Last Look: Bruins' 2014 NHL Draft
BostonBruins.com - Heading into NHL Draft weekend, General Manager Peter Chiarelli and his staff had a tight list of potential draft picks.
After picks 10 or 11, the draft would thin out, and when that happened, teams all had many different lists, based on need, preference and club identity.
"There’s a lot of skilled forwards in the mix and that’s kind of one of the things we’re looking for," Chiarelli said prior to the first round on June 27 in Philadelphia. "We’re looking for size, strength, speed — I don’t know if we’re going to get that in the first round. But there’s a lot of skilled forwards."
The Bruins ended the two-day draft with four forwards and a defenseman.
The forwards include first rounder David Pastrnak (25th overall), Ryan Donato (second round, 56th), Danton Heinen (fourth round, 116th) and Anders Bjork (fifth round, 146th). Defenseman Emil Johansson was chosen with the Bruins' final pick in the seventh round (206th).
"The plan was we wanted some skill," said Director of Amateur Scouting Keith Gretzky, heading up his first draft in that role. "Everybody wanted skill. You could see the picks, that were highly skilled guys. More of the 'plumbers' were coming later on and we were excited that we could get Donato and Heinen who are two really skilled players. We’re excited."
Boston enters the draft with an approach every year, combining their targeted skill sets with the best player available at the time of the pick.
"It was kind of out of plan, but it was also what was available. If you go through every player — well, at least in the top three or four — there’s predominately more skill," said Chiarelli. "I don’t know if that’s a function of it being a thinner draft or not, but I also instructed our guys, I would like a little more skill, a little more offensive upside."
"And you talk about Pastrnak and Donato — not as much Bjork — but Heinen, even Johansson pushes the puck. So it’s something we looked at."
For these draft picks, the process of developing as a Bruin will start with the team's annual summer development camp, where they get the framework laid out for them - how to train, eat, conduct themselves on and off the ice.
From then on, the Bruins' management team and scouting staff will keep an eye on them, but it's up to the prospects to progress and live up to or surpass their potential.
When you're a team like Boston, contending for the Stanley Cup every season and without the luxury of drafting high first-round picks, it could be years before the prospects are in a position to compete for roster spots.
Still, right after the draft weekend is complete and before the picks' futures are truly known, there's always a sense of accomplishment in another year's hard work coming to fruition.
"It’s a real long year. A lot of miles. These guys — it’s kind of a celebration of their year, I think," said Chiarelli, of his nearly 20-person staff joining him at the draft table over the weekend. "Keith, with the help of Scott [Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Fitzgerald], they did a terrific job. Our list was as tightly packed as I’ve ever seen in our time here, which usually is a good sign because you’re kind of in sync with a lot of the other [teams] — not that you’re judging by everyone else where you pick and who you pick, but it was pretty close for a long time. The longest I’ve ever seen."
The tightly packed list comes not only from projecting the team's own picks, but also projecting the other 29 clubs' selections.
"Meaning, as you cross the names off, it’s almost in order. So when you see that, you feel pretty good," said Chiarelli. "Our list was good. While we only had five of seven picks, I really felt confident in where we were in our list."
"Great story draft day, we’ll see in two or three years, but happy with our guys. I felt the same way last year. We’re getting some good players."
Here's is a final recap of the Bruins' five picks:
First Round: Forward David Pastrnak, No. 25
The Bruins chose forward Pastrnak from Havirov, Czech Republic with the 25th overall pick. Listed at 6'0" 167-pounds, the right shot winger can play both sides (though he mainly plays on the right side) and prides himself on developing a strong two-way game, though that's still a work in progress. He cites fellow Czech David Krejci as his idol.
Pastrnak spent the 2013-14 season with Södertälje in the Swedish B League (Allsvenskan League), leading the team with eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points in 36 games, before suffering an injury in January/February that kept him out the rest of the season.
He returned to earn the silver medal at the Under-18 World Championship and played on the Czech World Juniors squad earlier in the year.
"I compare him a lot to David Krejci," Chiarelli said post-draft. "I think he's more of a winger than Krech, who is kind of a center that slows the game down, picks it up, chance of pace. This guy's a little better on the boards, he's a more natural winger but like David, he protects the puck, he sees the ice well, he's got a level of grit, and it's kind of that level of grit with a good combination of skill that really attracted him to us."
"I think he has a chance [to be a first-line player]. I think he’s definitely a second-line player. I don’t know if it’s first line but he’s got sense, he’s got skill and those two things give him a chance."
"He competes and he’s got skill and we thought we needed some more skill," said Gretzky. "He handles the puck real well, he protects the puck real well and he’s full of energy. You just gravitate to him."
