By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
PSA: The NHL Draft is also this week. Now that the NBA Draft is in the rearview mirror, it’s time to find out whom Don Sweeney and the Bruins are targeting for the future.
It’s hard to totally trust any NHL mock draft, since they aren’t necessarily based on actual inside knowledge of who teams are targeting. But that doesn’t mean analysts don’t know their stuff, or that somebody won’t nail the Bruins’ first-round pick when (barring a trade) they select at No. 30 on Friday in Vancouver.
Sweeney has shown a tendency to lean toward certain types of players in recent years. He’s emphasized the speed and skill that the NHL continues to trend toward, despite losing in the playoffs for two straight seasons in large part because they got pushed around by the bigger opponent. But Sweeney may be looking toward the future more than we realize. Just because big defensemen still win now doesn’t mean they’ll still be the winning formula 4-5 years from now.
That said, Sweeney hasn’t always shied away from size – see Carlo, Brandon. And there’s a 6-foot-6 defenseman who is a popular pick for them in mock drafts. But for the most part, the draft prognosticators see Sweeney again prioritizing high-IQ, well-rounded players who can skate well and make plays with the puck at either end of the ice. Here’s a roundup of the prospects pegged as future Bruins by various hockey outlets around the web.
Alex Vlasic, D, Boston University
Three prominent outlets view Vlasic as the Bruins’ guy: ESPN, The Athletic, and NBC Sports in D.C. A cousin of Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, he’s committed to B.U. – which alone probably has him on the Bruins’ radar. His skating and hockey sense are NHL-ready, but he needs to develop an offensive game and fill out his 6-foot-6 frame (he’s Chris Sale-esque right now at under 200 pounds). He sounds like a taller Urho Vaakanainen, which makes a lot of sense for the B’s. Vlasic is a left-shot defenseman, so you’d think the Bruins would move on from some of their many other left-shot defensive prospects if they do select him.
Bobby Brink, W, Sioux City (USHL)
Draftsite.com has Brink headed to Boston. As a commit to the University of Denver, Brink has a chance to refine his game in college and perhaps cause his stock to skyrocket after being drafted, much like Charlie McAvoy did at B.U. Selecting Brink may frustrate those who feel the Bruins have enough undersized wingers – Brink is barely NHL-size at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. But he is a right-handed winger with a great shot and a high offensive ceiling. He also has the hockey I.Q. and competitiveness to play solidly in his own end. Stylistically, he projects as a T.J. Oshie type. His lack of size and room for improvement in the skating department drop him to a late-first-round selection at best. But the Bruins need right-shot forwards both right now and in the future, so Brink would be a welcome addition to the farm.
Nils Höglander, W, Rögle BK J20 (SuperElit)
The Bockträsk, Sweden native is projected to go to the Bruins at Tankathon.com. Yet another undersized left-shot winger at 5-foot-9, 188 pounds. But like Brink, Höglander plays bigger than that. He’s not afraid to muck it up on the forecheck and deliver open-ice hits. His speed and acceleration is his best offensive attribute, and he has upside as a scorer with a good wrist shot and hockey I.Q. His all-around skills give him a ceiling as a top-six winger in the NHL, but he’ll have to overcome that lack of size, which is easier to do in Swedish leagues than at the highest level. Whoever drafts him runs the risk over over-drafting an eventual bottom-six winger, but Höglander’s well-rounded game and physicality make him a potential fit for the Bruins.
Nick Robertson, W, Peterborough (OHL)
Robertson feels like a Bruin, according to Bleacher Report. He’d endear himself to fans because he plays bigger than his size – he currently stands at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, but forechecks well and is willing to play a physical game. He can skate and he has the upside of a good scorer at the NHL level. But Robertson’s lack of size and polish makes him projected widely as a second-round pick, so he might be viewed as a reach if the Bruins do take him. If Robertson does come here and make an impact, it won’t be for at least 3-4 years.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.