Jeremy King The Hockey Writers
Bruins’ All-Time Best Draft Picks
Over the years, the Boston Bruins have had some great success in the NHL Draft. From late-round steals to future Hall of Famers, the B’s front office has managed to draft and develop a number of solid players in nearly every round of the draft. The following is an exhaustive look at each round, and the best player the Bruins organization has ever drafted in that particular round. Players’ careers will be evaluated as a whole, with consideration given to games played as a Bruin, as well as with other NHL organizations.
With rather slim pickings through rounds 11 and 12, round 10 is where we begin to find some notable NHLers. Greg Hawgood was selected by the Bruins with the 202nd-overall pick in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, and went on to play 134 games in the black and gold. A career journeyman, he went on to lace ‘em up for seven other clubs over the course of his career, amassing a respectable 224 points through 474 games.
Winner: Greg Hawgood
Runner-Up: Bob Beers
In the ninth round we find a tightly contested battle between two men with similar draft positions, but very different careers. In one corner we find Craig MacTavish, a veteran forward of 1,093 games, but only 217 as a Bruin. In the other corner stands Michael Thelven, a lifetime Bruin defender, limited by injury to just 207 career games (from ‘Bruins’ Thelven retires because of knee trouble,’ Baltimore Sun, 02/27/1991).
While MacT’s 480 career points may make it seem like a landslide, Thelven narrows the gap averaging the equivalent of 39 points per season from the back-end. Ultimately, MacTavish’s longevity is too hard to ignore, so he narrowly takes the top spot.
Winner: Craig MacTavish
Runner-Up: Michael Thelven
In an ironic turn of events, the man who currently makes the Bruins’ final call on draft day also finds himself on this list of greatest players ever drafted by the B’s. Current general manager (GM) Don Sweeney narrowly edges out Randy Burridge for top spot in round 8. While Burridge makes a strong case for himself with 450 career points, Sweeney claps back with a plus-112 career plus/minus rating. In the end, Sweeney’s 1,052 games played as a Bruin were the deciding factor, and he took top honors for the round.
Winner: Don Sweeney
Runner-Up: Randy Burridge
Honorable Mention: Hal Gill
Lucky number seven has proven to be quite the opposite for the Bruins over the years, as the club has not experienced much success in this round of the draft. Only two real candidates emerge from round seven, and neither player experienced any major success at the NHL level. P.J. Axelsson was selected with the 177th-overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft and spent nearly 800 games as a middle-six forward with the Bruins. In that time, he amassed 103 goals and 287 points, while being deployed primarily in a defensive role.
Matt Hunwick was the 224th selection in 2004 and spent his 535-game career as a bottom-pairing defender with six different clubs. Although he was able to crack the 100-point plateau over the course of his career, his minus-19 rating likely prevented him from climbing higher in the lineup. While neither player will find themselves in the “Greatest Bruin of All-time” conversation, their games played relative to draft position is quite impressive. A slight edge goes to Axelsson, as his strong two-way game routinely garnered him Selke votes, finishing as high as ninth (106 votes) in 2007-08.
Winner: P.J. Axelsson
Runner-Up: Matt Hunwick
Yet another Sweeney makes an appearance in round 6, as Bob Sweeney’s 288 points over 639 career games lands him the runner-up slot. However, he is handily defeated by Mike Krushelnyski and his three Stanley Cup rings. Krushelnyski was particularly krushel (okay, no more puns I swear) to the Oilers 1984-85 run, scoring 43 goals and 88 points that season. While the majority of his success was experienced in Edmonton, his 569 points and career plus-179 cannot be ignored. Krushelnyski takes round six.
Winner: Mike Krushelnyski
Runner-Up: Bob Sweeney
Round five is one of the more interesting rounds as it features three players with distinctly different stories. Despite being drafted by the Bruins, Kris Versteeg never actually played a game for the franchise. After being traded to the Blackhawks for Brandon Bochenski in 2007, he won two Stanley Cups, and achieved moderate individual success — 643 games played, 358 points. Conversely, a player who struggled to find success after being traded from the Bruins is Andrew Raycroft. In his first full season with the club, he won the Calder Trophy with a .926 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.05 goals-against average (GAA).
Following a disappointing sophomore campaign, GM Mike O’Connell shrewdly dealt Raycroft to the Leafs for current Bruins tender and future Hall of Famer, Tuukka Rask. Finally, the top spot in the round goes to every broadcaster’s nightmare, Mariusz Czerkawski. In addition to leading the league in career name mispronunciations, the Polish playmaker tallied 435 career points, and was the Islanders’ representative at the 2000 NHL All-Star Game. His back-to-back 30-plus goal seasons in 1999-2001 in particular give him the definitive victory in the round.
