If you haven’t heard of Jakub Zboril, you should have. Tonight, he is expected to make his NHL debut for the Bruins against the Dallas Stars. But his presence on the roster brings into focus – and question – something altogether different.
The first round of 2015 NHL draft and the Bruins rebuilding process under Don Sweeney.
Earlier this week, longtime Boston Globe reporter and writer Kevin Paul Dupont made the following observation: of the 30 players taken in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft, only three had yet to see any action in the NHL. Two of those three players were Bruins, including Zboril, who was one of three players taken by the Bs with pick Nos. 13 (Zboril), 14 (Jake Debrusk, whom we all like) and 15 (Zach Senyshyn) in the middle of the first round.
Thanks to hockey-reference.com, here’s a look at the entire first round, with the players who have yet to see NHL action highlighted in red:
For the moment, we’ll spare you the usual list of players the Bruins bypassed for Zboril and Senyshyn, in particular. (That has been dissected ad nauseam.) At draft time, reports indicated that the Bruins wanted to trade their three first-rounders to the Carolina Hurricanes for the No. 5 pick so that the Bruins could select defenseman Noah Hanafin. Obviously, that didn’t happen. And while there is a chance that Zboril and Senyshyn could still become productive NHL players, let’s not forget the resources the Bruins poured into that draft.
For example: to acquire the pick that landed them Zboril, the Bruins traded forward Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings for a package that also included goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Colin Miller. That trade looks like an enormous win for general manager Don Sweeney until you consider the following:
The Bruins subsequently traded Jones to San Jose for a first-rounder that became Trent Frederic. (No one is writing off Frederic, but he, too, has yet to appear in an NHL game.) As for Miller, the Bruins left him unprotected in the expansion draft, during which the Las Vegan Golden Knights snatched him up.
So think about it: In exchange for Lucic, the Bruins still could have had Zboril, along with Jones and Miller. Instead, they ended up with Zboril, Kuraly and Frederic. It’s as if Sweeney won big at the craps table, but didn’t have the discipline to walk away.
But back to the 2015 draft. With their final pick of the first round, the Bruins selected Senyshyn with the No. 15 choice, a selection they garnered by sending defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary. Fine, so no one is really missing Hamilton, though he ranked 17th in scoring among all defensemen in the NHL over the three-year period from 2015-16 to 2017-18. Regardless, Senyshyn was deemed a reach when the Bruins selected him and has done nothing to change that belief, and tracing back the Hamilton lineage brings you to a rather alarming conclusion.
The Bruins got Hamilton, after all, along with Tyler Seguin in the deal that sent Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs. When you add all this up, the Bruins could currently have a roster that featured Seguin, Hamilton, Colin Miller and Martin Jones. Instead, at the NHL level, they have nothing to currently show for any of it. Could that change? Yes, albeit only to a degree.
In the end, here’s the point: for as good a year as Sweeney had in 2017-18, he’s off to a brutal start this season. The young players he did draft or keep haven’t really performed. At least not yet. And as was the case under the final days of Peter Chiarelli, we’re starting to wonder whether the future of the Bruins is in serious doubt.