The Drafting Table: The 2006 Bruins

2
382
Milan Lucic being interviewed at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. (Photo Credit: Kirk Luedeke)

The Drafting Table is a series in which I detail a team’s draft record in a certain year, whether it was notable for a lot of misses, a few hits, or something else entirely. This was inspired by the Puck Everything article on the 1978 Blues I did a few months back, which can be found here.


June 24th, 2006

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

The Boston Bruins had just come off a dismal 2005-06 season. Their star player, Joe Thornton, had been demanding a trade due to his dissatisfaction with the team, and despite signing a contract extension, he would get his wish in November, being dealt to the San Jose Sharks. Losing their captain and star centre was bad enough, but injuries to defending Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft would render him useless, following up his rookie-of-the-year campaign with a dismal sophomore year (3.72 GAA and .879 SV% in 30 games of work). Though the Bruins got good showings in goal from Hannu Toivonen and Tim Thomas, it wasn’t nearly enough to rescue the team from the bottom of the Northeast Division.

With Peter Chiarelli not yet available to join the Bruins’ front office, interim GM Jeff Gorton was tasked with handling the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Though the team struggled the previous year, there were some positives to take away. Even with Joe Thornton gone, Boston had a potential star centreman in Patrice Bergeron, who had led the team with 73 points at the age of 20. Right behind Bergeron on the list was Brad Boyes, himself only 24 years of age at the time; Boyes had finished with 69 points. In addition to the two young forwards, the Bruins had options in goal, whether it be a potentially resurgent Andrew Raycroft, a young replacement in Hannu Toivonen, or a revelation in Tim Thomas.

Gorton had options at centre and in goal, so finding complementary pieces would be his major assignment. The good news was that Boston had the 5th Overall Pick in the Draft, so they were bound to get at least one blue-chipper in their haul. The bad news, however, was that the team was missing picks in the 3rd and 7th Rounds; the 3rd-Rounder was given to Ottawa as compensation for Peter Chiarelli’s hiring, while the 7th Rounder had been dealt to Toronto for the rights to Petr Tenkrat. If Gorton was going to find any prime talent beyond the 1st Round, he would have to find a few workarounds, and hope that any later picks panned out.


THE BRUINS’ PICKS

#1 – RW PHIL KESSEL (1st Round, 5th Overall, Natural Pick) – Even though he didn’t go 1st Overall, Phil Kessel probably had the most hype of any of the players. He played in the World Juniors a year before his draft eligibility, putting up 6 points in 7 games, then followed that up with an absolutely dominating performance at the World U-18s in April 2005, recording 16 points – double the total of the second-place scorers. Kessel would go on to lead the 2006 World Juniors in scoring, finishing ahead of the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Phil was tearing the junior ranks apart, and NHL stardom looked a certainty for the Madison, Wisconsin native.

Kessel would enter the NHL immediately, and got off to a slow start his first two years, before putting up 36 goals and 60 points in 2008-09, his third year of play. In the midst of a contract dispute in the 2009 off-season, Phil’s rights would be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for two 1st-Round Picks and a 2nd-Rounder. While Kessel would become a sure-fire first-liner in Toronto, the trade worked even better for Boston, who ended up with the likes of Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton as a result. (I’ll have more on the trade returns later.)

Phil’s NHL career has seen him travel from Boston to Toronto, then Pittsburgh, then Arizona, where he was traded in the 2019 off-season. It seems as if everywhere he has gone, there have been whispered questions about supposed work ethic concerns, but more often than not, Kessel’s skill and durability (774 straight games played as of the 2019 off-season) have earned him more fans than detractors. With the Maple Leafs, he was a lone star, sometimes forced to carry the offensive burden all on his own, and doing so with ease. With the Penguins, he was a valuable contributor on two Stanley Cup-winning teams, even leading the team in points during the 2016 playoffs. Even in his last year with Pittsburgh, a supposed down year, he managed 82 points, as well as leading the league with 10 game-winning goals.

