June 25, 2011

Bruins shore up depth on Day 2 of NHL Draft

The Bruins selected forward Alex Khokhlachev at 40th overall in the second round. (Getty)

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Boston Bruins took major strides to shore up organizational depth at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center June 24-25.

After snapping up defenseman Dougie Hamilton with the ninth overall pick Friday, the B’s pounced on one of the most skilled scoring forwards available at 40th overall with the selection of Windsor Spitfires pivot Alex Khokhlachev.

At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, the Moscow-born player the Bruins call “Koko” doesn’t have ideal height, but is highly skilled and one of the best pure offensive talents in the entire 2011 class.

“He’s a skilled player,” said Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning after the team made its final selection. “(He) loves to score. For a Russian player, he’s real competitive. He’s strong on the puck. He’s an elusive skater. From the blueline in on the offensive end that’s the strength of his game.”

Khokhlachev, who just made the 2011 cutoff date by six days, is one of the youngest players, but has dynamic upside, as evidenced from his 34 goals and 76 points in his first North American season after coming over from Russia last fall.

“He’s one of those guys that can turn on a dime,” Benning said. “He’s hard to track because he’s so elusive. He’s not tall, but he’s a thick kid, so he’s strong. He fits our core values of work ethic, character and skill- he measures up in all those things.”

If any are concerned about signing Khokhlachev, Benning put those fears to rest pretty quickly.

“We did our homework before the draft,” he said. “He’s going to stay in North America. He wants to be an NHL player and he’s going to do everything he can in his power to stay over here until he gets to play in the NHL.”

Khokhlachev was thrilled to be joining the Bruins.

“Oh yes, it’s really exciting because Boston is the Stanley Cup Champions,” he said a few moments after the pick came in. “They’re the number one team in the NHL right now so it’s very exciting. But I didn’t really know who [would] draft me. So it is Boston and I am really happy with this.”

In the third round, the B’s snagged another OHL player, Anthony Camara of the Saginaw Spirit. A lower-line player on a good club, Camara’s statistical production isn’t reflective of his potential as a former first round OHL bantam draft pick (15th overall in 2009). A good skater with underrated hands, Benning projected that Camara might score 20 goals in the OHL next season.

“(Camara’s) a typical Boston Bruin-type player,” Benning said. “He’s a good skater, he plays a North-South game. He’ll fight anybody- he’ll take anybody on. He hits on the forecheck. When he was there in the third round, it was a good fit for his style of game for the way we play.”

Camara himself credited some sibling rivalry for playing a key role in his toughness.

“Yeah, I would say probably my sister would beat on me when I was a little kid, [laughs],” he said. “It got me tougher.”

The Mississauga, Ontario native stands at only about 6-feet, but is a solid 195 pounds and is strong for his size.

“He’s not tall, but he’s thick and he’s a fearless player, kind of like a Shawn Thornton-type for us,” said Benning.

In the fourth round, the B’s maintained their trend of taking an overage player previously passed over when they took Florida native and third-leading scorer in the USHL, Brian Ferlin with the 121st overall selection.

“(It was) absolutely unbelievable, you know,” Ferlin, who didn’t attend the draft, said by phone. “(Being) up there, you know, with every selection, it was a thrill to hear my name called, especially by (Boston), obviously, coming off winning the Cup, I don’t think I could be in a better situation.”

Benning characterized Ferlin as a power forward with some potential giving his production.

“He does the things that we covet,” said Benning. “He’s strong along the wall, strong protecting the puck. He takes pucks to the net. He ended up third in the USHL in the scoring this year with 73 points- he had a good year.”

In the fifth round, the B’s selected Milton Academy standout Robby O’Gara went off the board at 151st overall. At about 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, O’Gara is lanky but with plenty of room to grow and fill out. He helped his team to the 2011 New England prep championship, assisting on the game-winning goal against Kent School.

Benning touched on Boston’s pick of a local player albeit from Nesconset, N.Y.

“He’s a big boy, he’s 6-foot-3,” he said. “He’s a good skater, he can handle the puck and make the good first pass.”

“I think I’m a defenseman with a good (skating) stride,” O’Gara said by phone at home on Long Island. “I’m positionally sound, I know what I have to do defensively and I can help out offensively. I know how to move the puck and I bring that drive to win every game.”

O’Gara is defense-first player, but exhibited the ability to make crisp passes and has some offensive potential as a long-term project. He will spend one more season at Milton before heading to Yale in 2012.

The B’s closed out their picks with the selection of Norwegian goaltender Lars Volden, who played for Norway on the 2011 World Jr. Championships in Buffalo and spent the season with the Espoo Jr. Blues in Finland, posting a 2.76 goals against average

“Our European scout Jukka (Holtari) had seen him lots as had some of our other scouts,” Benning said. “We got good reports from his goalie coach on him. He’s a big boy, so we like to, if we can, draft a goalie every year to add depth to that position in our organization.”

Benning characterized Volden as the typical European butterfly-style netminder.

With that, the Bruins closed out what looks to be a highly successful draft and will look to the future to see if some of these key pieces from recent years and one day contribute to a sustained winning formula.