“We interviewed 60 kids [at the combine],” Benning said. “I thought the top kids were really impressive, they’re all solid kids.”
The four-day Combine is designed to serve as an entry assessment for the draft, involving interviews with team brass, medical tests and physical tests. Boston has the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, one that Benning says isn’t as clear-cut in its top prospects as years past.
“At the top end, there’s probably four guys that any one of them could go at the front,” Benning said. “But I feel confident at nine that we’re gonna get a good, solid kid and a good player.”
Benning cautioned that Bruins fans shouldn’t expect that “good, solid” player to join the team on the ice as quickly as Tyler Seguin
, last year’s draft pick. Though this year’s draft pick might not be ready for action right away, he added, patience in the prospect will pay off.
“I don’t know if the ninth pick overall would be ready to step in and per say, play next year. It would depend on whoever we drafted, if they had a good summer, got stronger, put on weight, you know all those variables,” Benning said. “In time, it’s going to turn out to be a real good player.”
In fact, the Bruins could end up snagging a bargain with their pick. Benning said most teams appear to be focusing on picking forwards, looking to add dangerous scorers to their roster. It’s an approach that can drop highly-ranked defenseman to lower picks, a not entirely unfamiliar scenario: last year, Anaheim Ducks blueliner Cam Fowler and Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Brandon Gormley were picked later than anticipated after teams initially targeted forwards.
The lean toward offensive power sets the stage for Boston to score a defensive bargain. It depends, Benning says, on the moves made by those with picks ahead of the Bruins.
“Yeah, that could happen,” Benning said. “Like Fowler and Gormley went 12 and 13 last year, turned out to be real good, they’re real good players. We’ll just have to wait and see how it unfolds.”
No matter how the draft plays out, Benning says the Bruins’ draft strategy won’t change.
“It’s [Bruins General Manager] Pete’s [Chiarelli] philosophy to take the best player available,” Benning said. “We’re gonna have our meetings Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in Boston, our amateur meetings in Boston and, you know, we’ll be talking about those things then.”
“Usually it’s his philosophy to take the next player.” ---Elizabeth Traynor