Dominic Tiano: 2 Bruins Selected in CHL Import Draft

The Canadian Hockey League conducted it’s Import Draft today and as you scour the list to find your favorite Boston Bruins’ prospects, you’ll find two of them selected. Axel Andersson was chosen by the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the 30th overall pick while Roman Bychkov was selected by the Ontario Hockey League Champion Guelph Storm with the 98th pick – although he was the 73rd player chosen as 25 teams passed on their picks.

Andersson is a right shot defenceman who was drafted by the Bruins in the second round, 57th overall, at the 2018 National Hockey League Draft who signed his entry level contract on July 1 following the draft. Bychkov is a left shot defenceman and was selected in the 5th round, 154th overall, at last weekend’s draft.

The first question that needs answering is that neither player playing in the CHL will have an impact either way when it comes to the Seattle expansion draft as both would be exempt from the draft and don’t need to be “hidden” for a year by the Bruins.

The second question most asked is “why select a player already drafted in the NHL?”

Well, put simply, most players that end up in the CHL have played their entire life overseas on the larger ice surface and are not accustomed to the North American ice or way of life. Both players are eligible for the American Hockey League, but they might just not be ready for professional hockey and they can spend a year in the CHL where they have excellent billet families who help prepare them for life off the ice.

Most OHL General Managers know whether there’s a chance that the player may end up playing Major Junior. Storm GM George Burnett sounded pretty confident when announcing his selection today when he said “Our goal was to add an older defenseman to help solidify our blue line and we feel we’ve done that with our selection of (Roman) Bychkov.” He didn’t sound as confident when speaking about their first pick today.

As for Andersson, this is actually his second Import Draft. He was selected a year ago by the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL with the 51st pick but chose to stay in his native Sweden.

The only thing we know for certain today is the Bruins have an embarrassment of riches on the blue line, especially on the left side, so the possibility that management would like to have Bychkov playing in Guelph to begin his North American development is not out of the realm of possibility. The right side is not as deep for the Bruins, so having Andersson in Providence may be their first choice.

Going to the CHL shouldn’t be seen as a knock. Both organizations are very well run and coached. And both are great cities to begin life in a new country.

Here’s wishing both of them good luck in whatever option they choose.

2019 NHL Draft: Bruins take 4 on Day 2- On the long-range plan

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VANCOUVER-  The Boston Bruins wrapped up the 2019 NHL Entry Draft with four selections covering rounds 3 and 5-7 on the second day here Saturday, taking three forwards and a defenseman.

The team, which came up agonizingly short in its bid to win the Stanley Cup, found itself with the penultimate selections in every round save for the seventh, and appeared to adopt a draft strategy of taking players that they can afford to wait a longer time on to develop versus players in Canadian major junior leagues who would require being signed within two years. This ultimately led to some higher-touted players on public lists and rankings being passed over in favor of prospects whose rights can be held by the team for the next five years, allowing the team to slow-play the integration of prospects into their system. With just two selections in the top-95 and five total, this was one of those drafts where the B’s didn’t generate much buzz the way other clubs with more plentiful and earlier selections like New Jersey, the NY Rangers, the LA Kings, Vegas, Colorado and even the Minnesota Wild, who appear on paper to have done pretty well, were able to do at Rogers Arena.

Here’s a quick recap of Boston’s Day 2 picks, but admittedly, we didn’t know a great deal about the two European players taken.

3/92 Quinn Olson, C/L Okotoks (AJHL): The inbound University of Minnesota-Duluth forward can skate and has offensive skill plus high effort/compete and energy levels. He played much of the season with 2020 NHL 1st-round candidate Dylan Holloway, so it will be interesting to see how much of Olson’s impressive production in Tier 2 hockey last season was a product of playing with the league’s top forward in Holloway. Olson doesn’t possess ideal size, but he plays with a relentless style and is bigger than he looks on the ice because of his pace and willingness to initiate contact. He is heading to a top NCAA program with the 2-time defending champion Bulldogs, and will probably sign and turn pro in about 3 years. He’s like a higher-end Karson Kuhlman to draw a comparison to another former UMD player, and makes sense to the Bruins at the end of the third round, even if he was projected to be picked later on. Some of that has more to do with the lack of exposure the AJHL has to many of the draft publications out there, but Olson is a good player. It’s a sneaky kind of pick, but one that could produce a solid middle-six forward with some modest upside down the road.

