Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Boston Bruins Prospect Series: #14 Tommy Cross

Tommy Cross, D
6-3, 210
September 12, 1989
Shoots: Left
Boston's 2nd choice, 35th overall in 2007 Draft
Signing status: Unsigned

Talent Analysis

Physical: Possesses excellent size and functional strength for the defense position. Has had three major surgical procedures on his right knee (meniscus) since being drafted by the Bruins (he was picked after suffering the first injury to the meniscus playing baseball) and plays with a brace on it. Very good skater with a long stride and able to generate power with each step. Solid when moving backwards and laterally; able to keep opponents to the outside and has the quickness to jump up into the play at times. First pass ability is good; has the physical tools to outlet rapidly and lead the rush if need be. Big, powerful shot; he takes a little bit of time to get it off, but it is hard and heavy. Needs to work on his shot's accuracy. A shutdown defender who effectively uses his size and strength to pin opponents against the boards. Can play the game with a physical edge, but doesn't always bring the kind of sheer power that he's capable of.

Intangibles: Outstanding character player and leader who was named an assistant captain of the '10-11 Eagles squad by his teammates, and also captained the USA Under-18 select team at the 2006 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Exudes confidence and professionalism; a very mature, respectful, well-spoken player who leads by example and is a vocal presence in the dressing room. Some scouts questioned his hockey sense in his draft year; has all the tools to be a two-way defender at the next level, but may be more of a stay-at-homer in the mold of Mark Stuart if he reaches the NHL. Could stand to show more fire and aggressiveness at times on the ice-- can play a bit passively when the situation calls for more physicality and nastiness.

Boston Bruins 2010 Development Camp assessment
The fact that Cross was able to fully participate in the recent development camp was a success in itself, as he was on crutches in 2008 and then had only limited on-ice participation (as Max Sauve did this month) in 2009. For once, Cross was able to show off his skill set and he managed to impress, keeping things relatively simple while demonstrating his smooth skating and big shot. Even with the knee brace, he showed none of the ill-effects of the multiple surgeries at camp. After watching him in that setting, you can come to appreciate what the Bruins saw in Cross when they moved up three spots to pluck him in '07, but the impressive physical attributes alone are not enough to see him as a high-end prospect because of so many questions that linger about the strength of his knee and the fact that he simply has not come all that far in his development since being picked as one of the class's youngest players three years ago. He was very good defensively all week, and seemed to be genuinely happy to be out there every day and a part of the action. He didn't do anything to really stand out offensively, but he delivered the goods as advertised on 'D' and it will be interesting to see how he does in his junior year at BC wth renewed confidence and coming off a championship season.

Cross has the tools to be a solid second-pairing defender in the NHL, but where the questions come in are whether he has the proverbial toolbox and durability to do it. He's an intelligent, hard-working guy, but the hockey sense is going to be critical, especially if you factor in the possibility that the numerous setbacks and surgeries have affected his psyche. Nobody but Cross knows for sure, but you wonder if he's thinking about the possibility of being one skate blade caught in a rut away from oblivion and how that impacts his play and approach. His time and space will become much less at the next level, so instinct will have to trump over self-preservation. It's a big question that lingers and can only be addressed by Cross continuing to play at a high level for Boston College and then seeing how he does when he turns pro.

“I don’t know if there’s any way to necessarily tell, without the injuries, where he’d be. But we feel good about the progress he has made because of the injuries, and the setbacks and the adversities he’s faced. He has been dealt an awful lot.”- Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney, Wilmington, Mass; July 6-10, 2010

"I feel great; I'm ready to go. Both legs feel fine and I'm just skating as much as I can and enjoying being here where I can continue to develop my game and improve in all areas."- Tommy Cross to B2010DW, Wilmington, Mass; July 6-10, 2010

"Just being here and able to participate this week is huge for me. I've had some setbacks and have had to work hard to get back to this point where I feel good about my game, so I'm just excited to be able to be around the coaches and players and soak it all in and learn what I can."- Tommy Cross to B2010DW, Wilmington, Mass.; July 6-10

The Final Word
On talent alone, Cross probably belongs in the top-10 of the Bruins prospect list. However, he needs to do a lot more than a strong showing a D-camp to gain some real upward mobility. You want to pull for the guy because he's shown the commitment and dedication to go through significant rehabilitation and suffer the pain in order to keep playing the game at a high level. Cross has some intriguing potential, but the fact of the matter is, his playing status may be "day to day for life," meaning that if he continues to progress and works his way through the Bruins system and up the depth chart, then he could be a nice player. But as of right now, he's not shown enough in the years since he was picked pretty high by the team (who gave up a third-round pick in the process to move just three spots) to justify that move. He's a hard enough worker that he can overcome the injury, but in his case, making it to the NHL will truly be a case of mind over matter. Therefore, he's out of the top-10 for now, but this is a big year for his development and staying on the right track.

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