Pre-draft assessment: Letdown much?
After selecting one of the top 10 overall picks in each of the previous two years, the Boston Bruins project to have one of their most uneventful NHL drafts in recent memory, if not franchise history.
Barring a trade for additional picks, which is all but impossible to envision, the Bruins’ allotment for new prospects in 2012 will consist of five selections. They will go in the first, third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds at 24th, 85th, 145th, 175th and 205th, respectively.
As it reads in the preliminary stages, the Bruins’ 2012 draft is quite similar to that of 2009, when they likewise had five selections, most of which fell almost in the same slots. Two of their choices from that year, Jordan Caron (25th overall) and Lane MacDermid (112th), both saw action in Boston this past season.
How this year compares and contrasts remains to be seen. But for the immediate future, general manager Peter Chiarelli should be using what he has to add a prospective piece on the blue line and in the blue paint to ensure a potential need in the relatively near future.
With the three later picks, the Bruins can seek some enticing maybes for their pool of skating prospects.
This slideshow will be amended over the coming weekend as the Boston front office declares its selections. For now, here is an assessment of what routes would make the most sense for the organization.
Postscript: Despite the low quantity of allotted picks to start the draft, the Bruins were hardly muted in the discussions around the Consol Energy Center. Chiarelli and his colleagues drew a blueprint for an intriguing future Bruins-Canadiens sidebar Friday night, then executed a beneficial deal prior to Saturday’s fourth round.
Those are the highlights of a draft weekend that saw a cumulative B-plus/A-minus performance on the part of the front office. Details on each move and each pick are as follows.
Pre-draft assessment: The Bruins have their core of five defensemen still held over from their 2011 Stanley Cup championship and Dougie Hamilton yet to come. But both now and especially after Hamilton establishes himself in The Show, Boston will need a reliable insurance policy in that position.
And according to csnne.com’s Joe Haggerty, that is exactly what Chiarelli is pursuing.
The most preferable scenario would have two or three players between the AHL and major-junior levels who are certifiably ready to step up and fill in when injury or illness strikes and shortens the parent club’s blue line brigade.
That may not be possible right away in 2012-13 and may not even be a pressing issue that soon.
There is no cause to give up so soon on the likes of Matt Bartkowski, Colby Cohen and Torey Krug. And unless he succumbs to a sophomore slide, Kevan Miller could be ready for periodic call-ups next year.
Even so, the Bruins should at least be ready to push the revolving door. They would be best off finding an additional defensive prospect who can foster at the major-junior level a little while longer, then be ready to make an impact in Providence once he is eligible.
Based on their stature among the International Scouting Service’s top 50, there are plenty of realistic options for the 24th overall pick that would suit the Bruins’ desires. They include Matt Finn of the Ontario League’s Guelph Storm, Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes, Adam Pelech of the Erie Otters and Dalton Thrower of the Western League’s Saskatoon Blades.
Although there will naturally be an abundance of those receiving less attention, including those born and raised and still fostering overseas, that Boston may pick up if it prefers.
Naturally, New England and Quebec are all salivating over the prospect of sibling rivalry infiltrating the time-honored, Original Six, Northeast Division matchup. And there is no denying the benefits that event will bring.
But that is not likely to happen in the near future as Subban is best suited utilizing the balance of his eligibility with the OHL’s Belleville Bulls. Once he is permitted to sign on and play in Providence, he will serve every intended purpose of giving stability to the Bruins’ AHL crease and functioning as a go-to call-up in case of an injury or slump to Tuukka Rask or Anton Khudobin.
Pre-draft assessment: As it stands now, the Bruins goalie guild has Rask and Khudobin at the top level, Michael Hutchinson and Niklas Svedberg in Providence and Adam Courchaine on the AHL/ECHL borderline. Everybody else figures to be in the ECHL or still fostering at the major-junior, college or home country levels overseas.
And this is all assuming everyone is healthy, which not everyone will be at all times.
Even with the two NHL stoppers in their mid-20s and potentially primed for a long future together and even with the recent acquisition of Svedberg, the Bruins organization could stand to have a little more depth in net. If nothing else, it would serve the franchise’s best long-term interest.
The best time to get working on this would be with the team’s second pick of the draft, which will occur in the third round at 85th overall.
The club needs more competition within the farm system to help further Hutchinson’s development and ensure reliable reinforcements at any given level when the need arises. In addition, by the time a newly-drafted goalie is ready to formally enter their system, the likes of Courchaine and others could have been naturally weeded out.
