playoffs for seven straight years. Last season, 16 players who skated in Providence also played in Boston, including Connor Clifton and Karson Kuhlman, both of whom contributed during Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

This season the P-Bruins are expected to be good again. They’ll start the season with a young but deep roster layered with good prospects and established AHL players.

“Stacked’’ is a word I’ve heard a lot from fans this week, so this is a good time to note that the American Hockey League regular season is a six-and-a-half-month battle of attrition. The roster you start with is often not what you finish with, courtesy of callups, injuries, trades. Veterans aren’t a lock to play as well as in previous seasons. Prospects that are expected to thrive as they arrive from college or junior hockey or Europe don’t always do so.

This is a roundabout way of saying that while optimism is all well and good, don’t schedule the Calder Cup parade just yet.

“I’ve said this before: There’s no hardware in October or November or December,’’ says John Ferguson Jr., Providence GM and Boston’s executive director of player personnel. “The division we’re in never stands still. There’s always teams making pushes in the summer to add players and contributors. It’s a real dynamic division.’’

The schedule will be a challenge right off the bat, with 10 of the first 14 games on the road. The P-Bruins open this weekend with games in Pennsylvania against two of their toughest competitors in the Atlantic Division, Lehigh Valley on Saturday and Hershey on Sunday.

Here’s a closer look at the team.

FORWARDS

The P-Bruins are young up front, starting with their top two centers, second-year pro Trent Frederic, 21, and rookie Jack Studnicka, 20. Fourth-line center Pavel Shen just turned 20. Third-line pivot Brendan Gaunce is the veteran at 25.

On the wings, veteran Paul Carey was one of the best players in the AHL in the second half of last season. Anders Bjork starts the season in Providence, but probably won’t be here long if he builds on his strong training camp performance with Boston.

Fourth-year pro Peter Cehlarik has NHL talent, but hasn’t been able to stick in Boston. He’s been a good offensive player in the AHL.

Promising rookie Oskar Steen, 21, put up points in a breakthrough season in Sweden last season and showed off a good scoring touch in training camp.

After scoring 12 goals as a rookie and 14 last year, Zach Senyshyn looks to hit the 20-goal plateau. He made two pretty passes to set up goals in Providence’s preseason win on Saturday.

After battling injuries last season, Ryan Fitzgerald looks like he is primed for a strong season in his third year.

Underrated second-year pro Cameron Hughes can play wing or center and can play up and down in the lineup.

It remains to be determined what the best lineup fit is for dynamic 19-year-old Jakub Lauko, who has emerged as a top prospect. He’s an exciting player to watch.

Robert Lantosi, a speedy winger who played for Slovakia in the World Championships, burly Brendan Woods and Joona Koppanen round out the forward group.

Providence will miss Anton Blidh’s relentlessness on the forecheck, but he could return by February after shoulder surgery.

“It’s a great mix. We obviously have some guys on all four lines that make plays. Is there a classic fourth line or third line look? I don’t know if there is right now. We’re going to have to figure that out. We want to compete on pucks and make plays. Whether that’s the first line or the fourth line, that’s not going to change,’’ said third-year coach Jay Leach.

DEFENSE

The D corps looks to be the strength of the team.

It’s a group that offers “a blend of youth and experience and size and mobility,’’ Leach says.

Second-year pro Urho Vaakanainen, 20, is Boston’s best defense prospect. He and 21-year-old rookie Cooper Zech can skate and move the puck.

Jeremy Lauzon, who played 15 NHL games last season, and Jakub Zboril have made solid progress in their first two pro seasons and are expected to continue to develop.

Veteran Chris Breen is invaluable on the penalty kill and is a physical presence. Josiah Didier is coming off a Calder Cup title with Charlotte. NHL veteran Alex Petrovic brings size and experience. Second-year pro Wiley Sherman provides depth.

With players like Breen, Lauzon and Didier on the back end, Providence will be difficult to play against.

GOALIE

Max Lagace, 26, has an established AHL pedigree. Dan Vladar is entering his fourth season as a pro even though he’s only 22. Lagace and Vladar will compete for the net at the start.

Twenty-year-old Kyle Keyser had an impressive training camp, but will start his first pro season in Atlanta. The plan is for him to get all the work he can handle in the ECHL. If he plays well, don’t be surprised if he is summoned back to Providence.

