Boston Bruins 2011 draft preview

By Bill Ladd

Photo: It is widely believed defenseman Ryan Murphy will be selected in the top ten for the 2011 NHL draft. His offense and mobility would be the perfect fit for the Boston Bruins blue line. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

Top 10 prospects:

1. Jordan Caron, LW/RW
2. Ryan Spooner, C/W
3. Jared Knight, RW/LW
4. Maxime Sauve, LW
5. Steven Kampfer, D
6. Matt Bartkowski, D
7. Jamie Arniel, C/W
8. Zach Hamill, C
9. David Warsofsky, D
10. Ryan Button, D

Team Needs

The Boston Bruins are a deep and talented team, evidenced by this year’s impressive playoff run. Statistically, they boast a top five offense and a top two defense. In goal, veteran Tim Thomas has been historic, and he’s backed up by last year’s save percent and goals-against leader in young Tuukka Rask. But there’s always room for improvement, and there are two elements missing from this Bruins team that most other Cup contenders have had, a game-breaking offensive player and high-end puck-moving defensemen.

Up front, players like Krejci, Bergeron, Lucic and Horton carry the offense and are quality players, but still fall a step short. There is hope that Tyler Seguin, who’s shown flashes of sheer brilliance in his first pro-season, will be that kind of player, but if Boston can find him a running mate, Boston could truly become something special up front.

On defense, Zdeno Chara is a perennial Norris candidate who makes everyone on the team better, but his game is more about shutting down the opposition’s stars and a big shot on the powerplay than it is about pushing the pace or moving the puck. In the past, the Bruins have tried to fill that void with Dennis Wideman, but his poor skating and penchant for giving the puck away negated much of the good that came from his offensive game. This year, the Bruins brought in Tomas Kaberle to fill that void, but Kaberle’s play has been spotty, and while he’s put up points, the Bruins have had to cut back on his even-strength ice time and haven’t been able to rely on him as a top four two-way presence they were hoping he’d be.

Organizational Strengths

The Bruins have several prospects up front who look like they could become solid NHLers. Only Ryan Spooner has first line hands, vision and scoring ability, but he needs to improve his mental and physical maturity. The defense is similar, the Bruins have a host of players, ranging from puck-movers like Steven Kampfer and Ryan Button, to big, strong physical specimens like Matt Bartkowski, but they do not project as true top four defensemen. So while this group lacks a sexy headliner, there’s some depth in terms of quality role players. And having a steady influx of inexpensive, good young players is essential to managing the salary cap.

Organizational Weaknesses

High-end talent. With Tyler’s Seguin’s graduation from prospect status, the Bruins lack top tier talent, particularly on defense. And considering the season the Bruins have had and the relatively young age of their team, this may be their last chance in a long time to draft inside the top-10, to get a crack at just such a prospect.

Of note, is the lack of any big power forward types past Jordan Caron, although Jared Knight, while diminutive, plays a physical game. In goal, the Bruins most promising prospect, USHL standout Zane Gothberg, is simply too young and too early in his development to project what kind of role he could play on the team in 4-5 years.

Draft Tendencies

The Bruins organization espouses the best player available philosophy, which states, essentially, that when your turn comes up, you ignore organizational needs and geographic preferences and simply take the highest rated player on your draft board. This philosophy has led to the Bruins drafting a bevy of centers under Peter Chiarelli, but the Bruins believe that most centers can either be converted to wing as we’ve seen with Tyler Seguin in his first pro season, or, that a valued asset can later be traded for a position of need, as they did when they swapped Vladimir Sobotka to St. Louis for defenseman David Warsofsky.

Drafting ninth overall in what is believed to be a top-heavy draft, the Bruins options have been well documented, with the obvious fan favorite being Kitchener offenseman Ryan Murphy. If the Bruins have a choice between a defenseman or a forward, it’s believed they’d take a defenseman. But because of their philosophy, if those defenseman are off the board when their turn to take the stage comes around, the Bruins are more likely to select whichever consensus top prospect is left standing, even if that prospect is another center like Ryan Strome, than reach for the next best available defenseman.

The Bruins will never admit it, but there also seems to be a preference for North Americans, having only drafted four Europeans out of Chiarelli’s thirty-one draft selections. However, they may be willing to buck that trend this year if Murphy and Hamilton are off the board, having been largely impressed by Swedish power forward Mika Zibanejad.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result:

No. 9: Ryan Murphy, D

A powerplay quarterback at the OHL level, Murphy brings offensive, mobility, and brilliant playmaking from the blue line. He could also serve as a tonic for an inconsistent powerplay.