With the NHL Draft quickly approaching, a few Boston Bruins writers here on The Hockey Writers gave their two cents on what the Bruins plan of action should be. Entering the draft with the 18th overall pick, there are a few options for the Bruins in terms of draft picks, and even potential trade options. It’s no secret at this point that the Bruins have assembled one of the better prospect pools in the entire NHL. As such, many are calling for the Bruins to trade away the pick to pick up a top-four blueliner or a top-six winger to immediately push the team from a fringe team into a serious playoff contender. While that’s certainly an option, it’s important to remember that trading away a first-round pick just for the sake of doing so that might not benefit the team, regardless of their already loaded prospect pool.
Bruins’ writers Chris Gere, Drew Johnson and Brandon Share-Cohen got together to discuss whether or not they would trade the 18th pick or if they would use it to select a prospect to continue their draft-and-develop approach.
For all the grief he’s endured since taking over as GM, Don Sweeney has done a really good job of building up the Bruins prospect pool into one of the best in hockey. The Bruins have solid prospects at just about every position and certainly every position of need. This gives Sweeney some leeway to move draft picks.
If the 18th overall pick and another expendable asset, such as Ryan Spooner or one of their many left wing prospects, are enough to land a top-four defenseman, then they should absolutely do it. While Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril are waiting in the wings as highly regarded left-handed blue line prospects, Boston needs something a little surer and a little more immediate.
Zdeno Chara may be around for the next few years, or he may retire after this coming season. Either way, the Bruins are going to need to address the left side sooner rather than later. Torey Krug isn’t a top-pairing defenseman, so he’s not the answer once Chara departs. In an ideal world, he’s a third-pairing defenseman who is capable of playing on the second pairing. It’s overly optimistic to assume that both Lauzon and Zboril will develop into top-four defensemen, so it would behoove the Bruins to use some of their trade assets to build their corps into one that can win now.
While the first round pick can be valuable to any team, the Bruins have plenty of prospects thanks to past years. Remember drafting three players in a row in 2015? That’s not say that the 18th overall pick is something the Bruins shouldn’t cash in on. Trading the pick is more of a freedom they’ve allowed themselves through proper scouting and drafting. But if the Bruins can help themselves by trading the 18th overall pick they should. They certainly have trade needs. Boston needs a top-six winger. Though guys hopping up to the pros from either Providence or the NCAA will fill that role, the Bruins need a rental.
Now, a rental most likely isn’t the right piece in exchange for a first round pick, so I would rather see Sweeney address that through free agency. However, the Bruins could definitely use a top-four defenseman. Though the defensive core is in a good position despite losing Colin Miller, Boston could still use some help. To be frank, Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and even Colin Miller aren’t and weren’t the future of this team. Krug, McAvoy and Carlo are most definitely a part of that future, however, along with Zboril and Lauzon. That is if they reach their ceiling. Zboril and Lauzon are another year or two away from making an impact in the NHL.
Reports surfaced that the Bruins have been connected to Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella of the Minnesota Wild. It is no secret that Sweeney is looking for a defenseman; especially considering Chara is on his last legs. The 18th overall pick should be sent off for a top-four defenseman. If Sweeney ultimately decides to draft with the Bruins’ first-round pick, he should immediately begin shopping next year’s.
First round draft picks are always valuable assets. Despite the fact that the Bruins own a pick closer to pick No. 30 than pick No. 1, they still shouldn’t just give it away for nothing. It’s easy to argue that the Bruins don’t need the pick because of their prospect pool, but for that same reason, wouldn’t it be wise to continue collecting impressive assets that can either make the NHL one day or be used in future deals? Now more than ever, drafting is a huge part of making a team a good one. The salary cap is always looming and entry-level contracts are as valuable as they’ll ever be. While that all sounds one-sided and leaning towards using the pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft rather than trading it, there are always two sides to a coin.
The Bruins should trade the pick if the right deal comes around. There’s no guarantee that a top-four defenseman will be available for the Bruins if they simply offer their first-round pick with a player like Ryan Spooner. If life were that easy, the Bruins would have made a trade every season to fix their defensive issues. Instead, the Bruins have drafted under Sweeney and have come away with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo in the last two drafts. If a trade does present itself and doesn’t mortgage the Bruins future, the team should certainly be exploring that option. Players like Calvin De Haan, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella and others are potential fits for the Bruins. Depending on what it costs, the Bruins could certainly benefit from acquiring one of those players – trading away either Lauzon or Zboril in such a deal wouldn’t be wise, however, as it would be trading away the future for the present.
With the Bruins loaded to the brim with left wing prospects in the AHL who all project to be NHL ready sooner rather than later – Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlarik, the Bruins should steer clear of trading for a left wing option for now. If they can somehow trade away one of those assets with their first-round pick to get a difference-maker, they could explore the possibility. If the player is closer to average than a star, however, there’s no reason for Boston to make such a deal. Give the youth a chance. If things don’t work, mid-season trades are always a possibility. Making a move just for the sake of doing so would break what Sweeney has done already in his time as the general manager. In short, the Bruins should make a deal if one presents itself and makes sense for both sides. If not, there’s no harm in drafting a player to develop over the next few years.
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.