At 10:30 a.m. on Thursday at Ristuccia Arena, the Bruins will showcase a welcome element at their annual development camp for the third straight summer: young high-end talent.
Dougie Hamilton, the team’s first-round pick in 2010, should be on the varsity roster in 2012-13. Malcolm Subban, selected 24th overall last Friday in Pittsburgh, projects to be a No. 1 NHL goalie. Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight, second-round picks in 2010, will kick off their pro careers in Providence this fall with the hopes of becoming top-six NHL forwards.
It wasn’t always this way.
In 2007, when the Bruins kicked off their inaugural development camp, they rolled out some of their riches from previous drafts and trades. Tuukka Rask, swiped from the Toronto pipeline for Andrew Raycroft, hit the Ristuccia ice. Rask was joined by Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, two of the three gems from the 2006 draft (Phil Kessel was the other). David Krejci, selected in the second round of the 2004 draft, was one of the camp’s graybeards.
With Tim Thomas out of the picture, Rask will be the No. 1 goalie in 2012-13. Lucic and Krejci are first-liners. Marchand is the No. 2 left wing.
But the Bruins then reached a valley in drafting and development. In retrospect, the 2007 draft was a black hole. Overall, it was an unusually weak class. But the Bruins didn’t help themselves by selecting Zach Hamill with the eighth overall pick. On May 26, the Bruins traded Hamill to Washington for Chris Bourque.
Of their six selections that year, only Tommy Cross remains team property. Cross will start 2012-13 in Providence and projects to be a bottom-pairing NHL defenseman.
They used Joe Colborne, their 2008 first-round pick, to nab Tomas Kaberle from Toronto. Jordan Caron, the club’s 2009 first-rounder, has yet to assert himself as a consistent NHL wing. Caron may have that opportunity with last week’s trade of Benoit Pouliot.
On Sept. 18, 2009, the Bruins’ draft fortunes changed. In what remains his boldest move since becoming Bruins general manager, Peter Chiarelli traded Kessel to Toronto for a pair of first-rounders and a second-round pick. The resulting bounty: Tyler Seguin, Knight, and Hamilton.
Seguin was the star attraction of the 2010 development camp. The latter two should be among the standouts at this one, which runs through Monday.
Of the pair, Hamilton is closer to NHL-ready. Long-term, he could become a better NHLer than Adam Larsson, the first defenseman drafted in 2011. New Jersey selected Larsson fourth overall.
Last season, Hamilton was named the Ontario Hockey League’s Defenseman of the Year because of his two-way dominance. In 50 games, Hamilton had 17 goals and 55 assists. He played for Canada in the World Junior Championship.
This summer, Hamilton will participate in the Canada-Russia Super Series, a set of exhibition games between youngsters from the two countries. Hamilton’s only blip in 2011-12 was a 10-game suspension for an illegal head shot.
Hamilton has learned all he can from the OHL. The 19-year-old defenseman is not eligible to play in the AHL next season. The NHL is his next step.
While Hamilton should be ready in 2012-13, it will take several more years for Subban to round into an NHL goalie. But the Bruins believe Subban, the first goalie selected last weekend, has the athletic ability and competitive exuberance to become a No. 1.
“His upside is so high,” said director of amateur scouting Wayne Smith. “The quality of kid and person he is, he’s tremendous. Anytime you can gain an asset like that, it’s very exciting. It’s the same as when you get a Doug Hamilton. These are the kind of people that you want in your organization. They’re winners.”
The Bruins don’t seem to have a future ace goalie in their system. Michael Hutchinson (third round, 2008), Zane Gothberg (sixth round, 2010), and Lars Volden (sixth round, 2011) are no guarantees to make the NHL. Niklas Svedberg, signed to a two-year contract May 29, never has played North American hockey. Svedberg, 23, most recently played for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League.
“This year, we seem to be talking more about goalies,” Chiarelli said prior to the draft. “It quieted down a little bit after we signed Svedberg. He’s 23. We’ve got some good young ones in the pipeline, but it’s an area where we’d like to get a little deeper.”
The Bruins need some young players to freshen their lineup and infuse others with their energy. Of the 20 players in uniform for Game 7 against the Capitals this spring, six were drafted by Boston: Lucic, Krejci, Marchand, Seguin, Caron, and Patrice Bergeron. If the team’s current youngsters develop as hoped, that group of six will have company shortly.