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.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.