Kessel’s totals with the Bruins: 222 GP, 66 GOALS, 60 ASSISTS, 126 POINTS, 56 PIM

Kessel’s career totals: 996 GP, 357 GOALS, 466 ASSISTS, 823 POINTS, 298 PIM

#2 – D YURI ALEXANDROV (2nd Round, 37th Overall, Compensatory Pick) – The 37th overall Pick went to the Bruins due to their not signing 2000 1st-Round Pick Lars Jonsson to a contract. Boston would use their compensation pick on Alexandrov, a blue-liner who had just completed his first season with Russian Super League side Severstal Cherepovets. Yuri’s skillset has been said to lay in his puck-moving abilities, with comparisons to Tomas Kaberle early on in his career, but it would take until the 2009-10 season for him to manage more than 10 points in a single campaign. That year, he would record 21 points in the KHL with Cherepovets, earning a shot with the Bruins for next season.

Alexandrov would not make the NHL club, instead spending the 2010-11 season with the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence. After scoring 19 points in 66 games with the AHL Bruins, Yuri would return to Russia in the off-season, signing a contract with SKA St. Petersburg. He has since split time between SKA and Avangard Omsk, before moving on full-time to HC Sochi in 2016. Though he has played in the World Championships on two occasions (2013 and 2014), he has not returned to North America professionally.

Alexandrov has yet to play in the NHL.

#3 – LW MILAN LUCIC (2nd Round, 50th Overall, Pick acquired from the Oilers in a trade) – Normally, one wouldn’t take much of a chance on a guy who had just scored 19 points in 62 games in the WHL, but Milan’s size made him a tantalizing prospect for GMs looking for some strength up front. Lucic’s selection made him the last piece in a deal that saw Sergei Samsonov join the Edmonton Oilers for a long playoff run in 2006, with Marty Reasoner and Yan Stastny also part of the return for Boston.

Getting drafted seemed to bolster Lucic, who would go on to record 30 goals and 68 points for the Vancouver Giants in 06-07, as well as adding 19 points in the WHL playoffs, and 7 more in the Memorial Cup. He would go on to make the Bruins out of training camp the next year, immediately making a decent impact with 27 points in 77 games. For the next couple of years, Lucic would show flashes of potential, but that potential would turn into results in 2010-11, a season which saw Milan put up NHL career highs with 30 goals and 62 points. For the early-to-middle part of the decade, he would be a perpetual top-six player, serving as the power forward that muscled his way into the opposing zone and made life difficult for defenders and goalies alike.

Lucic would eventually be traded to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2015 off-season, playing one year at Staples Center before hitting free agency. Considered one of the most highly sought-after targets on the market, he would sign a seven-year deal with Edmonton, earning an AAV of $6 million. Though he was expected to produce alongside Connor McDavid, Lucic’s totals would quickly regress, to the point where he would manage only 20 points in 79 games in the 2018-19 season. He would then be dealt to Calgary, who are hoping he can find his game once again with the Flames.

Lucic’s totals with the Bruins: 566 GP, 139 GOALS, 203 ASSISTS, 342 POINTS, 772 PIM

Lucic’s career totals: 890 GP, 198 GOALS, 303 ASSISTS, 501 POINTS, 1072 PIM

#4 – LW BRAD MARCHAND (3rd Round, 71st Overall, Pick acquired from the Islanders in a trade) – The Bruins made a trade with the New York Islanders for this pick, giving New York a 4th and 5th-Rounder for this selection, which originally belonged to the Phoenix Coyotes. In taking Brad Marchand, the Bruins were picking up an undersized winger who, nonetheless, put up almost a point a game with the Moncton Wildcats. Brad kept the pace throughout the playoffs, and even picked up 4 points in the Memorial Cup, to boot.