PREDICTION

The Bruins’ organization’s emphasis on player development in a winning environment has served them well. This has the potential to be an entertaining year as Studnicka, Vaakanainen, Lauko, Steen and the rest try to work their way up the ladder. Ninety points is a realistic goal for the P-Bruins, which would land them in the thick of the playoff race with Lehigh Valley, Hershey, Bridgeport and Scranton Wilkes-Barre in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division.

Quick hits from Bruins camp

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BOSTON – A little of this and a little of that from today at Bruins training camp.

ZACH SENYSHYN

Another year, another step closer to an NHL job?

We’ll see how it plays out for the 2015 first rounder in his fifth Boston training camp, but it certainly appears that he’s going to get his best opportunity yet to graduate from Providence to the NHL.

One factor in Senyshyn’s favor is that he is more comfortable this time around. He doesn’t hesitate to say he was star-struck in his first couple of camps. “You see Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, it’s like, ‘I’m in a video game,’” he said.

“I definitely feel like my game’s matured a lot. I got a taste of it at the end of last year. I’ve got that confidence. It definitely lit that fire under me, black acing for the playoffs. It was awesome, being a part of the team,’’ he said.

“The whole summer my goal was to make sure I set myself up as best as possible to make that final roster. I was really focused and came here early and ready to work. It’s given me a lot less stress and anxiety this year in camp. I’m really just focusing on what I do well.’’

In the first two days on the ice, Senyshyn has skated at right wing on a line with Jack Studnicka and Brad Marchand.

“When they put you with a guy like (Marchand), it’s an opportunity to learn in practice and be a part of it. It’s awesome to be able to talk to him about what I need to do to make the team,’’ he said.

CONNOR CLIFTON

In Boston’s training camp 12 months ago, the notion that Connor Clifton would finish the year as an NHL regular and be a postseason contributor on a Stanley Cup finalist was far-fetched, to say the least.

And yet that’s exactly how it played out as the young defenseman vaulted over more highly touted prospects to earn a place in Boston’s lineup.

Heading into what he hopes will be his first full NHL season, Clifton is quick to credit the coaching he received while spending the better part of two seasons in Providence under head coach Jay Leach and assistants Spencer Carbery (in 2017-18) and Ryan Mougenel (’18-19), both of whom handled the P-Bruins D-men.

Before that, the staff at Quinnipiac University played a critical role.

“College hockey was great for me. I needed four years to develop and round out my game. Working with (head coach) Rand (Pecknold), Cash (Reid Cashman) and Joe Dumais for my four years there was huge, instrumental in my development,’’ Clifton said.

His former teammate, Chase Priskie, is the latest Bobcat to step up to the pro game, signing a free-agent deal with Carolina last month. He won’t be the last, according to Clifton.

“It’s just the beginning. There will be more in the near future,’’ he said.

ANTON BLIDH

After playing 19 games with Boston three seasons ago, Blidh played just one in each of the last two years.

Now in his fifth camp with the Bruins, he’s aiming to convince management that he is capable of being a full-time NHL player.

One of Blidh’s best attributes, according to Leach, is that he brings the same energy every night. Opponents know they won’t get a night off when he’s in the lineup.

In camp, he said, his goal is “to show up every day and show them what kind of player I am, a hard forechecking guy, never give up. Backcheck. Show them.’’

PAUL CAREY

Bruce Cassidy tossed some compliments Paul Carey’s way after Saturday’s skate.

“Paul Carey looks real good to me. He’s a good player,’’ Cassidy said of the veteran left winger whose 22 goals in 30 games down the stretch last season played a pivotal role in Providence making the Calder Cup playoffs.

In 2015, Carey played for Cassidy in Providence for 17 regular-season games and four playoff games.

“You could see it. Had good speed, shoots the puck well,’’ Cassidy said. “He’s a great depth player for us.’’

Last word from Buffalo

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BUFFALO – After three days at the Prospects Challenge, it’s time to empty the notebook. Here are some odds and ends from the weekend.

KIDS WERE ALRIGHT

It was a solid tournament overall for Boston’s better prospects.

Anders Bjork played well. Jack Studnicka had his moments, especially on Monday. After a couple of so-so games, Urho Vaakanainen was good on Monday.

“Anders had two strong games, was pretty noticeable. Urho had his best game today, was sharp moving pucks, involved,’’ GM Don Sweeney said after Boston’s 3-2 OT loss to New Jersey.

Jakub Lauko, per usual, let the other teams know he was there. Oskar Steen had 2-1-3 on Saturday night.

