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How Victor Hedman plays into Dougie Hamilton conversation 06.09.15 at 1:06 pm ET
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Victor Hedman has become elite. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Will Dougie Hamilton continue to follow Victor Hedman’s career path?           (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Victor Hedman has most definitely arrived. His sixth season in the NHL, despite an injury detour early in the season, has cemented his status as one of the top defensemen in the league. The Bruins could use someone like that, and they can only hope Dougie Hamilton becomes such an impact player.

They can do more than hope, actually. They can look at the players’ career paths and project accordingly.

Like Hamilton, Hedman is a big, skilled, offensively creative defenseman whose detractors note a lack of physicality. He was also a top prospect in his draft (second overall in 2009).

Hedman’s bigger than Hamilton; he’s 6-foot-6 and, after coming into the league at 220 pounds, is now listed at 230 pounds. Hamilton is 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds. He could stand to continue to bulk up.

Yet where Hamilton has Hedman — and pretty much everyone — is how his career has begun. If Hamilton has reached his ceiling, he’ll be a solid player who has a solid career. There’s little reason to think that, however, as he has outperformed plenty of great defensemen who ascended to stardom after their first three seasons.

Back in April, we compared Hamilton to P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Pietrangelo, looking at the how they performed in their entry-level contracts and noting the contracts those players got. Given that Hedman has become one of the top young blueliners in the game, it’s worth revisiting with his numbers as well.

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Read More: Dougie Hamilton, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, Victor Hedman
Bruins won’t bring back Carl Soderberg 06.08.15 at 12:14 pm ET
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Carl Soderberg

Carl Soderberg

Carl Soderberg’€™s time with the Bruins is done, as agent J.P. Barry confirmed a Boston Globe report that the team will not be making an offer to the 29-year-old center.

The Bruins don’t have much wiggle room given their salary cap situation. As such, they informed Barry that they won’t be able to make the player a legitimate offer given their current status. Boston’s next move regarding Soderberg should be to trade his rights to a team hoping to sign him before free agency begins. Teams typically receive draft pick compensation in such moves.

Soderberg played out the final year of a three-year, $3.025 million contract with the Bruins and will become a free agent on July 1. He will be considered among the best free-agent centers available, along with Chicago’s Antoine Vermette.

With Soderberg gone, Ryan Spooner will become the favorite to slide into the vacancy at third line center. Alexander Khokhlachev also figures to be in the mix.

In 161 career regular season games with the Bruins, Soderberg scored 29 goals and added 65 assists for 94 points. He had one goal and five assists for six points in 14 playoff games.

Soderberg intends to keep playing in the NHL rather than return to Sweden, where he played for his entire career before finally coming to the NHL in 2013.

In other Bruins news, the team announced the signing of Providence College center Noel Acciari on Monday. For more on Acciari, click here.

For more Bruins new, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Picking in middle of first round guarantees little for Bruins (and everyone else) 06.04.15 at 6:00 am ET
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When the draft rolls around later this month, the Bruins will pick higher than they have in recent years. That does not guarantee success or even suggest it, for draft picks are scratch tickets. Even the early ones.

Boston picks 14th overall in this year’€™s draft, putting them in the middle of the first round. The last time the B’s had a pick in the teens, they moved it to Florida in the Nathan Horton deal. That trade turned out to be a slam dunk not only because it netted the Bruins a pair of players who helped them win the Stanley Cup, but because Derek Forbort, the player selected with that pick after Florida flipped it to Los Angeles, has yet to play an NHL game.

In the NFL, Forbort would be considered a massive bust. In the NHL, the two-year pro’s career to this point given his draft status is not surprising. While Forbort could eventually make it, it’€™s common for first-round picks to not play a single game in the NHL. Such has been the case with 21 of the 210 players drafted in the first round from 2005-2011 (10 percent).

Top-10 picks have a high success rate. Picks after that do not, so as the Bruins prepare to draft inside the first 20 picks for the first time since 2011 (Dougie Hamilton), they do so with the odds still stacked against them.

The Bruins, who usually picked in the mid-to-late first round under Peter Chiarelli, had a very poor track record, even missing on a top-10 pick in Zach Hamill. While that was undoubtedly an organizational issue, it’s worth keeping in mind that missing on the later first-round picks is par for the course.

It’€™s commonly known that the late first-round can be a swampland, which is why multiple second-round picks can often be worth more than one late first-rounder. We tried to quantify this by breaking the first round into three ranges (Picks No. 1-20, 11-20 and 21-30) and seeing how many were hits and how many were misses. Here are the findings, with an explanation below.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 12.27.16 AM

As the chart shows, the numbers are pretty overwhelming regarding the dropoff from the first 10 picks to anything after that. The middle of the first round is a bit better than the late-first, but such picks are still usually unsuccessful.

