(Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

Friday’s 2024 National Hockey League Entry Draft was unfamiliar territory for the Boston Bruins. As it was day one of the two-day draft, only first-round selections were made, headlined by San Jose Sharks first overall pick and Boston University Standout Macklin Celebrini. And for the first time since 2021, the B’s were active on the draft floor.

In light of trading Linus Ullmark, Boston landed the 25th overall pick. They scooped the Boston College bound Dean Letourneau, a 6’7″ forward who boasts a lot of NHL upside. Last season at St. Andrew’s College, Letourneau exploded for 127 points in 56 games in prep school. At just 18 years old, the newly named Bruin has plenty of time to develop his skillset in the Hockey East this coming fall.

But sandwiched between Boston’s 2019 first-round pick John Beecher—who has shown his NHL mettle with the B’s—and Letourneau lies Fabian Lysell, the 21st overall grab in the 2021 draft from Don Sweeney. Before we dive into how Letourneau could carve his way to a regular NHL player, let’s not forget about Lysell, the once-promising forward out of Gothenburg, Sweden.

There’s a lot to unpack regarding the 21-year-old prospect, who has two AHL seasons under his belt down in Providence. After a 37-point campaign in his freshman season, Lysell put up 15-35-50 in 2023-24 before suffering an injury in March. He did return for one postseason contest, but the road bump significantly impacted his season. Before we pick apart his flaws, there is much to like about where Lysell’s game stands.

For starters, he’s young. At face value, playing two AHL seasons as a first-round pick without a call-up looks concerning. But in the same breath, Lysell, 21, is still very early in his development. Sweeney told reporters before the draft that if it weren’t for his injury, he probably would have received a shot with the big club.

“We were really excited about where Fabian’s trajectory and year was trending until that violent collision,” said Sweeney. “He really dinged his shoulder up and had a concussion. And good on him, he came back from that and played in the playoffs.”

At 5’11”, 181 pounds, Lysell sure knows how to sling the biscuit. With an ultra-quick release, his wrist shot was a terror to any AHL goaltender last season, resulting in a handful of highlight-reel tallies. He couples his shot with soft hands and a knack of elusiveness, making it hard for defenders to strip the puck from him in transition or in the corners. He has all the makings of a middle-six forward on Boston’s lineup. It’s what made him a highly touted first-round choice.

However, to play for Jim Montgomery’s Bruins, you need a complete brand of hockey on both ends of the ice. While Lysell certainly brings everything to the table on offense, there are times when he seems to overdo it. Whether it’s attempting to stickhandle through a cluster of defensemen, not picking his head up on the rush, or simply just trying to do too much, it’s hindered his game from reaching the next level. Providence bench boss Ryan Mougenel didn’t hold back in an early season interview when I asked him about Lysell’s development.

“He has to recognize that sometimes, there’s not always a play to be made,” Mougenel said in December. “I think that’s still in his growth. He’s learning that, I’m not saying that he won’t, but the team game is real important.

“We’re getting into year two here, and he’s got to start buying in, or he won’t play for Jim Montgomery. That’s a big part of Monty’s game, is the team game and building the team game.”

But Lysell took those words to heart. He unlocked the playmaker side of his game, opening up the ice for both himself and his teammates to create offense. His 35 assists were more than double his goal total of 15, revealing that being a team player was in fact something the young prospect was capable of. Sweeney echoed a similar sentiment to reporters in Las Vegas.

“He’s got to hit the reset button and have a really good offseason and come back with the intention that he knows how well he can play. He knows how much we were proud of the steps he had taken, and he had a good camp last year.

“He’s still got to continue to work on his complete game. One-on-one skill stuff and some of the things he can do to change a game are really good. He’s just got to continue to build his team game as Monty would describe it, and have a better understanding of when you might push that envelope and when you’re not.”

In other words, Lysell needs to learn when to pick his spots. Certain situations call for revealing his uncanny abilities, but there are others where the best play might be the simplest one. That could be a chip off the wall, a dish to a trailing teammate, or even holding on to the puck slightly longer before trying to weed through a mountain of defenders. It’s far too early to count out Lysell’s opportunity of being a Bruin, and he will be a key player to watch at development camp starting on Monday.