Boston Bruins Prospect Roundup: 2015 & 2016 Draft Update
Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
When Don Sweeney took over as the general manager of the Boston Bruins, he made one thing clear; the prospect pool needed to be better. Fast forward a year and a half, and the Bruins look right on track. While prospects are never a sure thing, it looks as though the talent developing for the Bruins’ future could be as good a group as any.
While the Bruins may not have many bonafide defensive stars in their current NHL group, there are many Bruins prospects who project to potentially be top-four players. Some of those players are closer to debuting than others. In fact, Brandon Carlo is the perfect indication that prospects can develop quickly and immediately make an impact in the NHL. Even more interesting that Carlo’s ability to impress so quickly is the fact that he was a second round pick and so many teams passed on him.
More Than Meets the Eye
It’s easy to look at an NHL team and make assessments on a general manager based purely on the team’s production on the ice. What most people tend to leave out, however, comes in the form of prospect production. While Sweeney is still relatively new to the general manager position, he deserves the benefit of the doubt despite missing the playoffs last season and “failing” to acquire defensive help in the offseason outside of Carlo.
Why does he deserve the benefit of the doubt?
He’s earned that right because so many prospects that he’s drafted have impressed in the 2016-17 season and are looking like future Boston Bruins players. Whether they’re forwards, defensemen, or even goalies, Sweeney and his staff have done well so far at drafting and developing players, despite the sample size being so small. It’s also important to remember that producing at the NHL level is much different than producing in college, or in juniors, but still, it’s better for a prospect to produce at those levels than to simply burn out before getting their opportunity.
Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Jakub Zboril. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jakub Zboril – Defenseman – 13th Overall 2015
Year-to-Date: 16 Games – Six Goals – 10 Assists – 16 Points – 10 PIMs – Plus-10
Don Sweeney took a lot of flack for using three consecutive draft picks in 2015. While many expected the new general manager to trade any or all of the picks to acquire defensive help, he elected to stay the course and resist the temptation to pay the high cost being asked for help on the blueline. With his first selection as the GM of the Bruins, Sweeney took Jakub Zboril from the Saint John Sea Dogs.
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In his draft year, Zboril recorded 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games as a rookie defenseman. In an ultimately disappointing sophomore season, Zboril saw his goal, assist, and point totals drop to six, 14, and 20 respectively. He did have a solid postseason, however, recording two goals and 10 points in 17 games, but it didn’t stop the criticism from flying in the direction of the then-18-year-old Zboril.
Fast forward one season and Zboril has impressed in the QMJHL. While his defensive ability has never been in question, his offensive totals dropping rather than increasing in his second year was a reasonable cause for concern. The 19-year-old Brno, Czech Republic native looks like he’s been able to sort out those issues, however, averaging a point-per-game so far this season.
Zboril will likely need some time in the AHL prior to getting an NHL opportunity, but he’s currently one of the Bruins best defensive prospects.
When Jesse Gabrielle was drafted, he appeared to be destined for a bottom-six NHL role. A prototypical gritty winger, Gabrielle has said on a few occasions that he has modeled his game after a certain current Bruins fan-favorite, Brad Marchand.
In his first full season in the WHL, Gabrielle recorded 12 goals and 26 points in 49 games as well as 68 penalty minutes and a minus-two rating. He did put up impressive totals in the playoffs, however, recording three goals and six points in nine post-season contests.
He did see an uptick in production in his draft season, though, which caught the attention of the Bruins. In 66 games split between the Brandon Wheat Kings and Regina Pats of the WHL, Gabrielle recorded 23 goals and 44 points along with 112 penalty minutes and a plus-2 rating.
Those totals still don’t exactly jump off the page, however. As a result, the expectations for Gabrielle were never that of a top-six forward. All of that changed, though, when he joined the Prince George Cougars ahead of the 2015-16 season. In 72 games with the Cougars, Gabrielle broke out and scored 40 goals and 75 points, compiled 101 penalty minutes, and a plus-4 rating. He followed that up with one goal and two points in three playoff games and went scoreless in three games with the Providence Bruins to finish off his season.
This season, Gabrielle is scoring at an ever higher clip than he did in 2015-16. In 23 games, Gabrielle has scored 16 goals and 27 points along with 32 penalty minutes and a plus-7 rating.
Zachary Senyshyn was an unpopular draft pick. Just about every headline following Sweeney’s first draft as GM included the “reach” of a selection used on Senyshyn. Many scouts had the 6-foot-3 forward ranked as a second, or even third round draft pick, but Sweeney and his staff had a different evaluation. Reports later indicated that both the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs traded down in the first round following the selection of Senyshyn due to him being a first round pick on their draft boards as well, but there’s simply no way to ever confirm if those reports are true.
To Senyshyn’s credit, however, he has excelled since being drafted. He’s done so well, that he’s even earned himself a place on Team Canada’s radar for the upcoming World Junior Championships.
