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Monday, June 27, 2011

Grading the Boston Bruins 2011 draft (From New England Hockey Journal)

The following is an article I wrote posted on the New England Hockey Journal website. The draft grades on each Boston Bruins draft pick are out, but the reality is that every one of them is an "incomplete" for another 3-5 years until we see how they ultimately turn out.

To read the rest of the grades, and for more coverage on the Boston Bruins and anything New England hockey-related, be sure to check out the website.

Making The Grade- The 2011 Boston Bruins draft
By Kirk Luedeke
Full story at hockeyjournal.com

Although trying to pick winners and losers the day after the NHL Entry Draft is often an exercise in futility, grading a team’s prospect haul based on current projections has become an annual tradition.

While walking back to the hotel with members of the Anaheim Ducks scouting staff from the shuttle drop-off point, one scout declared: “Everyone is a winner on draft day- 30 winners and no losers.”

That sentiment reflects the euphoria and optimism that often permeates the atmosphere right after a team invests a big portion of its future in the seven or so young players who comprise a normal NHL draft class. However, once the next several seasons progress, the clear-cut winners and losers only truly emerge.

The Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks and yes- the Detroit Red Wings once again- all seemed to have the drafts that can lay a solid foundation for a team for years to come. Short of a crystal ball to see into the future, it certainly seems as if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom and David Musil could have a course-altering impact on the Oilers in time. The Senators worked the draft effectively, taking skilled and passionate players who should be able to inject the kind of talent and energy needed to get the former 2007 Stanley Cup runners up into contention. As for Chicago and Detroit, the 2011 draft was all about value, as both teams made an art out of landing name players with lower selections.

But what about the Boston Bruins?

The 2011 Stanley Cup champions would have picked 30th and 61st overall in this draft if not for deals involving Phil Kessel and Chuck Kobasew nearly two years ago that allowed the B’s to pick ninth and 40th.

When the team came away with defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Alexander Khokhlachev, they appeared to position themselves perfectly to keep in place teams capable of contending for NHL championships well into this decade. While the other selections the Bruins made are not particularly exciting, they all seem to fit the mold of what the club values: character, commitment and potential.

Time will tell whether Hamilton, Khokhlachev and the rest of the Boston draft class manages to become impact players in the Black and Gold, but for now, this looks like a pretty impressive haul.

Dougie Hamilton, D Niagara (OHL)
NEHJ grade: A+
The scoop: How does a player of Hamilton’s size and skill set drop to ninth overall? A lot of times it has to do with luck and just hoping that other teams value others more. New England Hockey Journal learned that the Bruins did not expect Hamilton to be there at nine and were fully intending on drafting Ryan Murphy as the projected player to fall to them at nine. However, when the Winnipeg Jets made Mark Scheifele an off-the-board pick, the B’s were given the rare opportunity to choose between the big, rangy two-way defenseman in Hamilton or the undersized but dynamic playmaker in Murphy. Boston opted for the former and it will be interesting to follow the career progression of both players.
Quotable: “Well I’ve grown a lot in the last few years and haven’t really filled into my body yet, I think I’m working hard right now in the gym, I need to work a lot harder and get bigger and that will help with my physical game as well. I think you have to improve everything because the guys in the NHL are a lot better than OHL players.”- Dougie Hamilton

Alexander Khokhlachev, C Windsor (OHL)
NEHJ grade: A
The scoop: This dynamic offensive Russian center was available to the Bruins at 40 for another outstanding value pick. He had 34 goals with the Spitfires in just his first North American season and is primed for a big breakout year. New England Hockey Journal spoke to Windsor President and GM Warren Rychel in Minnesota and Rychel praised “KoKo’s” skill and passion for the game, calling him a “Godsend” for Windsor after the team gambled a bit by bringing him over in the CHL Import Draft. The youngster plays with a lot of passion and should energize the crowds at Bruins development camp in early July with his speed and puck wizardry. The thought of a possible d-camp line of KoKo, Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight there must have Bruins fans eagerly checking their calendars. Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning was emphatic in stating that signing Khokhlachev will not be an issue, stating his commitment and desire to play in the NHL.
Quotable: “Well, he’s thick like a [Montreal center Scott] Gomez, but he’ll, he likes to score, he’s more of a shooter and a scorer. But he’s elusive like that and strong, but that’s kind of a comparison to him, but it’s different that KoKo likes to shoot the puck and to score, I would say, more.”- Jim Benning

Anthony Camara, LW Saginaw (OHL)
NEHJ grade: B-
The scoop: One tough nut, but there isn’t a lot to get excited about with this guy skill-wise. Or is there? Camara is one of those “pet” picks the Bruins scout out and make seemingly every year. Milan Lucic was one in 2006, and Camara was buried on a deep team up front. He plays bigger than his size (6-feet, 194 pounds) and may end up being more than the sum of his parts.
Quotable: “Yeah, he’s a typical Boston Bruin-type player. 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, so he, when he was there in the third round, it was a good fit for his style of game to the way we play. So, you know, he’s not big but, well, tall, but he’s thick and he’s a fearless player, kind of like a Shawn Thornton-type for us.”- Benning

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