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Bruins Preparing for 2011-12

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- Believe it or not, preparations for the 2011-12 NHL campaign are well underway.

With the draft in the rear view mirror, the Boston Bruins are in the midst of their shortest summer ever, but have already made inroads towards their stated goal of repeating as Stanley Cup champions.

This past weekend, the B's shored up their organizational depth and hired a head coach for their American Hockey League affiliate.

B's Draft "Dougie" in First Round

Of the B's first pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Dougie Hamilton, General Manager Peter Chiarelli said, "We had him basically in our top five.

"As we might have expected, a couple of players that we had listed below our ninth kind of slid into that group and pushed him down.

"And I think maybe people went off track a little bit and there he was."

The B's were surprised to find Hamilton, but thrilled to have a defenseman of his caliber available.

"Tremendous skater," said Chiarelli of Hamilton. "Good offensive instincts, good stick, he’s a very smart player on the ice, good range, has a good physical side to his game.

"And he’s big, and he continues to grow."

Hamilton might not be ready for the NHL, but Chiarelli is confident that he will be an important addition to the Bruins future.

Dougie Hamilton puts on a jersey after he was picked by the Boston Bruins in the first round of the National Hockey League entry draft, Friday June, 24, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn..(AP Photo/Andy King)
"I’d say he needs a little more development," said the B's GM. "He’s still fairly skinny.

"He has to be stronger, but you never know.

"You never know how he’ll [improve] his summer, but my guess is that he’s at least a year away."

However, Hamilton's upside is tremendous.

"Without placing a burden on him, he plays a little like [former NHL standout blueliner] Rob Blake," said Chiarelli. "Good skater, good shot, can make plays, handle the puck."

The B's were also pleased with the rest of their draft -- particularly their second pick, Alexander Khokhlachev.

"He’s a skilled, skilled player," said Assistant GM Jim Benning of the forward. "He loves to score...he’s really competitive, he’s strong on the puck, he’s an elusive skater, and from the blueline in on the offensive end.

"That’s the strength of his game -- he loves to score and create scoring chances."

Again, the Bruins were somewhat surprised that the Russian wing was there for the B's with the 40th pick.

"He’s one of those guys that can turn on a dime," said Benning. "He’s not tall, but he’s a thick kid, so he’s strong and...he fits our core values of work ethic, character and skill.

"He measures up in all those things."

As do the other players on the B's 2011 draft docket, which included Anthony Camara, Brian Ferlin, Rob O'Gara and Lars Volden.

"We were trying to get to the point where we could develop our players the right way, you know by letting them play in Providence and develop there," said Benning. "And then when they’re ready, pull them up and they are ready to play in the NHL.

"I think as an organization, depth-wise we’re at that point now," explained the B's assistant GM, who added, "our younger players really made a step up this last year.

"And with the depth we have and the young players coming, you know we feel like we’re in a good position going into July first [and the NHL free agency period]."

Coach Cassidy
Guiding the B's young players will be new Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce "Butch" Cassidy.

"I think Bruce brings a wealth of experience at both the National Hockey League level, the American Hockey League level, and as a player," said B's Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney. "He brings insight, I think that he’s traveled a different course to get back to where he is right now and I think that he’s hungry for the opportunity again.

"He’s done a really good job of developing players at all different levels, to tell you the truth.

"He’s worked with the forwards and the defense and you know, in the last couple of years we’ve seen a nice impact that he’s had with our younger players and we feel excited about going forward with him," he said.

Asked which players he'd most like to see Cassidy tutor, Sweeney said, "Well I’m curious about all of them to tell you the truth.

"We need them all to continue to develop. I think Bruce has had a more dramatic impact on our back end because that’s the guy’s he worked with. Now he’s going to have the whole bench.

"A lot of times the forwards fall to the head coach a little bit but he’ll oversee both sides of it," he said.

Free Agency on Friday
As the NHL's free agency period begins, the B's have some housekeeping to do.

Brad Marchand is a restricted free agent and the B's have "qualified" him, but there's work to be done in regards to unrestricted free agents Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle.

"I’ve not spoken with Rydes and I had a meeting with Tomas’s agent," said Chiarelli on Thursday, preceding the draft. "That’s about all I’ll be able to tell you."

Stay tuned...
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