With the Bruins in the mix for the Stanley cup once again the team is likely to be right up against the cap for the foreseeable future. With big-name free agents like Krug and Debrusk, the Bruins will need to make some shrewd moves with their remaining cap. Another way the Bruins can fill out the roster with cheaper players is through the draft. Finding a diamond in the rough doesn’t need to be a Pavelski in the sixth-round. It can be a serviceable NHL player who provides more value than a normal late-round pick. Today I'm going down memory lane and looking at some steals from past drafts. Even if the bulk of the player’s career wasn't on the Bruins, they got their start here and represent what can go right in the later rounds.
First up on this list is Andrew Alberts. The defensive defenseman was a sixth-round pick (179th overall) way back in 2001. What could a sixth-round pick have turned into that makes him worth remembering? Well, Alberts played in a career 459 NHL games, including 184 for the Bruins. While he only scored 19 points with the Bruins, and 55 for his career, getting close to 500 games for a sixth-round pick is some great value.
With stops in Philadelphia, Carolina, and Vancouver Alberts carved out quite a successful career. On October 13th, 2008 Alberts was traded to Philly for Ned Lukacevic, a former 2004 fourth-round pick, and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2009. That pick ended up being 112th overall and was used to draft Lane MacDermid. While neither player made an NHL impact, moving a former sixth-round pick for two fourths was a good return on the Bruins' initial investment. Here is a quick look at what Alberts brought to any team he was on.
Byron Bitz was a fourth-round pick (107th overall) back in 2003. The bruising winger had a pretty good NCAA career, scoring .71 points per game. Bitz looked like your typical Bruin of the time; lots of size with some skill thrown in. Bitz only played in 80 games for the Bruins, and injuries limited him to just 97 career NHL games. He scored 16 points for the Bruins and only 22 for his career, so why is he on this list? Only 97 games and 22 points don't seem like a great value in the fourth round. However, Bitz had a good NCAA career, and his blend of size and skill made him an enticing prospect in the NHL during the time.
That potential would be packaged with Craig Weller and a second-round pick in the 2010 draft for Dennis Seidenberg and the rights to Matt Bartkowski. What did those two players bring to the Bruins?Only a combined 532 games, and Seidenberg was a key piece in the 2011 Stanley Cup run as Chara’s defense partner. You could argue the second-round pick was the real prize of the deal. However, I don't think even the Panthers would give up a top-pairing defenseman for just a second-round pick. The potential Bitz had was a key selling point of this deal. And while it didn't work out for the Panthers, this is one of the most significant Bruins trades of the last 20 years. For your viewing enjoyment here is his first career NHL goal showing what made him such a valuable player.
Believe it or not, Nate Thompson was once a Bruins prospect taken in the sixth-round 183rd overall back in 2003. While he only played four games with the Bruins, he has made a pretty nice career out of being a great depth forward. Just on longevity alone Thompson is clearly a diamond in the rough type of player. With stops playing for the Islanders, Lightning, Ducks, Senators, Kings, Canadiens, and finally the Flyers. This season Thompson played in 70 games, scoring 15 points, and was added to the Flyers roster at the deadline for their playoff run.
With 767 career NHL games, 156 points, 62 career playoff games and 18 playoff points that is some incredible value for a former sixth-round pick we let go on waivers. The management of Thompson was clearly not handled well by the Bruins. The point is that pick still had incredible value and is still gaining more. We will get a chance to see Thompson play against the team that drafted him in the top seed round-robin once the playoffs actually start.
Next up is probably one of the toughest to swallow being a two time Stanley Cup champion, Kris Versteeg. Versteeg fits the diamond in the rough description perfectly as fifth-round pick (134th overall) back in 2004. Back in the 2006-07 season Versteeg was still in the AHL, but he was showing some impressive offensive upside with 49 points and 22 goals in just 43 games. On February 3rd, 2007 Versteeg was sent to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski.
Since that trade Versteeg has played in 643 NHL games with 358 points including four 20 goal seasons. Kris also played in 93 playoff games scoring 48 points. Chicago clearly go the better of the Bruins in this deal. Versteeg would go on to be a part of two Stanley Cup runs for Chicago. The Bruins would salvage the deal, sending Bochenski to Nashville for the one and only Sheriff Shane Hnidy and a 2008 sixth-round pick. Hnidy would play 111 games for the Bruins and would help them win a Cup of their own in 2011. Here is a look at some career highlights that make us wonder what if.
Vladimir Sobotka was a fourth-round pick (106th overall) back in 2005. Starting his career bouncing between Boston and Providence Sobotka scored 74 points in 68 AHL games. When he was given an opportunity in Boston he turned it into 134 NHL games, but his scoring touch never really carried over only scoring 22 points. On June 26th, 2010 the Bruins decided to cash in on his potential and traded him to the Blues for David Warsofsky. Warsofsky was a fourth-round pick in 2008, but unfortunately he would mainly be an AHL player. In the AHL he played in 454 games and 233 points, to go with just 55 NHL games and 11 points. Sobotka would be a good depth player with the Blues, but he would leave the NHL for the KHL.
In the KHL Sobotka would play 138 games scoring 102 points. After refining his game Sobotka would return to the NHL. In his final season with the Blues in 2017-18 he would score 31 points in 81 games. Vladimir would them be sent to the Sabres in the Ryan O'Reilly trade. So far that has not gone well, culminating in just 16 games played this season with three points. For his career Sobotka has played in 548 NHL games and scored 171 points. Still being a good depth option in any team's bottom 6, look for those numbers to continue going up for a few more years. Here is a look at some just sheer effort plays leading to goals. Can't help but wonder how good this line could have been.
These diamond in the rough playersare what give a team prolonged success. With the salary cap in question heading into next season, getting some cheap talent in the later rounds of the draft is vitally important. The Bruins have struggled in recent history with this. Danton Heinen stands out as the only other player who has panned out in the later rounds. That could change in the next few years with some talent still in Providence, but we will have to wait and see. With sports coming back getting closer by the day keep checking out all our team pages for the latest updates. As always stay safe out there and GO BRUINS!!!
Featured image courtesy of Winslow Townson/AP Photo.