Quotable: “Two-way center. Has a great pair of legs. He’s got deceptive speed. He has excellent vision, can make high-end plays. A little undersized at this time, we’re hoping for some development physically. We’re excited about this player as well. If he can develop and put some muscle on, he’s got some jam. He’s put up points in each and every year.”- Scott Bradley, Bruins Assistant GM

5/154 Roman Bychkov, D/L Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (MHL): The B’s drafted this smallish but dynamic-skating Russian, who has received some mixed reviews about his ultimate offensive ceiling. One thing scouts at the draft aren’t divided on however is his feet: he can wheel, able to accelerate to speed quickly and tremendous on his edges, often eluding forecheckers and opening up skating lanes for himself because he can change directions so effortlessly. Although not tall, he tends to use his lower center of gravity to good effect and has a decent stick/defensive game. Bychkov drew positive attention for his performance with the silver-medal winning Russian World Jr. A Challenge and World U18 squads. It marks the second year in  a row the B’s have drafted a Russian player after going 2012-17 without a single selection from that country. He’s an interesting flyer kind of project pick in that he compares in style and substance to current B’s prospects Victor Berglund (2017) and Axel Andersson (2018) as defenders who can really skate and move the puck, but who don’t have an established high NHL ceiling. Time will tell on this one, but some out there have time for him.

Quotable:Feet don’t get tied up in front of own goal’ smartly steps into open turns preventing himself from getting bottled up…smart positional player who adjusts routes at the last minute to surprise puck carriers with fast footwork on startup to jump up and stay with fast developing rushes.”- Mark Staudinger, Red Line Report

6/185 Matias Mantykivi F/L SaiPa (Finland- SM Liiga): This skilled offensive forward has average size and skating, but is crafty with the puck and has some impressive offensive hockey sense when talking to those who have scouted him. An 18-year-old who was able to play both junior and pro hockey this year in his native Finland, it speaks to his potential that one so young is already getting chances to play against men, and his skating may have looked a little rougher because of the transition to the faster-paced pro game. He’s probably not ever going to be a burner or even a plus-skater given his smaller stature, but his hands and offensive creativity are strong suits. Again- there were other North American major junior players ranked higher than MM, but the B’s felt that they could draft him on the longer-term plan and take their time here. Good strategy or ultimately a roll of the dice that will come up snake eyes? We shall see, but we are talking about a pick made that was in the seventh-round range before Vegas joined the league, so it isn’t like the expectations for this pick are out of line with the value it represents.

Quotable: “Very smart player- hockey sense is- we considered not elite but very special or he can be someday.”- Bradley

7/192 Jake Schmaltz F/L Chicago Steel (USHL): The cousin of NHLers Nick and Jordan Schmaltz, this was a surprise pick here just because the newest Bruin is a player we have seen a good bit of going back to the 2017-18 season when he was on the Team Wisconsin 16U midget AAA team that reached the T1 midget title game before falling to the Chicago Mission 16s. Schmaltz has always been a responsible 2-way forward, but he was a raw, physically underdeveloped player as a midget who got better and better as the year went on, ultimately leading to his being drafted as a 2001-born player by Chicago in the USHL draft a year ago and making the team as a 17-year-old. He didn’t play a great deal behind some other more highly-skilled and productive forwards on the Steel, who fell to the Sioux Falls Stampede in the Clark Cup championship last month. There’s not much of a dynamic element to his game- he skates well and is tall and lanky at this point- he’ll have a lot of room to fill out going forward. Headed to the University of North Dakota after another year in the USHL, don’t expect a major increase in points production, but Schmaltz is a smart, efficient forward who should be good for maybe 30-40 as the team’s 2nd-line center. His GM with the Steel is former Bruins scout Ryan Hardy.

Quotable: “He was a real core and anchor for (the Steel)- he anchored their third line this year. They went deep, they went to the finals and we thought he was a big part of their team in his role. He killed penalties and was great on draws. He’s a developing kid- he’s 6-1 and 180 right now and we project him to be closer to 200 pounds and 6-2 when it’s all said and done. He’s a 2-way player and his skating will pick up with some strength.”- Bradley

Final review: With John Beecher going late in the first round, the Bruins draft class isn’t a lot to write home about. Beecher is an impressive physical package with enough talent to play in the NHL, but he doesn’t quite have the offensive wow factor of other players who were on the board at 30. He’s likely going to play in the league for a long time, so to get a good fit like Beecher bodes well for the B’s 2019 draft, but the rest of the class is harder to project.

They didn’t land any top-end talent in any of the rounds but did pick up some interesting prospects who could develop into players who end up being more than the sum of their parts right now. It’s tough when you only have 2 picks in the first three rounds and are going at the end of every round save the last one, so we can certainly see what the Bruins were trying to do here, even if it is a pretty “middle of the fairway” kind of draft. Quinn Olson could end up becoming a solid middle tier prospect in the organization and one player who becomes more of a fan favorite after they watch him in development camp.