Increased Opportunity, Increased Output
In Senyshyn’s first full season in the OHL with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Senshyn scored 26 goals and 45 points along with 17 penalty minutes and a plus-30 rating. The totals are impressive, but with Matthew Barzal and Kyle Connor both still available on the draft board, many believes the Bruins had made a mistake. To be fair, the choices of Barzal and Connor could still have ultimately been the smarter choices, but Senyshyn did his part to prove Sweeney and the Bruins right in the following season.
In his second season with the Greyhounds, Senyshyn exploded with 45 goals and 65 points in 66 games along with 20 penalty minutes and a plus-5 rating. The former fourth-line player was now getting top-line minutes and was showcasing his ability at an impressive clip.
This season, Senyshyn has been just as impressive, despite a slow start to the year. He’s now up to 13 goals and 21 points in 22 games and looks right on track to put up another impressive season in the OHL.
Year-to-Date: 21 Games – Three Goals – Nine Assists – 12 Points – 11 PIMs – Minus-3
Jake DeBrusk is an interesting case, to say the least. The 20-year-old left winger has dealt with adversity since being drafted, including a disappointing season and a significant injury, but has done his part to continue to grow.
In his first season in the WHL with the Swift Current Broncos, DeBrusk skated in 72 games and scored 15 goals and 39 points. It was his second season, however, that earned him the attention fo scouts across the NHL.
The Edmonton native scored 42 goals and 81 points in 72 games and showcased his ability as a sniper. That ability earned him praise from scouts and earned him the honor of hearing his name being called with the 14th overall draft pick in 2015. One knock on DeBrusk at the time, however, was his two-way ability. To make it in the NHL, it’s no secret that teams covet responsible players who aren’t entirely one-dimensional – there are exceptions, but not in Claude Julien’s system in Boston.
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A Different Style of Game for DeBrusk
DeBrusk’s second season was split between the Broncos and the Red Deer Rebels and was hampered by the aforementioned disturbing injury. DeBrusk made a conscious effort to improve his two-way game, but that ultimately affected his ability to scores goals at the same rate. He finished the season with 21 goals and 55 points in 51 games, an impressive point total, but a disappointing dropoff in goals from his 42-goal career-high just one season prior.
DeBrusk was able to find his scoring touch again in the playoffs, however, scoring eight goals and 17 points in 17 games with the Rebels that season.
DeBrusk’s first season in Providence has been a deceiving one so far. His stat line may indicate that he only has three goals and nine points in 21 games, but many ignore the fact that he is also currently second in the AHL in shots-on-net with 78 through 22 games. While his pucks aren’t finding the back of the net, it isn’t for lack of trying, and eventually, they will start to find their way through. Additionally, DeBrusk has looked good in his own zone and away from the puck, and as a result, his development isn’t as disappointing as his point total may indicate thus far.
Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Jeremy Lauzon was selected in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Lauzon – Defenseman – 52nd Overall 2015
Year-to-Date: 12 Games – Two Goals – Nine Assists – 11 Points – Six PIMs – Plus-6
While it’s easy to forget non-first round draft picks, Jeremy Lauzon has been exceptional since being drafted. Lauzon was taken after Brandon Carlo in the 2015 draft, and though they play different styles, they were both great selections.
Lauzon isn’t as big as Carlo, or as defensively sound, but that’s okay. He’s still 6-foot-3, 202 pounds, and he’s got tremendous offensive instincts. In today’s NHL, that’s a lethal combination. Mobile defensemen are the new trend in the NHL, and Lauzon fits that mold perfectly.
A fourth-year defender in the QMJHL, Lauzon has gotten better each and every year. In his first season, the Val-d’Or, Quebec native scored five goals and 16 points in 55 games. Just 16 at the time, Lauzon was still finding his way in the major-junior hockey world. In the following season, Lauzon was able to triple his goal total to 15 while also recording 36 points and a plus-12 rating in 60 games.
That impressive development in just his second season, as well as his improved defensive ability, earned him a spot in the Bruins prospect pool.
A Breakout Year
It was Lauzon’s first season following being drafted that really turned heads, however. The then 18-year-old found his stride, scoring 10 goals and 50 points in just 46 games. Even more impressive was his plus-40 rating that highlighted his positive influence on the team. Lauzon was a veteran on the team, and he played like it as well. Lauzon impressed in the postseason as well that season, scoring one goal and eight points in nine games. He did so while dealing with a laceration to his neck as well that cost him a few series.
This season, Lauzon is the captain of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He’s also continued to produce on both ends of the ice, scoring two goals and 11 points in 12 games. While Lauzon probably won’t make it to the NHL in the next year or two, there’s no denying he’s an impressive talent that has legitimate NHL potential.
Since being drafted, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, or JFK, has been a great player for the Boston University Terriers. He’s also been unable to escape comparisons from a certain top-line center in Boston who has made a name for himself as an elite two-way forward.
The comparisons have been everywhere, but Forsbacka Karlsson, simply put, looks like a Patrice Bergeron-type player. Both are centers, both play a great two-way game, both have the ability to produce offensively, and the comparisons don’t end there. Bergeron and JFK were both drafted by the Bruins, both taken with the 45th overall selection, and are both 6-foot-1 and roughly 195 pounds with right-handed shots.
