By Kirk Luedeke
PITTSBURGH — A projected deep and solid New England prospect crop was validated at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft last month, as a dozen area draftees made for the highest number of locals selected in recent memory.
|Phillips Exeter's Brian Hart was the first New Englander selected. (Getty Images)|
For the second consecutive season, there were no first-round picks to come out of New England, but when the Tampa Bay Lightning grabbed Phillips Exeter standout Brian Hart (Cumberland, Maine) in the second round with the 53rd overall pick, it started an impressive run of players from the region in the second, third and fourth rounds.
“I think it’s really good for New England hockey in general,” Hart said afterwards. “Some years we don’t have many draft picks, so I just want to show the kids in New England that you can get drafted early like this and it’s just an honor.”
In 2011, a total of just five New England players were chosen, but this year six regional prospects were off the board after just the third round. The region’s deep draft class was topped by a pair of second-rounders in Hart and St. John’s Prep star Sam Kurker (Reading, Mass.), who went to the St. Louis Blues at No. 56 overall.
Four more players went quickly in the third round: scoring winger Jimmy Vesey (North Reading, Mass.) went 66th to the Nashville Predators; huge goalie Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine) went 75th to the Calgary Flames; energetic power forward Chris Calnan (Norwell, Mass.) went 79th to the Chicago Blackhawks; and then Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass.) went 85th to his dream team, the Boston Bruins.
“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.”
A pair of Noble and Greenough teammates went in the fourth round with Adam Gilmour (Hanover, Mass.) to the Minnesota Wild and defenseman Tim Boyle (Hingham, Mass.) to the Ottawa Senators.
Boyle, the younger brother of New York Rangers forward Brian Boyle, is a late bloomer who is headed to Union College after the Senators grabbed him 106th overall. Gilmour led the team in scoring with 56 points and is a big, skilled forward bound for the USHL next season before arriving at Boston College in 2013.
“It’s exciting,” Gilmour told New England Hockey Journal when asked about joining the BC Eagles next year. “Arguably the best program in the country. (You) consistently hear it — three national championships in the last five years — it’s hard to argue with that. I just want to do the best I can next year in Muskegon (USHL) to get ready for my freshman year and make an impact.”
A trio of future Boston University players highlighted the fifth round. Huge defenseman Doyle Somerby (Islanders) and cerebral forward Robbie Baillargeon (Senators) and skilled center Danny O’Regan (Needham, Mass.) all eventually will skate together for the Terriers and coach Jack Parker (Somerville, Mass.) First, Somerby will return for his senior season at Kimball Union Academy, while Baillargeon will spend another junior season in the USHL with the Indiana Ice.
“Next year, I see myself as a go-to guy in Indiana,” Baillargeon said. “I want to do everything. I think I can lead my team and go far in the playoffs.”
The San Jose Sharks maintained their usual trend of drafting New England-area players, picking St. Sebastian’s star Danny O’Regan — another BU recruit — with the 138th overall selection. Although the Sharks skipped the region in 2009, the team has grabbed at least one area player every other season since 2005.
“It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid,” O’Regan said of his NCAA destination and father Tom O’Regan’s alma mater. “I was always a BU fan. I’m really excited to get over there and hopefully beat all of my dad’s records.”
One more inbound Terrier, Brendan Collier, was the final New Englander selected, going 189th overall to Carolina. The pugnacious native of Charlestown, Mass., was a key contributor to Malden Catholic’s consecutive Super 8 championships and will skate for the EJHL’s Valley Jr. Warriors.
All in all, although much was said about the alleged weakness of the 2012 NHL draft class, the New Englanders taken will work to help re-establish the area as the hockey hotbed it once was.
“It’s definitely a strong college class,” said a smiling Somerby in his Islanders jersey. “There’s a lot of great players, a lot of great forwards coming out of the class. It’s definitely put New England back on the map a little bit, specifically the Boston area. So, it’s a good thing for hockey and hopefully the numbers go up a little bit.”
With Adam Erne (Branford, Conn.) and Ryan Fitzgerald (Reading, Mass.) up next, 2013 could see a return to the first round for New England after a two-year hiatus.
Hometown: Cumberland, Maine
Selected: Second round (53rd overall)
NHL team: Tampa Bay Lightning
The skinny: A top athlete who starred in hockey and soccer at Phillips Exeter. Has the big frame at 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds to crash the net and control the puck down low. No New England player brings a more complete package of skill and upside in this draft class than Hart does, but he needs to work on being more assertive in the offensive zone.
Quotable: “I’m going to Harvard in the fall — no more soccer for me. I’ve always liked hockey more. I’ve always played just as much soccer, but hockey was my No. 1 sport. ” — Hart
|BU-commit Sam Kurker was selected in the second round by St. Louis. (Getty Images)|
Hometown: Reading, Mass.
Selected: Second round (56th overall)
NHL team: St. Louis Blues
The skinny: Power forward has all the tools to be an impact NHL player: big body, good speed and a wicked shot. Going to Boston University a year early will be an excellent test for the winger who can be as effective and productive as anyone when he puts it all together.
Quotable: “I’m really excited to be picked by the Blues. It’s clearly a rich hockey tradition. I was really psyched it was the second round, too. I mean, clearly it’s a big accomplishment, but I know its just another feather in the cap. It’s really what I do after this that matters.” — Kurker
Hometown: North Reading, Mass.
