By Neal Lyons
Before we begin, understand that this is (mostly) for fun. Hindsight is always 20/20 when it comes to past drafts and this piece is purely reflective. I wasn’t sitting here, cursing the Zach Hamill selection on draft night and, as you’ll see, it’s not even all about what the Boston Bruins did with their #8 pick. As the title implies, the entire draft was pretty horrific, but there were also some interesting sub-plots. Let’s dive in.
The 2007 NHL draft has remained a touchy subject for Bruins fans, even 12 years later. This tends to happen when your team picks in the top ten, and ends up with a guy who only plays 20 NHL games, while the next team grabs a number one centre, now 676 games, and 500+ points, into his career.
Zach Hamill over Logan Couture made no sense in 2019. Hell, it made no sense by 2010, but was it really that bad, on June 22, 2007?
Depends on who you ask and what you prioritize when picking between two, 18 year olds. Hamill was the leading scorer in the WHL, that year. His 93 points in 69 games were impressive no matter how you look at it, and he was receiving a lot of praise from scouts for his exceptional, playmaking, ability. With his great hands and vision, he was someone they could see becoming a very effective member of an NHL power play unit. However, he was only 5’10” and his skating wasn’t great by any means. Serious knocks still in today’s NHL, let alone more than a decade ago.
In Couture you had a 6’1”, left shot, centre, who was a top defensive forward in the OHL. Scouts weren’t overly impressed with his skating either but were high on his smarts, work ethic, and two-way game. Funny, he sounds exactly like what the Bruins usually target.
In the OHL, Couture was already a point per game player as a rookie, but a draft year injury, and a bout with mono, limited him to just 54 games in 2007/08. Still, he put up an impressive 78 points and made enough of an impression that the Sharks traded up, from 13th overall to 9th, in order to take him. In reading some post draft analysis, it seemed as though the Sharks were confident he would still be there at #9, one after the Bruins’ selected.
In comparing pre-draft rankings, Couture was the more revered of the two on most lists, which usually had him going around 10th. The consensus saw Hamill as more of a mid-round pick. Central scouting was the lone projection I could dig up that had Hamill ranked higher, but they still saw him as likely landing outside of the top 10.
To be fair to the Bruins, this draft class wasn’t very strong. It wasn’t highly touted going in and, looking back, that assessment was accurate. The top three were pretty clear cut but there was no clear number one, between Patrick Kane, James Van Riemsdyk & Kyle Turris. As the draft neared, the belief was that Chicago would take Kane first, which they ended up doing.
After the top 3, most seemed to think beyond the top 6 or 7 was anyone’s guess. I read a quote from one scout who thought anything from 8-60 was up in the air.
When the Bruins drafted 8th, the pre-draft cream was all gone. We look at this draft as Hamill over Couture but we should probably just give credit to the Sharks for making a great pick and chalk up the Bruins failure as more to do with a lack of great options, at the time. As far as Central Scouting’s, North American skater list went, the only player remaining, who was ranked higher than Hamill, was fellow bust Angelo Esposito. One behind Hamill was David Perron, who didn’t go until 26th overall.
As the first 7 picks of that draft played out, the Bruins were likely “expected” to take either Alexei Cherepanov or Keaton Ellerby. Cherepanov was a consensus top 5 pick who wasn’t taken until #17. His fall was likely due to there being a lack of any transfer agreement between the NHL and IIHF, concerning Russian players. No one could be certain when, and if, he’d ever come over. Sadly, he is now remembered by most as the player who collapsed on a KHL bench during a game and passed away. He was only 19.
Ellerby was a lumbering, 6’5”, defenceman who never really used his size to his advantage. He played parts of six seasons, for three different teams, amassing 27 points in 212 games. He was gone from the NHL by 2015.
The Bruins may have reached somewhat on Hamill but they would have been reaching for any of the 2007 first rounders, who have gone onto significant NHL careers. At the time, it wasn’t as if there was an obvious choice who they passed on. After Couture was Keaton Ellerby and then from #11-14 were decent picks: Brandon Sutter, Ryan McDonagh, Lars Eller & Kevin Shattenkirk. All of whom were projected to go in the mid to late first round, in pre-draft projections.
So, yes, Hamill was a bust but I’m fairly convinced that he was their guy going in and, based on the Sharks confidence in moving up to #9, I don’t think Couture was even on the Bruins radar at #8. I’m not sure this is of much consolation but, as we move through this draft, it will become quite apparent that the Bruins scouting wasn’t having a strong year.
The Bruins were slated to pick 38th but they made a trade with Chicago to move up to #35. At the time, it seemed like a smart move. Boston College commit, Tommy Cross, was touted by many as a late first round talent heading into the draft. Still available at #35, the Bruins saw their chance to move up and take the prep school defenceman.
While Cross never amounted to much as an NHLer, he’s had a very good AHL career, consistently posting 30+ points. In 2015, he was named captain of the Providence Bruins. He left the organization as a free agent in 2018 and is currently in the Panthers’ system. He played four games for Boston, registering two points.
