By: Nathan Strauss | Follow him on Twitter @NathanPStrauss
The 2022 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships is days away from puck drop, and the Bruins will have one prospect competing: 2021 first-rounder Fabian Lysell. The WJC is typically a highlight of the hockey world for prospect enthusiasts and casual fans alike, with many of the NHL’s future stars making their names in this elite competition. Last year, the USA won this U20 competition, with Trevor Zegras and Alex Turcotte scoring the winning goals. What will Lysell bring to the table, and should the Bruins be worried that he is their lone prospect at the tournament?
Drafted out of Sweden in the first round by the Bruins this last summer, Fabian Lysell has been excellent with Vancouver in the Western Hockey League this season, putting up over a point-per-game across 23 contests. Lysell has chipped in 11 goals, tying him for first on the Giants, while his 28 points makes him the second-leading scorer for Vancouver. The Bruins prospect will feature on Sweden’s second power-play unit while likely slotting in the middle six. In the first exhibition game for Sweden, Lysell played on the second line.
Per TSN’s Gord Miller, the Bruins are not the only team to feature just one prospect at this upcoming WJC. Defending Stanley Cup champions, Tampa Bay, are notably without representation, as are the floundering Islanders. NHL teams are paced by Carolina, whose excellent drafting means they send ten players to the tournament (and it would have been eleven, with Seth Jarvis being kept in Carolina to play at the NHL level instead).
Detroit, in the middle of a pronounced rebuild under Steve Yzerman, is sending eight. If we subscribe to the logic that contending teams will often trade prospects or draft picks for players who will help them win now, it should come as no surprise that a team like Tampa Bay could have fewer players at World Juniors than a rebuilding team.
However, the number of players featuring at tournaments is not a true metric of drafting success. Players are far more likely to become stars at the NHL level when drafted in the first round, and that number increases the earlier they are selected.
The Bruins’ failings with first-round draft picks since David Pastrnak in 2014 has been well-documented and has only continued to deteriorate as Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn both requested trades within the last month. Perhaps just as importantly, the Bruins have committed to contending in just about every year over the last decade-plus, meaning that draft picks have been more expendable for trades and that there has been no inkling of a rebuild that would incentivize stockpiling prospects.
The Bruins have seen prospects feature at the World Juniors in years past. In 2020, Jakub Lauko, Curtis Hall, and John Beecher were all rostered, and in 2021 a pair of late-round unsigned draftees in Matias Mäntykivi and Roman Bychkov played. Lauko and Hall have seen plenty of ice time in the AHL with Providence this year, while Beecher has battled injuries at Michigan.
Lysell is only 18, meaning he will also be eligible for Sweden’s team in next year’s WJC. All things considered, Bruins fans do not need to worry that only one prospect is heading to this competition. Fabian Lysell’s Sweden will be looking to reach the medal rounds again, as they did in 2020 and 2018, and should be must-watch TV for Bruins fans looking to fixate on the best prospect the Bruins have.