Saturday, August 7, 2010

Please join the 2011 NHL Draft discussion over at...

Bruins 2011 Draft Watch

(and be sure to tell your friends!)

I won't be doing anymore posts here, but this site will remain in effect for archival purposes, so feel free to look around.

Closing the book on Bruins 2010 Draft Watch

Well, it's hard to believe, but this is the last post of Bruins 2010 Draft Watch.

I've made about 400 posts since I began the blog last October, and it's been fun, but the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is coming up on two months in the books and second overall selection Tyler Seguin has already signed with the Bruins and appears to be on the cusp of beginning what the team and its fans believe will be a long and successful career in the Hub.

I've had a blast, but don't fret-- it's time to debut Bruins 2011 Draft Watch.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Boston Bruins Prospects Series: The Rest 36-41

Loyal readers, at the risk of being lambasted I'm going to cut off the series at 35 with Ben Sexton and do a quick writeup on the remaining prospects in the system: Cody Wild, Zach McKelvie, Mark Goggin, Alain Goulet, Adam Courchaine and Carl Soderberg.

36. Acquired from the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline last March, Wild is a stay-at-home, shutdown defender who played for the Boston Jr. Bruins and at Providence College before turning pro with the Oilers. He split his season last year between the AHL and ECHL and looks like another journeyman minor leaguer. A Rhode Island native, he's a nice local story to go home to Providence, but aside from his size and decent mobility, there isn't much upside here.

37. A speedy defenseman out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, McKelvie probably deserves to be somewhere inside the the top-35, but given that I have absolutely no frame of reference on him, and his status being up in the air with the U.S. Army (and trust me- I know all about how vague and nebulous dealings with Uncle Sam can be), he's here. He signed last year but was prevented from being an active participant at Bruins camp because a policy change caused him to return to West Point to serve as a coaching assistant before reporting to his infantry officer basic course and Ranger school at Fort Benning, Ga. The Bruins have been able to maintain his rights and extend his contract, but at present he's in limbo as far as his pro hockey future goes.

38. A skilled, average-sized forward in prep, Goggin was in Wilmington, but injured and didn't do any of the on-ice work. He had a mediocre freshman season at Dartmouth College and that was coming off of a disappointing senior year at Choate. He's fallen off the map a bit after impressing a lot of folks in his first Bruins development camp in 2008 after being a seventh-rounder. He's a good skater with some offensive skills, but simply has not elevated his game or production since the B's drafted him. He has more time to develop, but is looking more and more like a longshot to ever amount to much.

39. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft out of the Aurora Tigers of the OPJHL, Goulet doesn't have great size and lacks jump in his skating stride. However, he's one of those players who sees the ice tremendously well and can really move the puck. His development caught a snag with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he left for the QMJHL midway through his sophomore season to play for his old junior coach. Goulet went on a tear with the Gatineau Olympiques, averaging more than a point per game from the blue line, but admittedly doing so as an older player. He did not sign with Boston last year but spent the season in Providence and has been invited to Bruins training camp once again.

40. Courchaine was signed as a free agent a few years back after going to camp as an invite out of the Ottawa 67s. To be frank, his development simply has not progressed since being offered a contract by the Bruins, as he was an uneven OHL goalie with more downs than ups. He seems to lack the skills and overall ability to be much more than a career minor leaguer, but is signed and has two more years left on his deal. Expect him to probably spend most of the year in Reading of the ECHL, where he can get more playing time than he would in Providence.

41. Soderberg has been a study in frustration since the Bruins traded Hannu Toivonen to St. Louis for his rights coming up on three years ago (and Toivonen has since been dealt by the Blues to Chicago). The former second-round pick in 2004 will turn 25 this season, but has yet to come over to North America and even compete in a development camp or rookie or even main camp for the Bruins since they acquired him. Possessing very nice size and offensive skills, his talent alone should have him nowhere near bottom on the Boston prospect list, but because he's seemed to avoid the NHL like the plague, where else do you put him? Also adding to the uncertainty is the fact that he suffered a serious eye injury in 2008 and still plays with a full face shield. He'll have to lose the mask if he has any inclination of trying to make a run at a spot in Boston. It may be time to accept that he's one of those players who simply doesn't have the ambition or drive to be an NHL player. There's nothing wrong with that, and Soderberg wouldn't be the first. But, it's a shame he and his representation allowed Boston to surrender an asset for him if he didn't have the commitment to at least try and make it work.

