The 2016-17 season is just around the corner, and some of us can hardly wait for the NHL’s first game to start. We all want to know how our favorite teams are going to do; if the Leafs are going to do something good for a change, and if the Oilers’ Connor McDavid will make good on his ‘Saviour’ nickname. This is a year we’re going to see previous Stanley Cup champions sink further back into the shadows, and watch new ones rise from the dust … and one of them might just be the Boston Bruins.
Interestingly enough, over the next couple of seasons, the Bruins will only bring more first rounders to the table. At the last Draft, they selected Charles McAvoy (No. 14), and Trent Frederic (No. 29), and at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, they landed three first rounders, all in a row:
No. 13 – Jakub Zboril, D
No. 14 – Jake DeBrusk, LW
No. 15 – Zachary Senyshyn, RW
So the real question is, who’s going to break through to the NHL first?
Boston Bruins Lineup Contender #1: Jakub Zboril
First, let’s take a look at lucky No. 13, Jakub Zboril. One of the biggest things working in Zboril’s favor is the Bruins’ need for a blueliner. Additionally, of these three draftees, he has the highest body mass index and the most international experience by far.
Woah! What happened last season, Zboril?
As you can see from the chart above, Zboril performed at his best during the 2014-15 season in terms of point production. In the 2015-16 season, however, his role changed, and he was placed into more of a shutdown style-of-play, which allowed Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senator’s first-round draft pick from the 2015 Draft class, to take on more of the offensive opportunities. In fact, the 2015-16 season was Zboril’s worst point-producing season to date. At first glance, it appears that he was set up for failure, but on the contrary, these statistics speak volumes to his willingness to do whatever it takes to make it to the NHL. Talk about coachable.
Boston Bruins Lineup Contender #2: Jake DeBrusk
Second on the list is No. 14, Jake DeBrusk, who happens to be the only one of the three promoted to the AHL’s Providence Bruins so far. DeBrusk does have a slightly higher PPG rate than Senyshyn, his right-wing counterpart.
Could this be the reason why he’s advanced to the AHL this upcoming season?
It’s quite unlikely that DeBrusk’s slightly higher point-producing abilities are the sole reason as to why he’s playing for Providence in the 2016-17 season. Perhaps it has a little more to do with his state-of-mind instead?
DeBrusk’s best point-producing season was the 2014-15 when he was playing for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. Under the tutelage of head coach and general manager Mark Lamb, DeBrusk was becoming increasingly reliable, and developing into a complete player.
Unfortunately, the beginning of November 2014 hit DeBrusk where it hurt the most. Sustaining an injury to the groin area after blocking a slap shot, he underwent surgery and missed 11 games. Afterwards, DeBrusk was never quite the same, and the Swift Current Broncos swiftly let him go to the Red Deer Rebels.
The Rebels consequently placed second in the overall standings at the 2016 Memorial Cup, making it to the semifinals, where they lost 3-1 to the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The Huskies went on to lose 3-2 to the OHL’s London Knights, who then won the entire tournament.
DeBrusk was 18-years-old at the time of his injury, and described the pain in an interview to NESN,
… you don’t feel it in that area. It goes up to your midsection, so I thought my appendix burst, or something because I couldn’t move…
Besides the physical trauma that had occurred with his injury, DeBrusk was forced to endure the emotional trauma of being rejected by his team’s management — something that Taylor Hall endured for the first time at the relatively young age of 24, and we all know how much he liked that.
There’s no doubt that DeBrusk has matured a great deal over the last year, and even though he might not be as big and as strong as some of the other players born in 1996, what he does have is the mental capacity to handle adversity better than players older than himself.
Boston Bruins Lineup Contender #3: Zachary Senyshyn
Last but not least, we have Zachary Senyshyn. Over the last three seasons, Senyshyn is the only player of these three boys who’s had consistent growth each year, which pretty much makes his projection a sure thing.
The best thing about draft picks like Senyshyn is that their developmental projectile starts from a low point — it’s the reason no one else “sees them coming.” Don Sweeney, the Boston Bruins’ general manager, received a ton of criticism for selecting Senyshyn where he did. The Boston Globe referred to Senyshyn as “the surprise 15th pick,” and the Ottawa Citizen called him a “surprise to the hockey world.” It looks like a lot of Boston’s picks at the last few drafts have been criticized… could Sweeney be the new Dean Lombardi?
Time will tell.
In fact, Senyshyn is beginning to catch the attention of Hockey Canada now, who invited him to the National Junior Team Sport Chek Summer Development Camp. If Senyshyn continues down his current path of projection, he might just land himself a spot on Team Canada’s roster at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto.
So who’s it going to be? Zboril, the coach’s dream? Senyshyn, the sure thing? Or DeBrusk, the emotionally stable? The Boston Bruins’ rookie camp opens Sept. 15, 2016, and we’ll have to wait till then to see what Sweeney has to say.
I’m a Hockey Journalist based out of Barrie, Ontario, a Contributing Writer for The Hockey Writers covering OHL, and NHL prospects with an insatiable thirst for all things LA Kings, and PR gal for Abel Sports Management.