Draft picks aren't a sure thing

With the trade deadline just three days away, there’s sure to be debate over what Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli should do with his surplus of draft picks.

Boston owns five picks in the first three rounds this season and four in the same rounds for 2011. If you’re not convinced the Bruins can be a Stanley Cup championship squad by making a few trades, you’re probably predisposed to retaining all those picks and trying to turn them into vital parts of future title teams.

Well, there are two major arguments against that philosophy. First, are the lessons that the 2000 NHL Entry Draft taught us. That June the Bruins owned six -- yes, six -- picks in the first three rounds, two in each. And the best NHL player Boston tabbed among those selections? Well, the great Andy Hilbert, who is currently out with a concussion with Minnesota. The Wild aren’t exactly missing him, however, as he has potted all of 42 goals in 307 NHL games over eight seasons.

Boston’s two first-round picks Lars Jonsson and Martin Samuelsson combined to play 14 career games in black and gold (all by Samuelsson) and Ivan Huml, taken after Hilbert in the second round, skated in 49 Bruins games in three seasons. And then in the third round came Sergei Zinovjev (10 NHL games) and Tuukka Makela (0 games). Zinovjev has become a formidable player in the KHL and an Olympian, but that has done little to aid the Bruins’ cause.

Now to be fair, obviously 10 years ago was a different era and a different front office regime. There obviously won’t be such an emphasis on European players. And, except for the Russians, European players are much easier to bring to North America now if selected. Plus, it’ll be easier for the Bruins to find a can’t-miss prospect if the pick they own from Toronto winds up in the top three. But that’s no sure thing. The Leafs improved with their pre-Olympic break trades and if Toronto (currently the second worst record in the NHL) rallies, that pick could end up outside the top three.

And that brings up the second point -- the Bruins’ draft record. While the Bruins have picked lower in the first round the last two years because of the team’s improvement, not one player selected in the last three years has skated in an NHL game. The largest disappointment, of course, is ’07 first-round pick Zach Hamill. Although he has heated up with Providence of the AHL of late and could be a factor next year or beyond, Hamill has developed slower than you would hope for the No. 7 overall pick.

With the science of the draft so inexact, and the Bruins needing to earn a playoff berth to avoid squandering the good will and support they’ve built up the last few seasons, the Bruins might be better off dealing as many picks as they can in order to upgrade the current roster. It might require some of those picks to get other teams to take salary off Boston’s hands before the Bruins can make the necessary moves. The Bruins can’t get so enamored with a potential future that they forget to address the present.