The wait is finally over. The Boston Bruins have selected Phil Kessel with their No. 5 selection in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” said Kessel via cell phone from Vancouver’s General Motors Place. “It’s tough sitting through those picks, but they are all great guys and players. I’m just excited about the team that picked me.”
Kessel, a product of the University of Minnesota, was named Rookie of the Year in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this past season. The freshman center tallied 18 goals and 33 assists for 51 points in just 39 games – good for second on the team in scoring. Kessel finished first on the team in the plus/minus department with a plus-22 rating.
Kessel also became USA Hockey’s National Team development program all-time leader in career goals with 104 and points with 180 in the 2004-05 season before playing for the Golden Gophers.
With those statistics, it is obvious Kessel is able to adapt swiftly to the next level. His ability to promptly adjust bodes well for he and the Bruins.
“We think Phil Kessel is a player with probably the most upside in the whole draft and that excites us,” admitted Gorton. “He is a great skater with a great release. He is a goal scorer and he may just be NHL ready. I think it’s definitely possible that he can come to Boston and play right away.”
The Madison, Wis. native is extremely strong on his skates and has the ability to score and be a set-up man. When the game is on the line the 18-year-old yearns for the puck. He is highly touted as a “game-breaking” type player, which is something the Bruins are excited about. Kessel also believes he can enter the NHL right away.
“I think I can play, but it is up to the organization and if I have to go back and play for Minnesota, then I will,” said Kessel on coming to Boston to play next season. “I have a lot of friends there.”
The 6-foot, 190-pounder also had the opportunity to represent the USA twice in 2006. In January, Kessel played in the World Junior Championships in Vancouver, and scored one goal and had 10 assists for 11 points. Then, in April, he competed for USA’s World Championship team in Latvia and recorded 1-1=2 totals in seven games.
One thing people should recognize about this dynamic player is that he refuses to lose – an attribute that the Bruins welcome.
“I want to win,” he said. “I play hockey to win and hopefully here in Boston we can do just that.”
Notes: Boston Interim General Manager Jeff Gorton announced the Bruins have acquired the rights of Finnish goaltender Tuuka Rask from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Andrew Raycroft.
“It was a situation where we had three NHL goalies and Andrew (Raycroft) probably needed a fresh start and I think he was looking for one too,” said Gorton minutes after he made the trade. “We feel like we got another Hannu Toivonen in one of the best goalies coming into league. I think it sets up our goaltending long-term.”