For the next couple of years, Marchand would stay in the QMJHL, continuing to produce well, while also being unafraid to get into a battle or two despite his stature. He would put up an astounding 40 points in 20 games during the 2007 QMJHL playoffs, with nobody else getting more than 31 that year. That October, Marchand would sign an NHL contract, and after another year in juniors, he would report to Providence in 2008. Following a year with the AHL Bruins, Marchand would see sporadic action with the big club in 2009-10, playing 20 games and scoring only a single assist.

It would be in 2010-11 that Marchand would show just how effective he could be. In his first NHL playoff run, Brad would score 11 goals, good for 2nd on the team, as the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. He also showed a noticeable mean streak, getting into many a battle with opposing players, and drawing many a penalty in the process. The next few years would see a pattern emerge; Marchand would reliably score anywhere from 40-55 points, and would likely get himself into disciplinary trouble due to a dirty hit. The 2015-16 season, however, saw the Halifax native have his best season with Boston, scoring a team-leading 37 goals and racking up 61 total points. The Bruins may not have been in the playoffs that year, but it was a sign that Marchand was ready to be a future star for the team.

And a star he would be. The following year, Marchand would top the team leaderboard with 85 points, earning actual Hart Trophy consideration. If that wasn’t enough, he would match that total in 2017-18 despite playing only 68 games. And if that wasn’t enough, either, Brad would top both of those campaigns by breaking the 100-point mark in 2018-19, while also tying for the league lead in playoff points with 23. Once upon a time, it would have been considered a massive achievement for a 5’9” 3rd-Rounder to make the NHL at all, but here was Brad Marchand, putting up 100 points and being a fantastic defensive presence, to boot. Love him or hate him, the man who has been given the moniker of “The Rat” has become one of the best wingers in the NHL today, and quite possibly the best two-way threat.

Of note, the two picks that Boston gave up to pick Marchand turned into James Delory and Shane Sims. Delory would never make the NHL, while Sims would only manage to suit up for a single game with the Islanders.

Marchand’s totals with the Bruins: 681 GP, 262 GOALS, 297 ASSISTS, 559 POINTS, 674 PIM

#5 – D ANDREW BODNARCHUK (5th Round, 128th Overall, Natural Pick) – Having taken three winger with their first four picks, Boston would find another defender in Bodnarchuk, a 5’11” blue-liner who had put up 23 points in 68 games with the Halifax Mooseheads. He would stay with the QMJHL side for the next two years, totalling 100 points in 128 regular season games, and 20 points in 26 playoff contests.

Despite looking impressive in juniors, Bodnarchuk has never been able to turn that success into a regular NHL spot. He would spend four years (2008-2012) in the Boston system, only managing to play 5 games with the Bruins. After a few years with the Manchester Monarchs, Bodnarchuk would get a more concrete chance at NHL playing time in 2015-16; now in the Columbus organization, Andrew would start the year with the Lake Erie Monsters before getting called up to join the Blue Jackets for 16 games. He would be placed on waivers, only to be claimed by Colorado, for whom he would play 21 more games that year.

Those games are the last in the NHL that Bodnarchuk has played to date. After two more years in the Dallas system, Andrew would sign abroad in 2018, joining German team Red Bull Munich.

Bodnarchuk’s totals with the Bruins: 5 GP, 0 GOALS, 0 ASSISTS, 0 POINTS, 2 PIM

Bodnarchuk’s NHL totals: 42 GP, 0 GOALS, 4 ASSISTS, 4 POINTS, 16 PIM

#6 – C LEVI NELSON (6th Round, 158th Overall, Natural Pick) – Nelson had a teensy bit of exposure to the hockey world, having played seven games with Team Canada at the 2006 World U-18 Championships. Though he would not record a single point at that event, he would still be drafted in the 6th Round by the Bruins. Nelson would sign a contract with Boston in 2008, joining their AHL affiliate for the 08-09 season.