Trent Frederic played only one game, then was held out as a precaution with lower body soreness. Sweeney said he’ll be ready when Boston camp opens.

I didn’t see Kyle Keyser on Friday night, but he was sharp on Monday in 30 or so minutes.

Now it’s on to NHL training camp, where the men will be separated from the boys.

BJORK IS FIT

As far as his health is concerned, Bjork, who had a second shoulder surgery in January, is good to go.

“His strength has fully returned. He just hasn’t played hockey in a long time, so his timing needs (work),’’ Sweeney said.

“We may play him on the left side, his strong side, as opposed to his off side. He’s able to play both and I think you saw how effective he was against his peer group. Now he’s got to get acclimated to that next group.

“He’s been pretty honest that at times it’s been a bigger jump than he might have even thought. He’s got special qualities that we’re going to try and continue to harvest and see if he can make the jump.’’

WHERE TO FOR LAUKO?

Jakub Lauko could return to Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL, or he could turn pro with Providence. He’s eligible to play in Boston, too, but it doesn’t sound like that’s likely to happen this season.

“Jakob played real well the first two games. Might not have had his best game (Monday),’’ said Sweeney, summing up Lauko’s weekend.

The Bruins GM said the season in the Q helped the youngster.

“Maturity on and off the ice. Habits, details, things that he needed to work into his game, he’s slowly working into his game. We know how effective he is to get in on the forecheck and under the skin of players. … We’re excited about where he’s at.  We just know that he has details to put into his game,’’ Sweeney said.

“He’s the one that’s going to establish if he can play down (in Providence). We’re very, very cognizant of 19-year-olds playing in that league. It’s a big jump. Physically, we do not want them exposed to the possibility of getting injured. Obviously, anybody can get injured. We just want to be careful.’’

SOLID FINISH

Studnicka got better as the tournament went on. He didn’t have a lot to show on the score sheet, though he made a nice pass to set up a power-play goal by Scott Conway against the Devils.

“I thought his execution – we talked about it a little a couple of days ago – was just OK. … That’s just part of being a 20-year-old kid learning how to be a pro. But he’s physical, he’s willing to shoot. He’s pretty good on his faceoffs. He can play in all situations. I thought he was pretty effective,’’ said coach Jay Leach.

SIZING UP HANNOUN

It feels like we haven’t heard the last of Dante Hannoun, who scored the only goal for the Bruins on Monday.

He was an interesting player to watch all weekend. He’s only 5-foot-6 but didn’t play like it.

“Obviously, size doesn’t seem to bother him,’’ Sweeney said. “Goes to the (tough) areas of the ice. Is quick, he can dart, is effective on the power play, as well.

“He’s signed as a depth player for us, will be battling for a spot in Providence. If not (in the AHL), he’d start in Atlanta with (coach) Jeff Pyle down there. We’re excited about what he’ll bring to the table there.’’

BRYSON SHINES

After watching him for three years at Providence College, it was no surprise to me that rookie defenseman Jacob Bryson stepped in and played very well for the Sabres.

The elite skating that made him a great college player shone through. He retrieved pucks, eluded forecheckers and made smart plays exiting the defensive zone and entering the offensive end.

“I think I held my own out there, first pro games under my belt. It was exciting playing with a different group of guys and a different atmosphere than the college level,” Bryson said.

“I think I played three good games this weekend. It’s definitely different than playing two games every weekend in college hockey. You get a little more tired, it’s harder on the body.

“The pace was pretty similar to what we do with coach (Nate) Leaman at Providence. He’s one of the best coaches to play for and it carries into pro. The coaching staff here is amazing as well,’’ he said.

Bryson’s parents and a cousin made the two-plus-hour drive from London, Ontario, to watch the Friday and Saturday games.

The next step is Buffalo’s training camp, starting late this week.

“I’m excited. It’s my first one. It should be fun to keep it rolling with this group of guys,’’ he said.

CONWAY CASHES IN

Bryson’s PC teammate, Scott Conway, scored a goal in both games he played in for the Bruins.

“He’s the type of player … it doesn’t really look pretty, but it’s effective. Somehow he always gets that puck. Somehow he’s always in the right spot. Heady player and then when he gets an opportunity to bury, he buries, which is important,’’ Leach said.

Conway has an AHL deal with Providence.

BEST LINE OF THE WEEKEND

I happened to see Tom Fitzgerald of the Devils minutes after his son, Casey, a Sabres rookie, pummeled 6-foot-5 Andrew Angello of the Penguins in a fight.