Second Round: Forward Ryan Donato, No. 56
On the second day of the draft, the Bruins used their second round pick to take forward Donato, a Scituate, Massachusetts native whose father, Ted, played nine seasons in a Bruins' sweater after being drafted by Boston in 1987 and has been the head coach of Harvard men's hockey for the past 10 seasons.
Donato played prep hockey at the Dexter School, becoming the leading scorer in prep school hockey with 37 goals and 41 assists for 78 points in 30 games. He also suited up for the Cape Cod Whalers U18 team, where he notched eight goals and nine assists for 17 points in nine appearances.
Being a local product, the Bruins' scouting staff has been able to watch Donato closely, and were excited to have him still available at No. 56. With their strong connection to Boston, the Donatos were excited as well.
Gretzky and the Bruins' staff noticed a huge a difference between Donato at the end of his season, versus at the NHL Scouting Combine in late May and early June.
"He’s really put in a lot of time and his nutrition is a lot better. He’s still got a long ways to go, they're all young kids and if they stay focused and stick to the plan, they'll be fine," said Gretzky.
"When you have sense and skill like he has, it is hard to find those types of players and that’s why we were surprised he was still available."
"The challenge with assessing a high school player, at least a prep school player, is that the level of competition isn’t always the greatest," said Chiarelli. "But he’s got a tremendous skill set, tremendous bloodlines. He’s got to work on his skating, got to work on his strength, but he’s got a good package."
Fourth Round: Forward Danton Heinen, No. 116
In the fourth round, Boston used their 116th overall pick to choose Heinen, a 6'0" 170-pound forward, who is committed to play at the University of Denver in the Fall. He's in Denver to start training now and begin classes, after finishing the 2013-14 season with the Surrey Eagles in the British Columbia Hockey League.
The BC native led his squad with 29 goals and 62 points through 57 games, earning rookie of the year honors and serving as the youngest team captain in the BCHL.
"The last two years, he’s won Junior B rookie of the year, he’s going to college this year and he’s there now getting educated in what their program is about," said Gretzky.
"Offensive player, real high skilled player. He has to gain some strength, that’s his one concern right now. There’s a lot of kids that have to get stronger and he has to get stronger."
Chiarelli has gotten a strong scouting report on Heinen from his staff.
"They say he’s a very smooth player that has to get stronger," said the GM. "He’s going to go to Denver. We’re very familiar with the coach, Jim Montgomery. He’s done a good job with [Bruins' prospect and Northeastern defenseman] Matt Benning, so he’s going to really put some muscle on him."
Benning played for Montgomery in 2012-13 with the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints, and made significant strides in his conditioning and play before making the jump to the college game in 2013-14.
Fifth Round: Forward Anders Bjork, No. 146
With the 146th overall pick, the Bruins selected the 6'0" 183-pound Bjork from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program. The native of Mequon, Wisconsin is committed to play at the University of Notre Dame this Fall.
He helped Team USA earn gold at the Under-18 World Championship in April, putting up two goals in seven games. In 2013-14, he recorded 21 goals (including four power-play goals and five game-winners) and 21 assists for 42 points in 61 games with the NTDP, which faces off against USHL, NCAA and international competition.
While he doesn't have the skill of the other draft picks, he's known as a defensively responsible player.
"He’s an up and down winger. He played in the Under-18 program and we like what he brings," said Gretzky. "He’s well liked by his teammates, he seems to have a lot of character by what we hear and we’ve seen it on the ice and we’re excited to have him."
"Bjork’s a straight-line guy, strong," said Chiarelli.
Seventh Round: Defenseman Emil Johansson, No. 206
With the Bruins' final draft pick, they selected a push-pacing defenseman in Johansson 206th overall. The 6'0" 183-pound native of Vaxjo, Sweden skated for HV71's J18 Elit and J20 SuperElit teams. He appeared in a combined 48 games and notched four goals and 10 assists for 14 points and 48 penalty minutes.
HV71's top team plays in the Swedish Hockey League. Johansson could be on the trajectory to make that squad in the future.
"With our last pick was a guy that all of our European scouts really liked," said Gretzky. "He’s a good skating D-man, moves the puck really well. He didn’t play in April, he had a broken hand so he is almost ready to be cleared and he’s working out now. "
"Johannson, the last guy we took, I was told he’s a good two-way player, good two-way defenseman, good skater."
Overall, the Bruins selected three European players and two who are on the college path. Both are appealing routes for the Bruins, given the development time it allows the prospects.
"Here’s the attraction to an NCAA pick, or even a European pick: if they’re in a good program, they’ll develop, and you get him for four years, essentially," said Chiarelli. "And they’ll develop in that program and sometimes that youngster isn’t ready, or strong enough, when he turns 20 to play in the American League."
"So you get that little period where he gets a little stronger, and provided it’s a good program, whether it’s in the European leagues or colleges. Colleges, we see a little more, we’re closer to. We get a lot of good players coming out of college. I like their development, too."