Bruins’ 2018 Draft Revisited 5 Years Later

*This was published ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft.

Today is the day. The 2022 NHL Entry Level Draft begins tonight in Montreal. While the Boston Bruins do not have a first-round pick after the Hampus Lindholm trade at this year’s deadline, there is still plenty of news and rumors around the team. There are reports that the team is interested in trying to trade into the first round or that they may be interested in making a draft day deal for J.T. Miller from the Vancouver Canucks.

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Whatever happens, the importance of this draft for the Bruins cannot be emphasized enough. General manager (GM) Don Sweeney was recently extended, which has brought a lot of attention to his lack of success in previous NHL drafts in the past month. He needs a win this year, both for his own legacy as well as the future of the team, which is seriously lacking in some exciting prospects.

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One of Sweeney’s unimpressive draft performances came during the 2018 NHL Draft. It has been five years since that draft wrapped up in Dallas, Texas, and only one of the five picks they selected has made his NHL debut yet. A few have played some preseason games in the black and gold, but that is it. Similar to this year, the Bruins did not have a first-round pick and all of their selections were expected to take three to five years to develop, but being five years out now, it’s looking like 2018 will be a lost year.

The Bruins’ 2018 Selections

As mentioned above, the Bruins selected five players in the 2018 Draft. Their first selection was right-shot, Swedish defenseman Axel Andersson in the second round at pick number 57. They followed that up by taking Jakub Lauko, a Czech center/left wing, at pick 77 in the third round. In the fourth round, they took center/left wing Curtis Hall at number 119. They rounded out the draft with defenseman Dustyn McFaul in the sixth round (No. 181) and Pavel Shen in the seventh round (No. 212). 

Curtis Hall, Boston Bruins
Curtis Hall, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The emphasis in the 2018 Draft is very similar to what the Bruins are looking for in this year’s draft, center and rounding out defensive depth. Expect to see team management targeting centers and right-shot defensemen this year as well. The writing for what they needed in the future was clearly on the wall in 2018 and now it is just a little more pressing in 2022. 

Out of the five selections, two of the players are no longer in the Bruins system. Andersson was part of the 2020 trade to the Anaheim Ducks along with David Backes and their 2020 first-round draft pick for Ondrej Kase. He played in 35 games in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season for the San Diego Gulls and registered four goals and 10 points.

Meanwhile, Shen was placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of contract termination back in 2021 after playing for the Providence Bruins in the AHL for two seasons. The center/right wing had 13 points in 51 games across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. He returned to his home country of Russia and spent last season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

The other three selections have had moderate success at the AHL and NCAA levels, but none seem completely ready to make the jump to the NHL as real impact players. Lauko has been the most impressive of the bunch, reaching the NHL in 2022-23 and posting seven points in 23 games.

Jakub Lauko Boston Bruins
Jakub Lauko, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

They’re still relatively young, and who knows, one of them could easily break out this season and next year we may be looking back on the 2018 Draft in a different light. But at the moment, none of them really stand out as blue chip prospects who could make a difference on the roster anytime soon.

The Players the Bruins Missed

As the Bruins did not have a first-round pick in the 2018 Draft, they didn’t miss on the same quality of talent that they did in the 2015 Entry Level Draft when they had three picks in the first round and missed out on players such as Mathew Barzal, Thomas Chabot, Sebastian Aho, and Travis Konecny. 

None of the players selected after the Bruins’ first pick (57) have turned into elite NHL talent yet. But, there are definitely some intriguing names that look like they may be developing into stronger players than their selections. Tyler Madden is an intriguing center prospect who went at the top of the third round and is coming off of a season where he put up 31 points in 48 games for the Ontario Reign in the AHL. Joey Keane is a defenseman who went at the bottom of the third round and just had 12 points in 18 games for the 2022 AHL Champion, Chicago Wolves.

2018 Draft vs. 2022 Draft

At the end of the day, there are no guarantees when it comes to the NHL Draft. There are first-overall busts and guys like Brad Marchand taken in the fifth round who turn into elite NHL talent. There’s always a certain element of luck involved, and unfortunately, under Sweeney’s reign, there hasn’t been a ton of breakthrough talents from late-round picks outside of Jeremy Swayman’s selection at pick 111 in the 2017 Draft.

Don Sweeney Boston Bruins
Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The makeup of the 2022 NHL Draft in terms of where they picked was very similar to what they had in 2018. In 2022, the Bruins picked at 54, 91, 119, 183, 200, and 215. In 2018, they picked at 57, 77, 119, 181, and 212. If five years from now, the 2022 selections are looking the same way as the 2018 draft picks are now, then Boston is in big trouble. 

The Bruins followed up a second-round exit in the 2018 postseason and an unremarkable 2018 Draft with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. It seems shortsighted now, but there was not as much of a need to plan for the future when they had a roster that already appeared to be a contender. The same cannot be said about this current roster that is still reliant on the same key players who are all just a few years older, and even closer to the end of their careers. 

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The similarities between the two drafts cannot go beyond where they are picking. Four years from now, the Bruins need to have a few of their selections from this year’s draft as legitimate players on their roster. Talent can be found and developed in the later rounds of the draft. The team needs to make the move to go younger in the next few seasons and the talent they draft this year and next will need to turn into impactful players within the next three to five years. Otherwise, things will begin to look bleak after the inevitable retirements of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.