Chiarelli: I hope Hamilton makes the team

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Chiarelli: I hope Hamilton makes the team

While the bulk of the discussion this week will be about fresh-faced hockey prospects that the Bruins intend on selecting this weekend at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, its full speed ahead for the crown jewel of last years Boston draft class.

Dougie Hamilton pushed his Niagara junior into the Memorial Trophy playoffs in a season he was named the OHLs best defenseman, and he proved just about everything possible in a breakout campaign at 18 years old.

The Bruins watched all of this unfold over the year while Joe Corvo struggled at the NHL level amidst an otherwise solid 'D' corps. So the expectation and hope is that Hamilton the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft and the final piece gained from the Phil Kessel deal with Toronto will make the Bruins out of training camp provided he proves he belongs in the NHL as a teenager.

He also might be a little bigger than people remember. Hes sprouted another inch as a 6-foot-6 defenseman, and he can skate with a seemingly unfair level of speed and dexterity.

What are we going to see at training camp? Were going to see a kid thats grown and matured . . . and is stronger, said Chiarelli of Hamilton, who turned 19 years old last weekend. He was strong when he got here, but hes become an even stronger and more confident kid.

Thats no easy feat, but the Bruins feel the same about Hamilton as they did about Tyler Seguin entering his first NHL training camp. The 6-foot-6 defenseman was so big, strong and dominant that the Bruins worry another man against boys season in the OHL could open the door for bad habits to creep into his game.

Theres not much more to prove when you put up 72 points in 50 games as a defenseman and then toss up another 23 points in 20 playoff games.

Hamilton was a two-way force capable of playing shutdown defense and posting obscenely large offensive numbers, and he looks ready to be harvested by the NHL parent club.

"One of the things when we were deciding on keeping Tyler Seguin a couple of years ago was the question 'What are we going to gain by sending him back to junior hockey?' " said Chiarelli. "Will he get into bad habits because he can do things more easily down there than hed be able to at the NHL level?

That was one of our reasons for keeping Tyler up here. It may be that we have to apply the same approach to Dougie. We look for big, strong D and guys that can think the game. Thats what he does. Im not going to say that I expect him to make the team. But I would like him to make the team because hes a good player.

Theres also the element of allowing Hamilton in with an experienced group of blueliners like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid. Those will be some of the best teachers he could have, and theyll all be among his defensemen corps next season should he be in Boston.

"Its hard to play defense in the NHL and hes going to need time," Chiarelli said. "There will be every opportunity for him to play in the National Hockey League next year. Hes a terrific young player and a terrific young kid. I saw him a couple of times in the spring and in Calgary at World Junior. Before he was suspended for a hit to the head he was threatening for the league scoring lead in the OHL. He is a very good prospect for us.

It sounds like hell be going from Bs prospect to bona fide player in the matter of a couple of months.

Haggerty: Bruins need to close on a D-man this weekend

Haggerty: Bruins need to close on a D-man this weekend

BUFFALO – Don Sweeney’s mission for this weekend, should he choose to accept it, is to come away with a top-four defenseman capable of transitioning the puck for a Bruins team badly in need of that exact kind of impact player.

But it’s not just about simply acquiring the established blueliner that will add legitimacy to the team’s woebegone back end, and perhaps finally stabilize a group that was routinely substandard last season. It’s also about Sweeney and the Bruins pulling it off without compromising the Black and Gold’s long-term future any more than management has already done with some ill-advised moves over the past year.

That will be the tricky part as other NHL suitors queue up to start the bidding for puck-movers such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler. A source with knowledge of the situation told CSNNE.com on Friday morning that “there’s a very good chance [Shattenkirk] is a Bruin, Ranger or Flyer” when next season opens in October.

Of course, Shattenkirk, 27, will also be looking at a seven-year deal worth $7.5 million per season if Bruins want to hold onto the All-Star defenseman beyond 2016-17, after the Panthers signed Keith Yandle to a massive $44.5 million contract this week.

The big question for this weekend is at what cost Shattenkirk will be delivered?

Will the Bruins be pushed into giving up the 14th overall pick in the first round and potentially deal away the chance to draft Dante Fabbro or Charlie McAvoy, who could both be a Shattenkirk-level All-Star defenseman within the next three years?

