Happy Canada Day

Things have been slow lately…

Working on a post about the NHL Draft lottery, but what’s the point? The system is what it is, but any lottery is going to have winners and losers, and only the NHL could come up with a scenario in which not one of the bottom-seven/non-24 playoff and play-in teams would end up with Alexis Lafreniere as the top overall pick whenever the NHL Entry Draft happens.

Is it even worth posting about? Not sure. But as a former member of the QMJHL club that finished dead-last in the league regular season standings but lost the draft lottery and dropped to the third pick in 2017, I know exactly what the Detroit Red Wings are going through.

In the meantime, Happy Canada Day to our great neighbors to the North and the very reason we have this game we love.

Dom, Reed and the rest of Canada- this whiskey’s for you!

Liked this graphic, so am borrowing it and the least I can do is link to the city of Kawartha Lakes’ website…

Canada Day

https://www.kawarthalakes.ca/en/things-to-do/canada-day-the-2020-way.aspx

 

 

 

Milestone: 500th post

When I started the Scouting Post (TSP) blog 5 years ago, I wasn’t doing anything other than finding an additional outlet to blog about hockey (mainly the Boston Bruins).

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft had just happened and the team was flush with a big crop of new prospects. Gone were Peter Chiarelli, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton. There was a new regime in Boston, headed up by longtime player and development chief Don Sweeney. The B’s had just missed the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2007, and would fall short again in this blog’s first year of active posting.

A lot has happened since then. That big crop of new prospects- some of them panned out, others did not. A few are still hanging around. Time is the final judge, and while there are some fans out there who insist that the 2015 Bruins draft was a failure, we’re pretty sure they haven’t spent much time here.

In the years since the B’s were a non-playoff club in 2015, they’ve returned to prominence, falling oh-so-short in 2019, but winning the President’s Trophy a year later, even though the global COVID-19 pandemic certainly created a storm with complete sports (and life) stoppage from mid-March to current times as we still wait for a return-to-NHL hockey plan unfold.

Two years into the blog’s existence, got a position with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers and three years later, still there, though the hockey season often prevents me from posting as much as I would like. One of the silver linings of the coronavirus craziness is that I’ve been able to spend much more time on here getting back to what I truly enjoy- talking about hockey, mainly the Boston Bruins- past, present and future.

And I’ve gotten a lot of help. Buddies Dominic Tiano and Reed Duthie, with whom I formed the 3 Amigos podcast team four years ago, have taken their time to write about timely topics and players from their area of expertise in Ontario, Canada. We’ve even added a fourth amigo in recent months. Thanks guys- couldn’t do it without you.

Through it all- you, the reader, are why we do it. None of us has made a dime off the blog. All content is free, without ads or any other interference. It’s an effort pure in its intent and execution. Sure, you’re not going to agree with all you read and digest here, but in the end- we’re out to inform and spark intelligent, reasoned debate.

So, to all of you who read, digest, and appreciate the efforts here- thank you. 500 posts took longer to reach than originally thought, but five years later, we’re still standing.

Reflections on Memorial Day 2020

“Boldness is the beginning of action. But fortune controls how it ends.”- Democritus

Because of everything going on in the country and world, have had more time to think and contemplate. Multiple tours overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in countless friendships and experiences, but also as is the nature of war and the profession of arms, the loss of some of those friends.

No matter how you choose to observe the Memorial Day weekend, which commemorates the fallen in our nation’s wars,  the purpose is to remember and honor those no longer with us. I captured these images a year ago when the National Memorial commemorating all military lives lost in operations conducted after 9/11 brought its mobile display to Ralston Arena, home of the Omaha Lancers. They are forever the ages depicted in the images below. They shall not grow old…

One individual in particular, Captain Joel Cahill, grew up right down the road in La Vista and graduated from La Vista High in 1989 before he embarked on a successful Army career that ultimately led him from the enlisted ranks to commissioned officer via University of Nebraska to Iraq for a second tour in 2005 with the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. He was one of my brothers on a close-knit brigade staff until duty called and he took command of Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment- the “Audie Murphy Company.” While leading his company from the front as he always did, Joel’s life was taken by a roadside bomb on November 6. Of all I knew who did not return home to their families, Joel’s loss makes the least sense- he seemed destined to wear general’s stars and was the best Soldier of all of us.

