Ever wonder what happened to some of these ‘can’t miss’ prospects?
You know, the ones that have Bruins’ fans drooling over their potential, and then disappear as quickly as they arrived?
While some actually pan out to be pretty good NHLers, a sad fact is that most NHL draft picks or unsigned diamond-in-the-rough type of players never experience any kind of sustained success in the league.
For some players, the road out of the league is slow, as fans watch them fade out of lineups and into the farm system. Others, however, seem to disappear into obscurity before you can even say ‘bust.’
Here’s a look at a few names who have come through the system in recent years.
Let's start by going back a few years to 2002, the year the Boston Bruins selected Hannu Toivonen 29th overall in the entry draft.
If you’re old enough to remember, the late 90s and early 2000's weren’t particularly bad years for Bruins goaltending, and it had been a long time since the B's had a bonafide stud in net. The drafting of Toivonen was supposed to solidify the Bruins' netminding for many years to come.
This thought was even more cemented after two great seasons in Providence, where he posted seasons with 2.30 GAA and .921 SV% in 2003-2004, and then followed that up with an incredible 2.05 GAA and .932 SV% the next year.
Yes, the door was wide open for Toivonen to take over the reins as Boston's #1 goaltender, and then halfway through the 2005-2006 season in Boston, Toivonen suffered a high ankle sprain that kept him out the rest of the season. After that, it seemed like Toivonen never regained his form.
The following year, he struggled mightily and was replaced by some guy named Tim Thomas.
The next couple years saw Toivonen bounce between Boston and Providence, before he was traded to St. Louis, where he couldn’t land a job with the Blues either. Toivonen would spend the last 10 years of his career playing for 15 different teams in 6 different leagues.
A couple interesting tidbits about Toivonen: he has the honor of allowing Sidney Crosby's first NHL goal and he was traded to the Blues for the rights to Carl Soderberg.
In 2005, the Boston Bruins liked what they saw in US-born defenseman Matt Lashoff, so much so that they selected him 22nd overall in the draft. Lashoff was selected ahead of other defensive prospects like Kris Letang, Keith Yandle, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and for good reason: NHL scouts had Lashoff ranked 12th overall among prospects that year.
Many Bruins fans were penciling Lashoff in as the next great Boston defenseman.
Like Toivonen, Lashoff had a couple of solid years in the AHL, but failed to translate that success into a spot with the Bruins. At the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, when it looked like Lashoff would be able to finally secure a spot in Boston, he terribly under-performed in training camp, as rumors suggested he was badly out of shape.
In 2009, Lashoff was traded to the Lightning in a deal that brought back Mark Recchi to Boston.
Lashoff would only play in 28 total NHL games after leaving Boston, and like Toivonen, he spent most of his career bouncing from minor league team to minor league team in numerous leagues around the world.
The Bruins thought they had landed a key piece for their future when they selected the leading WHL’s 2006-2007 leading scorer 8th overall in the '07 entry draft.
Despite putting up respectable seasons in the AHL while in the Bruins organization, for Hamill, the NHL always seemed out of reach. Whether it was too much pressure on the former first rounder, a lack of foot speed, or the inability to fit in Claude Julien's system, Hamill never made much of an impact in Boston and was traded to Washington in 2012.
Sadly for Hamill, he would not appear in another regular season NHL game the rest of his career and has bounced back and forth between North America and Europe ever since.
Khokhlachev was drafted by the Bruins 40th overall in 2011 after putting up 59 goals and 145 points in two seasons for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
After he was drafted, many fans hoped Khokhlachev was going to make the strong Bruins team of the early 2010's that much stronger. Things seemed to be progressing nicely for Khokhlachev after a couple of decent AHL, but he was only ever given a sniff in the NHL.
By 2016, Koko had gotten tired off waiting for a permanent call-up and signed a two-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. Khokhlachev has had decent success over in Russia, and rumors have come up over the last couple years that he may be interested in an NHL return, but nothing has materialized yet.
Khokhlachev’s contract with Spartak Moscow ends this year, along with Boston's rights to the skilled forward. If Khokhlachev ever plans to return to the NHL, the 2020-2021 season might be his best bet.
With the Bruins great season last year and dominant performance this season, it’s easy to forget about the player known as 'JFK.'
Forsbacka-Karlsson was drafted 45th overall in the 2015 draft. At that time, his ability to play at both ends of the rink with high hockey intelligence was garnering him unfair comparisons to Patrice Bergeron.
Many, including Bruins' management, were hoping Forsbacka-Karlsson would fill the hole on the third line that existed for several years, prior to Charlie Coyle's arrival. And Forsbacka-Karlsson was certainly given that opportunity, appearing in 28 games during the 2018-2019 season.
Unfortunately for Forsbacka-Karlsson, he was probably not ready physically or mentally for the jump to the big leagues. After finishing an injury-plagued season in Providence, Forsbacka-Karlsson decided to he wanted to return to Sweden to play hockey and be closer to family.
It's definitely too early to close the book on Forsbacka-Karlsson at this point; however, he only put up 13 points in 40 games for Växjö of the SHL last season, so it doesn't look like he'll be ready to return to Boston any time soon.
Any other former prospects stand out in your mind?