The Boston Bruins have selected 14th overall in the NHL draft in each of the last two years. Narrowly missing the playoffs in both seasons, the Bruins were forced to settle with picking right in the middle of the first-round with a longer offseason than expected. Trading to acquire the 13th and 15th overall picks in 2015, the Bruins did their best to find value in the first round – regardless of the backlash directed at the players they selected. In 2016, the Bruins found Charlie McAvoy who has already flashed signs of being an elite defender just six games into his career, all of which came in the postseason.
This year, the Bruins will be drafting a little later than they have in recent memory. This is a direct result of the team qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2013-14. Though the team was ultimately bounced in the first-round of the playoffs by the Ottawa Senators, the long-term gain may have been a beneficial one for the Bruins. After losing in the first round, the Bruins are set to pick just four spots later than they would have had they narrowly missed the playoffs once again.
What Did the Bruins Gain?
There’s no doubt that the Bruins were happy to qualify for the postseason. Whether it’s the fans, the players, the management team or ownership, the expectation was that a postseason berth was necessary. After being spoiled for much of the 21st century with championships and successful seasons, the city of Boston simply won’t accept a poor effort. Nor should they. Still, losing so early in the playoffs seems like it was all for not. That isn’t necessarily the case, however, as there were some legitimate positives to take away from the situation.
The first and most obvious positive comes in the form of the 19-year-old McAvoy. With the Bruins dealing with numerous injuries in the postseason, including Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid as well as injuries to Colin Miller and David Krejci among others, McAvoy stepped up in a big way for the Bruins. Earning recognition from hockey fans everywhere, McAvoy proved that he could be a star in the NHL. Though he could have made a similar impact early in the regular season next year, the opportunity lined up perfectly for McAvoy to show that he could be thrown right into the fire.
With so many injuries on the back-end, the Bruins needed McAvoy to step up. With a fully healthy defensive group, McAvoy’s ice time likely would have been limited and he wouldn’t have gained such valuable minutes so early in his career. The ability to step up on a big stage like the NHL postseason should not be underestimated. To do so at 19-years-old with zero prior NHL experience makes it all the more impressive. It’s something that the Bruins wouldn’t have gotten to see had the team not made the postseason – an opportunity that was invaluable in itself.
Kevan Miller Proving His Value
One of the more polarizing figures on the Bruins’ roster, Kevan Miller has been on the wrong end of Bruins’ fans ire for a few seasons. To Miller’s credit, he’s shown up and played his game all the same regardless of the criticism he’s received from his home crowd. There was no masking Miller’s play other than just admitting it was bad for a long stretch. In his defense, however, he was being tasked with playing up and down the lineup with no concrete role, often playing against some of the league’s top talent. The 29-year-old, however, is best suited as a bottom-pairing defender. If put in a situation that isn’t best suited for his game, the anger should be directed at the Bruins’ management team and not Miller, who was just doing what was asked of him.
In the 2017 postseason, Miller stepped up for the Bruins. While McAvoy was the real story of the playoffs, there has been a surge in Miller supporters after his most recent stretch of play. Often used in a shutdown role in the postseason, Miller played a much more calm and relaxed game while keeping the Bruins alive in their own zone on multiple occasions. His play wasn’t flashy. It wasn’t exciting like McAvoy’s or like Erik Karlsson’s. Still, it was effective and kept the Bruins afloat despite their depleted blue line.
With the expansion draft quickly approaching, the Bruins will have to make a choice sooner than later. That choice will likely entail a decision involving both Kevan and Colin Miller and which defender of the two that they will protect. After Kevan’s rock-solid play in the playoffs, the decision became a much harder one. A good problem to have.
What Did It Cost?
In the end, the Bruins gained experience as a team while also giving fans some meaningful hockey past the regular season in exchange for just four draft spots. Rather than drafting 14th overall again, the Bruins moved down to the 18th position for a chance to gain some valuable experience and please a fanbase. McAvoy stepped up big for the Bruins. David Pastrnak learned about the frustrations of playing in the postseason and how it differs from the regular season. Different faces stepped up when needed and the Bruins got all of that for the cost of four spots on the draft board.
With conference finals about to start, here's the updated first round draft order. Final 4 teams slotted in after Cup Final pic.twitter.com/yidDjHuDbK
— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) May 12, 2017
In a draft that is wide open in terms of scouting from the very top of the draft until the middle portions of the second-round, that is a trade the Bruins should be happy with. A new head coach, a solid top-four defensive group and a series-worth of experience for such a small price is a steal. Though the end result is still a first-round exit and a mid-first round draft choice, the expectations for the Bruins this season never centered around a Stanley Cup victory. Making the playoffs was a win in itself, and the Bruins got that and then some without mortgaging their future in deadline deals or in draft real estate. Take the season for what it was and call it a win, despite the year ending on a loss.