Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hurricanes, Lightning both win

Great night for the draft watch standings in Boston.

Tampa Bay beat Pittsburgh to gain a huge two points (and extend their lead to five points).

Carolina had an even bigger win, because they beat Montreal in the process, helping the B's playoff hopes while also building a six point cushion on the Leafs.

Both teams maximized their game-in-hand on Toronto; all three have five games remaining, while Florida got crushed by Buffalo and faces Boston tomorrow night.

Bruins reunion in the nation's capital

It isn't often that you run into three former Bruins in a single night in Washington, but that's exactly what happened last night at the Capitals- Ottawa Senators tilt (5-4 Sens win in OT) at the Verizon Center.

Garry Galley, who was a very good two-way defenseman for the B's from 1988-92 and who scored a famous overtime goal in Game 2 of the 1990 Adams Division Final against Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens, was there as the Rogers Sportsnet television broadcast color commentator. We talked about those great Bruins teams of the late 80's and early 90's he was a member of, and he couldn't believe that it has been almost 20 years since the Bruins appeared in their last Stanley Cup final series, losing to Edmonton in five games. Galley was a character player who never should have been traded by Harry Sinden. Nothing against Gord Murphy, but when you consider that he was thrown in with Andy Moog in the deal for Jon Casey a year later, you essentially ended up losing Galley, Moog, Murphy and Wes Walz for one year of Casey, who was then released (And we wonder why the Bruins have been so mediocre since 1994?). Meanwhile, Galley went on to be an All-Star defenseman for the Flyers for the next couple of seasons. Ouch. Not his best moves to be sure.

Shean Donovan, a member of Boston's forgettable 2006-07 squad who was then dealt to Ottawa for the since bought-out Peter Schaefer the following summer was also in the press level, a healthy scratch for the Sens (newest Senator and Marlboro's finest Bobby Butler was there too). Donovan is a great guy and it's a shame things didn't work out for him in Boston. He grew up a huge Bruins and Rick Middleton fan, so I know signing with his childhood team was a big deal. It has to be tough for him to be sitting right now, but to his credit, he's the same upbeat guy I remembered from his brief time in the Hub.

Finally, Andrei Nazarov was there as well. A coach for the Russian National Team, he was in Washington to watch the Alexanders-- Ovechkin and Semin (who had two beautiful goals and nearly got a third if not for a tremendous stop by Brian Elliott). Still very quiet, he nonetheless lit up a bit when we discussed some of the good times he had in Boston (and there weren't many). You may recall that Nazarov and fan favorite P.J. Stock handled the pugilistic duties for Boston in 2001-02, and I called the duo "P.J. and the Bear". Nazarov is an even bigger boy now than when he played, but is in good spirits and it was nice to catch up with him, even if he wasn't the most popular player to wear the spoked-B.

B's get huge win over Devils, Leafs still in 29th

Patrice Bergeron's 18th goal of the season last night with less than 30 seconds remaining in overtime salted away a crucial 1-0 win for Boston last night to keep them in possession of a ticket to the playoffs.

Atlanta's win over Toronto pulled them back to within two points of eighth place behind the Bruins, but officially eliminated Toronto from the playoffs and left the Leafs (69 points) three points behind the Lightning, Islanders and Panthers with only five games remaining. Because Columbus beat Tampa, they are now just about out of reach for the Leafs with 77 points with the same amount of games played (77) as Toronto. They can still pass Columbus mathematically, but it would take a 5-0 run and complete Columbus collapse in their games to do it.

The Islanders blew a 2-0 lead over the Rangers in a 4-3 loss, so the Blueshirts have quietly crept to within four points of Boston and eighth place.

As said earlier, the race for Boston's first pick in 2010 to go inside the top-two will go down to the wire. An intrepid math whiz who goes by the handle orrovergretzky keeps track of the magic numbers over at Hockey's Future Boards. Here's his latest assessment of what it will take for Toronto to secure that 29th-place finish Bruins Nation is hoping for:

Magic numbers to clinch a top 2 pick (excluding the lottery)

Any combination of:
Toronto losses and Tampa wins totalling 4 (6 GR)
Toronto losses and Islanders wins totalling 3.5 (6 GR)
Toronto losses and Florida wins totalling 3.5 (7 GR)
Toronto losses and Carolina wins totalling 3 (6 GR)
Toronto losses and Columbus wins totalling 2 (6 GR)
Toronto losses and Rangers wins totalling .5 (6 GR)

Leafs remaining Schedule vsBuf; vsBos; vsPhi; @NYR; @Mtl
Bruins own pick is currently 15th. (Depending on playoff finish)

You can follow that thread here:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Giving Johansen another look

One player who has been steadily rising all season but who hasn't gotten a lot of attention until the last couple of months is Ryan Johansen of the Portland Winterhawks.

Earlier in the year, he was better known as Nino Niederreiter's center, a tall but gangly pivot who was seen as extremely raw and one-dimensional (all pass, no shoot), but scouts are coming around on him as one of the draft's better values later in round one.

"He's just a guy who's gotten better and better as the season has gone along," said one NHL scout with an Eastern Conference team who covers the Western Canadian junior circuit. "At first, I thought of him as a kid who had some upside but a few flaws in his game as well, namely his skating and shooting skills. But, his development this year has been significant; he's shown real improvement in both areas."

The scout is not alone-- in a quick straw poll of several NHL and independent scouting sources I took recently, Johansen topped the list of players who has improved the most from the start of the year to where we are now. And, Johansen's meteoric rise from obscure prospect to one of the top centers in the 2010 draft class hasn't just been confined to the 09-10 campaign.

"One factor we've been weighing heavily in our evaluation is that Johansen has gone from being a 4th liner in Penticton (BCHL) early last year to a dominant forward in the WHL-- so the development curve on this kid appears to be heading straight up," said Red Line Report, an independent scouting review, in their March bulletin.

Johansen was ranked 20th overall by Red Line this month, moving up from 66 in August, the first month of the publication's rankings. He has a lot of filling out to do, listed at 6-foot-2, 188 pounds. He scored 21 goals and 69 points in 71 WHL regular season contests, adding two markers and seven points in six playoff games. He's got a long, loping stride with the soft hands, vision and superior hockey sense that all top playmakers possess.

However, if you've not had a chance to see Johansen yet, you might want to either make a trip to Spokane or gather whatever information you can on him in the next 24 hours. His Winterhawks blew a 3-1 opening round series lead to the Spokane Chiefs and the teams are now tied 3-3, setting up a seventh and decisive game in Spokane Wednesday night. The momentum is squarely with the higher-seeded Chiefs, and Johansen, Niederreiter and Brad Ross's WHL season could all be over when Thursday rolls around (I've heard Niederreiter's been solid, but Ross has played poorly).

All is not lost, though. If the 'Hawks get bounced, then Johansen is a lock to make Team Canada in the World Under-18 Championship next month in Minsk, Belarus. Scouts will get a good look at him (and Niederreiter, who will play for Switzerland if Portland does not advance) there and both players will get one last chance to make definitive statements before the draft.

Now, if the Bruins miss out on a top-two selection and end up drafting a defenseman with the Toronto first-rounder, then Johansen is a possibility for them should they make the playoffs and be anywhere in the 15-18 range. The fact that they have plenty of centers won't deter the Bruins from taking another one like Johansen if they believe he is the best player available when their pick rolls around come June.

UPDATE: Johansen and his team prevailed in Game 7 over Spokane-- a HUGE character win for Portland. Johansen has been a monster in the playoffs thus far, with four goals and 13 points in nine games. He's been the best forward so far, and has outshined Niederreiter. Looks like he could move himself nicely into the top-15 when all is said and done.

Three out of four points for the tank

The Carolina Hurricanes had a big win over the Atlanta Thrashers last night in what was not only a big game for the tank, but also for Boston's playoff hopes.

The win prevented the Thrashers from tying Boston with 80 points (after the Bruins dropped their game at home against Buffalo last night by a 3-2 score, with Tim Thomas again getting pulled), and also extended Carolina's standings lead over Toronto to four points. The Leafs have six games left, as do the Hurricanes.

The Florida Panthers couldn't hold a late 2-1 lead over Nashville at home and fell in OT, but they still got a point to move three points ahead of Toronto.

So, not a perfect night for the draft watchers, but good news nonetheless.

Toronto is in action at home tonight against the reeling Thrashers. Will we see a character game from Atlanta, who must realize that they missed a golden opportunity last night, or will they roll over and die?

Tampa Bay is in action against Columbus. Ideal scenario for the tank is a win by TB in OT with both teams coming away with points.

And, your Bruins are on the road against the New Jersey Devils tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Boston Bruins 2010, 2011 draft picks Updated March 29th

The pick situation this week is the same as it was last week: if the season ended today, the Leafs' pick would be second overall, and Boston, as the lowest-ranked playoff team, would pick 15th.

Bruins are back down to eighth place with Philadelphia's 4-1 win over New Jersey last night. Very good game from Woonsocket, R.I.'s own Brian Boucher in the Flyers nets. He's a great guy and loves to talk hockey, fwiw. Atlanta is just two points behind Boston in the standings with a game against the struggling Florida Panthers tonight. Boston's game at home against Buffalo has huge playoff implications. They could use an assist from Florida, who is sans David Booth after he took another unfortunate hit that has ended his season.

However, the Leafs are just two points from tying Carolina and Florida in the standings(although the 'Canes and Panthers own the tie-breaker if the teams finish with the same amount of points), and three points in back of the Islanders and Lightning.

With six games left, the Leafs have been playing loose and effectively, coming from behind late to beat the Rangers and pushing the Penguins to a shootout before losing on shootout goals from Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis.

So, it looks like Boston's chance for a top-two selection without lottery consideration will come down to the wire over these last two weeks of the regular season. Fasten the seatbelts- should be a wild ride to the finish.