Levi would struggle out of the gate with Providence, getting sent down to the ECHL for a brief stint in his rookie year. Over the first three years as a pro, he would not manage any more than 13 points in a season, eventually deciding to head over to Germany to continue his career. After further stints in Germany and Italy, as well as a brief return to North America, Nelson would play three years with the Sheffield Steelers in Great Britain’s Elite Ice Hockey League. He would leave them in 2018, and has not returned to professional hockey since.

Nelson would never play in the NHL.


THE RESULTS

By the standards of any draft, the Bruins did very well. They made 6 total picks, and 4 of them made it to the NHL. That is a total of 66.67% of their picks, well above the league average that year of 43.48%. That total is good for third in the NHL; only Pittsburgh and Toronto did better in that regard, with the Maple Leafs topping the charts with both 6 picks making the NHL, and 85.71% of their total picks making it. All of Carolina, Colorado, and Calgary only had a single player make the NHL from this draft, with Calgary’s 12.5% success rate standing as the worst.

Of course, it’s one thing for a player to simply make the NHL, and another thing entirely for those players to sustain lengthy NHL careers. Of the four picks that made it to the NHL at this point, Andrew Bodnarchuk has played the fewest games with only 42, but Marchand (681 games), Lucic (890), and Kessel (996) have been NHL regulars on arrival. In fact, of all the players taken in 2006, Kessel ranks 1st in games played, while Lucic is 4th. Boston’s total of 2609 total games is tops in the NHL from this draft, just ahead of Toronto (2507 games so far), and way ahead of the league average of 922. Worst in this category are the Tampa Bay Lightning, who only had four picks, but still saw those four combine for a total of 7 NHL games.

In terms of games per pick, this is where Boston’s drafting accuracy really starts to shine. The Bruins are once again at the top of the table, with a grand total of 434.8 games/pick, once again leaving the Leafs in second (358.1 g/p). And once again, the Bruins are way ahead of the average, which came out to 127.8 g/p. (Tampa Bay and Calgary were once again piss-poor in this statistic, both registering less than 2 g/p.) In terms of picks that made the NHL, Boston still stands on top, with their 652.3 g/p only slightly ahead of Colorado; the Avalanche, however, got to that total because of their lone NHL player, Chris Stewart, who played 652 games. The league average that year was 297 g/p, with Tampa Bay’s 3.5 g/p sitting at the bottom.

Of course, total games played doesn’t quite tell the story. Teams can find a bunch of NHL talent, only to have traded them away while they were still prospects, thus skewing the numbers. In the case of the ’06 Bruins, however, two of the players they selected spent the prime of their careers with the team. Milan Lucic spent several years being a punishing power forward before being traded to Los Angeles in 2015, while Brad Marchand remains a Bruin to this day, now a certified 100-point guy with great defensive awareness as well. And as for Kessel…


BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! (a.k.a. Asset Management 101)

PHIL KESSEL

Of the three players that went on to become regular NHL contributors, arguably the most consistent of the three in terms of results and durability has to be Phil Kessel. Phil, however, only spent three years with the Bruins before hitting restricted free agency. After what was a lengthy negotiation period, Boston would finally trade Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009, acquiring two 1st-Round Picks (2010, 2011) and a 2010 2nd-Rounder in exchange for the scoring winger. Kessel, for the most part, was a regular point-a-game player for Toronto, but Brian Burke overestimated the talent level of his team, leading to a major haul for Boston.

The first two picks used from the Kessel deal were in 2010, with the 1st-Rounder ending up as the 2nd Overall Pick. The Bruins would use the selection on Tyler Seguin, a flashy centre with the potential to be a star for years to come. Seguin would end up winning a Stanley Cup with Boston, despite being on the bench for quite a few games; by the next year, however, he was a regular in the line-up, putting up 67 points in his sophomore year. After a somewhat down year in the 2013 lockout-shortened season, Seguin would be dealt to the Stars in a seven-player trade, being sent to Dallas along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button for winger Loui Eriksson, as well as youngsters Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, and Matt Fraser.