Winner: Mariusz Czerkawski
Runner-Up: Kris Versteeg
Honorable Mention: Andrew Raycroft
Hall of Fame GM Harry Sinden was able to unearth a pair of gems in the fourth round that would have tremendous success in a Bruins’ uniform. While Steve Kasper’s offensive production wasn’t winning him any hardware, his two-way game earned him the Selke Trophy in his sophomore season (1981-82) and a second nomination in 1987-88. Despite this success, he is narrowly edged out by a player who only actually played one full season as a Bruin.
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Although Joe Juneau’s tenure with the club was limited to 161 games, he managed to contribute over a point per game (1.2) and finished second on the team in goals (32), assists (70) and points (102) in 1992-93. His incredible rookie season earned him 75 votes for the Calder Trophy, but unfortunately some guy named Teemu narrowly edged him out… with 76 goals. He went on to have success with five other clubs, but never quite reached the same level he had achieved while with the Bruins. Ultimately, Juneau’s 572 career points vault him past Kasper for the win.
Winner: Joe Juneau
Runner-Up: Steve Kasper
Although Brad Marchand may go down as one of the greatest third-round picks of all time, he has competition from fellow Bruins draftee, Ken Dryden. The Hall of Fame goaltender is another example of a player who never actually took the ice as a Bruin — he was traded to Montreal just 17 days after being drafted in 1964.
Despite the fact that his (*takes a deep breath*) six Stanley Cups, six All-Star selections, five Vezina Trophies, Calder Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy all came as a member of the Habs, he is still head and shoulders the Bruins’ best third-round selection of all-time. His career .922 SV%, 2.24 GAA, and 46 shutouts don’t hurt, either.
Winner: Ken Dryden
Runner-Up: Brad Marchand
Honorable Mention: Tom Fergus, Keith Crowder
Just as many GM’s consider the second round to be a make-or-break round for their draft each year, I also stressed over my second-round selection. While David Krejci easily slides into the Honorable Mention slot, I have been sweating like Shaq at the foul line trying to decide on a winner. Even if you choose to disregard Mark Howe’s WHA stats, he still ranks 23rd all-time in points by a defenceman, with an absolutely insane plus-400 rating.
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While hockey historians would argue in favor of the three-time All Star and Hall of Famer, the fact that he never actually played for the Bruins blows the door wide-open for the Millennial favorite: Patrice Bergeron. With 352 goals and 869 points in a Bruins sweater, Bergy has been a nightmare for opponents at both ends of the rink ever since he was drafted in 2003. Although his points per game are roughly equal to Howe, Bergeron’s four Selke Trophies and 2011 Stanley Cup ultimately give the future Hall of Famer the “W” in what felt like triple overtime.
Winner: Patrice Bergeron
Runner-Up: Mark Howe
Honorable Mention: David Krejci
As you might expect, the first round was extremely difficult to whittle down. While Ray Bourque easily claimed the top spot, the remaining categories were much less decisive. Upwards of 18 former Bruins’ first-rounders boast a resume worthy of inclusion, so some hearts were broken here. My deepest apologies to the Phil Kessels of the world. You can expect a package of sympathy hot dogs in the mail.
Although Craig Janney, Barry Pederson, and David Pastrnak make solid cases for the runner-up slot, Joe Thornton undoubtedly takes home the category. Bolstered by four All-Star appearances, an Art Ross Trophy, and a Hart Trophy, his resume is simply too strong to slide any further down the list. Sitting ninth all-time in games played (1,636), 14th in points (1,509), and seventh in assists (1,089), he is an absolute lock for silver. Despite earning the majority of his accolades as a Shark, Jumbo Joe slots in just behind Bourque as the Bruins’ second-best first-round selection.
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The fact that the easiest selection was found in the most competitive round, speaks volumes to the career of Ray Bourque. As the Bruins’ all-time franchise leader in games played (1,518), assists (1,111), points (1,506), power play goals (164), and goals by a defenceman (395), his dominance is undeniable.
The Hall of Famer spent 21 seasons with the B’s, collecting five Norris Trophies, the Calder Trophy, the King Clancy Trophy and 19 All-Star selections. Unfortunately, he was unable to ascend to the top of Lord Stanley’s mountain as a Bruin, but eventually hoisted the Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. Bourque is undoubtedly the greatest Bruin ever selected in the first round, if not the greatest Bruin of all time.
Winner: Ray Bourque
Runner-Up: Joe Thornton
Honorable Mentions: David Pastrnak, Craig Janney, Barry Pederson
The Crypt Keeper Longevity Award: Glen Wesley (1,457 GP)
The Bruins organization has had undeniable success through nearly every round of the draft. Over the years, management has hit home runs with numerous early round picks, while also mining for talent in the mid-to-late rounds. Although a handful of players on this list found success with other clubs, the organization has continued to draft and develop new talent to replace the ones that got away. From Bourque and Dryden, to Marchand and Bergeron, the Bruins incredible draft history is among the very best in the NHL.
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