Boston Bruins 2010 Draft Picks (Draft position after 1st round estimated based on current standings; lottery not taken into account)

1st Round
2nd overall- Toronto (71 points; 29-35-13)
16th overall- Boston (82 points; 35-28-12)

2nd Round
32nd overall- Toronto
46th overall- Boston
*Boston traded rights to Tampa Bay second round pick (33rd overall) previously acquired with Mark Recchi for Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums, to Florida as part of package for D Dennis Seidenberg

3rd Round
No pick- Traded to Buffalo as part of Daniel Paille trade

4th Round
95th overall- Carolina (74 points; 30-34-8)
106th overall- Boston****Conditional to Buffalo if Paille scores 16 goals. If condition not met, Buffalo gets Boston 5th-round pick in 2010. Boston 2010 4th round pick to Anaheim to complete Steve Kampfer trade if Paille does not score 16 goals (9 as of 1 APR)

5th Round
136th overall- Boston*** (To Buffalo if Paille scores 15 goals or less)

6th Round
166th overall- Boston

7th Round
196th overall- Boston

Boston Bruins 2011 Draft Picks

1st Round
Toronto (Completes Phil Kessel trade)

2nd Round
Minnesota (Completes Chuck Kobasew trade)

3rd Round

4th Round
Phoenix (Completes Derek Morris trade- becomes 3rd rounder if UFA Morris re-signs with Coyotes)

5th Round

6th Round

7th Round

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thanks for nothing, Lundqvist (and your Ranger pals)

Less than five minutes to go, Rangers up 2-1 and all they need is for their all-world goalie to make a few more saves to keep them in the playoff race.

What does "King" Henrik Lundqvist do?

He gives up a king softie to Tomas Kaberle (his first in 16 games) from a near-impossible angle that Kaberle somehow snuck in between Lundqvist's skates as he rotated off the right post.

Then of course, Toronto won it in overtime on Nikolai Kulemin's wraparound goal that Lundqvist was too busy flailing around in his crease to stop.

Tough night for Bruins fans and the tank.

The Isles beat Columbus in OT, which is good (the BJs get a point, too), but Toronto is now three points behind Carolina, who got shellacked by Atlanta (funny, but where was that offense against Toronto two nights ago?) and Florida, who is trailing Ottawa.

But the way the Rangers lost this one...a game they about had in the bag after going up 2-0 early, is typical of how things have gone lately. Toronto is not that good, but give them credit- their AHL offense is coming to play every night.

The Rangers ought to be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. Especially Lundqvist. He let a lot of people down tonight.

Bruins blank Flames, now in seventh place

The Boston Bruins are seventh place in the Eastern Conference as of right now by virtue of their 5-0 shellacking of the fading Calgary Flames today, while the Philadelphia Flyers got blown out on the road by cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins by a 4-1 margin with some guy named Johan Backlund in net. Hey, Paul Holmgren- you look even worse than Peter Chiarelli for not addressing your team's needs on trade deadline day (at least Boston has the goaltending- more on that later)! Because the B's are now tied with the Flyers in points (80) but have a game-in-hand, they move into 7th, dropping Philly down to 8th.

Today was a big win for Boston after their tough loss to Tampa the other night, and it was nice to see Tim Thomas get it done with his 5th shutout of the season (17th of his career to move past Gilles Gilbert for sole possession of eigth place on Boston's all-time list), and first career win against the Flames.

Thomas and Tuukka Rask have both been Boston's saving (pun intended) grace this season, even though Rask has had the edge in play of late. Thomas certainly appears to be back on his game in just four starts since hockey resumed after the Olympics.

Five different goal scorers found the back of the net for the B's today: Dennis Seidenberg (his first as a Bruin and third of the year), David Krejci (16), Zdeno Chara (7), Patrice Bergeron (17) and Mark Recchi (17). Three of them came on the power play, the first three-goal game with the man advantage for Boston since December 22. Yes, it's been that kind of year offensively for them, so being in seventh place speaks volumes for the goaltending and how well those guys have played all season.

Recchi's prone high backhander over a sprawling Miikka Kiprusoff saw the end for the Calgary goalie, who, as was the case in Team USA's crushing of Finland in the Olympic semifinal, pulled himself from the nets. Recchi, who added an assist, amazes me with his desire and determination at age 42. He outworks and at time embarrasses guys 20 years his junior (are you listening, Blake Wheeler?) with his energy and willingness to do whatever it takes. Myopic fans who point to Recchi's presence on this team as a negative just don't get it. He was brought in for character, leadership and experience; for him to be closing in on what could be his 17th 20-goal campaign on a $1 million contract is what you call bang for the buck.

We're less than three hours from puck drop at the Air Canada Centre for Toronto's match against the New York Rangers. Again, it's a huge game for the draft watchers, but also for the Boston playoff standings watch as well. One way or the other- this game needs to end in regulation, and given Boston's 7th place standing, I'm going with a Rangers' decisive win as being the lesser of two evils tonight.

Other games for the tank tonight: Tampa @ Buffalo, Florida @ Ottawa, Islanders @ Blue Jackets (root for the Isles for a win in OT or shootout; they're closer to Toronto in the standings) and Atlanta @ Carolina.

OK- I'll be back later tonight with a tank recap, but today was a nice day for Boston fans, who saw a team that more closely resembled the 2008-09 B's.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Islanders and Hurricanes win...excellent! So do Leafs...bogus.

With apologies to Bill and Ted, there (can you believe that movie is 21 years old?) but it seemed apropos for the standings discussion tonight.

And the Bruins outplayed Tampa Bay, but the 'Bolts got a tremendous game in net from Antero Niittymaki, (and two goals apiece from Steven Stamkos and Paul Szczechura- did I spell that right?) and escaped Boston with a 5-3 win.

Mark Recchi scored his 16th of the year to move him past Guy Lafleur for sole possession of 22nd on the NHL's all-time goal scoring list. (Also scoring for Boston- Zdeno Chara (6) and Johnny Boychuk (5))

Not a great night for the tank, but the Carolina (in the shootout after blowing a 2-0 lead- thank you, Manny Legace!),Tampa and Islanders wins at least keep them ahead of the Leafs, who got two points with their OT win over Atlanta. That's bad news for Boston because the Thrashers got a point to move within two of the B's. If the Leafs were going to win it, then obviously, standings watchers wanted them to do it in regulation.

But, Columbus also thrashed Chicago tonight, so that's another two points to put the BJ's further ahead of Toronto and making it that more difficult to leapfrog them

Oh, and the Bruins are still in eighth tonight, so not all is lost.

And if Carolina, the Isles, Lightning and Blue Jackets all keep winning, it doesn't really matter what Toronto does.

The Bruins are next up on Saturday with a matinee at home against Calgary (who lost to the Islanders tonight).

Seguin, Hall distancing themselves from the competition

With nine points in four and eight points in three OHL playoff games, Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall are pretty much justifying the belief we've had all year: that they are the upper crust of the 2010 draft class.

Both are off to tremendous starts, and it will be interesting to see how far Plymouth and Windsor go this spring. It goes without mentioning that a head-to-head matchup between the Whalers and Spits would be a dream for every NHL team who has a shot at one or the other of these guys to be able to witness firsthand.

There are several big games tonight, with interesting ramifications for both the B's playoff picture and the tank. Boston will take on Tampa Bay, who got an OT win over Carolina earlier this week after looking dead in the water with their recent struggles and down 2-0 in the third period. Boston winning means that the Bruins continue to put distance between themselves and the Thrashers and Rangers, who crushed their crosstown rival Islanders last night by a 5-0 score. If Tampa wins, it's not the end of the world, as they'll add two more points to their cushion with Toronto. Best case: Bruins beat the 'Bolts in OT to get the two points, while Tampa at least gains one.

Elsewhere, Toronto is taking on Atlanta, who trails the Bruins by three points in the playoff race. An Atlanta win helps the tank, but gets them closer to Boston. If you're a draft watch fanatic, then you're obviously hoping that the Thrashers bounce back from the beating Boston administered to them on Tuesday and take it to the Leafs. If you're a Bruins purist who doesn't care as much for the draft, then you're pulling for a Leafs win to keep the Thrashers down in the standings.

Also, the Isles are facing Calgary. Tank nation really wants them to prevail and keep building on the slim points lead they have over the Leafs for 29th. Carolina's in Washington, in what will be a tough game for them to win without the services of Tuomo Ruutuu for the remainder, they're even more shorthanded up front.

Unrelated to the 2010 draft or standings watch, but a pair of Bruins prospects are having themselves a pretty decent battle against one another in the Quebec league playoffs. Jordan Caron is currently seventh overall in playoff scoring with four goals and seven points for Rouyn-Noranda, while the recently returned Max Sauve has a respectable 3-2-5 line in a series evened up at two games apiece.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lost in the shuffle of the Kabanov kerfuffle...Marek Hrivik

With eight points in three playoff games for Moncton, Slovak left winger Marek Hrivik is one player who is doing his part to drown out the potential negativity surrounding Kirill Kabanov's departure.

I was told earlier in the season that Hrivik was extremely well-liked by his teammates, and he had a solid regular season of 26 goals and 55 points (66 games) with the Wildcats to draw from after being passed over in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft despite being the 31st-ranked European skater on Central's final list.

I guess B's fans can add Hrivik to the list of better options than Ben Sexton in the seventh round which currently includes Wisconsin defenseman John Ramage, BC freshman Pat Mullane, Plymouth D Beau Schmitz and Kootenay goalie Nathan Lieuwen (who admittedly has concussion issues, but some serious size and upside, too). But, I've railed on too much on this blog about the Sexton pick, so as of now, I will cease to forever mention him in this space.