While Eriksson never really reached the heights with Boston that he did with the Stars, he did close out his stint at TD Garden with a 63-point season, including his second NHL campaign with at least 30 goals. He would leave in free agency in 2016, signing a hefty deal with Vancouver that has turned out to be an albatross. Unfortunately, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser wouldn’t work out, either, as Morrow would leave as a free agent in 2017, while Fraser would be claimed off waivers by Edmonton in 2014. As for Reilly Smith, he would play two solid seasons with the Bruins before being dealt to Florida in a deal that sent Jimmy Hayes back to Boston. Hayes would play two rather poor seasons with the Bruins before leaving for free agency in 2017.

The other 1st-Rounder would be used in 2011, as the Bruins took Dougie Hamilton 9th Overall. After one more year in juniors, he would make the jump right to the NHL in 2012, playing 42 games in his rookie campaign. Like Kessel before him, Hamilton would only last three years before being traded – this time to Calgary, in a deal that saw a 1st-Rounder and two 2nd-Rounders in 2015. Those three picks would become Zachary Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Jeremy Lauzon, all of whom are still with the organization in some capacity; both Senyshyn and Lauzon made their debuts with the Bruins in 2018-19, while Forsbacka Karlsson left for Sweden in the 2019 off-season in order to be closer to his family, though he does plan to return to the Bruins.

From Phil Kessel, the Bruins got the entry-level years of two eventual stars in Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, and turned the latter of those two into three prospects, two of whom are sniffing at NHL time, and one of whom did get a short look with Boston before returning home for what may likely be a brief stint in Sweden. The trade tree serves as a testament to the Bruins’ ability to develop a prospect pipeline through trading, allowing the team to constantly have young players ready to step in when needed. But the Kessel trade isn’t the only example from this draft…

MILAN LUCIC

After several seasons of prime hockey, it looked as if Milan Lucic would be headed to free agency in the 2016 season. The Bruins figured that if they were going to lose Lucic, they could at least acquire some assets in return before they lost him for free a year later; prior to the 2015 Entry Draft, Boston would acquire Colin Miller, Martin Jones, and a 1st-Round Pick from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for the power forward. The Bruins would use the pick on Jakub Zboril, a blue-liner who had just finished his first season with the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL.

Jones would not last long with Boston, as Tuukka Rask was still the starter of choice for Boston, and wasn’t going anywhere. (I’ll have more on him later.) Mere days after being acquired, Jones would be flipped to San Jose for prospect Sean Kuraly and the Sharks’ 1st-Round Pick in 2016, which the Bruins would use on Trent Frederic. The speedy Kuraly has spent the past two years as a roster mainstay for Boston, putting up 10 points in 20 games during the team’s 2019 Cup Final run. Frederic, meanwhile, made his debut during the 2018-19 season, making an instant impression following a fight in his first NHL game – a decisive win over Brandon Tanev of the Winnipeg Jets.

As a supplementary piece in the deal, Colin Miller had yet to make his debut in the NHL, but would get that chance with the Bruins in 2015. He would play the next two years in Boston, totalling 103 games, but never quite made a mark as an impact defenseman. He would be claimed in the 2017 Expansion Draft by Vegas, putting together a breakout campaign with 41 points in 82 games in his first year with the Golden Knights. After a somewhat down year in 18-19 (29 points in 65 games), Miller would be traded to Buffalo in the 2019 off-season for a pair of picks.

If the Bruins were going to trade somebody like Milan Lucic, they would have to strike at just the right time, and “strike” they did. They turned the power forward into three more solid young players at varying levels of their career. While Zboril and Frederic have only just made their NHL debuts this past year, Sean Kuraly is already an impact depth forward with two full seasons under his belt. The Bruins’ wheeling and dealing, even at the expense of fan favourites like Lucic, allowed the team to further replenish their prospect pool for future years.

