With the Bruins on the verge of third straight collapse it time to put 2015 draft under a microscope

I want to talk about the Bruins 2015 draft one more time as it is a relevant topic as the Bruins limp to the finish line again and run the real risk of missing the playoffs for the third straight year . If the B’s do miss the playoffs again the question will immediately become, what’s next? A third straight missed playoff following the firing the head coach and ending up with the same result under the new coach will solidify the fact that this team has a fatal flaw on the ice that needs to be addressed in order for the club to become a contender again. In today’s NHL where young 19 and 20 year old’s are coming into the league and having an immediate  impact the ability to draft and develop is the #1 key to long term success. So with the current state of the B’s it is fair to examine how they have done in this regard and the 2015 draft has to put under the microscope.

The B’s had three picks in the top 20 of a deep draft in 2015 which is an opportunity not many teams get.  The decisions Sweeney made that day are going to have a huge effect on the future of this team and it appears Sweeney missed a prime opportunity to infuse the Bruins system with some real high end talent that will be NHL ready for the 2017-18 season. As the B’s struggle again to make the playoffs think about this… 10 of the top 15 picks from the 2015 are currently playing in the NHL. 3 of the 5 who are not are the Bruins 3 picks!!  Given the Bruins serious lack of high end skilled talent beyond their first line it is glaring that not one of Jacob Zboril (#13 pick), Jake DeBrusk (#14 pick) or Zach Senyshyn (#15 pick)  has been able to crack the NHL roster.

Could Zboril end up being a solid NHL defenseman? Sure, but the likelihood of him becoming a top pair puck moving D-man has greatly diminished over the last two years as he has shown little improvement or overcome the questions about his game. He is not considered a top 50 prospect by The Hockey News in their most recent rankings.

How about Debrusk? Sure, he could end up being a serviceable NHL’er. Like Zboril, he is not ranked in the top 50 of The Hockey News rankings. The fact of the matter is since he entered Junior in 2013 he has only score more than 25 goals once when he netted 42 in his draft year. His other two years of Junior he had 15 and 22 with 16 this year in his first AHL season. He was considered a late first round-early second round prospect in advance of the 2015 draft.

Senyshyn? He certainly has the most upside of the three and has put up back to back 40+ goal seasons in the OHL and he is currently ranked #63 in The Hockey News prospect rankings. He is certainly a legit prospect with top 6 ability. My question on the Senyshyn pick is not around the player but could they have gotten him in the 2nd round? He was the 38th ranked prospect by NHL central scouting.

As of now it looks like the Bruins landed two middle of the road prospects who could be contributors on a NHL team and one in Senyshyn with significantly higher upside in this all important first round. In some drafts that may be OK but take a look at the three guys picked right after the Bruins selected Senyshyn at 15 and you will see why that is not the case in this draft…

Matthew Barzal who the Islanders selected at #16? Barzal is now considered one of the top prospects in the game, ranked #8 by  The Hockey News. He was just named the western conference player of the year in the WHL after putting up 79 points in 41 games including 69 assists.

Kyle Connor? He was take at #17 by Winnipeg and made the club out of camp playing in 19 games. Following a concussion was sent down to the AHL  and has regained his scoring touch putting up 22 goals and 39 points in 45 games. He is the 26th ranked prospect in the game per THN rankings.

Last but not least, how about Thomas Chabot? Selected #18 by Ottawa. He is the #3 ranked prospect in the game AND the highest ranked D-man prospect in The previously referenced Hockey News rankings ahead of Charlie McAvoy who sits at #4.

If the Bruins finish this season with their third straight collapse out of the playoffs they will enter this off season with tons of question marks and to be fair the Bruins do have some exciting prospects who could be in the mix for next year. But if Sweeney didn’t go against the grain and took the best talent available in the 2015 draft they could have a franchise altering group of prospects in McAvoy, Chabot, Barzal, Connor and JFK ready to take spots on this roster next season which is exactly what this team needs.

With the current state of this roster Sweeney and the Bruins brass need to be questioned on this. Period.





Taking a look back and questioning the Bruins 2015 draft….

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….