Center Stage: Bruins Prospect Andy Hilbert

By Michael Karlstrom

Andy Hilbert has quickly emerged as one of the Bruins’ highest regarded prospects. The 5’11” , 190 lbs. center from Howell Michigan was selected 37th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2000 entry draft.

“I had a little hunch that the Bruins were interested,” said Hilbert. “I had a meeting with them at the draft and thought it went really well. They’re an original six team, a great organization, and a really great city. I nearly committed to play college there (Boston University) I really liked it when I went out there for my visit.”

Success can really reflect nicely on the regard for a prospect and Hilbert has been enjoying a ton of it helping lead his strong Michigan Wolverine team to a really impressive run in the NCAA this year. After 34 games played, Hilbert has 23 goals and 34 assists this season for 57 points. He has been dominant on the ice with a +21 ranking in goal differential and has been gritty running up 64 minutes in the penalty box. All in all, one can certainly understand with numbers like these why many are starting to pencil him into the Bruins lineup at the conclusion of this season.

Before Hilbert can join the Bruins, a contract would need to be signed. While there have been some signs that this could be possible, current NCAA rules would prohibit Hilbert from signing while still maintaining his eligibility to play with the Wolverines. As to what would happen after that, the Bruins would hold Hilbert’s rights while he remained in University, but Andy is open to the thoughts that he might be willing to postpone the completion of his formal education for the right opportunity.

“They’ve shown a little interest but haven’t really talked to me yet. They just want me to concentrate on my season in Michigan right now and not worry about it yet. If I have the opportunity I will definitely look at it long and hard. If it’s not there, the University of Michigan is a great place to be and I can definitely get a great education here.”

If/once Hilbert can be signed, the next logical question a Bruins’ fan can wonder is what type of player Hilbert is. It can sometimes be hard to pigeonhole a prospect’s style in a simple description or find a known player to whom similarities can be drawn to paint a picture of what to hope down the road but who better to attempt this description of what type of player to expect than the man himself?

“A two-way player, provide offense but pride myself if I have to shut down a scoring line. I see myself as a center more than anything else but played a lot of right wing this season too. Chris Drury can be a goal scorer but is a great defensive player as well and can play along the walls… I guess that is the player I’ve heard myself compared to the most.”

Watching Hilbert at the WJCs and Michigan, one can see the Chris Drury similarities. Hilbert considers the World Junior Championships to be his primary showcase so far and is proud of being with the US team in three tournaments now.

“Each year I had more and more of a role. It has definitely been the best experience hockey wise in my career.”

Hilbert also made the all-rookie team in the CCHA for the 1999-2000 season when he posted up 17 goals and 32 points in just 35 games for the Wolverines.

There’s been some recent success stories of players stepping out of the NCAA and right into the NHL as major contributors and the Bruins are crossing their fingers that Hilbert may figure into their plans as early as the playoff run this season. Of course, Chris Drury leaps most immediately to mind as the comparison here but the B’s have had their own history importing younger players out of the college ranks for a playoff run. Remember Craig Janney and Bob Joyce in 1988 and John Bryce in 1990. It doesn’t happen often, and can have mixed results, but if anyone is ready to make the jump it’s Andy Hilbert. It’s hard to make a complete diagnosis on someone’s character, but in the case of Andy Hilbert, he seems very committed and schooled in the package as to what it would take to make it. With his head in the game and a clear focus of what it will take to make the next step, we are not going to bet against him here, especially when cheering him on is so much more fun.

SEVEN QUESTIONS WITH: ANDY HILBERT

1. Is there one thing you know will get you to the NHL?

Andy Hilbert: “My intensity… being able to work hard and play with that intensity.”

2. Is there one thing you know you need to improve on to get to the NHL?

Andy Hilbert: “Being able to be that intense night in-night out… consistency.”

3. Who was your favorite team growing up?

Andy Hilbert: “Detroit Red Wings”

4. Who is your favorite hockey player?

Andy Hilbert: “Pavel Bure”

5. What was the last good movie you watched?

Andy Hilbert: “Good Will Hunting”

6. What is your favorite food?

Andy Hilbert: “Lasagna”

7. What are you taking in University?

Andy Hilbert: “I will have to decide after this year but am in a general program right now.”