In Hrivik's case, he has good size (6-1, 190), speed and a nice shot and release. If he continues to grow and develop, he could develop into a top-six forward at the NHL level, but with his attitude and energy level, he's at least a sturdy third-liner.

He's going to get drafted this year, maybe as early as the late second-round, and here's betting that just about every NHL team will regret not taking at least a late-round flier on him when they had a chance for some seriously good draft value. The secret's out of the bag now, so nobody's going to steal him this year.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nice night for the tank

Bruins beat Atlanta, 4-0 (Tuukka Rask's 4th shutout of the season) and the Leafs lose at home to the Florida Panthers 4-1, who got a great game in net from old BC stalwart Scott Clemmensen. By beating Toronto, they extend a seven-point lead over the Leafs in the standings, a pretty significant road win with big ramifications in Boston's draft pick standings watch.

Also- best case scenario for Boston happened in the Carolina-Tampa game, as the Lightning overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie the game late and win it in overtime. The 'Bolts get two points to extend their lead over Toronto to six points, while Carolina gets one to move up five (Leafs get none, so they lose ground tonight). The Islanders are now the closest team within striking distance, four points ahead but they have a game in hand on Toronto who has just nine games left to make up the distance to get out of 29th.

In the west, the putrid Columbus Blue Jackets got housed in Jersey tonight en route to Marty Brodeur's 40th win of the season in a 6-3 loss (check out Zach Parise's second goal of the night if you can- a spinaround, forehand-to-backhand topshelf beauty that defies logic for No. 35- he reeeeeeally should've been picked by the Bruins at 16 in '03), the eighth season in which he's posted 40 Ws or more. Crazy. Terry Sawchuk and Miikka Kiprusoff are next on the all-time list with three apiece. The BJ's loss means they are only six points ahead of Toronto. Everyone else is likely out of reach at 12 points or more.

So, for one night at least, that top-two selection is still looking good. There's still the lottery on April 13th to decide it all, but Toronto lost two more points it could ill afford at this stage, and to a team that needed them to keep the Leafs in the rearview.

Speaking of tanks, there was a band in the early 90's called Life, Sex & Death (LSD- imagine that!) and they had a song and video featured on Beavis & Butthead called "Tank" and some of the lyrics are perfect for tonight:

This is the time
This is the place
Get inside your tank
You're a tank
You're in the game
You're in the race
Get inside your tank
You're a tank
Go, go, go, go, go, goooo- mow 'em over

I'm a tank, I'm a tank...I'm a tank

OK, well- you get the picture. Let's not get so carried away, there.

Kabanov leaves Moncton for Russia

The Kirill Kabanov saga continued yesterday, as it was announced that the embattled forward has left the Moncton Wildcats and will return home to Russia where he will represent his country in next month's World Under-18 Championship in Minsk, Belarus.

As reported on the Wildcats' official site here, Kabanov, who missed 45 of his team's first 56 games because of a wrist injury, is done after a controversial first playoff game against Cape Breton, when he took a bad penalty and was lambasted by his team over it, prompting coach Danny Flynn to bench him for the remainder of the contest. Moncton battled back from behind to take the first game, and then thumped the Screaming Eagles in the second to take a 2-0 series lead.

Kabanov came into the season with a ton of hype as a highly skilled, offensive machine who was showing a commitment to a potential NHL future by coming over to North America to play instead of staying home in the KHL. Things started pretty well for Kabanov, but quickly unraveled in November when he got hurt and needed surgery.

His rehab process was then dogged with rumors of missed team events, practices and various other transgressions that grated on his teammates and came to a head in Game 1. What was obvious at least to one scout in the building watching defenseman David Savard and others on the bench erupt at Kabanov after he took the undisciplined penalty, that the explosion was not about that one single event, but a series of them that, taken together, boiled over in that second period.

So, what next for Kabanov?

Well, beyond the obvious statement that not playing in any games for the next three weeks is going to hurt his draft stock, he now must go to Minsk and perform for Team Russia. The wrist injury was already a red flag for NHL teams, who wanted to see how well it would hold up and how effective he could play in the amped-up playoff atmosphere in the Quebec league, where his team is expected to go deep. Now, without that measuring stick, the laser-like focus will be on Kabanov at the U-18s, where he will have only a few games to prove that he's healthy and worth gambling on.

Let's be real, here. a team would have to be absolutely smitten with Kabanov to take him in the first round at this stage. His injury and questionable conduct has, in my opinion, deep-sixed any thought of him going in the top-30 picks. Now, how low he goes in the second will be directly proportional to how well he does in this one last tournament where he can compete. In February, Russia won the Six Nations tourney in Minsk, so they could do it again at the U-18s. If Kabanov leads his team to gold, he will set up a conundrum for those NHL teams thinking about rolling the dice.

What I'm hearing: his father has a lot of influence on young Kabanov and that's not a very good thing as far as NHL teams are concerned. When you take that, the wrist concerns, the off-ice conduct in Moncton and his dismissal from the team at the most important time of year, it doesn't add up to a promising or rewarding draft day in L.A. for Kabanov.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Boston Bruins 2010, 2011 draft picks Updated: March 22nd

The Bruins are currently clinging to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, with the Atlanta Thrashers coming on strong (having won four straight) and just one point out of knocking Boston out of it again.

In beating the Rangers yesterday, the B's opened up a five-point cushion which is good, but this team is still so Jekyll and Hyde, you don't know how things will end up in April. Kudos to Tuukka Rask, who again was in net yesterday and again got the win to keep his club in the playoffs. I think that if he continues his run and gets the puck in the playoffs (assuming Boston gets there), then Tim Thomas going to Philly or somewhere else for as much as Peter Chiarelli can wheedle out of them is a fait accompli. Maybe the two can coexist, but Thomas is so competitive, and you just know he wants to be playing somewhere, anywhere.

Now, Toronto has been winning a lot lately, which is impressive because I can't for the life of me figure out how those AHL-caliber forwards are scoring. New Jersey's Yann Danis was simply gross in the shootout, giving up all three shots to the Leafs, while Jaroslav Halak was unable to beat out Jonas Gustavsson. Oh, well. Toronto is four points behind Tampa and the New York Islanders to get out of 29th place, five points behind Florida and six points behind Columbus.

Many Boston doom-and-gloomers are predicting that they will do just that (climb in the standings and knock Boston out of the Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin sweepstakes), but it's still a tough road to hoe for them.

Anyway- as of today, the Bruins are still looking at the 2nd overall position, although no team finishing 2nd has ever won the lottery.

Now, the interesting thing is- if the winning trend continues in the Western Conference, should the Bruins drop out of the playoffs by season's end, they'll have a top-10 pick in the draft by virtue of a lot of non-playoff teams in the West finishing with better records than Boston.

This is not a desired outcome, but if the Bruins are going to miss out on the dance, this is a good time to do it, as they have a poorer record than many of their counterparts in the West. This is not the year to be fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

OK, without further ado- here are the picks. No change in the top-two rounds based on last week:

Boston Bruins 2010 Draft Picks (Draft position after 1st round estimated based on current standings; lottery not taken into account)

1st Round
2nd overall- Toronto (64 points; 26-34-12)
15th overall- Boston (76 points; 32-27-12)

2nd Round
32nd overall- Toronto
45th overall- Boston
*Boston traded rights to Tampa Bay second round pick (33rd overall) previously acquired with Mark Recchi for Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums, to Florida as part of package for D Dennis Seidenberg

3rd Round
No pick- Traded to Buffalo as part of Daniel Paille trade

4th Round
95th overall- Carolina (68 points; 30-34-8)
105th overall- Boston****Conditional to Buffalo if Paille scores 16 goals. If condition not met, Buffalo gets Boston 5th-round pick in 2010

5th Round
135th overall- Boston*** (To Buffalo if Paille scores 15 goals or less)

6th Round
165th overall- Boston

7th Round
195th overall- Boston

Boston Bruins 2011 Draft Picks

1st Round
Toronto (Completes Phil Kessel trade)

2nd Round
Minnesota (Completes Chuck Kobasew trade)

3rd Round

4th Round
Boston* (To Anaheim if D Steven Kampfer signs with Boston)
Phoenix (Completes Derek Morris trade- becomes 3rd rounder if UFA Morris re-signs with Coyotes)

5th Round

6th Round

7th Round

Somebody's startin' rumors...

So, talking to one of my sources this weekend, and he mentioned that the Bruins have not given up on their pursuit of Tomas Kaberle.

The question is-- what would it take to bring him to Boston? As you all know, Peter Chiarelli thought he had a deal for Kaberle in exchange for Phil Kessel and Toronto's first-rounder last year, but Brian Burke nixed that one in favor of keeping the pick and drafting Nazem Kadri.

Now, the B's apparently still have their sights on Kaberle, and I'm being told it would take Boston's first-round pick to get it done. The Leafs are desperate to get themselves back into the first-round after trading what looks like a lottery pick, plus their second to Boston for Kessel. And they still owe Boston their first next year as well. For a team that has bottomed out as Toronto has, not having a choice until the early third round is a status quo that cannot hold for Burke and Co.

Now, how excited are you, as a Bruins fan, to hear that Chiarelli will give up what could be a top-10 pick for a player who will turn 33 next season and will likely command more than his current $4.25 million salary when his contract expires in 2011? Now, I get that Kaberle is an outstanding puckmover, but he's a distributor, not a triggerman, and just like Dennis Seidenberg, is not going to be around long enough to make the tradeoff of a key building asset like a top draft pick worthwhile.

If the Bruins were going to be serious contenders next season, that would be one thing, but does anyone think that Chiarelli can fill all of the holes this team has between now and then? Do you really think that one season of Kaberle is worth surrendering such a prime asset, even though the B's will get better with Toronto's pick? Now, I'm not completely opposed to dealing Boston's pick, but for Kaberle? Chiarelli can do better, and if not, he should just keep the pick and not keep giving away the future for declining returns.

