By Kirk Luedeke
With a stable full of prospects and a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins can afford to be somewhat circumspect in their approach June 30 in Newark, N.J.
“I think it’s a deep draft,” Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning told New England Hockey Journal during a break in the club’s second-round playoff series against the New York Rangers. “I feel like it’s all three forward positions deep, the defense position is deep with some good two-way players, and goalies have some nice talent at the top, but there might not be as much depth there than in previous years.”
There are not many job openings on the big club, so the team can afford to take a longer and more selective view when it comes to evaluating potential selections.
“There are needs, there are types of players and then there’s the characteristics our organization thinks are important in a player,” he said. “From the outset, we consider the best player available, but if we’re in a situation where maybe we’re looking at several players who are close in talent but playing different positions, we might take the one where the positional need is greater.”
Goaltender is one position the Bruins might pass on. The quality and quantity of players in the system, headlined by starting netminder Tuukka Rask, with Malcolm Subban and Niklas Svedberg providing impressive potential as prospects, mean the team can afford to look primarily at the skating positions for depth.
While fans are always eager for the team to trade up for the big-name prospect, watch for the team to stand pat and make their picks as they come, looking for good value and upside throughout their draft board.
“We can get to about 50 guys that we really like and want,” Benning said. “Those names carry us to about the third or fourth round, so we’re confident that we’ll get some good players.”
The way teams approach the NHL draft tends to be cyclical. With the Bruins enjoying a period of relative stability throughout their organization, the strength of the 2013 draft class will allow the club to add more quality players to the mix, even if there will not be an immediate payoff.
The good news for the team and its fans is that everyone can afford to be patient and take advantage of this talent pool’s strengths by focusing on players with the skill and attributes that make them good fits for Boston’s system.
Chris Bigras, D, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Solid, steady, puck-moving defenseman won’t win any Norris trophies but has the skating, vision and power-play chops to develop into an effective role player at the highest level.
Laurent Dauphin, C, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Smallish but talented and hard-working guy opened eyes in Sochi with a first-round performance in helping lead Canada to its first Under-18 gold medal since 2008. Speedy and smart with slick hands and a natural nose for the net.
Jason Dickinson, C, Guelph Storm (OHL)
6-foot-1 center is starting to come into his own as a highly creative offensive presence. He lacks strength and needs to improve his play away from the puck, but what team doesn’t have a young prospect who needs considerable work and development?
Jacob de la Rose, C, Leksands (Sweden-Jr.)
If ever there was a Swedish player who could reprise the same two-way game and professional qualities of P.J. Axelsson, it is this kid, who is a little bigger but brings similar style, production and substance to the mix.
Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.), C, Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL)
His dad played for the Bruins at the end of his NHL career and uncle is the club’s assistant director of amateur scouting, so the hometown team has the goods on the former Malden Catholic star, who has terrific hands and offensive hockey sense.
Jimmy Lodge, C, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
He took a while to come around, but the lanky Pennsylvanian looks to be one of those high-end centers who is going to break out in a big way next season. With his size/speed/hands, would be a nice value at the end of the second round if he’s still on the board.
Emile Poirier, LW, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Awkward-looking skater, but fast and brings production along with character to the mix. Led a first-round upset of high-powered Rimouski and has the hockey sense/character mix that the B’s love.
Zach Sanford (Auburn, N.H.), C/LW, Middlesex IHC (EJHL)
The Boston College recruit is flying up draft boards because of his terrific finish and outstanding NHL tools/offensive potential. The Bruins don’t need draft picks to play for them right away, so Sanford is one of those high-upside players they can stow in the NCAA for a while and be patient with while he develops under the legendary Jerry York (Watertown, Mass).
Steven Santini, D, U.S. NTDP (USHL)
He’s more of a “safe” option; his stock is down because of the lack of perceived upside, but if the BC-bound New Yorker fell down to the end of the second round, he’d be a steal for the Bruins. He’s a very good skater and has the character and leadership the B’s covet when drafting players.