By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It’s been four years since the Bruins made Zach Senyshyn the 15th overall pick.
It was considered a reach then, and with just three NHL games to Senyshyn’s name, it’s considered a reach now. After all, only two players selected in that loaded ’15 first round have played fewer games than Senyshyn; 13th overall pick Jakub Zboril has played two for the B’s, while Arizona’s Nick Merkley, the 30th overall pick, has suited up for just one NHL contest.
But throwing around the ‘bust’ label when it comes to Senyshyn is still entirely incorrect.
Let’s boil it down to one simple fact: In NHL games that have meant something, Senyshyn’s produced. Period.
It started last year when Senyshyn made his NHL debut in a late-season contest in Minnesota, and finished with a goal (an empty-netter) and four shots in 12:41 of action. The empty-net goal will make you roll your eyes, and I know that, but it was everything else that made you walk away from that night happy with Senyshyn’s effort. “He had three or four good chances before [the empty-net goal],” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after that win. “As your first, you’d always like to tell the whole world you went through the whole team and went bar down, but this still works for him.”
(Senyshyn also played a little over 10 minutes in last year’s regular-season finale against the Lightning, but investing your energy in that throwaway performance doesn’t work for my angle, so we’re considering it irrelevant, baby.)
The 22-year-old Senyshyn made his 2019-20 debut in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Canadiens, and had one of the most productive 0-0-0 nights you’ll see this season. On a line with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle, Senyshyn was all over the place, and was awarded two assists the following morning. It would have been a three-assist night had the borderline coach’s challenge on an offside Coyle zone entry gone the Black and Gold’s way.
But that’s three (really four) points in three NHL games. Hardly busty.
Senyshyn’s successes go beyond the box score, too. When skating with Coyle, Senyshyn has looked more than capable of skating in the NHL. In 27 minutes and change with Coyle and Senyshyn on the ice at five-on-five, the Bruins have generated 15 scoring chances, controlled possession at over 57 percent, and outscored the opposition 2-0. We’re discussing an incredibly small sample size, of course, but it’s a better fit than countless other players the B’s have rolled to Coyle’s right.
And this is where I’m a slave to the scoresheet.
Especially when discussing some of the other players in the B’s organization.
Just look at the top of the B’s forward group: Brad Marchand. Contrary to what a lot of people remember, Marchand actually broke in with the Bruins during the 2009-10 season, skating in 20 games for that team. (I actually remember one night where Marchand was recalled from the P-Bruins and he spent a good 25 minutes in the lobby of the Marriott next to the Nassau Coliseum as they tried to find him a hotel room.) Marchand recorded just a single point within that 20-game ride, and had to work his way onto the B’s roster as a fourth liner to begin the 2010-11 season. We all know how that ended, and how Marchand rose to being one of the B’s top talents, and now one of the top talents in all of hockey. But it took him 20 NHL games, a training camp, and a start on Boston’s fourth line the following season — oh, and I forgot to mention that Marchand skated in over 100 AHL games, too — before he finally broke through and became a legitimate NHL piece.
This is not to say that Senyshyn is the next Marchand (I almost wanna say it just to melt some minds), but it just speaks to the idea that not every player is developed the same. This is often lost in a league that gets younger by the day, and with countless players from that 2015 class jumping right to the NHL. And when you were talking about Senyshyn, you were always talking a player that was viewed as a long-term project. He was never going to have that meteoric rise to the top of the B’s depth chart. If anything, he may be on the exact pace that the Bruins expected him to be on when they drafted him.
Is it a delayed start on the NHL level? Of course.
But it’s not even close to a start that screams “bust.”