OK- enough on Kaberle. Whether he comes to Boston remains to be seen, but he will probably waive that no-trade clause to allow Burke to move him somewhere for a top pick that will help Toronto rebuild. I don't think that destination should be Boston, especially with the team's cap situation as it currently exists. Let someone like New Jersey or Detroit or Washington go out and get him; Kaberle would be an OK upgrade for Boston, but his numbers aren't going to get better as he approaches his mid-30's.

Another thing I heard of interest is that Nobles winger Kevin Hayes is a strong candidate to go inside the top-30 selections. Who will it be to roll the dice on the uber-talented fledgling power forward? Well, if I were a betting man, I'd say it would be one of the last 3-4 picks, because while the Dorchester native is risky business, there is no doubting his excellent skill, size and upside. Apparently, a few teams feel he's worth the long-term investment, so pay attention to him on draft day. Even though I believe that Charlie Coyle is a better all-around player than Hayes is, Jimmy's younger brother may be the one to go off the board earlier.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kabanov in free fall...Gormley on the rise

So, what do you do when you've missed most of your draft season to a severe wrist injury suffered in November that required surgery to fix and cost you most of the 09-10 campaign's games and cast significant doubt over your status?

If you're Kirill Kabanov, you miss a team bus to Halifax for starters. Then, you take a terrible penalty in your first playoff game with your team behind in the second period, get screamed at by David Savard, your own teammate, and ultimately get benched by coach Danny Flynn and don't play again that game.

I just heard that Kabanov did not play in Game 2- a healthy scratch. And my source tells me that to this day, he's never seen a player get shown up so blatantly in a game by his own teammate as Savard did with Kabanov last night.

The saying, "shooting one's self in their own foot" doesn't do Kabanov justice, apparently. Imagine-- all those NHL scouts in Moncton to see you, and you have an epic meltdown of a performance that sees your team come roaring back after you get the boot, and then the next night, you've been given a seat. To quote the old Dana Carvey as George H.W. Bush "41" SNL skit: " it!"

Yes, Kabanov is super talented (forget any of the ludicrous Alexander Ovechkin comparisons you may have heard, though, they're both Russian is about as far as I would go at this point), and yes- some team will be lauded for getting a "steal" with him when he drops either down to the final 10 picks of the first or out of that round entirely. But, his wrist is still a questionmark and now you have significant character concerns on top of that. That he's Russian doesn't help his cause, either.

So, Kabanov might end up being a Bruin, but you can be sure that they won't touch him with either of their picks in the first round, which leaves that high Toronto second-rounder as a possibility if he drops that far, which, based on this latest turn of events, he very well could. The question then becomes, would YOU take the risk with this highly talented, but clearly immature player? When you have the multiple early picks that Boston does, you can afford to gamble a little bit, but let's be clear, here-- Kabanov comes with baggage. Before you sign on the dotted line for him, understand that if he's someday wearing a spoked-B and misbehaving, the red flags were there well in advance.

Oh, and speaking of other 2010 draft candidates, I also hear that defenseman Brandon Gormley is playing great so far. Apparently, he's not all that far away from Cam Fowler in terms of skill and potential, so consider his stock on the rise. Moncton is expected to go far in the playoffs, so it will be interesting to see what Gormley does. I've got at least one source telling me that Gormley is a sure top-five for him, so if Boston somehow misses out on the top two, and Fowler is off the board as well, then Gormley might be the way to go.

Billett wins EJHL Goaltender of the Year honors

He's the most underrated goaltender in the entire 2010 draft class, but Brian Billett rightly captured the EJHL's top goalie award for an outstanding regular season that he followed up with by helping the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs to the Gary Dineen Cup league championship last weekend.

Last season, Billett broke into the league as a 16-year-old and exceeded expectations playing on the team with future '09 Carolina second-rounder Brian Dumoulin. Although Billett and the Monarchs lost the EJHL championship game to the New Jersey Hitmen, they got revenge in the Tier III National Jr. A title match. This year, Billett and Co. hope to make a clean sweep of league and national honors, having won their fifth EJHL title (and first since '07) but having a chance to win their third consecutive national championship.

But what has been so intriguing to me is the fact that so few people are talking about Billett this season despite the jaw-dropping numbers he put up for the Monarchs. I don't care what level of competition you're in- when your goals against is under-2.00 and your save percentage is approaching 95%, you're a gamer. Another factor in what has made Billett's season so impressive is the fact that he plays on a very good team that doesn't give up a lot of shots. Having to stand around for long stretches while the ice is tilted in the other end takes a goalie with a special kind of mental makeup to not only be effective, but to actually excel in.

He rolled his ankle and it affected his play in the Beantown summer games, and his condition wasn't improved enough for him to be on top of his game when the EJHL season began. But, once December and January rolled around, all the kid did was win. He went 21-2 this season, and then stepped it up when it mattered most: in the playoff, going a perfect 4-0 in wins over the NY Apple Core (2x), the Boston Jr. Bruins and the Charlie Coyle-led, Scott Harlow-coached South Shore Kings. Yes, the Monarchs were the class of the league (although the Kings and fellow BC recruit Brad Barone gave the Monarchs their biggest test in the final game).

In short, Billett is a winner. If I was picking at the end of the 2nd round, I'd be tempted to grab him. Third round is a no-brainer. But, the idea of him slipping to the fourth round or later is just crazy talk to me. Yes, Billett faces stiff competition for a place in the BC nets, but I heard the same kind of chatter in 2004 with Cory Schneider. All Schneider did was play his way into the starter's role and never relinquished it. If Billett proves he can play, Jerry York will give him every opportunity to be in there.

His coach, Sean Tremblay, who's had his share of excellent goaltenders come through his program there in Hooksett, likened Billett's work ethic, preparation and leadership skills to that of former Merrimack College standout and current USA Hockey NTDP goalie coach, Joe Exter. Brian's dad was in the U.S. Navy, and so you can imagine that a strong, stable, disciplined upbringing hasn't hurt him either. (As an interesting side note- I actually ran into Billett's minor [squirt] hockey coach at the prep championship game, and he told me that he got his start playing in the hockey hotbeds of Jacksonville, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina of all places!)

Maybe the lukewarm discussion about Billett is from NHL scouts hoping their teams can steal him, but I've seen the kid play enough to think he belongs in this strong, deep group of goalies for 2010. We'll find out in June if the NHL's Original 30 share my opinion.

Until then, Billett has a golden opportunity to make another big statement to potential NHL employers next weekend, when he has a chance to win his second consecutive Tier III National title. More info. on the tournament, here:

But winning this thing would go a long way toward dispelling the notion that level of competition or quality of team is why Billett has enjoyed the immense statistical success he's had.

Update: Funny, but after I wrote this, I actually chatted with Brian a bit this afternoon. He's a quality person, and rather than seed this post with quotes, I'll do a 2 minutes with... feature on him sometime this week.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2 minutes in the box with...Taylor Hall

The buzz surrounding Taylor Hall has been palpable since the 2008-09 season, when he had an outstanding performance with the Windsor Spitfires which culminated in the OHL and Memorial Cup championships. The 17-year-old left winger won MVP honors in Rimouski at the Memorial Cup (16 goals, 36 points in 20 postseason games), as Windsor became the first team ever to win the tourney after going 0-2 in the first two games of the round robin format.

After that, Hall's place as the first overall pick in 2010 seemed to be a fait accompli, but a major run by Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin (they tied each other for the OHL's scoring championship, though Seguin had more goals) has made the top selection in Los Angeles a tossup at this point.

Hall is a blazing skater with high-end puck skills who is a threat to score every time he's on the ice. He had a strong World Jr. Championship tournament, helping Canada to a silver medal, while dazzling scouts in the process with several highlight reel goals. He has good athletic bloodlines as well; his father, Steve, was a wide receiver for the Ottawa Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL.

After 84- and 90-point seasons with Windsor, Hall broke the century mark this year with 40 goals and 106 points in 50 OHL games in 2009-10.

With the OHL playoffs getting underway, Hall is in the position to stake a firm claim on being the top selection in the NHL draft, and he took some time out of his busy schedule to speak to B2010DW.

Bruins2010DraftWatch: Can you talk a little bit about the differences between last season and this season for you in Windsor and what your ulimtate goals are?

Taylor Hall: Obviously, our team's success last year was fantastic. Anytime you're part of a championship team and you top it off with an MVP award, it's great and becomes a real tough act to follow. This year has been different for me, but the important thing has been the team's continued success. We're taking everything in steps and focusing on individual things like winning the regular season, then the OHL playoffs and trying to get to the Memorial Cup (in Brandon, Manitoba) to defend our title. We have a lot of great guys and the coaches have worked real hard with us, so things are coming together pretty well, but there's still a lot to do.

B2010DW: How has the progression been for you in the OHL with Windsor in terms of your development to date?

TH: Obviously, I came in as a pretty young kid, so I've learned a lot since I first started skating here with Windsor. I love being a team player, and when you're with a group of guys like the team we have, it's a lot of fun to come to the rink everyday. Winning the Memorial Cup was unbelievable, and we want to do it again, and I think that because we were able to win it all last year, we have an appreciation for how hard an accomplishment that is. I've just tried to play my game and contribute goals and points wherever I can, and I think the team relies on me for offense. It's a big part of what I do, and I get the support from my teammates and coaches to do that.

B2010DW: What are your thoughts on the challenges you face in the OHL playoffs?

TH: I think the East (Conference) is very good. There's a team (Barrie Colts) that has beaten us twice and they are a tough matchup for us. I think it will be the kind of intense playoff atmosphere you see every year, so we're just going to have to focus on keeping things simple and playing our game. Obviously, our team has had a lot of success and we have a lot of guys who experienced a championship last year, so I'd say that's an advantage for us.

