BOSTON — One of the few major difficulties in trading Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs was replacing him.
For starters, the juicy draft picks the Boston Bruins received in return for the team’s most proven scorer were still a minimum of two years from providing significant production.
And then when both Marc Savard and Milan Lucic had an injury-riddled 2010-11 season, suddenly the Bruins found themselves as the NHL’s lowest-scoring team.
Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli hit potential gold with the No. 2 overall pick Kessel brought by drafting Tyler Seguin, though it will take time to see just how solid.
That windfall also allowed him to throw in the Bruins’ own first rounder as part of a package sent to Florida to acquire first-line winger Nathan Horton.
Just six games into their season, the move looks like a good one for the Bruins.
Horton has five goals and four assists and looks like a perfect fit on the team’s top line alongside Milan Lucic (three goals, three assists) and centre David Krejci (one goal, six assists).
“Obviously there’s more pressure to perform and to perform as a team, but so far it’s been great,” Horton said Wednesday following the Bruins practice.
“I’m having a lot of fun coming to the rink every day.”
Of course, after spending the first six years of his career in Florida, just about anywhere would seem like fun for the Welland, Ont., native who was the Panthers’ first-round pick (third overall) in 2003. Horton’s presence has certainly brought some new life to Lucic, who missed 32 games because of injury last season and also missed his old linemate, Kessel.
“He’s a scoring threat,” Lucic said of Horton. “He’s got a great shot and great speed and he’s not afraid to get in there and get a bit dirty too.
“Two years ago when it was me and (Kessel and Savard) we had a good thing going on. It was definitely a different style of line, but we complemented each other. It’s the same with us three right now.”
Likewise Horton, who has topped 20 goals five times in his career but hit the 30 mark just once, is a big fan of Lucic.
“I call him the ultimate, I’ve been saying that since I got here,” Horton said. “He’s the ultimate hockey player. He’s so big and so fast. It’s crazy he can skate so fast at his size.”
Bruins fans wasted little time embracing Horton and have taken to comparing his output with that of Kessel, who has seven goals and two assists in eight games and is on early pace for the most productive season of his career.
“Everyone gets along and that’s a big reason why things are working out so well,” said Horton, who was rumoured to be on the Leafs’ radar last spring. “It’s just a great atmosphere around here and a great hockey city.”