Ryan Fitzgerald is congratulated by general manager Peter Chiarelli after being selected 120th overall by the Bruins during the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft at Prudential Center on June 30, 2013, in Newark, N.J. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
By Kirk Luedeke
With the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in the books, the Boston Bruins added six more long-term project players to the prospect stable, with top selection Linus Arnesson perhaps having a shot at making a splash a little sooner than most.
While the 2013 Boston Bruins draft class is not all that exciting on paper, the team added depth at need positions (defense, center and wing), while being careful not to upset the organizational apple cart in terms of bringing in players who are close to being ready to compete for NHL jobs. As is the case in most drafts, how well or poorly the Bruins did in Newark, N.J., will not be known for four to six more years, but without any real pressing shortcomings able to be solved by drafting 18- or 19-year-olds, the team appears to have done an OK job with the rough-around-the-edges players they chose.
Overview: The B’s were without their first-round selection by virtue of the Jaromir Jagr trade and did not make their first pick of the 2013 draft until four-and-a-half hours into the proceedings, at 60th overall. The team stood pat, taking the penultimate choice in rounds 2-7, and coming away with two defensemen (Arnesson, Wiley Sherman), one center (Ryan Fitzgerald), and three wingers (Peter Cehlárik, Anton Blidh, Mitchell Dempsey).
Arnesson and Cehlárik are more refined prospects than the others at this stage. Both saw time in action at the pro level competing against men in Sweden, with Arnesson spending most of the year in the second division of Allsvenskan with Djurgården, and Cehlárik playing a total of 14 regular season and playoff games at the elite league level with Luleå.
The other four 2013 draft picks are longer-term options, but bring some interesting potential. Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.), who was projected as a possible second-rounder, slipped all the way to the end of the fourth round. Sherman (Greenwich, Conn.) didn’t play on a great team in prep, but was not going to be passed by with his 6-foot-6 frame and a long reach/stick that would have put him at home in the front ranks of a Roman legion.
Blidh and Dempsey were two players not on anyone’s radar, but at 180 and 210 overall, there isn’t much in the way of expectations for these two, and if Dempsey can overcome injury woes, he brings the kind of scoring/toughness combo that the B’s got some mileage out of a year ago with the Cody Payne selection.
2013 Bruins draft pick roundup
Position/Team: Defense, Djurgården (Sweden- 2)
Round/Selection: 2nd round, 60th overall
Scouting report: Good size (6-2, 190 pounds) and fluid mobility make Arnesson a good bet to play effective defense; generates good speed and agility from a powerful stride and crisp edgework. Changes direction quickly and employs an active stick to break up offensive chances. Reads the play and anticipates well-- makes a good first pass. Pins opponents against the wall and employs the hip check even if he’s not a big open-ice hitter. Does not lead the rush or jump into the play all that often. Is not a power play factor and his offensive upside at the NHL is seen as pretty limited at this point.
“I consider myself a two way defenseman. I try to play to my defensive. I try to be a complete two way defenseman with like tough play and just be tough on the ice. That’s how I play.”- Linus Arnesson
“We had good follow up on Arnesson. 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.”- Juha Holtari, Boston Bruins head of European scouting
Analysis: Arnesson came into the draft with his stock falling off a bit after just missing being a part of the 2012 NHL Draft class by six days and impressing at the Swedish junior level. This year, the anticipated development of an offensive dimension to his game did not come to fruition, but at the same time- the team was happy to pounce on this mobile, defensive specialist. The B’s recognize the value in having versatile, middle-pairing anchors on the roster, so while the Arnesson selection didn’t give hardcore draft fans a lot to get excited about, he went off the board right around where he should have.
Position: Left Wing, Luleå (Sweden- Jr.)
Round/Selection: 3rd round, 90th overall
Scouting report: Big-bodied Slovak winger at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds has the size and hands to develop into a NHL scorer if he continues to progress in the right direction. Skating needs improvement: sluggish first few steps, lacks separation gear. Has a long stride and generates good speed when he gets going. He protects the puck well and does fine work below the circles when he has possession. Cehlárik has a blurry release and heavy shot; slick hands make for pinpoint passing in the offensive zone. Not much of a physical presence, but will use his size to gain position in front of the net. Tallied three goals and six points in eight elite league games late in the season, then added a goal in six more playoff contests after firing home 17 goals and 37 points (38 games) on Luleå’s junior squad.
“I’ve been watching some games. I know the style (the Bruins) play, they play physical, they have strong guys, strong team. I like they way they play, and it’s one of the teams I’ve been watching the most.”- Peter Cehlárik
“Very soft hands, has some sneaky moves, and a quick release. Likes to dangle right through traffic, has a fast release, and buries loose pucks in a hurry.”- Red Line Report, 2013 Draft Guide
Analysis: Nice pick by the Bruins at the end of the third round. Although he’s not much on the ‘power’ aspect of a power forward because he’s not especially gritty or tough, Cehlárik has enough natural size and strength to leverage his offensive skill set. His mediocre skating is his biggest flaw right now, but if he can pick up a step or two, he could blossom into one of Boston’s better prospects up front. He made a statement in the spring Under-18 championship, and he’s a strong candidate to crack Slovakia’s 2014 World Jr. roster next winter.
Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.)
