June 19, 2012

Bruins GM Chiarelli impressed by New England draft class

By Jesse Connolly

Heading into the 2011 draft, New England had been on a nice little run of being well-represented in the first round. 

Max Pacioretty is one of many New Englanders to have been selected in the first round in recent years. (Getty Images)

From 2007-10, a handful of top-tier players from the region were among the first 30 selections.

Max Pacioretty (New Canaan, Conn.) went 22nd overall to Montreal in 2007. Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Conn.) went seventh the following year, while Bay State native John Carlson was picked at No. 27 by the Capitals.

Chris Kreider spearheaded the New England draft class in 2009, going 19th overall to the Rangers. The Blackhawks grabbed Nobles’ Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) at No. 24 in 2010, three spots before the Sharks selected Charlie Coyle (East Weymouth, Mass.).

But the region’s impressive streak came to a crashing halt in 2011. It took until the 70th pick for a New Englander to hear his name called, with Chicago selecting U.S. NTDP defenseman Michael Paliotta (Westport, Conn.) in the third round. Forty-two picks went by before another New England native got the call, as BU’s Garrett Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.) went 112th overall to Nashville.

The 2012 New England draft class promises to fare better. In fact, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli says it’s the best bunch he’s seen during his tenure in Boston.

“Well, it is fairly deep,” Chiarelli said during a conference call on Monday. “It’s the deepest that I’ve seen since I’ve been here and that’s a good sign. It’s a good sign that the registration numbers – usually it means they’re going up – and obviously the quality of players for the NHL is increasing too.”

Chiarelli will be keeping tabs on a number of local players.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli thinks highly of Nobles forward Chris Calnan. (Dave Arnold Photography)

“We’ve got a bunch of guys on our list and obviously I’m not going to give you the order but I can talk about some of the guys that are on our list and that are also around and may not be on our list but will probably be drafted,” the GM said.

“I mean there are some good kids in the prep leagues and the Calnan kid’s [Nobles' Chris Calnan] a good player – a big strong kid – very physically mature power forward type. In the EJ [Eastern Junior Hockey League], you’ve got the Vesey kid’s [South Shore Kings forward Jimmy Vesey] a good player. He’s second through – second time through the draft -- but very skilled, had a breakout year there, can really make some really good plays with the puck, whether it’s shooting or passing.

“You’ve got some kids that kind of went to the U.S. Development Program but are from the area. The Grzelcyk kid’s [Matt Grzelcyk] a very good, mobile defenseman. He’s later on down but he’s got a good head on his shoulders. The Collier kid [Malden Catholic’s Brendan Collier] – kind of under the radar a little bit but a real gritty kid.”

Chiarelli hinted that were other local kids that the B’s brass will be considering on Friday in Pittsburgh, but he didn’t want to divulge too much information.

“You know, I could go on five or ten more minutes on players, but there’s some good kids here and it’s nice to see,” he said.

The fact that Chiarelli and presumably many other GMs have a strong number of New Englanders on their radar should guarantee the region’s in for a bounce-back year in 2012.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.