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Boston Bruins: 2008-09 Top 12 Prospects

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Shane Malloy, Prospect Insider
2/17/2009 9:41:27 PM
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In Beantown, the natives are restless for a winner on the ice. Luckily, they have been distracted with the Red Sox and Patriots bringing home championships. But now it's the Bruins turn. In the grand scheme of things, the organization is only couple of pieces away from putting together a consistent contender for years to come. With the salary cap now in full effect, the Bruins looked internally to fill their needs. They will be leaning on the prospects from the 2005 to 2008 draft classes to replenish the veterans they will lose in about three to four years. It remains to been seen how many of these prospects will make to the NHL, but if three quarters of this list make it, the scouting and hockey operations staff have done their job well.

The forward ranks are flush with talent and depth and is the strength of the organization's farm system. Even with a few forwards graduating to the NHL over past couple of years (Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and David Krejci) the Bruins still have more coming. On top of that, Blake Wheeler came over from the Phoenix Coyotes as a free agent signing and is fitting right in as a rookie. Right behind that quartet is Vladimir Sobotka and Martin Karsums, who have both seen time in the NHL this year and are expected to earn full time roster spots next season.

An unknown question on this list is Carl Soderberg, who came over in a trade from St. Louis and has not made an appearance in North America. The rest of the cubs up front are two to three years away from getting a taste of the NHL, but Joe Colborne and Zach Hamill might be ready earlier. Both Maxime Sauve and Brad Marchand could develop into role players, but they will need patience.

Now the Bruins are solid on defence, but lack some depth. However, they have two defensive prospects that have a legitimate chance of playing minutes in the NHL. Now that Mark Stuart has graduated to the NHL and Matt Hunwick is next in line, the next wave of defencemen are not too far behind. A surprise seventh round draft pick in Hunwick has given all the Boston prospects hope that they can make it to the NHL. Only Matt Lashoff is the most likely to vie for playing time in Boston next year. The remaining blueliners of Yuri Alexandrov, Andrew Bodnarchuk and Tommy Cross still have a few years of development ahead of them, but they have promise.

In goal, they have the talented Tuukka Rask, who has a legitimate chance at the backup role next season. Even though Rask is only 21, he has to be considered. However, it would be more prudent if he developed his craft in Providence a year longer. They have another netminder in the lanky Michael Hutchinson, who plays for Barrie in the OHL and has put up very respectable numbers.

Although the Bruins have good overall talent, they will need to focus on skilled defencemen over the next couple of drafts. It would not hurt to add another goaltender to groom as Rask is ready to move on to the NHL soon. The Boston organization has done an excellent job drafting from 1997-2003 to give them a strong core to work with. The next group of prospects from the 2004-2008 NHL drafts could be just as plentiful considering ten players have already seen at least one NHL game.

Tuukka Rask – Goalie, 21 (1st round 21st overall 2005 Trade from Toronto)
Currently with Providence (AHL)

Another dominant netminder out of Finland who is on the verge of coming to the NHL to display his skills full time. Rask is competitive and rarely is rattled under fire, showing tremendous composure. He skates very well in the crease and shows good mechanics when moving post to post or recovering after dropping down to his knees. Rask maintains consistent angles even when being aggressive, while keeping a compact frame once he sets up. His consistency in positioning and his overall quickness give him the potential to be a franchise goalie. His play down low makes Rask tough to beat on a single shot as he displays quick feet and keeps a manageable five hole uses his stick to shooters at bay. He has made a very good adjustment to North America and his statistics have been solid in his first two AHL seasons. In 45 games as a rookie in the AHL, he had a record of 27-13-2 with a 2.33 goals against average along with a .905 save percentage and one shutout. This season, Rask has been more impressive and has improved in every facet of the game and his statistics are the tangible proof. Despite his age, Rask is expected to back up in the NHL next season as is the goalie of the future.

Blake Wheeler – Right Wing, 22 (1st round, 4th overall, 2004 Phoenix – Free Agent)
Currently with Boston (NHL)

The hulking 6-5 and 215 pound winger has shown good development in University of Minnesota over past three seasons with 96 points in 127 games. Now those numbers did not shoot the lights out, but it was clear Wheeler had the hockey sense to process information at an NHL level. He has the puck skills to make or receive passes in traffic while showing pretty good poise under duress around the net. A solid overall skater considering his size, it is Wheeler's agility in the slot and down low that can cause issues for defenders. His soft hands in close and accuracy make him dangerous when he sets up shop around the crease, especially as a right handed shot on the power play. Wheeler does use his wing span to keep defenders away and as he physically matures he will be able maintain better body position. It would be nice to see Wheeler be more physically assertive in all three zones and be more intimidating with his size, as it will create more space for him and his linemates. Overall defensively, Wheeler is average at the NHL level as he must continue to improve on some subtle nuances. For a rookie, being average is an accomplishment in itself and he displays the work ethic and hockey sense to develop into a solid two-way hockey player.