Montreal would select PK Subban eight picks later.
The Bruins traded away their third round pick to Chicago as a part of the deal which allowed them to move up and take Tommy Cross, but they, technically, had another third round pick, as well.
In June 2006, the Bruins traded Nick Boynton, and a 2007 4th round pick, to Phoenix for Paul Mara and a pick that ended up being the Coyotes, 2007, third rounder. Boynton was a player who was never the same in the “new NHL”. Mara was a promising addition, fresh off back to back 40 point seasons, in Phoenix.
Unfortunately, Mara struggled to find his game in Boston and was on the move again by February. Boston traded him to the Rangers for Aaron Ward after an alleged rift between him and superstar forward, Jaromir Jagr.
The Bruins would never make the Coyotes third round selection though. In a trade with the Anaheim Ducks earlier that season, they exchanged that pick for Stanislav Chistov. Chistov had shown some promise earlier in his career but never really built on it. A former top 5 pick, the Bruins were hoping that they were buying low on him. He played one season in Boston before heading back to Russia.
The Bruins could have selected 63rd (Phoenix’s pick) and 69th. Notable third rounders who would have been available to them:
#71 Evgenii Dadonov
#77 Alex Killorn
#79 Nick Palmieri
Phoenix had the Bruins 4th round pick from the Boynton for Mara deal. They dealt it to the Maple Leafs who took Matt Frattin at #99.
Another notable pick in this round was, future Bruin, Steven Kampfer, going to the Ducks (#93).
This is where it gets interesting.
A month before the draft, the Bruins traded their 5th round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Adam McQuaid. After the trade, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said, “we felt the draft was thinner than usual in the lower rounds and this was a way to get value from a lower round pick.”
He wasn’t wrong about it being a great way to obtain value from a 5th round pick. McQuaid would go onto play nine seasons and 462 games for the Bruins. He was a big part of their Stanley Cup win, in 2011.
Chiarelli may have been slightly wrong about the level of talent that would be available later in the draft though. Columbus would trade the Bruins pick to Dallas, who used it to select…. Jamie Benn.
In a January trade that sent Yan Stastny to the Blues, the Bruins received their 5th round pick (#130). They would select Denis Reul. He played 5 games for Providence in the 2008/09 season before returning to Germany. He still plays there.
Other notable 5th rounders:
Current Providence Bruin, Paul Carey (#135) and Jake Muzzin (#141)
The Bruins used their 6th round pick to select Alain Goulet, at #159. He would play 87 games for the Providence Bruins, between 2009 and 2011, before spending the rest of his North American, professional career, in the ECHL.
Pat Maroon was selected two spots later (#161), by the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Bruins also traded a 6th round pick in the 2008 draft for Colorado’s 169th pick. Boston selected Radim Ostrcil. A defenceman from the Czech Republic. He never played pro in North America.
Four spots later, the San Jose Sharks took Nick Bonino.
With their final selection in the draft, the Bruins selected Jordan Knackstedt, a 6’3” right winger, with pick #189. Knackstedt finished his season well, with 39 points in his final 39 games, after a mid-season trade to Moose Jaw of the WHL. He would never play a single NHL game but spent a couple of decent seasons in Providence, before heading to Europe.
The sad part is that the following year Knackstedt would actually outscore Zach Hamill in the WHL. Their numbers in Providence were quite similar as well.
Other 7th round notables:
#194 Carl Gunnarsson
#201 Justin Braun
The Boston Bruins made six selections in the 2007 draft. They would play a grand total of 24 games in the NHL, tallying just 6 points, in what has to go down as one of the worst draft performances by an NHL team, ever.
At least they still had Adam McQuaid to show for their efforts. The gritty, fan fave, patrolled the B’s blue line for 9 seasons and has a shiny ‘Cup ring to show for it.
The next couple of drafts wouldn’t be much better for the Bruins. Joe Colborne & Michael Hutchinson in 2008; Jordan Caron, Lane MacDermid & Tyler Randell in 2009. Better results than 2007 but, as we’ve seen, that bar had been set pretty low. In 2010, they got back on track, bolstered by a gift in the form of Tyler Seguin, courtesy of the Maple Leafs.
In recent years, the Bruins have drastically improved at the draft. Their 2014 haul was nothing short of incredible considering they only had five picks. David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen & Anders Bjork have totalled 639 games and counting. Donato was flipped for Charlie Coyle at last years deadline and settled in quickly. Instrumental in the ‘Cup run last spring, he has continued to impress this year.
The mere mention of the 2007 draft may always make Bruin fans cringe. As long as Logan Couture is in the league, they’ll always have that physical reminder of what might have been. But the Bruins moved on, learned from those lean drafting years, and still have the 2011 Stanley Cup to lessen the blow of any regretful moments that preceded it. I’m pretty sure any Bruin fan would trade all of the drafts for that wonderful night, in Vancouver, just four years later.