So far this offseason, the Bruins have made some pretty important moves as they look to move past the second round for the first time since 1992. Already, the team has resigned heart and soul enforcer Shawn Thornton and re-upped top-pairing defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. On Tuesday, the B’s sent 2009-10 crowd favorite Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers along with the 15th pick in this weekend’s draft for perennial 20+ goal scorer Nathan Horton and certified pest Gregory Campbell.
Still, there is lots of work left to do in order to make this team a true Stanley Cup caliber squad. That work continues on Friday with the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft. The Bruins have the second overall pick that night and carry on with more picks in rounds 2-7 on Saturday. Of course, the cherry on top of this draft pick sundae is that second pick – guaranteed to be either big, sturdy sniper Taylor Hall or smart, skilled center Tyler Seguin. Whether you are on Team Taylor or Team Tyler, there is no doubting that the B’s are slated to land what amounts to a franchise player. Which player dons the Black and Gold will come down to who Edmonton chooses with the first pick — that is, if the Bruins can’t sway the Oilers to trade picks.
Before about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the Bruins had two of the first 15 picks in the draft, coupling their own pick at No. 15 with the second choice they acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel trade. However, with the Horton deal, they stand with just the early pick. All season long, the B’s have staved off calls to deal that valuable choice and are set to reap the rewards for that patience.
Already, fans of the team and residents of the blogosphere are questioning why the Bruins would include the No. 15 pick in a trade this close to the draft. The debate between prospect and NHL-ready player is waged in every war room and every fan base this time of year, and with good reason. Mock drafts expound the virtues of the young players and the thought of “what could be” sometimes tickles ones fancy more than the reality of “what is”.
One school of thought on the Horton trade is that it breaks down into two mini deals. The first was Horton for Wideman and the second being Campbell for the 15th pick this year and the third rounder in 2011. This thinking is logical, as clearly Horton and Wideman are the centerpieces of the trade while Campbell, if signed is a nice depth addition on the third/fourth lines and in sandpaper department. Now, what is on everyone’s mind is whether Campbell is worth a potential top player who could be drafted at No. 15 and another player next season.
Campbell’s skill set notwithstanding, who says that the 15th pick is a surefire hit? In fact, who says that any pick is a guarantee? While marketing teams and ticket sales groups love the idea of selling a high draft pick, coaches and GMs are looking for players that can help them win right away. While Hall or Seguin are certainties to start the season in Boston and contribute right away, the probability of the 15th pick having a bigger impact on the 2010-11 or even 2011-12 Bruins than Campbell is low.
With that in mind, this is a good segue into something that has been cooking for a week or so. With the draft coming up, I was looking back over the past drafts by the Bruins back to 1994 and finding some of the best picks made by the team and some they may wish they had back. Looking back like this is fun as it shows you some of the times the Bruins lucked out with who they chose and some times they zigged when they should have zagged.
We will skip the 2009 draft as it is still way too early to judge that draft. For each year from 2009 back to 1994, we will look back at some picks the Bruins made and whether or not they were the right call. In addition, we will take a look at some picks other teams made late in drafts that show just how much of a crapshoot this whole process is. The Bruins won’t be judged poorly unless they made what could be called a bad choice when a star player was then taken shortly thereafter. Basically, we are looking 5-10 picks after a Bruins choice to find players who were at least in the discussion (or should have been).
Bruins Choice: Joe Colborne, C – 16th pick
Redo Choice: John Carlson, D – 27th pick by Capitals
This is a tough redo at this point because Colborne hasn’t played higher than collegiate hockey with Denver so far. However, there are multiple players drafted after him who have seen NHL ice time already. Included in that list is Carlson, the consensus choice to lead America’s defense corps in international competition for the next decade. He won gold with the U.S. junior team this winter and has already won two Calder Cups with Washington’s AHL affiliate, Hershey. He was a +6 in seven playoff games with the Caps this year and is primed for full-time NHL run next season. The Bruins obviously weren’t the only team to miss on Carlson, so there’s that. However, Colborne will need to turn his 6-5 frame into a front-line center to match the projected performance of Captain America.
