The NHL Entry Draft has culminated in a mixed-bag of results for the Boston Bruins in recent years. There have been some major hits, some major flops and just about everything in between for the team since Don Sweeney took over as the team’s general manager.
One thing that’s been seemingly consistent throughout Sweeney’s tenure, though, is that off-the-board picks will exist seemingly each and every draft. It’s easy to give a team the benefit of the doubt and assume that their scouting departments ultimately know better than the numerous scouts who put out their draft rankings each year, but when many of these picks fail to live up to their draft slot, it’s hard to overlook.
That’s why the 2021 NHL Entry Draft was such a surprise for the Bruins. Given the circumstances and the cancellations and postponements of games and, in the case of the OHL, the entire season, teams could be given a theoretical free pass for not nailing selections in the 2021 Draft.
It’s the same reason ranking players was so difficult this season and given the circumstances, there was very little consensus from top to bottom in regards to draft-eligible players. This is why there were players ranked as first-round picks who slid even as far as the third-round in some cases, and why some players jumped up the board relative to their original projected slot.
Despite this, the Bruins would go into the 2021 NHL Draft and not only select on-the-board picks, but they’d find some of the best value throughout the entire draft. The team would pick Fabian Lysell with the 21st pick in the first round which was immediately seen as a steal given he was ranked as a top-10 pick on many boards and at worst looked like a top-15 pick with some even giving him top-five nods.
Lysell, however, isn’t the player that’s going to be discussed here though. Instead, the Bruins’ third-round pick is the one that many are sleeping on. Without a second-round pick to work with as a result of the trade that landed them Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar, the Bruins would be forced to wait until the third round to make their second selection in 2021.
They wouldn’t disappoint either, as they’d select Brett Harrison with the 85th overall pick.
Bruins Draft for Value With Harrison Pick
Why was Harrison such a good pick for the Bruins in the third round? Well, for starters, Harrison was ranked by many, as a second-round prospect with late first-round upside in some cases. The team would come away with him with the 21st pick of the third round and get a very impressive hockey player in the process.
At 6 foot 2 and 185 pounds, Harrison already has an NHL-caliber frame to work with. He’s a very smart player who scores most of his goals from the slot and benefits from solid positioning in all three zones. Because he benefits more from working alongside playmakers, he could find himself playing primarily on the wing at the NHL level, though he has the ability to play center if that’s where the Bruins feel he’s best suited to play.
One reason he may have slid down some draft boards is that Harrison lacks the speed that many teams look for in high-upside, first-round picks. Still, he’s definitely not a bad skater and can excel when playing to his strengths. He’s strong on his skates and uses powerful strides to move north-sound to great success.
He might not play a flashy brand of hockey, but Harrison looks like he has a future in the NHL one day. Sometimes, simplicity is best and that’s exactly the word that should be used to describe Harrison’s game, outside of hustle, determination and consistency. A lot of cliche buzz-words that might cause some to roll their eyes, for sure, but also the truth when watching Harrison play the game.
Harrison Joins His Favorite NHL Team
Interestingly enough, Harrison isn’t joining the Bruins without much knowledge of their team. A favorable spot for him to land, he actually grew up as a Bruins fan.
“It was a dream come true when I saw my name pop up and a moment that I’ll never forget,” said Harrison following the draft. “I’ve always been a Bruins fan, [it] just ran through the family as my grandpa was best friends with Gary Doak.”
Harrison’s favorite player also checks out as it’s none other than Patrice Bergeron, the favorite player of just about every Bruins’ fan of the last two decades.
“I’ve always watched the Bruins growing up. So many great players have been going through [there]. Just watching Patrice Bergeron, he’s just such a reliable player, someone that I really look up to, and someone that I would love to play like.”
Something else worth noting about Harrison as well is the fact that he’s the first CHL-based player to be drafted by the Bruins since 2017 when the Bruins would draft Jack Studnicka. Both Studnicka and Harrison come from the Oshawa Generals organization and their fathers are friends. The Bruins also drafted Ryan Mast from the OHL this year, and took Quinn Olson (AJHL) in 2019 and Dustyn McFaul (OJHL) in 2018, not avoiding Canadian selections entirely.
Developing players from draft prospects to NHL talents is anything but a certainty. Drafting for value like the Bruins did in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft helps in increasing the odds of finding capable talent, though. Only time will tell if Harrison proves his draft ranking right, but the foundation is already in place for him to one day achieve his goal of playing in the NHL.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.