Monday, June 29, 2009

Bruins' draft forecasts future moves

You had to love the look on Peter Chiarelli's face when he stepped up to the podium at the Bell Centre. While he played nice with the hostile crowd, one couldn't help but notice the little sideways smirk that kept crossing his face, particularly when he noted how happy he was to be back in Montreal.

It's been a hospitable barn, to say the least. The Bruins' playoff sweep of the Habs earned Chiarelli a multi-year contract extension. He stood at the draft podium as a man fully in charge of his franchise for the first time -- a man about to take his first step into a greater degree of control over the Bruins' future.

But then he did something strange. He drafted a center, Jordan Caron, bypassing a number of more highly touted players who seem better suited to the Bruins' needs.

This complicates a logjam of talent at the center position throughout the Bruins' system. It also promises that we'll see more action from Chiarelli this summer, as he will have little choice but to swap some of these young centermen in order to fill other organizational needs.

But perhaps there was a subtext to this pick: Phil Kessel is 21 and plays both center and right wing. Caron is 18 and plays both center and right wing. With Kessel embroiled in a contract dispute that might see him shipped to another team, Chiarelli has sent a clear message to the other side of the table that the Bruins will survive either way.

Regardless of the outcome of Kessel's negotiations, the Bruins have too many centermen and too few roster spots to go around. Expect to see Chiarelli move a prospect (or three) in order to acquire depth at defense and the wing positions.
Here's a rundown of the organization's options at center:

Marc Savard eats a burrito.

Locks to remain in Boston

  • David Krejci - No Bruin has more job security than this kid.
  • Patrice Bergeron - His $4.7m contract is an albatross, so movement is unlikely.
  • Marc Savard - He's a free agent next year, and could be an eventual cap casualty.
(That leaves one NHL roster spot to be shared by the rest of the organization.)

Questionable in 2009-10
  • Stephane Yelle - Fantastic value for veteran depth, but Yelle is going to be squeezed out eventually by young talent.
  • Vladimir Sobotka - Time to fish or cut bait with this prospect. He is ready to be a full-time NHL player, either in this organization or another. His fate is tied to Yelle's.
  • Phil Kessel - Don't forget, he's officially listed as a center. In a 5 year outlook, he could replace Savard on the first line... if he's still on the team.
Long term prospects

  • Joe Colborne - Last year's 16th overall pick will spend this year as a college sophomore. Look for him to crack the roster as a full-time player in 2012.
  • Brad Marchand - He could be the next Krejci or the next Sobotka, depending on how much he grows in Providence. Expect him to see NHL ice this season.
  • Zach Hamill - The 8th overall pick in 2007, he would be a tempting trade asset.
  • Jordan Caron - Yet another first-round pick. Is he the most likely to be dealt?
  • Maxime Sauve - Will be under the radar for a while, but word is he has a lot of upside.

Trade bait

  • Martin St. Pierre - Little reason to believe he will ever stick in Boston. Could be valuable to a rebuilding team.
  • Carl Soderberg - An X-factor who has not yet played in North America. At 23, it's time for Chiarelli to make a decision on him.
  • Jamie Arniel - Persistent questions about his character have put a damper on his early hype.
  • Mark Goggin - Only 19, he'll head to Dartmouth this season.
  • Nicholas Tremblay - Only a sophomore in college, but not impressing.

Levi Nelson, left, poses with Brad Marchand, a real-life hockey player.

Career AHL'ers

  • Brock Bradford - Not a chance he makes it to the Big Show in this system.
  • Levi Nelson - An underwhelming debut in Providence suggests he won't make it farther.
  • Ben Sexton - No reason to draft him except to do a favor to Randy Sexton.

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dave said...

Centreman can be moved to the wing. I like the idea of having a ton of centreman on the team. Good chance Colborne moves to the wing, Sobotka can play wing, Marchand plays wing in the A. If Kess doesn't cost too much and Sturm waives his NTC we could see a line of Sobotka-Bergeron-Kobasew next year. Pretty hardworking anyway.

Tom said...

I'm worried about putting so many young players out of their natural positions, but you're right in the big picture -- several of these guys are going to move around in order to fit on the NHL roster. Let's hope the Kessel and Sturm situations are resolved soon.