June 2, 2013

Centers of attention: Bruins' second-round projections

By Kirk Luedeke

Ryan Fitzgerald (right) received the MVP Award from Scotty Bowman at the All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo this past fall. (Getty Images)

No first-round pick? No problem.

The Boston Bruins are in the Eastern Conference Finals, and by virtue of their trade with the Dallas Stars for Jaromir Jagr, the original second-round selection sent to Big D as part of the package for the future Hall of Fame winger, the B’s first selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft will be around 58-60 depending on their finish.

With a significant quantity of prospects currently in the Boston system, the team does not have an immediate need to add prospects via the draft. The best NHL clubs are able to build through the draft, but when you consider the solid track record in the second round that the Bruins have enjoyed in the last decade (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic are all second-rounders), not having a choice in the 28-30 range is not a major setback.

B’s assistant GM Jim Benning told New England Hockey Journal recently that with a list of about 50 players that the team’s scouts had their eyes on,  the deep 2013 draft class presents an opportunity to keep building quality organizational depth and looking to the future.

“We put together our list and as we get closer to our pick we typically present two or three guys to Peter and lay out a best scenario,” Benning said. “We talk about how a player fits best in our system, what kind of ‘Boston Bruins’ characteristics we value that the player has and so on.”

So, while not having the opening round pick anymore is bad news to the hardcore draft fans out there who will have to wait longer than at anytime since 2004, when the team selected Krejci 63rd overall, the B’s still own six of their seven selections.

That affords Boston the chance to draft some quality but raw project players who can gradually develop and eventually make a case to stick with the big club. This is in contrast to the lower-finishing teams whose draft needs are more immediate.

With that in mind, here are some center prospects who could be available at the end of the second round in Newark, N.J.

Marko Dano, Slovan Bratislava (KHL) — Slovak sniper can really dangle and despite having just average height (5-foot-11) has a thick build and is strong on his skates. Creative and sometimes gets too cute with the puck, but there is a lot of skill and promise if he can round out his overall game. Skating is average, but he compensates with his vision and offensive zone play.

Jacob de la Rose, Leksands (Sweden- Jr.) — Character pivot has nice size (6-foot-2, 190), speed but lacks elite hands and vision, which could limit his scoring upside. De la Rose plays a Bruins style of game and it would not surprise if he is on longtime Boston scout Svenake Svensson’s short list of Swedish options. However, the question becomes whether he has enough upside, or if he’s more of a player in the Chris Kelly mold; solid, but safe.

Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.), C Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL) — Although lacking in size (5-foot-10) and dynamic speed, the son of former Austin Prep and Providence College star Tom Fitzgerald has elite offensive hockey sense. With his bloodlines and ties to the Bruins (his uncle Scott is the team’s assistant amateur scouting director), the Boston College recruit is the kind of player who might fit the bill if he gets to them at the end of the second. Not everyone is sold on Fitzgerald’s ability to make an NHL impact, but he has the vision and hands to give it a good run.

Ryan Kujawinski, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) — A disappointing season from the 6-foot-2, 205-pound pivot means that the once-projected first-rounder could be sitting on the board at the end of the second. Traded from Sarnia more than a year ago for B’s prospect Ryan Spooner, this power forward is a good skater with quick hands, but the production and consistency simply wasn’t there in 2012-13.  At his best when he’s banging bodies and driving hard to the net, Kujawinski was a passive, uninvolved player for long stretches and as such, his stock is down. However, if you look back to last year when he tallied 15 goals and 30 points in as many games after the trade, he could be a terrific roll of the dice. Boom or bust, but the closer to 60 you get, the more appealing Kujawinski is.

Zach Sanford (Auburn, N.H.), Middlesex IHC (EJHL) — New Hampshire native is raw, but may be one of the most interesting prospects in the entire 2013 draft. After dominating the Granite State high school circuit, he jumped to junior hockey this year but struggled with the initial transition. However, with his 6-foot-3 size, excellent feet/speed and rocket shot, he emerged as a force in the EJHL after January. Headed to Boston College after another year of junior (unless he accelerates), he can play any forward position but is most effective at center. He’s ranked as a solid third-round player, but don’t be surprised if he goes top-60 because of the physical tools and high ceiling.

Adam Tambellini, Surrey Eagles (BCHL) — Big 6-foot-2 frame and terrific release on his shot make this raw, but intriguing project a late second-round dark horse.  Flying under the radar a bit especially after being left off Team Canada West’s roster for last November’s World Jr. A Challenge for what was deemed “political” reasons. The youngest son of former Oilers GM Steve Tambellini and University of North Dakota recruit is the kind of player the B’s can stash in the system and take the longer developmental road with.

Twitter: @kluedeke29
Email: kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com