BOSTON (CBS) – In the week since word spread that Wayne Smith had been dismissed as the Bruins’ director of amateur scouting, a lot has been made of his drafting record since joining the organization as head scout in 2007.
Beyond the slam-dunk picks of Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton – players the Bruins couldn’t possibly let pass at the position they were drafting in the first round – the Bruins’ draft record has been somewhat spotty, highlighted by the total miss on Zach Hamill with the eighth overall pick in the ’07 draft.
However, there’s been enough replenishment of the farm system that the NHL club has benefited both from the development of a few players and trades of prospects in deals that aided the Bruins’ cause during their runs to the ’11 Stanley Cup championship and ’13 Cup Finals.
You can debate Tomas Kaberle’s contribution to the Bruins’ title in 2011, but he was an upgrade as a third-pair blueliner and the Bruins might not have acquired Kaberle without 2008 first-round pick Joe Colborne. Without 2009 draft picks Lane MacDermid and Ryan Button, the Bruins might not have been able to pull of the trades for Jaromir Jagr and Louis Eriksson, respectively.
This season will be the ultimate test for 2009 first-round pick Jordan Caron. And when it comes to the 2010, 2011 and 2012 drafts, especially relative to the Bruins’ lower draft positions as a winning organization, there seems to be some talent coming up the pipeline to help the parent club or be thrown into important trades. Some combination of Jared Knight, Spooner, Zack Trotman, Alexander Khokhlachev, Anthony Camara, Malcolm Subban, Matthew Grzelcyk and Linus Arnesson (plus others) should make some headway in the NHL.
While it’s easy to point out Boston played the 2013 Cup Finals with a defense corps made up of non-draft picks, it can’t be overlooked that Adam McQuaid was acquired in a 2007 trade before he turned pro. Matt Bartkowski was also acquired before he was a pro, and Torey Krug was passed over by 30 NHL teams before the Bruins won his rights in free-agent bidding. The Bruins have also lured players like Niklas Svedberg, the AHL’s best goaltender last season, and Carter Camper, a possible bottom-six contributor for the NHL club, through free agency. Scouting these days has to be judged more than on just drafts.
When you look at the other top NHL teams, their draft records from 2007 to the present is similar to the Bruins’ in terms of players that contributed to their 2013 clubs. After 2007 No. 1 overall picks Patrick Kane, the Chicago Blackhawks only got contributions from Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger among draft picks from the next two season. They hit twice with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw in 2011 but no one from their 2010 draft has made a major NHL contribution yet.
Eastern Conference runner-up Pittsburgh can only claim 2010 pick Beau Bennett among regulars, while the Los Angeles Kings used Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn in some important trades to help their 2012 Cup championship team and 2013 Western Conference runner-up squad. Drew Doughty was a no-brainer with the No. 2 overall pick in 2008, and Alec Martinez and Dwight King are solid role players.
Most of these teams are still waiting for their last couple years’ worth of picks to blossom. Even Detroit, the organization everyone wants to be, is first getting the benefit of picking the likes of Brendan Smith and Joakim Andersson in 2007 and Gustav Nyquist in 2008.
The best organizations in hockey combine drafting and development with savvy trades and intelligent free-agent signings. They hit on a lot more of their signing and re-signings than they miss out on. The Bruins are in that class.
The scouting and personnel management regime prior to the start of Peter Chiarelli’s reign, led by Mike O’Connell and Jeff Gorton, has recently gotten a lot of credit (rightfully so) for things like the drafting of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic, and the trade for Tuukka Rask. Maybe two, three years from now Smith’s work will also get the same type of retroactive credit. We just can’t tie up his stint with the Bruins with a permanent knot just yet.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.