Bruins draft primer: Potential first rounders

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Bruins draft primer: Potential first rounders

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
MINNEAPOLIS When it gets right down to it, there are probably only three or four ways the Bruins are prepared to go when they make the ninth overall pick in the NHL draft Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center.

None of the names on Bostons draft list are expected to be ready to jump in for the Bruins next season, as first-round pick Tyler Seguin did this past year, but general manager Peter Chiarelli has learned to "never say never" when it comes to the draft.

We saw a player in Cam Fowler who dropped to 12th that ended up playing well for the Anaheim Ducks, so you never say never about a player that gets drafted that low, said Chiarelli. There may be one player that could play next season if he dropped to us, but that would be a huge bonus. Its more about getting the right player and developing them.

The Bruins could find themselves with a Fowler type, as the Ducks did last season, and get real immediate value on a player that somehow dropped into their laps just inside the top 10.

Fowler led all rookie defensemen with 40 points in 76 games during an eye-opening first year and the Bruins hope to catch that kind of lightning.

Bostons GM referenced the B's lack of elite defense selections in drafts past under his regime.

Chiarelli and his scouting staff have never used a first-round pick on a defenseman, and have instead counted on deals for NCAA defensemen like Steve Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski and Colby Cohen to address their organizational depth along the blueline.

Aside from 24-year-old Adam McQuaid, the Bs defense corps is pushing toward or over the age of 30 years old, and a young blueliner or two could work wonders for Bostons organizational depth over the next 2-3 years.

Chiarelli indicated hes received a couple of calls for the No. 9 overall pick this season, but wont move the selection and will hold the highest first round selection for a Stanley Cup champion since the New York Islanders tapped Pat LaFontaine in 1983.

I dont think there will be any magic for us in the first round. I think after the first three or four players there is another group of eight that well be picking through, said Chiarelli. There is a good batch of defensemen, wingers and centers. Oftentimes players you have ranked below your pick can creep in ahead of your pick, and good players can fall right into your lap . . .

From afar, it would seem like we want to draft a defensemen, but you also dont want to bypass a really good young player at another position. Well be wary of that.

The Bs general manager said that four draft-eligible players were invited to Boston over the last month to visit with the Bruins front-office brass in anticipation of the draft, among them defensemen Ryan Murphy and Nathan Beaulieu.

Here is a quick sketch on each of Bostons possible first-round selections:

Dougie Hamilton
He is an extremely cerebral two-way defenseman with size, smarts and an ability to make plays on the man advantage. Hamiltons 6-foot-4 frame, his leadership skills and his dominant play at the junior level mean that he a top-notch student who could become a doctor rather than a hockey player if he wanted to will be gone by the time Boston picks at No. 9.

Hamilton cranked up 58 points in 67 CHL games last season, and it would be a minor miracle if hes still on the board after the New York Islanders select a player with their fifth overall pick. He would also be the first Dougie to lace up for the Bruins for the first time in recent memory, which should count for something.

Ryan Murphy
Likely the sentimental favorite in Boston given his Irish last name, Murphy has elite-level skating speed and an ability to quarterback the power play. He is undersized ata shadeover5-foot-10 (he's listed at 5-foot-11 but the measurements are usually generous come draft-time), but he also holds the most explosive offensive arsenal among the available defensemen in the draft. He's said to have the best skating speed in the entire draft among the defensemen group, and he's capable of pushing the pace of play with his ability to move the puck.

Murphy has been at the top of many draft boards all season long, and could be a Fowler-style slider that drops right into Bostons laps if other late-charging names get tossed into the first round mix. Murphy spoke in interviews about modeling his game after defensemen like Dan Boyle and Duncan Keith, and that is exactly the kind of player Boston is missing.

RyanStrome
A good option if all the good defense picks are off the board.Strome is a creative, speedy play-making center who offers a little less offense, but a little more two-way awareness, than Tyler Seguin did last season.

Strome had very similar numbers to Seguin as a pivot in the OHL, and Boston is always looking to continue fortifying its organizational depth at the center position. His 33 goals in 65 games last season are nothing to sneeze at for a team thats constantly looking for better scoring from its forwards.

Nathan Beaulieu
Beaulieu is a 6-foot-2, smooth-skating, big shot from the point on the power play who had a good-but-not-great season for a Saint John team that won the Memorial Cup. That's the kind of big game, winning experience at the junior hockey level that the Bruins absolutely covet.

Beaulieu is a better defensive option than Murphy, but would be a step below both Murphy and Hamilton in terms of high-end potential for a home-run selection in the first round. But Beaulieu also has a little bit more grit and toughness to his game, and has an edge that both Murphy and Hamilton havent shown yet in their young careers.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nhl/red-wings/2017/02/17/red-wings-zetterberg-reflects-tough-season/98064530/

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.