The way the Philadelphia Flyers came back down three games to zero against the Boston Bruins in their Conference Semi-Finals series was a huge blow to the hearts of all Bruins fans.
However it appears that there is still much excitement surrounding the Bruins. I am sure the second overall pick and the Bruins seemingly bright looking future has much do to with their fans not dwelling on a history making collapse in the post season.
The Bruins were the second best defensive team in the league allowing only 2.33 goals against per game. The New Jersey Devils were first with 2.26 goals against per game. They were also 30th in the league in goals with 2.39 goals scored per game.
Let’s take a look at some other team statistics that allowed the Bruins to make the playoffs while scoring the least goals per game in the league. They were second in face-off wins at 52.6 percent on the season. The penalty kill was third in the NHL with the Bruins not allowing a goal on 86.4 percent of their penalties.
The Boston Bruins are one of the better-stocked teams in the NHL in terms of prospects. Hockeysfuture.com ranked them at No. 10 in their organization rankings of April 20, 2010. They are noted to be deep in prospect talent at the centre ice position and they have good depth on defense. However the lack of scoring talent outside their top prospects is a cause for some concern, especially when you look at the scoring numbers for the NHL squad this season.
The Bruins top forward prospect is the 6’5” 190 lb. former first round pick in 2008 Joe Colborne. He is a big player with great vision and passing skills, he also has a good shot but could stand to shoot more. He is a comparable to Joe Thornton, in that he is a fairly soft big player. He should become a top six centre man or winger in the NHL someday.
The Bruins top defense prospect is the 6’1” 174 lb. second round pick from the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Yuri Alexandrov. He is an above average skater that plays a physical game on the back end. He is also a capable power play quarterback, with the vision and shooting skills required to be a difference maker. The knock on him currently is that he needs to fill out and add muscle to his frame. When he does that he should turn into a top four defenseman at the NHL level.
The Bruins top goaltending prospect is the 6’3” 185 lb. third round pick from the 2008 Entry Draft, Michael Hutchinson. He is an athletic goaltender with good positioning and excellent anticipation. He thinks the game very well and is able to make accurate reads on plays. He could become a number one goaltender at the NHL level, but is more likely to be an above average back up goaltender that can be number one in a pinch.
Needs for the Bruins in the prospect ranks are left-wingers, top four-defenseman depth, goaltending and scoring wingers and centre men in general. The Bruins will have the second, 15th, 32nd, 45th, 97th, 135th, 165th, and 195th overall selections in this year’s draft. Barring any trades occurring between now and then of course.
Let’s review what players could be available for selection for the Bruins that would help address their organizational needs.
Scouting reports courtesy of NHL.com
Currently the Bruins have two prospects at the left wing position in Jeff LoVecchio and Lane MacDermid. Both players have the chance to become bottom six players at the NHL level. Currently the Bruins have no top six prospects at the left wing position, unless one of the right wingers or centre men can move to the left side.
With the Bruins depth at centre ice they must be hoping that the Edmonton Oilers will select Tyler Seguin with the first overall pick. This would allow the 6’1” 195 lb. left winger Taylor Hall to fall into their hands at the second overall pick.
He received a glowing review from Windsor Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner: “Taylor is a dynamic skater who is fearless when he goes to the net. He is very difficult to knock off the puck once he gets it and his hunger for the puck is special. He reminds me of Pavel Bure. Taylor’s desire to be the best is also very unique and has also contributed to his success, and made him the great player that he is.”
Taylor Hall is clearly a special player and appears to be NHL ready now. He likely will not put up huge numbers in his first year. Most likely 20 goals and 20 to 30 assists, but these would be much welcomed numbers on an offensive starved Bruins club.
A top line of Taylor Hall on the left wing, Marc Savard at centre ice and Milan Lucic on the right wing could be a deadly combination.
Currently 6’0” 192 lb. left wing prospect John McFarland is ranked 15th by NHL Central Scouting. There is the possibility that he may be drafted higher than this, but if his name is still on the board the Bruins would surely find him too tempting to pass up.
Director of NHL Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire said: “Excellent skater with high-end speed and agility and maybe overall, a high skill player. A great wrist shot, he plays with an edge. He'll fight, not often, but when he does it shows his meanness. Who can we compare him to? A Brenden Morrow perhaps, who was drafted by Dallas and is still a contributing captain-member.”
While a Brenden Morrow type player likely gets you 30 goals and 60 points per year, they are also invaluable come playoff time. These are the types of players that help win Stanley Cups.
Currently the Bruins have a plethora of defense prospects, but you can never have enough defense. Is the old adage not “defense wins championships?” The Bruins have six players that have the potential to become top four defensemen in the NHL—Yuri Alexandrov, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski, Tommy Cross, Andrew Bodnarchuk, and Jeff Penner—although most of these prospects will likely become top six or seventh defensemen at the NHL level.
At the Bruins 32nd overall pick they should have the chance to draft a solid defensive prospect. Names such as Dylan McIlrath, Jonathan Merrill and Brock Beukeboom (pictured above) should be available.
