By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter @andrewlindrothh
Every year, one of the most significant events in the National Hockey League occurs; the Entry Level Draft. Draft picks play an incredibly important role in a General Manager’s Strategy to improve his hockey team. Some picks carry high expectations from the start, and others become well over-looked. The Boston Bruins are well known for having three straight 1st round draft picks in 2015 and only one so far being a full-time NHLer. But, they have had other selections even in later rounds that ended up becoming a hidden gem for the organization that nobody would’ve predicted right away, or at all.
Many of these young talents boast so much potential, and others fly right under the radar of discussion. Today, I will be diving deep in the debate on who I believe are the most underrated draft picks for the Bruins this past decade (2010-2019). Please note, these are in no particular order.
Jakub Lauko (F) 3rd Round, 77th Overall Pick – 2018 Draft
Jakub Lauko is a versatile forward that brings a lot of energy and momentum to his game. After being drafted, he reported to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and played for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) as an 18-year-old forward. The 6’0, 195-pound forward suited up for 44 games and posted 21-20-41 numbers with a whopping +34 rating from 2018-2019.
Lauko played a significant role for the Huskies (QMJHL) during their playoff run, contributing 6-7-13 numbers with a +10 rating in 19 games played, helping the team to win the President’s Cup in 2019. The Huskies went on to compete for the Canadian Hockey League’s championship, the Memorial Cup. They ended up winning the championship with Lauko taking home the CHL Ed Chynoweth Award for most points in the memorial cup (2-6-8 numbers in five games). With such an impressive rookie season, the Bruins decided to call him up to the Providence Bruins for further player development.
Most Bruins fans really caught a glimpse of Lauko’s work ethic and scoring potential during the 2019 NHL pre-season when he scored a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. Since then, the forward has spent little time with Providence for the 2019-2020 season due to suffering back to back concussion and knee injuries. Lauko had battled back and returned with Providence for some games before the unprecedented pandemic ended the American Hockey League (AHL) season. He finished his first AHL season with 5-4-9 numbers with a +3 rating in 22 games played.
I believe Lauko has a massive up-side to his potential; he has an incredible work ethic, scoring ability, and isn’t afraid to be a physical player either. In a few years, Lauko could develop to be a very reliable mid-six forward for the Bruins in the near future.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9eSdVACDHw&w=560&h=315]
Jeremy Swayman (G) 4th Round, 111th Overall Pick – 2017 Draft
Swayman was a 4th round gem for the Bruins and could be a starter/backup for the Bruins in the next season or two. The 6’3, 185-pound goaltender has spent the past few seasons with the University of Maine and has found tremendous success. Swayman was named to the NCAA (East) All-Rookie Team in 2017-2018 after finishing the season with 2.72 GAA and a .921% save percentage.
This past season, Swayman had his most stellar year yet, playing 34 games and contributing a 2.07 GAA and a whopping .939% save percentage, ultimately winning the Hobey Baker Award (player of the year). He also won the 2020 Walter Brown Award as a top American-Collegiate college hockey player in New England, NCAA Goaltender of the Year, NCAA Top Collegiate Goalie (Mike Ritcher Award), NCAA (Hockey East) Player of the Year, and NCAA (New England) Most Valuable Player. With Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak entering the final year of their contracts, Swayman could be looking to make a significant impact within the organization sooner rather than later.
Swayman decided to forgo his senior year at Maine and signed his entry-level contract with the Bruins. Maxime Legace and Daniel Vladar both have expiring deals, so I imagine Swayman will be playing with whomever Don Sweeney ends up re-signing in Providence. The quiet 4th round selection might end up being part of the long-term solution for the Bruins’ future goaltending.
ICYMI: Bruins prospect Jeremy Swayman signs entry-level contract. https://t.co/eem5Qvt9hl— Joe McDonald (@JoeyMacHockey) March 18, 2020
Anders Bjork (F) 5th Round, 146th Overall Pick – 2014 Draft
Bjork is a speedy and creative player that has the potential to be a mid-six forward for the Bruins, in my opinion. After being drafted, Bjork committed to the University of Notre Dame and played from 2014-2017 but surrendered his senior year to ink his entry-level deal with the Bruins. Bjork had his most impressive campaign during his last year with Notre Dame, contributing 21-31-52 numbers with a +17 rating in 39 games played. Since then, Bjork was one of the Bruins’ most promising rookies but became plagued with season-ending injuries from 2017-2019, limiting his ice-time with Providence and Boston.
