July 20, 2013

From NEHJ: Liking Linus

By Kirk Luedeke

Boston selected Swedish blueliner Linus Arnesson 60th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. (Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. — The Boston Bruins came up a little short in their magical run to the 2013 Stanley Cup championship series, but the team is optimistic the future remains bright after adding more raw but promising pieces to the organization in the NHL Entry Draft here June 30.

The team’s top selection was not a household draft name in solid and steady Linus Arnesson out of Djurgarden of the Allsvenskan (second division) in Sweden, but the B’s stayed close to home with the choices of Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) and Wiley Sherman (Greenwich, Conn.) later on.

“What we tried to do is take the best player available when we picked,” Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning said. “We sat here for four-and-a-half hours before we got our first pick at the end of the second, so we were excited when (Linus) Arnesson was still on the table there for us.”

A prospect who came into the draft projected as a solid second-round option after missing eligibility for the 2012 lottery by just six days, Arnesson has nice size, skating ability and plays a good defensive game. He was a member of Team Sweden’s silver-medal-winning World Junior Championship squad last winter.

“We had good follow-up on Arnesson,” said B’s head European scout Juha Holtari. “Every time we see him, he plays a steady game. Excellent defensive skills — smart, anticipates the play well. Pretty much one of those guys you like the more you see him, and if he turns out to be the player we wish, he’s going to be in the style of (Andrew) Ference or (Dennis) Seidenberg.”

In a position where the B’s did not have any real pressing needs in their system other than adding players they identified as being the best available throughout the draft, they carried that mantra with them in rounds three to seven, adding four forwards and two defensemen to the mix.

“I think we (select) the best player we can take every year,” said Wayne Smith, Bruins amateur scouting director. “I felt this year’s depth was more Europeans than usual, but I think it’s a great group of guys.”

While missing out on a second championship in three years is no doubt disappointing, the Bruins appear poised to leverage the picks they’ve made in recent years into a roster that has the potential to keep the team relevant going forward. Since 2011, Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Khokhlachev and Malcolm Subban are three youngsters with the kind of promise to help form a solid nucleus, but it is still too early to tell, even if the initial returns appear promising

With few spots open at any position on the big club, and some solid options already in the system to address those needs, the 2013 draft class is an investment that will require substantial time to mature before the B’s will see any dividends.

In the meantime, the club might have lucked out in getting Fitzgerald in the fourth round after he was initially projected to be a second-round selection. His close ties to the city of Boston and the Bruins organization (his uncle is the team’s assistant amateur scouting director) make him an obvious favorite among those who follow the draft, and it was a special night for the Bay State native.

“(There were) ups and downs of being a Boston fan this year with everything that happened with the marathon,” he said.  “Being a part of that and the organization is huge.”

For now, the Boston front office is pleased with the returns. Boston fans can catch their first glimpses of the newest Bruins hopefuls on July 10, when the prospects will gather in Wilmington, Mass., for the seventh annual Development Camp at Ristuccia Memorial Arena.

“We ended up drafting a couple of defensemen that fit the system that we play,” Benning said.  “The forwards, we added some speed and skill, so we kind of added a little bit of everything.

To read Kirk's analysis of each of the Bruins' draft picks, check out this story in the digital edition of our July issue. To subscribe to our digital edition for FREE, go to hockeyjournal.com/free.

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