When Don Sweeney took over for Peter Charelli as the GM of the Bruins one of main talking points was the need for Sweeney to rebuild the farm system through the draft. The 2015 draft represented the first significant opportunity for Sweeney to jump start that rebuilding process with three picks in the first round – picks 13, 14, 15. Through the draft and post draft all reports indicated that Sweeney was working hard to parlay those three assets into a top 5 pick to grab a player like Noah Hanifin to solidify the back end which would have been exactly what the team needed following the trade of Dougie Hamilton. However, that deal never materialized and Sweeney ended up making all three picks in the first round. As picks 13,14,15 came off the board I have to admit I was left scratching my head about the Bruins selections because of some of high end talent they passed on. But to be reasonable it is impossible make snap judgments on NHL draft day and you have to give the draft classes time to develop before making judgments. Well, it has now been close to two years since the 2015 draft and I believe my concerns on draft day have been validated and it is time to question how Sweeney and the B’s brass handled this crucial draft.
My concern on draft day was not necessarily with the players Sweeney selected (because frankly they were relatively unknown) but the amount of high end talent that was still on the board they passed on. Let’s take a look at the players the Bruins selected and also the three players selected right after their run of three picks and where they are now….
#13 overall: Jakub Zboril (D, 6’2 185) – Currently playing Junior in the QMJHL for the Saint John Seadogs. Zboril also played a key role for the Czech Republic in the World Junior Tournament for the second consecutive year. Zboril is a physical player with an excellent shot but the knock on his game remains that he doesn’t always show up in one form or another – physically, mentally or from a discipline perspective. Can Zboril correct these flaws and become a top 4 defenseman in the NHL? Questions certainly remain to be answered at this stage. Zboril is currently ranked the Bruins #5 prospect and is NOT in the top 100 of the prospect rankings recently released by The Hockey News.
#14 overall: Jake Debrusk (F, 6’0 183) – Debrusk is finishing up his first year of pro hockey in the AHL with the Providence Bruins. Has 39 points in 62 games and it is worth noting he does lead the team in shots on net. Fought injuries in 2015-16 which curbed his production in his last year of Junior. Debrusk should contribute as a top 9 forward at the NHL level but the question remains will his future production match that of some of the forwards the B’s passed on to select Debrusk? Currently ranked as the Bruins #8 overall prospect and is NOT ranked in the top 100 of The Hockey News rankings.
#15 overall: Zachary Senyshyn (F, 6’3 196) – At the time of the draft the selection of Senyshyn seemed like a stretch at 15 overall based on his projections, draft grade, etc. Two years later it appears like Senyshyn has the greatest upside as a prospect of the three players selected. He is an offensive force with two consecutive 40+ goal seasons for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. It appears the Bruins may have a future top 6 forward in Senyshyn but he is still a couple years away. Based on The Hockey News 2017 prospect rankings Senyshyn is the Bruins #2 prospect (behind only McAvoy) and #63 overall in the NHL.
Now, lets take a look at the three players the B’s passed on who were picked right after their picks and here we see what was considered to be very high end talent on draft day. These are players who have solidified themselves as top prospects over the last two years….
#16 overall: Matthew Barzal (6’0 187) – Barzal served as an assistant captain for team Canada in this year World Junior tournament helping lead them to the finals against the US with his dynamic play making abilities. He challenged for a spot on the Islanders out of camp but was sent back to Junior after a two game stint with the big club. He has been an offensive force again this year for Seattle in the WHL putting up 79 points in 41 games. Barzal projects to be a dynamic play making Center in the NHL but needs to work on his play away from the puck to earn top six minutes for the Isles next year. Ranked as the Islanders #1 prospect and #8 overall in the NHL by The Hockey News.
#17 overall: Kyle Connor (F, 6’1 182) – Entering the 2015 draft Connor was coming off a Hobey Baker award winning season at Michigan in which he scored 35 goals and had 71 points in 38 games as a Freshman. Connor made the Winnipeg Jets roster out of camp this year but wasn’t recieving regular shifts and then went down with a concussion. He found himself in the AHL upon his return and has recently regained his scoring touch in the AHL currently sitting at 21 goals in 48 games. Connor ranks as the Jets #1 prospect and #26 overall in the NHL by The Hockey News. Needs to get stronger and more physical but has the speed and offensive skills to be a high end NHL player.
#18 overall: Thomas Chabot (D, 6’2 190) – Like Barzal, Chabot was an assistant captain for team Canada in this years World Junior tournament and he was a dynamic play making defenseman who was an absolute workhorse for Canada winning tournament MVP honors. Got a look by Ottawa out of camp appearing in one game but was sent back to Junior to play for the Saint John Sea Dogs where he is a teammate of Zboril. Has 45 points in 34 games for the Sea Dogs and continues to work on developing the defensive and physical aspects of his game. Ottawa’s #1 prospect and #3 overall in the NHL according The Hockey News rankings.
So let’s recap, the B’s passed on the current #3 (Chabot), #8 (Barzal) & #26 (Connor) prospects in the NHL in favor of the #63 ranked prospect (Senyshyn) and two others that do not currently rank in the top 100 (DeBrusk & Zboril). Are draft prospect lists a 100% accurate depiction of how things will play out? Of course not. But if you read the above body of work for each of these players over the last couple seasons you have to wonder if Sweeney and the B’s missed the mark with his three picks in this extremely important draft. It will take another couple years to know for sure but in my opinion the debate is certainly open….