When the NHL began their virtual draft on Tuesday night, it marked Don Sweeney’s sixth draft as general manager of the Boston Bruins. In his first five drafts, he has made 32 selections, including 10 in his first draft as GM in 2015. While some of the 32 picks have been gaining experience in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins, three have settled in full-time in Boston and helped the Bruins have success as one of the league’s top teams.
Related: Our Free NHL Draft Guide
The Bruins did not pick on opening night after they traded their first-round pick, forward David Backes and defense prospect Axel Andersson to the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline for forward Ondrej Kase (Sweeney selected Andersson 57th overall in the second round of the 2018 Draft). The Bruins had just five picks in this draft in Rounds 2-7.
Boston will be going through an offseason full of questions with key free agents that have played big roles in the team’s success over the last few years. Sweeney will not likely be able to retain all of his impending free agents. It would benefit Sweeney to make the most of his draft picks. Here are his three most impactful draft picks for the Bruins to date under Sweeney.
3. Brandon Carlo
In the 2015 Draft, Sweeney selected Carlo 37th overall and the defenseman has been a regular on the blue line since he made the club out of training camp for the 2016-17 season.
He has played in 297 of a possible 316 regular-season games in four seasons and at 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds, he’s been a physical presence for Bruins with his long reach that frustrates opponents. He has 12 goals and 39 assists in the regular season, but he is most productive for the Bruins when he plays a physical game.
A top-four defenseman, depending on what happens with Krug and captain Zdeno Chara this offseason as free agents, Carlo is in a position to move up to a top-two pairing as a foundation piece for the future.
2. Jake DeBrusk
DeBrusk has become a valuable member of the top-six forwards after being drafted 14th overall in the 2015 Draft that has been Sweeney’s best overall to date. DeBrusk has settled in on the second line as David Krejci’s left wing, while this year adjusting to a rotation door of different right wings. Coach Bruce Cassidy tried several different players to get some type of chemistry with DeBrusk and Krejci. Through it all, DeBrusk was able to produce offensively for the Bruins.
DeBrusk scored a career-high 27 goals in 2018-19 and was one short of scoring 20 for a second consecutive season in 2019-20 when the regular season was cut short at 70 games because of the coronavirus pandemic. He also scored seven power-play goals this season for the league’s second-ranked unit during the regular season.
DeBrusk scored 16 goals in his rookie season of 2017-18 with a career-high 27 assists. In the postseason, he has 14 goals and nine assists in 49 games. His best playoff production was in 2019 when he had four goals and seven assists as the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
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Son of former NHLer Louie DeBrusk, Jake is a restricted free agent and will look for his first big contract. A lot of what happens this offseason will depend on how the Bruins deal with free agent Torey Krug or how much the team wants to invest in him. After Krug, DeBrusk is the next biggest free agent Sweeney has.
1. Charlie McAvoy
Sweeney’s first of two first-round picks in 2016 was McAvoy, a defenseman from Boston University who he selected 14th overall. Later in the round, the Bruins selected Trent Frederic 29th overall.
McAvoy has quickly become a foundation piece on the blue line for the Bruins to build around. In 184 career regular-season games, McAvoy has 19 goals and 73 assists. At 6 feet and 208 pounds, he has become a more physical as well as a good puck-moving defenseman.
Following the All-Star break, McAvoy put together his best hockey of the season until March 12 when the NHL was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, like his teammates, the 22-year-old struggled in the Toronto playoff bubble with one goal and three assists and a minus-4 rating in 13 games. Despite his recent struggles, he will be a core piece of the Bruins’ defense going forward.
More Promising Picks by Sweeney
Some of Sweeney’s other draft picks are close to making an impact in Boston. Jack Studnicka is on the verge of playing on a nightly basis for the Black and Gold, while defenseman Jeremy Lauzon has made his presence felt in the regular season and in the postseason. Defenseman Urho Vaakaninen and goalie Danial Vladar could also be impactful in the future.
With a limited number of picks and a veteran core roster that sees its window closing in the near future, it would benefit the Bruins and Sweeney to find a few gems in this draft.
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.