“I think Fabbro is exactly the same as Shattenkirk was at this stage in his development,” said one talent evaluator for a Western Conference team. “He can move the puck, he makes decisions quickly and there’s a certain smoothness to his game that’s very similar. He’s going to be a very good defenseman in the NHL someday.”

Sources with knowledge of the situation were skeptical that the 29th overall pick in the first round would be enough, along with a young forward, to get the deal done with St. Louis for Shattenkirk. But Sweeney would also be wise to hold to that stance and fight the temptation to deal away a draft pick that will get the Bruins a good, young player ready to contribute within a couple of years.

“There are two sides to it. You have to look at what the cost may be relative to the situation that we’re in. We have two first round picks, so I’m exploring all opportunities with them. I feel very good about making two selections if that’s the direction we go because acquisitions costs are too high,” said Sweeney, who said it would have to be a “very substantial” player to get the Bruins to make the 14th overall pick. “Then we’d go back into the UFA market if needed. We’re pursuing all of it. We’re not going to stop. It’s just a matter of whether or not the line for buying into some players is too punitive to wade into.”

There’s also the problem that GMs with young, restricted free agent defensemen like Jacob Trouba will be demanding that the Bruins part with David Pastrnak or Frank Vatrano, and that’s if the Bruins aren’t already outbid with names like Matt Duchene and Taylor Hall swirling around as potentially available for trade. That’s the difficult neighborhood Sweeney is traversing through this weekend amid a gauntlet of greedy, opposing GMs and it doesn’t allow for any more flubs from the B’s front office.

“The forecasting part of the business is difficult, obviously. Whether or not you take a player [in the draft] that in two or three years will be ready, or maybe not,” said Sweeney. “I’ve used Kyle McLaren a long time ago as a guy that walked through the door [to NHL training camp] and surprised everybody. So, we get excited whether it’s Brandon Carlo, Robbie O’Gara or Matt Grzelcyk. Those are going to be good pieces for our organization, but it’s up to each individual player as to when they’re going to be ready to play.

“But it’s delicate when you look at what that player is bringing to the table in reference to trading the 14th pick overall and the impact of whether that player is going to be around and part of what we’re trying to do now, and moving forward. We want to be a competitive team that has an opportunity to win each and every year, and then certain times when the window is there then you may tip the scales [to the short term] a little bit. But until you get there [from a competitive standpoint] then I think you have to be patient. My job is to build the best hockey team that I can possibly build for this year, and for moving forward. We have to be committed to the overall process. Being a competitive team that’s in a position to be in a playoff race, and win, is the only goal we have. But I’m not going to leverage it to the point where we’re just chasing it all the time.”

It will help that the Bruins have young defensemen like Carlo, O’Gara and Grzelcyk on the way, and that Sweeney believes they can perhaps contribute at some point next season, or certainly in 2017-18 after a year of AHL development. The question is whether both Sweeney and Bruins President Cam Neely will be able to see through those players’ development arcs if the Bruins again fails to make the playoffs for a third straight season.

The Bruins GM can’t afford another miscalculation sending a third-round pick to Philadelphia for Zac Rinaldo, who might never play another game in the NHL again. He can’t take pennies on the dollar like he did last season in a rash, rushed Dougie Hamilton trade that undoubtedly has the 29 other NHL GMs feeling like they can swindle the Bruins when push comes to shove.

One thing that’s a positive for the Bruins, however:  Sweeney still feels like there are multiple targets that will yield the B’s a quality NHL defenseman as soon as this weekend. With Sami Vatanen signing in Anaheim and both Alex Goligoski and Yandle signing long term deals with Arizona and Florida, one might think that the D-man supply was running a little thin.

But Sweeney is having multiple conversations with a number of teams, and even hinted that some names are in play that haven’t been widely circulated in the usual NHL rumor mills. This is where names such as Dmitry Kulikov fit into the equation if the Bruins are beaten to the punch for both Shattenkirk and Fowler.

“There’s supply everywhere. I’ve had discussions with multiple teams about players, and you might not even necessarily know that they’re available,” said Sweeney. “It’s just a matter of how it all lines up. We have targets and we have players that we think will improve our hockey club.

