After agreeing to a multi-year contract extension on June 27 to return as general manager (GM) of the Boston Bruins, Don Sweeney made his first big offseason move under his new contract when he hired Jim Montgomery as his next head coach. Sweeney will now turn his attention to the 2022 Entry Draft this week in Montreal.
Boston has six picks in this year’s draft, but without a first-round pick, they will have to wait until Friday to make their first selection in the second round. As Sweeney embarks on his eighth draft as GM, he needs to have one of his better drafts in charge of the Black and Gold. Before Sweeney makes any selections in 2022, let’s look back at his previous seven drafts and rank his top 5 draft picks.
5. Fabian Lysell
In the first round in 2021, Sweeney took the best available player on the board with Fabian Lysell. He just completed his first season of North American hockey with a very impressive season with the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (WHL). After participating in the Prospects Challenge in September 2021 with the Bruins in Buffalo, he spent the first few days training camp with Boston, and the 19-year-old was impressive in both opportunities before Sweeney assigned him to the Giants.
Yes, I know, Lysell has yet to play for the Bruins in either the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Providence Bruins or in the NHL, but the returns in the WHL have been very promising after just one season. In 53 regular-season games, he had 22 goals and 40 assists, showing off his impressive skill set. Not only was Lysell dominating in the regular season, but he took his game to another level in the playoffs with four goals and 17 assists. He opened the WHL playoffs with a five-assist game, which paved the way for the Giants to upset the top-seeded Everett Silvertips in the first round.
If Lysell ends up being as good as all the hype is right now, he will dart up this list in future years.
4. Brandon Carlo
In his first draft as GM, Sweeney had several picks, including three consecutive in the first round, which we will address further down, but a second-round pick at No. 37 allowed the Bruins to pick defenseman Brandon Carlo. It didn’t take the 6-foot-6, 241-pound blueliner long to make the jump to the NHL as he found himself with a nightly spot at the beginning of the 2016-17 season.
In six seasons for the Black and Gold, Carlo has become a shutdown defenseman while solidifying the right side of the current defense behind Charlie McAvoy. With his long reach, he has frustrated opponents while becoming one of the top penalty killers for Boston. With 29 goals and 49 assists in 403 career regular-season games, he’s not much of a point producer, but his contributions in the defensive end are just as valuable as anyone else wearing the Spoked-B.
3. Jake DeBrusk
If there is one thing that will haunt Sweeney forever, it’s the three straight first-round picks of the 2015 Draft. He set himself up with the 13th, 14th and 15th picks to set the Bruins up for the future with three franchise players. That turned out to not be the case as just one of the three picks worked their way onto this list. Jakub Zboril picked 13th has struggled to cement a regular spot in the NHL and signed a two-year contract extension in May after suffering a season-ending knee injury in December in a game against the Nashville Predators. Jake DeBrusk was selected 14th overall and has become one of the Bruins’ top left wings. Zach Senyshyn was picked 15th and spent most of his time with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), before requesting a trade earlier this season and was sent to the Ottawa Senators.
DeBrusk made his own trade request in November following being a healthy scratch in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. Sweeney never honored the trade request and signed the 25-year-old to a two-year contract extension in March. Monday, it was reported by TSN’s Ryan Rishaug that DeBrusk’s agent Rick Valette contacted Sweeney and told the GM that DeBrusk rescinded his request and his preference was to stay in Boston. Finally some good news out of the 2015 Draft for Sweeney and the Black and Gold.
DeBrusk is coming off the second 20-goal season of his career with 25 in 2021-22. He scored a career-high 27 in 2018-19. Throughout his entire career in Boston, the Edmonton, Alberta native has always shown that he has the tools to be a 20 or even 30-goal scorer and a top-six forward. He thrived this past season with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the first line from mid-February until the end of the season. The Bruins are hoping that he continues his improvement in the coming seasons.
2. Jeremy Swayman
In the fourth round of the 2017 Draft, Sweeney grabbed Jeremy Swayman with the 111th pick. After a strong collegiate career at the University of Maine, the Alaska native came onto the scene in Boston for 10 games during the 2020-21 season, winning seven of them. There were questions as to whether or not he could continue his NHL success in 2021-22, but he did not disappoint.
Swayman went 23-14-3 with a 2.41 goals-against average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%) while splitting time with free agent Linus Ullmark. After Ullmark lost the first two games of the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, Swayman went 3-2 with 2.63 GAA and a .911 SV% while extending the series to seven games before the Bruins eventually lost.
Under Sweeney’s watch, it has been difficult for the Bruins to draft and develop talent, but that is not the case with Swayman. Just 23 years old, he clearly has a bright future in Boston, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Tuukka Rask. This could go down as one of Sweeney’s most underrated picks.
1. Charlie McAvoy
There should be very little doubt as to who the top pick of the Sweeney era should be. Picked 14th overall in the 2016 Draft, McAvoy had a short career at Boston University, before making his way to the NHL. Playing with Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug early in his career, he learned from the best of the best that Boston had in the lineup before both players left in free agency following the 2020 playoff bubbles.
At that point, McAvoy was looked at as the great Bruins defenseman and he has not disappointed. He finished fifth in the Norris Trophy voting in 2021, before finishing fourth in 2022. He is creeping his way up the chart and it’s not a matter of if, but when he will finally win the hardware as the NHL’s top defensemen.
McAvoy has settled in as the guy on the blueline in Boston and he was rewarded with an eight-year, $76 million contract extension prior to the 2021–22 season. Sweeney has been looking for a left-shot defenseman to pair with McAvoy and he found his future partner at the trade deadline in March when he acquired Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins wasted little time in signing the free agent to be in Lindholm by locking him up with an eight-year, $52 million contract extension. Bruins fans should be excited for the future top-pairing on defense in front of Swayman.
Sweeney has a chance to add to this list with the draft in Montreal, but he is going to have to hit it big with his selections. Drafting has not been a strong point of Sweeney’s but there is no question that he has found some building block pieces over his time as Bruins GM.
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.