Bruins’ Draft History Under Don Sweeney

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney’s first National Hockey League Entry Draft was one for the ages. Just over one month after the former Boston defenseman got the job, he was at the helm of a draft that included six picks in the first two rounds, with three consecutive selections in the first round alone. Certainly, no story about Sweeney’s draft history is complete without a focus on that first one.

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To collect a few of that glut of picks ahead of the 2015 Draft, Sweeney traded fan-favorite Milan Lucic and young defenseman Dougie Hamilton and made a few related moves. Those trades established the newly minted GM’s desire to build a winning team from the ground up.

In the 2015 Draft, the Bruins selected Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn in the first round, Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon in the second round, Dan Vladar in the third round, Jesse Gabrielle in the fourth round, Cameron Hughes in the sixth round, and Jack Becker in the seventh round.

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A few of those names are quite familiar to Bruins fans eight years later. Carlo and DeBrusk have been regulars in the NHL lineup for a few seasons now. After that, the draft class has turned out to have considerably less impact on the team’s success, with the notable exception of Lauzon. The young defenseman had finally started to make a name for himself with the big club in the month and a half leading up to the league’s decision to suspend play because of Coronavirus concerns in March of 2019. This season, Lauzon played his first full season in the NHL for the Bruins and was a key member of their defense.

Jake DeBrusk Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Goaltender Vladar, and forwards Senyshyn and Hughes, played a majority of this past season in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins. In July 2021, the Bruins dealt him to the Calgary Flames. Vladar played 27 games this season for Calgary, going 14-6-5 with a 2.87 goals-against average (GAA) and a .894 save percentage (SV%).

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Senyshyn was called up to Boston a handful of times in his pro career but did not stick around long in any of those stints. He was one of the coaching staff’s go-to guys when there was a slot to be filled in Boston. That ultimately wasn’t enough to keep him in Boston as we was traded to the Ottawa Senators at the 2022 Trade Deadline. Zboril made the Bruins roster this season, but struggled with his health and being a healthy scratch at different times.

Forsbacka Karlsson also saw a few games with the big club and spent a substantial amount of time in Providence. However, Sweeney announced in 2019 that the young forward had decided to return to Sweden to play hockey there and be closer to family and friends.

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Becker never reached the NHL with the Bruins and finished the 2022-23 season with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, a Dallas Stars affiliate. Unfortunately, Gabrielle never really made a name for himself in the Bruins organization, and he was waived by the team in April 2019.

Making a Splash in 2016

Although it took him a couple of seasons to truly come into his own, it’s safe to say now that Carlo is a bona fide NHL blueliner. However, arguably the best pick Sweeney has made in his tenure as the Bruins’ GM came when he selected a defenseman out of Boston University named Charlie McAvoy in the 2016 Draft.

Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The team’s fans were thrilled that the Bruins picked up the Long Island native, and he has all the makings of a future star today. In fact, McAvoy had cemented his place as a regular on the first defensive pairing alongside legendary captain Zdeno Chara. In the 2020-21 season, McAvoy took over the role as the leader on defense for the Black and Gold after Chara and Torey Krug left in free agency in recent seasons. In 67 games this past season, he had seven goals and 45 assists with a plus/minus of plus-29, while averaging 22:18 a night.

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One other member of the 2016 Bruins draft class, center Trent Frederic, has seen playing time in Boston since signing with the club. Frederic has earned a reputation for his physical play and has become an NHL regular in recent seasons. In 79 games in 2022-23, he had 17 goals and 14 assists, both career highs. Center Oskar Steen has impressed in Providence and made his NHL debut in 2020-21 in Boston, playing in three games.

Defensemen Ryan Lindgren and Cameron Clarke and left wing Joona Koppanen round out the 2016 class.

Future Star

2017 draftee Jack Studnicka played in 38 games with the Bruins before they traded him to the Vancouver Canucks in Oct. 2022.

Jack Studnicka Boston Bruins
Jack Studnicka, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Others drafted in 2017 include goaltender Jeremy Swayman, center Cedric Pare and defensemen Victor Berglund and Daniel Bukac. Swayman burst onto the NHL scene in 2020-21 in Boston and made a case to be the goal of the future for the Bruins by going 7-3 and recording two shutouts. He had a very impressive .150 GAA with a .945 SV% and allowed just 15 goals on 271 shots. In total, he’s appeared in 88 games with Boston, accumulating a 54-23-7 record, a .920 SV%, and a 2.24 GAA.

First-Round Pick That Got Away

If 2015 was the most memorable draft to date of the Sweeney era in Boston, 2018 is likely the one that the GM would most like to forget. After trading for veteran power forward Rick Nash before the 2018 trade deadline, Sweeney entered the draft that June without a first-round pick.

The problem is, the Nash trade didn’t really work out, as he was out with a concussion for a large part of the time he was in Boston and never returned. It was an unforeseeable outcome at the time, to be sure. But that didn’t make the thought that a valuable first-round pick was ultimately wasted any less bitter of a pill to swallow.

Sweeney said he would try to trade for a first-round pick during the 2018 draft, but the right opportunity never presented itself. As a result, he sat, frustrated, and waited as the first round passed.

Don Sweeney Boston Bruins
Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The first player selected by Sweeney in 2018 was Swedish blueliner Axel Andersson, who has since been dealt to the Anaheim Ducks at the 2020 trade deadline as part of the deal that brought Ondrej Kase to Boston. Rounding out the class of 2018 were forwards Jakub Lauko and Curtis Hall, D-man Dustyn McFaul and forward Pavel Shen.

New Guys

June 2019 was a whirlwind for the Bruins. It seemed like no sooner had the team suffered a crushing loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final then it was time for the draft. The success in the 2018-19 season meant Sweeney had to wait until the penultimate pick in the first round to make his first selection. In addition, the Bruins had just five draft picks spread over seven rounds.

Rampant speculation over who would be taken in the first round ended with a somewhat surprising pick of speedy, big center John Beecher. The glimpse that fans got of Beecher in development camp was impressive. However, he could not do much else with the Bruins because he was committed to begin his collegiate hockey career at the University of Michigan.

John Beecher Boston Bruins
John Beecher, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Along with Beecher, forwards drafted by Sweeney in 2019 included Quinn Olson, Matias Mantykivi and Jake Schmaltz. Roman Bychkov was the line defenseman selected.