“There are plenty of them still available. Whether or not they land, I can’t sit here and tell you with absolute certainty that one is coming our way. But we’re in talks with several teams to see. But I’m not going to chase it because I think our younger players are going to push. But we’ll look to improve in every way, shape or form that we can.”

The Bruins have talked a great deal over the last year about improving their back end, but this weekend is the time when they need measured, prudent action more than the optimistic, hopeful words.

Friday, June 24: Looking back at 10 goalies drafted in top 10

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Friday, June 24: Looking back at 10 goalies drafted in top 10

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if Guerschon Yabusele is a member of House Baratheon, or the True Warden of the North?

*A look at the past 10 goaltenders drafted in the top 10 of the NHL draft, including the immortal Rick DiPietro.

*Some of the “other” NHL Awards that were handed out a couple of nights ago courtesy of Barstool Sports.

*Jim Benning said a lot yesterday, including that the Canucks have interest in Milan Lucic and that he called Montreal about P.K. Subban.

*Charlie McAvoy talks about the NHL draft process as part of a piece for the Players Tribune headed into this weekend.

*Speaking of Subban, is he the true target for Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli during this week leading up to free agency?

*The fans, and some of the media, are upset about Erik Karlsson losing out to Drew Doughty in the Norris Trophy voting. One man’s opinion: if Karlsson was the best defensemen in the league last season then the Senators probably would have made the playoffs.

*The Islanders need to provide some help for John Tavares whether they keep the No. 19 pick or trade it for players to help them now.

*Mike Harrington got some thoughts from Evander Kane and Jack Eichel on the excitement surrounding the Sabres, and more of the moves made to improve them this summer.

*You don’t read about an NHL draft prospect surviving a meteor strike every day, do you? Here’s an interesting piece on Vitaly Abramov.

*For something completely different: I don’t think anybody cares whether Ben Affleck was buzzed or not when he ripped into the NFL over Deflategate. We’re just glad he did it. Side memo to Deadspin: stop trying to make “Ballghazi” happen. It’s just not.

 

Sweeney, Bruins hoping they get a crack at Vesey

Sweeney, Bruins hoping they get a crack at Vesey

BUFFALO – It’s not much of a mystery that the Bruins have keen interest in Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey.

The Harvard captain is expected to be a free agent on Aug. 15 rather than sign before that date with the Buffalo Sabres despite Buffalo GM Tim Murray trading for his exclusive negotiating rights earlier this week. The Sabres shipped a 2016 third-round pick to the Nashville Predators for Vesey’s rights, and they still remain one of the favorites to land the big winger based in large part on his friendship with Jack Eichel.

Murray also had the wherewithal to take ownership of those rights based on the four third-round picks they owned going into this week, while the Bruins hold zero third-round picks this year, and next, after flipping them for John-Michael Liles and Zac Rinaldo.  Still, the Bruins still have a puncher’s chance of signing Vesey based on him growing up in North Reading, Mass., as a B’s fan, and his equally tight relationship with Bruins defenseman prospect Matt Grzelcyk.

Who wouldn’t want Vesey after posting 24 goals and 46 points in 34 games for Harvard last season, and projecting to immediately jump into an NHL lineup as a 23-year-old top-six winger working on an entry level contract.

“I spoke to Nashville on several items, and that player [Vesey] did some up,” said Sweeney. “[The Sabres] took a swing at the window that they think will help them from a recruiting standpoint. I’m sure that even Nashville would admit that if it gets to August that there will be 29 teams courting him. We’ll see what happens between now and them. If we’d had a [third- round pick] then possibly [we could have traded for his rights]. I don’t really deal in whether or not I had or had not and whatnot, but you have to acknowledge that he’s a good player.

Unfortunately there has also been plenty of sentiment from people close to the Vesey camp that the family has wariness about the local kid playing for the Bruins after the way a struggling Jimmy Hayes was knocked around publicly in his first season in Boston. The theory there is that Vesey would be in a better position to succeed in a setting such as Buffalo, with an improving young core group and Eichel already playing the savior role in the eyes of fans and media.

Vesey’s camp maintains that they want to talk to all interested teams when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, but it’s believed the Bruins, Sabres, Maple Leafs and Penguins are the strong favorites to land the talented kid’s services.