Boston Bruins Prospects Series: #35 Ben Sexton

Ben Sexton, C
5-11, 190
June 6, 1991
Shoots: Left
Boston's 5th choice, 206th overall (seventh round) in 2009 Draft
Signing status: Unsigned

Talent Analysis

Physical: Sexton doesn't have ideal height, but has a thick body and appears to have packed on some good pounds since he was drafted. Conditioning is very good with a little more room to fill out. Nice skater who possesses above average first step quickness and good straight-line speed. Agile and balanced on his edges; can change direction quickly. Always moves his feet and competes well. Seems to be a better player in tight quarters than in space. Goes to the net, but hands are pretty average and has trouble finishing off scoring chances. Heavy stick; does not receive passes all that adroitly. Not an overly physical player, but does stick his nose in and wins battles for loose pucks by outhustling opponents and staying focused. Pretty good defensively; seems to understand positioning and diligently backchecks. Has had issues with staying healthy and battling nagging injuries in the past, so his durability will be something to watch.

Intangibles: Does not appear to be all that instinctive a player, but works hard and that counts for something. Smart, hard-working kid knows pro hockey having grown up as the son of former Senators and Panthers GM Randy Sexton. Didn't get off to a very good start with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL last year, but worked his way into more of a role by season's end and his production picked up. His former Nepean Raiders coach (and former Bruin) Garry Galley had very nice things to tell me about his attitude and work ethic, but reiterated that Sexton missed time to injuries while playing for him.

Boston Bruins 2010 Development Camp assessment
Sexton made some money (figuratively of course) in Wilmington last month. To coin a phrase Bill Belichick has made famous in sporting circle: He is what he is. That is, a solid, unspectacular player who doesn't have a lot of size or high-end skills but skates well, hustles and plays a good two-way game. Sexton looked strong on his skates, but his skill limitations came into play when it was time for him to convert scoring chances in close during the drills and scrimmages. That said, he had a strong camp and was a pleasant surprise as someone who has been criticized on this space in the past.

Another longshot as a fourth-line checker/grinder/energy guy, Sexton will likely take a while to make an impact at the NCAA level, but could in time work himself into the prospect picture for the Bruins. He's 35th on the depth chart, but is on the long-term plan and could become more of a prospect if he can prove his effectiveness at the next level. Sexton looks like a journeyman type of minor league forward but we'll reserve judgment until we can see him compete at the NCAA level.

“Things have been going good; I’m really enjoying myself the second time around. I’m a little bit more comfortable. The skates have been good; the off-ice workouts have been good. I’m really enjoying myself.”- Ben Sexton to, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

“I think I bridged the gap between that this year by heading out to the BCHL. I mean, moving away from home was definitely an adjustment, so I think I’ll be used to that heading to Clarkson.”- Ben Sexton, July 6-10, 2010

The Final Word
There were arguably some better options available to Boston in seventh round, but to Sexton's credit, he looks the part of a legitimate NHL draft pick. Last November, I spoke to a scout who saw him at Penticton and he was barely getting it done on the third line and looked like a real bust at the BCHL level (which is a pretty scary statement in itself). However, by the time the playoffs rolled around, Sexton had worked his way up to the second line and was doing more, finishing with a modest 13 goals 42 points in 50 games, but boosting his production considerably over the second half (23 points in his last 21 games after posting just 10 in his first 20 contests). Let's face it-- Sexton was a late, late draft pick, so his chances of winning a job in Boston are slim, but he at least has the look of a prospect and will have a chance at doing something at Clarkson, even if he may not hit his stride right away.

Boston Bruins Prospects Series: #34 Levi Nelson

Levi Nelson, C
6-0, 180
April 28, 1988
Shoots: Left
Boston's 6th choice, 158th overall in 2006 Draft
Signing status: Signed through 2011

Talent Analysis

Physical: Average size and slight build despite the fact that he plays a physical, agitating style. Good skater with quick burst and above average speed and agility. Average puck skills and shot. Will go into traffic willingly, but does not excel at making moves at top speed. A better skater without the puck than with it. Does not have the skills to be a scorer at the highest level; must be a grinder/agitator to have any chance at an NHL job. Likes to make hits and finish his checks; plays bigger than his size. Has a gritty, abrasive style but doesn't drop the gloves all that much. Plays a solid two-way game, but has not been able to carve more of a niche for himself in terms of role and ice time in Providence under Rob Murray.