One of the mistakes fans and casual process observers sometimes make especially with respect to the NHL draft is viewing it in a linear fashion- it not always is, and the approach varies from team to team. Because the Bruins had a lot of picks in 2015-17 plus undrafted free agents put into the mix, they don’t have a great deal of room to draft a lot more OR take players who are going to be forced to sign and turn pro within the two-year pick and sign window mandated for major junior players. Bradley confirmed this after all the picks were in by saying that unless a CHL player was someone they were absolutely sure on this time around, they were looking more at college and European players who can develop on a longer timeline. This explains to a degree why the B’s passed on Arthur Kaliyev and his 51 goals- you don’t have to like it or agree but it there is anything the electric OHL scorer showed, it was despite the impressive scoring, he was not a sure bet- otherwise he wouldn’t have fallen out of the 1st round. Other teams who don’t have as many prospects vying for contracts and spots in the pipeline have to take a more CHL (major junior)-centric approach in their drafting. It’s a cycle and so the B’s are in a different place right now than other clubs- observers don’t have to like it, but it demonstrates the thinking behind some of these selections.

The draft is always tough because people are conditioned to have strong opinions on players the vast majority of fans have never even seen. Just reading this blog might condition you to be a big fan of Bobby Brink to the Bruins for example, but in the end-while they liked him, he wasn’t in the cards because the team felt Beecher was a better fit and player for them in the long run.

Outside of Olson, the rest of the B’s selections appear to be a lot of: hmmm…interesting…maybe…I don’t know kinds of players, but again- the Bruins have their process and stick to it. Drafts are lauded and/or criticized every year so in 2019, if there appear to be negatives than positives it goes with the territory. At some point, Boston’s draft strategy will shift back to some of the more traditional and immediate player pipelines, but for now, we see what they are doing and we have no choice but to wait and see how it all pans out in another 3-5 years or more.

B’s 2019 trade deadline thoughts as final stretch begins

Okay, so it wasn’t a headline-grabbing trade deadline,  but the B’s have gone 1-0-0-1 with 3 out of 4 points since acquiring veteran forwards Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson in separate trades last week and on Monday’s annual NHL trade deadline.

We’re  all still waiting on Don Sweeney’s “signature” trade- he’s made some relatively minor deals in his tenure as GM since succeeding Peter Chiarelli in spring 2015, but as of yet, we haven’t seen a major franchise-altering transaction under his watch. And that’s okay- as of right now at least- because it’s hard to argue that the Bruins haven’t at least improved since Sweeney sent scoring prospect Ryan Donato and a 5th pick to Minnesota for the Weymouth native and former San Jose 1st-rounder in 2010.

The biggest challenge facing Sweeney and Co. is the specter of the NHL’s top club in Tampa Bay (who summarily dismissed the B’s from the postseason a year ago) and an improving Toronto Maple Leafs franchise who will be an even tougher out (after taking Boston to seven games in the first round last year). It’s entirely possible that some of the consternation about what the team did at the deadline you might see out there from media and fans alike has to do with how potent the Atlantic Division is and that the perception is that Boston didn’t do enough. That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes and no one ever said winning a championship is easy.

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Thursday Flashback: My 1st David Pastrnak feature- Feb 2015

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David Pastrnak is the player the Boston Bruins have been waiting for. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

If you’re a Bruins fan, then it’s likely you’re indulging on a steady diet of Pasta.

Even if you’re cutting the carbs, is there anyone to be more excited about these days than David Pastrnak? With 17 goals in his first 18 games in 2018-19, we haven’t seen scoring this fierce in Boston since Cam Neely’s 50 goals in 44 games way back when yours truly was a senior in college during the 1993-94 season.

I was in Boston in January 2015 on the night then-GM Peter Chiarelli announced that the B’s would keep the Czech wunderkind in the NHL (thereby burning the 1st year of his ELC), and was lucky enough to sit down with him a day later to do the February 2015 New England Hockey Journal feature for that month.

Even back then, you just knew he was going to be special- he was humble, self-deprecating, and extremely hard-working, with Torey Krug pointing out that the 18-year-old was the first player on the ice at practice and the last one off. I still owe Eric Tosi (now with the Vegas Golden Knights) a debt of gratitude for not kicking me out of the B’s dressing room when he came in after most every other player had left. “Tos” hooked a brother up, and this remains one of my most favorite pieces written in 17 years covering the Bruins for the NEHJ.

Here it is- enjoy the journey back a little less than 4 years ago. He’s smashed expectations and to me- he’s the modern 21st century version of Rick Middleton.

