( Photo Credit: NHL.com / Boston Bruins )

By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The 2023 National Hockey League Entry Draft, held at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, kicks off next Wednesday night with round one selections and wraps up the festivities with rounds two through seven starting Thursday morning. As I write this article, the Boston Bruins do not have selections in the first two rounds of the annual draft, so the team must be diligent in finding developmental value with players available in the later rounds.

FloHockey.com prospect writer Chris Peters wrote an article on June 20th, 2023, mentioning NHL Draft eligible prospects outside his top 100 and could be available in the later rounds. Chris is a fantastic source regarding the developmental stages of hockey here in North America and Europe. While reading Peters’s article, four mentions of potential late-round gems in his list intrigued me when thinking about the Boston Bruins organization and who they could select.

The B’s have selections in the third, fourth, sixth, and two in the seventh round in the upcoming draft. Not to mention the following summer entry draft festivities where the Bruins will once again be behind but this time with no selections in the first three rounds in the summer of 2024. Obviously, the Bruins want to make trades for salary cap relief to be compliant before the 2023-24 season starts, but they also want to get back in the first and second round of this summer’s draft.

If the B’s cannot get back in the early sessions of the annual NHL arrival process, it will put increased pressure on management and scouting staff to maximize player potential and the future landscape in this draft starting a week from today. Below are my thoughts on two players the Bruins could target per reading the article by Chris Peters and the FloHockey.com website.

Cole Knuble

( Photo Credit: Michael Vosburg / The Forum / The Rink Live )

I had the pleasure of watching Cole many times while he was playing for the United States Hockey League Fargo Force in the 2021-22 season. That year Knuble played alongside Boston Bruins prospects (F) Andre Gasseau and (D) Mason Langenbrunner. The 5′-11″ 185-pound center has played the last two seasons with the USHL Force, appearing in 124 games and posting career totals of 50-66-116.

The 18-year-old Michigan native has committed to attend the University of Notre Dame in the NCAA as a freshman this fall. Last season he ended his USHL career by posting career highs in goals, assists, and points going 30-36-66 in 57 games played. He has an NHL pedigree, with his father spending, Mike Knuble, spending a little over four seasons with the B’s from 1999-00 to the 2003-04 campaign.

Here’s what Chris Peters had to say about Cole Knuble before the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft next week:

“A re-entry after going unselected last year, Knuble pushed his game up another level this season. He led Fargo offensively all season as they claimed the regular-season title and finished as a runner-up in the Clark Cup Playoffs. The son of former NHLer Mike Knuble is below average in the size department but long on work ethic, and he showed improved overall skill and skating this year. The Notre Dame commit had 66 points in 57 games and was an absolute force in the playoffs, with six goals and nine points in nine games. I don’t think Knuble will go until the very late stages of the draft, but I think he should be picked. I thought he deserved a chance to go last year, too.”

Rodwin Dionicio

( Photo Credit: Dave Jewell / The Hockey Writers )

Here’s what Chris Peters had to say about Rodwin Dionicio before the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft next week:

“An explosive run offensively with Windsor helped Dionicio get onto the draft radar as a second-year eligible. He’s a 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman with hands. Defensively, he’s only OK, but he has some really good skill and with creativity from the back end. Dionicio also has a solid shot. There’s enough tools there to suggest some additional development time could give him a chance, but I wouldn’t be picking him until later in the second half of the draft.”

Dionicio was another player I had the benefit of watching, while my primary focus was on Bruins prospect Brett Harrison of the Ontario Hockey League Windsor Spitfires. He is a decent-sized blueliner with good mobility and hockey intelligence, always looking to gain open ice with his quick and strong skating and the ability to survey ice and snap a stretch pass for quick offensive transition.

The Bruins are constantly looking for attributes like Dionicio’s offensive capabilities as a mobile blueliner and can work on his defensive deficiencies as he continues to develop. I’ll take a player that can shoot and survey the line east to west any day, all day. Rodwin posted 11-32-43 numbers in 33 games for Windsor after last season’s trade from the Niagara Ice Dogs, where he had seven points in 17 games. Dionicio was the second-best defenseman on the Spits on the powerplay on a loaded team, so his special team’s attributes and his overall game could be improved with further development.

