I've slept on what transpired in Los Angeles over the past two days (and not much, mind you- we had a very nice time out and about Friday and Saturday nights w/ a sincere h/t to our new pals in the NHL) and I've got to grade the Boston Bruins draft a solid 'B'.
Anytime you can come out of it with a high-end player of Tyler Seguin's caliber, well...let's just say that they could have had not one more pick and the organization is better today than it was on Friday at 4 pm local (Pacific). That said, there was some things to like about the draft and some other head-scratchers that make you kind of just shrug and leave you no choice but to wait and see how it all plays out.
Seguin was the no-brainer. Let's face it- we all pretty much knew that once Taylor Hall grabbed the CHL by the throat by leading Windsor's galaxy of stars all the way through the OHL and Memorial Cup that he was going to be the guy for Edmonton. And, there were plenty of Boston fans who were more than happy to let that transpire and welcome Seguin with open arms.
There's no more need to rehash Seguin here; he's an A+ pick and the man of the hour in Boston right now. After hanging out with him a bit this week in L.A. at the Target Terrace, I'm convinced that the team scored huge with this kid. I was equally impressed with Hall for his gamesmanship and big stage presence when it comes to winning games, but Seguin is a better fit personality-wise for the team and is simply a mature, polished player who is ready to take on the NHL next season.
Jared Knight was an interesting selection at 32. The Bruins made it abundantly clear that they liked this guy enough to take him at 15, which would likely have spawned a Dylan McIlrath-to-the-Rangersian reaction from a lot of Boston fans. Now, Peter Chiarelli did caveat that statement with the fact that Knight was the last of the cluster of four or five guys the B's targeted at 15 before they dealt the pick to Florida for Nathan Horton this week.
I have to give credit to the B's staff for their subterfuge in disguising their genuine love for Knight, which dates back to last season based on some of amateur scouting chief Wayne Smith's comments yesterday. They did a great job of keeping their interest in Knight very cool and under the radar, which is the way the team likes to operate. I didn't catch wind of the legitimate interest until I found out he was in Boston visiting last week and by then, I had pretty well missed the bus on Knight. Kudos to Mark Edwards, Alex Linsky and the guys over at HockeyProspect.com who had Knight highly ranked because their interest in the undersized but dangerous forward mirrored Boston's.
I've got to give the pick a B- because even though he has the high-end offensive tools and the major league shot, I've not gotten raves about his overall game from two of my OHL sources outside of Boston. I think that had the B's grabbed Ryan Spooner at 32 and Knight at 45, it would make more sense to me, but then again, what do I know? Knight could end up being every bit the scoring presence the B's think he's going to be. I'll have a better idea when I see him at camp and I do respect the hell out of a guy who markets himself like he did after getting snubbed by Central and not getting an invite to the combine.
Spooner...well, what can I say? I felt like Rob Schneider's old early 90's SNL character "Orgasm Guy" (Oh god, Oh god, Ooooh) when they announced the pick. In fact, I was talking to one of my OHL sources in early May who was adamant that Spooner would not be available to Boston at 32 let alone 45. And, he absolutely loved him, I would add.
Undersized? Yep. Needs to add strength? Uh huh. An effing amazing skater who has the stones and chops to get it done all over the ice? You betcha. Spooner gets a solid 'A' from me.
Now, after missing out on the third round, I thought there were some intriguing options available in the fourth to the Bruins, so I was more than surprised when Craig Cunningham's name was announced at 97 (in another little twist, he led Vancouver with 97 points). The instant I heard it, my thought was, "Oh, great- I just got MacDermid'd", which is exactly what that pick was. Skilled guy? Sure. Hard working? Yes. But an early September 1990 birthdate who had been previously passed over. Now, I've heard very good things about him both as a player and a person.
Mark Stowe, who's a player agent based in the Pacific Northwest (he represents former Bruin Shaone Morrisonn for one) and knows him well thinks very highly of Cunningham, and believes that he has the skill and moxie to make something of himself in Boston. I respect that, and I appreciate Stowe's efforts to shed some light on the player the Giants like to call "Richie."
The B's also got a solid character reference from Milan Lucic, who is tight with Cunningham and just the other day was working out with him and joking that the Bruins were going to bring him in. Boston's Western Canada scout, Dean Malkoc, was a major impetus behind the pick, so it will be interesting to see where Cunningham goes from here. He's ready to contribute right away and they'll need him in Providence. I think he's like a Marty St. Pierre, personally-- he'll end up being a pretty good AHL scorer in time and will help in a pinch, but top-six forward in the NHL? That's a tall order. My grade: C+ (because of the speed, skill and universal praise for his character)
The Bruins MacDermid'd us again in the fifth round when they grabbed May 1990 birthdate Justin Florek out of Northern Michigan. Big guy, good hands, good hockey sense...not a great skater. Maybe that's why he got passed over twice; third time was the charm. I heard some OK things about him from Red Line's Max Giese (who is, by the way, one of the most hard-working independent scouts out there- he's going places), but I guess I have a harder time getting on board with someone who seems to be a big kid, good guy, but simply hasn't done a great deal to stand out. Now, I do know that at least one NHL team was surprised that Florek was passed over in '09, so maybe, just maybe he did enough this year to get over the hump. But, I keep thinking that Troy Rutkowski of Portland might have been a better roll of the dice in the fifth. He went two spots after Florek did to Colorado at 137 overall. Grade: C-
OK- gotta run. I'll be back later with more analysis and a final recap of the draft.