“Did you teach him that?’’ I asked.

“No, his mother did,’’ he replied, without skipping a beat.

More from Prospects Challenge

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BUFFALO – Three more quick hits from the Prospects Challenge.

URHO VAAKANAINEN

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.’’

CAMERON HUGHES

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.’’

DANTE HANNOUN

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.

Quick Bruins hits from Buffalo

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Anders Bjork (10) and Cameron Hughes, right, wait for Jack Studnicka to take a draw against the Sabres on Saturday night.

BUFFALO — Three one-timers from my first day at the Prospects Challenge.

ANDERS BJORK

I landed here on Saturday morning, so I didn’t see Friday’s win by the Boston Bruins over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but all reports were that Anders Bjork was one of Boston’s best players, scoring the winner in the dying seconds.

He played well again on Saturday against Buffalo. Skating at right wing beside center Jack Studnicka and left wing Cameron Hughes, Bjork made good things happen even though he was held without a point.

“He created. He’s involved. Obviously, he got a bunch of chances. Did a nice job,’’ said coach Jay Leach after Boston’s 4-3 loss.

“He’s definitely more assertive. He looks just a little bit more mature, is what I would call it. He’s certainly taking a step. Hopefully it continues.’’

As has been noted by a few observers, Bjork should be one of the better players in the Prospects Challenge. After all, he is farther along the development road at age 23 than many of the youngsters in Buffalo. Through two games, he’s delivered.

After two years cut short by shoulder surgeries, it seems to me that a solid stretch of games and good health in the AHL to start the season would be best for Bjork.

OSKAR STEEN

The 21-year-old Swede was Boston’s offensive star on Saturday, scoring the first two goals and assisting on the third in a 4-3 loss to the Sabres prospects.

After playing wing on Friday night, Steen was back at his customary place at center between Jakub Lauko and Dante Hannoun.

“I like both (positions), but I’ve played center all my life, so I think that’s my best spot,’’ Steen said.

After playing on Olympic-size rinks in Europe, he is adjusting to the less spacious North American rinks.

“I think I played better (Saturday) than (Friday). It’s a bit different between the small rinks and the big rinks,’’ he said.

“You don’t have so much time. It’s more playing north and south. You just go forward all the time,’’ he said. “I like it, but I just have to get used to it, be better at it.’’

Leach believes Steen – who is likely bound for Providence — will make the adjustment without a hitch.

“I haven’t seen much of a problem with him with the North American game. He’s straight lines. He’s ready to go,’’ he said.

DAN VLADAR

This is a big year for Vladar, who is starting his fourth pro season at the age of 22.

He was the second goalie in Providence almost by default last season, but this time around he is competing with first-year pro Kyle Keyser to see who sticks with the P-Bruins. (Maxime Lagace, the 26-year-old signed as a free agent over the summer, is a lock for one of the AHL goalie slots).

Vladar was in the barrel against the Sabres on Saturday, and he gave up four goals on the first 19 shots he faced, including three in four minutes in the second period. But he turned away all 13 shots after that as the Bruins rallied to come within a goal late in the game.

“I felt better as the game went on. Obviously, those (four) minutes in the second period killed us. Overall, from my point, it’s the first game of the season, so it’s never easy for a goalie,’’ Vladar said.

“He’s got to find his spots,’’ said Leach. “When he’s routinely finding his posts, then he’s out and he’s big, he’s good. When he’s flopping around and he can’t find much, he’s not, he struggles. That’s what he’s got to find.’’

Vladar’s goal for the season is “to get a spot in Providence and run with it. I want to play as many games as I can.’’

He won’t be shying away from the competition.

“I’m just trying to enjoy it and work hard on my game to be the best I can,’’ he said.

Good start for new Mount St. Charles Hockey Academy

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The new Mount St. Charles Hockey Academy’s four teams put up a combined record of 14-7-3 in last weekend’s Labor Day Cup tournament.

Very impressive numbers considering that the program has been in existence for only 12 months.

“We had expectations coming in of what we wanted to do, but starting out brand new at the school, we weren’t certain where we’d be,’’ said Devin Rask, the coach of the U16 team and the co-director of hockey operations along with Matt Plante.

“We’re very happy with the way we opened up. Being able to compete with some of the top programs right out of the gate, with four days of practice, is pretty exciting for us.’’

