As we continue the process of getting to know Peter Chiarelli, it’s time to find out how much his Bruins teams relied on rookies and help from the farm. Unlike the Oilers, Boston was a Stanley Cup contender during the Chiarelli years—implying rookies and callups were not a big part of the team(s). Let’s have a look.
ROOKIES BY YEAR
2006-07: Phil Kessel (70 games); Yan Stasny (21); Hannu Toivenen (18); Mark Stuart (15); Matt Lashoff (12); Peter Kalus (9); David Krejci (6); Ben Walter (4); Nate Thompson (4); Brian Finley (2); Jonathan Sigalet (1).
From that group, Krejci had a big AHL season, leading the Providence Bruins in points and the others (Kessel aside) had significant roles on the minor league team. That’s about 10% of a team’s roster spent on rookies, which makes sense based on the Bruins transitional period at this time.
We’re looking for fast tracks versus slow play or on time prospects who come through on time. Kessel was a fast track, I’d argue on merit.
- 2007-08: Milan Lucic (77 games); Petteri Nokelainen (57); David Krejci (56); Vladimir Sobotka (48); Matt Lashoff (18); Matt Hunwick (13); Pascal Pelletier (6); Tuukka Rask (4).
There’s some interesting things here. Krejci was beyond a point-per-game as a 20-year old in the AHL but Chiarelli and the Bruins kept him in the AHL (save 6 games). At 21, Krejci went BACK to the AHL for 21 more games (again over a point-per-game) before arriving in the NHL to stay. I think that kind of patience would strike Oilers fans as foreign (not that the team has seen many 20-year old kids at 1/1 in the AHL recently).
On the other hand, Milan Lucic jumped the AHL AND his final junior season to arrive in the NHL at age 19. It’s fun to look back and look at the two players (both second-round picks) and how each found their way to the NHL. Vladimir Sobotka played 18 games in the AHL before getting the call to Boston, but spent 44 games in Providence during the 2008-09 season.
I’d suggest Chiarelli slow played Krejci, fast tracked Lucic and they brought Sobotka along in a curious fashion, likely owing to his unique talents.
- 2008-09: Blake Wheeler (81 games); Matt Hunwick (53); Byron Bitz (35); Martin St. Pierre (14); Martin Karsums (6); Mikko Lehtonen (1); Johnny Boychuk (1); Tuukka Rask (1).
Wheeler was signed by the Bruins after the Coyotes couldn’t get him to agree to a contract, and he made it right to the NHL (and had success). Wheeler was 22 as a rookie (source: hockeydb) so I don’t think we can say he was a fast track.
The other guys spent time in the AHL, including Boychuk who was acquired from the Colorado Avalanche and had played with them (4 games) in the previous season. Boychuk was mid-20’s before Boston made him an NHL regular—again no fast track.
- 2009-10: Johnny Boychuk (51 games); Tuukka Rask (45); Brad Marchand (20); Adam McQuaid (19); Andrew Bodnarchuk (5); Jeff Pennter (2); Zach Hamill (2); Mikko Lehtonen (1).
Slow. play. Boychuk is 25, Rask is 22 and the other kids are getting cups of coffee of various sizes. At this point (2009 fall) Boychuk would have played over 370 AHL games (!!!!) before arriving as a regular. If he’d been an Oilers prospect during these years? Probably down the line. Rask is also interesting, he had played in over 100 AHL games before arriving as a regular with the Bruins.
We’re four years in with Chiarelli and he’s fast tracked a lottery pick (Kessel) and an anomaly (Lucic).
- 2010-11: Brad Marchand (77 games); Tyler Seguin (74); Adam McQuaid (67); Steven Kampfer (38); Jordan Caron (23); Matt Bartkowski (6); Zach Hamill (3); Jamie Arniel (1).
Marchand played in the AHL for over 100 games, McQuaid by this point had over 175 games in the minors. All others were developing in Providence, save for the uber famous Mr. Seguin, who is the third fast track player and the second lottery selection.
Lucic remains the only outlier.
- 2011-12: Jordan Caron (48 games); Zach Hamill (16); Lane McDermind (5); Carter Camper (3); Matt Bartkowski (3); Max Sauve (1); Anton Khudobin (1).
This was year after Stanley, the club remained together and no one pushed themselves onto the roster. There’s a thread in here I’m not mentioning, and that’s the number of failed first round picks by the Bruins in these years. Caron would join Matt Lashoff and Zach Hamill as top picks that didn’t work out.
Not much to see here.
- 2012-13: Dougie Hamilton (42 games); Matt Bartkowski (11); Ryan Spooner (4); Lane McDermid (3); Torey Krug (1).
Hamilton (like Milan Lucic) jumps his final junior season and enters the NHL at 19. He was the No. 9 overall selection in his draft year, so is not an exact match for Lucic—in fact, I’m more comfortable putting Hamilton in the same category as Kessel and Seguin. Fair? Lottery/top 10 picks.
We can see that Bartkowski and Krug are coming along while also getting development time in the AHL.
- 2013-14: Torey Krug (79 games); Kevan Miller (47); Ryan Spooner (23); Matt Fraser (14); David Warsofsky (6); Justin Florek (4); Zach Trotman (2); Matt Lindblad (2); Craig Cunningham (2); Alex Khokhlachev (1); Niklas Svedberg (1)
Krug breaks through, after a full season in the AHL after college and at age 22. The rest of these kids are Providence Bruins who received a callup, and it’s worth mentioning Boston doesn’t run a large number of AHL veterans down there.
- 2014-15: David Pastrnak (46 games); Seth Griffith (30); Craig Cunningham (32); Ryan Spooner (29); Niklas Svedberg (14); Brian Ferlin (7); Alex Khokhlachev (3); Matt Lindblad (2): Malcolm Subban (1).
Pastrnak is a late first-round pick but he’s also an outlier for me. There were only seven players from the 2014 draft to make an NHL appearance this year, and only two of those players (Aaron Ekblad and Pastrnak) played 40 or more games.
I think there are a few conclusions we can draw from this quick look at Chiarelli and how he/the Bruins use their AHL team:
- Lottery picks and top 10 overall selections in deep drafts went directly to the NHL before seeing the minor leagues. There is nothing unusual in the Bruins handling of these players under Chiarelli.
- Milan Lucic is unique among Bruins prospects—and pretty much the league—in that he jumped the AHL and arrived as a man in the NHL at 19. Very unusual.
- David Pastrnak is also an outlier, although it may be more about other NHL teams drafting acumen than the player himself. I had him No. 14, Pastrnak was borderline top 10 talent.
- The rest of these players, even the ones with obvious talent like David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, Johnny Boychuk and Tory Krug, played significant time in the AHL before being elevated to Boston.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR THE OILERS?
Good news, I’d say. McDavid is going to play and I do think the club would have slow played Darnell Nurse and probably would have sent Leon Draisaitl back last fall. There seems to be fewer ‘wonky’ moves like keeping Leon when there were absolutely questions about his readiness.
For minor league players who are currently in Oklahoma City, it likely means they will spend their entire entry-level deals in the minors. A player like Anton Lander or Martin Marincin may see more AHL time before they get a cup of coffee and unless a prospect has something that makes them special, 100 AHL games appears to be the minimum—even for the college guys.