Some of the fallen here, I knew more than others. But all of them personally touched me in some way, shape or form.

Whether it was the driver who made sure there was a cold Red Bull waiting for me on every mission we went on as his vehicle commander and who we nicknamed “McLovin” after the Superbad character, which was a popular movie during the Surge deployment.

Or the fellow Citadel graduate who was a year ahead of me in 1st Battalion. Or the good friend who I bar-hopped with in Aggieville- Manhattan, Kansas- and deployed with to Bosnia as young lieutenants/peace keepers in 1997, only for him to return to active service a decade-plus later because he felt a calling to do his part- then lost his life in that volunteer service.

Or the former ROTC Advanced Camp platoon mate who I lost touch with after Fort Bragg in 1993, only to reconnect with him…when I saw his name announced as one of the deaths in a grim fight in Fallujah in November, 2004.

Or the young Civil Affairs soldier who was killed a short time into her deployment, but whose smiling photo on the wall of honor in our brigade headquarters haunted me well after we redeployed, a life taken far too soon. A scholarship in her honor provides young people from her home state of Wisconsin with opportunities to serve others as she did.

Or the seasoned NCO who could have saved himself from his burning Bradley, but instead doomed himself to certain death to free trapped men inside. A true hero in every sense of the word. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”- John 15:13

Or the fellow Pentagon staffer who handed off a project he had been working on to me as he headed off to Afghanistan for a tour, and then likely bigger things. And because of a fluke accident on that deployment, he is forever a major.

While not all of them died under enemy direct fire or from improvised explosive devices, their loss is no less devastating to their families and those who loved and knew them best. The fallen are all sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts. They are all of us.

We may not all agree about the nature of their sacrifice, but none of us should ever forget what they gave up so that we could all have the freedom and choice continue our own pursuits.

– Kirk Luedeke, Omaha, NE; May 24, 2020

MemorialJoelCahillMemorialAlwynCasheMemorialJasonGeorgeMemorialChrisKennyMemorialRussHerculesMemorialNikkiFryeMemorialSeanSimsMemorialPaulVoelker

Strength, best wishes and prayers to Colby Cave

The Edmonton Oilers just reported that Oilers and Bakersfield Condors forward Colby Cave was admitted to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, and placed into a medically-induced coma for a brain bleed last night.

Cave, 25, signed with the Bruins as an undrafted free agent after completing his WHL career with the Swift Current Broncos, where he served as captain and his teammates included Jake DeBrusk. Cave spent parts of five seasons with the Bruins organization, mostly in the AHL with Providence, and playing 23 games with the Big B’s before the Oilers claimed him on waivers during the 2018-19 season.

Our sincerest thoughts, wishes and prayers go to Colby, his wife, Emily, and his entire family- immediate and extended for a full recovery. He is a class act, and we enjoyed talking hockey with him when he was part of the Bruins organization.

We’ll keep the story updated as information is made available.

Jeremy Swayman: Hobey Baker award finalist

University of Maine junior goaltender Jeremy Swayman along with with University of North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi and University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich were named Hobey Hat Trick finalists for college hockey’s top award- the Hobey Baker.

Swayman, who recently turned pro, signing with the Bruins in March, edged out fellow Hockey East Hobey hopeful John Leonard of UMass for the league’s player of the year honors. Leonard, a dangerous finisher who starred at Springfield Cathedral HS and played in the USHL with Green Bay before becoming a Minuteman, will leave school to sign with the San Jose Sharks.

The last Hobey Baker winner who played for the Bruins was Boston College defenseman Mike Mottau, who took the hardware in 2000, and skated in just eight regular season and playoff games for the B’s in 2011-12.

