Haggerty: Looking at Bruins plans for NHL Draft

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Haggerty: Looking at Bruins plans for NHL Draft

Youll have to pardon the Bruins if theres a certain element of shock and awe when they select 24th in the first round of the NHL draft this weekend in Pittsburgh. They have to make their splash when they can because after that, GM Peter Chiarelli and the Bs dont have another pick until the third round with the 85th overall selection.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, they will no longer have a top 10 pick as they had in 2010 (Tyler Seguin with the second overall pick) and 2011 (Dougie Hamilton with the ninth overall pick) courtesy of the Maple Leafs as part of the Phil Kessel deal.

So there will be a little more digging to be done for Bostons scouting staff this time around, but Chiarelli said the Bruins have already targeted five players who will likely be around at the end of the first round in a defensemen-heavy draft.

Its a little harder to pick when youre later on down the line, but its a draft thats very heavy on defensemen and weve kind of narrowed it down to five players that were looking at, said Chiarelli. Four of them are defensemen. Weve been wrong before, but were usually pretty good when we bring in a cluster of players.

There are a bunch of good defensemen that are available, and thats not a bad thing. Those can be hard to find. Were going to get a good player with the 24th pick.

Chiarelli added that hed like to add some wingers with size to the Bs organizational depth (as they did in 2009 when they selected Jordan Caron with their first round pick) if possible throughout the 2012 draft, so keep an eye out for that.

So who are the five players that the Bruins have poked, prodded, interviewed and targeted as hopefuls when the 24th pick arrives (barring any trades to move up in the draft of course)?

Heres a list with a quick scouting report:

Slater Koekkoek (defenseman) The 6-foot-2, 184-pounder had 18 points in 26 games for the Peterborough Petes before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. He probably could have gone before No. 24 if hed had a healthy season. He plays big minutes and would be a steal for the Black and Gold if he slides.

Matthew Finn (defenseman) The 6-foot, 196-pound defenseman finished sixth in the OHL in defensemen scoring with 48 points in 61 games for the Guelph Storm, and has the NHL bloodlines as first cousin to St. Louis Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. According to NHL.com his favorite player is Drew Doughty, and the Bruins would be extremely happy if he developed into anything close to that should they end up choosing him. Right now Finn is viewed as a viable defensive product still working on the offensive end of the game.

Olli Maatta (defenseman) The 6-foot-2, 202-pound lefty shot is a native of Finland, but traveled to North America to play for the London Knights of the OHL this season. Maatta led all OHL rookie defensemen with 32 points in 58 games last season and has played for the Finland World Junior entry in each of the last two seasons. In fact Maatta became the youngest player to participate for Finland since 1998 in the 2011 tournament when he qualified for the team as a 16-year-old. Maatta has a big shot and scouts say hes smooth in every area of the game. His favorite movie is Shawshank Redemption, so its clear he also appreciates the classics.

Hampus Lindholm (defenseman) A 6-foot-2, 196-pound Swedish defenseman that shoots lefty and is one of the top-ranked European players eligible -- and the top-ranked blueliner -- for the draft this year. No big eye-popping numbers, but Lindholm appears to have all the tools to be yet another excellent defenseman from Sweden.

Brendan Gaunce (center) A 6-foot-2, 215-pound lefty shooting center for the Belleville Bulls and led the team in rookie scoring with 36 points in 65 games. His older brother Cameron is a defenseman in the Colorado Avalanche organization that played 11 games for the Avs in 2011. Gaunces favorite player growing up was Brendan Shanahan and he was a punter on his high school football team showing a little bit of athletic versatility. Hed a very nice building block if he lasts to the 24th pick.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.