Enjoy!- KL

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Pasta! Rookie sensation makes a big splash in the Bay State

By Kirk Luedeke

(Originally published in New England Hockey Journal, Feb. 2015)

David Pastrnak’s pro hockey journey has only just begun.

It started out with bus rides to a small rink in a small, blue collar European city, followed by two years in Sweden before the young prodigy with the infectious smile and a world of potential arrived in Boston last fall. The 18-year-old Czech Republic native has energized the Bruins with his mix of talent and unbridled passion for the game.

He’s a rare find in the modern era of the NHL: a teenager who is immediately ready to contribute, yet somehow managed to slip past the decision-making cycles of those early-drafting teams who could have benefited from his services and maturity the most. Instead, the Bruins landed Pastrnak in the bottom five selections of last June’s NHL Entry Draft and in just eight months since, he’s managed carve out a niche with the big club.

On Jan. 15, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli announced that the kid everyone expected would be in Sweden playing pro hockey is staying in Boston beyond the 10-game window that will toll the first of a three-year Entry-Level Contract signed last July.

“Right now I’m going to be with the team but I just need to keep working hard,” said Pastrnak. “I try to play my best and don’t think about anything else, just try to do all for the team and just play hockey.”

For anyone who saw Pastrnak’s electrifying play in a two-game stretch where he potted four goals, the decision to keep him up was a no-brainer. The B’s now have an opportunity to develop their young prize while also getting some immediate bang for the proverbial buck.

“He’s been a real pleasant surprise in terms of his coachability and willingness to learn the other things that successful NHL players can do,” Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney said recently. “We’re encouraging him to round out his game while still maintaining that 1-on-1 skill that he brings, but we need to have a little patience to see him get stronger. “

Although the 6-foot, 172-pound right wing is sure to face a season of peaks and valleys as he adjusts to the daily grind of the NHL, legions of Bruins fans clamoring for more skill in the Boston lineup have quickly embraced his electrifying style of play and obvious speed and puck skills as a man dying of thirst would take to an oasis in the desert.

The speedy Pastrnak has been forced to grow up fast in the face of personal tragedy. His own back story and the rapidity with which he’s emerged as the NHL’s youngest gun speaks to a remarkable talent, character and maturity that belies his youth.

Born and raised in the Czech Republic city of Havirov, Pastrnak grew up around the game. He said that his father, a former professional hockey player in their native country who also spent a couple of seasons in Germany, put him on skates for the first time at age two-and-a-half. By age three, he was playing competitive hockey.

But if Pastrnak’s love of the game today shines through in much of what he says and how he carries himself on and off the ice, he didn’t necessarily start out as a fanatical devotee of the sport.

“My mom told me that sometimes I didn’t want to go to practice so she (would) just leave me (at home),” Pastrnak said. “My parents were never like, ‘ you have to go practice’ they always asked me: ‘do I want to go practice?’ and I said yes or no, but if I said no, I stayed home. I think that’s an important thing too, because right now some parents are just pushing their children to play hockey all the time and that’s maybe how they stop liking it, you know?”

Pastrnak wanted to be a goalie when he first started playing, but the cost of equipment and his own father’s influence as a forward changed his mind pretty quickly in his early minor hockey days in Havirov.

Built as a coal-mining town after the Second World War, the city’s some 77,000 inhabitants work hard for all they have. With just one hockey rink in town and a single professional team (AZ Havirov) that plays a rung below the Czech Republic’s top league, it’s not surprising that those humble roots and beginning for Pastrnak have allowed him to identify with a lot of what Boston stands for and certainly a lot of the die-hard fans who come out to cheer on their Bruins.

“I live on the beginning of main-street going through the whole city and at the end of the street is (the only) hockey rink,” said Pastrnak. “I always went there on the usual bus with all the people because we didn’t have a car. It’s a small town and the only sport in Havirov is probably hockey, so we have a really good crowd and fans there.”

He began his hockey developmental path in his native Havirov, rising through the pro club’s corresponding minor system until age 16, when his father and family encouraged him to make the big step of leaving home for a higher level of competition in Sweden.

In 2012, he landed in Södertälje, an industrial city about 20 miles to the southwest of the Swedish capital Stockholm. Pastrnak’s new locale was known for being the headquarters and manufacturing base fro the Scania AB truck company as well as former tennis great Björn Borg’s hometown.

It was difficult for Pastrnak to leave when he did because his dad was battling cancer at the time. On the one hand, the teenager knew going to Sweden meant he would have a much better chance of landing on the NHL’s radar, but on the other, he didn’t know just how much time Milan Pastrnak had left. Unfortunately for David and the rest of his family, his dad lost the fight against the illness in May, 2013.