Dylan “Big Mac Truck” McIlrath has earned his nickname through his thunderous hits and his 6’4” 212 lb. frame. Director of NHL Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire had this to saw of Dylan, “Big and mean, old-time typical NHL defenseman. He scares people not only with some frequent fights he might get in, but with 6-4, 212 lbs. straight ahead speed and offensive ability to match. Often, and in a very complimentary sense, makes puck carriers cut to the other side of the ice with his intimidating size.”
The second option would be the 6’3” 198 lb. Jonathan Merrill whom has committed to playing for Michigan University beginning the 2010-11 season. His style is a contrast to McIlrath’s as indicated by NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee "He plays the game a lot like Jordan Leopold. He plays weaving and diving, sneaking and thinking, gaining the zone and moving the puck ahead right on the tape to a guy. He's skilled and he's really come a long way in his development."
The last intriguing defenseman likely to be available at this pick would be the 6’1” 202 lb. Brock Beukeboom. He grew up around the NHL and he seems to have inherited his father, Jeff Beukeboom’s (former New York Ranger), slap shot according to NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards "Brock has a very good shot, hard and accurate. He has the ability to get it on net and not have it blocked. He has the ability to move the puck with good outlet passes. He also has the ability to take the body, he is strong and can pin opponents along the boards. He skates very well and has very good mobility and agility."
Any of these three young prospects would be a potential top four defender for the Boston Bruins. Although all of them would likely benefit from more season at the junior level, despite their NHL ready size.
The Bruins currently have four goaltending prospects in Michael Hutchinson, Kevin Regan, Matt Dalton, and Adam Courchaine. Although the first three have an outside chance of becoming starting goaltenders at the NHL level, all four are likely to become no more than back up goaltenders at the NHL level.
With the 45th overall draft choice the Bruins will have the chance to upgrade their prospect stable between the pipes. The 6’3” 180 lb. Louis Domingue from the goaltending factory of Quebec could still be available to be selected at this point in the draft.
NHL Central Scouting’s Al Jensen has this to say of Domingue: "I saw him play in both Moncton and Quebec. He's along the same lines as Simpson, but I think he's a little quicker than Simpson. He's not as controlled. He's a big kid who covers a lot of net but where he gets in trouble is when he tries to do too much. He gave up too many rebounds but he's a young kid, and when he learns to control that, he'll have a bright future. I like his athleticism, his quickness and determination. He handles the puck very well. Give him three or four years, this kid could be a good NHL goaltender."
He sounds like he would need to finish his junior career and spend a year or two at the AHL level to work out the rough edges in his game. Although he also has a pretty good review from Quebec Remparts GM and head coach Patrick Roy, “Big and tall goaltender who covers the net well, and has very quick legs. He has good vision for transition and even owns great puck handling abilities.”
It sounds like whomever drafts Domingue will need to have great patience to allow him to develop. But with Tuuka Rask proving this past season that he can be an above average NHL starting goaltender the Bruins have plenty time to give Domingue to quietly develop his game.
The final three rounds of the draft are where teams attempt to find the proverbial needle in the haystack. The Bruins should be looking at drafted gifted offensive players to bring more skill and scoring potential to their collection of prospects.
At the 97th overall pick the smaller 5’11” 185 lb. Justin Shugg, currently playing for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, may still be available. He has great offensive instincts and good finish in the offensive zone, but his awkward stride and lack of size are thought to limit him at the next level. Given time Shugg could develop into an effective second or third line 20-goal scorer at the NHL level.
At the Bruins 135th, 165th and 195th overall draft picks they should be looking to select two more project prospects with good offensive skills, and project goaltender.
One intriguing possibility is the Bruins using one of these later round draft picks to select Andrei Kuchin. In 2005 he was considered a sure fire top 10 pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Now flash forward to 2010 and you will see that Kuchin was not even selected during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Thus making him eligible for selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
He currently plays for the Chicago Steel of the USHL, we he did not exactly tear up the league last season scoring 20 goals and 36 assists in 56 games with a plus one rating and three shorthanded goals.
So what happened to the 5’10” 184 lb. Kuchin you ask? It is rumored that there is and has been a great deal of friction between Kuchin and Russian Under-20 National Team Head Coach Vladimir Plyuschev since the 2007 off-season. Since that time he has not gained exposure at the international level playing for his country. Plyuschev once again did not bring Kuchin to compete in the 2010 World Junior Under-20 Championships.
Kuchin is known for his great hands and skating. He will go into traffic areas to retrieve the puck and his plus minus rating of plus-one this past season in the USHL shows his improvement on the defensive side of the game. He also appears to be well trusted by the Chicago Steel of the USHL on the penalty kill, posting three shorthanded goals and four shorthanded assists.
In terms of a late round goaltending project, Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault could fit the bill. He is a 6’6” 186 lb. goaltender and NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen had this to say of him, “I was so impressed with Corbeil's quickness for a big goalie. When you see him you won't believe how quick he is for a big guy (6’6”, 186 lbs). Very controlled and soft pads, no big rebounds. Corbeil has an excellent feel for the game. He's very good at controlling his rebounds."
Mathieu is currently ranked seventh among North American goaltenders so it is unclear how late in the draft he will be available. This will depend on how many teams are looking to select goaltenders through the first three rounds of the draft.
Overall the Boston Bruins looked positioned to be a team poised to be a Stanley Cup contender for much of the coming decade.