We recently did a comprehensive review of Swayman on this blog, and while he’s a long shot to come away with the hardware when the 2020 Hobey Baker winner is announced on April 11, he had an amazing season with the Black Bears.

Consistency has been the name of the game with Swayman, as he jumped from midget AAA in Colorado to the USHL to completing three superb NCAA seasons all in the span of just five years. He did it with just one year of junior hockey under his belt, which is a path less travelled for most goalies, who typically need more time developing at the tier 1 and tier 2 junior levels before making the jump to college. Now, with one year of NCAA eligibility remaining, Swayman is ahead of the curve again, signing a 3-year deal with the Bruins and getting his professional apprenticeship underway. This is one more indicator that despite the lack of pre-draft hype, the Bruins did a find job of scouting a player who should have been on more radars, or at least, should have gotten more attention than he did.

There are a lot of things to like about Swayman, but in watching more film, he excels at the concept of transition through SPOT (popularized  by Columbus Blue Jackets goalie coach Jim Corsi. Yes, THAT Jim Corsi.)- Square, Prepared and On Time. When it comes to the transition game in net, it’s about the goalie answering one critical question: how can I get there (to the right spot) on time to make the save? Playing an entire hockey game in net is like going SPOT to SPOT over and over again. The best goalies at any level are the ones who are the most skilled, athletic, and aware; consistently able to make the first save, and then at least one more, all while managing the controlled chaos around their net. Sounds easy, right?

At TSP, we tip our caps to the job Swayman has done this season at Maine and over the course of his college career. He’s going out a winner, regardless of who comes away with the big prize.

And also not to be forgotten- Daniel Vladar, who was having a tremendous season with Providence until the rug was pulled out from under him and the rest of his team as the AHL had to shut it down. And there is also Kyle Keyser, just a few months younger than Swayman, whose first pro campaign got derailed by injuries, but is also one of the more impressive in a long line of undrafted free agents the Bruins have signed in recent years.

Yes, when it comes to goaltending and the Bruins, it seems that the kids are all right.

 

Dominic Tiano: A Look Back at the Man They Call ‘Studs’

 

Jack Studnicka of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

(Photo credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Guest post by Dominic Tiano:

As most of you know, my priority is the Ontario Hockey League and the NHL Draft because that’s where my eyes are mostly focused. And when my fellow Amigos suggested that I compare what I said back in 2017 about Jack Studnicka to where he is now, I couldn’t resist even though I could have been way off the mark.

So, lets go back to March 5, 2017 when I first wrote this:

I don’t believe Studnicka is an offense first player, which I see tagged to him plenty. He puts as much attention to detail on the defensive side as he does on the offense. He plays in all situations and takes key faceoffs for the Generals. He’s quietly become the Generals’ top face off man at 53%. It’s his extremely high compete level that makes him pay attention at both ends.

Studnicka has good size – although adding bulk will be key for him. He is an excellent skater who has an explosive first step and decent top end speed who can change direction with ease. He possesses very good vision with high quality playmaking skills with an ability to set up his teammates. His shot is underrated in my opinion. His release is deceptive and accurate and he puts every shot on goal with a purpose.

Studnicka can be elusive in the offensive zone. He can break away from coverage almost undetected and put himself into scoring positions. He has very good puck skills and strong possession skills. Although he needs to add some muscle, he will not shy away from the hard areas. Once he gets stronger, it will become an area where he wins more often than he loses because of it – and his work ethic.

If anything has changed in three years its that he has improved even on the skills he was already good at. Yes, he was deemed as just an offensive player in many circles back then, but not to these eyes. What has impressed me most is that he continues to put the work in, even in areas he excels at. And that continued work defensively has only made him stronger in that area. He was one of the best penalty killers in the AHL and while he took care of his own zone, he was a threat to score while down a man each and every time.

While he was already a “polished” skater in the faceoff circle, that wasn’t enough for Captain Jack. Much like Patrice Bergeron – he has similar traits to the Bruins Alternate Captain – he continues to work at it to become even better. For Studnicka, like Bergeron, good is just never good enough.