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Pre-combine look at forwards Bruins could target in NHL draft 05.30.15 at 9:30 am ET
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Kyle Connor is the best American forward not named Jack Eichel in this draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Kyle Connor is the best American forward not named Jack Eichel in this draft. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The annual NHL scouting combine will take place this coming week in Buffalo, meaning the Bruins will get a close look at the prospects they’€™ll consider with the 14th overall pick in June’€™s draft.

Here’€™s a quick look at some of the guys who might be around the Bruins’€™ range and a few for whom they’€™d have to trade up to secure. We’€™ll break these posts down into forwards and defensemen, starting with forwards.

GUYS THE BRUINS COULD GET

Mikko Rantanen, RW, TPS Turku (Finland), 6-foot-3 1/2, 211 pounds

The top international prospect in the draft according to NHL Central Scouting, Rantanen is hyped for having a strong shot, among other qualities. He had just nine goals and 19 assists for 28 points in 56 games this season in SM-liiga, Finland’€™s top professional league. Mock drafts have him going in the top 10, so this could be wishful thinking for the B’€™s.

Pavel Zacha, C, Sarnia (OHL), 6-foot-3, 210 pounds

Played in the Czech Extraliga before coming over to North America. The 18-year-old was nearly a point-per-game player in his first season with the Sting, scoring 16 goals and adding 18 assists for 34 points in 37 games, but he also missed ample time with injuries. Remember: Injuries in his draft year helped David Pastrnak slide to the B’€™s in the late first round last year.

Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL), 6-foot-1, 209 pounds

The Switzerland native plays a heavy game and compares himself to Max Pacioretty. Meier is a left-shot right wing, similar to current Bruins Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith. Worth noting: The QMJHL has been kind to the Bruins in the past (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand), but Boston’€™s last first-round pick from the Q was Jordan Caron.

Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL), 5-foot-11 1/4, 175 pounds

Mike Morreale of NHL.com projected Barzal to the Bruins in his post-lottery mock draft. If that were to happen, Barzal could be quite the value pick.

Once considered a possibility to go third overall in this draft, a knee injury this past season hurt Barzal’€™s stock. Considered an elite offensive talent, a team prioritizing taking the best player available could capitalize should he slide. Barzal’€™s also an alum of the BCHL’€™s Coquitlam Express, which is where Milan Lucic played before the WHL.

Kyle Connor, LW, Youngstown (USHL), 6-foot-1, 177 pounds

Committed to play at the University of Michigan next season, Connor is a speedster who receives praise for his defensive play. Connor is ranked as the sixth-best player in the entire draft by TSN’€™s Craig Button, whereas Central Scouting ranks him as the No. 13 North American player.

Travis Konecny, C, Ottawa (OHL), 5-foot-9 3/4, 175 pounds

Konecny is a fast right-shot center whom the 67’€™s drafted first overall in the 2013 OHL draft. He hasn’€™t set the OHL on fire yet, but he has produced at more than a point-per-game pace in each of his two seasons in Ottawa.

Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George (WHL), 6-foot-1 1/4, 182 pounds

Frequently compared to David Krejci for being a well-rounded center, Harkins is the son of former Flames second-round pick Todd Harkins and the nephew of former Bruins left wing Brett Harkins.

Evgeny Svechnikov, LW, QMJHL, 6-foot-1 3/4, 199 pounds

After playing junior hockey back home in Russia for the three previous seasons, Schechnikov enjoyed a very strong first season in the QMJHL this year with 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 55 games. Svechnikov brings a combination of skill and physicality.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 NHL Draft,
Bruins sign Anton Blidh to entry-level contract 05.29.15 at 10:21 am ET
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The Bruins have signed 2013 sixth-round pick Anton Blidh to an entry-level contract, the team announced Friday.

A forward who spent last season playing for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League, Blidh had five goals and no assists over 48 games last season. He totaled one goal and six assists the previous season between Frolunda HC and Karlskrona HK of Swedish Division 1.

The 20-year-old left wing is listed at 6-foot-0 and 181 pounds. He becomes the second member of the 2013 draft class to sign his entry-level with the B’s, joining fellow Sweden native Linus Arnesson. The B’s signed Arnsesson last June, with the second-round pick coming over from Sweden late in the season and playing 11 games for Providence.

The Bruins did not have a first-round pick in 2013, as it was dealt to the Stars in exchange for Jaromir Jagr.

