Bruins 2002 draft evaluation

By Janine Pilkington

With just 71 total NHL games between seven draft picks, and only one having a realistic chance of playing in the NHL with the Bruins, there is very little to be excited about when looking back at Boston’s 2002 draft. 

They walked away from the 2002 draft with a potential starter in Hannu Toivonen, one of two goaltenders the Bruins picked in that draft, and looked to Europe for all but one pick. One of the biggest surprises was that for the first time in 34 years, the Bruins did not select a defenseman.  They did attempt to strengthen their stable of forwards, particularly on wing, but of the five chosen, only one has a realistic chance of playing in the NHL, and he is no longer with the organization.

The Bruins seven picks played a total of 71 NHL games, for an average of 10 games per pick.

Hannu Toivonen, G – 1st round, 29th overall (HPK Hameenlinna, FNL)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL games played: 30

The Bruins have been known to make a few surprising choices on draft day, and 2002 was no exception when they spent their top pick on 18-year-old Finn goaltender Hannu Toivonen. Ranked third among all European goalies by CSS, Toivonen showed promise, but was largely overshadowed by fellow Finnish netminder Kari Lehtonen. He performed well in Finland, and by 2003, the Bruins decided it was time to bring him to North America, where he would play the next two seasons in Providence (AHL).

After an exceptional second season at the AHL level and a strong camp in the fall of 2005, Toivonen earned a shot in Boston, where he played until injury took him out for the remainder of the 2005-06 season.  He was unable to secure the starting role in Boston the following season, and with sporadic ice time, the result was inconsistency in his performance. At only 23 years of age, Toivonen still has the tools and the work ethic to become an NHL starter, and while his future in Boston may not be written in stone, it’s reasonable to believe that Toivonen will fulfill that potential.

Vladslav Evseev, LW – 2nd round, 56th overall (HC CSKA, RUS Div 1)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games played: 0

Evseev was originally expected to be snatched up in the first round of the 2002 draft, but an injury-plagued season contributed to his drop in the rankings and made the Russian winger available late in the second when the Bruins drafted him. He had a mix of speed, grit and offensive instincts that made him an attractive all-around prospect, and at the time, appeared to be a strong pickup.

Evseev has played in Russia’s top-tier league for the past three seasons and seems to have made some progress. The offensive ability that he was once touted for, however, has failed to materialize. The 23-year-old wing has struggled to find ice time, managing just a goal and four assists in 30 games with Dynamo Moskva and only 10 points in the 77 games he’s played since the start of the 2004-05 season. Injury has haunted him on and off throughout his career as well, and he’s on his third team in as many seasons. Evseev has not yet made it to North America, and now appears to be an extreme longshot to ever play in the NHL.

Jan Kubista, RW – 4th round, 130th overall (Pardubice Jr, CZE jr)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games played: 0

Originally ranked 17th among European skaters by CSS, six spots higher than Bruins second round pick Vlad Evseev, Kubista was another highly-touted forward that took a nosedive come draft day. Following strong play at the junior level in the Czech Republic and a couple brief stints in the Czech Extraliga, Kubista has toiled away in the lower tier leagues, on a total seven different teams in the past three seasons. No longer in the plans for the Boston Bruins, it seems that the window of opportunity has passed for the young forward, who is unlikely to ever play in North America, let alone the NHL. 

Peter Hamerlik, G – 5th round, 153rd overall (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games played: 0

Boston must have seen something in Hamerlik, a 20-year-old netminder who was on the verge of his third season in the OHL. Originally a third-round draft pick in 2000 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hamerlik went unsigned and was back in mix for 2002, where the Bruins took him in the fifth round. The young netminder had mediocre numbers during his junior career, due in part to the team in front of him, nevertheless, opportunity presented itself, and he received his first pro contract from the Bruins. In the three seasons that followed, Hamerlik saw just seven AHL games, and spent the remainder of his North American pro career in the ECHL. He returned to his native Slovakia at the end of the 2004-05 season, where he has since remained. The Bruins no longer hold his rights.

Dmitri Utkin, LW – 7th round, 228th overall (Russia)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

For their fifth pick, the Bruins gambled on another Russian forward, a 6’0 170 lbs wing known for his speed and offensive instincts. Unfortunately he was slow to progress and never put up the numbers that were expected. Utkin spent time in the lower level Russian leagues, as well as top tier leagues in Belarus and Latvia before he finally landed in the Russian Super League. While he has spent the past two seasons at that level, he has not done enough to become a factor in the Bruins plans. As a result, Utkin never made it across the pond, and it doesn’t look like he ever will.

Yan Stastny, C – 8th round, 259th overall (Notre Dame University)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 41

High expectations are a rarity for a late-round draft pick, even when he is the son of a former NHL’er, but it seemed for a while that the Bruins just didn’t want to give up on Yan Stastny. After trading the young center to the Edmonton Oilers during the summer of 2005, he returned to Boston via trade the following spring. He got his first substantial NHL experience when he finished out the 2005-06 regular season in Boston, and would receive another shot early the next season. When it became apparent he wasn’t flourishing in the NHL, he was demoted to Providence where he would get more ice time.

Stastny’s performance at the AHL level was strong, mixing some offensive prowess with a solid checking game, however his days in the Bruins organization would once again be numbered. In January of 2007 he was traded to the St. Louis Blues, and spent the rest of the season with their AHL affiliate in Peoria. It is still possible that if he applies himself, Stastny could become a regular NHL’er, but it appears to be a safe bet that when it does happen, it will not be with the Boston Bruins.  

Pavel Frolov, C – 9th round, 290th overall ( Russia)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

On the advice of their scout in Russia, the Bruins spent their final pick on a relatively unknown young Russian forward in Pavel Frolov. A project at best, Frolov was attractive because of his speed and raw offensive skills. After spending some time in Russia’s 3rd level league, however, he disappeared from view following the 2003-04 season. Frolov never became a viable prospect for the Bruins.

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