In 2007, the Bruins drafted Zach Hamill eighth overall. The right-shot center was the Western Hockey League’s leading scorer with 93 points. NHL Central Scouting pegged Hamill as the No. 9 North American skater, ahead of Max Pacioretty and Logan Couture.
Nine years of subsequent data have proven that Hamill was a bust. The spindly Hamill played in 20 games for the Bruins, scoring zero goals and collecting four assists.
On May 26, 2012, the Bruins traded Hamill to Washington for Chris Bourque. Hamill has played for nine teams since then, including three in 2015-16: Fribourg-Gotteron and Ambri-Piotta (Switzerland), and Iserlohn (Germany).
Every team misses at the draft. In 2007, Edmonton, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, San Jose, and Phoenix invested in six first-round picks. They combined for 11 NHL games.
But the Bruins compounded their mistake with similar whiffs. Of their five other 2007 picks, only Tommy Cross has made an NHL appearance (three games in 2015-16). Cross will be unrestricted on July 1.
The Bruins traded 2008 first-rounder Joe Colborne to acquire Tomas Kaberle, a deal that helped them win the 2011 Stanley Cup. They did not qualify 2008 third-rounder Michael Hutchinson, who has since landed in Winnipeg. None of their other four 2008 picks is in the NHL.
In 2009, they drafted Jordan Caron 25th. After 134 games of low-impact play, Caron was traded to Colorado for Max Talbot on March 2, 2015.
The Bruins made the playoffs in 2008, 2009, and 2010, the three years following the selections of Hamill, Colborne, and Caron. But they missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Their draft shortcomings have not helped.
“I’ve done a lot of soul-searching on how the draft was and where we’ve got to be now,” said general manager Don Sweeney. “When you look around the league, teams that have done it well and are playing now have a number — a number — of players on their rosters they’ve drafted and developed.”
In 2015-16, the Bruins had five drafted-and-developed players play at least half the games: Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Ryan Spooner, and David Pastrnak. In comparison, St. Louis, one of the four remaining playoff teams, had 11.
Homegrown players require nothing but picks to acquire. They start their careers under cost control. They rise together through the minors. They develop under one organization’s philosophy regardless of where they play amateur hockey.
Under the direction of current assistant GM Scott Bradley, the Bruins got bang for their buck in 2006 by picking Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, and Marchand.
Using alternative roster-building methods is possible, but not as cost-effective. Signing free agents requires competing with 29 other teams, thereby elevating the price of acquisition. Trades demand that assets go the other way.
The Bruins executed measures to correct draft inefficiencies. Former GM Peter Chiarelli acquired Andrew Ference, Dennis Wideman, Adam McQuaid, Carl Soderberg, Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi, Daniel Paille, Dennis Seidenberg, Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell, Chris Kelly, and Rich Peverley. Chiarelli supplemented the trades with college signings of Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, and Frank Vatrano.
“For a number of years, we did a pretty good job of identifying players from other teams, and we were able to cultivate a pretty good group,” Sweeney said. “Peter deserves a tremendous amount of credit for it.”
Chiarelli’s biggest problem, however, was how the prospect pool ran dry on his watch. Of the 31 players drafted under the guidance of former director of amateur scouting Wayne Smith (2009-13), Spooner is the only one who projects to be on the Boston roster in 2016-17, provided he’s not traded for a defenseman.
The Bruins fired Smith following the 2013 draft. Keith Gretzky has overseen the last two drafts. Last April, the Bruins fired amateur scouts Mike Chiarelli, Denis LeBlanc, and Jukka Holtari. Alain Bissonnette, Erkki Rajamaki, Andrew Shaw, and Bob Wetick are in their first years as amateur scouts.
Just as the Hamill miss took years to determine, it will require time before the Bruins can determine the effectiveness of the personnel changes. Pastrnak, their 2014 first-rounder, has been subject to a jagged development curve. Most of his games during his two post-draft seasons have been in the NHL, which is not a kind training ground for teenagers under a demanding veteran coach like Claude Julien.
