Seems Like a Long Time

This is Bruce Boudreau. I remember him from 74-75 when he had a monster junior season for the Toronto Marlboros. Boudreau was a small skill forward who romped to the OHA scoring championship (165 points in 69 games) and was taken 42nd overall in that summer’s draft (1975, he went to Toronto). In three junior seasons he scored 365 points (in 183gp, 1.99points-per-game).

Boudreau is an interesting player in that he put up exceptional numbers in pretty much every league he played in but never established himself as an NHL player. I’m a big numbers guy, but the numbers that dictated his career were 5-9, 170.

Boudreau turned pro in 75-76 and by 77-78 he was an NHL rookie, putting up 29 points for the Maple Leafs in 40 games. That’s a pretty nice number, folks. Erroll Thompson was about the same size (Thompson was a speedy LW with a terrific shot) and Boudreau had a better ppg that season.

The next season he was in the AHL for the most part, beginning an impressive run of ppg’s in the highest minor league. Starting in 78-79, his AHL ppg’s were 1.18, 1.2, 1.45, 1.58(CHL), 1.525, 1.36 and then he went to Germany.

He returned to the AHL in 1985, and won the scoring championship in 87-88 (1.45) with a total of 116 points. He was 32. Between 1976 and 1989, Bruce Boudreau played in 779 games in the very high minors. In those games he produced 995 points (1.28).

I waited for years to see Bruce Boudreau win a major league job, but he never managed more than 40 games in a single season. Still, his final NHL numbers (141gp, 28-42-70, .496) imply that he did indeed have some ability but the size disadvantage was too much to overcome.

Bruce Boudreau can offer insight (imo) into any era of NHL prospect. He was an impact player in a very narrow view. He was one dimensional, and despite being very good at certain levels he just couldn’t break through and become an NHL regular (the Leafs main centers when he was knocking at the door were Darryl Sittler, Walt McKechnie and a bunch of good looking kids from Don Ashby to Laurie Boschman) and ended up having a tremendous minor league career.

When we look at the current edition of the Oklahoma City Barons it’s nice to see players with a wide range of skills. A guy like Teemu Hartikainen has size, skill and grit; it’s been a helluva long time since a 20-year old Oiler prospect picked in the 6th round had a pro debut like this guy’s 10-11 season.

He enjoyed a better AHL season than Kyle Brodziak (who in fairness played for a horrible AHL team as a rookie); he had a better rookie season than Jason Chimera did in the AHL; in fact, Hartikainen’s rookie numbers are on par with those posted by Matt Lombardi a decade ago. I’m not saying the Finn will be a top 6 forward, but it seems like forever since the Oilers were gifted with a useful forward with size via the minor leagues.

And he’s just one of many quality prospects moving through the system. What’s the difference? Coaching is part of it, I’d guess. The organization has added some real AHL veterans and that’s helped too, and of course the drafting seems to be better (or luckier).

Either way, there’s something happening in OKC and the Edmonton Oilers are going to benefit in a big way. It’s been a long time.

Nation Radio hits the air at noon today. You can email questions to nationradio@theteam1260.com and I’d like to thank you for all the comments and questions. Among the guests scheduled for today are former Oiler Cam Connor, Jonathan Willis, Jason Gregor and Kent Wilson of Flames Nation. Hope you tune in.

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