Bruins Choice: Tommy Cross, D – 35th pick
Redo Choice: P.K. Subban, D – 43rd pick by Canadiens
While it is hard to argue with choosing a local kid as the Bruins did with Connecticut native and current B.C. player Cross, his chronic knee injuries have to be giving the Bruins concern. He injured his knee playing baseball in high school and reinjured it during his freshman season. Last year, he played in 38 of 42 games and had 10 points, so maybe he is working his way back. Subban played just two games so far in his NHL regular season career, but suited up for 14 of Montreal’s playoff contests and went for eight points. In 56 junior games in the 2008-09 season, he had 76 points in 56 games while playing +47 hockey. You never want to congratulate the Habs or anything, but they made a good choice here.
Bruins Choice: Levi Nelson, C – 6th Round, 158th pick
Redo Choice: Viktor Stalberg, LW – 6th Round, 162 pick by Maple Leafs
Very difficult to harshly judge a draft where the Bruins chose Phil Kessel fifth overall and then selected Milan Lucic 50th overall. Also have to remember that the four picks above Kessel were Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews and Nicklas Backstrom. If any one of those four players had slipped down to Boston, who knows where this team would be right now. Instead we slide deep down the draft board to the sixth round, where faulting teams is just getting on them for guessing wrong. The B’s went with Levi Nelson in the sixth round, a 5-11 center from Canada who struggled to find a role with the team’s minor league affiliates. He had 61 points in his final junior season, but just 10 points over his one season in the ECHL and AHL. Stalberg, a hulking winger from Sweden, had 14 points in his first 40 NHL games this year and is looked to as a key factor in Toronto’s rebuilding process. For a team in search of punch and size up front, Stalberg would have been a great find late in the draft.
Bruins Choice: Petr Kalus, C – 2nd Round, 39th pick
Redo Choice: Paul Stastny, C – 2nd Round 44th pick by Avalanche
This is a draft where the Bruins had about four picks they may want back. In
the first round, they chose Matt Lashoff 22nd and watched T.J. Oshie go two picks later to the Blues. In the fourth round, the Bruins chose Jonathan Sigalet, a defenseman from Bowling Green. Five picks later, the Coyotes chose Keith Yandle from Cushing Academy. Both are slick, puck-moving defensemen, but only one (hint: not Sigalet) is playing top-four minutes in the NHL. Right after Yandle was chosen, the B’s selected Vladimir Sobokta. A fine player for the B’s, two choices later the Blackhawks selected Niklas Hjalmarsson from Sweden. He is another top-four defenseman right now in the NHL while Sobotka fights to find a full-time niche in Beantown. The big misplay was going with Kalus in the second round over Paul Statsny. Kalus ended up playing nine games with the Bruins, scoring four goals. He was traded to Minnesota for Manny Fernandez in 2007 and has played all of two games for the Wild. Maybe the Bruins were scared of Paul Stastny after his brother Yan was a bust, but it has to hurt watching Paul turn into a 20+ goal/70+ point player in Colorado. Stastny was a key player on the U.S. Olympic team this year and would be a beautiful fit in the middle for the Bruins. The bonus for the Bruins in this year? Toronto took our franchise goalie, Tuukka Rask, one pick before the B’s selected Lashoff in the first round. Then, they traded Rask to the Bruins for Andrew Raycroft. Thanks Leafs!
Bruins Choice: No real bad choices…
Redo Choice: Have to wish that they didn’t trade 5th round choice Kris Versteeg for Brandon Bochenski
The Bruins didn’t have a first round choice in 2004, trading it to the Capitals for Sergei Gonchar. Thus, it must pain the Bruins now to watch Mike Green whirl around for the Caps with a choice they made two spots after the B’s would have picked. However, this draft was a pretty good one for the Bruins despite no first-rounder. Late in the second round, the B’s went back-to-back and selected David Krejci and Martins Karsums. Krejci, obviously is a top-flight center in waiting and a focal point of the Bruins’ offense. Karsums played six games for the B’s before getting traded to Tampa Bay for Mark Recchi. That is pretty good value on two second round picks. In the seventh round, the Bruins chose Matt Hunwick who has been one of Boston’s rare late-round steals as he slides into a role among the top six in Boston. In addition, fifth overall pick by Phoenix Blake Wheeler has been a contributor for two seasons with the Bruins and 16th overall pick by the Islanders Petteri Nokelainen had two seasons with the Bruins and fetched Steve Montador for the playoff push in 08-09.
