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Bruins ready for draft

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins

Vancouver, British Columbia – The evaluations are done. The tapes have been reviewed. The interviews have taken place.

The Boston Bruins are ready for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, which begins this afternoon at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The first round of the draft will be televised in the United States on the OLN network.

Bruins Interim General Manager Jeff Gorton and Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Bradley will take the lead at the draft, the seventh year at that position for Gorton and the tenth for Bradley. They will be accompanied by the team’s scouting staff, who have spent countless hours in cold rinks and traveled thousands of miles over the past year while evaluating the available talent in high schools, colleges, junior leagues and Europe.

The draft consists of seven rounds and the Bruins currently hold seven selections, including three of the first 50 overall. They will select fifth overall in the first round, their highest pick since 1997, have two selections in the second round (a compensatory pick for Lars Jonsson and Edmonton’s pick from the Sergei Samsonov trade), single picks each in the fourth and sixth rounds, and two selections in the fifth round (their own and Chicago’s pick from the Andy Hilbert trade). They do not own their own second round pick, which was traded to Washington in the 2004 Michael Nylander deal; their third round selection, which Ottawa opted to take this year per the compensation agreement for incoming General Manager Peter Chiarelli; or their seventh round choice, sent to Toronto for last week’s acquisition of Petr Tenkrat.

Gorton, Bradley, the scouting staff and team Strength and Conditioning Coach John Whitesides attended the NHL’s Scouting Combine held in Toronto in the beginning of June, where the league’s Central Scouting Bureau brought in over 100 of the top rated prospects for interviews and off-ice workout sessions. After a season of watching and evaluating prospects on the ice during their hockey seasons, the Combine gives clubs a chance to conduct individual interviews with these players in addition to gaining some insight into their overall levels of fitness and conditioning.

The team then conducted their own scouting meetings in Boston following the Combine, where they went over each prospect and compiled the master list which will serve as their guide once the draft begins.

“We’ve hashed it out quite a bit and we’re all on the same page,’ says Bradley. “‘It’s a really exciting time. With what we went through this year with the team, I think the fans are looking forward to seeing who we pick.”

The Bruins will retain their philosophy of drafting ‘the best player available’, which may be a cliché, but has its roots in practicality. Players such as Patrice Bergeron, the team’s standout forward who made the Bruins in his draft year, are a rarity in that few prospects are ready for the National Hockey League at the age of 18. Most prospects are, in actuality, at least one-to-two years away from regular NHL duty at the time of their draft. It is in the team’s best interests not to focus on particular immediate needs, as the club’s needs may have changed by the time these players are ready for NHL action.

With the fifth overall selection, the Bruins’ selection is also dependent on the four teams drafting ahead of them.

“It’s going to be the best player available,” says Gorton. “One way of looking at it is, if you talk to some of the guys who have been around [the Bruins] for a while, when we got [Ray] Bourque, [the attitude was ] there were a lot of defensemen in the draft and we’ll see who the other teams take and which one they leave us. So with this number five, we’re in a similar situation. There are five really good players so nothing is bad with what the other four teams do.”

The 2006 Draft is shaping up to be top-heavy in forwards and a good number of the top-ranked players are U.S.-born. The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau divides its rankings into four categories - North American skaters, North American goaltenders, European skaters and European goaltenders. The Hockey News uses a combined list in their annual Draft Preview issue, which they compile in consultation with a panel of scouts. Of the top 50 combined prospects ranked by The Hockey News, 35 are forwards (70%), with 14 defensemen (28%) and just one goaltender (2%) on that list. Players from the U.S. and Canada are nearly split among the top 25 Hockey News prospects, with ten American players (40%) and eleven Canadians (44%). Just four of their top 25 ranked prospects are European (16%), with Swedish-born center Nicklas Backstrom their fifth-ranked player. Their top two prospects, defenseman Erik Johnson and center Phil Kessel, are both U.S.-born, as is sixth-ranked Peter Mueller.

No matter whose name the Bruins call at the podium during the first round today, they are assured of getting a quality player. There are no guarantees that fans will see that prospect in a Boston uniform at the start of the 2006-07 season, but his, and the team’s, future will be bright.

“I don’t think [a quick fix] is the best way to go for the organization,” says Gorton. “To think that we’re going to come here and draft a guy fifth overall and he’s going to help us win a Stanley Cup right now, the odds of that are pretty extreme. Our job is to get the best player over time and help us win many Stanley Cups down the road.”

Gorton on trade talk involving the draft pick: Some discussions have been “intriguing, but not enough [for the team] to get out of the top five.”

On general trade talk: “There have been some discussions on some of our roster players but nothing is imminent right now. If the right deal comes along, we’ll do it.”

On team deadlines coming up: “There’s a buyout period until the end of the month, so that’s underway and we have a couple of decisions there. Our qualifying offers are out [to protect the team’s compensation rights to restricted free agents].”
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