That personal loss saw the younger Pastrnak emerge as a force the following season, his draft year, opening eyes with his play with Södertälje’s top pro club, competing in Sweden’s Allsvenskan or second division. It was then that he dedicated every goal, every point to his father’s memory- beginning a personal practice of kissing his hand and pointing to the sky when he found the back of the net. As the calendar flipped over to 2014, Pastrnak had made the Czech Republic World Junior Championship team and was cruising to be selected in the June entry draft’s first round.

“At that time it was easy because my dad and my mom and everybody told me to just go there because it’s the best for you and just improve,” he said of leaving home. “It doesn’t matter how old I was –it was an important move and I don’t think I would be here if I didn’t go to Sweden.”

Riding the wave of a strong performance in the storied Under-20 tournament at the tender age of 17, Pastrnak soon took a big hit that knocked him out of the lineup for several months with a concussion. Although he was able to make it back to be a part of the Czech Republic’s silver medal-winning entry at the 2014 World Under-18 Championship in April, he wasn’t himself.

The lack of playing time in a stretch of about 80 days, a key period when NHL scouts are solidifying their views, and the mediocre performance in the event that left teams with their last impression of him didn’t help his case. More than one talent evaluator has said since that the missed games and subpar U18 showing factored into his draft day slide being projected as a top-15 pick entering the season.

Of course, there are positive stories of Pastrnak at this time, too. He arrived in Toronto for the NHL’s annual pre-draft combine, but the airline lost his bags, so he had to borrow clothes from fellow Czech and good friend Petr Vrana for his initial interviews. He took it all in stride, exhibiting none of the nervousness one would expect and made a positive impression on the teams he interviewed with.

Boston was one team in particular that was sold on his potential and attitude. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli spoke openly on the draft floor in Philadelphia after the team snagged Pastrnak with the 25th overall selection that the team tried to move up from that spot to get him. That attempt was unsuccessful, yet the B’s still got their man, and with hindsight being 20/20, they’re real glad they did.

Management wasted little time in getting Pastrnak signed to a three-year deal after he shined at their July prospects development camp, and made it clear to him that with some work, there was a pathway to the NHL as soon as the upcoming season.

“Since I’ve been drafted I just try to do the best what I can to show they picked the right player,” he said after a recent game in Boston. “And (it’s) just kind of motivation to show everybody, even the 24 teams in front of (Boston) which picked another guy, so it’s kind of motivating to work hard and show the mistake to everybody.”

A shoulder injury suffered in early training camp sessions prevented the team and its fans from getting an extended look at Pastrnak in the preseason, but he immediately established himself in Providence.

“It’s his foot speed, ability to make plays, putting defenses on their heels and second effort on the puck,” Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked about the things Pastrnak did in the AHL that will keep him in Boston. “He plays better away from the puck than when he got there in training camp. There’s guys who come down here and they take it to heart what you tell them and there’s other players who are like, ‘when I get (to Boston) I’m an offensive guy,’ and they don’t get it- there’s a Bruins way and that’s just the way it is.”

Growing up, Pastrnak idolized current Boston linemate David Krejci, 10 years his senior. With the announcement that the B’s were keeping the rookie beyond the audition window, Krejci commented about his new “Czech buddy,” a line rounded out by hulking left wing Milan Lucic, whose heavy game own Serbian roots make him a welcome part of the trio.

“It’s not set in stone that we’re going to play together for the rest of the year, but for now the last couple of games have been pretty strong games, so as long as we keep working on things in practices and working hard in games there’s a pretty good chance we’ll stick together,” Krejci said.

Beyond the obvious natural ability and gifted hands, Pastrnak’s intelligence and willingness to learn and improve his overall game have not only resonated with the coaching staff, but with the players in both Providence and Boston as well.

“He’s got all the talent in the world and I think that energizes this team when a guy like him comes in and he’s always smiling, he’s always have fun and he’s always looking to get better,” Boston defenseman Torey Krug said after a team practice. “I think he’s still on the ice right now- he’s always the last one off the ice and I think that’s what makes the young players that stick…that’s what makes them special.”

He put up more than a point-per-game scoring clip in Providence to begin the season, earning an initial five-game stint in Boston near the end of November (1 assist). However, Pastrnak’s coming out party came in a two-goals each outburst against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay in back-to-back games last month. Even if he might not be a consistent presence on the scoresheet night in and night out, Pastrnak certainly showed why the B’s were so high on him after the draft.

“He’s definitely a great player,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after Pastrnak’s ninth game, the win over the Rangers. “We all want him here and I think the decision that was made was pretty unanimous. As a coach, I want him on my team.”