B2010DW: Barrie has Alexander Burmistrov, another high-end 2010 draft candidate. What do you think of him based on what you've seen this year?

TH: He's a very good player who has a ton of speed. He might be a bit undersized, but his skill level is unbelievable. He's been very good for Barrie this year and made the adjustment (to the OHL) pretty easily.

B2010DW: You've had so much attention on you for going on two years now. Are you going to be glad when the draft is done and you know what your immediate future holds for the NHL?

TH: I think so. Obviously, the draft is something I think about just because there's so much attention paid to it, especially as we get closer to June. But at the same time, I've got the rest of the season to play and trying to win the OHL championship and a Memorial Cup title to defend, so those are the things that are more important right now and where my attention is. The draft is exciting to think about, and I'll be glad when the time comes, but right now, there's still a lot of hockey to be played.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Toronto wins, but so does Boston

A big razzberry to the Ottawa Senators for losing tonight after letting Toronto jump out to a 3-0 lead. How does any NHL team let that roster of scrub forwards get three goals in one period? The Senators really stunk out the joint on that one. Oh, and the Edmonton Oilers continued their ridiculous swoon with a 4-2 loss to Minnesota. They're now 11 points behind Toronto with no chance to catch them, so the Bruins better hope that Edmonton wins the lottery or they do...otherwise, it's third or lower (if Toronto catches Carolina or NY).

Anyway- the Bruins beat Carolina, which isn't great news for the tank. Leafs are now four points away from the 'Canes. We'll see if the Islanders can hold on tonight, up 2-0 in Vancouver.

Tuukka Rask had another good game, stopping 30 shots. And how about that Mark Recchi? 42 years young, and he tied Guy Lafleur for 22nd on the all-time goals list with his 560th tonight- the game-winner after he came out of the box 45 seconds into the third period. Rex now has 6 points in 5 games since Matt Cooke blindsided Marc Savard. Recchi has had no shortage of critics this season, but not lately. He's one of the few forwards who has stepped up and is doing his part to keep his team in a playoff spot.

Oh, I interviewed Taylor Hall a while back...I'll have a "2 minutes in the box" feature on him here soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tim Thomas gets hook...again

That's got to be pretty disconcerting if you're the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, but it is the reality after a very mediocre first period that saw him give up three goals to put a team that doesn't score in a deep, deep hole. Some guy named Marty Brodeur is at the other end of the ice...heard of him?

So, while Claude Julien may have benched Thomas to wake up the team, I think the switch speaks more to the confidence the coach has in Tuukka Rask than anything else.

I've loved Rask's game and potential for a long time-- I took one look at the guy (First in the '05, '06 and '07 WJC games and then later thanks to Finnish friends who sent me DVDs of his games for Ilves Tampere) and simply saw a player with the most raw talent, athleticism and upside than any goalie I had ever seen in Boston's system. Ever. That's right-- I said ever. (Or at least in the three decades I've been following the team.)

But even I didn't think he'd be this good this fast for the Bruins.

I refuse to slam Peter Chiarelli as others have for signing Thomas to the contract he did a year ago. He didn't have a crystal ball, and Thomas was well on his way to a Vezina Trophy while Rask had a grand total of five games of NHL experience coming into this season. Hey, it's Boston-- I get it. People complain and write revisionist history all the time, but the fact is- had Chiarelli let Thomas walk on the open market, there would have been an unbelievable hue and cry as people wielding pitchforks would have tried to burn the TD Garden down. Sure- there's no shortage of folks who will say now that they KNEW Rask would be a stud right away, Thomas was a bum and yadda-yadda-yadda. Yeah, sure. Wink-wink, nod-nod.

But even I didn't have the kind of faith in Rask to emerge as a big-time NHL gamer this season the way he has. And, I think it ultimately spells the end of Thomas' tenure in Boston. I think the Bruins veteran is too proud not to waive his no-trade clause here in the summer and will try to go elsewhere to recapture his mojo. Problem is-- he's 36 next month and chances are that Chiarelli will have to sacrifice a Vezina-worthy return in order to unload the contract assuming the team even wants to trade him (and of course that the B's GM can find any takers). Perhaps Chiarelli can find a way to add an extra high pick or two in the 2010 draft for Thomas, or a decent prospect. But, the going will be tough.

Still, Thomas has been a good trooper and it's a shame to see some fans turn on him like they have. It's the nature of pro sports, but loyalty should be a two-way street. The anti-Thomas contingent may just be pragmatic about it, and that's fair I suppose. His contract for Boston is now an albatross, and Chiarelli will have to figure out how to create some flexibility for the team. Thomas is probably a good place to start, assuming he's willing to accept a trade without hamstringing his GM in the process.

Seeing Thomas sitting on the bench in the second and third periods tonight sure seems to be the writing on the wall for me. This is simply something that has happened with too much regularity this season after he was lights-out last year.

So, it may be one more sign that he's on the way out. But, there is much to be determined before that happens. Or, should I say if or when it does.

When is the last time...

a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season ended with a leading scorer(s) who tallied less than 100 points?

It happened this year, with Sean Couturier (68 games) and Nicolas Deschamps (64 games) both finishing with 96 points, but has it ever happened before?

To my knowledge, no. I went all the way back to 1986-87, and every year has seen at least one player hit the century mark, if not 15 or more. There were back-to-back years of 200-point guys in 1987 and 1988. Will do more research on this later.

Last year, Bruins prospect Yannick Riendeau led the way with 126 points. Heck, the year he was drafted in 1984, Mario Lemieux had 133 GOALS against 282 points in 70 games. That's just sick, I tell you.

The point is not to compare this year's scoring leaders with Mario le Magnifique, but to highlight this interesting happenstance in a league that has long been known for its high-flying offense.

Couturier, by the way, is the son of ex-NHL journeyman Sylvain Couturier, and along with Swede Adam Larsson, is the frontrunner for the 2011 NHL draft. You'll be reading a lot about Couturier (and Larsson for that matter) in the 2011 Bruins Draft Watch blog next season.

So, if I'm wrong, and there has been a year that a player led the Q in scoring without hitting the century mark, I'm sure someone out there will let me know, but in my attempt to research it, I have yet to find it.

Is this a blip on the radar or a trend? Should be interesting to watch what happens in the coming years.

Boston Bruins 2010, 2011 draft picks: Updated March 15th

As mentioned in a post last night, the New York Islanders did the Bruins 2010 draft watch a nice favor by beating Toronto yesterday 4-1 on the Island.

The win was huge on several fronts because it not only extended New York's lead to seven points, but there are only 13 points remaining. A Toronto win would've pulled them to within three points of the Islanders and four of the Hurricanes- just two wins from leapfrogging over the Islanders and Hurricanes for 27th place. The loss yesterday also knocks down the Leafs' growing confidence a peg, reminding them that with that AHL-caliber offensive they have on the ice, goals are going to be hard to come by.

Toronto has moved to within six points of Carolina, but with the way the Hurricanes have been playing and with one game in hand, there's a good chance the 'Canes will put some more distance in front of the 29th-place team. The Blue Jackets are also within striking distance, sitting seven points in front of Toronto along with the Isles, while the Panthers have an eight point cushion.

But the key thing in all of this is the fact that with only 13 games left, it will be hard for Toronto to gain traction and climb over anyone. That's not impossible, so respect the possibility of it happening. But honestly- we've now had nearly 70 games to watch this Toronto team. Does anyone really see them playing that much better than the teams in front of them to erase the cushion and jump ahead?

Stay tuned...every lost point for Toronto looms huge in their ability to climb out of 29th place, but the reality is that with Edmonton being nine points behind the Leafs, any hopes of the Oilers catching up are pretty much dashed and so until that lottery is complete, Bruins fans can't breathe easy. Obviously winning it outright to get that top pick is the desired outcome, but B's fans will have to pray that whichever team is sitting at that 28th spot or even the 27th spot doesn't somehow win it, or else all of the great plans of getting a top-two pick will go up in smoke.

While the NHL lottery system isn't the joke that the NBA employs, one that saw the Celtics drop to fifth overall after finishing with the second-worst record in 2007, no Bruins fan should be smiling even if the Leafs finish 29th...until the desired lottery result is achieved.

Boston Bruins 2010 Draft Picks (Draft position after 1st round estimated based on current standings; lottery not taken into account)

1st Round

2nd overall- Toronto (58 points; 23-34-12)
15th overall- Boston (72 points; 30-25-12)

2nd Round

32nd overall- Toronto
45th overall- Boston

*Boston traded rights to Tampa Bay second round pick (38th overall) to Florida as part of package for D Dennis Seidenberg

3rd Round

No pick- Traded to Buffalo as part of Daniel Paille trade

4th Round

93rd overall- Carolina (64 points; 28-32-8)
105th overall- Boston****Conditional to Buffalo if Paille scores 16 goals. If condition not met, Buffalo gets Boston 5th-round pick in 2010

5th Round

135th overall- Boston*** (To Buffalo if Paille scores 15 goals or less)

6th Round

165th overall- Boston

7th Round

195th overall- Boston

Boston Bruins 2011 Draft Picks

1st Round

Toronto (Completes Phil Kessel trade)

2nd Round

Minnesota (Completes Chuck Kobasew trade)

3rd Round


4th Round

Boston* (To Anaheim if D Steven Kampfer signs with Boston)
Phoenix (Completes Derek Morris trade- becomes 3rd rounder if UFA Morris re-signs with Coyotes)

5th Round


6th Round


7th Round


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some thoughts on Moncton-Saint John regular season finale

Saw the final regular season game tonight between the Moncton Wildcats and Saint John Sea Dogs tonight on NHL Network, a 5-2 win for Moncton.

