June 25, 2012

Grading the Bruins' 2012 draft

By Kirk Luedeke

PITTSBURGH— With the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in the books, it’s time to grade the Boston Bruins efforts and do some quick analysis on what the future might hold for the newest players in the system. 

Malcolm Subban was all smiles during his first meeting with the press as a member of the Bruins. (Getty Images)

24. Malcolm Subban, G Belleville (OHL)

NEHJ grade: B-

The scoop: The younger brother of Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban was one of the top athletes in the entire draft class, and arguably the best of them all. With his solid 6-foot-1 frame and otherworldly flexibility and quickness, he is able to provide outstanding lower net coverage. His overall technique is raw and has some flaws, as he only switched to the position from defense at age 12. However, with good coaching, many feel his game can progress. He does liven up things with the Boston-Montreal rivalry and in the short time that he met with reporters after his selection, demonstrated a sharp wit and personality that will be embraced by the fans. The issue with Subban’s draft grade is less about the player and more about other players available when Boston grabbed him, and that he does carry some risk as a first-round goalie pick.

85. Matt Grzelcyk, D U.S. NTDP (USHL)

NEHJ grade: B

The scoop: At 5-foot-9, the Charlestown, Mass. native has everything you want in a player except size. The swift skater is an excellent puck-mover who uses his superior vision and hockey instincts to make plays in all zones. With an outsized heart and the desire to be a winner, he finds a way to silence the critics in all situations. As a member of Team USA’s gold medal-winning Under-18 squad this past April, he impressed scouts with his speed, poise and heady play. With BU next on the docket, don’t be surprised if the kid who grew up in the shadow of the TD Garden dreaming of one day suiting up for his beloved Bruins wears a ‘C’ on his jersey for Jack Parker (Somerville, Mass.) one day soon.  The draft grade is reflected more in the early selection of a player projected to go more in the middle rounds, but without a fourth-rounder in the Joe Corvo trade, the B’s wanted their guy in ‘Grizzy’ and got him. Although not quite as rugged as Andrew Ference, Grzelcyk is every bit as driven and confident while playing a similar style.

131. Seth Griffith, C London (OHL)

NEHJ grade: A-

The scoop: Passed over in 2011, the B’s got a nice value pick in the fifth round when they traded Benoit Pouliot’s rights to Tampa Bay for Michel Ouellet and the 131st selection. Although small and not all that fast, Griffith nonetheless tallied 45 goals to finish second in the OHL in scoring because he’s smart and industrious. A lacrosse background is apparent in his game, as he is adept at fighting through checks despite a less-than-ideal 5-foot-9 frame. Griffith could often be seen pin-balling his way through the offensive zone on the way to the net for scoring chances and he has strong two-way ability. After being invited to Tampa Bay’s rookie and main camps a year ago, he was taken with a Lightning pick, but could make an impact in the Boston organization soon. At 19, he’s eligible for full-time AHL duty after one more major junior season.

145. Cody Payne, RW Plymouth/Oshawa (OHL)

NEHJ grade: C-

The scoop: Big forward was buried on the bottom line of a deep Plymouth club after being traded from Oshawa. There isn’t much to do to sugarcoat this pick, as it was made primarily based on a couple of weeks of promising play during the winter World Jr. Championship tourney when several of his teammates left the team. Scouts say he is a plodding skater. He scored just five goals all season. Although he’s tough and plays a physical game, it was a curious pick especially when there were other players available like Ryan Rupert, Coda Gordon, Tomas Hyka and Gianluca Curcuruto—all with arguably higher pro potential than the hard-nosed but limited forward from Weston, Florida. "I think Cody's really turned the corner since coming over from Oshawa," Anaheim scout Jim Sandlak told the Plymouth Whalers website about Payne during the 2012 OHL playoffs.  "Mike Vellucci does one heckuva good job with his players, whether it's de-programming them, or just getting them to play the style of hockey that the Whalers play. Cody's really impressed me of late as well."

175. Matt Benning, D Spruce Grove (AJHL)

NEHJ grade: C

The scoop: Bloodlines pick and nephew of Bruins Assistant GM Jim Benning is the son of former NHL defenseman Brian Benning. A physical defender despite pretty average height, the as yet uncommitted NCAA-bound player will skate in the USHL for Dubuque next season. With four goals and 18 points in 44 games for Spruce Grove, he’s an edgy player but raw, with a lot of developing to do. His skating and footwork will need to improve in order for him to be successful at the highest level, but he’s a hard worker and brings an aggressive temperament to the ice.

205. Colton Hargrove, RW Fargo (USHL)

NEHJ grade: C-

The scoop: B’s goalie prospect Zane Gothberg’s former teammate at Fargo will skate with the Western Michigan University Broncos next season. Big, rugged power forward from Dallas, Texas area who turns 20 today is a mediocre skater who needs to pick up a step, but has some snarl and an impressive physical game. Major project who is probably nothing much beyond a fourth-line banger if he ever reaches the show.

Quotable: “He’s a great guy both on and off the ice. A real character player, similar to Milan Lucic in the sense he’s real good, can still move well and has a wicked shot. Not to mention he can fight- kid throws a huge left bear paw. Really great kid.”- Zane Gothberg to New England Hockey Journal

Overall draft: C+

Subban has upside, but we just feel there were some better options on the board, and it isn’t like the Bruins are lacking in goalie prospects. Subban has star potential, but there is a bust factor with him, too. Given Boston’s lack of success at drafting goalies in general – especially in the first round -- this is a risky move, even if Subban will likely be a fan favorite when he comes to development camp. Grzelcyk is a gamer and tremendous character player, but he was probably a bit high to go in the late third, so there will be some pressure on him to justify the selection. Griffith rescues the draft from being a major concern as Boston’s only real value pick. Payne, Benning and Hargrove bring toughness, but are all long-shots to ever have much of an impact. They reflect how thin the 2012 draft crop was overall this year.

Bottom line: All of these players, even Subban and Griffith, appear to be a long way off. The B's will hope they continue to develop and can contribute eventually, but the team will get no immediate help from any of these prospects in the next one or two years, with ETAs likely closer to four or five.

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kluedeke29.