With the Boston Bruins playing some of their best hockey of the season, it’s becoming more and more clear that general manager Don Sweeney will be looking at adding by the March trade deadline. The obvious needs are a left-shot defenseman and a second-line center.
In November, Jake DeBrusk requested a trade, and right now is the Bruins’ best trade chip off their current roster. In order to pull off what could be considered a “blockbuster’’ deal, Sweeney will have to sweeten the deal with prospects, draft picks, or even another player off the current roster. Boston’s draft picks have been used in the past, but it would be in the GM’s best interest to hold onto them, unless there is a deal that can’t be turned down.
Depending on who you talk to, there are different opinions on how good the Bruins prospect pool is. With that said, here are four prospects that should be considered untradable for this trade season.
There are many cases to be made for the Studnicka to already be in the NHL. In training camp, he did everything that was asked of him to win the second-line center battle with Charlie Coyle, but in the end, coach Bruce Cassidy went with the veteran Coyle, which moved the Bruins 53rd overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft back to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Considered to be the Bruins’ top NHL-ready prospect other than in goal, Studnicka spent some time in the 56-game shortened 2020-21 season as a right-wing for the Black and Gold, but the returns were not as good as when he’s in his natural position at center.
With David Krejci returning to the Czech Republic and Patrice Bergeron’s contract expiring following this season, there are questions as to whether or not the Bruins captain is done wearing the Spoked-B after the 2021-22 season. Boston certainly hopes not, but if it is, there will be a bigger hole at center than there is already now and the 22-year-old Studnicka should fit right into one of those top two spots in the future. Lack of depth down the middle makes it a no-brainer that Sweeney holds onto the 6-foot-2, 192-pound Windsor, Ontario native.
I know, he really shouldn’t be on this list as it’s a no-brainer to not move him, but in the big picture, Swayman is the most untouchable prospect in the entire system. Tuukka Rask’s recent return forced the Bruins hand and sent Swayman to Providence to get some work in. It’s likely he’ll return at some point this season, but there is no question that the former University of Maine standout is the future between the pipes at the TD Garden.
Last season he stormed onto the scene going 7-3-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average (GAA) and a .945 save percentage (SV%), which also included two shutouts. Swayman and fellow rookie Dan Vladar, who was traded to the Calgary Flames in July following the Bruins agreeing to a free-agent contract with Linus Ullmark, single-handily kept Boston in the playoff race last season when Rask and Jaroslav Halak were sidelined with injuries and illnesses.
This season, Swayman is 8-6-2 with a 2.66 GAA, a .918 SV%, and one shutout. There is no doubt that he could finish the season with Ullmark in net and the Bruins would be fine, but unfortunately, the only option with Rask back is Providence as he is not eligible to be placed on the taxi squad.
“He knows he’s a big part of our current team, as well as moving forward,” Sweeney said. “Most importantly, he’s got a hell of a long career in front of him as a Boston Bruin.”
Let’s hope so.
Over the last two seasons, Steen’s development has come along quickly in the AHL, and now, he is making a big impact in Boston. In 13 games, the 265th pick of the 2016 draft had his first career NHL goal against the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 4. He currently has two goals and four assists.
Playing a bottom-six role, mainly on the third line with Coyle at center and nearly a different left-wing each night, Steen is making an impact on the game. A very good skater that has a good skill set, Steen is making things happen when he’s on the ice. He has 15 shots on the net, he is relentless on the forecheck, he wins puck battles in open ice and along the boards, and overall just proves in each game that he belongs in the NHL.
His play this season most likely has opened some eyes among scouts from the other 31 NHL teams, but his play has proved that he is just beginning to carve out his NHL career. A bottom-six piece now, it’s not out of the question that he’s no worse than a middle-six player down the road for the Black and Gold.
Of all the Bruins’ first-round picks in recent seasons, Lysell might be the one that is in the NHL as early as next season. Selected 21st overall, he has an impressive skill package that reminds you of David Pastrnak. I’m not saying he’s going to be Pastrnak, but watching him in the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo last September and in training camp and preseason games he played in, there’s a lot to like.
In 23 games for the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (WHL) this season, Lysell has 12 goals and 19 assists in 24 games and is tied for first on team for total points with 31. A good fast skater, he has handles the puck well, which allows him to get off his quick hard shot and score a lot of goals in that fashion. Like the three names above him, there is no reason to move Lysell, who appears to have a bright NHL future ahead of him.
Top-Heavy Prospect Pool?
Is it a top-heavy prospect pool for the Bruins? Yes, and even defensemen Urho Vaakanainen is making his case to be on this list, but he is right now their best NHL-ready trade piece. After these four, the pool drops and ties Sweeney’s hands in getting a deal done. Boston has some needs to address if they want to get in the playoffs, but these three prospects are a big part of the future on Causeway Street and should not be used in any deal this season.
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.