In June of 2015, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney had quite the first NHL Entry Draft. He started off by making two trades, the first one sending defensemen Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames for the 15th overall pick of that season’s draft. Sweeney then traded forward Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for the 13th overall pick.
That year, Boston had the 14th pick, which meant that Sweeney lined up three consecutive first-round picks looking to draft some young talent for the future. The Bruins had nine selections in 2015 overall and two players have already played a big part in the Bruins’ recent success in the last three years. This year, two more members of the draft class are making an impact and a big reason for the Bruins early season success in the 2020-21 season.
Sweeney’s first selection in the opening round in 2015 and 13th overall, Zboril made the Bruins roster out of training camp this season and is fitting right in on the third defensive pairing with Kevan Miller. In three years with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League, his development got better each season, both offensively and defensively. He’s not going to light up the scoresheet as he had 11 goals and 46 assists in 182 games in the minors, but his puck-moving ability and skating have seen a big improvement. Last season he finished with a plus-20.
Zboril, who suffered an upper-body injury in the first period Saturday night against the New York Islanders and did not return, has been a good fit for the Bruins on defense this season. He has even gained confidence from head coach Bruce Cassidy through the first 14 games. With Matt Grzelcyk missing six games recently with an injury, he got some time on the Bruins second power-play unit and he also has spent time killing penalties with Miller. Averaging just over 18 minutes a night, the 6-foot, 200-pound Zboril has carved out a role on the blue line that has been what the Bruins needed following the departures of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara in free agency.
Selected 14th overall right behind Zboril, DeBrusk has been one of the few Bruins that has supplied secondary scoring behind the top line over the last three years. In 2018-19, he scored a career-high 27 goals, and last season he was on pace for a second consecutive 20-goal season with 19 when the season was paused in March because of the coronavirus. In just over three regular seasons in Boston, he has 62 goals and 60 assists. He has been a playoff producer for the Bruins as well with 14 goals and nine assists in 49 games. DeBrusk’s best postseason was in 2018-19 during Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final when he had four goals, seven assists, and a plus-4 with 62 shots on net in 24 games.
This season has not started out the way DeBrusk and the Bruins had hoped it would. After signing a two-year, $7.35 million contract in November to return to the Black and Gold, he has missed five games with an injury and has two assists in the nine games he has played in.
The first of three second-round picks at No. 37, Carlo stepped right into the Bruins lineup at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. In 311 career games, the 6-foot-5, 212-pound right-handed shot had been paired with both Chara and Krug over the last two seasons. Last season with Krug, he had four goals and a career-high 15 assists, but he was more of a stay at home defenseman while Krug got involved in the offense. This season, he has been paired with Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, and John Moore. Grzelcyk has missed eight games early in the season with Clifton and Moore replacing him in those games.
With Chara gone, Carlo has the ability to replace the former captain as the shutdown defensemen on the blue line with his long reach that can frustrate opponents. This season, he does have two goals, including a game-winning goal against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 1 late in the third period. Averaging 19 minutes a game, he is Boston’s best defensive penalty killer and a future foundation piece on the blue line.
The third pick of the second round and 52nd overall, Lauzon has played in 35 games with the Bruins the last two seasons as an injury replacement. During that time, he showed signs that he could be a future full-time top-six defensive player, and this season, he has earned that shot. On the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy, Lauzon is the perfect partner for the new leader on the blue line. McAvoy has become more of an offensive defenseman this season and it has led to him being third on the team with 11 points with one goal and 10 assists. Lauzon has been the more defensive of the two and the results have been good.
The 23-year-old Lauzon has been a physical player since entering the NHL. He had 32 hits last season in just 19 games and that has not changed this season. In 14 games, he has 39 hits and 16 blocked shots. Another one of the Bruins’ key penalty killers on defense, he’s averaging 19:38 a night and is gained more and more high leverage shifts from Cassidy.
Bruins Seeing Impactful Results From 2015 Draft Class
The third first-round pick in 2015, Zach Senyshyn, is playing for the Providence in the AHL and is another Boston injury away from being called up. It took almost six seasons, but Sweeney and the Bruins are getting results from the 2015 draft class and some of the results have been better than they had hoped in 2020-21. Boston knew what they had in DeBrusk and Carlo, but Zboril and Lauzon have had a good start to the season and look like players that will be mainstays on the blueline in the future.