Bjork was finally able to showcase his talent at the NHL level this season, to manage a full-time position in line-up throughout most of the 2019-2020 season, suiting up for 58 games and posting 9-19-19 numbers with a +5 rating. He began to become a healthy scratch for stretches near the end of the season due to inconsistencies, but the left-winger has shown to be a difference-maker at the NHL level.
I hope that the Bruins can come to terms with Bjork this upcoming off-season, and they choose to protect him during the 2021-2022 expansion draft as well. For a 5th round selection, Bjork was an absolute steal for the Bruins.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPW20xwhBG4&w=560&h=315]
Trent Frederic (F) 1st Round, 29th Overall Pick – 2016 Draft
Even though Frederic is a 1st round selection, I believe he is an underrated pick that deserves a lot more credit, especially after a strong 2019-2020 campaign with the Providence Bruins. Frederic is a diverse player and can spark his team in a lot of different ways. The 6’2, 203-pound forward, provides a lot of physicality to the line-up and led the AHL in penalty minutes (148) during the 2019-2020 campaign. Although many Bruins fans know Fredric for his rookie game with the Bruins that involved a fight with Winnipeg Jets’ Brandon Tanev, he has the potential to be a strong two-way player through development with Providence.
Before the AHL season ended due to the unprecedented pandemic, Frederic suited up for 59 games and contributed 8-24-32 numbers with a +10 rating. Although the forward has been placed on the wing with the Bruins more often than as a center, either position he can play well as long as he is not shy, isn’t afraid to be physical and uses his large frame to his advantage.
Even though Frederic has played a total of 17 games at the NHL level without yet producing a point, he has improved substantially and could be looking to crack the bottom-six line-up for the Bruins in the next season or two. Frederic has one year remaining on his Entry-Level Contract and will use this upcoming season to prove himself worthy of this thriving organization.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LziqBwWXi9A&w=560&h=315]
Matthew Grzelcyk (D) 3rd Round, 85th Overall – 2012 Draft
Although this underrated category is in no particular order, I can safely say that Matthew Grzelyck turned out to be one of the Bruins’ most underrated draft picks of this decade, in my opinion. Not only has Grzelyck cracked the line-up the past few seasons as a full-time NHLer, but the undersized defenseman proved much of the hockey world wrong.
After being drafted, the 5’9, 175-pound defender committed to Boston University and played from 2013-2016, appearing in a total of 87 games and contributing 23-67-89 numbers with an astounding +61 rating. He also scored the game-winning goal for Boston University to win the Beanpot Championship in 2015.
Bruins’ fans can be relentless in their opinions about Grzelcyk because of his physical stature and the fact that he doesn’t hit everything on site. Still, fans undermine his puck-moving and scoring abilities. If Krug chose not to re-sign with the Bruins this off-season, then Grzelyck would be one of the best options for the central power-play unit unless Bruce Cassidy decides to use five forwards. His skating ability also does not grow on trees by any means. When watching him play, he becomes elusive around other forwards pressuring him. He’s able to get out of tight space situations and break out the defensive zone without giving up the puck.
In the past three seasons, Grzelyck has appeared in 195 games and posted 10-44-54 numbers with a +45 rating while managing an average of 18:07 on-ice time. During the 2019 playoffs, Grzelyck produced four goals, eight points, and 17 blocks in 20 games. The defender is continually improving year after year, and with his contract expiring at the end of this season, the Bruins should focus on re-signing him.
Unfortunately, if Grzelyck were to re-sign for at least two more years, he would most likely become exposed during the 2021-2022 expansion draft. Grzelyck holds more value than most people perceive, and I believe he can become a franchise defenseman for the Bruins if he keeps up his production.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGHCCmms4fk&w=560&h=315]