By: Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me on Twitter: @BostonDiGiorgio
The Boston Bruins are currently taking their sweet time in signing free agents, which many have speculated that the Jacobs family set an internal cap for General Manager Don Sweeney. The Bruins have seen their Eastern Conference rivals sign highly-touted free agents and increase their chances of winning. The Bruins have stood pat for most of the free agency, with their biggest splash thus far being ex-Nashville Predator Craig Smith.
The Bruins’ free-agency process shouldn’t shock fans, considering the decisions they made at the draft last week. Every team uses the NHL draft as a key ingredient to their teams’ future success. Some of the Bruins’ core players have been selected out of the draft, such as Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy, and David Pastrnak. Some have been used as trade pieces to build for the future: Phil Kessel, Andrew Raycroft, Tyler Seguin, to name a few.
Before we begin, it needs to be stated that the Bruins and their scouts are experienced and see a lot more than the “draft experts” and the Twitter folk. Hindsight is also 20-20, so it’s quite easy to sit here and say the Bruins should have selected someone else, especially before seeing prospects’ true potential. However, the draft years between 2015 and 2017 drafts are becoming crucial, not in the Bruins’ positional selections, but which positions they passed on.
The draft is just as important as free agent signings or trades. Teams will generally draft for team needs unless there is a player on the board that is too good to pass on. The Bruins have drafted for those needs, though may have drafted two positions a bit too much. They’re in dire need of a top-six left-winger and a top-four defenseman, and their past draft years can be attributed to those holes.
Bruins management did not select a winger in either the 2016 or 2017 drafts. In fact, since Sweeney took over as general manager in 2015, the Bruins have only selected seven wingers in 36 total selections (19% of the time). Sweeney chose 13 centers (36%) and 14 defensemen (38%) in that same time frame. The remaining two were goaltenders.
Beginning in 2015, the Bruins’ first three draft choices could have been Thomas Chabot (D), Matthew Barzal (C), and Kyle Connor (LW), which would have solidified the Bruins core and positional needs for years to come. Sebastian Aho (C), Brock Boeser (RW), Travis Konecny (RW), and Anthony Beauvillier (LW) are a few other names selected after our three picks. Bruins fans understand the misses here and are (generally) tired of hearing it, but it is worth stating due to the current position the team is in.
The Bruins selected Brandon Carlo (D), Jakob-Forsbacka-Karlsson (C), and Jeremy Lauzon (D) in the following round. Carlo is one of the Bruins’ top-four defensemen from now on, and Lauzon will almost certainly be in the opening night lineup, though his trajectory is unknown. Forsbacka-Karlsson has played a total of 29 games and is currently playing overseas in Sweden. Instead of JFK, the Bruins passed on Daniel Sprong (RW), Roope Hintz (LW), and Jordan Greenway (LW). All three players are currently on an NHL roster and would have helped the Bruins over the years.
Boston looked like it was heading into a long road of solid draft picks and an even better prospect pool. The team was well aware of the future of their centers, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and their aging defensive core, and drafted for the eventual need. But, where was the urgency and foresight to develop wing depth for their wingers’ upcoming demise and departure?
The Bruins had two first-round draft selections in 2016 and surprise selected a defenseman and a center. Charlie McAvoy is turning into a top-ten defensive star in the NHL, and this pick should not be disputed. However, the Bruins selected Trent Frederic (C) with the 29th overall selection. At the time of the draft, their third-line center was Ryan Spooner, and the Bruins knew they needed more depth there. However, the Bruins could have used that pick to select Alex DeBrincat (LW, Chicago Blackhawks). Frederic has only played 17 NHL games, while DeBrincat has 173 points in 234 NHL games.
Frederic has turned himself into a Pat Maroon type of player, and this article is not designed to criticize him before he can play a full 82-game season. He should certainly crack the bottom-six this year and will help the Bruins become tougher to their opponents. The problem here is the Pat Maroon types are not a dime a dozen. Alex DeBrincat, on the other hand, could be the Bruins second line left-winger with David Krejci, and the Bruins wouldn’t be scouring the market for a wing.
The next four picks in 2016 have not played a full year with the Bruins, and Ryan Lindgren is the only player with NHL experience. In 2017, the Bruins’ first three picks look promising. Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka, and Jeremy Swayman will compete for a roster spot in the coming years, and the former two may be ready for next season. Urho is a left-handed defenseman, Studnicka is a center (but it’s been reported he can play the wing), and Swayman is one of the two goaltenders during Sweeney’s regime.
Jack Studnicka may save Bruins management if he excels on the wing. He’s shown flashes of the player he can be, particularly his speed and vision.
Zach Senyshyn (15th overall in the 2015 draft) has been the pick that most fans really ponder. It’s no secret what Senyshyn can bring to a team being 6’1, 192 pounds with Chris Kreider-like speed. The Bruins clearly selected a specific trait in Senyshyn, a large forward who can outskate most.
If these players can consistently contribute to the Bruins roster, Sweeney may be saved from his lack of wing selections. Time is running out to determine if the Bruins’ first three drafts under Sweeney will catapult them into dominance, or if we’ll always be sitting here wondering what could have been.