Position/Team: Center, Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL)
Round/Selection: 4th round, 120th overall
Scouting report: Often compared to Zach Stepan or David Krejci in terms of his style of play, Fitzgerald is one of the finest hockey minds in the entire 2013 class. Although undersized at a shade under 5-foot-10 and 168 pounds, this pivot is feisty and plays with an edge to go with his outstanding vision and soft hands. He processes the game so much faster than his opponents and can thread the needle with his smooth touch on accurate passes. Fitzgerald is an underrated finisher as well: gets rid of the puck quickly and can pick the corners. Skating is average for his size: he’s gotten quicker since his Malden Catholic days, but does not have the explosiveness or dynamic speed teams look for in smaller players. He compensates with energy and smarts, however, and is a solid two-way forward with fine NHL bloodlines (Fitzgerald, Tkachuk, Hayes) and a passion for the game.
“I think I’m a very smart player who makes a lot of good plays and makes a lot of kids around him better. I play at two areas of the ice. Good utility guy who you can toss out there whenever you need something done.”- Ryan Fitzgerald
“Hockey savant is neither big nor particularly fast, but has an uncanny knack for making the right play at the right time.”- Red Line Report, 2013 Draft Guide
Analysis: Win-win for the Boston Bruins; they get an excellent value pick and a talented center with size, speed concerns does not have unreasonable expectations as he develops in the organization he’s dreamed of playing for. Fitzgerald was on the team’s radar for obvious reasons beyond his ability to play the game: his uncle, Scott Fitzgerald, is Boston’s assistant director of scouting and his father finished his NHL career with the Bruins before signing on with the Pittsburgh coaching staff and front office. NHL scouts downgraded Fitzgerald for the size-to-speed ratio, but if anyone has the intangibles to overcome those deficiencies, it is this Boston College recruit and two time Massachusetts State Champion.
Wiley Sherman (Greenwich, Conn.)
Position/Team: Defense, Hotchkiss School (H.S.- Conn.)
Round/Selection: 5th round, 150th overall
Scouting report: Massive frame still has room to pack on more muscle. Long limbs and athletic ability: a fluid, impressive skater for someone so big. He’s light on his feet and moves well laterally. Long reach for breaking up passes and will get even tougher to get around when he learns to use his stick even more actively to take away forward options. Will initiate contact and finish his checks, but not a nasty, physical presence; easygoing and more of a gentle giant than an on-ice intimidator. Sherman does well with decision making when he has time and space, but needs to process the game faster in the face of an aggressive forecheck when opponents close on him quickly. Rough-around-the-edges prospect will go back to Hotchkiss for his senior season before heading to Cambridge and Harvard in 2014.
“I’m a stay-at-home defender. I have a big reach so it’s tough for kids to go around me. I try to keep things simple and play my defensive game.”- Wiley Sherman
“Big kid who can skate…that’s pretty much what you look for, even in a guy as raw as Sherman. He’s not a bad chance to take at the end of the fifth round to just put into the system and take your time with.”- NHL scout, Eastern Conference
Analysis: At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds they don’t come much bigger than this shutdown defender from the Nutmeg State. He's a long-term project as a 4/5/6 d-man, but with no immediate need in Boston, has plenty of time to develop with one more year of prep and then at least two to three more in the NCAA.
Position: Left Wing, Frölunda (Sweden- Jr.)
Round/Selection: 6th round, 180th overall
Scouting report: Last name pronounced “bleed”. Although not tall (6-foot), this thick-bodied winger is stout and strong; he drives to the net hard and his lower center of gravity allows him to push opponents back as he gets under them. He’s a powerful skater, but doesn’t have top speed or offensive talent. Blidh plays a physical, North American-style game; gets most of his points by crashing and banging, then picking up the garbage in front. There isn’t a lot of skill or natural instincts with Blidh, but he’s a hard-nosed, north-south forward who fits the B’s style.
“A speedy and hardworking player. Good penalty killer. Solid team player. Always gives 100% and has great attitude and work ethic.”- Eliteprospects.com
Analysis: A popular and respected player in the same Frölunda Indians system that produced former fan favorite P.J. Axelsson, Blidh is one of those long shot prospects who wasn’t on the radar for very many, but earned enough respect to get a draft call. If he doesn’t ever pan out, no one will lose any sleep over the 180th selection, but there were other better known options out there in the late sixth round.
Position/Team: Left Wing, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Round/Selection: 7th round, 210th overall
Scouting report: Big and nasty power winger; Dempsey will crash the net and has no problem dropping the gloves when challenged. Skating is an issue; has heavy boots and lacks agility. He possesses a hard shot and quick release on his wrist shot; bulls his way to the net and is tough to move when he sets up shop. Traded to the Greyhounds from the Plymouth Whalers, Dempsey struggled with a high ankle sprain and pneumonia this season, one that was essentially written off.
“Fortunately, we were very familiar with him and we took a chance that he was going to have a comeback season this year.”- Wayne Smith, Bruins amateur scouting director
“Dempsey’s got some talent, but he hasn’t had much of a chance to showcase it yet. He was buried on the fourth line in Plymouth, then got traded to the Soo and had trouble getting going before the injuries deep-sixed him.”- NHL scout, Western Conference
Analysis: This former first-round OHL pick (11th overall to Plymouth in 2011) has not performed or produced as expected, but the Bruins are taking a gamble that he’ll bounce back and raise his stock much like Anthony Camara did this season. Dempsey hasn’t played much, nor does he have the numbers to generate much excitement, but he’s one of those rugged power forward types the B’s like to stockpile.