The Sea Dogs have a solid first round draft candidate in Stanislav Galiev, a speedy forward who can really dangle.

The Wildcats feature multiple draft eligibles, including a pair of first-round probables in defenseman Brandon Gormley and forward Kirill Kabanov, as well as Slovak Marek Hrivik, who was passed over last year, but should get the call in L.A. possibly as early as the third round, based on a few observations I've picked up on this season.

Tonight wasn't much of a game for the Class of 2010, as nobody from the above list did a great deal to stand out. None of them, save for Hrivik, figured in the scoring (he tallied with a third period bomb from the outside) but you could see the skill levels on display at times.

Kabanov had one play in the second period when he gained the offensive zone, looked right, then slid a nice pass to one of the Saulnier twins (Alex or Allain- don't remember which), who took it around the back of the net, but couldn't tuck in the wraparound. Aside from that, he isn't a blazing skater, but he can definitely stickhandle and pass the puck. Would like to have seen him more this season, especially before the wrist surgery. I have no baseline by which to judge his effectiveness pre- and post-injury.

Galiev has the speed and moves, but the guy strikes me as pretty one dimensional. I like the skill-- don't get me wrong-- but he's not really someone to get too excited about. I see him as a complementary player at the NHL level, not a legitimate scoring star. I'm not a fan-- he doesn't strike me as the kind of player that the Bruins would go for. He's got nice height at 6-1, but is only about 175 pounds, doesn't play a physical game, and only had 15 goals in the 'Q' this year. I think they can and will do better come draft day. Plus, he's Russian, so that counts against him a bit, even if he is here in North America. Ditto Kabanov.

As for Gormley, maybe not standing out is a good thing for a defenseman, because he wasn't all that noticeable. Televised games are tough to gain any real observations about defenders, though, because so much of what they do or don't do effectively happens behind the play. But, if folks are going to complain about Cam Fowler's lack of dazzling hockey in televised games this year, then Gormley gets the same criticism from me tonight. He didn't do a whole lot of anything...good or bad.

Hrivik was the most impressive of the 2010 draft prospects tonight, but you have to temper that with the realization that he's a year older than everyone else. He's got some nice skills and size. I can't for the life of me figure out how it is that the Bruins would spend a seventh-round pick on Ben Sexton last year when this kid was sitting out there ripe for the picking. Hrivik finished with 26 goals and 55 points in 66 games with the Wildcats, and I hear he's a pretty good kid, too.

The Sea Dogs' Tomas Jurco had both of their goals. He's a December '92 birthdate, so not eligible until 2011, but he's an interesting kid to watch for next year.

All in all, tonight's game proved why you can't get too excited about these draft picks unless you're coming away with one of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. None of these guys in this particular contest looked like saviors and don't appear ready for prime time. Yes, it was only one game, but I don't think anyone would disagree with the notion that this was a pretty unspectacular night for the draft watch.

B's get big help from Islanders

Boston draft watchers should send their thank you notes to Scott Gordon and his boys ASAP.

The New York Islanders beat the Toronto Maple Leafs today 4-1, to not only hand the Leafs their 34th loss of the year, but extend a seven-point lead over them for 28th place in the NHL standings. A loss to the road team would've pulled the Leafs to within three, so this was a big, big win for the tank watch.

I'll have the updated pick slots on the blog tomorrow.

Addendum on Watson

The night after I blogged about Austin Watson and how he may be an option for Boston with the early second-round pick of Toronto's they own.

Scratch that.

Watson had a six-point night Saturday, giving him 20 points in 10 games with the Petes since his trade (and five weeks worth of missed time with the broken ankle).

He'll be blasting up the draft boards, because he was always a respected player for his size, speed and work ethic. Now, he's adding production to the mix, and he's doing it without Ryan Spooner, Peterborough's other highly-skilled offensive player eligible for the draft.

If Boston wants Watson, they'll have to use that first-round pick of theirs. And, if it's around 15 or 16 as it is right now, they have a shot. Any lower, and Watson will be off the board when their turn comes.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Can you hear the footsteps?

Toronto shellacked Edmonton tonight (quelle surprise) but the Leafs have a three-game winning streak going and are closing in on the Islanders (five points ahead) and Hurricanes (six points ahead).

Edmonton has just mailed it in. Pathetic displays of non-hockey night after night. No way is this team that way. But, they don't seem to care, and it shows in the results each night.

The Bruins just dropped a tough game in Montreal, getting hammered in the season series, while allowing the Habs to build a four-point lead in the standings. Tuukka Rask's gaffe cost the B's the game tonight, and I'm sure he feels terrible about it. But, no points in the standings is still the result, and it's a shame to let that one in after he was so brilliant against Philly the other night.

Bottom line- it looks like any hopes of the Oilers catching Toronto are officially gone tonight. I've not seen a more pathetic, uninspired joke of a team in quite some time. They seem pretty content to finish last and guarantee themselves one of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, so that's life, B's fans. Better hope that if the Islanders or Hurricanes finish 28th, they (or anyone below them) don't win the lottery, otherwise it's going to be the Cam Barker 2004 draft redux for Boston.

I'm out. At least the Isles and Panthers won to keep Toronto at bay, but we've seen too many clubs play the Leafs and just roll over and die, lately. How that AHL-caliber offense can get six goals in any hockey game is beyond me, but the last few weeks of the season could have quite a grueling (and disappointing) finish for B's boosters if we have too many more nights like this one.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Austin Watson: a guy you should know

The Bruins make no secret of their passion for big wingers with size and skill, so when you're charting the possibilities of Boston picks in the 2010 draft, no list would be complete without the Peterborough Petes' Austin Watson.

The 6-3, 180-pound forward is a Michigander who was traded from the Windsor Spitfires earlier this season for Buffalo Sabres' 2009 first-rounder Zack Kassian just before breaking his ankle in the 2010 CHL Top Prospects Game in Windsor. The tough-luck injury, sustained while Watson was blocking a shot in an exhibition game in early January, was originally thought to keep him off the ice much longer than this, but Watson is back after five weeks, and the Petes have to be thrilled after losing the high-flying Ryan Spooner to a broken collarbone.

Watson is a decent skater with good hands and offensive ability, but has shown himself to be a well-rounded player in the OHL who can play effectively on special teams. A solid citizen, he is coachable and puts the team first. He got a rousing ovation from the Windsor faithful when he was introduced at the top prospects game, even though he was already a member of the rival Petes. Fans are usually a pretty good indicator of a player's worth; when someone ceases to wear the colors and hooks on with someone else, it's saying something when they embrace the former player like the Spitfires fans did for Watson.

He may not quite have the high-end, elite potential of other wingers in this draft, but he's exactly the kind of player you could see the B's snap up with Toronto's second-round selection, and possibly even Boston's first-round pick depending on where that one ends up.

He's one of those guys who's not as skilled as some, not as physical or tough as others, but just seems to bring "it" and has the look of someone who will end up being a much better pro than currently projected. And, his eight goals and 14 points in just 9 games with the Petes seem to indicate that Watson has the kind of scoring upside that's worth taking a chance on.

Oh, and the intensity and high compete levels don't hurt Watson's cause one bit, either.

NCAA Playoffs kicking off; a look at some college options

It's that time of year again...NCAA teams will compete within their respective conferences, and then the NCAA tournament will follow in April, with the Frozen Four in Detroit.

There are some interesting college free agent players out there floating around.

One forward I'm particularly keen on is UMass-Amherst winger Casey Wellman, who is the son of former major league baseball player Brad Wellman (San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers). The younger Wellman, 22, was born in California, but gave up baseball at age 12, focusing exclusively on hockey.

“Baseball is too boring for me, you just stand out there waiting for something to happen,”he told the Republican in an article published in December.

He attended the Nashville Predators' prospect development camp last summer, and because of that, the Preds could have the inside track on signing him.

In 34 games with the Minutemen this year, Wellman has 20 goals and 41 points as a sophomore. Indications are that he will forego his final two seasons of eligibility to turn pro after spending a pair of years in the USHL before heading to Amherst.

He's a good, solid skater, but I don't see high-end speed from him. He's like a hockey version of Wes Welker in that he's more quick and elusive than fast. Terrific shooter, though- quick release on a hard shot. And he's got the hockey sense to get open and exploit defenses. Will need to work on overall game at next level, but could be a gem in time for whomever gets him.

UNH senior Bobby Butler of Marlborough, Mass. is another forward who had a breakout year, scoring 25 goals for the Wildcats. He'll be in demand when his season closes out. For now, as the top seed in the Hockey East playoffs, the Wildcats hope to extend their games into April.

D.J. Powers, Hockey's Future's college hockey guru and insider, has a pretty good article over on that website. She's one of the hardest working folks (and and one of the nicest, too) on the college beat, so her stuff is worth a look.

As far as collegians eligible for the draft, big Notre Dame center Riley Sheahan is the glittering prize and could very well go inside the top-15 picks in L.A. A superior athlete and playmaker, Sheahan plays a style similar to Boston prospect Joe Colborne. He's not likely to end up in Boston because he brings such a similar skill set to what the B's already have, but stranger things have happened. Sheahan was a standout player in the OPJHL before moving on to South Bend this year. He got off to a hot start, but cooled considerably, finishing the season with six goals and 17 points in 37 games with the Fighting Irish as a freshman. He'll still go pretty high because of his pure size and upside, even with the disappointing numbers and dropoff in production.