Joe Colborne – Center, 19 (1st round 16th overall 2008)
Currently with Denver (NCAA)

One of the first questions on many scouts and pundits minds is the similarities to Hugh Jessiman - a first-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2003 that did not pan out. So far, the only similarity is their size - which is a relief to many as he does not give the impression of a kid with no work ethic or desire. His hockey sense is keen and he reads the developing play quite quickly. When it comes to puck skills, he rivals many of his peers and he uses his options and teammates very well. He has quick, accurate passes even in traffic or at full speed. He is an above average skater with enough athleticism, quickness and foot speed to keep up at a high pace, but he must improve his strength and agility to more effective down low. What surprises many are how quick his hands are and the speed at which he releases the puck - which makes him a potential dangerous shooter in the slot. Once he gains some additional strength, his wrist and slap shot will have more power and force defenders not to always look for the pass. Once inside the opposition's blue line, he makes smart consistent decisions and understands whether to shoot, pass or stickhandle to create time and space. Away from the puck, he is improving overall but needs some time and development to work on the little nuances of defensive hockey. He certainly has the wingspan and skating ability to engulf the opposition and be a very large shadow one day. Due to his size, his judgment of speed and angles requires some work. If he can get his feet moving and show consistent hustle, he could develop into a solid two-way centre. Considering his size, he is expected to be a physically imposing menace. However, he does not always play with an edge. This is not surprising as many kids that grow up much larger then their peers have it engrained in them to be more careful and not be a bully. If he can be more assertive and show a nasty edge once in a while, he will be given more space. If he ever truly unloaded on someone once he finished filling out, they would probably end up somewhere in the stands. He has improved on taking a hit to make a play and setting himself up in front of the net since he is hard to contain. It remains to be seen how his numbers will translate consistently from AJHL to the NCAA. So far as a freshman at the Denver University, he has 25 points in 30 games and is an intriguing package with excellent long term potential.

Matt Lashoff – Defence, 22 (1st round 22nd overall 2005)
Currently with Providence (AHL)

He's the prototypical defenceman for the new NHL - strong, smart, and mobile. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, he has the frame to be competitive but it's his skating ability that makes him dangerous. He shows the ability to process information fast enough to play at the NHL and make contributions in the offensive one and in the transition game. Overall, Lashoff has good puck skills and makes a nice first pass out of his zone and uses his options quite well. He shows a hard, accurate shot from the point and can be useful on the power play. For a defenscman, Lashoff is still young and he must continue to be consistent in the defensive zone and maintain good habits. Like all prospects, it takes time learn all the aspects of playing defence while playing against a high calibre of talent. He has shown some offensive skill, but whether that translates to the NHL remains to be seen. Over the past two and half seasons in Providence, Lashoff has turned some heads in the AHL with his 92 points in 158 games and he did not look out of place in his 46 game stint in the NHL. Expect Lashoff to make the jump to the NHL full time next season and push some veterans for playing time.

Zach Hamill - Centre, 20 (1st round 8th overall 2007)
Currently with Providence (AHL)

An underrated and underappreciated player who does not get the same press as other prominent prospects. He's arguably the best 5 on 5 forward in his draft class and he was leaned upon to be responsible defensively first before thinking about the offence. In terms of skill, he will not wow you with end to end rushed or dazzling displays, but he is consistent at finding a way to produce. He does possess very good vision and passing ability and finds linemates all over the ice in unexpected areas. He has a quick, accurate shot and has quality scoring ability but sometimes needs to be a little more selfish. He will do all the little things for the team like block shots, take a hit to make a play hustles back defensively. He is good in the faceoff circle, which puts him on all the specialty teams. He has loads of experience playing fours years in the Western Hockey League on top of 62 playoff games. He needs to add some strength and weight to his 5-11, 185-pound frame before he reaches the NHL. In 250 games, he posted 265 points along with a solid plus-38 rating in the regular season in the tough WHL. Now so far the offensive numbers have not been there yet, but making the adjustment playing against men is a tough one. To his credit, Hamill has played well defensively and has adjusted to playing less minutes than in junior. If the Bruins are patient they could have a fine two-way centre in a couple of seasons.

