Boston Bruins: How Will the 2012-13 Rookies Compare to Recent Predecessors?
Dougie Hamilton, the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, has nothing left to prove in the OHL and has his eye on a vacancy left by Joe Corvo on the Boston Bruins blue line. One of his chief competitors figures to be Torey Krug, already with two NHL appearances that came this past spring within weeks of his final games at Michigan State.
Granted, general manger Peter Chiarelli has made some lower-tier free agency moves to bring veterans Aaron Johnson and Garnet Exelby onto the Bruins’ NHL/AHL borderline. But the odds are still in favor of at least one rookie defenseman seeing more than a smattering of action for Claude Julien in the coming campaign.
Spare parts and emergency call-ups will be equally needed up front, which props the door open for the likes of Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight. The two OHL graduates have constituted Boston’s second-round picks in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
As their roster presently stands, the Bruins have a game-day quorum of 12 forwards active, healthy and under contract. Barring new acquisitions, Spooner and Knight ought to be front-running candidates to taxi and suit up in the event of an injury or, if need be, a healthy scratch.
That ought not to be an off-putting arrangement for Julien, who will also be working in Anton Khudobin as he becomes Tuukka Rask’s new full-time crease colleague. The soon-to-be sixth-year Boston skipper has made a trend out of fostering more than one first-year NHLer in a single season for the better part of his tenure.
Here is a glance back at eight instances in the FleetCenter/TD Banknorth Garden/TD Garden era where multiple players entered with less than 25 games of NHL experience and made a substantive impact for the black and gold.
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Joe Thornton stepped in on the heels of Boston selecting him first overall in the 1997 entry draft, but a slow start to his ongoing career rapidly relegated him behind two fellow freshmen.
As it happened, the eighth overall pick from the preceding summer, Sergei Samsonov, would nab the Calder Trophy with a 22-goal, 47-point campaign. Meanwhile, towering defenseman and Massachusetts native Hal Gill saw action in 68 games and placed ninth on the team with a plus-four rating.
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In spite of a down year that saw the team miss the postseason for the second time in four tries, there were two AHL call-ups who made a relatively gratifying impact.
Forward Andre Savage, who had played six games for Boston the year prior, suited up 43 times for the parent club in 1999-2000, pitching in seven goals and 20 points. With that pace, he could have finished as high as fifth on the Bruins' scoring chart had he been in the NHL for the full 82-game ride.
Meanwhile, one year after backstopping Providence to an historic Calder Cup, John Grahame debuted in The Show sooner than expected while No. 1 goalie Byron Dafoe held out over a contract dispute.
By season’s end, Grahame had finished ahead of both Dafoe and Rob Tallas in goals-against average (2.46) and save percentage (.910).
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Though he had seen slivers of NHL action in each of the previous three seasons, goaltender Andrew Raycroft still qualified for the Calder Trophy and would win it after bolstering a run to first place in the Northeast Division. He finished the 2003-04 campaign with a 29-18-9 record, 2.05 goals-against average and .926 save percentage and hasn’t had a better year since.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old center Patrice Bergeron turned heads by breaking in at training camp and ultimately finishing sixth on the team with 39 points in 71 appearances.
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Forward Brad Boyes finished second only to the aforementioned Bergeron on the scoring chart with 26 goals and 69 points. Andrew Alberts and Milan Jurcina each made their NHL debuts and would be the only two regulars on a non-playoff Boston blue line with a positive plus/minus rating.
Backing all of them, for the most part, was a late-blooming Tim Thomas, who led the goaltending guild with 38 games played and a .917 save percentage.
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Surprise first-year pro Milan Lucic and midseason call-up David Krejci each tallied 27 regular-season points and influenced Boston’s near-rally against top dog Montreal in a seven-game playoff thriller. Krejci finished second on the team only to Marc Savard with five points in the series.
Another freshman forward, Vladimir Sobotka, was comparatively quiet with one goal and six assists in 48 regular-season outings. But in the playoffs, he joined Lucic in chipping in two strikes.
Defenseman Matt Hunwick logged 53 appearances, six goals and 27 points. Forward Blake Wheeler tallied a 21-24-45 production log and a plus-36 rating to help fuel Boston’s surge to first place in the Eastern Conference.
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Reigning as the AHL’s top defenseman and the top scorer for Providence, Johnny Boychuk would play two minor-league games in December but was otherwise a Boston mainstay. He would tally 15 points in 51 games over his rookie campaign in The Show.
Joining Boychuk in what was all but an inevitable elevation, goaltender Tuukka Rask at least momentarily usurped the starting job from Thomas. He also supplanted his Boston colleague as the NHL’s leader in goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931).
Not unlike 1997-98, the Bruins promptly introduced a top echelon draft choice in No. 2 pick Tyler Seguin, only to have another first-year forward and defenseman eclipse his immediate impact.
Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid had been pressed into 20 and 19 NHL games, respectively, the year prior and flexed some of that growth from adversity in their first full Boston campaign.
Marchand went from a fourth-liner to a top-sixer en route to a 21-goal, 41-point season and Seventh Man award honors. McQuaid finished second to captain Zdeno Chara in the plus/minus department at plus-30 and second to Dennis Seidenberg with 131 blocked shots.
Both carried their impact over to the playoffs, at which point Seguin perked up when given the chance, stoking a four-point night in a critical Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Marchand would finish second on the team with 11 playoff goals and third with 19 points, including a three-point night in a 4-0 shutout of top dog Vancouver to clinch the Cup in Game 7.