By the time Boston is on the clock for the 85th pick, there ought to be roughly 35 goalies still available.
The Kitchener Rangers’ Frank Palazzese, coming off a breakout year with a save percentage of .927 bested only by colleague John Gibson for the OHL lead, is one worth considering.
Postscript: The Bruins addressed their two long-term needs in reverse order from what this author predicted. After taking Subban in the first round and going without any picks in the second round, they scooped up the rights to blueliner Matthew Grzelcyk of the U.S. National Team Development Program.
Besides the respectability of that program which needs no introduction, there is an added benefit to Grzelcyk in that he is bound for Boston University. With that program’s automatic two annual dates at TD Garden for the Beanpot and virtually assured berth in the Hockey East tournament, he can familiarize himself with the environs and will be easy to track as his game progresses under professor of puck Jack Parker.
Pre-draft assessment: With no turn to select in the fourth round, the Bruins will be left to look for dark horses and potential hidden gems with selection Nos. 145, 175 and 205 in the final three rounds.
Beneath the canopy of the Central Scouting Services final leaderboard of North American skaters are 17 different college commitments bound for one of the Beanpot schools.
If nothing else, any one of those 17, if still available, could be an enticing choice for one of Boston’s last three picks in that their development will be easy to monitor.
That was the case with recent Boston College graduate Tommy Cross and with Boston University alumnus David Warsofsky, who was acquired from St. Louis prior to his junior year. It continues to hold true for Harvard forward Alex Fallstrom.
Chiarelli should also have a few chances to dip yet again into the Vancouver Giants, the major-junior program that produced Milan Lucic and Craig Cunningham, the leading goal-scorer down in Providence as a rookie this past year. The lower rungs of the CSS rankings include two current Giants forwards in Jordan Martinook and Dalton Sward.
Postscript: Seth Griffith, a major-junior teammate of up-and-coming winger Jared Knight, led the Ontario League champion London Knights with 45 goals and 85 points in the regular season and a 10-13-23 log in the playoffs.
That’s promising enough for a team that ideally would like to keep reeling in prospects who are accustomed to winning long, intense tournaments. But how the Bruins afforded themselves the chance to select Griffith is all the more creditable.
A trade with Tampa Bay saw Benoit Pouliot go to the Bolts in exchange for the 131st overall pick―used to acquire Griffith―as well as AHL forward Michel Ouellet. Ouellet pitched in a not-so-shabby 16 goals and 31 points in 55 regular-season appearances on a deep Norfolk Admirals team that eventually claimed the Calder Cup.
Later, in the fifth round, the Bruins chose Cody Payne, who has tallied fourth-line numbers, at best, in two OHL seasons with Oshawa and Plymouth. With their sixth-round selection, they picked up Matthew Benning, the son of former NHLer Brian Benning and nephew of current Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning (pictured).
Boston’s final selection was a second-year United States Leaguer and soon-to-be Western Michigan Bronco in Colton Hargrove. There ought to be no rush on Hargrove, who could ultimately use his four allotted years to pitch in and reap rewards from a WMU program that made competitive strides last year under new head coach Andy Murray.
Subban, A-minus: Subban equals a most useful injection of insurance to the goaltending guild and need not be rushed to The Show. But he will be a go-to choice to start for Providence as soon as he is eligible and be on standby for a call-up when needed.
Grzelcyk, B: Relatively small size and path through Boston University evoke thoughts of David Warsofsky, currently a rising second-year pro who is still a work in progress at the AHL level.
Griffith, A-minus: Coming out of a winning major-junior program, let alone standing out above his peers in that dressing room, arguably makes Griffith a late-round steal.
Payne, C-plus/B-minus: Best-case scenario has him gradually ascending the rungs en route to becoming Shawn Thornton’s heir-apparent.
Benning, B/B-plus: A much more sizeable blueliner than Grzelcyk, Benning can be a welcome asset in the more distant future, but figures to be a while away from the upper echelon of the Bruins system. His exact destination beyond the Alberta Junior League is uncertain and there are at least 10 prospective defensemen who can currently be deemed ahead of him.
Hargrove, B-plus: At his latest level, Tier I junior, the hefty Hargrove produced irreproachable numbers in all situations, though he also tallied 140 penalty minutes in 54 games this past year. An extended stay in college ought to test and refine his game.