Bruins 2003 draft evaluation

By Janine Pilkington

With 358 total NHL games played by this Bruins draft class, the 2003 draft yielded an average 35.8 games per pick. This figure is just above average across teams. Two have already developed into full-time NHL’ers for the Bruins, and the handful who still remain in the system have at least a shot to see NHL ice.

Boston traded down a few slots in the first round to select defenseman Mark Stuart, and uncovered a gem with the selection of Patrice Bergeron in the second.  In addition to these two players, they selected eight others, for a total of six forwards, two defensemen, and two goaltenders. Bergeron and Stuart are currently the only full-time NHL’ers, however, four others remain in Boston’s developmental system.

Mark Stuart, D – 1st round, 21st overall (Colorado College, WCHA)

Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played:  114

To the Bruins, Colorado College defenseman Mark Stuart was just too good to pass up, despite considerable depth in that position.  He was attractive for both his size, his ability to play a tough, physical game and his tremendous leadership skills. After three solid years at Colorado College, Stuart opted to turn pro, and began the 2005-06 season with the Providence Bruins (AHL).  Stuart played so well that he was recalled to Boston, where he finished out the season. It took a couple recalls, and a delay from off-season knee surgery for Stuart to stick to the NHL, but in 2007-08 he would stay with the team in Boston full time. While his first full season had a few ups and downs, Stuart demonstrated that he is where he belongs.

Patrice Bergeron, C – 2nd round, 45th overall (Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL)

Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 239

Bergeron caught the Bruins’ attention because of his vision and playmaking abilities. He had completed just one season with Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL), and the expectation was that he’d return there after his first camp with the Bruins. Instead, he earned a spot on Boston’s roster, and would be the youngest NHL player that season.  Though he was quite underdeveloped physically by NHL standards, Bergeron impressed most with his well-rounded play — he not only had offensive talent, but was smart away from the puck as well.  As a rookie, he was helped along tremendously by the guidance of teammate Martin Lapointe.

In subsequent seasons, as he has gained experience and continued to fill out physically, Bergeron has fulfilled his projected potential and then some.  Despite the concussion that threatened his career and kept him sidelined for the majority of the 2007-08 season, Bergeron has earned a prominent role on Boston’s offense.

Masi Marjamaki, LW – 2nd round, 66th overall (Red Deer, WHL)

Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 1

Marjamaki had completed his first of four seasons in the WHL at the time of his draft.  Best described as an edgy, pest type player, he had an attractive combination of skill, grit and skating ability. Marjamaki was a high-character player with a good, though not quite spectacular, run in the WHL, highlighted by a couple trips to the WJC with Team Finland. When 2005 rolled around it was decision time for the Bruins, and they opted not to sign Marjamaki. He re-entered the draft and was selected in the fifth round by the New York Islanders, who would offer him his first contract. Marjamaki began his pro career with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, where he played two seasons, however, after a highly-promising rookie season in 2005-06, his play declined in 2006-07. With his contract up this summer, it appears his days with the Islanders organization may be numbered as well. Marjamaki returned to Finland for the 2007-08 season, and it seems unlikely that he will be back to play in North America.

Byron Bitz, RW – 4th round, 107th overall (Nanaimo, BCHL)

Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Bruins spent the first of three fourth-round picks on Nanaimo Clippers (BCHL) wing Byron Bitz. One of the most attractive things about Bitz was his size — the Bruins hoped they had found a future NHL power forward.  At 6’3 220 lbs, Bitz could skate surprisingly well and had good offensive instincts. After the draft, he would begin a four-year college career at Cornell University that he finished off as captain. Bitz was signed by the Bruins after he left school and began his pro career in Providence during 2007-08. After a slow start, he made tremendous progress, and was playing a much more effective power forward type game by the end of the season.  He has the ability, and with continued polishing could be an NHL player. As with any prospect, however, whether or not he makes it to the NHL is up to him.   

Frank Rediker, D – 4th round, 118th overall (Windsor, OHL)

Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

With Rediker, the Bruins saw a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman with a lot of offensive upside.  What they got, unfortunately, was a player who was plagued by injury on and off throughout his career.  Consequently, when decision time came in 2005, the Bruins opted not to sign him.  Rediker was unable to attach himself to another NHL team, and while he did make it to play pro hockey, he hasn’t made it beyond the ECHL level.  As a rookie pro in 2006-07, he played just seven games with the ECHL Stockton Thunder.  Rediker was originally slated to return to Stockton in the 2007-08 season, but did not play any games at all.

