Bruins general manager Marc Habscheid doesn’t mince words when talking about the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft.
It is everything.
“It’s your franchise’s lifeline and the most imporant thing you can do for your team,” Habscheid said. “It doesn’t matter what you do hockey wise if you don’t have good hockey players and good people.”
The Bruins have an interesting track record through their first four bantam drafts.
In 2006, the team selected Prince George native Ryan Howse third overall, behind Jared Cowen (Spokane) and Landon Ferraro (Red Deer).
To date, Howse has made the pick look very good. He holds the all-time Bruins record for goals in a season (47) and career (89).
He may one day soon be playing for the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames. The second rounder that year was Drew Shore, a talented player who said no to Chilliwack, opting instead for the University of Denver. He was drafted in the second round of last June’s NHL entry draft by the Florida Panthers and would have been an impact player for the Bruins.
Defenceman Scott Ramsay, a fourth round pick, was the only other contributor to emerge from that first draft.
Hudson Stremmel, drafted in the sixth round, never played a game for Chilliwack, but ended up playing big minutes for the Prince George Cougars last season.
The 2007 draft looks great for the Bruins — the class included Kevin Sundher, Dylen McKinlay and Tyler Stahl, three players who could become NHL prospects in June.
Chris Collins was a fourth rounder and Blair Wentworth was selected in the seventh. The one major miss was taking Carter Berg in the second round, but that draft has given the Bruins a solid nucleus of 18-year-olds.
Add 2008 draftees Mitch Topping, Tim Traber and possibly Cole Holowenko to the mix, and the bantam draft is doing its thing for the Bruins.
Habscheid acknowledges it’s tricky business trying to project the future development of 14-year–old boys.
That’s why he intends to take a back seat to Gary Pochipinski and the scouting department on draft day.
“They have a knack for doing that sort of thing, and I’m not a specialist,” Habscheid said. “This is what they do. This is what they’re good at, and the key to any good organization is to identify what people are good at, and then let them do that.”
Habscheid has laid out some groundwork for his scouts, outlining what he hopes to get out of his prospects.
Former general manager Darrell May placed a high premium on character players, and Habscheid has that at the top of his wish list. In terms of positions, the general consensus is that reaching for need is a no-no and a team should always go for the best player available.
In a league where one eye is always looking toward the future, Habscheid has to strike a balance between what he needs soon and what he needs later.
“In some drafts you might have a ton of defenceman and hardly any forwards, and that might be reversed in other years,” he noted. “You don’t want to draft 10 defenceman and no forwards. You want to keep it reasonably balanced, but at the same time you don’t want to go out of your way to draft someone just because he plays a certain position.”
Last year’s draft saw the Bruins made one big move, trading down in the first round to pick Steven Hodges and acquire Shayne Neigum.
“It’s tough to say what will happen,” Habscheid said. “We have some ideas, but we don’t intend to give away our future.”