The newest prospect in the Boston Bruins’ pipeline, Swedish right wing Fabian Lysell, doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not.
“I think I’m a dynamic player,” Lysell, taken by the Bruins with the No. 21 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft, said following his selection Friday night. “I like to challenge opponents with pace. I try to use my skating to create separation from myself and to be in those dangerous scoring areas. That’s what I think.”
Standing at 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds, Lysell relies on his motor and speed to simply burn opponents into the offensive zone, where he can use skills to pull off highlight-reel goals that can remind you of what you see on the wings of Boston’s top line.
“I think we do identify with the skill and the game-breaking ability,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said in his post-round availability. “He’s got speed, he can shoot the puck. You saw the pockets of high-end ability.
“He has a certain skillset that was certainly attractive to us: Passion and drive for the game. Adapting to a North American style and smaller rinks, when he decides to come over, is a something we’ll have to have discussions with him and his representatives. We are excited for what Fabian brings and his passion and skill combination was unique for us to identify.”
Beginning his year with Frolunda’s junior team, Lysell tallied three goals and 13 points in 11 games before he facilitated a move to Luleå HF’s pro team in search of the highest competition possible. (That was a decision that has seemingly hit Lysell with ‘character concerns’ tag, which the Bruins were quick to downplay after his selection Friday night.)
And playing less than eight minutes per night in the Swedish pro ranks as a teen, Lysell put up just two goals and an assist in 26 games for Luleå HF, but he still considered the move a valuable experience to be in the same setting as seasoned vets.
“That’s a transition that’s tough,” Lysell said of the move up to the SHL. “Playing against a men’s team is a challenge, so that’s a tough league. It’s really competitive and you’ve got to be prepared for each game. That was obviously a jump to do but I really enjoyed doing that, and just being in that environment with the older guys and learning from them has helped me a lot.”
“Obviously, when you play in the SHL as a young player, you’re not necessarily given primary roles and you might not have the same offensive output that you want,” Sweeney said. “So, you really pay attention when he goes and plays against his peers. Can he dominate games or at least be a game breaker? And I think he’s showed moments of that skillset as well.
“He’s got a lot of work to do in terms of rounding out his overall game. He just has the speed, he has skill, the ability to shoot the puck past the goaltender. And some game-breaking ability that was hard for us to pass on.”
This pick also featured a much-needed flip in the Bruins’ drafting philosophy, as alluded to by Sweeney.
Seemingly famous for going ‘safe’ with their top picks that project as hard-working but not necessarily dynamic NHL forwards — Trent Frederic in 2016 and Johnny Beecher in 2019 come to mind on that front — the Bruins decided to go for the game-changing offensive talent. If you want some extra good news with this pick (though this depends on trusting some other people), it didn’t take long for several sources to reach out to 98.5 The Sports Hub and commend the B’s for this pick, saying that Lysell was indeed the best player available to them at No. 21. I honestly can’t tell you the last time that’s happened.
Now, will it shake it out that way when we look back on this draft in five years? On July 24, 2021, nobody knows.
But, again, this felt like a big step for the Bruins, at least in terms of their approach.
Lysell is and was not in their backyard. He’s not going to play college hockey on or near Comm Ave. He’s not related to anybody in the organization, and his father did not play in the NHL. Lysell has never been to Boston, and his closest connection to the Bruins is that he played his Swedish juniors hockey in P.J. Axelsson’s hometown. The Bruins left the PR, feel-good story bull at the door and simply went for the player they believe can make the biggest difference.
It’s almost if they finally realized that you can teach high-end scoring talent the finer details of a more complete game, but that you can’t teach a grinder how to be a high-end scoring talent.
“There’s details and things that all young players have to learn and assimilate with the North American style, but he has attributes that I think we identified the Boston Bruins need as much of as we possibly can,” Sweeney admitted. “Scoring and skills are hard to find and Fabian has a lot of those attributes.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.