Boston Choice: Mark Stuart, D – 21st overall
Redo Choice: Mike Richards, C – 24th overall by Flyers
Let me get this out of the way first – I like Mark Stuart. When he is in the line up his intensity, defensive work and physicality help set the tone for the Bruins as a team. He is a future captain and already a great leader. That being said, this draft of 2003 is widely considered one of the best classes in the history of the NHL and there are players taken after Stuart who are better than him. My choice would be Richards. He is already a captain in the NHL and consistently hovers around 30 goals and 75 points while playing a physical, defensive game at the pivot. Richards does everything and the fact that he slipped to No. 24 has about 18 teams kicking themselves. Another player taken after Stuart was Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler at No. 23. Another big center, Kesler may have fell victim to Boston having Joe Thornton on the team back then. But, in 2010, Kesler’s 75 points and 104 PIM would have looked great in Black and Gold. However, the Bruins made up for missing out on those two-way centers when they drafted Patrice Bergeron in the second round. A probable future captain of the Bruins, Bergeron has done it all for the B’s in his career with 99 goals and 280 points despite missing almost all of one season with his serious concussion. There were some late steals in this draft, with San Jose taking Joe “Big” Pavelski in the 7th round and Chicago taking 2010 Stanley Cup hero turned trade bait Dustin Byfuglien in the 8th round. Even Ottawa made a good pick with the second-to-last selection of the whole draft, finding goalie Brian Elliot with pick No. 291. All he has done is post a 46-26-13 record in two full seasons.
Bruins Choice: Vladislav Evseev, LW – 2nd Round, 56th overall
Redo Choice: Matt Stajan, C – 2nd Round, 57th overall by Maple Leafs
The Bruins have not had much luck over the years drafting Russians with only Sergei Samsanov being a plus pick. The Evseev choice was no different. The B’s went with the 6-2 winger from Moscow who had 10 total points in Russia that season and 12 total since then. Stajan on the other hand, has been a serviceable winger for the Leafs and Flames, with 239 points over six seasons on some bad teams. While that pick wasn’t the best outcome for the Bruins, the rest of the draft wasn’t much better. The team took Hannu Toivenen with the 29th overall pick and the goalie never got on track in Boston, losing his job to Tim Thomas before being traded for the ghost of Carl Sodeberg. Two choice from that draft have made noise for the Bruins, but were chosen by other teams. Johnny Boychuk was selected by Colorado with the 61st overall pick and just signed a new two-year extension with the B’s. Recently dispatched Dennis Wideman was chosen in the eighth round by Buffalo, and some Bruins fans may argue that was too high. All in all, a forgetful draft weekend for the B’s brain trust.
Bruins Choice: Shaone Morrisonn, D – 19th overall
Redo Choice: Tim Gleason, D – 23rd overall by Senators
Clearly the Bruins were in the mindset of choosing a defenseman in the first round and went with the big Morrison over Gleason. May want a mulligan on that one. Not that Gleason is the second coming of No. 4, but he is a solid NHLer who has the ability to dish the puck a bit while locking things down is his own end. He was an Olympian this February and is currently wasting away in Carolina. Morrisonn, on the other hand, is underachieving with the Capitals after the B’s dealt him away for Gonchar in ’04. Nothing against Morrisonn, but he is more of a Andrew Alberts-type player and those guys shouldn’t be first round choices. Other interesting choices from that draft were the Flyers taking newly minted top-two defenseman for the Bruins Dennis Seidenberg in the sixth round while the Avalanche found former 30-goal scorer Marek Svatos in the seventh round.
