Well, Kessel and Brian Burke, to be more accurate. Burke, the Maple Leafs general manager, was generous enough to give the Bruins two first-round picks and a second rounder for Kessel back in 2009.
The first of those picks brought Tyler Seguin to Boston as the second overall selection of the 2010 draft. After helping the Bruins win the Cup in his rookie year and enjoying a breakthrough sophomore campaign with team-high 29-38-67 totals this season, that alone would be a pretty solid return for the enigmatic Kessel.
But the Bruins' haul appears like it will soon grow even greater. The other two players that Boston added with the picks acquired for Kessel squared off this week with a different championship at stake. Forward Jared Knight, a 2010 second rounder, and London prevailed over defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Niagara in the Ontario Hockey League Final.
London took the series 4-1 with a 2-1 victory in Game 5 on Friday. Knight and the rest of the Knights, which coincidentally happens to be London's nickname, now advance to the Memorial Cup, which will be held this year in Shawinigan, Quebec, beginning May 19. The Memorial Cup is Canadian junior hockey's answer to the Final Four, with the champions of the OHL, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League and the host team competing in a round-robin tournament to determine a national champion in the pinnacle of junior hockey.
While Hamilton won't get the chance to play in the Memorial Cup, he left a strong impression in the playoffs. The ninth overall pick of the 2011 draft finished the postseason with 5-18-23 totals and a plus-15 rating in 23 games. That came on the heels of leading all OHL blueliners with 17-55-72 totals and a plus-37 in just 50 games in the regular season.
Hamilton earned first-team all-star honors and was named the OHL's top defenseman for his efforts. He also drew some strong praise from Dennis MacInnis, the director of amateur scouting for the International Scouting Service.
"I think Dougie Hamilton is the best defenseman outside the NHL," MacInnis told the Toronto Star before Friday's Game 5. "He's got a terrific future in Boston. Can you imagine him and Zdeno Chara on the point on the Bruins power play?"
The Bruins are certainly envisioning that scenario, which could become a reality as early as next season. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said at the club's breakup day that he believes Hamilton "will challenge for a spot" next year. Bruins president Cam Neely echoed that sentiment last week but was careful not to put too much pressure on the youngster, who doesn't turn 19 until June 17.
"It's tough to say," Neely said. "I want to see him at camp. I want to see him in games against NHL players. We all know he has the skill to be an NHL defenseman. It's just a matter of is he's going to be ready this year. It's something we're not going to find out until training camp."
Knight could also challenge for a spot. He has already participated in two training camps with the Bruins and was particularly impressive this past September. He built off that showing with a strong season in London, posting 26-26-52 totals and a plus-23 in 52 games. He added 4-4-8 totals in 15 playoff games but missed Friday's Game 5 with a sprained ankle that has bothered him throughout the postseason.
Knight will now move on to the Memorial Cup, the top prize in junior hockey. But soon both Knight and Hamilton could be chasing the Stanley Cup in Boston, thanks to a blockbuster trade three years ago that has produced the foundation of a bright future for the Bruins.
Bruins fans haven't forgotten that deal, booing Kessel every time he touches the puck whenever the Leafs return to the Garden and serenading him with "Thank you Kessel" chants when Seguin scores against Toronto. Now two more talented prospects will soon have a chance to join that rivalry, and they are well aware of the circumstances that have brought them to the Bruins organization.
"Being a Toronto kid and being connected to that trade and hopefully one day playing for the Bruins and trying to beat them [the Leafs] is pretty cool," Hamilton told the Toronto Star. "It always comes up when the Leafs play the Bruins."
Knight agreed. "Before the draft, one of my favorite players was Phil Kessel," he told the Toronto Star. "To be part of that deal is pretty special."
It's a deal that certainly looking pretty special to the Bruins and their fans, who may just end up with three new favorite players out of the exchange.
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