By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
In an interview last week with local Boston radio station, WEEI, Peter Chiarelli mentioned that he has had discussions involving ‘that’ pick–the final component left over from the Phil Kessel trade, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
A bit of a surprise, one might say, seeing as how untouchable last year’s first rounder from the same team (Tyler Seguin) turned out to be. But Chiarelli made a point pretty clear: the Bruins want to win it this year. And can you blame him?
Bruins fans need a championship now, especially with the window of opportunity wide open. Backstopped by Tim Thomas playing the best hockey of his career, the Bruins have walloped themselves into Stanley Cup contention talk. If adding that missing piece is a possibility now, even at the cost of a high draft pick, you take it.
The truth is, only four of the top ten picks from the 2010 Entry Draft are currently playing in the NHL; the one B’s fans are familiar with isn’t even seeing much ice time. Two of those players, Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner, are actually making a impact on their team. However, only Skinner is currently on a team within playoff contention.With Toronto’s first round pick in hand, there’s no guarantee that the selection will instantly make the Bruins starting lineup in time for the 2011-12 season. And with the way the Maple Leafs have been playing, there’s no guarantee that the pick once determined to be a top-three pick, will even be in the top-ten.
With the exception of Matt Duchene (and for what it’s worth, John Tavares), there aren’t many players from the 2009 Draft that had an impact on their team just yet either. But what kind of an immediate impact will future top-ten draft picks make on a team that are a piece or two short of Stanley Cup contention? Not much, actually, if history keeps up.
Dating back to the 1999-2000 season, only four of the last ten Calder Trophy winners were selected in the top ten of the draft. Those players, Patrick Kane (2007-08), Evgeni Malkin (2006-07), Alexander Ovechkin (2005-06) and Dany Heatley (2001-02) were either selected first or second overall. Depending on how Logan Couture (9th overall in 2007) or Jeff Skinner (7th overall in 2010) finishes out the season, that pattern could change.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been strong NHL-ready players within the top-ten, but powerful skaters ready to contribute to teams have been a rare commodity.
Trading Toronto’s 1st round pick before the deadline shows fans that the management and ownership are serious about building a championship-caliber team this season. The Bruins already have a multitude of great prospects in the system making this pick, believe it or not, disposable. The Phil Kessel trade that fleeced Toronto gave Boston Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and this final draft pick has potential to bring a ‘missing piece’ of sorts that has alluded the Bruins for some time.
A high, first round pick can automatically draw more attention from general managers around the league, leading to talks of upper-echelon players who may be available. For example, the Bruins own first rounder, which is currently pegged at 24th overall, wouldn’t be enough to acquire a player like Erik Johnson or Brent Seabrook (both very hypothetically speaking). Toronto’s selection, though fifth overall now pending lottery, could have GMs listening a bit closer to the proposal.
If the Bruins do end up trading Toronto’s 1st rounder, an ideal return isn’t a player with a couple of months left on his contract, i.e. a rental. The Bruins would still be giving up what could turn into an elite prospect and should have something to show for it even after the season is over. There’s a difference between ‘going for it’ and ‘going for it but only for this.’
The Bruins have an opportunity to be good for the next few years. With Marc Savard’s future unknown and a surplus of prospects looming, the Bruins’ best bet might be to see what type of player that pick could bring.
Because that player could bring something even bigger to Boston.
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