Tyler Pitlick, nephew of former NHLer Lance Pitlick, is also draft eligible and should go somewhere around the third round. He's got some jump and good hands, but doesn't have a lot of help at Mankato State. He's got some good size and netted 10 goals, 18 points in 35 games as a r

Also in the NCAA ranks and a draft candidate is little defender Danny Biega, whom I saw win the 2009 prep title with the Salisbury School, knocking off Phillips Andover and Exeter in the semifinal and championship games. Biega is like his older brothers: he's small, but can really scoot and move the puck. He didn't have an outstanding freshman year with the Crimson, but is starting to come along. He's worth a mid-round flier for a patient team willing to leave him in school and expend additional time developing him in the AHL.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Post NEPSIHA prep tourney and EJHL playoff weekend thoughts

I had a full weekend of hockey viewing in three states covering 12 games between Thursday and Sunday and putting over 800 miles on the rental car.

Friday night featured a great Stuart/Corkery tourney semifinal game between Avon Old Farms and Noble & Greenough. The action was fast-paced, as both teams brought a lot of effort and intensity. Both goaltenders were peppered, and it was ultimately Avon's Josh Dionne who got the edge in play over Gene Lane (who was also excellent, particularly when Nobles tied it early in the third and he kept it tied despite a steady blitz from Avon throughout the period). Ultimately, Mark Naclerio's goal with less than 1:30 to play in regulation stood up as the winner in Avon's 5-4 upset over the No. 3 seed, but it was a terrific game.

It was anticlimactic, in fact, because the Avon-NMH final tilt was played with not as high a tempo, nor was it as dramatic a finish, with the Winged Beavers overcoming a 1-0 lead after the first period to gradually put the screws to NMH in a 4-1 victory.

I got the chance to go down on the ice while the Avon players and their fanatical supporters were celebrating their victory and it was a nice experience. Even though we're talking about a high school level championship here, there is an electricity that you cannot describe when you witness that kind of thing firsthand and get to live vicariously through the players themselves. I thought that kids like Dionne, Mike Pereira, Quinn Smith and Connor Doyle in particular exhibited a lot of grace and class in the win, which is a reflection of their coach John Gardner, who's been at it there at Avon for 35 years (and has 8 prep titles since the tourney began 29 years ago to show for it).

I also took in three games in the EJHL's first round of the playoffs, viewing the Boston Jr. Bruins win over the Bay State Breakers, the South Shore Kings handily beat the Green Mountain Glades and the NH Jr. Monarchs cruise against the NY Apple Core.

Here are some quick observations on some of the top draft-eligible talents from New England for June's NHL lottery. First, I'll come right out and say it: there are NO Chris Kreiders in this draft class. Because the region had not produced a player of Kreider's skill and NHL upside in quite a while, he jumped out at me every time I saw him. I got no such feeling from anyone I saw this past weekend. This is not to say that there aren't any good players, and in fact, this class overall may be deeper than the 2009 New England group as a whole. But, Kreider was a clear-cut, surefire NHL 1st-round pick, and I don't see that from any of these kids.

Charlie Coyle and Kevin Hayes are the best of the bunch, but even those two are longshots for the first round (though that's not to say that some team may gamble on one or the other from 25-30, but I wouldn't put money on it) and will most likely go in the second round somewhere. I'd had Hayes slightly ahead of Coyle for most of the season, but after this weekend, I have to put Coyle at the top of New England's draft class. The margin between the two is still razor thin, but Hayes had an opportunity to make a statement against Avon, and just didn't get it done.

Charlie Coyle, RW South Shore Kings (EJHL)- Big (6-2, 207), skilled scorer plays a strong all-around game. He can skate well, shoot hard, set up, finish the play and bang bodies. He even played the point on the power play and did it effectively. Some forwards on the point you watch and say to yourself- that guy would be much better off down low and in front of the net, but Coyle was very good at keeping the puck in along the blue line and distributing/shooting from the point. Coyle didn't score any points (and also injured his ankle so don't know whether he'll play this weekend) but was still effective, taking the body and getting involved in some good scoring chances that didn't find the back of the net. He doesn't have true elite ability, and hence is projected in the second-round, but he has a lot of upside and should develop into something at Boston University. He's Tony Amonte's cousin, so he has some good bloodlines to boot.

Kevin Hayes, C/LW Noble & Greenough (USHSE)- Superb size (6-3, 200) and may grow another 1-2 inches and will add 30 or more pounds by the time he completely matures. Very good skater (better than Coyle). First few steps are only OK, but he can really move once he gets up to speed and is a master of his edges, with rapid change of direction and the ability to stickhandle at full gallop. He'll blow by defenders with speed, or by going through with inside-outside moves. Very good shooter and passer. All the offensive tools are there- I think he's more skilled than older brother, Jimmy, but not as physical or gritty. Just didn't take control in the semifinal game...held onto the puck too long at times, or at others, was out on the perimeter and took low percentage shots from the outside or put passes into high traffic areas, failing to generate high-quality scoring chances. He's a good kid and hard worker, but he didn't help himself much on a night when lots of NHL scouts were in the building. Like Coyle, he's got the bloodlines too- Keith Tkachuk and Tom Fitzgerald are cousins of his.

Brian Billett, G NH Jr. Monarchs (EJHL)- This kid may be the most underrated goalie in the entire 2010 draft class. His tall and lean, so he needs to add mass and strength, but he's very quick and plays a very positionally sound game. He's got a low crouch, which makes him susceptible to shots upstairs, but doesn't beat himself with mental errors or by overplaying the puck. He's extremely calm and poised, and his numbers don't lie: 21-2-3 in 25 games with a 1.92 GAA and .943 save percentage (with 2 shutouts). I honestly don't understand why he's not higher on more teams' lists, although one scout told me that because nobody's sure when he's going to Boston College, and because they have a glut of young goalies who could cut into his playing time, that's a reason he's lower than he should be. I will say this: back in 2003-04, I heard the same things about Cory Schneider, and he played his way onto the Eagles and became their top guy in no time. Billett is fully capable of doing the same, so don't be surprised if the rumors of him having to spend two years in the USHL turn out to be false and he grabs a spot on Jerry York's team sooner than later.

Mike Pereira, LW Avon Old Farms (USHSE)- The smartest thing this big-time player did was leave South Kent School for AOF. All he did was put the team on his back and lead them to the prep title, scoring 64 points in 29 games, with six of those points coming in the last two games. He's not all that big, and will need to get stronger, but he's a very good skater with quick burst and top speed. I watched him blow by defenders with good feet and mobility all weekend. He's got the soft hands and vision to set up the play and finish it off. He buried a beauty of a goal in the semifinal against Nobles because he exploded into the slot, fought off a check and picked up a rebound. Toot Cahoon is going to love him at UMass. Some guys just have the ability to take their game to another level when their team's back is against the wall. AOF was only the seventh-seeded team in the tournament and they ran the table, thanks in large part to Pereira's brilliance (that line he played on with Quinn Smith and KJ Tiefenworth pretty much had their way with everyone they played).

And, I would also mention fab goalie Martin Ouellette here, but I already dedicated an entire post to him, so I'll urge you to read that if you haven't already.

These are the guys from New England, who in my mind, are pretty sure bets to be drafted in June. There are others, but I'll save them for when we get closer to the event.

Next year, Michael Paliotta, a defenseman on the US NTDP Under-17 team from Westport, Conn. is one guy I'm told with solid 1st-round potential, but the '93 birthdates aren't a great crop on the whole. The '94s are, at least for now, considerably better, so we may have to wait until 2012 before the region produces some legitimate draft buzz. Watch Paliotta, though- he can apparently do everything well and barring a major setback should be the guy to watch in 2010-11.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Martin Ouellette belongs among the best of a strong goalie crop

I saw the Montreal native in two games this weekend and he was outstanding for the tiny Kimball Union Academy (KUA) in Meriden, N.H.. He's the prototype goalie these days: big (6-1), lean, athletic, poised, and a very fundamentally sound butterfly-style player.

Nothing fazes him...even when he gave up a late goal to Tilton yesterday with less than 2 minutes left, he shrugged it off and stopped a flurry of shots to preserve a 2-1 win.

Anytime the puck comes anywhere near his glove, he catches it cleanly and holds either for a faceoff or dishes off to a teammate, not providing any chance at an opponent to swoop in, gather the rebound and slip it past him.

"I thought goaltending was huge for us all year," said KUA assistant coach Gino Riffle. "I think he loves to work at it. He grew so big so early, so that last year he was technically sound, but he didn't grow into his athleticism yet. This year, you're starting to see him become more and more athletic because he's starting to mature into his size, so the sky's the limit for him."

Nice kid, too. I chatted with him as he left the rink after winning the Piatelli/Simmons small school tournament today. He says that he idolized Roberto Luongo when he was a kid, but nowadays, tries to pattern his game most after Carey Price. Yes, Bruins fans, he loves the Montreal Canadiens. Ugh.

But, the young man can play, and don't be surprised to see him go as high as the early third round come June. He's a gamer.

Will there be big impact of Russians in 2010 draft? Nyet!

For those who are hoping for a healthy dose of Russian hockey prospects into Boston's system at the 2010 NHL draft, prepare to be disappointed.

I got some pretty good intel this weekend that they are not at all interested in high reward/high risk types like Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeni Kuznetsov, both of whom are playing in Russia this season.

"Talent-wise, Tarasenko is a clear top-five pick but things being what they are, I don't know that he will even be picked in the first round this year," said Kyle Woodlief, chief scout and publisher of the Red Line Report during a break in the action at the 2010 NEPSIHA playoff tournament in Salem, NH. "There are (NHL) teams out there who simply aren't willing to gamble anymore with Russian players regardless of any upside they may have."

Is Boston one of those teams?

One NHL source tells me that they very well could be.

"Look at their recent drafting trends," the scout said. "Have you seen them take any Russians since 2006? The draft demographics are obviously going vary from year to year, but look at a team like the Islanders and then the Bruins. Hold up their drafts over the last three years side-by-side and tell me what you see."