Looking past just the obvious comparisons, Forsbacka Karlsson actually plays a very similar game to Bergeron. When watching JFK play with the Terriers, or at the World Junior Championships with his native country of Sweden, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between the two.
Impressive Consistency for JFK
In the USHL with the Omaha Lancers in 2013-14, Forsbacka Karlsson scored 11 goals and 33 points in 60 games and totaled 26 penalty minutes and a plus-11 rating. His second season is what earned him appeal from scouts when eh scored 15 goals and 53 points in just 50 games with 28 penalty minutes and a plus-10 rating.
JFK didn’t slow down after being drafted, however, scoring 10 goals and 30 points in 39 games with a plus-4 rating in his first year at Boston University. In his sophomore season, it’s been much of the same as the Swedish center has scored three goals and 13 points in 14 games with a plus-3 rating.
As mentioned, Forsbacka Karlsson plays a similar game to Bergeron. As a result, it’s impossible to truly appreciate everything that he does by simply looking at his stat line, despite how impressive it looks in its own right.
If Zachary Senshyn was an unpopular draft pick in Boston, then Trent Frederic was simply a nightmare. While many wanted the Bruins to draft a player with high upside who could potentially become a top-six forward or a top-four defenseman, the Bruins took the safe route and drafted Frederic out of the USHL.
In 2014-15, split between the U.S. National Under-17 Team and Under-18 Team, Frederic skated in 35 games and scored three goals and five points with 30 penalty minutes and a minus-20 rating. He did improve in his second season with the U-18 team, scoring four goals and 14 points in 23 games with 23 penalty minutes and a plus-5 rating, but those numbers still don’t exactly reflect a first-round talent.
By all accounts, Frederic was destined to be a solid bottom-six player. More specifically, he was projected to be nothing more than a fourth line center.
Fast forward to the 2016-17 season, Frederic’s first with The University of Wisconsin, and the 6-foot-2, 203-pound center has scored four goals and 10 points in eight games. Unfortunately for Frederic, his season has been put on halt with an injury, but there’s still no denying that Frederic is having a breakout season just a few months after being drafted by the Bruins.
Every team covets big, quick, and reliable defensemen who can contribute offensively. The Boston Bruins are no different, and they made sure to fill that need when they drafted Boston University Terriers’ defenseman, Charlie McAvoy.
In his first season at Boston University, McAvoy scored three goals and 25 points in 37 games. He also added 56 penalty minutes and had a plus-10 rating. An interesting tidbit is that McAvoy spent most of the season skating alongside Boston Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk.
After being drafted with the Bruins first choice in 2016, McAvoy has continued to impress at BU. The soon-to-be 19-year-old defenseman has scored one goal and 12 points in 14 games this season. He’s also continued to showcase his ability to move the puck in all three zones. McAvoy is way ahead of his years in terms of confidence and accountability. He could see an NHL debut sooner than later if he continues to develop at this rate.
Fortunately for the Bruins, McAvoy’s development is easy to track given his close proximity to the Bruins.
Sep 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins goalie Dan Vladar. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Dan Vladar – Goalie – 75th Overall 2015
Providence (AHL): 6 Games – 3-0-1 – 2.84 GAA – .914 Save %
Atlanta (ECHL): 2 Games – 1-0-1 – 2.88 GAA – .909 Save %
Okay, not quite Darth Vader, but still, the comparison between the names should never stop.
It’s hard to evaluate goaltenders early on in their careers. Widely considered to be the position that takes the longest to develop in, goalies often peak in their late-20s. There are examples of goalies shining in earlier years, however. Recent examples include Matt Murray, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and John Gibson.
While Vladar was selected in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he’s already made his way to the AHL and has shown that he can help win games. In fact, Split between the AHL and ECHL this year, Vladar has recorded a 4-0-2 record in eight games meaning he’s yet to lose a game in regulation.
Vladar is in a good situation in Boston. The Bruins’ are certainly set for the immediate future with goaltender Tuukka Rask looking like the best goalie in the world. Additionally, prospects Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre looking like they could be next in line for future backup duties. Vladar has time to develop his skills at a reasonable pace without much pressure.
There has been no bigger surprise for the Bruins this season than the emergence of Brandon Carlo. While it was clear that he was a talented prospect the second he was drafted, nobody could have projected him to have not only made his NHL debut at just 19-years-old but to have shined on the Bruins top-pairing in the process as well.
Carlo has been a lock on the Bruins top pairing this season alongside Chara when the captain’s been healthy. As it the case for every rookie, Carlo has seen his ups and downs. His most impressive trait, however, has been his ability to learn from mistakes and not lose morale throughout each game.
Without Chara in the lineup, Carlo has skated alongside Kevan Miller on the Bruins second defensive pairing. To his credit, he’s still looked good without Big Z helping him out. Still, it will be better for both Carlo and the Bruins when Chara can return to the lineup. His veteran experience cannot be underestimated in terms of helping the team, and the young defender.