In a draft day filled with trades and intrigue, the Boston Bruins stayed out of the dealing fray and waited their turn at the 21st position to select defenseman Nick Boynton, a player everyone in Boston hopes can help the Bruins’ fortunes sooner than anticipated. As the host city of the 1999 Draft, Boston was well-represented by its fans who voiced their pleasure when Boynton’s name was called. When future Hall of Fame defenseman Raymond Bourque, who 20 years ago was the Bruins’ top draft pick, made the announcement, draft day ’99 was that much more special for the legions of Bruins supporters in attendance. By the time the smoke cleared at the Fleetcenter, and the final name was called, Boston had taken 3 key members of the CHL’s top team, the Ottawa 67s. With 3 defensemen, several forwards and 2 goaltenders, Mike O’Connell and Harry Sinden closed the book on what appears to be a successful draft.
For sure, the selections of players such as Patrik Stefan(Atlanta), the Sedin twins(Vancouver) and Pavel Brendl(Rangers) were no surprise, but seeing Branislav Mezei(10th), David Tanabe(16th) and Barret Jackman(17th)go when they did raised a few eyebrows. Those early selections allowed Boston to move in and grab Nicholas Boynton who helped the Ottawa 67s win the 1999 Memorial Cup with his excellent two-way play. Boynton, selected 9th overall in 1997 by the Washington Capitals, could not come to terms with the organization who drafted him and re-entered the pool. Rated as the 22nd and 23rd overall prospect in the Hockey News’ Top 50 Prospect List in 1998 and 1999, Boynton will play in the NHL. How good he turns out to be depends on him, but Bruins fans have to be excited about the prospects of having a player of his potential in the fold.
In 1997, Boston had the 1st and 8th selections and thought seriously about drafting Boynton with their 8th choice, but when Russian phenom Sergei Samsonov was still available, they could not resist passing on the future Calder Trophy winner. Washington had the next pick that year and took Boynton, so it seems only logical that with Boynton still on the board in 1999, that he would get the call from Boston. The strength of Boynton’s game is his hockey sense, fluid skating and ability to move the puck out of his own end. In a league where the value of a power play quarterback is never understated, the OHL defenseman is a valuable addition to the Bruins organization. Boynton’s obvious excitement at being a Bruin gushed forth as he announced that he was “…very, very happy to be chosen by the Boston Bruins.” As a re-entry, Boynton received very little fanfare coming into draft day, but will be given ample opportunity to make his impression on Boston this fall.
In a strange twist of fate, Boston grabbed the second of the 1997 1st-round re-entry players, Matt Zultek, also of the Ottawa 67s, with the 56th pick. Zultek is a large, scoring winger who netted the biggest goal of his life when he connected for the Memorial Cup-clincher in OT. Boston fans hope that he can bring his scoring touch to the Bruins, who could use a consistent scoring presence on the left wing. Zultek went from being the 15th overall pick in 1997 to the 56th, so expect him to come to camp in the fall fired up and with a lot to prove. Interestingly enough, the Bruins now own the 1st(Joe Thornton), 8th(Sergei Samsonov), 9th(Boynton), 15th(Zultek), 27th(Ben Clymer) and 31st(Jeff Zehr) picks in the 1997 draft. Hopefully, Zultek and Zehr will provide some “ZZ”-top offense in years to come for the Bruins…
The Bruins took Kootenay(WHL) right winger Kyle Wanvig with their 3rd-round choice, 89th overall. Once projected as a 1st-round pick, the 6-2, 200 pound wing’s disappointing offensive production this year caused his stock to fall considerably. If he can regain some of his ’97-’98 form in the coming season, Wanvig could gain some attention, as he is an excellent body checker and strong skater who does well in close. In the 4th round(118th), Boston drafted stay-at-home defenseman Jaakko Harikkala out of Lukko in the Finnish Elite League. Although Harikkala did not register a single point in 35 elite league games, he has good mobility and may develop into an attractive prospect. At present, both Wanvig and Harikkala are long-term projects.
Boston addressed its need at the goaltender position by drafting yet another member of the Memorial Cup Champion Ottawa 67s when the organization called Seamus Kotyk’s name in the 5th round. Kotyk is a smaller goaltender who is technically sound and has excellent reflexes. He sometimes gets caught out of position, and is not the best of puckhandlers, but stops the puck extremely well and is adept at reading the play and communicating with his defense. At the 147th pick, Kotyk is an excellent value. In the 6th round(179th), the Bruins grabbed Donald Choukalos, who split time between Regina and Calgary of the WHL this season. Choukalos tall at 6’2, is the 15th-rated North American goaltender by the CSB. At this point, he provides depth in Boston’s system but is a longshot prospect at best. Kotyk and Choukalos join Byron Dafoe, Robbie Tallas, John Grahame, Paxton Schafer and Andrew Raycroft as the only goaltenders in the Boston system.
Boston closed out the draft by selecting Greg Barber, John Cronin, Mikko Eloranta and Georgijs Pujacs in the 7th, 8th and 9th rounds. Eloranta was taken with the 247th pick acquired from the New York Islanders while Pujacs was Boston’s final choice at 264th overall. Greg Barber will play for the University of Denver(WCHA) next year, while John Cronin will begin his freshman year as a Boston University Terrier. The Bruins will keep a close watch on both.
Bruins fans can take heart that the club came away with some good-looking prospects in 1999. In Nick Boynton and Matt Zultek, they get two 20-year olds who could be ready for prime time in short order. Kyle Wanvig, Seamus Kotyk and Jaakko Harikkala could develop nicely in the next 4-5 years. Mikko Eloranta, one of the Bruins’ 2 9th-round picks could potentially have an impact next season. Eloranta is a 27-year old 2-way forward who can play either center or left wing, and has plenty of international experience to draw from.
20 years after Harry Sinden chose Raymond Bourque with the 8th overall selection, the NHL Draft came to Boston and created an air of nostalgia for those in attendance. While many had hoped or expected Bruins’ management to make waves, they instead adopted a sound strategy of drafting at least 3 players who have strong chances to play in Boston next season, or at the least, help the AHL’s Providence Bruins defend their Calder Cup title. Be sure to follow the progress of Boynton, Zultek and Eloranta in Bruins Training Camp ’99 2 months from now. Fans have reason to be excited, and time will tell whether the 1999 draft class can add some more talented youngsters to complement Samsonov and Thornton.
1999 Draft Selections of the Boston Bruins
1. Nicholas Boynton, D Ottawa(OHL)
2. Matt Zultek, LW Ottawa(OHL)
3. Kyle Wanvig, RW Kootenay(WHL)
4. Jaakko Harikkala, D Lukko(Finland)
5. Seamus Kotyk, G Ottawa(OHL)
6. Donald Choukalos, G Regina/Calgary(WHL)
7. Greg Barber, RW Victoria(BCJHL)
8. John Cronin, D Nobles HS(Mass)
9. Mikko Eloranta, C/LW Jokerit(Finland)
9. Georgijs Pujacs, D Dynamo Riga(Latvia)