On May 20, 2015, Don Sweeney was hired as general manager of the Boston Bruins. Sweeney replaced Peter Chiarelli who was fired and he only had a month to get ready for his first National Hockey League Entry Draft. In that draft, Sweeney and the Bruins had three straight first-round picks at Nos. 13, 14 and 15.
In his tenure as Bruins GM, Chiarelli missed on more of his draft choices than he hit on. In five years, Sweeney has hit some home runs on his draft choices and missed one a few as well. Of his 32 selections, nine have gone onto their Bruins debut. While it’s too early to tell how a lot of the draft choices will work out, three have made a major impact to the success of the team since their draft day.
Talk about getting thrown into the fire right away at 19 years old. Drafted 14th in the first round in 2016, McAvoy just finished his sophomore year at Boston University in 2017 when he decided to sign an amateur tryout contract with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League. McAvoy played in four games for the P-Bruins registering three assists.
After the short stint in Providence, and the big club Boston preparing for their first-round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators, McAvoy was called up when the Bruins had injuries to four of their six defensemen. Stepping in, McAvoy showed that he was NHL-ready in the series, going toe-to-toe with the Senators forwards in six games and logging the second-most minutes in the series on the blue line.
Over the last two and a half years, McAvoy has played 159 regular-season games and worked his way right up to a top-four defenseman. He logs an average of just over 22 minutes a night and plays on both the power play and penalty-killing units. With the recent rash of injuries that the top-six defensive unit has been hit with, McAvoy’s play has been consistent every night and he has proved his worth of a first-round selection.
Chiarelli traded Johnny Boychuk in October 2014 to the New York Islanders and received the Isles’ second-round pick in the 2015 draft that they had received from a previous trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. Sweeney used that pick to take Carlo 37th and drafted another cornerstone defenseman.
Carlo played in all 82 games in his first season in 2016-17. At 6-foot-5, he has had his career take off after being paired with 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara in his rookie season to produce one of the biggest and toughest defensive pairings. When McAvoy came onto the scene the following year, Carlo was paired with Torey Krug on the Bruins second unit and has played in 193 games in the last two and a half years. With his long reach and physical game, Carlo has a chance to be a Chara-like defenseman for years to come.
With McAvoy and Carlo added through the draft by Sweeney to go along with Chara and Krug, the Bruins have one of the top-four defensive units in the league when healthy.
A second first-round pick in the 2015 draft, DeBrusk was one of three straight Boston picks and was taken 14th. He made it to Boston at the beginning of the 2017-18 season and has settled in on the Bruins second line at left-wing in his two-plus seasons.
Scoring 16 goals and dishing out 27 assists in his rookie season, his goal-scoring picked up last year with 27 goals. While his numbers are down this season to this point, he has been a healthy scratch in a few games. DeBrusk has been on the left side of center David Krejci, while the right-wing position has been a work in progress. Scoring 13 goals (five on the power play) so far this year with 11 assists, considering the inconsistency with the second line at right-wing, it would be nice if DeBrusk picked up his goal-scoring a bit if the Bruins are to make a run in the playoffs. DeBrusk scored two goals in Thursday night’s 5-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets and the Bruins are hoping that a two-goal game can get him on a roll.
Six Other Picks Make Debut
Six other of Sweeney’s pick have made the trip to Boston and made their NHL debut for the Bruins. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (29 games), Jeremy Lauzon (16 games) and Trent Frederic (15 games) have played multiple games. Jakub Zboril, Zachary Senyshyn and Urho Vaakanainen each have suited up for the Black and Gold twice.
Without a doubt, McAvoy, Carlo and DeBrusk have been the trio so far that Sweeney has drafted and made their presence felt on Causeway Street.