In 2006, the B's took defenseman Yuri Alexandrov with the 37th overall selection in the second round. They haven't had kascha and borscht since. The Islanders have picked one Russian in each of the last three entry drafts (to include Max Gratchev, the Russian-born, but Stoughton, Mass.-trained forward who wasn't signed and is currently with the Rochester Americans of the AHL), though none of those have come in the top-three rounds.

The Detroit Red Wings, once one of the most prolific Russian-drafting teams, hasn't been to the Motherland for hockey talent since 2004 (Gennady Stolyarov in the 8th round). In 2003, the Columbus Blue Jackets picked three Russians in the draft to include Nikolai Zherdev fourth overall. In the six drafts since, they've take a grand total of three Russians, one of them being the recently defected sixth overall pick in 2008 Nikita Filatov, whose departure from North America for the KHL has exacerbated the dilemma NHL teams face when drafting Russians.

"The lack of a transfer agreement (between Russia and the NHL) is an obvious deterrent," the scout said. "But when you also present the risk posed by these guys upping and leaving whenever things don't go their ways, teams are simply saying, 'Enough!' We can't afford to expend critical assets like draft picks on players who have other options available to them like the KHL and some of whom have used that as leverage against the NHL teams who own their rights."

The NHL Central Scouting Service's Gary Eggleston said in the context of why NHL teams aren't drafting a lot of kids out of the prep (high school) ranks anymore that the seven-round draft has taken away a lot of the willingness to gamble a bit on raw, tough-to-project, long-term talent, especially when at times, teams may have only four or five picks in any given year after trades. He wasn't referring to the Russian conundrum when making his point, but you can apply his logic to players from that country as well.

Players like Kirill Kabanov, Alexander Burmistrov and Stanislav Galiev, all of whom are playing in North America in the CHL might be seen a little differently by NHL teams because they are here, but the questions will still abound.

In Kabanov's case, he has a bad wrist that he recently had surgery on, and according to one report, missed a team bus to Halifax recently, so is not in the coach Danny Flynn's favor as the critical part of the season approaches. Burmistrov has been dogged by rumors that he must leave the Barrie Colts next year to return to his Russian team and play there, which isn't going to help him land inside the top-10 if true. Of the three, Galiev seems to come with the fewest concerns, but he's small and pretty one-dimensional, so where he'll go in the draft is anyone's guess at this point.

As fans, it's easy to simply look at a player in a vacuum and dismiss the concerns about their signability and the risk involved in taking someone who may not possess the level of commitment an NHL demands from him. But to take so myopic a view is to not understand the reality of the modern NHL draft process and is akin to Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

You may, in your heart of hearts, think the Bruins should swing for the fences and take the risk involved with high end Russian players, but don't hold your breath come June 25. If recent history is any indication, Boston will look elsewhere for its on-ice future.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Brief thoughts on prep, EJHL action this weekend

I'm going to take the time later to post more detailed scouting reports on the key New England-area draft eligibles for 2010, namely Kevin Hayes and Charlie Coyle, plus some other guys who impressed this weekend, with tomorrow providing the drama of the three different prep championship games beginning with KUA-Dexter (Cam Darcy was brilliant today with a hat trick and is THE local kid to watch for the 2012 NHL Draft- he's a '94), Choate-Berkshire @ 1:00 p.m. and the Stuart/Corkery big school finale, Avon-NMH at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Boo to Philippe Hudon, the immensely talented '93 Choate forward from Quebec who was suspended from the playoffs for alleged "academic dishonesty" this week by the school. I was looking forward to seeing him. As a freshman last season, he outscored senior forward and current Dartmouth frosh and Bruins prospect Mark Goggin for the Wild Boars' team lead. I'm not the only one disappointed...I know of several scouts who put Choate on their viewing schedule this weekend solely for Hudon's sake. According to an internet report, he is on probation, but will return to school next season. At least, that's the plan for now. Plenty of time for things to change between March '10 and the start of the 10-11 hockey campaign.

There wasn't much to see in the Boston Jr. Bruins-Bay State Breakers EJHL playoff opener. Neither starting goalie survived the game, both getting pulled after allowing several brutal goals. the Breakers jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but the Jr. B's roared back with five unanswered tallies before the Breakers made a game of it. Overall, not a whole lot to offer, with 2010-draft candidate and Pa. native Thane Heller scoring a goal and showing some flashes, but not likely to have a shot of getting picked before the 5th round.

The second match between the South Shore Kings and Green Mountain Glades was much better with Kings captain Chris Wagner and Coyle putting on a real show. Wagner scored just 17 seconds in on a beautiful goal scored in close after coming across the front of the net, getting the goalie to bite on a fake and then burying a shot inside the far post. He was buzzing the net all afternoon and really hustling, showing off some decent skill to go with the work ethic. Coyle, for his part, wasn't as productive, but there was a lot to like about his game, which was extremely effective.

Stuck around to see New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs goalie Brian Billett, with whom I had a nice chat before the game. I was struck by his calm, cool, relaxed demeanor. He was about an hour or so from gametime and didn't seem at all fazed. I love this kid's game, and he's a young Rodney Dangerfield in this class in that he gets very little respect. That said, I did talk to an NHL scout source of mine from a Western Conference team who was in attendance at the Foxboro Sports Center about Billett today, and he said that the fact that Billett is committed to Boston College when the Eagles have three young goaltenders and nobody is sure when he'll report to the Heights is a big concern with some NHL teams who don't want to see him in the USHL for two more seasons after this year. Billett is an elite goalie at the EJHL level already, and he's got extremely high character. His coach, Sean Tremblay, ranks him right up there with former Merrimack College star and current U.S. NTDP goalie coach Joe Exter for bringing a maturity and serious approach to preparation and focus which helps to make him so effective at this level.

I'll have more detailed info. on the key 2010 New England draft kids later this week when I see the final slate of games tomorrow, but it's been a productive trip to say the least. Lots of NHL scouts were in attendance at both venues, so anyone who thinks that the region is no longer considered a solid proving ground for pro hockey prospects ought to re-think that.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Boston Bruins Pick Update 2010, 2011 Mar 5th

I'm back with the first draft pick update since the NHL resumed play after the 2010 Olympic Games.

You may have read my take on the Bruins giving up the Tampa Bay 2nd-round pick previously acquired a year ago in the deal that brought Mark Recchi to Boston, so there is no need to re-hash it here; what's done is done.

The B's squeaked out a win via shootout last night in Boston over the Leafs, who salvaged a point and could very well have won with all the breakaways and odd-man rushes they had. Of course, since Brian Burke traded away 6 of his team's top-eight scorers in recent weeks, they, like the Bruins, have no finishing ability.

The Leafs now have 50 points...but Carolina won its seventh in a row last night to put even more distance between 29th and 28th place. Toronto has 19 games left in the schedule. Of course, Edmonton continues to be atrocious and they seem clearly intent on tanking it to guarantee themselves at least 1st or 2nd overall. Because Toronto's defense and goaltending is infinitely better than their Oilers counterparts, it is looking more and more likely that Toronto will finish 29th, which means that if the third-place team wins the lottery as Washington did in 2004, the Toronto/Boston pick would drop to 3rd overall. Bruins fans can only hope that as the 2nd-worst NHL team, they actually win the lottery and move up to 1st to have the pick of the litter.

Here are the updated draft picks for 2010 and 2011. The B's are still looking very good with four picks in the top-50 if the season ended today (not including the lottery).

Boston Bruins 2010 Draft Picks (Draft position after 1st round estimated based on current standings)

1st Round

2nd overall- Toronto (50 points; 19-32-12)
18th overall- Boston (67 points; 28-23-11)

2nd Round

32nd overall- Toronto
48th overall- Boston

*Boston traded rights to Tampa Bay second round pick (37th overall) to Florida as part of package for D Dennis Seidenberg

3rd Round

No pick- Traded to Buffalo as part of Daniel Paille trade

4th Round

93rd overall- Carolina (59 points; 26-30-7)
108th overall- Boston**
**Conditional to Buffalo if Paille scores 16 goals. If condition not met, Buffalo gets Boston 5th-round pick in 2010

5th Round

138th overall- Boston*** (To Buffalo if Paille scores 15 goals or less)

6th Round

168th overall- Boston

7th Round

198th overall- Boston

Boston Bruins 2011 Draft Picks

1st Round

Toronto (Completes Phil Kessel trade)

2nd Round

Minnesota (Completes Chuck Kobasew trade)

3rd Round


4th Round

Boston* (To Anaheim if D Steven Kampfer signs with Boston)
Phoenix (Completes Derek Morris trade- becomes 3rd rounder if UFA Morris re-signs with Coyotes)

5th Round


6th Round


7th Round


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Johnny Rocket

Johnny Boychuk's patented cannon shot has just put the Bruins ahead of Toronto by a 2-1 score late in the second period.

It is his third goal of the season in his first game back since his orbital bone break.

We had a great view of it from Level 9 at the TD Garden.

Update: Joe Colborne's old linemate at DU, Tyler Bozak, just pulled the Leafs even in the third on a rebound.

Postgame: 3-2, final Bruins with Miroslav Satan's shootout goal being the winner. It was Boston's first home win (not counting the Winter Classic at Fenway Park) since Dec. 30, 2009 in the TD Garden. The B's should have won it in regulation and a Michael Ryder 1st period goal was disallowed for a "distinct kicking motion."

Beyond the goal, Boychuk made a textbook defensive play on Phil Kessel during the overtime period, exhibiting perfect gap control and denying Kessel the room to maneuver around him. The end result was a shot forced from the outside that Tim Thomas easily turned aside. I talked to Boychuk about the play after the game and this is what he had to say about it:

"All I was thinking was: don't let him cut in, don't let him cut in. And as soon as he went to toe-drag it to shoot, I just wanted to put my stick to the puck just in case he tried to angle me and make me look silly."