Boston veterans like Patrice Bergeron, who was exactly where Pastrnak is some 12-plus seasons ago when he made the Bruins as an 18-year-old rookie, are happy for the youngster’s success and what he’s bringing to the team dynamic.

“I’m really happy for him and it’s well deserved,” said Bergeron. “Like I said before, he’s one of these kids that wants to learn, he wants to get better. He’s excited and happy to be here and I think we’re seeing a shell of what he can be and that’s something very special and we’re all here to help him and teach him the way I guess, but so far he’s been great and doesn’t need much help.”

The young boy who rode that bus down Havirov’s main street so many times is now a Boston Bruin, but the smile that could power the TD Garden jumbotron and his natural exuberance is very much ingrained in the fabric of who Pastrnak is as a player and person.

As he continues to grow and develop into the player his father always knew he would be, that natural love of the sport Milan Pastrnak helped foster in David will allow him to carve out his own legacy in Boston, one his dad would be proud of.

“I was there one day (being new to the NHL) and I was having a lot of fun, and I know he’s having a lot of fun,” Krug said. “He can help our team win right now and that’s why he’s here. That’s the biggest thing.”

Thoughts on “the Trade”- 30 years ago today Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles helped to transform hockey in the USA

 

https://www.tsn.ca/the-trade-30-years-later-1.1155314

(Video posted to YouTube by CBC)

August 9, 1988…

I was 16 and in Florida visiting my grandparents with about a month left before my junior year in high school. I walked into the house that afternoon after a visit down to New Smyrna Beach, and my grandfather, a big baseball and football fan but who didn’t know (or give) a whit about hockey, greeted me with the last news I ever expected to hear.

“Hey, Kirk- did you hear that Wayne Gadsby just got traded?”

I must’ve stared at him blankly, because he followed up with: “You know? That hockey player from Canada?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the largest percentage of hockey players in the NHL were from Canada, but my brain was beginning to process what he’d just said.

“Wayne Gretzky got traded?” I said.

“Yes! Gretzky…that’s the one! They’ve been talking about it a lot on the TV and radio…”

He started to tell me what he knew about the deal…Los Angeles Kings…cash and young players…but his words were like the teacher in Charlie Brown (Wah-WAH-Wah-Wah-Wah.) My mind was racing: Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers’ four-time Stanley Cup captain and face of hockey, the only player in the history of the game to score more than 200 points in a season not once, not twice, not three times but FOUR times…had been dealt in the prime of his life at 27 years old. My goodness, I thought as the realization hit me- if my grandfather Merlin in Florida is talking about this trade- how enormous of an impact is Gretzky to Tinseltown going to have on the NHL and hockey?

The truth is…in my teenage mind, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend it.

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3 Amigos Podcast: Bruins summer update- free agency, draft & rumors

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Thanks to the requests of multiple blog readers, the 3 Amigos decided to reunite in the offseason and last night, the boys did a solid 70+ minutes worth of hockey talk focusing on the Boston Bruins.

While we won’t be as prolific on the blog as before, this is an opportunity to maintain the connection with those passionate fans who helped support us from 2015 to late summer 2017, when the blog went dormant due to job obligations. The truth is- being at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas served as a good reminder that you can’t completely walk away from that which you have done for the past 18 years. It was summer 2000 when the New England Hockey Journal hired TSP founder Kirk to cover the Bruins, and after covering nearly every draft since then (minus those when overseas), it was strange not to be working at this most recent draft.

Still- am grateful for all the words of support and encouragement, and fortunate to have two good friends in Dom and Reed who agreed to get the Amigos back together and do some more audio work. The best part of it was just being able to interact with them again, and we have some more things in store for future efforts.

So, enough of the background- here’s the audio file and will post it up on Soundcloud as well.

For those who want to download and listen on Soundcloud, go here:

 

It’s been a long time…let’s do some catching up

Apologies to all for the neglect I have engaged in with this blog, but as previously mentioned, the full-time work in hockey has prevented me from doing the coverage I used to provide.

However, a recent trip to Dallas for the 2018 NHL Draft has encouraged me to fire up the old Scouting Post once again and do some commentary on the Bruins and hockey life in general. Don’t know how consistent it will be, but for those who enjoyed the past content, I will endeavor to provide the same level of detailed insights as before.

Also- for those of you who enjoyed the audio podcast content, we just might have something in store for you as well.

Stay tuned and check back periodically here for more on the Bruins and hockey in general.

