BOSTON - The Bruins enter this summer’s draft with a history of first-rate picks under the supervision of Interim General Manager Jeff Gorton and Director of Amateur Scouting, Scott Bradley. Because of their accomplishments, future seasons bode well for the Bruins.
Gorton and his amateur scouting staff will try to continue that success when they head to Vancouver on June 24 to pick No. 5 overall at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
“We’re thankful to be in the top five,” said Gorton. “Obviously, we would like to have had a better season and made the playoffs, but if we’re going to miss the playoffs, a high pick is great. Any of the top five or six players could go number one, so we’re going to get a really good player. Our staff is convinced that having the fifth spot is a chance to get a real good player for a number of years.”
Bradley has been in the scouting department for the past 13 years. He has been the Director of Amateur Scouting for the past nine years. In 1997, the Bruins picked No. 1 overall and chose Joe Thornton. Sergei Samsonov was picked at No. 8 in the same draft. Since then, the only other top ten pick the Bruins had was in 2000 when Lars Jonsson was drafted in the seventh spot. The Bruins and Jonsson could never come to terms on a contract, so he has become a free agent and Boston will receive the 37th overall pick in this year's draft as compensation.
The B’s have truly found their niche in the second round and higher though. The scouting staff has done an admirable job of putting together a list of players and where they believe those particular players will fall during the draft. The recipe for that success is being able to predict what round a certain player will be drafted.
“We don’t dictate the draft, the draft dictates us,” said Bradley. “With that being said, we have to be aware of where we are putting these players on our list or we won’t get the guys we want.” Patrice Bergeron
was an exception when he flew “under the radar” until the second round (No. 45 overall) of the 2003 draft. Bergeron ended up staying in Boston as an 18-year old rookie and is beginning to evolve into an elite NHL player.
“If it was done all over again, Patrice (Bergeron) probably would have gone top 3 in his draft year, if not No. 1 overall,” Bradley added. “We got lucky with him.”
In 2002, Yan Stastny was drafted at No. 259 overall and is emerging as a solid NHL player. This season, Stastny played in 20 NHL games and contributed with 1-3=4 totals and is beginning to shape up as a tenacious forward.
“(Yan) Stastny was a player that had the interest of a few of our scouts all year,” Bradley said. “He tweaked us with his hockey sense and his ability to compete. The bloodline played a little bit with it too. Two of our scouts played with his father, Peter (Stastny), so we thought it was a good pick.”
Defensemen Andrew Alberts and Milan Jurcina, both drafted in 2001, broke into the NHL this year and had stellar rookie seasons.
Jurcina, picked 241st overall, spent some time in Providence, but most of his season was spent in Boston. He played in 51 games and tallied six goals and five assists for 11 points. He also played for his native Slovakia in his first career Olympic games in Turin, Italy.
“Jurcina was a kid that really stood out for me when I saw him play with his club team in Halifax,” said Bradley. “We have an area scout that had been watching him all year. I saw him play a game and lose 10-2 and he wasn’t on the ice for any of the opponent’s goals. He progressed pretty well and we were actually lucky to get him where we did. We probably should have taken him earlier.”
Alberts, who was drafted at No. 179, played in 73 games this season for Boston with 1-3=4 totals. Alberts also had the opportunity to play in this year’s World Championships for Team USA in Riga, Latvia.
The scouts had been tracking Alberts’ progress and felt he was a great pick, said Bradley. Both he and Jurcina should play large roles for the Bruins defensive core this coming season.
Another pleasant surprise was netminder Andrew Raycroft at No.135 overall in the 1998 Entry Draft. In the 2003-04 season, Raycroft had a phenomenal season for the Bruins posting a 29-18-9 record and a G.A.A. of 2.05 in 57 games played, earning him Rookie of Year honors.
“We were very aware of him right from the start,” said Bradley. “Our scout, Danny Dore, had been really watching him and had a good look on him. Some of the guys on the staff wanted him earlier, but we ended up being fortunate enough with where we thought he would fall. If he had waited any longer, we probably would not have gotten him.”
The success seems to have all started when P.J. Axelsson was drafted 177th overall in the 1995 Entry Draft. Axelsson has evolved into one of the games premier defensive forwards since his rookie season in 1997.
This past February, Axelsson helped his native country, Sweden, to win an Olympic gold medal at the 2006 Torino Games. Just recently, Axelsson resigned with the Bruins to keep him here through 2009.
It’s too early to tell whether or not the 2004 and 2005 draft picks will bring success, but with four recent signings in the last two months, Bruins' fans have reason to be excited.