The 2020 NHL Entry Draft was one that any player drafted that year will never forget. It was a draft that was not conducted in person because of the coronavirus pandemic and was held remotely. The Boston Bruins did not have a first-round pick that season as before the COVID-19 shutdown, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney sent the pick along with John Moore and Axel Andersson to the Anaheim Ducks, and Ondrej Kase was sent to Boston.
With no first-round pick, Sweeney went to work in rounds two through six and they only had four picks. Mason Lohrei headlined the draft class of the Black and Gold and he has received most of the headlines from the class and rightfully so. However, this season, the Bruins’ sixth-round pick, Riley Duran, is off to a scorching start at Providence College and the Massachusetts native is quickly working his up the ranks of Boston’s prospects.
Duran Had a Strong Freshman Season in 2021-22 & Strong WJC in August
After being selected by the Bruins 182nd overall, Duran had eight goals and 11 assists for the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL in 47 games in 2020-21. The 6-foot-2, 181-pound center moved onto Providence College last season and he had what could be considered a breakout season.
As a freshman, he had 10 goals and nine assists for the Friars in 38 games and he worked his way up the lineup and earned the trust of coach Nate Leaman for not only during the college season, but also last summer. Leaman was the head coach of the United States 2022 World Junior Championship team, but Duran was not part of the team in December when the tournament was canceled after a COVID-19 outbreak. When the tournament was rescheduled for August, Duran got an invite to the Team USA camp and the Bruins were excited for the 20-year-old who grew up 20 minutes away from the TD Garden in Woburn, Mass.
“For Riley, this is a little bit of a different thing. So, great opportunity for him to expand his horizons a little bit and see something a little different. Well-earned. He had a good year. He really improved as the season went on, became a more and more impactful player for (Providence College) as they moved on and he gets rewarded for that,’’ said Bruins assistant GM Jamie Langenbrunner.
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Duran went to camp and earned a spot on the Team USA roster. He played on the fourth line and in five games, he had two goals and three assists as Team USA was bounced in the quarterfinals in a stunning 4-2 loss to Czechia. Despite the loss, the tournament was a big experience for the Bruins draft pick and helped jump-start his sophomore year for Leaman and Providence.
Duran off to Scorching Start in 2022-23
One of the biggest surprises a month into the college hockey season is Providence. In eight games, the Friars are 6-2-1, and Duran is leading the team in goals and points with seven goals and 10 points as the No. 2 center for Leaman.
In a weekend series against Hockey East foe the University of Massachusetts, Duran helped to spark a sweep of the home-and-home. On Nov. 4 in a 7-4 win at home of the Minutemen, Duran recorded a hat trick, which included two power play goals and an empty-netter. He also finished with a team-high seven shots on the net. One night later, he failed to register a point in a 4-3 Providence overtime win, but he played a key role in all situations for the Friars.
Watching Duran, there is a lot to like about his game with room to grow. He is a power forward with speed and strength that allows him to win a lot of puck battles and his physicality has been on display early in the season for the Friars. It’s only nine games and a small sample size this season, but the returns for Duran and the Bruins have been positive. Since walking onto the Providence campus, his stock has risen among Bruins prospects. There is a need for centers down the line in Boston, and Duran is carving out a name for himself.
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.