Sweeney pointed to this season’s second-to-last game against Detroit. In the first period, Pastrnak reeled in a banked pass from John-Michael Liles and slipped a backhander past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
In the third, Pastrnak lost a right-side wall battle that allowed the Red Wings to exit their zone. Pastrnak regained control of the puck in the defensive zone, but turned it over going up the ice, allowing the Wings to restart their attack. Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou scored seconds later.
“David is a unique talent with ebbs and flows,” Sweeney said. “It’s a good example of Claude practicing patience with him and pulling him back at times.
“From the outside, it can get frustrating. Against Detroit, he’s on the ice for a very important goal. You put him back in the situation later on, he coughs one up. There’s ebbs and flows. We understand that.”
Sweeney had three 2015 first-rounders after trading Lucic and Dougie Hamilton. He tried to trade up to pick Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, or Zach Werenski to replace Hamilton. Sweeney couldn’t make it work, partly because of the cost, but also because he believed the Bruins were better served restocking their prospect shelf with three picks instead of one.
“It would have taken all three first-rounders to get into the top eight,” Sweeney. “That’s not necessarily what we want to be doing.”
With picks Nos. 13-15, the Bruins drafted Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn. In the second round, they drafted Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Jeremy Lauzon. It’s too early to determine whether they’ll be impact NHL players. DeBrusk and Carlo will start 2016-17 in Providence. Forsbacka Karlsson will be a Boston University sophomore. Senyshyn and Lauzon must return to their junior teams if they don’t make the Bruins.
Zboril’s 2016-17 destination is undetermined. After scoring 33 points for St. John of the Quebec Major Junior League in 2014-15, Zboril recorded only 20 this past season. In Zboril, the Bruins may have picked a Hamilton-replacing defenseman instead of the best player available. Kyle Connor, a Hobey Baker finalist after a 71-point freshman season at Michigan, went 17th to Winnipeg.
On June 24, the Bruins will have two picks in the first round of the 2016 draft: their own (No. 14) and San Jose’s, courtesy of the Martin Jones trade. The Sharks’ pick could be as low as No. 30.
Sweeney did not make either of the selections available in trade at the Feb. 29 deadline. Although the Bruins need blue-line help, it’s unknown whether a similar hands-off policy will be in effect before the draft.
The organization still needs to build for tomorrow. Earlier failed commitments toward preparing for the future have hurt the Bruins in the present.
The Bruins had five drafted-and-developed players in 2015-16. In comparison, the four remaining playoff teams had better results.
St. Louis (11): Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes, Robby Fabbri, Alex Pietrangelo, Jori Lehtera, Colton Parayko, Patrik Berglund, Dmitrij Jaskin, Joel Edmundson, Ryan Reaves, Jake Allen.
San Jose (9): Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, Chris Tierney, Tommy Wingels, Matt Nieto, Dylan DeMelo.
Tampa Bay (8): Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Cedric Paquette, Nikita Nesterov.
Pittsburgh (7): Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Olli Maatta, Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust, Marc-Andre Fleury.
Next year, Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak project to be the Bruins’ only roster players selected by them from the 2007-15 drafts. That would be the fewest in the Atlantic Division.
Ottawa (10): Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Zack Smith, Mark Borowiecki, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Cody Ceci, Curtis Lazar.
Florida (10): Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad, Quinton Howden, Alex Petrovic, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Michael Matheson, Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad.
Tampa Bay (9): Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov, Ondrej Palat, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Cedric Paquette, Jonathan Drouin.
Detroit (9): Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Petr Mrazek, Tomas Jurco, Alexey Marchenko, Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin.
Buffalo (8): Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Mark Pysyk, Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel.
Montreal (5): Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Sven Andrighetto.
Toronto (4): Nazem Kadri, Morgan Rielly, William Nylander, Mitch Marner.