Selected: Third round (66th overall)
NHL team: Nashville Predators
The skinny: NEHJ’s top-ranked draft prospect reinvented himself after being passed over last year. Inherited high-end hockey sense and hands from his father, Jim, and played with a chip on his shoulder all year for South Shore (EJHL). Will form a potential power duo at Harvard with Hart.
Quotable: “It’s the best feeling in the world. I couldn’t be happier where I went; it’s a special experience. … I think one of my best attributes is my hockey sense in terms of reading the play.” — Vesey
Hometown: Charlestown, Mass.
Selected: Third round (85th overall)
NHL team: Boston Bruins
The skinny: Big man trapped in a small
man’s body who grew up in the shadow of the
TD Garden dreaming of playing for the Bruins gets his chance. Tenacious puck-mover is fast and smart, and BU will benefit from his presence.
Quotable: “I met with (the Bruins) so I kind of had a rough idea. I didn’t really come with high expectations so it was kind of a shock, but I couldn’t be happier.” — Grzelcyk
Hometown: South Portland, Maine
Selected: Third round (75th overall)
NHL team: Calgary Flames
The skinny: Huge 6-foot-5 frame and the kind of mental toughness he brings will make him an intriguing prospect to watch as he joins the Providence Friars next season. Composed, fundamentally-sound goalie has upside.
Quotable: “I didn’t even hear the team, I was looking down at my phone then I looked up and I heard my name. It was an unbelievable feeling.” — Gillies
Hometown: Norwell, Mass.
Selected: Third round (79th overall)
NHL team: Chicago Blackhawks
The skinny: Underrated power forward could end up being best of class. Never stops working, hits everything in sight. Perfect Blackhawks-style player, whose uncle Jeremy Roenick was drafted by them 24 years ago.
Quotable: “It’s really just a dream come true. I’m really just trying to soak it in now — this is nuts. It’s really an honor to be here. … It’s a great city, and I’m pumped to be there.” — Calnan
|Nobles star forward Adam Gilmour was picked by the Wild early in the fourth round. (Getty Images)|
Hometown: Hanover, Mass.
Selected: Fourth round (98th overall)
NHL team: Minnesota Wild
The skinny: 6-foot-2, 195-pounder led Nobles in scoring this season and has some legitimate offensive potential if he can harness his impressive physical gifts with more consistency.
Quotable: “I’m a big guy, skilled. I pride myself on my vision and playmaking. I think I’m good in the corners with my reach and puck possession.” — Gilmour
Hometown: Hingham, Mass.
Selected: Fourth round (106th overall)
NHL team: Ottawa Senators
The skinny: Late bloomer is Rangers forward
Brian Boyle’s younger brother. A work in
progress who isn’t quite as big or skilled, but has worked hard to be a player. Skated with
Chris Calnan and Adam Gilmour at Nobles and activates smartly to jump into the rush.
Quotable: “He’s a skilled guy, he can skate, he’s got good size. It’s just going to be time with him.” — Ottawa scout Pierre Dorion to the Canadian Press
Hometown: Marblehead, Mass.
Selected: Fifth round (125th overall)
NHL team: New York Islanders
The skinny: Gigantic defender has a giant wingspan. His foot speed and agility are an issue, but he’s smart and driven. Could improve his physicality before he gets to BU in 2013, but has raw talent and upside to be a solid shutdown player down the road.
Quotable: “It feels amazing. I’m so excited right now; so many emotions flowing through my head I really can’t describe them.” — Somerby
Hometown: Enfield, Conn.
Selected: Fifth round (136th overall)
NHL team: Ottawa Senators
The skinny: Skilled play-making winger fell further than many thought, but Senators get good value with the former Cushing Academy star. With one more year in the USHL before he goes to Boston University, Baillargeon will add strength to his 6-foot-1 frame.
Quotable: “It’s a great feeling being on a team from Canada; I can’t wait to go up there. I know their fans are very passionate and take care of their team so much. I just can’t wait to get up there and see what their team has to offer.” — Baillargeon
Hometown: Needham, Mass.
Selected: Fifth round (138th overall)
NHL team: San Jose Sharks
The skinny: Member of the World Under-18 championship gold-medal team is not big, but plays a strong two-way game. Shifty and elusive with good hands, O’Regan projects as a solid third-line player who can chip in offensively and contribute on special teams.
Quotable: “It’s awesome. I know a few of the guys from past years like Colin Blackwell and the Ferrieros from Mass. So I was really excited to get drafted by them, too.” — O’Regan
Hometown: Charlestown, Mass.
Selected: Seventh round (189th overall)
NHL team: Carolina Hurricanes
The skinny: Smallish winger but fiery
competitor and proven winner is headed to the EJHL next season
before he joins the band of fellow BU recruits in 2013. He’ll
chance to develop without any pressure, while Carolina always has embraced undersized players with the skill and will to be players.
Quotable: “It’s a dream come true. I was sitting in the basement with my family watching the computer screen and there were some tough times there, but when it happened, it was just an amazing feeling. All I wanted was the chance to go to an NHL organization, and I couldn’t be happier.” — Collier
This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.
Kirk Luedeke covers the NHL draft and New England’s draft prospects for New England Hockey Journal. Read his blog, Kirk’s Call, at hockeyjournal.com.