In recent years, much has been made about the decisions the Boston Bruins chose to make at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. While they have managed to continue being a very competitive team, they could have been even better had they done a better job drafting that day, as they found themselves with 13th, 14th, and 15th overall picks. Though this was extremely exciting for them at the time, it is now looked back on as a major gaffe for the franchise.
After a disappointing 2014-15 season in which they missed the playoffs entirely, the Bruins made some big moves. First, they fired general manager (GM) Peter Chiarelli and replaced him with current GM Don Sweeney. Then, June 26 came, which was a day that changed this organization in a massive way.
The first move Sweeney made that day came when he traded Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames in exchange for the 15th, 45th and 52nd picks, all of which were picks in the 2015 draft. Shortly after, an even bigger move came, as Milan Lucic was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Martin Jones, Colin Miller, and the 13th pick of that year’s draft. While the moves were quite shocking, the Bruins appeared to be in a great spot with three straight picks in the first round, though they didn’t have a ton of time to plan as the draft began later that day.
On Monday, Bruins’ President Cam Neely admitted that they botched the 2015 draft. He made it clear he understands how much better this team could have been if they had done it right. While those comments aren’t overly surprising, it was interesting to hear him put the blame on himself, saying he didn’t give his new GM in Sweeney enough time to prepare for the big day.
“I’ve looked back at that a lot, obviously. I think the timing of when we hired Don and then the draft was taking place – would have been good I think to have a little bit more time between the hiring and the draft,” said Neely. “Not to say that Don wasn’t involved in the amateur meetings, but he wasn’t involved at the time, most of the time thinking that he was making the picks. I think Don did everything he needed to do leading up to that draft to get three first-round picks. I thought the moves that he made were really good and poised to set us up for the future.”
While Sweeney has made some very good moves for the Bruins since then, he has been criticized often for the mistakes made at this draft, so perhaps these comments from Neely will help with that. It certainly is understandable that having only a month to prepare after being hired isn’t a ton of time, especially for a franchise that was going through a huge transition like they were at the time.
The first player the Bruins chose to take in what has turned out to be a stacked 2015 draft class was Czech defenceman Jakub Zboril. At the time of the draft, he was coming off of an impressive rookie season in the QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs, in which he scored 13 goals and 33 points in just 44 games. He spent two more seasons in the QMJHL after the draft before turning pro in 2017.
Zboril’s offensive potential has not translated to the professional game, and at this point doesn’t look like it will. He was able to make his NHL debut in the 2018-19 season, playing in two games but being held pointless. After spending the entire next year in the AHL, it looked like his time with the organization was finished, but he was able to make the Bruins roster this season and suited up for 42 of their 56 games.
While being able to finally crack the Bruins roster is a positive, he was very sheltered when in the lineup, averaging just over 17 minutes of ice time in his 42 games. An upper-body injury prevented him from suiting up in any playoff games this year, though it’s unclear whether or not he would have been used if available. He has one more year remaining on his contract and is still very much a question mark heading into next season.
With the 14th pick, the Bruins chose forward Jake DeBrusk. The son of former NHLer Louie DeBrusk was coming off of his second season with the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL, where he had led his team in scoring with 42 goals and 81 points. He played just one more season in the WHL split between the Broncos and the Red Deer Rebels before playing a full season with the Providence Bruins in 2016-17.
It goes without saying that DeBrusk, who has now played four seasons with the Bruins, has been by far and away the best of the three players they took in the first round of the 2015 draft. Through his first two seasons, he put up north of 40 points and scored a career-high 27 goals in the 2018-19 campaign, resulting in many thinking he was on his way to stardom.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t turned out to be the case as the now 24-year-old has struggled the past two seasons, which could very well lead to him being traded this offseason. With 244 career games under his belt, it certainly wasn’t a bad pick but could have been better given some of the players who were selected later on in the draft.
With the last of their three first-round picks, the Bruins selected another forward in Zachary Senyshyn. This pick was somewhat surprising given that his OHL numbers with the Soo Greyhounds were rather modest that season, scoring 26 goals and 45 points in 66 games. He went on to play two more seasons with the Greyhounds, where his numbers did gradually improve but never got to the level you’d expect from a first-round player.
Senyshyn, like Zboril, made his pro debut with the Providence Bruins in 2017-18 and has spent the majority of his time with them since. He has been able to get some brief looks at the NHL level, appearing in two games in the 2018-19 season, four in 2019-20, and a season-high eight this year. He hasn’t been able to do a ton in those brief appearances, scoring just one goal and adding two helpers.
Perhaps even more frustrating is that his numbers at the AHL level haven’t inspired much confidence either. While he did appear to be figuring things out this season with seven goals and 13 points in 18 games, he has never cracked the 30-point mark in Providence. At 24-years-old, his chances to become an NHL regular are becoming slimmer by the day, and given that he does not have a contract in place for next season, the Bruins may choose to move on from him. This selection, was without a doubt, the most disappointing of these three picks.
What Could Have Been
Missing out on a first-round pick, or multiple in this case would be a tough blow regardless of the circumstances. However, looking at some of the names who went after these selections makes it an even tougher pill for Bruins fans to swallow. The three players taken immediately after Senyshyn were Mat Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Thomas Chabot, all of whom are star players for their respective teams.
Those three certainly weren’t the only players they missed out on either, as guys like Joel Eriksson Ek, Ilya Samsonov, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, Jack Roslovic and Anthony Beauvillier were also taken later on in the first round. There was some superb talent taken shortly after the first round as well, as the Carolina Hurricanes selected Sebastian Aho with the 35th overall pick.
For Bruins fans, and even Neely along with the management team themselves, there much point dwelling on this. It has already been something that has been both discussed and criticized for a number of years, and nothing can be done about it now. While it certainly stings realizing some of the players that could have been on this team, fans can perhaps take solace in knowing that had they hit on all three of these picks, this roster would look much different given that they would have had to fit everyone in under the salary cap.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.