Vladimir Sobotka - Centre, 21 (4th round 106th overall 2005)
Currently in Boston (NHL)

He has shown spurts of being able to make things happen on the ice and can be a dangerous offensive player but has yet to show the consistency at the NHL as a rookie. He has the skating ability to gain separate and has the quickness to jump on loose pucks. Has the hockey sense and vision to be effective in both ends of the ice and makes good decisions with puck. Shows very good puck skills and can stickhandle and create time and space for himself. He's not big, but he's stocky at 5-11 and 195 pounds and not get knocked around too easily. He is responsible defensively and put up good numbers in the AHL with 27 points in 25 games, but only four points in 21 games with the Bruins. He is almost on the verge of being a consistent full time NHL player and should be on the roster at the beginning of next season. It might take some time for Sobotka to earn the opportunities to produce offensive numbers at the NHL level, but the skills are present. A potential valuable role player for the Bruins who can contribute on the score sheet once he has finished developing as a prospect.

Martin Karsums - Right wing, 23 (2nd Round 64th overall 2004)
Currently with Boston (NHL)

A underrated forward who does not do one thing great, but is pretty good at everything. He has the hockey sense and vision to play at the NHL and shows he can handle the speed and tempo needed to be a valuable contributor. He shows good puck skills while stickhandling to create time and space, but also makes nice passes while using his linemates well. He's a solid skater with the quickness and agility to make moves one-on-one and sneak off the wing into the slot. He's not the biggest player, but solid at 5-10 and 192 pounds and is not afraid to throw his body around or take a hit to make a play. He's a more responsible defensive player who reads the play fairly well and covers his zone. He uses his angles quite well while keeping his head on a swivel and has an active stick to clog passing lanes. He looked good as a rookie two years ago in the AHL with 35 points in 54 games, but took his game to another level last season with 63 points in 73 games. This season, Karsums finally earned a shot to play in the NHL after posting 41 points in 43 games in Providence. The Bruins were smart to be patient with the Latvian scorer and it will be interesting to see he can translate his game to the NHL next season.

Matt Hunwick - Defense, 23 (7th round 224th overall 2004)
Currently with San Antonio/Phoenix (AHL/NHL)

He's a stocky 5-11 and 190-pound defenceman who was developed slowly at he University of Michigan and his patience is beginning to show. Due to his maturity and being coaching, Hunwick has made a quick transition to the AHL and then to the NHL this season. There is something to be said for leaving your prospects in college or junior for an extra year or two before moving them into the pro ranks. Considering he is a seventh round draft pick, he could easily become the steal of the 2004 NHL draft. Despite his lack of size, Hunwick plays a pretty smart game and uses his abilities to his advantage when against larger opponents. He moves the puck well and gets it out of his zone quickly and uses his passing option quite well for a rookie. For the most part, Hunwick takes pretty good angles to the puck carrier and maintains good gap control while keeping his feet moving. Hunwick does a decent job of having his head on a swivel especially in the defensive zone and keeping an active stick. Fortunately, he is a very good skater with the two-step quickness to stay with the majority of the league speedsters. He has shown some gritty play and does not back down from confrontations and will sacrifice himself for the team. His number offensive opportunities are improving and it will be interesting to see if he can develop further.

Tommy Cross - Defence, 19 (2nd round 35th overall 2007)
Currently with Boston College (NCAA)

He is a steady defenceman that understands his current limitations and uses his hockey sense and a safe consistent game to be effective. Defensively, he keeps proper gap control on forwards and limits options with body position and stick. He prefers to angle and lean on forwards to keep them away from the slot but takes them out when needed. He has shown leadership abilities and is accountable on the ice. Offensively, he shows good instincts and makes good outlet passes and can play on the power play. He needs to work on his skating and play against a higher level competition to see if he can take his game to another level. He has become more physical in his game and that should continue once Cross fills out his 6-3 and 195-pound frame. The Bruins do not have to push him through school early and they can be patient with him and let Cross play at least three seasons in the NCAA before turning pro.

Brad Marchand - Centre, 20 (3rd round 71st overall 2006)
Currently with Providence (AHL)
He most likely will not play on the top two lines in the NHL, but Marchand has the capability to develop into a valuable role player. His energy and work ethic are contagious and he has a knack for driving the opposition nuts and has proven to be clutch under pressure. He's not the biggest kid at 5-9 and 195 pounds, but he has heart. He put up good offensive numbers in the QMJHL with 248 points in 245 games in the regular season and 60 points in 51 games in the playoffs. His experience at the WJC for Canada helped the adjustment to the AHL this season much easier. His offensive numbers have been very good for a rookie this year with 37 points in 54 games and Marchand has exceeded expectations early on. The Bruins will be hard pressed to keep him out of their line up in the next year or two if continues to develop at this pace.

