The importance of a strong draft can never be under-stated. The Boston Bruins have had difficulties winning in 1999-2000 and when you look at the disastrous showing of Sinden and Company in 1996, you can begin to understand why. Despite a top-10 pick and eight additional selections, the Bruins have gotten exactly zero NHL games out of the players they chose that summer. Let’s take a trip back to that fateful June of 1996 and find out what went so terribly wrong…
That year, the Bruins owned the 8th pick, compliments of the then- Hartford Whalers who had dealt their top choices from ’95-’97 to the Bruins in exchange for defenseman Glen Wesley. Boston had tabbed Kyle McLaren the year before with the Whalers’ 9th overall selection and so there was reason for Bruins fans to be excited in 1996, despite the forecast from scouts of a weak talent pool from which to choose from. The Bruins had traded their own 1st-round choice(21st) in the deal for Bill Ranford, but seemed poised to get an impact player nonetheless because of Sinden’s shrewd deal back in 1994.
For Andrew Raycroft, this is a season to remember. Raycroft for the first time in his 3 year OHL career was the starting goaltender in the OHL all star game. In a game of the best of the best, Andrew lived up to his current outstanding level of play stealing every scoring chance but one in the first period. All season long for the Kingston Frontenacs, Raycroft is showing he was a sleeper draft pick in the 1998 entry draft. Selected by the Boston Bruins 135th overall, Raycroft currently has a won-lost-tied record of 26-12-5 and a 2.93 goals against average. In 45 appearances this season the native of Belleville, Ontario has faced a total of 1786 shots, putting him in the lead as the OHL’s busiest goaltender. Raycroft has only allowed 125 goals this season and has an OHL and CHL leading save percentage of .930. Raycroft was selected as the OHL’s Goaltender of the Month for November. In 13 appearances in November Raycroft posted a 2.77 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. On December 9 Raycroft made 47 saves in a 4-1 win in Peterborough and on December 10 he turned aside 43 shots in a 4-1 win over the visiting Oshawa Generals. A highlight of Raycroft’s week was a 59 save performance in a 4-3 win in Oshawa on December 12. Raycroft’s play had helped the Frontenacs extend their undefeated streak to 11 games, and he received honors as the OHL player of the week for December 12.
When the Boston Bruins signed free agent and former Michigan Tech standout Andre Savage on June 12, 1998, it generated little fanfare in Beantown. After all, the polite and unassuming hockey player had made a name for himself out in the WCHA and anybody who is from the New England area knows that when you talk about collegiate pucks, Hockey East is king. Savage did well in the 1998 Bruins Training Camp and was sent down to Providence where he quickly established himself as one of the AHL’s top rookies. Bruins fans who shrugged when he was originally signed, soon realized that Andre was a keeper and a pleasant surprise to boot.
Andre Savage, a native of Ottawa, Ontario spent four years with the Michigan Tech Huskies where he toiled in relative anonymity, despite the fact that he became only the second player in school history to lead the team in points in three consecutive seasons from 1995-1998. During the ’97-’98 season, Andre earned WCHA 1st All-Star and WCHA All-Academic Team honors. He finished his college career with 52 goals and 143 points in 149 games. When Savage showed up to Bruins Camp later that fall wearing the number 54, many folks said, “Andre who? “It didn’t take long for him to attract attention with his excellent skating ability and very accurate shot.
With the departure of Tim Taylor, who signed a four-year, $5.8 million deal with the Rangers in July as an unrestricted free agent, Coach Pat Burns had an interesting training camp finding a new combination to match the gritty play of last season’s checking-line. Fighting for Taylor’s checking line position were Sean Pronger, Joel Prpic, Andre Savage, Shawn Bates and Mikko Eloranta. Entering his first professional season…Drafted by the Bruins as their ninth pick, 247th overall, in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft…Eloranta siezed the opportunity and will center Rob DiMaio and Scandinavian counterpart P.J. Axelsson. “Mikko is a solid, two-way player, a forward with skill and grit,” said Bruins Vice President of Hockey Operations and Assistant General Manager Mike O’Connell. “He’s a versatile forward in that he can play left wing or center and he was used in all situations with his club in Finland.”