Draft year four of the Mike O’Connell era as Boston’s General Manager saw the Bruins make seven picks in the 2004 Entry Draft. The focus was placed on acquiring offense, as six of the seven picks were forwards. The team finished the regular season first in the Northeast Division but lost to Montreal in seven games during the Conference Quarterfinal. After sending their first-round pick to Washington in exchange for Sergi Gonchar, the Bruins relied on back-to-back second round picks to bolster the system. Both second-round choices David Krejci and Martins Karsums saw their way onto the Boston roster after spening time in Providence. Krejci and seventh-round defensive pick Matt Hunwick are the only two draft picks remaining with the organization.
Kris Versteeg and Ben Walter were both taken in the fifth round to add to the other offensive additions of 2004. Walter now plays on Long Island and Versteeg just finished a breakout rookie season with Chicago that included a Calder Memorial Trophy nomination. Versteeg remained with the Bruins organization until being traded for Brandon Bochenski during the 2006-07 season. Of the seven selections, only fourth rounder id=”HFlink” href=”/prospects/ashton_rome”>Ashton Rome and eighth rounder Anton Hedman have yet to dress for an NHL game.
Despite having no first or third round picks, the Bruins seven picks have played 347 total NHL games for a solid average of 49.57 games per pick. These picks have already contributed and will continue to be productive at the NHL level for years to come.
Without a first-round pick in the draft, the Bruins had to hope for success with the back-to-back picks in the second round. With the first of those two picks they took David Krejci who was coming off a stellar season with his Czech team Kladno Jr and a successful World Junior Championship Under-18 Team performance that saw him tally seven points in seven games. Krejci spent the next two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL where he averaged over a point per game.
During the 2006-07 season the playmaking center made the transition into the professional ranks. He spent the majority of the season in Providence and while he played six games with Boston he did not record any points. He became a regular the next year and spent the majority of his season up with the parent club. Gaining experience and improving his hockey sense have helped Krejci mature into a contributing NHL center. His 2008-09 numbers improved to 73 points in 82 games and secured his spot as the third line center behind Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron. Having the second-most points helped him land a three-year contract worth $3.75 million per year when the Bruins resigned Krejci on Jun 3. He is solidly in Boston’s plan for the future.
With the exception of a few injuries, Karsums has had success since being drafted by the Bruins in the 2004 Entry Draft. After his selection he continued to produce points and generate energy with Moncton in the QMJHL. He represented Latvia during the 2006 World Junior Championships and made the jump to the AHL during the 2006-07 season. Injury limited his productivity in his first season with Providence but in 2007-08 he stayed healthy, played 79 games and finished the season with 63 points. In 2008-09 he was recalled to Boston for his first NHL game for six before being traded in a deadline deal. He was traded with defenseman Matt Lashoff to Tampa Bay for Mark Recchi and a second-round selection in the 2010 Entry Draft. In 18 games with the Lightning, he scored one goal and had four assists for five points.
Despite being on the smaller side at 5’10, he plays an aggressive game that sees him take the body and go hard into the corners. His strength will need to improve for him to contribute at the same level in the NHL as he has during his development. The Latvian winger has the potential to be a top-six winger in the NHL if he can avoid injuries. Although not known for his speed, he does possess the fundamentals to be a contributing player in Tampa Bay.
The Bruins third pick, and third forward in the 2004 Entry Draft came in the fourth round with the selection of Ashton Rome after he went undrafted in 2003. Rome moved from Moose Jaw to Red Deer then ended up with Kamloops before moving on the AHL. Left unsigned by the Bruins, Rome reentered the 2006 NHL Draft and was selected in the fifth round, 143rd overall, by the San Jose Sharks. Over his three seasons in the AHL, he has a -25 rating in 134 games with 15 goals and 27 points. His numbers and reduced role led to him spending 52 games of the season with Phoenix in the ECHL.
Known for taking the body, taking penalties and taking on a good fight, Rome needs to prove he can adapt to the AHL game before he finds a consistent role with any team.
Every so often a great player is stolen in a late round. Versteeg has yet to prove that he’s a great player, but he has proven that he is a great rookie. The issue for the Bruins is that they traded Brandon Bochenski for Versteeg and a draft pick in February 2007. Now Versteeg is a 2008-09 finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy and finished the season with 53 points in 78 games. His point-per-game average in the NHL is .63, the same as it was in the WHL. He has proven that he remains one of those players with such natural instincts that he can rise to the level of competition and contribute to the team. He did it in the WHL, and he continued his success after his jump to Providence in the AHL with 127 points in 139 games.
At only 5’10, Versteeg relies on his innate ability without the puck to generate offense. He seems to know where to be whenever he’s on the ice and his NHL numbers confirm it. Through 91 NHL regular-season games, he is +15 with 57 points. Even more impressive is that he contributed 12 points through 17 playoff games in his first NHL postseason.
Versteeg fits in well with the young Blackhawks team and will be counted on as a top winger for many years. He is one of the few players that can make up for his size with his hockey intuition.
For an organization known for taking local talent, this UMass-Lowell center was as close as the Bruins got in 2004. Although Walter is not from Massachusetts, his three years in Lowell did draw attention from Bruins scouts. The forward selected with fifth Bruins pick saw the continuation of offensive acquisitions. The son of former NHLer Ryan Walter played in Providence after leaving college following his junior year. He played 10 games in Boston over two seasons without registering a point before he was traded.
He was dealt with a draft pick to the Islanders for Petteri Nokelainen in September 2007. His time in the AHL has seen his game develop and his positioning improve. He works hard, and while not a sniper, he does create opportunities due to his play and helps his team. Walter has one NHL goal, a deflection, in 22 games but with more playing time he could develop into role-playing NHL center.
Hunwick was the only defenseman taken by the Bruins in the 2004 Entry Draft. He has proved that you don’t need a large quantity of defensive picks as long as the quality is top tier. The steady defenseman has done nothing but impress and improve since joining the Bruins following his senior year at the University of Michigan. As the Wolverine captain his senior year, he exhibited the same poise and confidence with the puck that kept him up with the Bruins for the majority of the 2008-09 season. He played 53 games in Boston this season, partially due to an injured Andrew Ference, after just 13 NHL games for the club last season.
He will have to continue to work hard on his positioning and play around the net due to his 5’11 size, but he has the ability to be an everyday Boston defenseman. After a successful rookie season, especially for a seventh round pick, Hunwick needs to continue to improve and he will be moving the puck for the Bruins for a long time.
The final selection for Mike O’Connell and the Bruins staff was the 6’3 Swedish forward known more for his size than his skating ability. Hedman spent two seasons in the OHL after being drafted playing for three different teams. After two years, and some quality fights in the OHL, he returned to Sweden where he has played with four different teams in the Allsvenskan.