The Boston Bruins had just taken Russian defenseman Yuri Alexandrov with the 37th overall pick, and were on the clock at 50th overall in the second round with a selection obtained from the Edmonton Oilers in the trade that sent Sergei Samsonov to Alberta.
As then-B's amateur scouting director Scott Bradley (the team's current director of player personnel) grabbed the Boston table's microphone to make the pick, I strained to hear the name he announced.
"The Boston Bruins select..." he uttered was quickly drowned out by a huge roar from the stands and for a second I was confused. Why were the Canucks fans cheering a Bruins pick? Was some trade just made announced involving Vancouver?
I turned around to the media row behind me, where the Red Line Report scouts were seated and queried Mike Remmerde: "Who did the Bruins just pick?"
He replied, "Milan Lucic, tough winger from the Vancouver Giants, big-time fan favorite here in case you didn't notice."
Ahhh. It all made sense now. I had read about him in the RLR 2006 Draft Guide. 87th-ranked player on their list. His writeup said: "Broad-shouldered and ultra-tough winger who plays with an edge...Aggressive, angry style and is always looking for the big open ice hit...Surprisingly good hands and can finish in close." Then I read a money sentence from Kyle Woodlief and company in their mid-round sleepers worth a look section and lo and behold, Lucic was there. Their projection proved to be prophetic: "Teams will always be on the lookout for legitimately tough enforcers who can skate a regular shift, so this prized commodity could go off the board as early as the top 50."
So, I headed downstairs to meet the newest Bruin. The first thing I remembered was him crushing my hand like it was in a vice when he shook it. He was a good first interview...well-spoken and a decent guy to boot. I remember him being disappointed that the Giants had come up short at the recent Memorial Cup, but Vancouver had been named host city for 2007, so he was already relishing another go at it, with a guaranteed spot at the tournament. We even talked about his fight with Plymouth tough guy Jared Boll, which he described as "epic."
Remmerde later said that he thought the pick may have been a bit of a reach, but quickly added the caveat that they came no tougher in the draft than Lucic, and that if he could pick up a step or two, he could be a very good prospect. He added that the Minnesota Wild had picked Matt Kassian in the second round the previous year, and that Kassian was tough, but nowhere near the player Lucic was. "If you want to get guys who can really fight and bring toughness, you've got to be willing to take them in the second round these days," Remmerde added.
I was pretty intrigued by the Vancouver native of Serbian descent, so I wrote this about Lucic in the New England Hockey Journal's July, 2006 issue recapping the B's draft results:
Strengths: A high-energy, punishing hitter who can also play some hockey. A mean, nasty winger who loves to fight and does it well. Well-respected in the dressing room and a quality person off the ice.
Weaknesses: Must improve first-step quickness and lateral agility to be a player at the next level.
The Buzz: "I know Lucic very well and was excited to get him. He's a heart-and-soul player. He's a unique player. Some guys compare him to a Terry O'Reilly, Clark Gillies or Al Secord-type of guy. His numbers don't reflect it, but he's a straightforward player and the toughest guy in the draft. He'll do anything it takes to win. Every teammate talks about his presence on the ice."- Scott Bradley
NEHJ grade: B+ Some say he was a reach, but everyone agrees he's got tremendous potential. If he realizes it, he could become a poor man's Rick Tocchet for the B's
One more note-- Bradley got wind of Lucic because he spent more time at home in his native Vancouver than usual while convalescing from an illness, He said that from his many viewings of the Giants, Lucic rapidly grew on him, and he went into the 2006 draft convinced that the Bruins needed to come away with Lucic.
Although the 09-10 season wasn't the winger's best, look for him to rebound for a much bigger and more consistent impact in 10-11, provided he can stay healthy and doesn't have the nagging ankle and finger injuries to contend with as he did this year.