The Bear Cave

June 22, 2009 8:07 AM

Goaltending not a Concern for Bruins

With the awards ceremony behind us, it's time to turn the page forward to the NHL's next big event - the 2009 NHL Draft. This year's draft takes place on Friday at Montreal's Bell Centre. The draft will be the first NHL event at the Bell Centre since the Boston Bruins eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in game four of the opening round of the playoffs.

Although the Bruins will be entering enemy territory, Peter Chiarelli and company will be looking to continue their recent run of success at the draft. In 2006, Chiarelli began his regime by selecting current NHLers Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic. He then followed that up by taking Brad Marchand, Andrew Bodnarchuk, and Levi Nelson, who all spent last season with the Providence Bruins in the AHL. So far, 2007 has turned out to be a year of bookends for Boston, as first pick Zach Hamill and final pick Jordan Knackstedt have both reached the AHL level. Because of the AHL's age requirements, Jamie Arniel's playoff run has been the only professional experience out of the 2008 draft.

In the coming days, we'll take a look at each position in the Boston organization, and what might be expected out of that area in the draft, the future, and free agency.

The first position on the list is clearly the easiest - goaltender. A few nights ago, the Boston Bruins picked up both goalie awards, as Tim Thomas took home the Vezina Trophy, while splitting the Jennings Trophy with Manny Fernandez.

The first netminder on the depth chart is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Tim Thomas. At age 35, Thomas appears to be saving his best for last, as he finally landed a full time gig in the NHL during the 2005-06 season. Although the team struggled during his first two seasons in Boston, Thomas was proving himself as a reliable piece between the pipes, posting save percentages of .917 and .905. Year three was even better for the former Vermont Catamount, as he went 28-19-6, with a 2.44 goals against average, and a .921 save percentage. However, that was nothing compared to this past year, when Thomas proved he was the best, going 36-11-7, with a 2.10 goals against average, and a .933 save percentage. The last two numbers in that sequence led the league. Thanks to a four-year contract extension signed in April, the Bruins won't have to worry about their top goaltender until the spring of 2013.

This past season, Thomas had Manny Fernandez as his backup. Although Fernandez tended to receive frequent criticism from the fans, he did perform well in 2008-09, compiling a 16-8-3 record, a 2.59 goals against average, and a .910 save percentage. That being said, two years looks to be the length of his stay in Boston, as Fernandez is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Bruins have a young goaltender ready to step in.

That young goaltender is 22-year old Tuukka Rask. Because of Thomas, Fernandez, and Alex Auld, Rask only has five games of NHL experience on his resume. However, after two successful seasons in Providence, the native of Finland is more than ready to show people what he can do at the next level. 2009-10 is the final season on Rask's contract, but he will likely be a member of this team for years to come.

Looking toward the AHL, we find that Kevin Regan's name is the next in line. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 2008, Regan spent his first full season in the AHL this past year. In 21 appearances, Regan went 9-7-2, with a 2.99 goals against average, and an .896 save percentage. Thanks to that experience, the 24-year old could be the favorite to defend the net in Providence again next year. However, Regan is a restricted free agent, so he will have to sign a new contract first.

Name number four might come as a bit of a surprise, as this is a player who has only been a part of the organization for a few months. That is Matt Dalton, who opted to sign with the Bruins after his second season at Bemidji State University. After serving as the backup for Dallas' Matt Climie during his freshman year, Dalton grabbed the starting role this past season, going 19-11-1, with a 2.19 goals against average, and a .921 save percentage. Dalton won't be able to return to the NCAA this coming season, so the AHL could theoretically be his destination.

If Dalton makes the P-Bruins' roster, Adam Courchaine would likely return to the OHL's Ottawa 67s for his third and final season of junior eligibility. Courchaine does have some experience in the AHL, playing in four games over the past two years. The 20-year old's contract runs through 2010-11, so he will likely be in Providence at some point over the next two seasons.

The final goalie on the list will still have to wait at least one more year to reach Rhode Island, as Michael Hutchinson checks in at the age of 19. Hutchinson has spent each of the last three seasons with the Barrie Colts of the OHL, posting a 35-38-5 record. The southpaw did grab some attention during Boston's 2008 training camp, so an AHL job could potentially be in the somewhat near future for Hutchinson.

With Thomas locked in for four years and Rask likely to follow for a while after him, the need to take a goaltender early in this year's draft is zero. Figuring that said goaltender would be 18 at the time of the draft, he would spend two years playing in the amateur ranks, and would be forced to play at least two seasons with the Baby B's. If and when he were to be called up, he would be behind Rask.

Although there are four other goalies in the system, goaltending is like pitching in the sense that you can never have too much of it. Because of that number, it certainly isn't a necessity this season, as Boston and Providence both appear to be in good shape for at least the next two or three years. However, a selection in a later round is a possibility.

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