Bruins Choice: Lars Johnson, D – 7th overall
Redo Choice: Anyone
In sticking with the rules established before, it is hard to find a single player taken 5-10 picks after the Bruins missed on Johnson with the seventh pick who would have been any better. Maybe Ron Hainsey who was taken 13th by Montreal, especially of the B’s were going defenseman there. A look later in that first round finds some late steals in Brooks Orpik by Pittsburgh at No. 18 and Niklas Kronwall at No. 29 by Detroit. Both have won Cups and excelled on the international stage. The Bruins had two first round picks that season and went back to Sweden to nab Martin Samuelsson at No. 27. Teams that swing and miss on two first rounders in one year tend to struggle and that is what the Bruins did for a while. However, those two bad choices may not even sting as much as what transpired deep down in the seventh round. The Bruins chose Chris Berti with the 204th pick. The big guy never played above Juniors. With the next pick, the Rangers went out and found 177 career wins and an Olympic gold medalist in Henrik Lundqvist. Again, 28 other teams missed on King Henrik, but to see him go the pick after the Bruins choose makes it hard to swallow.
Bruins Choice: Greg Barber, RW – 7th Round, 207 overall
Redo Choice: Henrik Zetterberg, LW – 7th Round, 210 overall by Detroit
Hard to get all over the Bruins for making bad choices in the seventh round, but man would it be great to have had Harry Sinden pick up Zetterberg back in ’99. However, instead of his 475 career points in just 506 games, the B’s went with Greg Barber. How a guy who starred for the Victoria Salsa of the BCHL was a bust is beyond me, but he had a nice career at Denver before toiling in the AHL, ECHL and UHL for a few years. In the first round that year, the Bruins chose Nick Boynton with the 21st pick in front of the Garden crowd which watched Brian Burke pull off the heist of that draft to take both Sedin twins. Other picks of note were Dallas’ choice of B.C. High star Mike Ryan in the second round and Buffalo finding a Vezina Trophy winner with its selection of Ryan Miller in the fifth round.
Bruins Choice: Ryan Milanovic, LW – 6th Round, 165 overall
Redo Choice: Pavel Datsyuk, C – 6th Round, 171 overall
By now, the fact that the Red Wings practically built their dynasty on late finds and great scouting is well known. The fact that they did so right after the Bruins choices should begin to grate on people. This one saw the B’s go with 6-2 winger Ryan Milanovic from Kitchner. Not sure why he was drafted in ’98 because that year he had one goal and nine points. The next year he went for 15-18-33 with 114 PIMs so maybe he was projected to be a good enforcer, who knows. What I do know is that a reach on the fine Russian Datsyuk would have been a better call. 592 points, +176, two Stanley Cups, three Selke and three Lady Byng trophies later, we all can agree that Datsyuk would have been a better choice. However, the Bruins always fail when taking Russians so he would have stayed in Mother Russian and never been heard from.
Bruins Choice: Sergei Samsonov, LW – 8th overall
Redo Choice: Marian Hossa, RW – 12th overall to Senators
Nothing against the Magical Muscovite, but his career with the Bruins was a bit underwhelming and Hossa has been a key ingredient on three-straight Cup finalists including the champions this year. Hossa has evolved his game as he ages, but still finishes around 70 points a season while playing exceptional defense. Productivity in his own end was never one of Samsonov’s better traits, but you can’t overlook the fact that he won Rookie of the Year honors in 97-98. However, you have to assume if it was Hossa arriving along with top pick Joe Thornton in that draft, things would have turned out better for the Bruins. This draft also saw two current B’s taken, Shawn Thornton in the 7th round by Toronto and Andrew Ferrence in the 8th round by Pittsburgh.
Bruins Choice: Jonathan Aitken, D – 8th overall
Redo Choice: Derek Morris, D – 13th overall by the Flames
While there may not be many Bruins supporters wishing they had Derek Morris for the last 14 years, he would have been a more valuable choice than Aitken. Morris has 869 games of NHL service while Aitken played 44 (only three with the Bruins). On the plus(minus?) side is that this draft’s first round was pretty weak overall. A lot of okay players, but the two best may be Danny Briere who was taken 24th by Phoenix and Marco Sturm who went 21st to San Jose. Both are fine players, even first-liners, but they aren’t what teams are looking for as sure-fire top picks. Bruins fans will be interested to note that the B’s chose someone named Eric Naud with the first pick of the third round while the Islanders chose Zdeno Chara three picks later. Naud played 27 games with one goal for the Providence Bruins in 1997-98 before languishing in the ECHL for a while. Chara is now the backbone of the Bruins defense and a former Norris Trophy winner.
