June 23, 2012

B's add to depth, but draftees won't make immediate impact

By Kirk Luedeke

PITTSBURGH— The Boston Bruins completed their 2012 NHL Entry Draft efforts at the Consol Energy Center with a wide array of players, but none who appear to be options for the team for at least three years or more. 

Boston selected defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass.) 85th overall. (Getty Images)

The good news for the team is that the organization has solid depth, even if lacking in high-end talent beyond top prospect Dougie Hamilton. At the same time, the B’s added pieces at every position. The team’s best hope is that as these players develop, this draft will help Boston sustain its momentum as one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams over the last couple of seasons about five years down the road.

“I think we accomplished everything we set out to,” said Wayne Smith, director of amateur scouting after the draft concluded Saturday afternoon. “We wanted to get some depth in goal; we believe we got a potential starting goaltender. We wanted to add some size and some toughness; we added that down the stretch. And we got some character players. I think all in all, it was a complete success as far as the scouting staff and management went towards our plan.”

In Malcolm Subban the B’s have a player with tremendous potential, albeit unrefined and requiring a good amount of time before he may be ready to earn a job in Boston.

The team spent the draft’s second day, adding various components with size, skill, toughness and character, not going to Europe for any of the team’s six picks.

Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass.) was the team’s second choice, going in the late third round with the 85th selection. Although undersized at 5-foot-9, he’s an outstanding skater with a keen hockey intellect and a passion for the game and the Bruins that is unsurpassed. Bound for Boston University in the fall, he plays a similar style to former Terriers standout David Warsofsky (Marshfield, Mass.).

“He’s the type of kid who plays much bigger than he is,” Smith said. “He’s got a Bruin mentality. When he plays hard, he’s hard to play against.”

Although he left home two years ago for the U.S. National Team in Ann Arbor, Mich. Grzelcyk, 18, also has strong ties to Boston and the local team. His father, John, is a longtime member of the Boston (and TD) Garden bull gang, who's raised his family in the shadow of the building and Bruins tradition.

“I can’t put it into words,” Grzelcyk said after putting on the spoked-B for the first time as a player, not a fan. “It’s pretty unexpected; I’m so over the top right now.”

Without a pick in the fourth round, the B’s dealt Benoit Pouliot's restricted free agent rights to Tampa Bay for Michel Ouellet and a fifth-round selection, which was used on London Knights leading scorer Seth Griffith.

The smallish, but skilled 45-goal scorer was passed over a year ago, but came to the Bruins with Tampa’s 131st overall selection after attending the Lightning’s training camp as an undrafted free agent last fall. At 19, Griffith will have to play one more year in the OHL, but will be eligible for Providence of the AHL in 2012-14.

“He’s a big-time player,” said Smith. “He rises to the occasion. Dale and Mark Hunter both were preaching his game. They both feel like he brings that quality that they share when they played. That ability to win pucks, win races."

14 selections later, the Bruins nabbed another OHL forward in Cody Payne, who split the season between Oshawa and Plymouth. Although he saw limited ice time and scored just five goals and 16 points in 60 games (with 107 penalty minutes), the gritty winger could be a developmental player with more to offer going forward.

“He’s a kid that played on a very deep team and didn’t have a lot of ice time this year,” said Smith. “We were fortunate to catch him when his teammates were gone to the World Junior (tournament). Saw him play in a top-two line role. He’s as tough as they come.”

In the sixth round, the Bruins made another family pick, taking assistant GM Jim Benning’s nephew, Matt Benning, 175th overall. The rugged defenseman out of the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL is former NHL rearguard Brian Benning’s son and is slated to play for another Saints club- the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints- in 2012-13.

“Matt Benning is a big, strong kid,” said Smith. “He moves the puck extremely well. He has a chip on his shoulder. When he’s on the ice, people know. He’s the kind of guy that on the way to the bench gives you a shot in the head just because you looked at him.”

The B’s added more toughness in the final round with the team’s first-ever Texas native, power forward Colton Hargrove, who played with Bruins prospect Zane Gothberg in Fargo with the USHL’s Fargo Force. Now at Western Michigan University where is he is already working on his strength and conditioning and on-ice training, Hargrove, who turns 20 on Monday, is about as raw as they come. He scored 16 goals and 38 points in 54 games to go with 140 penalty minutes.

“Colton Hargrove is a similar type of player (to Payne),” Smith said. “He played on a deep team in Fargo. He’s a big, strong kid who’s going to Western Michigan. (He’s) very physical, very tough. I’m sure the Bruins fans will get to know them and enjoy them when their time comes.

“It’s the same when you get a Doug Hamilton,” Smith said of Boston adding Subban to the club. “These are the kinds of people you want in your organization. They’re winners.”

While every team is a winner on draft day itself, real success cannot be measured for years when considering any new class. For now, the Bruins and their fans will have to be content with seeing the new blood join up in Boston next week for the start of another summer development camp.

The jury will remain out on Subban and the rest of the 2012 Boston Bruins draft class for quite some time.

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kluedeke29.