Plante, who coaches the U18 team, wasn’t surprised by Mount’s strong start.

“All four teams (U14, U15, U16 and U18) played some of the best teams in the country and were right there with those teams,’’ he said.

“The 15s and the 16s certainly proved that they are going to be right up there with the top teams in the country. I was disappointed with the 18s. I thought we should have advanced to the playoff round. We ended up finishing the weekend 3-1-1. Obviously a good weekend, but our goal was to get to the playoffs and give ourselves a chance to win it.

“We wanted a better result with our teams – what competitive coach doesn’t, right? – but if you look at the big picture and put it in perspective, it was a good start. We’re where we thought we could be,” said Plante.

Classes started this week and players will be able to settle into their routine of school work and practices.

“As coaches, you get so consumed by your day-to-day grind and trying to build your teams, we overlook that these are all brand-new kids at a brand-new school, brand-new coaching staff to them. There’s an adjustment not only on the hockey side, but socially, academically. These kids have got a lot going on right now in all facets. It’s a big adjustment,’’ said Plante.

College coaches turned out in force last weekend to check out the Mount teams. Before the tournament started, recruiters from Boston University and Maine came to Adelard Arena last week to watch practice. On Friday night, nine of 11 Hockey East teams watched the U16 and U18 games, including five head coaches. Coaches from the ECAC, Atlantic Hockey and the Big Ten checked in over the course of the weekend.

All eyes were on uncommitted winger Zachary Bolduc of the deep, talented U16 team. He didn’t disappoint, compiling a 5-5-10 line in 7 games. Bolduc scored a big-time goal on Monday in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Elite Penguins.

“He’s one of the difference makers,” said Rask.

Between them, the U15, U16 and U18 teams have nine Division I commitments so far, with more on the way.

“It’s all about getting these kids opportunities beyond high school,” said Plante.

Steen leads my development camp all-star team

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Compared to past years, the 2019 Boston Bruins development camp was short on snap, crackle and pop.

There were some excellent players, but no Tyler Seguins, Charlie McAvoys or David Pastrnaks. Or even Dougie Hamiltons.

And three of Boston’s better prospects – Jack Studnicka, Kyle Keyser and Jakub Lauko – didn’t go on the ice. They finished their seasons just a few weeks ago and didn’t need the work.

The lack of star power may be the reason crowds were a bit sparse, especially compared to bygone days when Ristuccia Arena was packed with enthusiastic fans.

Jamie Langenbrunner of the Bruins cautioned against “overvaluing” development camp performance, to which I say: Amen.

Anyway, without further ado, here is my development camp all-star team.

F OSKAR STEEN – For my money, Steen was the best player here. He’s played at a higher level than the rest – the top pro league in Sweden — and it showed. He has an explosive first step and plays with pace all over the ice. Steen made some nice plays around the net while also showing the ability to finish.

He’s going to need time to adjust to the smaller North American rinks, so I believe starting the season in Providence would be good for his development, though I’d bet on him playing NHL games next season at some point.

A top line of Paul Carey-Studnicka-Steen could do some damage for the P-Bruins.  Just sayin’.

F JOHN BEECHER – Don Sweeney’s description of Beecher’s skating as effortless was right on the money. He’s a runaway train when he gets going. We’ll get a better idea about his hockey sense and puck skills when he gets to Michigan.

F PAVEL SHEN – The Russian, who was good in the World Juniors, didn’t bring me out of my seat with dazzling dangles in camp, but he showed a knack for protecting the puck and making some plays. Hopefully he’ll be in Providence this season.

D COOPER ZECH – I said going in that he’d be one of the top players and he delivered. The sequence early in Friday’s scrimmage when he made two or three subtle moves to elude a forechecking Steen was vintage Zech. He looked to make a play every time he touched the puck. As a member of the Boston staff put it, he plays with conviction.

D NICK WOLFF — Twenty years ago, a rugged customer like Wolff would probably be a lock to play in the NHL just for his physical presence. Times have changed as the game gets faster, but Wolff has a chance if he continues to improve his footwork and his stick skills. It looks to me as if the Bruins have the inside track on signing him – either to an AHL or an NHL deal – once he finishes his senior season at Duluth.

G JEREMY SWAYMAN – Maine’s best player is getting better all the time and was easily the best of the three goalies who played in Friday’s scrimmage. (Dan Vladar, who already has three pro seasons under his belt, didn’t play in the scrimmage.)