Bruins Choice: Kyle McLaren, D – 9th overall
Redo Choice: Jarome Iginla, RW – 11th overall to the Stars
Another one of those “nothing really wrong with the Bruins’ pick, but man I wish they chose this guy” selections. McLaren had a fine career for the Bruins on the backend, with about 20 points a year and some physical play. He never seemed to be fully healthy and was traded to San Jose while holding out in the 2002-03 season. However, it is very difficult to not drool at the thought of Iginla patrolling Cam Neely’s place at the Garden. As good a leader as there is in hockey, Iginla has 920 points in 1,024 games with 726 PIMs. He led the NHL in scoring in 2001-02 and has two gold medals in his pocket. If not Iginla, how about J.S. Giguere who was chosen 13th by Hartford and backstopped Anaheim to a Stanley Cup? Bruins fans will note that Marc Savard was chosen in the fourth round by the Rangers and P.J. Axelsson was selected in the 7th round by the Bruins. The finding of Axe that late is one of Boston’s rare success stories in the later stages of the draft. He went on to an 11-year career with the Bruins and was one of the best defensive forwards in the league. Late in his career, it seemed like coaches tried to turn him into a first-line guy to make up for Marc Savard’s defensive issues at the time, and that turned some fans on him. That is unfair to P.J. who was played out of position by coaches looking to find lightning in a bottle. In his role as a shut-down winger, there were few better, just ask Jaromir Jagr.
Bruins Choice: Daniel Goneau, LW – 2nd Round, 47th overall
Redo Choice: Patrik Elias, LW – 2nd Round, 51st overall by the Devils
Goneau never signed with the Bruins, re-entering the draft to be chosen 48th by the Rangers in ’96. He finished with 15 points in 53 games over three partial seasons with the Rangers. Elias, on the other hand, has 754 points in 880 games with the Devils with two Stanley Cups. While people talk about the ’03 draft as a great first round, this 1994 draft may have as much depth as any in history. The Quebec Nordiques made sure Colorado had some players to go with Joe Sakic and company after they made the move by drafting Chris Drury and Milan Hjeduk in the 3rd and 4th rounds. Future NHL captains Sheldon Souray and Chris Clark also went in the third round. In the fifth round, the Stars chose Marty Turco who went on to win 262 games over nine seasons in Dallas. In the sixth round, Ottawa stumbled upon its captain, Daniel Alfredsson who has compiled 992 points over 1,002 games in Ottawa. In the 10th round, Detroit chose Tomas Holmstrom who has 118 goals over the past five years and 214 over his 13-year career in Motown. Tyson Nash and Richard Zednik were also taken in the 10th round in ’94. Mr. Irrelevant, Kim Johnson (chosen by the Islanders) just finished this season with the Blackhawks and has played 739 career NHL games.
However, the craziest find from this draft is the ninth round, or “Goalie Paradise”. The following goalies were taken in the ninth round: Tim Thomas (No. 217 – QUE), Johan Hedberg (No. 218 – PIT), Evgeni Nabakov (No. 219 – SJS), Tomas Vokun (No. 226 – MTL) and John Grahame (No. 229 – BOS). If you add up the wins, you get 879 wins from those five goalies found in a round of the draft that doesn’t exist anymore. Also of note, three of those goalies – Thomas, Nabokov and Vokun are available this offseason.
There you have it, a long list of cautionary tales as the Bruins head into the draft this weekend. History shows that the second overall pick is a sure bet to be a very productive, if not franchise-caliber, player. However, it would be of the Bruins’ best interest to find more players ready to be long-standing NHLers at the bottom of the draft.