We are just a month away from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, but speculation season is already well under way, complete with all of the mock drafts hockey fans can handle. This year, Bruins fans have been forced to find comfort in the higher draft pick, having watched their team miss the playoffs.
With the 14th overall selection in the draft, new GM Don Sweeney should be able to acquire the rights to a very promising player. The question becomes whether or not staying at #14 is the best available option.
The team’s difficult salary cap positioning makes it very likely that trades will be a focus for Sweeney and his staff in the coming days. The financial value of top talent on their entry level contracts is exactly where the Bruins will look to get out of this monetary jam.
While it is possible that the stars will align and allow the team to grab the player they desire at #14, it is more likely that that would require a move up to at least #11, if not higher. If the Bruins can manage to move up into the top ten, there are a number of players guaranteed to be available that could have a major impact on the franchise. But who would they take and what would it cost to improve their pick that significantly?
Obviously cost is the number one deterrent to moving up in the draft. This deterrent is pretty well established throughout the league, evidenced by the fact that there has not been a trade of a top ten pick (aside from player trades) since 2008. At that point in time, it cost the Maple Leafs a second and a third round pick, in addition to the number seven overall pick to move up to number five overall to draft Luke Schenn.
It’s pretty safe to say that a top five pick would require a steeper price, but how much would it cost, for example, to move from #14 to number nine? With the team’s current salary cap situation, it would not be ideal to trade draft picks, but if the team chose to go that route, what would it take?
Would a second round pick next year and a third round pick this year get it done? One would hope, considering both Johnny Boychuk and Brett Connolly (different contract situations) were recently traded for two second round picks.
Would that be an overpayment? Determining that would be completely dependent on which player the Bruins chose to select at number nine..
A big factor in Boston’s decision making could be how the earliest picks in the draft go. If a top ten pick did not dictate that you take the best player available, trading for a top ten pick should suggest you have already identified the best player available with every intention of selecting that player.
Although they will not be drafting for need, the Bruins could use additional forward depth in their prospect pool, as well as another top flight defenseman. This “flexibility” should make it less likely that they follow through with trading up, but the need for cheap talent that can contribute immediately might force their hand.
As far as defenseman go, there are three defensemen expected to be selected in the top ten this year. Those three are Boston College’s Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov from the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, and Zach Werenski from the University of Michigan.
Hanifin is almost a lock to go in the top five. The Bruins could pray for a miracle, similar that which saw Cam Fowler fall to #12 in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, causing Hanifin to slip into their reach, but they certainly won’t expect that to happen.
There are three forwards that stand out as potential trade up targets for the Bruins, Pavel Zacha of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, Mikko Rantanen from TPS of the SM-Liiga, and Lawson Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL.
Unlike the defensemen, there isn’t a clear cut best of the bunch. The forward group has far more depth in the top half of the first round, leading many to believe the Bruins could potentially see one of these players available at #14. I’m not that optimistic, but still think these three would be worth moving up to acquire.
Pavel Zacha would be my top target of the forwards. He possesses the size the Bruins crave, along with the edge and physicality needed to take of advantage of that size. Beyond that, he’s a strong skater with great speed, which happens to be something that was sorely lacking in Boston’s lineup over the last few years. Making his Bruins checklist even more impressive is his ability to play center and wing, versatility that has been highly valued by this organization in recent memory.
Mikko Rantanen might be the most realistic pick out of all of the players I’ve listed. The Bruins have heavily scouted the European leagues, with PJ Axelsson playing a major role in that operation. Beyond the extensive scouting, the Bruins have put an emphasis on college players and European players because of the extended window of control after the draft. The Finnish forward is worthy of a top ten pick, as he possesses top end offensive skills, to go along with impressive size. The combination of the team’s drafting philosophy and Rantanen’s ability make him a prime target for Boston.
Based on the expected cost, I don’t know that Sweeney will be interested in trading up as far as I would like to see. I think it’s more likely that he crosses his fingers and hopes that one of these players slips to pick #11 or #12, then tries to package a third round pick to move up. That being the case, I’d think Zacha, Werenski, or Rantanen are the most realistic options.
Each player would be a big addition for the organization, providing a major boost to the team in the relatively near future. Of the three, Werenski would be the player I would want, while Rantanen seems like the player the Bruins would select.
What would you be willing to sacrifice to move up to select one of these players? Which player would you target? Let me know what you think in the comments below or on twitter.