For the Love of Gord

(Editor’s note- It’s been a while since I posted on the blog after my announcement about my work with the Omaha Lancers. I’ve thought of ways to re-engage, but could never quite get the topics right, and the last thing I want to do is confuse people by posting subjects that lead folks to believe I’m still in the covering the Boston Bruins and prospects biz. So, when I got the news of Gord Downie’s passing, I believed that there was no better way or platform for me to pay tribute to the man and band. So, here it is- probably nowhere near the best thing you’ll read about the Hip on this tragic day, but it’s from the heart. Make no mistake- I am a proud American, but Canada owns a near and dear place in my heart- always has, always will. Thanks for returning and reading…-KL)

I love Canada.

Three simple words, and yet I struggle to convey the extent of how true they are in the aftermath of singer/songwriter/Canadian icon Gord Downie’s passing.  The man who made song called “Courage” famous,  finally succumbed on Tuesday night to his long bout with brain cancer at the age of 53. The band released a statement today and those of us who loved the Hip are now left to deal with the emotions of news that was expected, yet unexpected, in that nothing really completely prepares you for that moment when you have to make a final goodbye.

It makes sense that I would be a fan of the proud Kingston, Ontario-native rock band The Tragically Hip because, after all, the band’s frontman is Harry Sinden’s godson and a lifelong Boston Bruins supporter. But no, I liked the Hip long before I learned of that neat connection, not to mention that Mr. Downie was once a pretty decent hockey goalie before he traded in the pads for a guitar and chance to transcend the aspect of being a simple entertainer- be it a professional athlete or musician- by becoming one with the social fabric of Canada.

Go ahead and try to find a Canadian who doesn’t at least have a passing knowledge of Gord and the Hip- I’m not saying they’re not out there, but good luck finding someone in that great country to our north who hasn’t at least been touched in some way, shape or form by the Hip’s music, or who is completely unable to recognize Downie’s signature lyrical stylings and vocal sound. There aren’t many entertainment acts or entities that can claim as much of a nation’s identity and conscience as The Tragically Hip, in the embodiment of Gord Downie, can.

I once read that the Hip was the greatest band to never make it in the United States and I agree with the assessment, especially with the fundamental conclusion that Downie and Co. were simply too Canadian to make the kind of impact in the U.S., and that die-hard fans and proud Canadians are perfectly happy with that. You know what? I agree- screw America on this one (those obvious enlightened ones like yours truly aside of course)- their loss is Canada’s gain because the uniqueness of this band and the way that so many of their songs speak directly to citizens of that fine nation is something that few American bands, with so much diversity and polarization across the 50 states, can even come close to claiming.

It is probably with no small coincidence and dare I say- tragedy– that the passing of both Downie and American rocker Tom Petty came so close to one another because the two are similar in that if there are some U.S. musicians out there who earned the love and passion of a wide and diverse listening audience the way the Hip were able to do in Canada- it is one Tom Petty. Sure, Downie’s passing won’t generate nearly as much attention or news stories as that of Petty, and Prince and David Bowie earlier in 2016. But, for those who knew and loved the Hip, Downie’s loss, though not sudden and unexpected the way Petty and Prince left us, leaves no less of a gaping hole in our musical souls.

I am not Canadian, but I owe a debt to those friends and brothers north of the border in Ian and Tim who helped strengthen my interest in and love of the Hip’s music over the years. Actually, I have to credit former Bruins goaltender Blaine Lacher, who in 1994 listed the Tragically Hip as his favorite band, and I was curious. The Tragically Hip? What, or who…on Earth…were they?

This was in the earliest days of the Internet, so I wasn’t able to just pull up Google and do a search- I instead headed to the now-defunct Ear-X-Tacy record store in Louisville, KY (I was stationed at Fort Knox at the time going through the U.S. Army Armor School to learn how to be an M1A1 Abrams tank platoon leader) and just happened to stumble across the band’s greatest commercial success- the Fully Completely LP (1993)- in a very limited choice of just one other Hip album in compact disc format. It had to be the cover art, but I took it out of the store, popped it into my 1990 Honda Accord’s CD player and was immediately taken in by the sound, unlike anything I was expecting…and of course- once I heard “Fifty-Mission Cap” the first time, I was hooked.

There were many other albums and songs…I walked away from the Hip at times for other bands and acts, only to come eagerly back with each new release. I admit I even began to take the band for granted. Sure things: death, taxes and a Hip album sure to come out at some point.

It was Memorial Day weekend 2016 and I was in the Denver airport waiting on a flight back to Austin, Texas when good pal Tim (mentioned above) called me to confirm that I knew of Downie’s announcement of his terminal condition and that he was taking the band on one final farewell tour across Canada, and did I want to come up to Toronto and we’d make a road trip to see the London show together in August. There was absolutely no hesitation- I was in.

