The 2007 NHL draft class is proving to be a weak one and for the Boston Bruins, the draft is very close to being a complete bust. The Bruins made six selections in ’07, including the eighth overall pick in the first round but, all told, the group has just 20 NHL games to their credit.
Zach Hamill was their high first round pick and he’s developed slowly. All 20 NHL games from this group belong to him, but even he doesn’t have a lock on an NHL job yet. Second round pick Tommy Cross still has promise. He’s been injury prone and missed a lot of time over his four years at Boston College, but he is their team captain this year and a solid stay-at-home defender. Denis Reul, Alain Goulet, Radim Ostricil, and Jordan Knackstedt round out the draft but none of them have NHL futures.
Zach Hamill, C/RW, Everett (WHL) – 1st Round, 8th overall
NHL Games Played: 20
When the Bruins selected Zach Hamill they believed they were getting an intelligent, two-way playmaker that would one day center a second line. Hamill led the WHL in scoring that year, with 32 goals and 93 points, on a defense-first team led by former NHL head coach Kevin Constantine. The Bruins liked that Hamill had developed a strong defensive game under Constantine, and succeeding in the Western League showed that Hamill could handle the physical side of the game.
Unfortunately, Hamill’s game regressed in the years immediately following the draft. He dropped nearly 20 points in his post-draft year with Everett, and an injury in his first year with Providence cost him a quarter of the season. Over the next three years, his progress was slow, but there was some development. His points-per-game rose from .40 to .59 to .63. He’d play extremely well for extended stretches, only to go into prolonged slumps.
When Hamill came to training camp this year, for the first time, he looked noticeably stronger and quicker. His improved fitness earned him an extended look where ultimately, he was the final player cut from training camp. Despite another uneven performance start in Providence, Hamill was the first player called up when injuries occurred in Boston. At his best, he has been effective at both ends of the ice, using his smarts to read plays and his vision to distribute. Unfortunately for Hamill, the Bruins top-nine is pretty tough to crack.
Tommy Cross, D, Westminster H.S. (Conn) – 2nd Round, 35th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
The Bruins traded their second and third round picks in order to move up three spots and select Tommy Cross 35th overall. In Cross, the Bruins saw a big, mobile, two-way defenseman who was able to dominate games at the prep-school level. Unfortunately, Cross’ development was severely hampered when he suffered a major knee injury playing baseball. Over the course of the next four years, Cross was was plagued by various knee and lower body issues. He only played nine games in 2007-08. In the 2008-09 season, he’d only be able to play about half of Boston College’s games. He missed out on the opportunity to be involved in several of Boston’s development camps. The injuries made it difficult for Cross to experience any kind of steady growth in his game, it hampered his skating, and his overall progress was slow.
Cross’ first (mostly) healthy college season came in 2009-10 and, even though he didn’t dominate, the year proved to be a springboard for his development. The following season, Cross began to assert himself defensively and started to get used against top lines for head coach Jerry York. His offensive game also started to blossom, as Cross proved to be a difference maker in the Beanpot Tournament that winter. In Boston’s 2011 summer development camp, Cross stood out against his peers, his skating clearly improved. He was strong, physical, and moved the puck smartly. Playing in a pair with Bruin’s prized prospect Dougie Hamilton, the two were dominant.
This season, Cross was named BC’s captain. He’s remained healthy and has managed to continue to play at a high level for the Eagles, who have their sights set on their third national championship in five years. When Cross’ season concludes he’ll undoubtedly join Providence where he’ll get his first taste of professional hockey. He certainly has the tools to become a solid, stay-at-home defenseman in the NHL, but his injury history makes his future uncertain.
Denis Reul, D Heilbronn Falcons (GerObL) – 5th round, 135th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Denis Reul was billed as a big, physical, defensive defenseman with some skating issues. The Bruins plucked him out of obscurity, from the German Oberliga, which is essentially the third tier of hockey in Germany. After the draft, Reul came to North America, to play for Lewiston in the QMJHL. He had a promising first year for the Maineiacs, recording ten points, 99 penalty minutes and a plus-11, but he struggled mightily in his second year, posting a team-worst minus-19. At the end of that season he joined Providence of the AHL for five games and posted a minus-one. That spelled the end of his North American career. The following season, Reul returned to Germany to play for the Manheim Eagles of the German Elite League, where he continues to toil today.
Alain Goulet, D, Aurora Tigers (OPJHL) – 6th round, 169th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Once again, the Bruins reached into the lower tiers of hockey to pluck Alain Goulet 169th overall. Goulet, an offensive-minded defenseman, played for Aurora of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, and had put up about a point-per-game in that league, so the Bruins were attracted to his combination of size and skill. Goulet was slated to join the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the CCHA the following year, which would have been a good developmental path for Goulet, who needed time to get stronger and develop the defensive side of his game, but after a year-and-a-half, Goulet left school. The Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL picked up Goulet and he once again, started scoring at nearly a point-per-game. His 35 points in 32 games was enough to warrant a contract from Boston. He spent the following season in Providence, but struggled to find his game at that level. Goulet was dropped down to the ECHL level the next year, where he remains today
Radim Ostrcil, D, Vsetin HC (Czech) – 6th round, 169th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
With their second pick in the sixth round, the Bruins grabbed another defenseman, this time selecting Radim Ostricil, a small, stocky defensive defenseman from the Czech Elite League. Ostricil had played 37 games for Vsetin and though he had a minus-18, it was still impressive that an undersized 17-year-old could compete in an elite league against men. The following year, Ostricil left the Czech Republic to join the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL, but he struggled with the transition and ended up posting a team-worst minus-21. Ostricil returned to the Czech Elite league the following the season but in the three years since, he has only managed to appear in 10 games.
Jordan Knackstedt, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) – 7th round, 189th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Perhaps the most promising of all Boston’s late round draft picks in 2007 was Jordan Knackstedt. The burly winger from the ‘Dub’ was a point-per-game player in an injury shortened draft year. Post draft, he put up 31 goals, 85 points, and finished the year on an amateur try-out contract with Providence where he picked up two goals in five games. His performance opened some eyes and earned him a three-year, entry-level contract with Boston.
The offense didn’t come quite as easily however, in Knackstedt’s first season in Providence he finished with 10 goals and 26 points in 71 games. His second year was better, posting 14 goals and 38 points in 67 games which gave hope that he might break out in his third season. When that didn’t happen, Knackstedt was traded to Florida in a swap of minor leaguers. Florida didn’t tender Knackstedt a contract at the end of the season and he signed with Bolzano in Italy where he remains today.