The Boston Bruins Should Select a Goaltender in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Call me crazy for thinking the Boston Bruins need to add another netminder to the mix in the developmental scheme of the organization, but they do. With the unknown future of Michael Dipietro and Kyle Keyser this offseason, I believe the Bruins need to address the goaltending depth, and acquiring one in this draft from Nashville may be the time to do so. The Bruins developing core in the crease are recently extended Brandon Bussi, former 2021 fourth-round pick Philip Svedeback, and former 2022 sixth-round selection Reid Dyck.

That’s pretty thin when looking at the Boston Bruins future in goal, and that’s not including Dipietro and Keyser, who have yet to receive qualifying offers. Dipietro and Keyser are both 24-year-old restricted free agents this offseason, and in my honest opinion, Keyser may have a better opportunity with another NHL club with a landscape not so clogged in the crease, such as Boston and the talent that has seemed to pass him over. Per Chris Peter’s article, here are my choices if the Boston Bruins had to select one next week in Nashville.

Damian Clara

( Photo Credit: Stefan Eriksson, Färjestad BK )

Clara, a 6′-6 “, 207-pound Italian native, played last season with the Farjestad BK club in the HockeyAllsvenskan J20 Nationell league posting a record of 17-17-0 with a 2.79 goals-against-average and .903 save percentage. Damian is under contract this upcoming 2023-24 season to once again play overseas in the HockeyAllsvenskan league, this time on loan to the Brynas IF club.

While his numbers might not scream success in the European ranks, his size alone and upside might be very attractive to NHL goaltending coaches looking to breed the next great netminder. The development of Boston Bruins netminders has taken a huge step forward, and often think the efforts of Bob Essnesa and Mike Dunham go criminally underrated. We’ve seen what this goaltending coaching tandem has done with Dan Vladar leading up to current NHL’er Jeremy Swayman. It might be time to involve the next project for this organization in the crease, and believe Clara could be a great selection in the later rounds to address a future need.

Here’s what Chris Peters had to say about Rodwin Dionicio before the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft next week:

“Who doesn’t love a good goalie project? Clara, an Italian international, is a massive netminder at 6-foot-6, 207 pounds with a projectable athletic toolkit and some exciting overall upside. He moved to Sweden this year, where he played for Farjestad’s U20 team and is on loan to play in the Allsvenskan next season with Brynas. There’s a deep crop of goalies this year, but Clara has enough quickness and competitiveness to land a mid-round selection.”

Thomas Milic

( Photo Credit: Brian Liesse / Seattle Thunderbirds )

This particular idea is going out of the normal thinking of goaltending development when considering the size of a developing netminder. Milic is a 6′-0″, 175-pound British Columbia, Canada, native who spent last season with the Western Hockey League Seattle Thunderbirds. In 33 games with the Thunderbirds in 2022-23, Milic posted WHL career highs with a 27-3-1 record in the regular season with a 2.08 GAA and .928 Save%.

Last year in Seattle, Milic received a vast amount of recognition for his outstanding play splitting the 2022-23 regular season duties in the crease with teammate and fellow 2023 NHL Entry Draft eligible Scott Ratzlaff. Last season Milic was the WHL’s Top Goaltender, a Canadian Hockey League First All-Star Selection, a WHL First All-Star Team Selection, WHL’s Best Goals-Against-Average, and WHL’s Best Save Percentage.

In the 2023 postseason, the quick and agile goaltender was the 2023 WHL Playoffs MVP posting a record of 16-3-0 along with a 1.95 GAA and .933 Save% while helping the Thunderbirds win a WHL Championship. Regardless of Milic’s frame, I believe he has what it takes as a hard-working 20-year-old developing netminder to be an asset to any NHL team fortunate to select him in the upcoming draft festivities.

Here’s what Chris Peters had to say about Thomas Milic before the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft next week:

“Could this finally be the year Thomas Milic hears his name called? He’s done pretty much everything within his power to be drafted, but teams are still hesitant because of his size. As a barely 6-foot goalie, teams are often resistant to take goalies, but Milic won the World Juniors with Team Canada as its primary starter, won the WHL title and helped his team get to the final game of the Memorial Cup tournament. He has good quickness and competitiveness. The winning pedigree he has suggests a team is going to take a chance on him. But his NHL projection remains tenuous. We’ll see if someone bites, but if they do, I expect it will be quite late on Day 2.”