And so, just a few months later, I flew from Texas to Ontario and the two of us made the drive from Mississauga to London, listening to our favorite Hip tunes- Blow At High Dough, Bobcaygeon, Poets, Something On, Grace, Too, Nautical Disaster, New Orleans is Sinking, Vapour Trails, Wheat Kings, Fireworks, The Darkest One, Use It Up, Courage (for Hugh MacLennan), Ahead By A Century, The Lonely End of the Rink, even the underappreciated Coffee Girl…and so many others- it’s hard to keep straight to be honest, because there are so many great songs.

Walking into the building where the OHL’s London Knights have earned such a storied legacy in major junior was a surreal experience, but it was ironic that in making the trip to London, Ontario for the first time, I wasn’t there for the hockey.

I’ll just say it was a great show- it had everything I had hoped for and more. True, they didn’t play “Fifty-Mission Cap,” and at the very end, it looked like Gord himself was so completely drained of energy that he simply could not go on and perform the final expected song of the set list- Ahead By A Century– instead, he stood on stage for what seemed to be an eternity and just waved to the thousands who screamed, chanted and cried- he didn’t say good bye- he didn’t have to. In that nearly perfect two hours of music, he poured every last bit of himself into that performance. It was one he would replicate a few more times before the final Hip tour ended that summer, but to this day- I remain grateful that I got to see it. We all knew…every one of us in attendance…that Gord would be leaving us, and although you knew it was coming, nothing can ever completely prepare us for the final farewell. But, instead of fighting the battle against the insidious enemy called cancer, Mr. Downie chose to spend those precious moments with his fans doing the thing that defined his all-too-short life. We should all be fortunate to live as well and be able to go out on our own terms as Gord did. Godspeed, sir- you are already tremendously missed.

So…that brings me back to the three words that opened this blog post: I love Canada.

It’s always been the country I’ve respected the most even as a young lad taking family and hockey trips to Quebec and Ontario- a respect that began with the realization that even though it seemed like America, Canada was its own country, and one that deserved respect for its culture, values and national identity. For me as a young adult, the Hip symbolized their pride in Canada and deep roots as sons of that great nation to the North.

Today, I tweeted photos from that London show, and a Canadian radio personality and friend in the Ottawa area responded that I am “half-Canadian” by now, and that by “getting the Hip” it means that I understand Canada. I can only guess that was Jon’s way of saying, I’m not like typical Americans who chose not to get the Hip…and I can think of no higher compliment, to be honest.

The greatness of The Tragically Hip isn’t in how many albums they sold or how many stories Gord Downie’s passing will generate, but in the fact that they stayed true to their nation and themselves. They could have done things a little differently to become a more mainstream commercial success in the United States, sure…but in so doing, they would not have been The Tragically Hip. They did it their own way, much like Gord Downie did when he threw a giant middle finger to the disease that ravaged his great brain and dedicated everything of himself to spend the precious time he had left on this Earth to take the stage and drive home his love of country and the legions of fans that the Hip meant so much to.

I love Canada.

Long live The Tragically Hip.

Raise your glasses to Gord Downie and his mates- and tonight, if you are able, look to the sky and see the constellations reveal themselves…one star at a time.

The Heat Is On: A Farewell (of sorts)

Didn’t realize the last post on here was June 30, but in case you missed it- have accepted the Director of Player Personnel position with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers and will not be able to continue to use this blog as a platform to break Boston Bruins news and do prospect and draft analysis. However, not shutting the blog down- will still post items of interest on occasion, but it will not be what you are used to accessing.

If that’s all you need, then farewell and please accept my thanks for reading this blog and supporting it with traffic, comments and feedback in the two-plus years it has been in existence. If you want to hear the detailed backstory of the Omaha position, along with some heartfelt thanks to many who have helped me along the way, then here’s a 40-minute audio post where I lay a lot of things out and provide a few recommendations of other Bruins prospects analysts who are worth following.

Give the file a listen here:

Thanks to all- excited about the position with Omaha and the chance to learn from some great hockey people in that organization- David Wilkie, Gregg Naumenko, Jared Nightingale, Chris Hepp, Andrew Conboy, Drew Palmisano, Dakota Eveland, Brian Gabrielle, Jason ‘Jay’ Franzone, Erik Blase just to name a few. It’s going to be a good ride…the Heat is On!

Lancers vintage

 

 

Bruins 2017 NHL Draft Primer

Your TSP founder posted this on the Boston Bruins Reddit yesterday, so it might as well go up here:

What: 2017 NHL Entry Draft

When: Round 1- Friday June 23 (6 pm EST), Rounds 2-7 Saturday June 24 (beginning at 9 a.m. EST) Televised on NBCSN

Where: United Center; Chicago, IL

Bruins selections: (6 total- R1, R2, R4, R6 R7x2)

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