Boston Bruins 2012 draft preview

By Bill Ladd

Photo: Drafted ninth overall in 2011, defenseman Dougie Hamilton is not only the top prospect for the Boston Bruins, but among the top defensive prospects in all of hockey. (Leon T. Switzer/Icon SMI)

 

Thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins have spent the last two years drafting inside the top 10. This year, they're back to drafting in the bottom third of the first round, but if the rumors are to be believed, Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli is actively trying to remedy that situation and move up high enough to grab one of the premier defensemen available.

Top 10 Prospects:

1. Dougie Hamilton, D
2. Ryan Spooner, C/LW
3. Jared Knight, RW/LW
4. Alexander Khokhlachev, C/LW
5. Maxime Sauve, LW
6. Torey Krug, D
7. Brian Ferlin, RW
8. Tommy Cross, D
9. David Warsofsky, D
10. Carter Camper, C

Team Needs

The Bruins have a deep and well rounded team. GM Peter Chiarelli was able to get several pending unrestricted free agents signed before July 1st, making spots on the big club sparse. However there are three clear positions that are currently up for grabs: the role of a puck-moving defenseman, third-line left-wing, and goaltending depth.

Finding a puck-moving defenseman for this team has proven to be extremely difficult. Dennis Wideman, Tomas Kaberle and Joe Corvo have all been tried and are now playing elsewhere. The hope now is that Dougie Hamilton will be able to step into the lineup next year and fill the void. The Bruins aren't expecting Hamilton to be a dominant player right away, but they are excited about the opportunity to develop a puck-moving defenseman within their system, teaching him the game from the ground up.

The Bruins have locked up eight of their top-nine forwards from last year. The last spot that remains belonged to enigmatic forward Benoit Pouliot who, despite making great strides last year, was last seen turning the puck over during the line change that led to the Washington Capitals' series clinching game-seven overtime winner. Pouliot is a restricted-free agent, but GM Peter Chiarelli has said he'd like to find a top-nine forward this off-season and his is the only spot left. Also vying for this role is second year power forward, Jordan Caron who also really improved during the 2011-12 season.

Goaltending was once considered the strength of the Bruins, but it has suddenly become an area of need thanks to Tim Thomas surprising, if not befuddling, decision to take a year off. The Bruins do still have a talented goaltender in Tuukka Rask returning, and it's expected that AHL veteran Anton Khudobin will get his long-awaited and well deserved shot in the big leagues. Beyond those two however, are a lot of projects and question marks.

Organizational Strengths

The Bruins have some exciting players at the top of their prospect pool, led by CHL Defenseman of the year Dougie Hamilton, and followed by a trio of diverse forwards in Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, and Alex Khokhlachev.

Hamilton was an absolute tour de force for Niagara this season, racking up 23 goals, 95 points, and a plus-53 in 70 regular season and playoff games. The ninth overall pick in 2011 is a 6'5 defenseman with the mobility and attack-savvy of a forward. He's expected to make the club out of camp.

Ryan Spooner is a slick, creative playmaking center with speed to burn and outstanding hockey sense. After starring for Canada in the Subway Series, Spooner contracted mono and was forced to miss a large chunk of his season, including the World Junior Championships.

Jared Knight's numbers never do him justice. He is a tough, determined forward who can play any position and any role. Despite being only 19, he's also Boston's most physically developed prospect as well. Like Spooner, Knight has an outside shot at that vacant wing position in Boston's top-nine but playing first line minutes in Providence could be more beneficial to his development.

Alex Khokhlachev doesn't have the skating game that Spooner has, but he managed to outscore both Spooner and Knight despite playing on a young Windsor team. "Koko" is a small, industrious offensive sparkplug who can adapt his game to fit with his line mates. As of this writing, Koko's immediate future is unknown. His father was recently named the general manager of the KHL's Moscow Spartak, and he is considering returning to Russia to play professional hockey rather than return to juniors.

Organizational Weaknesses

Beyond Boston's top four there are a lot of question marks. NCAA free agents Torey Krug and Carter Camper looked good in their brief NHL auditions, but are both extremely small for their positions. Like Krug, Warsofsky is a talented but tiny defenseman. Max Sauve is one of Providence's most talented offensive players, but he can't seem to stay healthy. Despite Tommy Cross' impressive four-year career at Boston College, he's also no stranger to the IR. In goal, Michael Hutchinson had an excellent year backing up Khudobin in Providence but he's regarded as a very inconsistent goalie and it's unknown how he'll respond to a larger workload. The Bruins also have two long-term projects in Zane Gothberg and Lars Volden who are both developing nicely and both years away. 

With only a handful of prospects ready to challenge for NHL jobs and so many questions throughout their prospect pool, Boston will look to add depth at all positions on draft weekend.

Draft Tendencies

The Bruins tend to lean towards drafting the best player available, although sometimes that philosophy has worked to their detriment. In 2009, the Bruins had a clear need to add a puck moving defenseman, and the draft was rich with quality blueliners, but Boston believed Joe Colborne was the best player available so they selected the 6'5 center sixteenth overall. Three years later, they're still trying to fill that role.

Other tendencies that have surfaced during Peter Chiarelli's tenure include a preference for OHL trained players, with the Bruins drafting twice as many OHLers as any other league, and Boston likes to go after goalies in the later rounds. Chiarelli has chosen a goalie in three of the last four drafts and is on record as saying he'd like to select a goalie every year. Considering that goaltenders tend to take a long time to develop and that there were more NHL starters drafted outside the top-sixty than in, taking a chance on a goalie late is a good gamble.

There's a perception that the Bruins don't draft Europeans but there's been no real evidence to support that. Chiarelli has taken as many Euro's as QMJHL and WHL players combined, including two Russians. Although it is true that, once drafted, the Bruins Director of Player Development Don Sweeney, likes to get these players into Boston's system so they can control their development, which has proven difficult with a handful of players.

The Bruins have five choices in the 2012 NHL Draft. They own the 24th, 85th, 145th, 175th and 205th picks. The team is without their second round pick which was traded to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle, and their fourth round pick which they traded to Carolina for defenseman Joe Corvo.

Hockey's Future Staff Mock Draft Results:

No. 24: Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (Allsvenskan)

Lindholm fits perfectly into the Bruin plans for the future, adding another blue-chip, two-way defenseman to go along with Dougie Hamilton, adding much needed youth to an aging blue line.