In the summer of 2009, the Boston Bruins had to make a decision that had the potential to change the course of the historic franchise for years to come. Former first round pick, and prima-donna, Phil Kessel, was seeking a long term extension worth at least five million per season. The Bruins seemed to be handcuffed by Kessel’s demands and obvious displeasure with management. Bruins GM, Peter Chiarelli decided to stick to organizational beliefs and sent the offensive minded winger to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade for three draft picks. Compensation for Kessel included, a 2010 first and second round pick to go along with a 2011 first rounder. As a result, the Bruins gained some relief on the NHL’s SalaryCap, while stockpiling young prospects for the future.
The 2009-2010 season saw the Maple Leafs finish last in the Eastern Conference; yielding the number two overall draft pick to the Boston Bruins. This upcoming draft class year saw two potential number one selections in winger Taylor Hall, who Edmonton selected first overall, and center Tyler Seguin, who the Bruins grabbed with the second overall pick. At the time, the two prospects were virtually labeled as “can’t miss prospects” who had the abilities to make an immediate impact on the game.
A year removed from dealing Kessel, the Bruins harbored another potential game changer. The difference between the former and the promising prospect was Seguin’s ability to play center, while commanding a great deal of attention due to a playmaking mentality. While only recording 22 points in 74 games, Seguin saved his best play for the postseason where he proved his promising status to the Boston contingent against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. After winning a Stanley Cup just 20-months after the trade was finalized, it appeared the trade had started to validate itself. In 2011-12, his first full season, Tyler Seguin led the Bruins in goals (29) and points (67), while posting a plus 34; ranking second in the NHL to line mate Patrice Bergeron (+36).
People forget the extra draft pick the Bruins received in 2010, a second rounder, that landed the organization London Knights winger, Jared Knight. While playing in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Knight has compiled respectable stats (102 G and 107 A in 250 games), especially the past two seasons where he has averaged a shade over a point a game (51 G and 71 A in 120 games). Knight possesses above average hands with a knack of playmaking patience, which usually results in a smooth transition at the next level.
Topping off the compensatory package, and arguably the best Bruins prospect over the last 20-years is defenseman, Dougie Hamilton. At the height of six feet, five inches, with puck moving abilities, the Bruins finally found an offensive defenseman the organization desperately sought after since the departure of Raymond Bourque. With the ninth overall selection in the first round, the B’s snagged Hamilton with their last draft pick remaining from the Kessel trade, in the 2011 Entry Draft. As such a decorated prospect, it’s unfathomable to me how Hamilton managed to escape the draft boards of organizations drafting in between one and eighth overall. In 2010-11, Hamilton won the Bobby Smith Trophy, awarded annually to the OHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year, who best exemplifies on-ice play with academics. In 2011-12, Hamilton received the Max Kaminsky Trophy; awarded to the most outstanding defenseman in the OHL. In Hamilton’s 181 OHL games, the totals are off the charts; 146 points with 17 points in 19 career playoff games. Hamilton can immediately fix a dreadful power play that has not shown up when the Bruins needed it most; in the post-season. Though, weight may be an issue with Hamilton, eighteen-year-olds with the right strength training regiment will eventually grow into their frame.
If the Phil Kessel trade never occurred, the Bruins would never have traded for right wing Nathan Horton during the 2009-10 offseason. The contract length and glaring cap hit that Kessel demanded just didn’t fit what Chiarelli and Coach Claude Julien’s defensive responsible system. If the B’s buckled and signed Kessel, I don’t think you win the Cup. Kessel is an individual-oriented kind of guy, clearly not fitting into Julien’s system where defense and goaltending take precedent over goal scoring. The pieces the Bruins have acquired through the draft alone, validates the termination of the Phil Kessel era. For the price of Phil Kessel, Boston brought in Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell and three potential all-stars, while winning the organization’s first Stanley Cup since 1972. The Bruins have made a lot of mistakes on judging player value (i.e. Joe Thornton) but the trade of Phil Kessel will never be one looked back on with regret.