Patrik Valcak, LW – 4th round, 129th overall (Ostrava, CZE)

Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Bruins spent found another edgy, pest type player in slick-skating Czech forward Patrik Valcak. Valcak had decent offensive skills, good vision and playmaking ability. He spent one unremarkable WHL season split between Lethbridge and Kelowna following the draft, and moved on to the USHL in 2004-05, where he played just four games with Lincoln. That same season, he returned to the Czech Republic. Valcak went unsigned by the Bruins, and has played in various leagues throughout Europe. In 2007-08, he played for Grenoble in France where he had a strong season in terms of offensive production.   His days as an NHL prospect are, however, over.

Mike Brown, G – 5th round, 153rd overall (Saginaw, OHL)

NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played:  0

The Bruins picked Brown in the fifth round, a hard-working goaltender with quick reflexes. But playing for struggling teams has been a reoccurring theme for Brown, making his stats look worse than what he was capable of.  Regardless, the Bruins saw enough in him to sign him to a contract in 2005. When he began his pro career in 2005-06, there was no room on the roster in Providence, so he spent the majority of the season split between Dayton and South Carolina of the ECHL. In 2006-07, he once again spent the bulk of his time in the ECHL, this time for the Bruins’ new ECHL affiliate in Long Beach, another last-place team. The story of much of his pro career has been moving around from team to team — he spent time in Johnstown, Providence and finally Alaska in 2007-08. Brown may soon find himself the odd-man out with the Bruins, but it is conceivable he will find another NHL team willing to give him a chance. On the one hand, he has had stiff competition when it came to net duty in Providence; on the other hand, he has been unable to battle his way onto an AHL roster.  He’s still a prospect at this point, but he has an uphill battle.

Nate Thompson, C – 6th round, 183rd overall (Seattle, WHL)

Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 4

The Bruins found a high-character, energetic player when they drafted Thompson out of the WHL. He had just completed his second season with the Seattle Thunderbirds, and while not overly skilled, he was an excellent skater and solid at both ends of the ice. Thompson was signed by the Bruins and began his pro career in 2005-06 with the Providence Bruins.  He has improved steadily since his rookie year, and served as captain of the P Bruins in 2007-08. Thompson is one of the more NHL-ready players in the system, but aside from a brief recall to Boston in 2006-07, he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to show what he can do at that level.  If he doesn’t make it to the NHL out of training camp, one would think that he would spend at least part of the 2008-09 season there.

Benoit Mondou, C –  8th round, 247th overall (Shawinigan, QMJHL)

Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Bruins went with bloodlines and skill with this smallish center from the QMJHL. The son of former NHL’er Pierre Mondou (Montreal Canadiens), Benoit was talented in his own right, particularly with his passing and playmaking abilities. He played five seasons in the QMJHL, where he was a big contributor on offense, but ultimately, the Bruins decided to take a pass. 

In 2006, he was invited to the New Jersey Devils’ training camp. While he didn’t earn a contract there, he did play out his rookie pro season with their ECHL affiliate in Trenton.  The organization offered Mondou a minor league contract the following season, and he spent the majority of 2007-08 with the Lowell Devils. Only two years into his pro career, Mondou has not made a significant impact in the minor leagues, and unless something changes dramatically, that may be where he stays.

Kevin Regan, G – 9th round, 277th overall (St. Sebastian’s, NE Prep)

Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Bruins gambled on a second goaltender late in the draft when they found local kid Kevin Regan, who had been playing prep hockey at St. Sebastian’s.  Regan was poised, quick and handled the puck well. He played a season with Waterloo (USHL) following the draft and began college at the University of New Hampshire in the fall of 2004. Regan went on to have an outstanding college career with the Wildcats, one that left him at the top of the record books in many goaltending categories for the University.  He signed with the Bruins, and will begin his pro career in 2007-08, presumably in Providence.  The Bruins could have walked away with a ninth-round steal if Regan pans out.  He is a tremendous hard worker with the mental fortitude to be a pro hockey player, and while college success does not necessarily translate to success in the pros, if anyone can do it, Regan is a good bet.