Bruins eyeing a number of prospects at 24th pick

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Bruins eyeing a number of prospects at 24th pick

PITTSBURGH The NHL Draft is finally upon the hockey world at the CONSOL Energy Center this weekend, and the Boston Bruins will land themselves a quality prospect with the 24th overall pick.

They wont be the belle of the ball this time around with the late pick in the first round, but there are a number of players in the mix for Bostons pick. None of them will be ready to assist the Bruins next season, but thats not really necessary given that Boston returns 12 forwards and five of six defensemen from last years team along with the expected ascendance of 19-year-old rookie Dougie Hamilton.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is fully planning for one of their targeted players to be available when they pick 24th heading into Friday nights first round festivities, and here are a list of the draft candidates in order of probability Boston will select them.

Slater Koekkoek A good defenseman on a bad junior hockey team that suffered a shoulder injury last season at the worst possible time. The expectation is he will slide because of the time missed due to that injury, and he still has plenty of filling out to do at 6-foot-2 and 184-pounds. He can skate and produce on the power play, and has a ceiling as a top four defensemen in the NHL. One thing scouts have noticed aside from Koekkoeks ability to play in all situations is that his quality of play doesnt dip despite logging heavy minutes for the Peterborough Petes. If he drops to the Bruins theyd be overjoyed with that situation.

Olli Maatta A native of Finland that really raised his stock last spring while helping carry the London Knights into the Memorial Cup Finals, Maatta is a defense-minded prospect that isnt going to light things up as a puck-moving defenseman. The 6-foot-2, 202-pound prospect can skate and shoot, and finally loosened things up offensively this year at the OHL level. But its his solid set of defensive skills and ability to protect the front of the net that will earn him a paycheck in the NHL. Scouts dont see him as a PP guy, but instead a simple, efficient puck-lugger that wont create much offensively. But he wont hurt a team either, which is important in this day and age of withering forechecks.

Matt Finn A 6-foot, 195-pound lefty shooter for the Guelph Storm that rededicated himself to the weight room prior to last season and put up 48 points in 61 games. Hes got a big shot and the ability to skate with the puck, and is another defensemen prospect that brings a good defensive mindset to the table. Finn seems to be just be clueing into how good he can be as a hockey player, and hes expected to be long gone by the time the Bruins select 24th. But he could be a Bruin if he slides.

Hampus Lindholm A 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect out of the Swedish Elite League that can skate, skate, skate and move the puck. In todays NHL its a strength that cant be understated and he impressed scouts with a solid performance for Team Sweden in the World Juniors last season. The word is that Lindholm also blew people away with his conditioning at the prospect combine in Toronto, and that is something hockey personnel people love when gauging young players.

Brendan Gaunce A 6-foot-2, 208-pound center that has the puck possession and face-off skills that the Bruins covet, and could be a prototypical third line center with grittiness and a fair amount of offensive ability. Gaunce put up 28 goals in 68 games for the Belleville Bulls this season and has solid size and a good shot, but there are questions about his overall skating ability at the next level. Not a bad choice for a team thats always looking to build on their organization depth at the center position.

Tom Wilson A mean, dirty, nasty 6-foot-4, 203-pound power forward that screams out Bruins kind of player. Wilson would be a great fit on the wing with his Lucic-style NHL game, but this right wing prospect isnt expected to be available when the Bruins make the 24th overall selection. Wilson doesnt have the greatest hands in the world, but he can skate well for a big, bruising winger and is expected to continue improvement offensively. The chatter out of Pittsburgh was that Wilson wouldnt get past the Buffalo Sabres picking a few spots ahead of the Bruins, so Boston will be missing out on their perfect-fit forward.

Stefan Matteau A 6-foot-1, 210-pound prospect at the wing that plays a northsouth game and struggles a bit with staying out of the penalty box at this point in his career. Matteau is the son of New York Rangers hero Stephane Matteau and is US-born out of Chicago. He has good size and solid offensive ability along with an excellent motor, but doesnt project much beyond a third line winger at the NHL level. The shot and hands are there, but the power forward prospect needs to work on the skating part of the game.

Oscar Dansk A 6-foot-2, 186-pound Swedish goaltender that confirms the Bruins are looking to collect a coalition of nations as their organizational depth between the pipes. If all of the defensemen and forward prospects are gone when the Bruins get to the 24th selection then theres a very real possibility they could add another top-tier goaltender with Tim Thomas now out of the picture. Its said that Dansk impressed Bruins scouts when he played a strong game against Bs draft property Zane Gothberg in international competition. He wouldnt be ready to jump into the NHL right away, but its important to keep the European goaltending pipeline active and strong.

Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

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Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

The Bruins still hold high hopes for what free agency might bring them for a defenseman when the market opens Friday at noontime, but it also feels like Bruins GM Don Sweeney is under-promising while hoping to over-deliver. Either that or the Bruins really don’t have many good prospects at significantly improving their blue line group headed into next season.

For the first time Sweeney made a “defenseman-by-committee” reference during Thursday’s conference call to announce the four year contract extension for Torey Krug, and talked up positive contract talks with 35-year-old John-Michael Liles.

Yes, that’s the same Liles that was a minus-7 in 17 games with the Bruins after coming to Boston at the trade deadline for draft picks and Anthony Camara. One would expect it to be a one year deal at a very reduced rate along the lines of last year’s $2.75 million to bring Liles back in Boston if the Bruins can’t somehow land a bigger free agent fish like Jason Demers, or Brian Campbell.

There’s also the possibility of something shaking loose with Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler in trade discussions, but Liles was the only available defenseman that Sweeney addressed by name during his chat with reporters.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I’ve mentioned John-Michael [Liles]; I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there. We’re looking for balance; we’re looking for younger players to have an opportunity to emerge and grab a hold of that,” said Sweeney. “Whichever we can improve our team internally or externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market … whether that materializes remains to be seen. And it’s not an easy process, nor is the free agency process.

“So we’re going to do the work to try and improve our team but it starts internally with our group. And our coaches are excited about what our young players are going to bring to the table.”

After signing Krug to a four year extension that will pay him $5.25 million per season and buying out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract, the Bruins still have $19 million to play with headed into Friday’s open of the free agent market. So the Bruins have the capital to be players on July 1 if they want to make a big splash.

It just remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be capable of making a big splash given the available players, and how many of the big named ones seem to be leaning toward NHL destinations other than the Black and Gold. 

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship.