The irony is that the one with the least job security might be the one with the best shot at a big-league job this fall.
Winger Teddy Purcell of St. John’s is attending the Boston Bruins’ training camp on a professional tryout contract. In essence, it means that while the Bruins believe Purcell could find a place on their roster, they weren’t prepared to immediately offer him a full-time contract to back that feeling.
Still, the fact the Bruins saw fit to bring him into camp could be seen as a positive sign.
Purcell is only the fourth NHL veteran invited to camp on a tryout since Don Sweeney took over as the Boston’s general manager in 2015, and as WEEI’s Ty Anderson pointed out, the other three were all offered contracts — goalie Jonas Gustavsson (who played for Boston in 2015-16), forward Peter Mueller (AHL deal) and defenceman Christian Ehrhoff (turned down an NHL contract offer in 2016).
It also means the 32-year-Purcell — who spent most of last season in the AHL after starting the campaign with the Los Angeles Kings — isn’t competing with a lot of other veterans for the one or two openings at forward, but there are a lot of talented youngsters in the mix. Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Frank Vatrano, Dalton Heinen and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson are skilled centres and wingers who can be seen as Purcell’s main roadblocks to a return to NHL employment.
“As an older guy, you don’t really know a whole lot about the younger guys coming up,” Purcell told WEEI earlier this week,
“But from what I’ve heard, there are a lot of good players there, and they’re going to be hungry coming in for spots, and management probably knows them better than they know me.
"You just have to come in with confidence. I’ve played on teams with a lot of good players, I’ve played up and down the lineup, and there’s a lot of good players here. It’s not going to be too new.”
In other words, after almost 600 NHL games and in the midst of his 11th NHL training camp, there’s nothing much that will faze him.
Not that this means he will be complacent. You can’t be when you’re on a tryout.
“When you have that contract and security, it’s not that you take (exhibition) games off, but you use them to work on yourself,” he told Mike Loftus of the Quincy Patriot Ledger. “You don’t exactly ease into it, but you have a lot more room for error, and the coach gives you a longer leash.
“Here, I’m going to have a short leash. I’ve got to impress them early, and often.”
Purcell made a good start on that quest Tuesday as he scored a goal as the Bruins downed the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 in pre-season play in Boston. He saw about 18 minutes of ice time, including around four minutes on the power play.
Four other St. John’s natives — forwards Colin Greening (Toronto Maple Leafs), Clark Bishop (Carolina Hurricanes) and Nathan Noel (Chicago Blackhawks) and defenceman Cody Donaghey (Ottawa) — are also in NHL camps, but all are expected to wind up in the minors.
The 31-year Greening signed a one-year, $750,000 one-way free-agent contract with the Maple Leafs in the off-season, but the move was one designed to keep a veteran presence on the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs’ AHL farm team, and to provide a depth option with NHL experience.
Greening has almost 300 NHL contests with Ottawa and Toronto, but spent all of last season with the Marlies.
Bishop, 21, split last season between the ECHL and AHL, and is expected to start the season with the Hurricanes’ top farm team, the Charlotte Checkers. Donaghey and Noel, both entering their first pro seasons, are also ticketed for the minors, although Noel’s professional debut — wherever it happens — will be delayed. He isn’t actually participating in the Blackhawks’ main camp after suffering what’s been reported as a knee injury while playing with Chicago’s entry at a prospects tournament earlier this month.
Goalie Evan Fitzpatrick, the 19-year-old from St. John’s who now resides in Nova Scotia, has been returned to Sherbrooke of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but knows he will eventually get a chance to play professionally — he’s already signed an NHL entry-level contract.
Forward Tyler Boland of St. John’s, the runner-up in the QMJHL scoring race last season, attended the Winnipeg Jets’ rookie camp, but didn’t move on to the main camp. He’s in Fredericton, N.B., attending and playing for the University of New Brunswick.