 

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Don Sweeney wants to get feel for Milan Lucic’s contract demands before making decision 05.20.15 at 8:59 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

How the Bruins proceed with Milan Lucic will be high on the list of things that define the early going of Don Sweeney’€™s tenure as Bruins general manager. Sweeney is well aware.

Lucic, who turns 27 next month, has been a dominant player in seasons past. His numbers have been in decline for years, however, and he carries a $6 million cap hit entering the final year of a contract that allows him to pick 15 teams to which he’€™d accept a trade.

Speaking to WEEI.com Wednesday evening, Sweeney called Lucic a “foundational type player” but noted that the B’€™s will get a feel for Lucic’€™s future contract demands before proceeding. Trading Lucic would shed cap space, but the team might not get the return they’€™d have gotten for him in years past given that he is coming off a season in which he scored just 18 goals.

“The CBA at this point in time, you can’€™t argue with what’€™s in front of us and the challenges it may present,” Sweeney said. “[Lucic] is going into a contract year and free agency’€™s on the other side of it. We’€™re going to have to be out in front and have some early discussions and certainly get a temperature read as to how much he wants to be a part of the Boston Bruins‘€™ future going forward.

“We have to convey a similar thing and make a [decision]. Some of these decisions and conversations aren’€™t going to be easy. They’€™re not, but it was part of me as a player that I appreciated when coaches and people had conversations with you. You may not like all the stuff being said, but you can process it and move past it and understand that it’€™s part of it.”

With the exception of his improvement from a disastrous 2013 season, Lucic’€™s goals per 60 and points per 60 have dropped in each year since a career year in 2010-11 in which he scored 30 goals. Sweeney said he feels Lucic can still be the impact player that he’€™s been in the past.

“He has a presence about him,”€ Sweeney said. “€œIt might not have been his finest year, but there are moments where you realize, ‘€˜Wow. This guy is a unique player.’€™ We’€™re going to have to have discussions along those lines.”€œ

Read More: Don Sweeney, Milan Lucic,
Cam Neely mum on final say, seeks better president-GM communication with Don Sweeney 05.20.15 at 3:36 pm ET
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While Cam Neely defended his relationship with Claude Julien Wednesday, he revealed a bit more about how he got along with the recently fired Peter Chiarelli.

After the Bruins introduced Don Sweeney as the team’€™s next general manager, Neely stressed the importance of communication in the front office, prompting a question as to whether he felt he and Chiarelli communicated as well as they would have liked.

“The communication could have been better,” Neely answered.

Chiarelli was the GM before Neely was president, but Chiarelli’€™s success prevented Neely from picking his own guy until the Bruins missed the playoffs this season.

Given that Sweeney is both a former teammate of Neely’€™s and the general manager of Neely’€™s choosing, the working relationship between he and Neely figures to be better. He claimed that his friendship with Sweeney did not take priority over the qualifications of other candidates.

“I’ve been president of the Bruins since 2010,” Neely said. “I have not hired a friend.”

Neely repeatedly deflected questions about who gets final say on player personnel, but noted he doesn’€™t want to do his general manager’€™s job.

“I’€™ve made it very clear: I’€™m not a GM. I don’€™t want to be a GM,” Neely said. “I want the GM to do the job, but I want to know what’€™s going on. I don’€™t know how much more clear I can be with that. If the GM wants to push and fight and say ‘€˜This is the right thing,’€™ then I’€™ll sit down and listen. I want to have conversations. My door is always open.”

Neely was then asked who’s responsible for the moves the team makes, whether good or bad. He said that the president should take responsibility, but still avoided whether he makes the final decision. Asked who makes the call when the hockey operations department is split on a decision, he responded “tie goes to the runner.”

“Then who’s the runner?” multiple media members asked.

“Ultimately, if Don feels strongly about something, I’ve got to allow him to do his job,” Neely said, “but if I feel strongly about something then I’ll let him know. But this total autonomy thing, since I became president in 2010, it’s been [considered] a big deal, and I don’t get it. I really don’t.”

The Bruins fired Chiarelli on April 15. He has since taken over the Oilers as team president and GM. Because he had term on his contract that the Bruins would pay had he not found work elsewhere, the Bruins can seek draft pick compensation from the Oilers. Neely confirmed the Bruins are seeking a pick from the Oilers, which would be a second-round pick in one of the next three drafts. The Oilers get to pick which year they give up the pick, making it unlikely that they’€™ll part with the third pick of the second round in this June’€™s draft.

Read More: Cam Neely, Don Sweeney, Peter Chiarelli,
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