By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins had to quickly turn the page after losing the Stanley Cup Final and focus the majority of their time and energy on the 2019 NHL Draft. With their best pick landing at No. 30, the goal is to add players who could impact the team a few years down the road.
It’s unlikely that GM Don Sweeney fills any immediate needs in this year’s draft, even in the first round. But the Bruins have both a short-term and long-term need for right-shot skaters, so it would be good to see him add at least one at either forward or defense. Center could again be a focus, with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci getting a year older as they approach their mid-30s.
Generally, the Bruins like to add well-rounded players who can help the team in a number of different ways. Sweeney builds for the modern NHL by mostly targeting prospects who skate well, regardless of size. He also covets high-I.Q. players who can move the puck and at least have potential for a strong two-way game. Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, and Brandon Carlo are among the biggest hits on that criteria under Sweeney as GM.
While the Stanley Cup Final did expose the Bruins’ relative lack of size at both ends of the ice, don’t expect Sweeney to swerve all the way in the direction of the big boys. Prospects who combine size, skill, and speed at a high level are exceptionally hard to find. But there are some prospects who could fall down into the late-first, early-second area of the draft who at least bring the size element to their game.
Here’s a last-minute get-to-know list for prospects that could be on the Bruins’ radar if and when they are available in their range. Then get ready to wait a couple years to find out what they are.
C John Beecher, Elmira, N.Y.
6-foot-3, 212 pounds
University of Michigan
(Update: Bingo! The Bruins drafted Beecher with the 30th overall pick.) Beecher projects as a strong two-way center at the NHL level, but may need time to develop the offensive end of it. Stuck behind high-end prospects Jack Hughes and Trevor Zegras on the depth chart for the U.S. national under-17 team, Beecher excelled in a bottom-six role. But he can skate and just needs seasoning offensively. He would come with the long-term upside of a top-six center.
D Alex Vlasic, Wilmette, Ill.
6-foot-6, 198 pounds
More on Vlasic here. He’s yet another left-shot defenseman, but one who brings a huge 6-foot-6 frame and impressive skating for his size. He could at least become a left-handed version of Brandon Carlo if all goes well, perhaps even better if he develops more of his offensive game. But his size and defense make him a surefire NHL blue liner. Also, he’s committed to B.U., a Bruins favorite in recent drafts.
W Bobby Brink, Excelsior, Minn.
5-foot-8, 165 pounds
University of Denver
Brink shoots right and brings plenty of skill at the offensive end, so he will be drafted pretty high despite his diminutive stature. He has the hockey sense and competitive fire to develop strong two-way skills at the NHL level. Think T.J. Oshie. The Bruins need right-shot forwards both now and later and Sweeney has to like Brink’s potential for a well-rounded NHL game.
D Tobias Björnfot, Upplands Väsby, Sweden
6 feet, 193 pounds
Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
(Update: The Los Angeles Kings drafted Björnfot with the 22nd overall pick.) earned Best Defenseman honors in his junior league last season. He has the kind of mature, well-rounded game that Sweeney loves. He has potential to be a good two-way defender and has also been praised for his leadership qualities. Bjornfot shoots left, so he’d be simply the latest in an ever-deepening line of lefty defensemen in the Bruins’ pipeline.
F Raphaël Lavoie, Montreal, Quebec
6-foot-4, 199 pounds
Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Lavoie is widely projected as a mid-to-late first-round pick, so he may not last to No. 30. But he fits the mold of what the Bruins need right now and into the future. He has the size to play a capable center at the NHL level, but could be a modern power forward type at right wing. Lavoie definitely has plenty of skill and a quick release, but he also uses his size, reach, and skating to protect the puck and get to the net-front area. He needs work on defense, which may turn the Bruins off, but he has the physical attributes to be a disruptive player in his own end. He would immediately be the biggest forward in the organization with the offensive potential to match.
F Samuel Poulin, Blainville, Quebec
6-foot-1, 212 pounds
Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
(Update: The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Poulin with the 21st overall pick.) Another big forward with offensive upside – and perhaps too much so for the Bruins. Various outlets project Poulin to go in the 20s, but he could be on Sweeney’s radar if he drops. Poulin may need to develop his skating for the speed of the NHL game, which could be a red flag for the B’s. But he sees the ice well, uses his size to his advantage, and can shoot as well as set up teammates. He has good two-way potential, too. That should be enough to make him a future top-six winger if the Bruins can nab him at the end of the first.
C Connor McMichael, Ajax, Ontario
6 feet, 182 pounds
London Knights (OHL)
(Update: The Washington Capitals drafted McMichael with the 25th overall pick.) Connor Mc-who? This new guy may be a far cry from the generational talent that this kid in Edmonton is. But McMichael’s offensive potential rivals the very best in this year’s class thanks to his incredible offensive instincts. He has a knack for being in the right spot or making the right play at the right time with his vision and high hockey I.Q. For whatever reason, he doesn’t display the same kind of intelligence at the defensive end, or else he’d be drafted much higher. But McMichael should be available in the Bruins’ vicinity and would carry a massively high ceiling with some risk.
The 2019 NHL Draft kicks off with the first round Friday night in Vancouver starting at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with rounds 2-7 coming on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. on the NHL Network.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.