Lessons Learned? Boston Bruins Recap Of The 2002 Draft

By Shane Walsh

If the Bruins draft history is any indication for the future then Finnish goaltender Hannu Toivonen has less than a 10% chance of being an impact netminder in the NHL. If the Bruins draft history is any indication for the future based on first round draft picks used on goaltenders then Toivonen has a 0% chance of being an impact NHL goalie.

The Boston Bruins are notorious for being a weak team when it comes to picking talent between the pipes. For the Bruins to select Hannu Toivonen with the 29th selection with other talent still available is beyond mind boggling, especially for a team that has selected defensemen in 6 of the last 10 drafts.

Picking NHL caliber defensemen is a niche for the Bruins; it’s an area where they excel. So why did they pass on defensemen such as Kiril Koltsov, Denis Grot, and Trevor Daley?

Because Hannu Toivonen is the real deal!

The Bruins have a bountiful healthy stable of young goalies and adding Toivonen to the herd makes it that much stronger. The native of Kalvola, Finland can best be described as a butterfly goalie with great flexibility. At 6’2”, 190 lbs., he has no problem filling the net. He helped backstop Finland to earn a Bronze medal at the 2002 IIHF World U18 Championship in Trnava, Piestany Slovakia. He also played for a very weak team Finland at the 2002 Viking Cup in Camrose, Alberta Canada where he faced 84 shots over 4 games.

Toivonen is a systems goalie; he is not the type of player who can carry an entire team on his back. When the team in front of him plays well, he comes up big when you need him. When they play poorly, he gets frustrated. Positionally he is very good. His reflexes and lateral movement are excellent and his glove hand is quite sharp.

Being a butterfly goalie, he tends to go down a little early. His stick handling and puck control could use work, and he needs to smother the puck and give up fewer rebounds.

In 31 games with HPK, he had a .911 save percentage and 3.29 goals-against average.

The Bruins felt an opportunity presented itself and traded their second round pick (62nd overall) and one of their fifth round picks (165th overall) to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for their second round pick (56th overall), and selected speedy Russian winger Vladislav Evseev from HC CSKA.

A powerful skater, Evseev is a tenacious all-around player who plays with grit and heart. At 6’2”, 196 lbs., he forechecks well and likes to lead by example. The major knock in his play is he’s sometimes caught out of position when looking to antagonize the opponent. He will drop his gloves when necessary and stick up for his teammates.

That concluded day one at the draft for the Bruins as they previously traded away their third round pick to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for winger Marty McInnis shortly before the trade deadline. On day two with the 130th overall selection, the Bruins selected winger Jan Kubista from Pardubice of the Czech Junior League.

In 7 games at the 2002 IIHF World U18 Championships in Trnava, Piestany
Slovakia, Kubista registered 1 goal and 2 assists. A strong stick handler and shooter, Kubista is somewhat of an enigma. In the Czech Republic’s game opener against the home town Viking team at the 2002 Viking Cup, Kubista picked up a rebound in his own zone, undressed the Viking defense and scored a highlight-reel short handed goal. It was the only goal he scored in that tournament.

The 6’0”,190 lbs. native of Kolin in the Czech Republic may decide to play in North America as early as next season. With a knack around the net and an aggressive shooting style similar to Colorado’s Milan Hejduk, Kubista must focus and work on his consistency to graduate to the next level.

With their next pick in the fifth round (153rd overall), the Boston Bruins selected re-entry goaltender Peter Hamrlik from Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League. Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins 84th overall at the 2000 NHL entry draft, Hamrlik was unable to agree on a contract with the Pens.

An aggressive butterfly goalie who likes to challenge shooters, the 6’1”, 200 lbs. native of Myjava in the Czech Republic will challenge for a roster spot this fall with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence. With quick reflexes and a great glove hand, Hamrlik faced a lot of shots playing for a weak Kingston team. In 43 games with the Frontenacs, he compiled a record of 12-21-6 with a 3.64 GAA.

In keeping with the trend of drafting skilled players, the Bruins selected Russian winger Dmitri Utkin in the seventh round (228th overall). Utkin is a pure offensive threat with great hockey sense and fiery speed. For a small player (6’0”, 170 lbs.), he’s a puck hound who will fight hard in the corners and along the boards. In order for him to play in traffic at the next level, he must get stronger physically.

Opting for bloodlines in the eighth round, the Bruins selected Quebec native Yan Stastny, son of Peter Stastny, 259th overall. The University of Notre Dame center/winger is considered a project worth waiting for. Bruins head scout Scott Bradley admits he sees some moments of Peter in the play of young Yan. An excellent decision maker and gifted skater, Yan’s development is in good with hands with Notre Dame head coach and former Bruin Dave Poulin.

With their last selection, the Bruins returned to Russia and selected center Pavel Frolov from the HC CSKA Jr team 290th overall. The 6’1”, 180 lbs. project from Nizhniynovgorod is a raw talent with decent puck skills and speed.

In the previous weaker drafts, the Bruins have not had much success. In fact, the 1996 draft left the Bruins with nothing. Taking flyers on players in these weaker drafts are definitely worth taking. Most of the successful players that came out of the 1996 draft were unknown European players who didn’t receive a lot of attention. The Bruins were able to address their needs for skilled depth at forward. Whether any of these players will pan out in the end will remain a mystery.