It has been six seasons since Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney oversaw the 2015 Entry Draft, his first in charge of the Black and Gold. Three consecutive first-round picks had the Bruins set up to find some building block pieces for the future. Unfortunately for Sweeney, with each year that goes by, the 2015 draft is becoming more and more of a nightmare.
Three picks at No.’s 13, 14, and 15 had the Bruins primed to land some talent that could slide into the lineup and be the future. That has not been the case as the three picks that Sweeney made look not as good as they could have been with each passing day.
2015 First Round Selections
Sweeney selected defensemen Jakub Zboril with the 13th overall pick, before choosing left wing Jake DeBrusk with the 14th pick. Another forward, Zach Senyshyn, was selected 15th with the final selection in the opening round. Boston has not got what they had hoped they would from those three players.
Of the three, DeBrusk has had the most impact. From 2017-18 through the 2019-20 season, the 25-year-old averaged nearly 20 goals a season, with a career-high 27 in 2018-19. Over the last year, things have not gone as well for DeBrusk or the team. Last season in 41 games, he had five goals and 14 points after signing a two-year, $7.35 million bridge deal in November of 2020 after he tested free agency.
This season started out better, but his play has been going down slowly and it led to being a healthy scratch by coach Bruce Cassidy in a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 28. After being a healthy scratch multiple times in 2020-21 in the regular season and once in the playoffs, it was reported that DeBrusk and his agent have requested a trade. Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, DeBrusk played just 10:25 with one shot on the net on the fourth line. In the first period, whenever he touched the puck, he heard boos from the crowd. Thursday night in Boston’s 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators, DeBrusk scored the game’s first goal and finished with two shots on the net in just under 11 minutes of ice time.
Zboril’s path to the NHL has been a slow one and somewhat frustrating at times. Last season, he made the roster out of training camp and played in 42 regular-season games. He was a steady left-shot blueliner that is consistent and does not make any glaring mistakes. He was paired with now-retired Kevan Miller, but injuries hampered Zboril’s time in the lineup and he ended up on the outside looking during the playoffs. This season, he has been a nice addition to bolster the defense, mainly paired with Mike Reilly. He has done a nice job winning puck battles, being strong on the puck, and playing in most situations. Against the Predators, he left in the game in the second period with what the team is calling a lower-body injury.
It’s safe to say that Senyshyn has not panned out to what Sweeney would have hoped. He has played in just 14 NHL games with one goal and three points. Senyshyn has scored eight goals in 17 games with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season, but he has never been able to translate his game to the NHL.
2015 First Round Misses
I don’t think I need to remind you how much differently the first round in 2015 could have gone, but let’s take another look back at who was drafted after Senyshyn and who the Black and Gold could have had. Just a few notable names that would be helping the Bruins in 2021-22.
Another team that had multiple first-round picks in 2015 in the first round with the Bruins was the New York Islanders. In fact, both selections were after Sweeney’s three picks. New York selected Mathew Barzal 16th and Anthony Beauvillier 28th. Who had the better first-round draft that night, despite having just two picks?
Left-wing Kyle Connor was picked 17 by the Winnipeg Jets, Thomas Chabot, a left-shot defenseman, was selected 18th by the Ottawa Senators, and Brock Boeser was chosen 23rd by the Vancouver Canucks. How would any of those players look wearing the Spoked-B right now?
2015 First Round Will Haunt the Bruins For Years
When news broke of DeBrusk’s trade request, that puts another spin on the 2015 first-round draft class. Already one of the more criticized classes in Bruins history, now the one part of the class that was having any kind of success wants out of Boston. Think of where the Bruins could be now and in the future with any of the names mentioned about picked after the three picks Sweeney had. This will have long-lasting effects on the organization.
Letting it get to this point is on the Bruins. There were ways that they could have gone about parting ways with DeBrusk. They could have left him unprotected in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft last July. A young forward that has shown the ability to become a 20-goal scorer might have been a draw for Kraken GM Ron Francis. Instead, Sweeney left Jeremy Lauzon unprotected and Francis grabbed the young blueliner. Would Seattle have taken DeBrusk? We will never know, but the Bruins would be better off with Lauzon now instead of trading DeBrusk.
The Bruins could have moved DeBrusk in a deal in the offseason. His trade value would be higher then than it is now and any kind of deal that Sweeney makes might have to include another piece, a prospect, to bring back an impactful player. That may have been the case over the summer, but now the rest of the teams see the Bruins as desperate to move DeBrusk, which is not good for Sweeney and the front office. Both sides wanted this to work out, but it never really had a chance to be successful.
The 2015 draft class will be looked back on for decades as the one that they missed a golden opportunity on. It is going to follow Sweeney until he is done in Boston and maybe even beyond. Just when you think that the 2015 class can’t look any worse, it does. DeBrusk’s trade request puts the icing on the cake with that first-round draft. The Bruins will be feeling the effects of this draft for the next decade and maybe beyond.
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Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.