All that hard work has paid off for Studnicka as he quickly moved up to the top of the Bruins prospect rankings, something I am sure even Jack didn’t think would happen this quickly.

If there is one area that I would have liked to see accelerated in this process, it’s adding bulk to his frame. While every part of his game – the IQ, vision, skating, 200-foot game, faceoff success, offense, penalty killing – are NHL ready, adding some extra bulk to his frame this offseason will prepare him for the long grind of the NHL season.

With the extra long offseason for Studnicka, the opportunity is there to put in the work. What we do know 100%, is that he will put in that work.

COVID-19: Life on pause…so, what now?

It’s surreal to be writing this post at home on a Monday morning when I should be at the Omaha Lancers’ offices in Ralston Arena, starting a new week after a 2-game home series against the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad. I should be preparing to fly on Wednesday to the NTDP’s home base in Plymouth, Michigan for their annual “40-man” national selection camp, where the best 2004-born players in the USA were set to arrive this week for several days of competition, 23 of whom would be chosen at the end to wear the red, white and blue for the next two years of the national team.

Instead, I’m nowhere near the rink. The games didn’t happen, though the NTDP 18s arrived in Omaha Thursday morning (to channel Cyndi Lauper- they drove all night)- we saw them all briefly at a local restaurant before Team USA was told to get back on the bus and make the 11-hour drive back to Michigan. Shortly afterwards, we all got word that the USHL, like all major professional sports leagues in North America currently in season, was suspending operations. As such, the NTDP camp was cancelled and the 2020-21 Under-17 team will be selected by the USA Hockey/NTDP operations staff based on their midget AAA/prep/high school performances without the benefit of bringing them in to compete with and against one another.

We are in uncharted territory to be sure, and there is no way of knowing what the next step will be. But, there will be a next step. I don’t know what that will look like, and therefore, like so many others around the world, I can only wait.

Unless you are a direct descendent of Rip Van Winkle, you know what’s going on- our lives, our normalcy has all come to a grinding halt, as COVID-19/Coronavirus has forced a sea change in our routine. Familiar terms like quarantine- once usually reserved for the big screen and rare cases- have become routine. New terms like social distancing has become the norm, as the virus’s impact around the world, especially in countries like Italy, is now keenly being felt in North America. The socio-economic impact of the pandemic cannot be understated, and so we find ourselves now going without things we have long taken for granted.

I’m no doctor, so I’m not about to use this platform to dispense medical advice. However, we are at a point in time in our modern history where normal behaviors must be modified and we need to take extra steps to make ourselves aware of what is going on and act accordingly. We’re seeing it not only with the suspensions of sports leagues and cancellations of major competitions, but also in the closing of restaurants, bars, theaters, beaches…even Disney World and certain retailers, with more sure to follow suit.

With so many around the word directly and indirectly impacted by the virus and its rapid spread, we need to use the time we have to come together, be responsible and ultimately, respect that it is not about us as individuals- our own wants and desires need to be secondary to making an effort to limit the impact of COVID-19 and containing it as much as we can so that we don’t overwhelm our hospitals and medical systems with people who require treatment on top of everyone else who requires medical care.

Sports, even though it is my livelihood, have to take a necessary backseat while we figure out how to best deal with this crisis. We’ll figure out how to adapt and adjust our duties and responsibilities while on this hiatus, but in the meantime, just wanted to let everyone know that were in this together and with more time on my hands, might be figuring out how to make this blog a little more active and relevant again…at least in the short term. If there is anything I can do on here to help pass the time, let me know. If nothing else, chances are, we might be able to get the 3 Amigos back together…I can’t speak for Dom or Reed, but I’m pretty sure that we all have more time on our hands now than any of us wanted.

In closing, be safe- I firmly believe that this too, shall pass. What we do in the interim will have a profound impact on how much we are affected and how quickly we can recover. I know that in my experiences with the hockey community, we’re famous for coming together and taking care of one another- this should be no different.