Mikko Lehtonen - Right wing, 21 (3rd round 83rd overall 2005)
Currently with Providence (AHL)

He's an intriguing prospect considering his 6-3 and 195-pound frame and his skating ability might surprise some people if he can put it all together. It is unclear whether he can produce consistent points at the NHL level, but Lehtonen has decent hockey sense and seems to anticipate the play at the AHL level. His skating ability is his weapon considering his size and once he is flying down the wing he can force defencemen to compensate. He is beginning to show a knack for scoring goals around the slot with 19 goals in 48 games as a rookie, which shows he is willing to go to the dirty areas. He tends to be more of a finisher than a playmaker and does not display high end puck skills whether carrying the puck or passing. Like all prospects, Lehtonen needs to work on his play without the puck and his overall defensive game needs a little refinement and consistency.

Andrew Bodnarchuk - Defence, 20 (5th round 128th overall 2006)
Currently with Providence (AHL)

For a 5-11 and 190 pound defenceman, he does not back down and shows a tremendous amount of moxie. He shows a good work ethic and the leadership ability that teams look for and has all the intangibles. He has good offensive instincts and makes good decisions with the puck and can run a power play. He has the poise with the puck and makes nice passes with speed or setting up the play on the point. He skates really well and has the lateral movement and agility to handle speedy forwards. He is steady defensively and tries to keep his stick active while heading his head on a swivel. He can be overwhelmed physically, but he uses his body position and anticipation to combat that. Over three seasons in the QMJHL, he has posted 123 points in 196 games along with 321 penalty minutes. He has had a decent rookie season in Providence and is slowly earning more opportunities offensively as he learns to play consistent defensively against pro players.

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Boston Bruins - NHL Entry Draft Record (1997 - 2003)

When looking at the drafting and developing record of a NHL organization it becomes an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances with perhaps some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time the General Manager receives kudos for a teams fortunes at the draft table when in reality it is usually never the case in today's NHL. For the most part there are three aspects that make the whole process work; first is the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent which may be the most challenging of all. Next the organizations player development department must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance his talents. Perhaps most importantly is the prospects responsibility to pay the price and sacrifice which generally requires a tremendous work ethic. If one of these aspects fails then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization and having a NHL career becomes remote.

The reason for the analyzing the years from 1997 to 2003 is to first give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects as players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly the years from 1997-2003 are the players that should be the building blocks of the core of your team as they will be in the 23-29 year old age range. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be real late bloomers and eventually make the criteria set in this analysis down the road but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.

Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully.

 

  Forwards - Defenceman Goaltenders
1997-2001 125-200 NHL Games required 51-100 NHL Games Played
2002-2003 100 NHL Games required 25-50 NHL Games Played
Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria

Phoenix Coyotes 1997-2003

Year Draft Picks NHL Players Produced (Round/Pick)
1997 12 (4) (C) Joe Thornton (1/1), (LW) Sergei Samsonov (1/8), (D) Ben Clymer (2/27), (LW) Antti Laaksonen (8/191)
1998 5 (2) (G) Andrew Raycroft (5/135), (D) Jonathan Girard (2/48)
1999 10 (2) (D) Nick Boynton (1/21), (LW) Mikko Eloranta (9/247)
2000 12 (1) (C) Andy Hilbert (2/37)
2001 8 (3) (D) Shaone Morrisonn (1/19), (D) Andrew Alberts (6/179), (D) Milan Jurcina (8/241)
2002 7 (1) (G) Hannu Toivonen (1/29), (C) Yan Stastny (8/259)
2003 10 (2) (D) Mark Stuart (1/21), (C) Patrice Bergeron (2/45)

Total: 7yrs - 64 draft picks - 15 NHL Players = 23.4% success rate

Success in the first three rounds (1997-2003)

1st rnd Draft Choices: 8 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects: Lars Jonsson, Martin Samuelsson
7yrs – 8 draft picks – 6 NHL Players = 75.0% success rate

2nd rnd Draft Choices: 9 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects – Masi Marjamaki, Vladislav Yevseyev, Ivan Huml, Matt Zultek, Bobby Allen
7yrs 9 draft picks – 4 NHL Players = 44.4% success rate

3rd rnd Choices: 7 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects – Lee Goren, Mattias Karlin, Peter Nordstrom, Kyle Wanvig, Tuukka Makela, Sergei Zinovjev, Darren McLachlan
7yrs - 7 draft picks - 0 NHL Players = 0 % success rate

Total: 7yrs – 24 draft picks – 10 NHL Players = 41.6% success rate in first 3 rounds

First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (9) North American, (5) European
Undeveloped Prospects: (5) North American, (9) European

Success in the last six round (1997-2003)

4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 40 total picks
7yrs - 40 draft picks - 5 NHL Players = 12.5% success rate

Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.

Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist-covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.

This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.

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Blake Wheeler (Photo: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
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