Intangibles: Was Swift Current's captain under then GM and head coach Dean Chynoweth, a former Bruin (now an Islanders assistant coach). Had a reputation for being an intense, hustling player in junior, but has struggled with uneven compete levels and bounced between the AHL and ECHL in his rookie season because he reportedly didn't bring the requisite work ethic. Lacks offensive hockey sense and hands to be a scorer, but does have a good handle on his position and is a solid two-way player with a heat-seeking missile mentality.

Boston Bruins 2010 Development Camp assessment
Did not attend

NHL potential is as a fourth-liner whose time with the Bruins is running out because he hasn't developed and progressed since signing with the team in 2008. He was an overachiever in junior when the Bruins drafted him, with one scout telling me that he was one of the most competitive players he'd seen in a long time. Unfortunately, Nelson hasn't brought the same kind of hustle and energy with him to the pro ranks and has yet to make much of an impact.

The Final Word
The former sixth-round pick in '06 was a project pick at the time who didn't have a great deal of upside, but had potential because of his energetic two-way game and intangibles. Four years later, he doesn't appear to have "it" and barring a major breakthrough in Providence, will likely be let go to pursue his pro hockey dreams elsewhere. He's higher than others in the Boston system because he was a two-time 20 goal man in junior and has the kind of ability to be an NHL player, but as of yet, has simply not put it together enough to warrant serious consideration by the B's.

Boston Bruins Prospects Series: #33 Zach Trotman

Zach Trotman, D
6-4, 200
August 26, 1990
Shoots: Right
Boston's 8th choice, 210 overall (seventh round) in 2010 Draft
Signing status: Unsigned

Talent Analysis

Physical: Big frame but lean with much more room to add muscle mass and strength (he'll probably play in the 220s when he reaches his physical maturity). Good mobility; above average straight line speed and lateral agility and crossovers. Moves well in all directions and has pretty good footwork for a big man but is still growing into his body and could stand to improve balance and strength on his skates. Solid passer who can make the first pass but hasn't translated his ability into production at the junior and NCAA level. Average shot; the point slap shot is not particularly powerful, but he does a good job of mixing up the shot variety and can get the puck on net effectively from the blue line. Defense and positional play is a work in progess. Shows a willingness to play a physical game and uses his size effectively along the boards and in front of the net. A good solid shutdown 'D' prospect based on his one year in the NCAA with Lake Superior State, but could spend the next three years in school before he's ready for the pro ranks.

Intangibles: Quiet, but confident player who has a good grasp of his strengths and shortcomings. Needs work in his decision making, and will get that with increased playing time and experience with the Lakers. Offensive hockey sense tough to gauge; has the physical tools to provide more of an offensive contribution, but has not done much to date. Is a long-term project who appears to have the physical and mental chops to develop into a pro prospect eventually.

Boston Bruins 2010 Development Camp assessment
Trotman is not very dynamic, but showed some flashes of being an interesting option on the blue line in time (a long time, that is). He played a mostly conservative, safe, simple game, but also demonstrated an ability to get the puck in on net from the point with a quick wrist/snap shot. It looks like his confidence was steadily improving over the course of the week, although he did miss the final Saturday on-ice session for what was an undisclosed injury.

Bottom-pairing shutdown defender does have some modest upside, but is extremely raw and has a tough row to hoe in order to someday win an NHL job. As the very last draft pick in the 2010 class, the B's surrendered their seventh-round pick to Chicago next year to get Trotman, so it was about the value the team saw in the Novi, Michigan resident. Time will tell whether he continues to develop the offensive side of things which will determine if he has an NHL future. Trotman is a bit of a late-bloomer who actually grew up in Indiana and didn't play high-level hockey until he moved to Michigan as a teenager.