Best regards,

Kirk

 

 

Farewell to Colonel (retired) Samuel W. Floca

“Anyone who says they aren’t afraid in combat is either a liar or a fool; it’s like the line in Moby Dick, when the boat captain (Starbuck) says ‘I will have no man in my boat who is not afraid of a whale.’ What he’s saying is that if you don’t have enough sense to fear real danger, then you’re the actual danger– not only to yourself– but more critically, the others with you.”– Col. Sam W. Floca Jr., U.S. Army (retired)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the blog, and this one is non-hockey related, but a tribute to a real hero who left this mortal life this week, but whose light will shine on long after his passing.

On Tuesday,  we learned that Samuel W. Floca, Jr. lost his battle with cancer and other conditions he picked up in a life of service in the U.S. Army where as a young officer, he fought in the Vietnam War and was wounded a staggering five different times. Uncle Sammy, as he liked to be known to his close friends, was a native of Temple, Texas and served in the Army from 1963-92, rising from the rank of private to full colonel before retiring as a member of the Army’s War College faculty after three decades of distinguished service.

In retirement, he returned to his native Central Texas where he continued to serve our military- as a mentor and friend to countless Soldiers assigned to Fort Hood, touching several generations of officers, noncommissioned officers and leaders he came in contact with.

I got to know him late in my own career- 20 years in- as a lieutenant colonel and primary staff officer in the 1st Cavalry Division. He was attending the change of command ceremony of the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, when one of my peers and a close friend was turning over command of the storied 1st of the 7th- Garryowen! Col. Floca was wearing a U.S. Cavalry Stetson with 4th Cavalry Regimental crossed sabers, so I struck up a conversation with the obvious Vietnam-era veteran and found out that we had a lot in common, and that looking up the division’s public affairs officer (yours truly) was on his “to do” list.

From that chance encounter, he welcomed me into his Soldier family, and I learned a great deal about the man who had enlisted as a rifleman in the Army just prior to the major troop buildup in Vietnam and went on to attend Officer Candidate School, getting his commission in the Field Artillery branch. He was soon after sent to Vietnam for the first of two combat tours with the 1st Infantry Division or “Big Red One” in early 1966- when the U.S. military was realizing that they had learned few of the lessons that the French had learned a decade-plus earlier against the Vietminh during the French-Indochina War.

Sam Floca often talked about the Army’s unpreparedness for the threat they faced in the jungles of Vietnam. Organized and trained to face off against the Soviet military machine in Central Europe, our forces were ill-equipped to face the Viet Cong insurgents and North Vietnamese Army regulars who knew the terrain and were wholly committed to their cause. The American military tried to win a war of attrition, and paid dearly for it. Floca’s first experience in Southeast Asia reflected that lack of preparation, but as he began to learn and adapt, passing those lessons on to the men he led as a young lieutenant, he was wounded seriously enough to force his medical evacuation to Japan.

After recovering from his wounds, Floca went back to Vietnam as a captain in 1968, and in a bid to get reassigned to his beloved 1st Infantry Division, agreed to take a billet on the public affairs (or public information as it was called back then) staff. He had taken a journalism course in college, and because of that, he essentially was able to talk his way into the open assignment with the 1ID PIO, avoiding the mass cattle assignment reception station process in Vietnam, by which he could have ended up in any of the combat units.

Once back in the Big Red One, Floca had a plan to get back out in the bush- he had a friend in the Division’s G1 or personnel section who had told him that if he could secure assignment to 1ID, he could get him into a line unit. And thus, Captain Floca was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Regiment- “Hamilton’s Own”- the oldest Regular Army unit on active duty, tracing its lineage back to January, 1776 and commanded by founding father Alexander Hamilton. He would then receive assignment to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment (“Ramrods”) as the battalion Fire Support Officer.

