June 12, 2012

Original Six: Bruins worst first-round draft picks

By Jesse Connolly

From Ray Bourque way back in 1979 to Tyler Seguin in 2010, the Bruins have often made great use of their high draft picks.

But along the way, there also have been plenty of duds that never panned out.

As the B’s ponder their top choice this year, here are the Bruins’ biggest first-round draft busts in the past two decades.

6. Hannu Toivonen

29th overall in 2002

Goaltender

For approximately five weeks during the 2005-06 season, Bruins fans were positive they’d found their latest goaltender of the future in Toivonen. With reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Raycroft unable to stop a beach ball, Toivonen got on a nice little run in December.

But in January, the Finnish netminder suffered a season-ending ankle injury. He was never the same. Toivonen was abysmal the following year, struggled after a trade to St. Louis and returned home to Finland before coming back stateside briefly to play in the AHL. Toivonen spent 2011-12 as a backup with Malmo in Sweden. Don’t bank on him returning any time soon.

Just missed: Cam Ward (25th)

Could’ve had: Jarret Stoll (36th)


5. Martin Samuelsson

27th overall in 2000

Right Wing

Samuelsson was the second of two Swedish players picked in the first round in 2000 by Boston. He hit the ground running in his first year with the organization, scoring 24 times for Providence in 2002-03, earning him an eight-game recall that season. He was slowed by a groin injury the following year and scored one single solitary goal for the P-Bruins in 56 games.

The 6-foot-2 winger headed back to Sweden in 2005 and hung up his skates in 2008. The reason his shortcomings sting so much, however, is an emotional one for Bruins fans. Boston received the pick as part of the package Colorado sent them for Ray Bourque.

Just missed: Steve Ott (25th)

Could’ve had: Justin Williams (28th)


4. Jonathan Aitken

8th overall in 1996

Defenseman

After proving himself to be a beast on the blue line for Medicine Hat, the Bruins grabbed Jonathan Aitken in the first round of the 1996 draft. The 6-foot-4 defenseman turned pro after racking up nearly 400 penalty minutes in his last two seasons in the WHL. After two unspectacular years in Providence, the Edmonton native made his NHL debut in 1999-2000.

Aitken actually finished sixth in the entire NHL in one category that year for Boston. Unfortunately that category was alphabetical order (who could top Antti Aalto?). Three of his eventual 44 career NHL games were spent in a Bruins uniform. He retired in 2007 after a year in Austria.

Just missed: Forget it; this draft was terrible

Could’ve had: Ruslan Salei (9th)


3. Zach Hamill

8th overall in 2007

Center

Imagine the favorite at the Boston Marathon standing in front at the starting line. Before the half-mile mark, most of the crowd has passed him by. He makes a triumphant push in the last leg, only to flame out, fall to the pavement and get stomped over by the stampede coming up behind him.

That’s Hamill’s tenure with the organization in a nutshell, as everyone from Brad Marchand to Byron Bitz to you name it has leapfrogged him on the depth chart at one point or another. Hamill had crummy AHL numbers and another goalless stint with the big club in 2011-12. He was traded to the Capitals for Chris Bourque late last month, solidifying Hamill’s status as a bust for Boston.

Just missed: Sam Gagner (6th)

Could’ve had: Logan Couture (9th)


2. Evgeni Ryabchikov

21st overall in 1994

Goaltender

Ryabchikov caught the Bruins’ attention with a superb showing at the World Junior Championship in January 1994, guiding Russia to a bronze medal and earning a nod as a tournament all-star. But over the next three seasons, he suited up for just 16 games for the Providence Bruins.

By the time the 1997-98 season rolled around, the Russian netminder had bombed out of the East Coast league. His career hit a new low in 1997-98 when he was relegated to playing in the WPHL (where?!) for the Waco Wizards (who?!) and Odessa Jackalopes (Jacka-what?!). Ryabchikov returned to Russia having never appeared in an NHL game.

Just missed: No one worth crying about

Could’ve had: Dan Cloutier (26th)


1. Lars Jonsson

7th overall in 2000

Defenseman

I was 14 years old when the Bruins drafted Jonsson. A lot happened over the next six years. I graduated high school and moved on to college, the War on Terror began, Facebook was invented and Pepsi Blue came and went. The Bruins, meanwhile, had five different head coaches and traded away two captains. Throughout this all, their once-prized prospect, Jonsson, was just chillin’ out in Sweden.

The Bruins tried repeatedly to sign him but failed. Jonsson inked a deal with the Flyers as a free agent in 2006, spent most of his two years with them in the AHL then promptly returned to — you guessed it — Sweden, where he’s still active with Brynas IF.

Just missed: Scott Hartnell (6th)

Could’ve had: Ron Hainsey (13th)

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Jesse Connolly is the Bruins beat writer for New England Hockey Journal and is the
editor of hockeyjournal.com

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ 

Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com