"I'm looking to improve on my overall game. I've got to get faster at making decisions on the ice and I'm working on doing more offensively. I'm looking forward to this season and trying to become more of a two-way player and hopefully getting more points."- Zach Trotman to B2010DW, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

"It's been a good time; I've enjoyed getting to know all of the players here and the coaches and learning about the Bruins' system and how they do things. I'm just trying to learn what I can and take it back to school with me."- Zach Trotman, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

The Final Word
Like most of the prospects after 20 on Boston's prospect depth chart, he's a longshot to become a regular NHL contributor. That said, he has the size and mobility to eventually make a run. He's going to need a lot of time and patience, but with three more years of school and another few more likely in the minors, Trotman is a low-risk, moderate-reward kind of player. While he's not the high-level prospect you might find from some internet sources out there who were touting him as a second-round pick, this defenseman did not look at all out of place in Wilmington and could make some noise down the road. He has the tools and the attitude to make himself into something in time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Boston Bruins Prospects Series: #32 Nick Tremblay

Nicholas Tremblay, C
6-0, 190
April 5, 1988
Shoots: Left
Boston's 5th choice, 173rd overall (sixth round) in 2008 draft
Signing status: Unsigned

Talent Analysis

Physical: Average height, but is stocky with some mass on his upper body and strong on his skates. A sublime skater; possibly the best pure skater in the entire Boston organization-- right up there with Marco Sturm. Explodes to top speed in just one or two strides from a standstill and has a mastery of his edges that some players can only dream of. Some players have a separation gear, but Tremblay has about three. Form and technique are just about flawless and when he revs it up through the neutral zone, defenders had better have their gap control straight or Tremblay is blowing by them. Hands and shot are decidedly average-- and what is keeping him from being more productive in college and higher on the Boston prospect depth chart. Stickhandling could stand to improve and is more of a "crest shooter" at this stage; must work on hitting the corners and finding the holes in order to get the puck to the back of the net. Physical play is not there yet; will go into traffic, but does not initiate much and plays more of a finesse game. If he can improve his three-zone play, could be a very effective checker and penalty killer with his pure speed.

Intangibles: Hockey sense is a question mark at this stage; he has the speed and explosiveness to do a lot more than he has to date. Good character and team player; shows a lot of determination on and off the ice. An underrated leader; does the right things and inspires others through a positive example.

Boston Bruins 2010 Development Camp assessment
Solid camp performance highlighted by the clinic he put on during the second day (on-ice) power skating instruction where he was far and away the best skater of anyone on the ice. Seems to be gaining more and more confidence, but still did not do enough offensively in the scrimmages to warrant the kind of consideration that would see him project as a potential top-six forward at the NHL level. He was constantly backing up defenders and looked great as he surged up and down the Ristuccia ice, but at the end of the day, he didn't accomplish a great deal on the offensive ledger alongside fellow Clarkson U. forward Ben Sexton and whomever else played on that line (Tyler Randell was there at times, as was Justin Florek). The skating is world class, but Tremblay has simply got to pick up the production in order to have a shot at being signed and put into the mix.

Bottom six/fourth line checking or part-time forward at the NHL level, productive scoring presence in the AHL. If being an NHL player was all about the speed and character, Tremblay would be near the top of the Boston prospects roster, but he has a lot of improving to do in other areas before he can be considered a legitimate B's future option. He gets high marks for his attitude and willingness to improve, but this is a huge year for him at Clarkson now that he's spent two seasons in Potsdam.

“I think (development camp's) a lot tougher mentally. We had The Program coming in; it was really challenging, especially because we went there before going on the ice—it was exhausting, but I’m really enjoying it.”- Nick Tremblay to, Wilmington, Mass.; 6-10 July, 2010

"Obviously, my skating is the best part of my game and it's something I keep working on. I’m trying to work on my shot a lot. I think it was a big thing for me last year, trying to hit the open corners and not the side of the net every time. I’m just trying to get a harder shot, make it more accurate.”- Nick Tremblay, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10, 2010

The Final Word
It isn't like Tremblay was a second- or third-round pick, so the Bruins can afford to be patient with his development even though he just turned 22 in April and is older than a lot of the team's players in the system. If he can prove that he's an offensive threat at the NCAA level, he'll have a chance to work his way into the NHL as a grinder, and he can put the puck in the net as evidenced by his 50+ goals scored in one season with the Smiths Falls Bears of the CJHL. At the same time, he was passed over twice prior to being picked in the sixth round two years ago and thus far, has not shown a great deal to convince anyone that his development will culminate with a solid NHL forward when all is said and done. As a good number of his fellow forward prospects down the depth chart are coming to understand, there is a glut of talent ahead of him on the roster, so trying to break in with Boston right now as a forward isn't the greatest situation to be in.