Drafting Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic would eventually lead to further bounties for the Boston Bruins. But there was one more move made during the 2006 Draft that still has effects to this day…

RAYCROFT FOR RASK

During the 1st Round of the 2006 Entry Draft, Jeff Gorton swung a trade with Toronto, acquiring the rights to Finnish goalie prospect Tuukka Rask in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, who had struggled in his second full season as Boston starter. The trade was an immediate heist, as the Bruins were not going to qualify the impending free agent Raycroft, and instead of letting him go to the open market, they found a desperate buyer willing to part with a future NHLer to get him. Raycroft would last two seasons with the Maple Leafs, eventually being bought out before the third year of his contract began.

After a couple of years in the Boston system, Rask would become a full-time NHLer in the 2009-10 season. Filling in when needed for the injured Tim Thomas, Rask would play 45 games, recording a sublime .931 SV% and a 1.97 GAA, earning consideration for both the Calder and Vezina Trophies. Though he would return to being a back-up the next year during their Cup run, he would take over the starting job for good in 2013 following Thomas’ departure in free agency. Rask has since showed that his stellar numbers as a rookie were no fluke, as he would go on to win the Vezina in 2014 after another fantastic year (.930 SV% and a league-leading 7 shutouts).

To this day, Rask is still the Bruins’ starter of choice, and though his stats might be declining a bit, as evidenced by a .912 SV% in 2018-19, his playoff success shows that he is still more than good enough to be relied upon in crunch time. Though he has not won a Stanley Cup as a starter, he has still appeared in two Finals (2013 and 2019), and at 32 years of age, he may have one or two more runs yet. For the Bruins to acquire a sure-fire NHL starter in return for Andrew Raycroft has to rank up there in terms of the best pieces of business by any General Manager, let alone an interim GM.


IN CONCLUSION

Jeff Gorton had a job to do in helping re-build a Bruins team that had just lost their talisman in Joe Thornton. While the team did have a solid player to build around in Patrice Bergeron, the rest of the team still needed shoring up. With the picks that he had, Gorton not only managed to find NHL players, but even picked up two wingers who ended up being crucial in their Stanley Cup win in 2011, as well as their Cup Final run two years later. Heck, Brad Marchand – a player that Boston selected after trading up in the draft to do so – has become a 100-point player in an era where reaching that total is reserved only for the superstars.

But drafting talent isn’t always the only way to get ahead, and trading for assets can be just as important in building the backbone of a team. Gorton exemplified this on Draft Day by acquiring Tuukka Rask from Toronto, who would not only go on to become a Vezina-winning starter for the team, but holds the position to this day. The cycle would continue over the next few years, with Phil Kessel being dealt to the Leafs for a bundle of high picks, one of which became Dougie Hamilton; he, too, would be dealt for three high picks, this time to the Calgary Flames. Boston would do the same with Milan Lucic, turning him into three more prospects in 2015. As a result of the continuous wheeling and dealing by Bruins GMs over the years, Boston has never seen their prospect pool dry up. They have a constant flow of young players waiting in the wings, ready to step up when the time comes. In an era where money management rules the day, having that steady stream of prospects can be the deciding factor in building a dynasty.

To sum it up, from this one day in 2006, the Bruins now have two NHL stars in Brad Marchand in Tuukka Rask, a reliable depth piece in Sean Kuraly, and current prospects Zachary Senyshyn, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jakub Zboril, and Trent Frederic. And the pieces Boston got along the way have been important as well; Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic have both become long-time NHLers, with Lucic winning a Stanley Cup as a Bruin, and Kessel being dealt to the Maple Leafs for Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton – both of whom emerged as prime time NHL players at TD Garden.

Not bad for a single day of work by an interim GM.


All statistics courtesy of Hockey Reference, HockeyDB, and Elite Prospects.

Next month, I return to alternate hockey history with a question from more recent times: What if the Nashville Predators never matched the Shea Weber offer sheet?

2 COMMENTS

Comments are closed.