On September 23, 1968, near Loc Ninh, an infantry unit from 2-2 came under enemy indirect and direct fire. Floca ran forward to position himself with the company in contact, then immediately began adjusting friendly mortar and artillery indirect fires on the enemy positions, preventing the American unit from being overrun. In his citation for the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross, Floca was praised for placing himself repeatedly in positions forward where he was taken under direct fire by the enemy, calling in accurate indirect fire as close as 25 meters (!) to his own position, placing himself in tremendous danger. Wounded by shrapnel, he continued to call for fire and engaged the enemy in direct fire until the attack was defeated.

That, my friends, is the definition of a hero.

And like the first tour in Vietnam, Floca would not leave his second under his own power. He was wounded more severely after that action, and Captain Floca’s War came to an end once more. He would later go in and out of line unit artillery assignments and public affairs positions, because you see- that old journalism class did come back to haunt him. Even though he never typed a single release in country, that assignment to the 1ID public affairs office was on his personnel file, and there was no escaping the dreaded “needs of the Army” requirements when the time came.

He ended his career at the War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA, where he became the subject matter expert for the Battle of Gettysburg and conducted comprehensive staff rides at the battlefield to analyze the strategic implications and capture lessons learned. He retired from the Army in 1992, but it was in that capacity that he ended up becoming one of the key technical advisers on the set of the film Gettysburg produced in 1993. 

The Sam Floca I knew enjoyed passing on his experiences as an Old Soldier to those who were a part of his own legacy of service. He no doubt left some stories and experiences buried in the deepest recesses of his wartime memories, but he loved being around the troops. As the Honorary Regimental Commander of the 82nd Field Artillery Regiment (Ancient Dragon 6 was his callsign), he was always there for the troops of the 1st Cavalry Division. I had him spend nearly an entire day sharing his experiences as a public affairs officer with my division PAO team, and as much time we allocated to him, he barely scratched the surface of his knowledge and insights.  As he was fond of saying, “The bond among Soldiers is never broken: race, creed, color…they’re your brothers, they’re your brothers for life.” You couldn’t drag Sam Floca away from his brothers in arms- no matter how much of a gap between the generations.

That’s why in retirement, he returned home to the Lone Star State, a proud a sixth generation Texan who had two relatives who had fought in the Battle of San Jacinto under General Sam Houston in 1836.  Floca’s east Texan drawl belied the fierceness of his warrior stock and loyalty to his roots. He used to say (and always with his million dollar smile), “I’ll never ask a man where he’s from- If he’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. And if he’s not, you don’t want to embarrass him.”

Floca’s house was like a museum- it contained an amazing collection of military art, toy soldiers, miniatures and dioramas of major historical battlefields. You could spend hours in Uncle Sammy’s pad, and not come close to digesting everything he had on display and each and every story that came with it. He lived alone in that house in Temple right on a golf course. He lived alone because like the rest of us, he was not a perfect man. His devotion to military service and some of the personal demons he picked up along the way cost him his marriage and family. He took ownership of that, and often spoke proudly of his daughter, Amy, whom he made clear was his greatest accomplishment.

One of my favorite items he had in that house was a photo of Amy with iconic actor Sam Elliott, taken when the veteran actor portrayed Brigadier General John Buford, commander of the Union Army’s 1st Cavalry Division for the Gettysburg film. I had grown up watching Elliott, and his portrayal of Buford was one of the things that inspired me to choose the armored cavalry as my branch when I commissioned in 1994. Knowing that Floca had advised and helped Elliott with his role made the memorable scenes he was in all the more special and impactful for me.

As I prepared to leave Fort Hood in late 2016, Colonel Floca gave me a couple of precious gifts from his personal art and book collection. In the book How Can Man Die Better, a detailed accounting of the British disaster at Isandlwana in 1879, he inscribed to me inside the book’s cover- “Kirk- Even as combat cavalrymen and PAOs, we would’ve had a hell of a time putting ‘spin’ on this one for the British press.”

He was a national treasure and while his battle against the ravages of disease on his body are finally over, all who knew and loved him already miss him terribly. Soldier. Leader. Mentor. Friend.

Farewell, Sir- Godspeed. I will see you again one day…at Fiddler’s Green.

If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.

Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam

 

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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.